When you hear the word LENT, what do you think about? What feelings or emotions does the word Lent bring up for you?
Lent is the season of the Church Year 6 weeks between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Lent reminds us of Jesus’s 40 days in the wilderness after his baptism. The three traditional pillars of Lenten practice are prayer, fasting, and alms giving.
When I lived in Seattle, I used to joke that Lent was what you found in your belly button or your dryer, NOT a season of the Church Year. But when I moved to Cincinnati, everyone knew about Lent, they talked about it on the news and the local fast food restaurants advertised Lenten fish sandwiches on their signs. As a kid, my church had a Lenten Devotional each year, but no one really talked about why or what Lent meant. And we didn’t have an Ash Wednesday service that I remember.
Did you grow up with a Lenten practice or was it something your Catholic and Episcopal friends did but you didn’t know much about? Have you practiced Lent as an adult?
Maybe you grew up with a very strict view of Lent. Maybe you had to give up something or you had to fast meat on Fridays or fast something else you really liked like chocolate or dessert. Father Edward Hays says that fasting chocolate only makes you angry, it doesn’t help you draw closer to Jesus! I’d have to agree! It was Father Hays who introduced me to a new practice of Lent, looking at Lent as an opportunity to fall more in love with Jesus between now and Easter rather than having a “sack cloth and ashes” experience.
LENTEN PRACTICE IDEAS
What do you want your Lenten Journey to be like this year?
What is Jesus inviting you to focus on as you practice Lent this year? What do you need in your spiritual life as you begin Lent?
How can you grow closer to Jesus between now and Easter Sunday?
Here are some ways to view Lent this year. An Adventure, A Pilgrimage, A Fast, A Wilderness/Camping Experience, A Honeymoon, A Retreat. You might want to combine more than one. I’ve listed a few books that you might consider to use as a part of your Lenten practice. Author Suzanne Stabile asks the question ,”What is yours to do? What is yours not to do?” As you begin your Lenten Journey this year, ask Jesus what is yours to do. Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s. You might not need to do anything this year for Lent. You might just need to rest. To actually put REST on your calendar and make that your Lenten Practice!
I have a LENTEN COLORING SHEET with these practices you can use to help you consider your Lenten practice/journey. Print it out, and as you color it, ask Jesus to inspire you as to the practice he is inviting you to try this year!
This practice of Lent might include physical activity to get you outside or it might include creative activity that you’ve been putting off or neglecting. Where do you experience the love and presence of Jesus? When and how do you feel closest to God? That’s your Thinplace! This could this be your area of practice and focus this Lent. Or, do you need to experience something new with God? Trying the adventure of a silent retreat or a sabbath practice. Planning more fun and play with God. Perhaps learning something new with God, like reading a biography, learning about a new spiritual practice or even trying a new hobby that could help you connect more with God. Or, expanding your knowledge on issues of justice could be the adventure you and Jesus go on this Lent.
- Sabbath as Resistance, New Edition with Study Guide by Walter Brueggemann
- Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World by Kathy Escobar
- How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
- Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle
- Thou Shalt Not Be a Jerk: A Christian’s Guide to Engaging Politics by Eugene Cho
The Practice of Pilgrimage involves seeing the gifts of the Journey. Most of us cannot travel to amazing places like a regular pilgrimage would involve, like to Iona, Ireland, or Spain. How can you do a pilgrimage in your own town? Discover places of significance… places of prayer, places of conflict, places of beauty and go see and take time to notice what God is doing there.
Take a photo pilgrimage through your past trips and journeys and remember what you learned and discovered about yourself and God, asking Jesus to show you new things from these trips and experiences. Do a photo pilgrimage in your town/city/daily life.
Remember that on pilgrimage, everything is a gift, from the crying babies to the lines you stand in and the interruptions and detours along the way. All are gifts!
- Celtic Daily Prayer: Book One: The Journey Begins (Northumbria Community) by Northumbria Community (2015-09-24) by Northumbria Community
- Celtic Daily Prayer: Book Two: Farther Up and Farther In (Northumbria Community) by The Northumbria Community
- Lost in Wonder: Rediscovering the Spiritual Art of Attentiveness by Esther de Waal
- A Seven Day Journey With Thomas Merton by Esther De Waal
Practice fasting from politics, news, whining, technology, social media, shopping, or anything getting in the way of your relationship with Jesus. Read Isaiah 58 for how God sees fasting.
- God’s Chosen Fast by Arthur Wallis
- Fasting: Spiritual Freedom Beyond Our Appetites by Lynne M. Baab
- May It Be So: Forty Days with the Lord’s Prayer by Justin McRoberts
A WILDERNESS EXPERIENCE/CAMP OUT:
Practices might include hiking, camping, taking time out in nature and places of beauty.
- Afoot and Lighthearted: A Journal for Mindful Walking by Bonnie Smith Whitehouse *
- In God’s Creation: Devotions for the Outdoors by Barbara Baranowski
- The Gift of Wonder: Creative Practices for Delighting in God by Christine Aroney-Sine
How can you fall more in love with Jesus between now and Easter? Honeymoons are times for the couple to focus on one another. Sometimes honeymoons are in beautiful places. Usually Honeymoons have lots of time to be alone and be together. What would a honeymoon with Jesus look like? What would it be like to focus on Jesus as your true love? How could you receive more of the love and acceptance of Jesus? How could you truly experience and know that you are God’s Beloved?
- You Are the Beloved: Daily Meditations for Spiritual Living by Henri J. M. Nouwen
- Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World by Herni J.M. Nouwen
- Lenten Hobo Honeymoon (Daily Reflections for the Journey of Lenten) by Edward Hays
We are all feeling exhausted and burned out due to the pandemic and everything else in our lives. A Retreat Practice might include Sabbath, Silence, and/or Journaling. You could plan actual times of “retreat” each week. Or, plan to go on a retreat during the course of Lent. Taking time for creative practices, long walks, bubble baths and times of prayer can all be a part of your Retreat Practice this Lent.
- Sabbath Keeping: Finding Freedom in the Rhythms of Rest by Lynne M. Baab
- A Seven Day Journey With Thomas Merton by Esther De Waal
- Prayer: Forty Days of Practice by Justin McRoberts and Scott Erickson
- The Cup of Our Life: A Guide to Spiritual Growth by Joyce Rupp
OTHER IDEAS for your Lenten Practice:
Learning about the Bible:
How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth: Fourth Edition by Gordon D. Fee
SERVING DURING A PANDEMIC… Showing God’s love in a practical way! Who in your life, your family, your neighborhood, or at work is in need of extra love, help, or compassion? What are some practical ways you can serve and give even in the middle of the pandemic? Ask Jesus to show you.
Take time to brainstorm with friends or family, make a list, pray about this.
MUSIC and ART:
Create a playlist for your Lenten practice
Play music as a part of your Lenten practice
Create a collage or other art piece as a part of your practice.
Watch the movie Chocolat with Jonny Depp and Juliet Binoche. This is a great movie set in the Season of Lent. You might host a discussion and contrast the Mayor and the Chocolate Maker.
Remember, the idea of a Lenten Practice is to help you draw closer to Jesus and fall more in love with him between now and Easter Sunday. I’m still praying about what my focus for Lent will be this year. Take some time this week to consider you journey and what is yours to do, or not do this Lent.