Choosing a Lenten Practice
By Pastor Denise Clapsaddle
Lent is sort of like the transfiguration—it is a break before Easter. It is a time that we prepare ourselves for the season of Easter.
You have probably heard of a Lenten practice.
You may have heard it as “giving something up for Lent” or “fasting.”
A traditional way to fast means to abstain from eating or drinking for a period of time, or to abstain from eating or drinking certain foods during Lent.
Members of our church with Roman Catholic backgrounds have recounted their families Lenten traditions to me, that they gave up eating things like dessert or red meat for the entire month. Roman Catholics used to give up eating meat every Friday, and then during the entire season of Lent. Now they only give up meat during Fridays in Lent and maybe Ash Wednesday. On those days they eat fish—unless St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday. Then the Bishops allow an exemption. Irish Catholics in the US feel a strong need to eat Corned Beef for that holiday and the church is not about to make them feel guilty about that.
There is nothing wrong with fasting during Lent, whether it involves abstaining from food altogether for certain time periods (if your doctor says you are up to it) or giving up specific foods or beverages that you think are in some way interfering with your best life.
I once gave up eating peanut butter during Lent. I lost five pounds!
I no longer feel that I am addicted to peanut butter…but that took more than just the one Lenten season to get here.
I eat peanut butter to live, I don’t live to eat peanut butter anymore.
I do eat chocolate every day…but not very much of it. And it’s the healthy dark chocolate kind. Really.
I know people who give up drinking alcohol during Lent.
I guess you could give up drinking coffee during Lent. I probably couldn’t but maybe you could.
Another approach to a Lenten Practice is to take something on during Lent. One of my professors added a daily morning prayer to her life during Lent. She would rise early every day to devote time to reading scripture and praying.
Other Lenten practices are becoming popular in the modern era. Some people pack up a bag of things they don’t want each day, and either donate things to charity or throw them out, depending on if they are still good.
Another popular new practice is the social media fast. Yes, it is possible to avoid social media for 40 days. Fun fact: Lent doesn’t include Sunday so you take Sundays off from your Lenten practice, unless that will interfere with the point of the practice in some day.
It is possible to give up things like watching television. For many years I didn’t own a television. This was before the internet, so I read books and magazines and listened to records or the radio.
I am an early adapter of cord cutting. One summer day the kids wouldn’t turn off the TV, so I loaded the cable box and television into the car. The box I returned to Optimum. The TV went to Goodwill.
In the midst of this my daughter called my husband, who worked in an office then.
“Mom is crazy,” she said.
My husband was not fazed by my choice. Now my kids don’t live at home anymore, and neither of them have cable. But they are plugged in all the time with cell phones, laptops and streaming services.
It’s possible to cut back. Eat dinner by candle light. Listen to music. Talk. Just be. Write in a journal, or draw or paint. Doesn’t that sound inspiring?
Yeah, it also sounds scary to do for 40 whole days out of the year, but remember for most of human history, that is what people did with their free time.
Some people choose to do something every day, such as post something their grateful for, or take a photo every day, or walk daily.
So you have until Wednesday to choose a practice for Lent. Many folks at church are doing this. Here is how:
•Talk and think about Lenten Practice
•Come up with ideas
•Write your commitment
•Put it where you will see it
•Start the practice on Wednesday
•Update us during Joys and Concerns
I am choosing to give something up for Lent. I'm giving up arguing on social media. I don't think that is necessarily sinful to argue online, but I think I put too much energy into it and I would like to see if I can manage to put my energy elsewhere. I have been thinking about what I will do instead. I think I will pray for the person with whom I disagree--not that they "see the light," but that God's will, not mine, will prevail. Then I hope to re-direct my attention to some other (useful) task.
Remember, what you get out of something is directly related to what you put into it. Choose to put energy into your Lenten Practice. God will reward you.