1) “Good morning, Jesus”
I was busy – commuting, working, taking care of family, helping out in the church. I needed something small, easy. So I decided I would just say good morning to Jesus first thing in the morning.
I love this practice, because it turned my attention to Jesus the moment I woke up. That change the whole course of my day. Before that, I’d wake up thinking about work.
I knew I was supposed to have my morning quiet time, but it wasn’t happening. I had to get up at 5 AM to get to work on time and there’s no way I could focus on anything that early in the morning! So this little practice fit perfectly.
2) Pray for everyone I met during the day
I was traveling, working in the international corporate world. That meant I came in contact with a lot of different people each day. So I decided that for Lent, I would make a list of the people I met and in the evening, I would pray for them.
This turned out to be really cool, because it helped me see people differently throughout the day. I’d meet people and I think okay, I’m going to pray for you tonight. So you’re special. In other words, it affected my attitude. That was nice.
One night, it was a bit problematic. I’ve participated in a workshop with about fifty people in Tokyo. I took the sign in list back to my hotel and tried to pray for each one. But there were so many, and the Japanese names were so difficult for me. In the end I wound up pressing the page against the window of the hotel and asking God to read it. Sorry. I think he has grace for me.
3) Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.”
I took a shot at practicing the Hesychast prayer. The idea is to pray the Jesus prayer constantly, from the first moment you wake up, to the last moment you’re awake. It becomes part of every breath.
First, I found this really difficult. I remember thinking, “Am I ever going to fall asleep?” But by the end of Lent, is it really affected my attitude. It quiet at the chaos in my mind and helped me see people and everything really, is beautiful.
4) Yes, I’ve fasted.
One year, in Afghanistan, I did the John the Baptist fast. I think I ate bread, olive oil, honey, and nuts. I’m not sure it was physically healthy for me, but it was certainly spiritually healthy.
In traditional fasts, you break the fast for Sunday. I decided to break the fast whenever an Afghan invited me home for lunch. That happened at least once a week, and sometimes twice. It didn’t matter what day it was, if they served me, I ate.
What happened? Well, I can’t tell you how much I looked forward to spending time in Afghan homes! In the food they served me became beyond delicious. More than that, I practiced celebration. It was fun.
5) Memorize the story
Over the years, I’ve done a lot with Scripture. One year, I decided I was going to memorize the book of Matthew, but not word for word. Rather, story for story and in my own language.
Actually, this was hard. Can you sit down and tell the entire story of the gospel of Matthew? I could. I doubt if I can anymore. But I think this is one of the ways I buried Scripture into my heart. I always thought if I ever got kidnapped in Afghanistan, I would occupy my mind by telling the story as best I could from Genesis to Revelation. That would certainly be a challenge.
Anyway, how did it affect me? For one thing, I internalized the gospel of Matthew. For another, the gospel story itself became deeply embedded in my being. I saw Jesus more clearly and that was beautiful.