It’s Ash Wednesday and that means Lent has begun. Do you observe Lent? I have all my life and, even though our new church is contemporary and non-liturgical, my family still celebrates those hallowed days before the glorious morning of Easter. Those 40 days of reflection and preparation just makes Easter that much more meaningful and joyful!
I grew up in a very traditional church setting. I was baptized Episcopalian but spent most of my growing-up years Catholic. I attended Catholic schools and during Lent I went to mass every morning before class. I also gave something up. That’s just what you did. And you didn’t eat meat on Fridays. I usually gave up something like Coke, sweet tea, french fries, or chocolate. On Friday afternoons, we would go to Stations of the Cross and eat fish for dinner. This continued through college.
I have fond memories of those times and certainly respect tradition, but my spiritual life has changed in regards to Lent. As I got older, and my faith matured, my Lenten practices evolved. I realized that many times I gave something up, only to think about how much I wanted it, or felt sorry for myself. I wasn’t thinking about it as fasting or a form of penance.
I learned about the idea of “adding” instead of “giving up”. So, rather than giving up a certain food or activity for 40 days, I would take something on – something that would make me better, either physically, emotionally or spiritually.
I actually like the balance of doing both of these things – adding and subtracting.
When Ash Wednesday comes around, I try to have a plan in place for the weeks before Easter. I have done all kinds of things including prayer, fasting, and scripture reading. I love this post that includes some words from Joe about Lent and an idea he shared of expansion versus contraction. Good read, I promise!
If you run a Google search for what to do during Lent, you will find all kinds of things, like eating healthier, curbing your spending, and exercising more.Those are all good things but, to me, those are mini New Year’s resolutions. And this works for a lot of people: they know they should eat less fast food for example, so they do it during Lent rather than the whole year…or for good. That’s not bad! Doing anything positive for the sake of Lent at all is a good thing! But, the best thing about those kinds of Lent sacrifices is that they may extend beyond Easter.
So, since you might be looking for other ideas, I thought I would post and share a few with you. Maybe you will find something you would like to try…
#1 – Commit to reading the BIBLE
Last year, I committed to reading the Bible for one hour every day. Check out the post right here! It was a challenge – more so than I thought it would be.
Most days fared well. I especially loved the hours I spent outside, in the backyard, meditating on the Word. But sometimes I found that the hour I planned to spend reading the Bible got spent doing other things, to-do list type things, instead. I had to fight for that hour. The devil was working against me!
Spending a designated amount of time in scripture is an excellent thing to do during Lent. I found that not only did I learn a whole lot (about God and about me), but my days were just better. As I said in the post,
I am thankful for this time of learning and growing in my faith. Challenging myself now to continue this practice year-round.
And it worked! There is also a good chance that reading the Bible will become part of your daily life…and, well, that’s just profoundly beneficial.
Idea #2 – Clear the CLUTTER
Several years ago, I spent the month of January decluttering the house. I filled up a plastic grocery bag each day. A bunch of things went in the trash and a bunch of things were donated. The process cleaned up the house quite a bit and clearing the clutter just gave me a more peaceful feeling overall.
It wasn’t a Lenten thing, but it definitely could be. I would suggest you do this in conjunction with something else like prayer or devotion time. At least I would…after all, this isn’t just about decluttering. It’s about Lent. About Jesus. Find places in your community where you can donate things. Schools always need extra supplies if you find yourself with dozens of unsharpened pencils, for example.
I am in the process of changing the way I live. I’ve read several things recently, both in books and on blogs, that have stopped me in my tracks and shined some light on areas that are a little, well, dark. Not that there is a whole lot of evil going on here at our house, but there is a materialistic tendency to acquire – and hold on to – things. Earthly things! And there are certainly other areas where I could use some improvement.
Read this post to find out what I did and background story!
Idea #3 – Incorporate acts of LOVE into every day
This is one I am going to focus on this year. Make a point each day to consider how you can serve or show kindness to others and DO it. These can be little things, random acts of kindness, like holding the door for someone or giving a little extra tip money, to bigger things like volunteering for an hour or two or cooking a meal for someone. This can be a personal thing or you can make it a family effort, but the point is to do something every single day.
Idea #4 – Find somewhere to SERVE
A couple summers ago, I took several carloads of donations to a local care-and-share (a community initiative that helps those much less-fortunate than us by allowing them to “shop” (everything is free) once a month for clothing, housewares, books, toys, etc.).
One day, the kids and I stayed and helped out for a little while. Hannah met a friend:
I discovered the huge need right in our little town and felt the urge to help. I started volunteering one morning a week. It was just a couple of hours but, I’m telling you, spending time in that kind of place really puts things into perspective. It was good for my soul.
Be it a food bank, homeless shelter (this is a big one for my mom), your kids’ school or church – volunteering is SERVING. As Christians, that’s what we should be all about: serving God! We do that by serving the purposes He has for us here on this Earth.
Idea #5 – Combine spring cleaning with WORSHIP
Similar to idea #2, this is about doing something you probably need to do anyway, but in a whole different light. Seven years ago, I had a 6-month old and in need of a clean house and perhaps a spiritual awakening in my soul.
I decided to spend Holy Week that year deep-cleaning our home, while drawing nearer to the feet of Jesus. I committed to spend the entire time I cleaned praying or worshipping God through music. I would take one task and pray for a certain person, or family, or situation throughout the time I was completing it.
It was difficult at times, but overall awesome. The simple act of cleaning house became a truly spiritual experience. And I definitely felt closer to God. From my post:
I seriously need to do some cleaning and housework, and I can always use more time in prayer and reflection. While I clean, I’ll reflect on God’s goodness and praise Him. I’ll pray for friends and family and the many concerns on my mind. I’ll meditate on how I can be a better Christian. My goal is to come to Easter morning, with a clean house and a clean heart.
And that’s 5! Did any resonate with you? I hope so and, if not, my prayer is that you find something – some way – to spend this Lent growing closer to your Savior.
Ultimately, Lent is about sacrifice and surrender. It is about assessing where we are on our faith journey, preparing our hearts, and drawing closer to Jesus. Whatever we give up or take on this Lent, it is all about intention. Ask yourself (and I’ll ask myself!), why am I doing this? How is ____________ (fill in the blank) making me a better follower of Jesus?
We’ll do this together. I would love to hear about what you are doing (or not doing) during Lent. Leave a comment or send me a message and I’ll be praying for you!