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. This year I’ve tried to focus on disciplines that engage the whole body, not just the mind. Some ideas are repeats from pervious years, while others are new. I’ve also included ideas from readers in years past. Please feel free to add your own ideas and recommendations in the comment section.
5 Questions to Ask Yourself:
1. When I wake up on Resurrection Sunday morning, how will I be different? What am I preparing for?
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 issue over the next 40 days?
3. 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?
4. Is there a spiritual discipline—praying the hours, lectio divina, stations of the cross, etc.—that I’ve always wanted to try? How might I alter my daily routine to include one of these disciplines? And how can I engage all my senses—sight, sound, taste, smell, touch—as I practice them?
5. How do I want Lent 2014 to affect not only the next 40 days but also the next 40 years?
10 Online Resources:
1. I love that our friend Preston Yancey has created a super-simple blog providing daily lectionary readings from the two-year cycle found in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. This is an excellent way to start the discipline of daily Scripture readings during the season of Lent. You can subscribe by email or RSS feed. Also, be sure to check out Preston’s ideas for reading Scripture, including Lectio Divina and Visio Lectio. These are fantastic resources. Thank you, Preston!
2. “The Lent Project,” Biola University: This is a wonderful series of daily reflections available online that include Scripture, devotional texts, works of art, poetry, videos, and music, all layered together to create some beautiful moments of meditation and reflection.
3. “Introduction to the Christian Year” by Mark Dr. Roberts
4. “A Handbook for the Discipline of Lent” by Rev. Thomas L. Weitzel, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
5. “Why You May Really Need Lent this Year [and a Free Family Lent & Easter Devotional]" by Ann Voskamp
6. “Resources for Celebrating Lent with Kids” - Godspace
7. “Songs for Lent,” Calvin Institute of Christian Worship
8. Bread for the World’s Lenten Resources
9. “Pray as You Go”: a daily prayer session, designed for use on portable MP3 players, to help you pray whenever you find time, but particularly whilst travelling to and from work, study, etc.
10. “40 Ideas for Keeping a Holy Lent,” House for All Sinners and Saints
10 Book & Music Recommendations:
1. Wondrous Encounters: Scriptures for Lent by Richard Rohr
2. Lent for Everyone (Year A) by N.T. Wright
3. Lent at Ephesus, music from the Benedictines of Mary Queen of Apostles
4. Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro
5. 40 Days of Living the Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight (only $2.99 on Kindle/Nook!)
6. The Slavery of Death by Richard Beck (not exactly a devotional, but this book has some great reflections and ideas on sin and death, which are important topics during Lent.)
7. City of God: Faith in the Streets by Sara Miles
8. Eastertide: Prayers for Lent Through Easter by Phyllis Tickle
9. Show Me The Way: Daily Lenten Readings by Henri Nouwen
10 Fasts/ Disciplines/ Rituals:
1. 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, and to become more mindful about the food you eat. Also, if your fast includes a change in diet or spending habits, consider donating money you saved to an organization that helps care for the poor.
2. 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). If it’s your first time praying the hours, I recommend using Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours, Pocket Edition.
3. Make or purchase Anglican Prayer Beads and devote yourself to praying through them three times a day. (Or if you’re Catholic, pray through the rosary.) Richard Beck turned me on to this practice and it's been a lifesaver during this busy season of travel.
4. For families with children: Make a thorn wreath with your family. (submitted by Julie Ball). Or Institute a Way of Light wreath or an Easter Tree (via Ann Voskamp) You may also want to check out this fantastic list of Lent ideas for families, which includes eating fish sticks on Fridays, making paper chains, donating, and keeping a gratitude jar.
5. Go on a mini pilgrimage. Set aside a day (or even a weekend) during Lent to visit a nearby monastery. A couple years ago, I spent a weekend at St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Alabama, and it was a really powerful and enriching time for me. I especially enjoyed walking through their outdoor stations of the cross. Many monasteries welcome overnight guests and allow them to participate in prayers and meals. Just be sure to call ahead to make a reservation and learn about the community’s policies. Or, visit a church that has a labyrinth and walk the labyrinth, or a church that has a unique work of art you have always wanted to see. Choose a destination that has meaning to you in your spiritual journey and make a day or a weekend of it, and focus on an experience that will engage all of your senses.
6. From Aric Clark: Last year I tried to give away 40 things I don't need for Lent. Each day I went through my closet, through my book & DVD collections etc and picked something I don't need and found someone to give it to. I found it meaningful.
7. From Leea Price: Fully observe the Sabbath for Lent, from sundown on Friday through Saturday.
8. From Beth: I fasted from using my debit card last year. It allowed me to become painfully aware of how easily I swipe & waste; and, allowed me to meditate on & act with better stewardship.
9. 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. One reader also suggested The Magnificat.
10. Commit yourself to learning from a Christian tradition with which you are less familiar. Ask around about good “primers” on the tradition that interests you, and consider visiting a church in that tradition. Get to know some people who worship in that tradition. Invite them over for a meal. This is an especially good practice for folks who are not currently plugged into a church and it helps build bridges between various Christian traditions.
5 Prayers/ Meditations
1. Psalm 51
2. Isaiah 58
5. 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.
What would you add? What Lenten practices have you found particularly meaningful?
Wishing you all a blessed Lenten season.