We are now in March and in just one week, we will be entering the Christian season of Lent. Lent is a time of denial, of self-sacrificial giving, and of prayer and pondering. It’s a time for meditation, for reflection, and for spiritual disciplines.
Over the years, many people and churches have developed different Lenten practices. Many churches host special Wednesday night services during Lent, others encourage a specific book study during the Sunday School hour. Many individuals also make commitments whether to take something up or put something down.
Often the question, “what are you giving up for Lent?” is a popular one among various groups of Christians. People have been known to give up everything from coffee to chocolate to Facebook. Sometimes people also decide to be experimental and a bit radical – perhaps making more conscious food decisions, abstaining from meat, or fasting weekly. Still others decide to take something up. Additional time for devotions or prayers, additional time for the family, to read through a book on their own.
I once heard in my Christian Life and Discipleship class at Tyndale that it takes 40 days to develop a habit or to break one, and in that sense it makes sense to take or give something up. Although I have often seen people indulging on Sundays or going back to their same lifestyle after Lent, when I think the purpose of Lent is one in which we have more conscious time to examine our lives and to find the resources we need to “burn longterm”, to be committed, and to stay the course.
These past few years I have been reading some of Henri Nouwen’s Lenten materials, although there are several other very good resources to use as well. Last year I read through Nouwen’s Show Me the Way, and this year I’ll be reading From Fear to Love. Nouwen also has the books Renewed for Life and Walk With Jesus – Stations of the Cross which are great additions to any library.
Another one of my favourite practices of the Easter season is going to Shrove Tuesday celebrations at the Lutheran church I did my internship at while at Tyndale. Although one could argue that Shrove Tuesday and Carnival or Mardi Gras are defeating the purpose of Lent, I would beg to differ within reason. I don’t advocate for what happens in Louisiana per say (trust me, I was there during Mardi Gras one year), but in doing some historical research on Shrove Tuesday which I presented to a group of highschoolers, I actually find it fascinating stuff. Shrove Tuesday blog to follow…possibly…probably…Anyways, funny thing is I don’t even like pancakes, but you can’t go wrong with SHROVE TUESDAY pancakes complete with chocolate chips, bananas, and berries!
So those are my Lenten practices. Now I want to open it up for conversation. What Lenten practices do you or your church follow? What books do you work through during Lent? Is there a specific book of the Bible that you become specifically attached to during Lent? What are you giving up for Lent this year? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please post them in your replies. I may have a follow up blog featuring some of my favourite ideas in the next few weeks. Engage! Additionally, if you have any favourite quotes, poems, or hymns about Lent or Easter or if you are a wise sage yourself and have any words you’d like to share, I may even feature you in my Twitter feed :).