In just a couple of days (Ash Wednesday), we will begin the 40 day season known as Lent. Many associate this time leading up to Easter as a time for giving stuff up like caffeine, sugar, cigarettes, or some other bad habit we’re trying to curb or break. And while those kinds of actions may well be helpful and healthy for us, they can oftentimes become counterproductive as well. Instead of helping us to discover new ways of growing our faith and feeling closer to God, they can serve to make us feel guilty when all we can think of is how much we miss ice cream.
So, what if we can change the question this year from “what am I going to give up for lent?” to “what am I going to do in order to deepen my awareness of God’s presence in my life?”
The focus is very different and the shift may well become seismic in our lives. So, that end, I want to invite you to consider joining me in trying some of the spiritual practices listed below. Let them be opportunities to engage the season and open to God in new ways.
- Circle of gratitude – Before meals invite everyone around the table to share one thing they are grateful for that day.
- Write a list of things you’re grateful for. Carry it with you all day, and pull it out when you catch yourself complaining
- Find out about families or individuals who will be alone at Easter and invite them to join you at our Easter worship service and share a meal with them afterwards.
- Think of people who haven’t heard from you in a while. Give them a call, or send them a card. If there is something that needs mending in your relationship, take the first step.
- Practice random acts of anonymous kindness.
- Learn about sources of injustice and oppression that result in destructive behaviors that hurt individuals, communities, and creation and take some practical step to combat it.
- Plan a service project your family can do together. If you need ideas, contact our church office and we will connect you to opportunities that are appropriate for your family.
- “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) Turn off the TV, computer, phone and rest in the stillness for 5 minutes or for the entire day.
- Choose one day in Lent, or one day each week to prayerfully explore your spending habits and refrain from making purchases on that day.
- Fast from any form of sarcasm or criticism.
- Write a letter to God explaining the habits, behaviors, and sins you want to die to this Lenten season
- Begin each day with a prayer of mindfulness–that you will be attentive to the ways God is present in the world–in your life–throughout the day. Near the end of the day, ask yourself, “Where did I see God today?” Make a list.
- Try a new physical posture during prayer – If you are able, kneel during part of your prayer. Pray with your hands open to God, or even find a space alone and talk with God out loud.
- Prayer walk in your neighborhood (where you live or work) for what you see, hear, touch, and smell.
Read Reflect or Remember:
- Find a spiritual book(s) that you have wanted to read and set aside time during each day or week during Lent.
- Slow down and observe the Sabbath. Whether Sabbath time is one hour in a day or a 24 hour period, take time to intentionally stop “working” and spend time in worship, prayer, and family time.
- Death is inevitably part of the Lenten journey as we tell the story of Jesus death on the cross and find assurance of our new life we have because of the resurrection. Take some time to remember those who have new life with God and be strengthened by the witness of their lives. Take our photos of family members and friends who have died. Talk about these people with your children or share their stories with a friend.