The Pre-Lenten Roundup

Margaret got the baby in the king cake at church on Sunday. By Sunday evening he was living the suburban dream.

The other day I surveyed my Facebook friends to find out what people are doing to observe the season.

Besides reading this OF COURSE.

I have done a variety of things for Lent, ranging from nothing special to taking on an additional discipline, such as morning prayer or devotional reading. If you are inclined to add a spiritual discipline, may I recommend my friend Mary Allison’s practice of writing a letter each day? If you’re in Memphis you can even take a workshop on the topic!

I was recently drawn to this blog¬†that describes “speed creating,” in which this inventive fellow spent 30 days making an amazing new thing each day. What would it be like to have Lent be a season for tinkering? It doesn’t have to be elaborate, like the thread light:

I like the idea of creating something for Lent. It speaks to me of the tradition of repentance, but in a novel way. One definition of repentance is to “go beyond the mind that you have.” What could be more in keeping with that than to repurpose the things of our lives? After all, we are moving toward Easter, the ultimate story of transformation and repurposing. Death gives way to new life. An instrument of violence becomes the place where God’s forgiveness is proclaimed.

But as captivated as I am by these practices, I will be giving something up instead. I am in a Meister Eckhart-ish place, who said that the spiritual life is a process of subtraction.

The truth is, I am feeling like Bilbo these days: “thin, sort of stretched, like butter, scraped over too much bread.” I am feeling the need for some space, friends. So something is going to go.

I’m a little wary of Lenten fasts as nothing more than self-help couched in spiritual terms: I’m going to give up sweets so I can lose some weight! Self-improvement is a good thing, but is a new exercise regimen during Lent really devotional at heart, or is it a second chance at the New Year’s resolution? (That said, I think some people take the hand-wringing a bit far.)

When I give something up, it is a reminder to breathe and pray, to experience radical contentment, and to remember that the object of my fast is not the “one thing needful,” as much as I may crave it in that moment.

An example: a friend of mine is going to give up bread, so that the only bread she consumes during Lent is communion bread, what we call the bread of heaven. I’ll bet you good money that she will lose weight during this time. But do you see how weight loss is not at all the focus?

I still haven’t decided what I will be giving up, but it’s been a topic of conversation in our house. The girls have suggested we all give up desserts. I think we’re going to do this. Dessert has become a point of contention in our home—I am soooo tired of the constant needling, the negotiating, the comparing of cookie sizes. Having that whole issue off the table (pun intended) feels very spacious to me. But I’m still pondering how it connects us to Spirit.

What do you think? Those who observe Lent, what will your practice be?

One final thing. To those folks, mostly non-religious or de-churched, going around saying “I’m giving up Lent for Lent”…

Yes, I’ve heard that one.

10 thoughts on “The Pre-Lenten Roundup

  1. Anna

    So glad to read this and to go back and read last year’s entry…. If I hear one more person belittle or mock someone who is giving up chocolate or beer or dessert……

    But… the real reason for the comment is that I love Margaret’s baby Jesus! That’s fabulous!

    Reply
  2. marciglass

    Some blog somewhere (how’s that for specifics?) talked about giving up all drinks other than water as an attempt to bring awareness to the problems most of the world face in accessing clean water.

    I do like the tradition of letting something go, of giving something up, for Lent because I think our Christian journey is, in general, not very sacrificial anymore. Even if Christendom is dead, the American culture doesn’t seem to have realized that. And so we live in a world (or I do, here in Idaho) where someone’s version of Christianity is the dominant voice. What is sacrificial, what does it cost me, to be Christian in such an environment?

    I like the bread sacrifice. It would be a real challenge for me, but I’m sure I can still find another vehicle to eat my butter in a socially acceptable way. (ha!) Thanks for that idea.

    Reply
    1. MaryAnn

      Very good stuff Marci. I like the water thing.

      I used to love saltine crackers with butter when I was a kid… ;-)

      One other thing I didn’t mention about our family dessert fast. Usually when I give something up I include Sundays, even though every Sunday is a mini-Easter and all that. But I think with my kids involved we probably will observe Sunday as a day to break the fast.

      Reply
  3. Hugs, Kisses and Snot

    Last year I added something by spending a little time each day in devotion. It was a challenge b/c while I have really good intentions I find it hard to carve out the time in my day. Turns out it was a huge blessing. Ironically, I couldn’t keep it up after Lent. I’m going to try it again this year.

    Reply
  4. Casey

    As I mentioned on Facebook, it’s Starbucks and swearing for me. Honestly, it’s about what comes in and out of my body. As far as Starbucks is concerned–I go there many times a week and it is costly. It has been a part of self-care in the craziness of trying to get two young kids out the door all by myself (Jim leaves for work early). Is it about bettering myself or self-help? Maybe. But, really…I feel crappy every time I shell out $8 for a drink and microwaved sandwich. I want to be a better steward of my money and of my body.
    As for the swearing…well, what goes out is important, too. Sometimes a good old fashioned cuss word is necessary to get a point across. But they are always better when used sparingly. I argue that words matter all the time…I want to honor that belief.
    Of course, I want these things not just for Lent…

    Reply
  5. susan

    I’m giving up several things and taking on several things, but the overall theme is creating space in my life–our life–for God. I guess I’m de-cluttering! I’m giving up candy, because it’s actually something I eat every day, so it will be a mindfulness thing. I’m also giving up restaurants–we’re giving up restaurants–as a mindfulness thing. We’re taking on family bible reading (and in order to do that, I’m giving up a half hour of sleep). I guess I’m not very clear about any of this theologically, other than that I feel I need to gain some control of my time, because I know who/what loses out when I am crunched. My theology is a bit muddled in words, but in my heart it makes sense!

    Reply

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