Lent

Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, 40 days in the Christian church calendar preceding Easter. Perhaps you think of Lent as a morbid time when we all have to get super serious, give up stuff, and consider how terrible we are. It is like that for many. But it doesn’t have to be like that for you. I offer some suggestions that may help you think about and engage in Lent differently this year. Every religion has seasons of penitence and reflection. That is good for the soul. But perhaps your soul needs watering. Maybe you’ve been in a dessert for way too long; your grass is withered and you need refreshment. Maybe you just feel distant, not only from God, but from your true self. Or perhaps you know it’s just time to step back a bit and reflect on things that matter. As Richard Rohr wrote in his introduction to Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent: “There are two moments that matter. One is when you know that your one and only life is absolutely valuable and alive. The other is when you know your life, as presently lived, is entirely pointless and empty. You need both of them to keep you going in the right direction. Lent is about both.” Rohr offers the idea that Lent can be a time to be fully known. “Allow yourself to be fully known,” he wrote, “and you will know what you need to know.” Or as social reformer and Saint, Teresa of Avila, wrote in the 16th century: “We find God in ourselves, and we find ourselves in God.” I invite you to set aside this season for reflection, to be known, and to bask in the love of The Divine. After all, that is...

Perception Checking

We think we see the world as it is. But we actually see it through our limited perceptions and stories we construct to explain it. We develop narratives about who we are, who other people are, and what events and communication mean. We’re on a constant quest to explain things to ourselves. Each of us was raised differently, had vastly different experiences, came from different cultures and were exposed to different kinds of information, so we all created our thinking patterns separately and distinctly. No wonder we have such a hard time understanding each other. “How could you POSSIBLY think THAT!?” we often ask. We forget we have limited perceptions, and over-trust our impressions. Even the Bible points this out, saying we only see as if looking at a reflection and knowing in part.* That is why ten people can witness a crime and all report a different story. It’s also why ten million people can watch the same television event and all have a distinct experience. It helps if we break down the process into a simple model: We are stimulated through our senses. What we observe (notice) is selectively based on what grabs our attention, meets a need, or is enjoyable. We then organize what we have sensed into thinking structures that make sense to us. Swiss developmental psychologist, Jean Piaget, called these knowledge or mental schemata that we developed from our unique experiences and what sociologists, Berger and Luckmann, called social construction.** After that we interpret; we assign meaning to what we sensed.  We confuse these stages, especially observation and interpretation. I understand how challenging this can be, especially in relationships. I have a good friend who is very different than me. We see the world in vastly different ways, and we...