External Preparation for Lent: Giving Deliberately

Ahh, it’s so nice and comfy under this bushel!

There are two components of my Lent this year:  The first component is Living Deliberately.  I want to try to cut out the distractions and let God in.  That’s basically it.

The second part of my Lent is a bigger challenge for me–it’s giving deliberately.  I have to admit, that as an introvert, I have sorely slacked in the giving department.  I love to read, but for all my high-falutin’ spiritual reading and being into Buddhists, and Christians, and Hindus and New Age mystical writers like Byron Katie and Eckhart Tolle…well, I feel like you do when you spend all your money on fine dining.  You look around and you have nothing to show for it.

Yesterday I did a stupid time-killing exercise online, as a distraction from doing some report-writing.  It was a chakra test.  Now, I’ve been into all kinds of New Age stuff, but I’ve never gotten into chakras.  To be honest, I still don’t know what they are!  But, I took the test anyway, and guess what?   Out of my seven chakras, one was weak, and three were closed!

My Crown Chakra was strong:  my desire to connect with God.  But the other three closed chakras basically said that I was hiding myself “under a bushel” as Matthew says in the Gospel.

It’s about time to crawl out under that bushel.   All of the great spiritual leaders have had dual lives:  they had interior, contemplative lives, but then they used all the internal strength and they all got out there and did stuff.   The tended to the sick and poor.  The performed works of mercy.   Jesus spent 40 days in the desert, but then he went out there healing and ministering.   Today, Thich Nhat Hanh lives out the concept of  engaged Buddhism.  There are so many people out there today who volunteer and give, give, give selfishly and saintily (is that a word?).     People reading to the blind, or running in marathons, or serving on local councils or heading up committees at their churches.  I am a baby crawling on my knees in this area.    All because I am–as my Chakras apparently reveal—closed.

The ironic thing is, one of my morning gathas/mantras is:
Breathing in feel God’s love
Breathing out I share God’s love

So where to start in actually sharing love?  I suppose there are two routes:

  1. Just do one nice thing a day–a random act of kindness.  Drop a note to an aging relative.  Say Yes to the next request you get for a donation or quick favor.  Compliment someone (sincerely).  Offer to watch a neighbor’s child for an hour to give them a break.    Make amends for something.  Instead of brushing by a panhandler, give them a buck.   Thank a colleague or coworker or boss.  Write a note to a local family that lost a son or daughter in the call of service.   Call up a relative you haven’t spoken to in a while.    Listen to someone.
  2. Pick a place to volunteer on a regular basis.  Choose a volunteer activity that matches your passions.  If you love to read, read to the blind.   If you love to cook, volunteer at a soup kitchen.   If you’re handy with a hammer and saw, volunteer with a local Habitat for Humanity.  If you’re still not sure where to go, check out VolunteerMatch.org or Serve.gov.  A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, so all you need to do is make that first phone call or visit.   No obligation.   At least that’s what I’m telling myself as I work through my shyness.
So, that’s the Giving Deliberately part of my Lent.  It’s the toughest part.  For me, it’s not that hard to give up stuff. It’s a lot harder to actually get up and do something.  But it’s time to crawl out from under that bushel.