As I’ve been researching the season of Lent over the past few weeks, I’ve come to realize that Lent is about so much more than just "giving something up." It’s about repentance, preparation, reflection, discipline, self-denial, and reevaluation. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what this means for me, and if you are too, here are 40 ideas to get you started:
10 Questions to Ask Yourself
1. When I wake up on Resurrection Sunday morning, how will I be different?
2. From what do I need to repent?
3. Is there one particular sin in my life that repeatedly gets in the way of loving God with my whole heart or loving my neighbor as myself? How do I address that sin over the next 40 days?
4. Is there anyone in my life from whom I need to ask forgiveness or pursue reconciliation?
5. What distractions most commonly interfere with my time in prayer/Scripture?
6. What spiritual discipline do I need to improve upon or want to try?
7. What are some things in my life that I tell myself I need but I don’t?
8. Why am I giving this particular thing up? How does giving it up draw me closer to God and prepare me for Easter?
9. What am I going to tell myself when self-denial gets hard?
10. Is it necessary/helpful for me to share the nature my fast with others or should I keep it private?
10 Book Recommendations
1. 40 Days of Living the Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight
2. Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
3. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
4. The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle
5. The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
6. A Gift For God: Prayers and Meditations by Mother Teresa
7. The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns
8. Following Jesus by NT Wright
9. The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard
10. The Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross
10 Creative Ways to Give Up AND Give Back
1. Choose to make water your only beverage for 40 Days between February 17 - April 3 to help Blood:Water Mission provide clean water for people in Africa who don't have a choice. Check outForty Days of Water for more info.
2. Eat porridge for a day (or for 40 days!) and host a Broken Bread hunger meal to raise awareness about hunger.
3. Give up eating out for 40 days and donate the money you save to The Christian Women’s Job Corp in Nashville. My sister works full-time for this organization, so I can personally vouch for the fact that the money will be used wisely and lovingly!
4. Do a 40-day purge of all your excess stuff and donate the best of it to Goodwill or a local thrift store that benefits the needy in your community.
5. If you are giving up social networking (like Facebook and Twitter), commit the next 40 days to getting to know your neighbors better and meeting any needs you perceive.
6. Ladies – Give up your favorite beauty products for a month and loan the money you save to an entrepreneur on Kiva.
7. If you are really brave, try living on $2 a day for 40 days, the way millions of families around the world live every day.
8. Give up your favorite little luxury purchases (chocolate, iTunes, magazines, books, shoes, specialty coffee, electronic gadgets, etc.) and send the money you save to an organization that provides help to the victims of the Haitian earthquake.
9. Give up your Saturday mornings for 40 days and volunteer at a local soup kitchen.
10. Become a "ringleader" for Take This Ring.
1. Psalm 51
2. Psalm 139
3. Isaiah 58
4. The Beattitudes (Matthew 5:3-12)
5. The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)
6. Litany of Penitence
7. Litany of Humility
8. Prayer of St. Francis
9. Penitential Prayer of St. Augustine
10. Consider reading the Sermon on the Mount (alternating between Matthew’s account and Luke’s account) every day for the next 40 days.
What approach do you take to the season of Lent? What is its purpose in your life? Do you have any additional resources, ideas, or links to share?
(Note: I recently decided to abstain from asking people what they intend to “give up” (specifically) for Lent and also from sharing (specifically) how I intend to observe the season. If you would like to volunteer this information here, that is totally fine; but please don’t feel like you must.)