FreerangeFriday: Choosing a Lenten Practice

by Lilly Lewin
LINT or LENT

By Lilly Lewin

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 coloring sheet filled

Lenten coloring sheet

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!

AN ADVENTURE:

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.

A PILGRIMAGE:

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!

A FAST:

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.

A WILDERNESS EXPERIENCE/CAMP OUT:

Practices might include hiking, camping, taking time out in nature and places of beauty.

A HONEYMOON:

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?

A RETREAT:

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.

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

Healing GRIEF:
Broken Hallelujahs: Learning to Grieve the Big and Small Losses of Life by Beth Allen Slevcove

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.

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2 comments

Herbert Orr February 12, 2021 - 7:30 am

Now that I am retired every day includes what you have written except fasting. Jesus said as long as I am present one needs not fast.

so, I want to live in His presance all the time.! I wish that I could experience more of the love from the Holy Spirit that I can share with others.
My motto for this year is Psalm 71 v 21. “You shall increase my greatness and comfort me on every side”.
My action is that I have taken time to study that “God is Good. the title of my forth coming book. For as much as I can experience God’s goodness perhaps it will increase His greatness.!

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Helly February 14, 2021 - 8:08 am

Thank you for these ideas. I tried practicing lent a few times following the ‘subtraction’ model – giving something up that I liked. I found it miserable and anything but a spiritual growth experience. It most likely reminded me of all the anxiety that was built into me during some early years spent in a fundmantalist church — anything you liked or enjoyed that wasn’t labeled ‘Christian’ was bad, took your focus off of Jesus, and disappointed God. No wonder it gave me a yucky feeling to ask Jesus what he’d like me to fast (of course it would be the one thing that was currently bringing me happiness or enjoyment because it always was). I eventually took to the addition model wherein I added something – a daily devotional, nightly prayer, etc. But even that sometimes felt forced. There’s also the fact that I have adult ADHD which sets me up to ‘fail’ anyway in terms of sticking with things like that. So I stopped doing anything at all and that has actually been a good practice for me (as you suggested in your piece, rest is as good a practice as any). Still, I think the wilderness/hiking ideas might be something to try – if not strictly for lent then just in general.

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