The one about ritual

I wanted to talk about Lent. I feel like in the last few years Lent has became much more of a presence in my life. When I was younger up through high school and college the only people in my life who participated in Lent were my Catholic friends. I think that lately there has been a move in the Evangelical community to embrace the rituals of more traditional denominations, and I think it’s great. Growing up in a tradition that greatly emphasized a personal non ritualized relationship with God is something for which I’m truly grateful. But, I do enjoy exercising the part of my spiritual muscles that can be a little weaker. I enjoy praying written out prayers for the specific reason that it helps me not focus purely on my own needs and desires. I like reading Scripture and not waiting for God to tell me something specific, but instead reading something from a church father or mother that illuminates something I never noticed before. So for the past few years I have participated in Lent in some way shape or form.

I always struggle with the question of giving something up. I don’t want to act like Lent is a New Years Resolution watered down. Giving up soda, candy, TV, or social media might be healthy for me, but is that what Lent is really about? I don’t say this to criticize those who do give up those kinds of things. I think those things working in conjunction with the true meaning of Lent can have great value. If I’m giving up social media it’s to spend more time in God’s presence; every time I would normally be on Facebook I pray or read my Bible. Otherwise I’m just giving up a not so great habit and not really focusing on what Lent means. Lent is the time to prepare myself for the wonder that is Easter. To remember what my Savior did on the 40 days leading up to his death and resurrection. So sometimes I remember that time by giving something up. And other times I add something to my life. Either way can help me embrace the Lenten season.

Last month I began praying and thinking about what if anything I was going to do for Lent. I finally landed on some things and I thought I would share them here. This isn’t to bring glory to myself but to maybe help those of you who still aren’t sure if you want to do anything to get some idea. (It’s only the day after Ash Wednesday, plenty of time to start a Lent fast.)

This year I’m not giving anything up. Instead I am adding things. I am adding how much Bible reading I do in my day. I signed up for the Lent For Everyone plan on YouVersion.com. This plan takes readings from NT Wright’s book of the same name and sends them to your phone every morning. I also signed up for Preston Yancey’s amazing Lent project. Using readings found from The Book of Common Prayer, I am already loving this study. There are easy instructions on the website if you’ve never done anything like this before, and the readings are sent to my email every morning. I tend to read the morning part of the Preston Yancey blog followed by NT Wright’s book in the morning right when I wake up. Before I leave for work in the afternoon I read the second part of the Yancey blog, and finish out his post at night before I go to bed. It’s only been 2 days of this, but so far I’m really loving it. I feel like I’m not just starting or ending my day with Jesus, but instead I’m carrying him with me throughout the whole day.

If these ideas don’t appeal to you I would encourage you to check out Rachel Held Evan’s 40 Ideas for Lent 2014 that she just posted yesterday. She gives ideas for online things as well as books and other activities. If you’ve never done Lent before it’s not too late to start! This will be my fourth year doing and each year it becomes more and more special. If you decide to do something leave your plan in the comments! I’m always looking for new ideas. If you have participated in Lent what do you find most special about it? What are you doing this year? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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