From the Rule of St. Benedict:
“We advise that during these days of Lent he guard his life with all purity and at the same time wash away during these holy days all the shortcomings of other times” St. Benedict (2011-04-30). The Rule of St. Benedict (Kindle Locations 732-733). PlanetMonk Books. Kindle Edition.
“During these days, therefore, let us add something to the usual amount of our service, special prayers, abstinence from food and drink, that each one offer to God “with the joy of the Holy Ghost,” of his own accord, something above his prescribed measure; namely, let him withdraw from his body somewhat of food, drink, sleep, speech, merriment, and with the gladness of spiritual desire await holy Easter” St. Benedict (2011-04-30). The Rule of St. Benedict (Kindle Locations 735-737). PlanetMonk Books. Kindle Edition.
Lent clearly has a long tradition in the Christian church. All I recall of Lent growing up in the evangelical church was: (1) Fasnacht Day, the day we eat a donut-type sugary object, and (2) Lent was mentioned as existing. There was no explanation of what Lent was, or if there was an explanation I missed it! There was little talk of giving things up. Now it seems like many churches and individuals who did not traditionally do Lent are rediscovering this season of church life. It is a time that still tugs at the hearts of many.
Lent is a time of soul-searching as we move toward Holy Week. It is a time when many give things up, in a word many fast, in order to move into a deeper spirituality, closer to Jesus who gave up all for us.
I have been thinking about whether to give something up. I want to make it worthwhile, not just giving up something for the sake of giving up something. After much thought and prayer, I have decided to:
1. Give up snacking after 8 PM. This was also my new year’s resolution and is probably a good thing to continue doing after Lent. There is no need to eat that late at night (though working with college students will make it harder on nights I am on campus!).
2. Give up social media (Facebook, Twitter, reading blogs, Goodreads) between the hours of 7 AM and 8 PM with the exception of when I am using them for work (i.e. posting a CSF newsletter on Facebook, tweeting updates during CSF’s upcoming mission trip). I don’t feel the need to give these things up totally, especially because I often use them all for work. But I do find myself checking them too often during the day.
3. Don’t just give something up, replace it with something else. Benedict mentioned this when he spoke of adding to the usual amount of our service. So just giving up Facebook or coffee or chocolate is not enough, the point is to replace it with something better. This could be as simple and easy as the old reliables, reading the Bible and prayer. Or it could be something along the lines of this great list offered by pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber from 2012:
Day 1: Pray for your enemies
Day 2: Walk, carpool, bike or bus it.
Day 3: Don’t turn on the car radio
Day 4: Give $20 to a non-profit of your choosing
Day 5: Take 5 minutes of silence at noon
Day 6: Look out the window until you find something of beauty you had not noticed before
Day 7: Give 5 items of clothing to Goodwill
Day 8: No bitching day
Day 9: Do someone else’s chore
Day 10: Buy a few $5 fast food gift cards to give to homeless people you encounter
Day 11: Call an old friend
Day 12: Pray the Paper (pray for people and situations in today’s news)
Day 13: Read Psalm 139 http://bible.oremus.org
Day 14: Pay a few sincere compliments
Day 15: Bring your own mug
Day 16: Educate yourself about human trafficking www.praxus.org
Day 17: Forgive someone
Day 18: Internet diet
Day 19: Change one light in your house to a compact florescent
Day 20: Check out morning and evening prayer at http://dailyoffice.wordpress.com
Day 21: Ask for help
Day 22: Tell someone what you are grateful for
Day 23: Introduce yourself to a neighbor
Day 24: Read Psalm 121 http://bible.oremus.org
Day 25: Bake a cake
Day 26: No shopping day
Day 27: Light a virtual candle http://rejesus.co.uk/spirituality/post_prayer/
Day 28: Light an actual candle
Day 29: Write a thank you note to your favorite teacher
Day 30: Invest in canvas shopping bags
Day 31: Use Freecycle www.freecycle.org
Day 32: Donate art supplies to your local elementary school
Day 33: Read John 8:1-11 http://bible.oremus.org
Day 34: Worship at a friend’s mosque, synogogue or church and look for the beauty
Day 35: Confess a secret
Day 36: No sugar day – where else is there sweetness in your life?
Day 37: Give $20 to a local non-profit
Day 38: Educate yourself about a saint www.catholic.org/saints
Day 39: Pray for peace
Day 40: Pray for your enemies (you probably have new ones by now) then decide which of these exercises you’ll keep for good