|Some people really enjoy making New Year’s Resolutions and look at January 1 as a time for a “fresh start” or “clean slate.” We have the gift of a new year and it’s time for new goals. However, now that we are into this year for a month or so, many of us have given up on resolutions and are right back into the hustle and bustle of our every day lives.
I think that I am drawn to the church season of Lent more than I am drawn to making new year’s resolutions because of the spiritual ties to Lent. Over these next 40 days, there is more purpose and meaning to the actions that I take. I give extra thought and am so much more intentional about my words and my deeds. I am on a specific journey with a specific destination…the cross of the resurrection. During the next six weeks, we are invited to strip away anything that comes between us and our relationship with God. We have permission to change, permission to heal from our brokeness, permission to receive grace and wholeness…to be made new again. The Lenten season calls us annually to consider our own life and response to following Jesus as we focus more on his life and ministry.
Over the last several years, I have thoroughly enjoyed the intentionality that comes with creating meaningful Lenten experiences for children and youth. Through the process of creating those experiences, my own faith journey is fuller. This year, I am focusing on how I might be able to provide resources for children, youth AND adults who wish to make their Lenten journey more meaningful than previous years.
There are many practices associated with the Lenten Journey that can generally be placed into three categories:
FASTING (GIVING UP)
GIVING (TAKING ON)
PRAYER (GETTING CONNECTED)
Fasting-There are many different ways to fast. Various Christian faith traditions view fasting differently. Traditionally, during lent, Catholics fast from meat on Fridays (and Ash Wednesday). But fasting isn’t just about giving up a specific food group. It’s the idea that we are removing something from our daily practice in order to draw closer to God. It’s often viewed as a practice that leads to humbling ourselves before God, seeking God’s guidance in our lives. I look at it as a tool for removing distractions in our lives that keep us from acknowledging God’s presence in our lives.
Giving- Almsgiving is just a fancy word for our response to God’s call for each of us. It pairs perfectly with fasting because often we fall into the trap of saying that we don’t have enough time or energy to take on something or give any more of ourselves than we are already giving. However, through fasting from some actions, attitudes or behaviors, we suddenly have the gift of time and energy and attitude to respond to how and where God is calling us. (funny how that works out, huh? No excuses!) Almsgiving also helps us to remember our connection to the larger Body of Christ. We are created to be in community with others, to be the hands and feet of Christ, to help bring wholeness to a broken world. Maybe your almsgiving is monetary, maybe it is of your time and talent. Regardless, we are call to respond by giving of ourselves.
Prayer- Without prayer, there is no purpose behind our fasting and giving. If the purpose of the Lenten Journey is to draw nearer to God, to return to God, then prayer is the vehicle by which we travel there. Maybe you pray through a particular Gospel during the season, or journal your prayers or are just more intentional about the frequency of prayer. I would also add that prayer and additional scripture reading are a good pairing!
I’ll be curating a list of ideas for each of these three Lenten practices. I’m curious to hear what you will be doing for your Lenten Journey this year and how I might be able to support you as you follow Christ to the cross of the resurrection.