Lenten Intentionality

I’ve been pondering Ps 90 and especially v. 12 quite a lot recently: “So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.”

I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a grand pronouncement. The single greatest challenge to lay spirituality in this modern age is busy-ness. Any attempt to engage a decent proportion of the people who are interested in having meaningful spiritual lives has got to tackle this issue head-on.

What specifically do I mean?

M and I have both had a major milestone birthday in the past six months, and that experience is forcing us to take stock of the kind of life we lead and the way we lead it ad to determine if this is the way we want to keep living and, if not, what to do about that.

As I look at the activities that I engage in, I’m starting to sort them into a couple of big buckets. First, there are things that I want to do daily that offer no or little immediate return, but are important for their long-term cumulative impact. So, I lump into this bucket things like:

  • Morning Prayer
  • Medidation
  • Tai chi
  • Stretching/rolling/flexibility
  • Running/Strength training
  • Scripture Study
  • Reading the Fathers
  • Evening Prayer

Add those things up and that’s somewhere around three hours every day. And yet, these are things that I believe are really important—yet each day I’m lucky if I can tick more than two or three of them off my list.

And then there are the things that bring in income:

  • The Day Job
  • Freelance Contracting work
  • Finishing up manuscripts

Then are the things that I have to do to keep things moving with any sort of sanity:

  • Driving girls to school
  • Picking girls up
  • Driving girls to Strings/Ballet
  • Cleaning the Kitchen
  • Packing Lunches
  • Doing Laundry

Let’s not forget:

  • Spend time with kids
  • Spend time with wife
  • Sleep!

Then there are the things that I want to do:

  • Anglican Breviary project
  • St. Bede’s Breviary Tweaks
  • Blog more!
  • Consider and start on one of the several book projects that are waiting in the wings
  • Start a podcast on the Psalms!

As I’ve said a few times before, I’m overcommitted and overwhelmed—but I don’t think I’m alone in that! I think that most of the people at my stage in life are at this point; it seems to be a very common situation as I survey my friends and the parents of my kids’ friends.

This Lent, I want to focus on simplicity and intentionality. Simplicity is often about stuff and getting rid of stuff. But the main stuff I need to deal with is the stuff that sucks up my time—which can be just as (maybe even more?) insidious than what sucks up my space.

My day-job does a lot with metrics: meauring things, tracking to goals, and crunching the numbers to turn them into pretty pictures that senior management is able to comprehend. I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to do a better job of this in how I manage my life… So, a key Lenten discipline for me this year will be a study of where my time really goes. I want to be intentional about what I do, and when I do it, so that I truly can align how I live my life with what I say my priorities are. And have graphs and pictures too!

I’m planning to leverage some Android apps to help me with all of this:

  • I’ve intermittently used MyFitnessPal to be intentional about how I eat; I’m going to try and use that more especially because this app now integrates with the next two items…
  • My awesome sister-in-law got me a Fitbit that I’ve been using a while already. It tracks both sleep and exercise.
  • I usually wear my Garmin when I run but am really bad about uploading the data and using it; hopefully the integration with the above two will help me do this more. I’ve put a training plan in this app to give me some clear direction on this count.
  • Toggl has a great time-tracking app and I’m going to use this to really sort out where my time goes.
  • I’m loving the Logos program for reading Scripture and the Fathers. I tend to use it most on my Kindle and use reading plans–hoping to blog quite a bit more on this tool…
  • And last but not least, the St. Bede’s Breviary serves for the Offices—again, chiefly on the Kindle.

Bottom line: as lives get busier, a sensible Rule of Life is more important than ever to help us stay focused on our true priorities. I have an implicit one—but that’s just not good enough. I don’t feel that I can construct an honest one without a solid baseline that establishes and quantifies the true sources of craziness and time-squandering in my life. Only when I have a good sense of the how can I tackle what needs to be done to live up to my calling. Thus, intentionality with the goal of giving up chaos and embracing a holistic simplicity! I’ll let you know how it goes…

7 thoughts on “Lenten Intentionality

  1. Helen

    Oh my goodness. This post really speaks to me. i am retired and not as busy as you but
    still, i’m needing to prioritize and be intentional in my everyday living, not just for Lent but
    after Lent as well. Thank you for sharing.

  2. gfhayhoe

    Me as well. I’m planning to retire in 10 months, and I’m determined to make more room for prayer and Scripture study. Tracking my days this Lent would help me better see where I’m spending time today and how I can plan fruitful use of these 40 days as well as the years I have left, one day at a time. :) Thanks, Derek!

  3. Dale Crakes.

    A somewhat related question on psalm antiphons. Can you provide any info on the historical antecedents to the various versions There seems to be a plethora of different ones and I’m just talking about ferial ones, not ones particular to a season or feast. I’m referring here only to pre-79 Anglican variants, not pre-62 RC variants. Those in The English Office are different to some degree from those in the Anglican Breviary. The Mirfield ones, in the pdf link at the below site are different again.
    Douglas’s Monastic Diurnal seems to have it’s own variant.


  4. Finn Froding

    A good place to start would be the Sarum Breviary materials at
    They have the office in Latin and English, authoritatively and elegantly presented. Of course, few today will wish to follow “the nomber and hardnes of the rules called the Pie,” but the antiphons are all there with their melodies, and you can easily find those that correspond to our present Kalendar.

    I have my own Office Book simplifying and adapting this musical regimen to Morning and Evening Prayer. For this and other projects, I ask readers of this blog if they know of any convenient and usable program for editing and printing chant in four-line square notation. I’ve tried Gregoire without much luck. Thank you.

  5. Derek Olsen

    Honestly, when I’ve put together chant texts for the chanted Gospels and Epistles, my usual recourse is to take one I’ve already done, then use MS Paint to manipulate the image and move around the notes as needed. Not very sophisticated, but effective for what I’m trying to accomplish! I’d also be interested in hearing better options… I know that some friends of the blog have used Linux-based LaTeX tools for such things, but I have no idea how easy or hard these are to use.

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