Believe it or not, Lent begins next week!
As has become a tradition here on the blog, I’ve compiled a list of 40 ideas that I hope will help you make the most of this season of reflection, penitence, and preparation. Some ideas are repeated from last year, others are updated, and others are brand new. Please feel free to add your own ideas and plans to the comment section.
10 Questions to Ask Yourself:
1. When I wake up on Resurrection Sunday morning, how will I be different?
2. Is there a habit or 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 habit over the next 40 days?
3. Is there anyone in my life from whom I need to ask forgiveness or pursue reconciliation?
4. What practical steps can I take to carve out time for daily contemplation?
5. What spiritual discipline do I need to improve upon or want to try?
6. What are some things in my life that I tell myself I need but I don’t? Can I give one or two of them up for 40 days?
7. Why am I giving this particular thing up? How does giving it up draw me closer to God and prepare me for Easter?
8. What am I going to tell myself when self-denial gets hard?
9. Is it necessary/helpful for me to share the nature my fast with others or should I keep it private?
10. What do the ashes mean to me this year? What does baptism mean to me this year?
10 Book Recommendations:
1. A Place at the Table: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor by Chris Seay
2. 40 Days of Living the Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight
3. Lectio Divina Bible Study: Learning to Pray in Scripture by Stephen J. Binz
4. Eastertide: Prayers for Lent Through Easter by Phyllis Tickle (link fixed)
5. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
6. A Book of Hours by Thomas Merton
7. Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter (Orbis Books)
8. The "30 Days With a Great Spiritual Teachers" Series (I've used, and enjoyed, Julian of Norwich,Teresa of Avila, and Therese of Lisieux)
9. Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ by Dallas Willard
10. Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent by Richard Rohr
10 Disciplines, Fasts, and Rituals:
1. Pray the offices for 40 days. The Daily Office, (or the Divine Hours), consists of four times of prayer each day: morning prayers (Matins/Laudes), midday prayers (Sext), evening prayers (Vespers), nighttime prayers (Compline). I love praying the hours, and for Lent this year, I’d like to try to get into a more consistent schedule, at least sticking to morning and evening prayers, no matter what. If it’s your first time praying the hours, I recommend using Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours. If you’re looking to add something new to your prayer schedule, I recommend A Book of Hours by Thomas or Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro.
3. Eat and drink like the poor for 40 days. Then donate the money you save on groceries to a charity or project that serves the poor in concrete ways. This is the challenge offered by Chris Seay in his new book,A Place at the Table. Chris is teaming up with Compassion International and Living Water for this project, and you can learn more on his Web site.
4. Take the 40 Days of Water challenge from Blood: Water Mission to help bring clean water to Uganda. Give up all beverages except for water for the 40 days of Lent 2012 and donate the money you save to Blood: Water Mission. They have a great Web site through which you can track your progress and learn more.
5. Traditionally, Christians abstained from eating meat during Lent, so consider joining millions of Christians around the world in this fast. It’s a great way to feel connected to the historical, worldwide church.
6. Spend a weekend at a monastery. It sounds crazy, but I spent three days at St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama as part of my “biblical womanhood” project last year, and it was one of the most meaningful times of prayer and contemplation I’ve ever experienced. There are dozens of Benedictine and Trappist monasteries around the country that open their doors to overnight guests, usually at very inexpensive rates. Just be sure to contact the monastery ahead of time to inquire about their guest services. (And remember to be respectful of the silence and prayer schedule while you are there. Many monks eat in their meals in silence...so don’t go expecting to chat it up during lunchtime!)
7. Commit to memorizing a significant portion of Scripture, like the Sermon on the Mount, or Isaiah 58, or (one of my favorites) 1 John 4.
8. Unplug—TV, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, etc. This is perhaps the single best way to carve out some extra time in your day for prayer and meditation.
9. Commit to 40 days of praying for your enemies. And I don’t mean ruminating over all they have done wrong and praying that they will change, but praying that they will be blessed, that they will find health and peace and grace, that they will come to know Jesus or experience the love of Christ more fully. (Does anyone know of a good resources on how to do this well? If so, please leave a note in the comment section.)
10. Get outside! Commit to spending at least 20 minutes a day outside – walking, meditating, taking pictures, journaling. The transition from winter to springtime provides so many beautiful, tangible reminders of the significance of hope and rebirth in the Christian faith.
1. Psalm 51
2. Psalm 139
3. Isaiah 58
4. The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12)
5. The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)
6. Litany of Penitence (You can find another version in the Book of Common Prayer - I love this litany!)
7. Litany of Humility
8. Prayer of St. Francis
9. Penitential Prayer of St. Augustine
10. This one, from Thomas Merton:
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think that I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always,
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
Please add your own ideas and plans to the list! I always love reading the comments after this one.