Simple Tools for a Time of Stillness and Striving – Part 2 of 6

Simple Tools for a Time of Stillness and Striving – Part 2 of 6

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Body and Soul: Orthodox Christian Lent as a Self-Care Journey 

God is our refuge and our strength! He helps us prepare to receive the Holy Spirit through His grace. “He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariot in the fire. Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge.” Psalm 46:9-11

The grace of God cleanses our sins, treats our spiritual ills, directs our thoughts and will towards good, soothes and educates our senses, and returns energy, confidence, and ethereal joy. We strive to move from our lethargy and indifference so the Bridegroom will not be delayed while we slumber in the present world like the foolish virgins in the parable, unprepared to receive the grace of the Holy Spirit and do good deeds for Christ’s sake.

Let us fill our lamps like the Wise Virgins and follow the pattern of life the church sets before us – prayer, fasting, and participating in the life of the church. Here are three steps to follow His direction to be still, listen, and strive in Great Lent to receive His grace for spiritual healing:

  1. Be still in prayer and contemplation
    • Practice self-examination of self-care for body and soul
    • Use the simple tools included as spiritual helps in Parts 2 – 6 of these blogs.
  2. Listen to His guidance by taking a few minutes from each day to reflect
    • Start a Lenten Journal in a three-ring binder or blank book, and make notes of how you are being educated in self-care through grace
    • Review and add to it yearly
  3. Strive by resetting priorities
    • Notice when everyday life feels chaotic, demanding attention away from the struggle to focus, finding time and hope for spiritual change
    • Use the self-examination tools to build your awareness and see patterns more clearly that need to change
    • Build your commitment to change and set goals with specific next steps to redirect your path in good faith.  Make a section in your Lenten Journal to work on your “Good Faith Plan” 

You can do your part to take control of negative patterns in your life over time. You can confront your issues and develop skills to master challenges with His grace. The first self-examination tool helps you examine what is really urgent and what is really important to Him and you to reset priorities rightly. It can help you shift your thoughts to change your feelings and what you are actually doing or not doing as a result of how you are feeling.

Tool #1:  What is URGENT and/or IMPORTANT? 

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  • What is your cross to bear?
  • What is the next right thing to do?
  • Is everything truly Urgent and Important? 
  • Are we acting as if what we are doing is both?
  • Making progress on Not Urgent but Important?
  • Managing the Urgent, but Not important? 
  • Letting go of Not Important and Not Urgent?

Tips: Research shows that simply writing down goals in a plan makes you 58% more likely to achieve them!

Asking these questions to set priorities in stillness with prayer and fasting can help you achieve the right goals

What are examples of choices in setting Lenten priorities? Attend all services, or attend on Wednesday and Friday? Fast from meat for 40 days? Fast from dairy Wednesday and Friday? How much more scripture reading? Limit social invitations to spend time with Orthodox Christians?

It is also important to verify what is really urgent and important to family, friends, and coworkers when many priorities compete for our time. Sometimes we wear ourselves out doing “good deeds” that are misdirected, and when others don’t value them, we get angry! It is time to reconsider what is the next right step for the “never-ending To Do list”. For instance, sometimes children make tasks urgent for us because we haven’t “taught them how to fish,” or they aren’t choosing to fish. If we keep fishing for them, we can get resentful! Our most challenging “acts of kindness” come through “tough love,” teaching them how do their part and holding them accountable. We don’t serve them well by keeping them helpless and dependent on us.

Confronting and Controlling Thoughts: According to the Fathers of the Philokalia, by Anthony M. Coniaris. It has 100+ pages of wonderful short readings to help you with discernment. Here is the second self-examination tool to turn your attention to what is truly urgent and important.

Tool #2:  H.A.L.T.!

Most of us say we know we need to take care of ourselves. Yes, we need get enough rest, but there are more church services. Yes, we need to eat right, but we’re fasting. Yes, we should exercise to get more energy, but we were already tired before Lent even started!

