Lent begins next week, on February 18. I wrote last year that, growing up in an evangelical family, Lent was not part of my childhood experience. After attending an Anglican church in college and marrying a Catholic, the idea of Lent became more intriguing. I believe the idea of Lent – of intentionally waiting and preparing for Easter can take on many different forms. Perhaps instead of doing something every day, it’s once a week. Perhaps you choose an overarching theme to the season rather than a daily practice.
I think the idea of resetting, of actively waiting, of looking at life through new intention is an important practice. It shouldn’t be limited to the Lenten season, but this is a good time to focus on those practices. Personally, I view this time as a time to reach out to my community, whether by volunteering, donating, or connecting in person. This is not an individual endeavor of self-discipline but a time to grow as a community. With each of these ideas, I tried to think of how my community – near and far – can benefit from my more intentional living during this season.
I thought I’d share five ideas to get you thinking about Lent. Some I’ve done myself; Some I’m intrigued by.
1) Give Up to Give Back
For our first Lent together, Frank and I decided to give up wine. Instead of simply giving something up, we decided to take the money we would have spent on wine and put it toward funding micro loans through Kiva. I like the idea of giving back by giving something up. I didn’t want us to give up wine only to end up with more money in our bank account – I wanted the money to go to something more meaningful.
2) Handwritten Notes
Another year, I made a list of 40 women who impacted my life. I wrote a note each day and mailed it to her. I loved the intentionality of this practice. It gave me the opportunity to pray for each woman and to focus on specific reasons she impacted my life. Last year, I made a list of 20 women, but not having to sit down every day made the practice a bit more haphazard for some reason. I would forget a few days and then have to catch up. Perhaps the daily meditation was a habit I needed to form.
3) Follow News Sources or Bloggers of Color
I read David Hanson’s list of Lenten ideas for the White Church and was intrigued by his entire list of suggestions. The one that stood out most to me was to spend 40 days reading different perspectives. This means turning off NPR and tuning in to Colorlines. It means not reading white bloggers for a month and choosing bloggers of color to focus on. At first, I thought it would be good to just add to my current news sources, but realized that’s not the point. The point is to stop and listen to a new perspective.
4) Remove Social Media
Many people use Lent as a time to log off of Facebook and announce a social media fast. For me, that’s not practical. Many of our real-life, face-to-face planning and communication happens via Facebook and asking people to switch to email or texts just for me doesn’t seem to fit into the Lenten spirit. However, I’ll admit to my fair share of zoning out on my phone, so I thought this year I might remove all apps and only use the computer. This would mean being more intentional with when I checked and for how long I browsed.
5) Find 40 New Things
This might be a bit daunting and may be better in the once/week category. But, I thought it would be interesting to choose 40 new things – whether it’s visiting a new park, trying a new recipe, reading a book from a new perspective, or trying a new restaurant in a completely new (to me) part of town. I think the key to making this one a success would be to brainstorm all 40 ideas before Lent begins. Perhaps I won’t do them in order, but at least they’ll be written out.
Do you observe Lent? What are some ways you can connect with your community during this season?