“So what are you giving up for Lent this year?” is a question that flew around on Facebook a lot in the weeks preceding Ash Wednesday. Spiritual disciplines like fasting, prayer, almsgiving, and Scripture reading are traditionally cultivated in Lent to nurture our spiritual lives. One year I gave up shopping—not for essentials like toothpaste and cat food, but for little niceties like candles and nail polish. For someone who is as easily sucked into our consumer culture as I am, it was a challenging form of fasting. Long ago I stopped giving up food products I love for Lent (chocolate, for example), as I tended to abuse the idea of Lenten discipline, making it an excuse to diet, and losing track of the spiritual dimension of the endeavor.
But while it seems to be the most popular (at least for people to talk about), fasting is only one of the practices Christians have undertaken during Lent over the course of history. There is also the option of taking on something for Lent instead of giving up something. One year I wrote checks to different social service agencies each week in Lent (almsgiving). It made me mindful of what I have, and grateful that I could share with organizations that worked for literacy, eliminating hunger, and other essential needs. One year I watched a different “Jesus” movie each week in Lent, and reflected on different ways of understanding and interpreting the Gospels (a variation on the theme of prayer). FYI: my favorite Jesus film was—and remains—Jesus of Montreal.
This year I’m committing to writing this blog as part of my Lenten discipline. I hope it will combine many of the traditional Lenten practices, like prayer and Scripture reading, though I’m most daunted by the amount of giving it may involve. A blog is so personal! I know it will mean giving of my inner self—my thoughts, feelings, hopes and fears, as well as my time and my talent—in a way that I don’t do regularly. But because I know that I get a great deal from reading other people’s blog, and because I know that writing is one of my talents that is often under-used, I trust that this practice will be a blessing for me. I hope reading it will also bless you.
What are you doing for Lent? Do you find it helpful to give up or take on some kind of practice to keep you mindful? I hope that you will be willing to share with me how the Holy Spirit is at work in your life. There is something about honestly sharing our journeys that sustains us in a holy way that defies explanation. Thanks for being with me, and thanks for letting me be here for you too.