First things first: sometimes, we need to slow down now to go faster later. When we attend to basic human needs, we can tackle the tough parts better and it feels easier. Stop and ask four quick questions when things aren’t going well:

  1. Hungry?
  2. Angry?
  3. Lonely?
  4. Tired?

Here’s an encouraging example of a family using H.A.L.T to set priorities and deal better with challenges in everyday life: A busy, stressed mom said, “I am working on remembering my family is just ‘Hangry’ (hungry, then angry).” Keeping healthy Lenten snacks in the car helped her stop yelling at the kids to behave or going to McDonalds to quiet them down.

Her children picked up on H.A.L.T. very quickly. The eight-year-old got excited to help mom understand how it worked for him: “Mom, I get ‘Tangry’ (tired then angry), then you give me a time out and I get ‘Langry’ (lonely and angry) until I lay down awhile. Then you come and ask me what I have to say now that I had time to think about it… and I say I am sorry. You tell me you love me and give me a hug so we feel better and can do my homework!”

How does it work for you? Reflect on what you learned from what you lived when you were growing up. Next, in your Lenten Journal, reflect on what you are living out now based on what you learned as a child. Parents are models for physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual care. We care for others in roles as spouses, parents, family, friends, employees, bosses, and Good Samaritans, too. Our heavenly Father and His Holy Mother are ever-present models for us at every age, no matter what the human failings of our parents or ourselves. We can take up our cross to heal the past and change the future with the grace of God and our efforts during the Great Lent journey.

Prayer in Time of Need or Trouble

The dark clouds of trouble gather above me, O Lord, and the grief of torments terrify me. Though I find myself in a state of suffering, I do not complain against you, O Good One, for you are my support and the unshaken rock upon which I place my hope. You know, God, the cause of my wretchedness and sorrows, and you continue to look after me, and it is this very knowledge that strengthens me. Thus hoping in your love and goodness, I shall not allow these assaults to overcome me; rather I will fight with courage and, confident in your help, I shall be victorious. It is you who guide the work and the fate of mortals; direct the ship of my life which is assailed by the waves of temptation so that it may reach the calm harbor. Alone, I fight in vain against the tempest of life, for without you I can do nothing. I therefore flee to you, O Good One, and I pray: Come to my aid and save me by your might, just as you once saved Peter who came to you upon the water. Stretch out your and to me as you did to him, O Lord of mercy and do not delay. Amen The Orthodox Prayer Book

Good Lent!


 

Resources:

Orthodox Study Bible  

The Orthodox Prayer Book

Confronting and Controlling Thoughts: According to the Fathers of the Philokalia, by Anthony M. Coniaris  

Next Week: What Are We Up Against Now and What Are We Doing? Part 3 of 6 part series: 

  1. Getting Started on a Healthy Self-Care Journey 
  2. Simple Tools for a Time of Stillness and Striving
  3. What We Are Up Against Now and What Are We Doing?
  4. A Deeper Look – Turning Inward
  5. Moving to Synergy
  6. Celebrating our New Life in Christ

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Anastasia Kruse

Anastasia is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and a National Certified Counselor. She works with individual adults, couples and families to offer hope, healing and practical solutions in dealing with problems that may be creating depression, anxiety and spiritual crises in life transitions. Her specialty is working together to develop strong relationships between clients and their significant others. Divorce prevention or post-divorce recovery, low self-esteem, stress and anger management are frequent areas of treatment in her practice is at Sanders and Associates. Previously she worked with Leyden DuPage Counseling Service and Family Shelter Services. She treats victims of domestic violence and is trained in EMDR to deal with trauma and PTSD. Anastasia holds an M.A. in Professional Counseling from Argosy University, Illinois School of Professional Psychology, now the American School of Profession Psychology (ASPP) at Argosy University. Prior to her career as a professional counselor, Anastasia was a human resources executive, organizational development consultant and trainer. She has extensive coaching background in career counseling, employee relations, conflict resolution, and performance challenges for job and college related problems. Anastasia converted to Orthodoxy 12 years ago and integrates the foundations of faith into her work with clients and in providing premarital counseling seminars at her parish. She has led couples groups and family workshops at local parishes, presented at the International Orthodox Psychotherapy Conference, and was a guest speaker on “Come Receive the Light” radio program on the Orthodox Christian Network.