TV, Facebook, or Chocolate? Thinking Outside the “Lenten Box”

cadbury-creme-egg-with-yellow-yolkMy heart is full this morning as I prepare for Lent. It has me reflecting back on my experience two years ago as I was about to join the Catholic Church and be baptized, and it makes me emotional and happy and thankful.

I didn’t really know much about Lent as a kid, as it wasn’t something we practiced. I basically knew it was a month or so when some Christians gave up chocolate. It had no meaning or purpose to me, and I just remember a lot of people complaining about whatever sacrifice they had made and counting down until they could enjoy (insert any number of delicious foods or drinks here) again.

I’ve learned a lot since then. Lent is a season of bettering yourself, of serving those around you and of growing closer to God. If you do it well, it fills you with compassion and hope, thankfulness and joy.

If you’re unaware, Lent begins this Ash Wednesday, February 14, and ends on Easter. And if you’ve never truly experienced Lent before, I’d encourage you to give it a try! Personally, I find that it’s a good time to reflect and refocus and I always find myself feeling much more grateful for my life and loving all that it has to offer!

In the Catholic Church, there’s a so-called “big three” of Lent. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving. In layman’s terms – Pray, Give up something, and Give to those in need.

Here are a few ideas of what that can look like in your life, so you actually experience Lent like it’s designed to be experienced, and not as a countdown to eating all the Cadbury eggs your heart desires on Easter (guilty…those darn eggs…)

  • Give up your morning and/or evening drive time routine of listening to music, podcasts or making phone calls and drive in silence, so you can spend that time in prayer.
  • Fast for one meal per day. (Consider sponsoring a child or elderly person through Unbound or Compassion, and imagine the meal you’re skipping is the only one they might get that day.)
  • Spend an evening or weekend volunteering at a local non-profit agency. Sort food, serve the homeless, care for small children, visit the elderly.
  • Wake up 20 minutes earlier than usual to spend time with a daily devotional or to read your Bible.
  • Reach out to a friend or family member each week (or day!) of Lent. Send them a card, a text, an email, a gift. And when you do, make sure to say a prayer over that person and of thanks for that person and their presence in your life.
  • Attend Stations of the Cross at least once, if not weekly. (This may be new to any non-Catholics, but it’s basically a weekly walk through of the progression of Jesus’ crucifixion, accompanied by prayers. You can do this at just about any Catholic church in the world, usually on Fridays during Lent.)
  • Try the Best Lent Ever program! Receive an email every day with a short video and reflection – it takes 5-10 minutes each morning, and sets the stage for the day ahead to reflect and focus on what God is doing in your life. I can’t recommend it enough.
  • Fast from something that makes your life more negative in general – complaining, gossiping, cussing, road rage…when (not if, because you’re human) you slip up, say a quick prayer and start over.
  • Every time you have to pull over for an ambulance or get stuck behind a wreck that makes you late for work, say a prayer for the people involved. Pray they’re okay, for their health and recovery and for reduced stress in a traumatic situation, for the first responders and doctors, and a prayer of thanks for your own protection.
  • Memorize a scripture or prayer that you can say daily. (I really like the Glory Be and Colossian 3:15 – “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body, you were called to peace. And be thankful.”)

These are just some ideas to get the ball rolling – you can do one, five or all of them. You can do (or stop doing) all kinds of other things that help you focus on what Lent is really all about; just choose intentionally so you can really benefit fully from what God has waiting for you through this process.

What are you giving up or taking on for Lent? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments!

If you have any special prayer requests during this season, please shoot me a message – I’d be honored to pray for you! Praying for all my readers (all 10 of you…) during this Lenten season!

-Hayley

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