Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lent: A Time of Reflection

"What are you giving up for Lent?"  That's the question commonly discussed among Christians and, with today being Mardi Gras with all its debaucherous trappings, tomorrow brings another Lenten season.  I wasn't raised in a denomination that observed Lent ... or, perhaps I should say that I wasn't raised in a household that did.  My father was a minister's son, and he pretty much avoided church like the plague, our shadows falling across the church threshold for the traditional C&E -- Christmas and Easter.

It wasn't until I was an adult and started attending church on a regular basis that I was a member of a denomination that observes Lent.  I found the tradition of Wednesday services and special reflections on Christ's Passion very inspirational.  However, I've never been one to "give up" something for Lent -- to make a sacrifice.  I am the first to admit that I am too weak willed for such devotion.  And, in pharisaical fashion, I judge others' sacrifices as paling in comparison to Christ's -- chocolate, for example.

I did a quick check at Wikipedia about Lent -- nice summary of the season's history.  Here's a bit:
There are traditionally forty days in Lent which are marked by fasting, both from foods and festivities, and by other acts of penance. The three traditional practices to be taken up with renewed vigour during Lent are prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards self), and almsgiving (justice towards neighbour). Today, some people give up a vice of theirs, add something that will bring them closer to God, and often give the time or money spent doing that to charitable purposes or organizations.[8]
I like that: "Justice towards God, justice towards self and justice towards neighbor." 

"What are YOU giving up for Lent?"  I do consider giving the practice a try, but I'm too chicken ... the old "fear of failure" thing ... being a bit of a perfectionist.  "If I can't make it all 40 days, then AAAARRRGH!!!"

Last year, I blogged on Hummers & Cigarettes about a suggested "technology fast" proposed by some Italian archbishops.  The reasoning was that it was a way to place concrete relationships above virtual ones, as well as being mindful of how our lfiestyles have consequences in other countries (i.e. coltan, a mineral used in cellphones, is at the center of much of Congo's ongoing struggles).  Click here to read that post.

What would be some worthwhile sacrifices for Lent?  I would love to hear ideas.  Here are a few I've heard of that I think are quite admirable and beneficial:

- give up unnecessary shopping (just essentials) and give the money saved to charity
- a friend skips lunch during Lent, donating the money saved to a local food pantry
- starting a good habit of daily devotion and prayer
- volunteer, make a difference in the community
- give up playing the radio in your car and use the quiet time to meditate

Your ideas?

I like the idea that Lent is not about giving "up" stuff but rather giving "in" to Jesus.

However you decide to observe Lent, maybe it bring you many blessings!

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