I don’t remember when I first heard about Lent. Maybe I was vaguely aware of it during elementary school, when my Catholic friends had to eat fish sticks on Fridays, but since I definitely didn’t like fish sticks, I let it pass without further question. My childhood church, which seemed to skip directly from Christmas to Easter with a possible pause for some Hosanna! stickers for Palm Sunday, didn’t mention Lent at all.
Sometime in college, though, I noticed that friends were “giving up chocolate for Lent,” or “giving up television for Lent.” I got on that bandwagon for more than a few years, and I can assure you that, at least the way I did it, self-deprivation was a supreme exercise in missing the point. I confused the ancient spiritual practice of fasting with collecting Brownie points from Jesus.
I’m fairly certain now that Jesus doesn’t give a fig about chocolate in and of itself; he does, however, care a whole lot about me – about US – spending time in preparation for marking his death and resurrection. So, if giving up Snickers bars draws us into the story of Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness, then he’s probably all for it. If giving up television frees up time to pray and to read scripture, then Jesus likely gives that Lenten practice two thumbs up, too.
Fasting is only one of many ways to mark the season of Lent. Perhaps you’d like to take ON a spiritual discipline this year, like Praying in Color or a daily devotion. This month’s “From the Magpie’s Nest” offers several possibilities for drawing closer to Jesus during these next forty days.
Just click on the bold purple phrases in each entry to link to the full articles.
“If the church is indeed a hospital for the sick and wounded, then it follows that Lent is its yearly physical and annual tune-up.”
Biola University’s The Lent Project
WHAT IS LENT AND WHAT MIGHT YOU DO TO MARK IT?
For a good overview of Lent as a time of preparation, give Mark D. Roberts’ blog post a read. He writes about both fasting and about taking on new disciplines.
SPIRITUAL PRACTICES AT HOME
Consider holding a different person or word in prayer each day of Lent, using one of these cool calendar templates for keeping track. Artist and writer Sybil Macbeth suggests that praying by writing or coloring or doodling helps to focus the mind when mere quiet does not. “Each day I choose a word to ponder or a person to pray for. I write the word or name in the allotted space and draw or doodle around it.”
Create a prayer space at home for family devotions. If you have young children at home, this blog post will guide you through creating a collection of items that will serve as talking points as you and your family prepare yourselves for Easter.
Families, take worship home during Lent this year! Christian educator Carolyn Brown says that the six weeks of Lent may feel like FOREVER for children. She suggests choosing a different worship skill – praising God, thanking God, forgiving others, etc. - each week at home. These practices wouldn’t hurt any of us grownups, either!
Create a habit of daily devotions at a time and place that work for you. Use one of these two great online devotion options: The Lent Project is a production of Biola University’s Center for Christianity, Culture and the Arts. You can subscribe to their daily devotion - including scripture, poetry music, film, or visual art - and have it delivered to your inbox each day. Pittsburgh Theological Seminary also has a great Lent Devotional, which you can receive by email, follow on Facebook or Twitter, or download as an app to see each day.
AND AS EASTER DRAWS CLOSER …
Learn what happened during the week leading up to Easter with this brief video. Part of the entertaining “Chuck Knows Church” series from the United Methodist Church, this video covers the events of Holy Week.
Celebrate with your child or grandchild during Easter Worship! This is the most holy day of the Christian calendar. Make sure that your kids don’t miss anything. Again, our guru for all things worship + kids is educator Carolyn Brown. Her advice ranges from the practical, “Get there early enough to get a seat where your child can see and hear easily,” to the less obvious, but oh-so-important, “Nudge your child just before the Gospel is read saying, ‘Listen to this. It is the big story for this day.’”