Three Unconventional Lenten Disciplines

I've just come back from the bookstore. Most days, I know better than to spend more than ten seconds in the Canterbury Bookstore, because if I don't hand in my order for the youth ministry and leave right away, I'll end up buying something. This past Sunday, the bookstore display outside the Great Hall caught my eye and I had to go in and pick up a couple of things to try out as disciplines for Lent.

Walking a labyrinth is one of the most popular contemplative disciplines. Immanuel put one in four days before I moved to St. Louis. Cert. School week at Wartburg used a canvas labyrinth as one of our afternoon sessions. And I have used Group's Prayer Path for several years with such results that it is one of only a few Group products I will recommend.

Still, not everyone has a labyrinth handy. Enter my first purchase, a "finger labyrinth." It's a metal disk, about five inches across, with a labyrinth path molded into its surface. As you pray and ponder, you trace your finger along the path. By engaging several senses, the labyrinth helps the user to focus on the prayers and screen out distractions.

On my youthworker's wall in high school, he kept a full Catholic rosary. I didn't pay a lot of attention to it; I knew that Daren knew how to use it but he never brought the beads into our youth group activities, so it was outside my frame.

Then I discovered last week that there is another design, called the "Anglican Rosary." The booklet that goes with it refers to "A Rosary for All Christians" and explains its purpose this way:

"The ultimate goal for many who regularly pray with the rosary is prayerful silence before the presence of God, ushering in an openness to one's spirit, allowing a deeper spiritual connection with God's spirit."

The prayer forms that go with the rosary are single verses and quotes from church history. These are repeated several times in the pattern of the beads. Rather than being some dry, dragging ritual, praying the rosary reminds me of several of the relaxation techniques I've learned, designed to rest the body and open the mind.

Every youthworker's desk needs a Zen garden. It's partly for deep theological reasons and partly because you can find them for just a dollar, and thus they fit into the shoestring ethic of youth ministry. The desktop model is a small ceramic tray filled with sand, one wide and one narrow rake, and a few rocks. Mine also includes a small pewter cross that my youth group used to bury in the sand and challenge me to find the "treasure."

Originally, these gardens were used to meditate on the patterns that created the cosmic harmony of the world. As a Christian discipline, the Zen garden is for meditating on the patterns that God created in the world to show us the harmony of his plan for it.

These are three disciplines I plan to use during Lent to explore my faith and hopefully deepen it in some way.


R10 Mom said...

Another option: Meditating on the wondrous patterns in creation. Do you know the chances of such patterns developing spontaneously? It's beyond imagining.

Anonymous said...

"Every youthworker's desk needs a Zen garden. It's partly for deep theological reasons"....

deep theological reasons, like...?

I'm all about the shoebox aesthetic though! :)

Isaac, The Rookie said...

Deep theological reasons like exploring the mind of God by understanding the patterns in the world, in miniature by the Zen garden. Theology here is the literal meaning "thinking about God" and less the applied meaning that comes out to be more like dogma (also not a bad word, eg Kelly Fryer's "L Word.")

In a truly unbudgeted situation, I would build the Zen garden out of the shoebox!

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