We get it… it’s all about chocolate, right? Somehow, for countless people, Lent has become known as the time of year in which we give up chocolate. Why? Well, the truth is, nobody really seems to know for sure, but what we do know is that simply removing all cocoa-related products from our diet doesn’t necessarily deepen our spiritual life by itself.
That’s just one of the reasons why I’ve decided to approach Lent from a completely different perspective. So, let’s get back to the basics…
Traditionally, Lent was intended as a time for personal conversion leading up to Easter during which Christians practiced the spiritual disciplines of Fasting, Prayer and Almsgiving. The belief is that our consistent participation in these practices—like exercise we do for our physical health—is a form of purification that improves our spiritual well-being by stripping away all that is unnecessary and by becoming more mindful of our ultimate dependence on God in our lives.
But instead of chocolate, pop and TV, what if people thought of fasting, prayer and almsgiving in a broader context? What if those disciplines involved practices like reducing your dependence on electronic devices for twenty four hours (fast); contemplating the 1.6 billion people in the world who have no access to electricity for a few moments (pray); and spending the extra time you’ve saved on personal interaction with someone important to you (give)? Or what if people reduced their carbon footprint for a day by using less energy (fast); then reflected for two minutes on the magnificent gift our natural environment is (pray); and finally placed $1 in a bowl or other container they’ve set aside for money to be given to the church for missions or outreach or given to a favorite charity—one that plants trees—at the end of Lent (give).
These are just two examples of the dozens of exercises in our Fast, Pray, Give Calendar that will help us enter into the traditional spiritual disciplines of the Lenten season every day in ways that are practical, do-able and relevant to our daily lives. Each day, starting on Ash Wednesday, our Fast, Pray, Give Calendar will feature a new quote or fact related to Lenten history and practice as well as practical suggestions for how to carry out the ancient Lenten spiritual disciplines that day.
Worried this Lent about not following through on what you’ve “given up”? Trust me, this is designed as a Lenten plan that you can’t fail. Every day features a new set of Fast, Pray, Give suggestions, so if you slip up one day, don’t give up; simply pick up again the next day with a new Fast, Pray, Give. The idea isn’t to be perfect but to continue on our path—despite our screw-ups—in a way that builds toward Easter Sunday. Like any type of exercise, if this plan of action is followed with any sort of consistency there should be a cumulative effect — in this case, a deepening spiritual awareness and renewal.
Each week we will post a new blog with the Fast, Pray, Give suggestions for the next seven days. Each day’s suggestion will be posted to our Facebook as a reminder. You’ll need a Fast , Pray, Give bowl or container to hold the money saved from various fasting challenges our calendar offers throughout Lent. At the end of Lent, the money collected in your bowl will go to a United Methodist Mission project. You can send in your donation to our church or pick a mission project of your own.