The season of Lent has begun which means a couple of things. First, it means the days are getting longer. The word “Lent” comes from a word that means “longer,” and originally identified the coming of spring. Praise God! As a person who loves the sun, I am always grateful for the Divine Order which allows spring to follow winter, the days to become longer and the temperatures to get higher.
In Christianity, Lent has much greater significance. Lent represents the 40 days up to Easter that commemorate Jesus fasting in the wilderness. Traditionally it is a time when one gives up something to gain a closer relationship with God.
As a child, I recall giving up candy and being ever so anxious for church to end on Easter Sunday so I could run home and eat as much chocolate as I could stand. As I grew into a somewhat rebellious teen, I chose to give up swearing which greatly improved my relationship with my parents. As an adult I gave up many different things over the years; candy, alcohol, cigarettes and various other bad habits.
I found it curious though that the things I gave up quickly came back into my life. I gave them up but for a measured period of time. It was more a discipline of the will than it was a closer walk with God.
After discovering Unity years ago, I was introduced to a new idea about Lent. Rather than giving up various vices, I learned to give up thoughts. No, I didn’t stop thinking and drop out of society. I gave up specific thoughts. I gave up negative, limiting or harmful to thoughts about myself or others. I gave up self-criticism. I gave up gossiping. I gave up believing I was powerless and recognized the great power of God that expresses through me when I align my thoughts and will with God.
An interesting thing happened. Positive thoughts replaced the negative thinking. Limiting and harmful thoughts were replaced by thoughts of love, abundance and joy. Thoughts of anger were replaced with thoughts of forgiveness. Thoughts of fear were replaced with thoughts of spiritual strength and understanding.
The benefits of this new Lenten practice were amazing. They exceeded the weight loss quickly regained after returning to candy consumption and the benefits of short-lived sobriety. They changed my life. They opened my mind and heart to the presence of God within me and in every aspect of my life. In this Lenten practice, there is no desire to run home for the Easter basket. There is a desire to continually release limiting thoughts and embrace a new awareness of the presence and activity of God. For me, this is the true meaning of Lent.
Rev. Eileen Patra is the new Senior Minister at Unity of Livonia, 28660 Five Mile Road, Livonia www.unityoflivonia.org

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