Lenten Practices 2014

IMG_3236I love Lent. Not in the same way I love things like pizza and new books and rainbows. Those things are all wonderful and fun to smell or touch or look at.

I love Lent because it challenges me and gives me the opportunity to focus on the places in my life that have grown rough and unholy. It’s a chance to start over, to allow God to again have all of me, to practice discipline and seek God in a journey that leads to a garden, cross and, thanks be to God, an empty tomb and victory over death’s grip and sting.

Every year, I pray about my Lenten practice. I ask God to show me what it is running amok in my life and I do my best to listen and discern what God is leading me to do. Usually, God gets me just in time and I find myself doing things I really don’t want to do, but I fully understand are my Lenten calling. In the past few years, I’ve given up sugar, given up all beverages but water, given up multi-tasking, and last year I arose before the sun each morning to spend extra time in reflection and prayer.

This year, Lent is arriving quickly. Last week, when I was at lunch with my local youth minister friends and we were planning out our Fat Tuesday Lunch ExcessTravaganza, I marveled at how soon Lent would arrive and felt a bit guilty that I hadn’t even bothered to think about what I should do to mark the impending 40 days.

I mean, forty days ago, I gave up wheat and although I’m eating some sugar again, it’s very limited. That’s pretty good discipline right there! I’ll just keep that going!

Oh, but what does the Lord require of me? To do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).

No wheat, no sugar ain’t gonna cut it. Whether I wanted to pray about it or not, God found me. God always finds me.

(Thank God.) (Literally.)

In the midst of everything, I’m nearly done with Jen Hatmaker’s book called “7.” This is a fantastic book that includes Jen’s journey to combat excess and complacency in her life. For each of seven months, she takes on a new challenge. The first month, she only eats seven foods. Another month, she only wears seven items of clothing. It’s a great book and Jen is a fantastic writer. I completely recommend it.

It hit me hard, that book. I was completely convicted and her words resonated with me in a way I can’t put out of my mind. I wasn’t looking for or praying about Lenten discipline, but it found me anyway.

Based on her ideas, I’ve prayerfully considered the nearly seven weeks of Lent. Here’s how I plan to spend them.

March 5-9–Seven Pauses. Throughout Lent, I want to pray the hours. I’ve heard this presented lots of ways (Lauds to Compline, for example), but I’m going to go with the Seven Sacred Pauses that Jen used (attributed to Macrina Wiederkehr).

The Night Watch (midnight or late night); The Awakening Hour (dawn); The Blessing Hour (midmorning); The Hour of Illumination (noon); The Wisdom Hour (midafternoon); The Twilight Hour (early evening); The Great Silence (bedtime).

I want this to be a practice that does not just last for this first half-week of Lent, but throughout the season. That’s why I’m starting with it. I want to get my new schedule down before I add in each of the other six practices. I’m setting alarms on my phone daily to remind me to pause and pray.

March 10-16–Seven Foods. I’ll give you my specific list on March 9, but I’ll only eat the seven foods I choose for that week.

March 17-23–Seven Items Of Clothing. I’m not much of a clotheshorse, but I’m pretty sure this will be a challenge. Again, I’ll share a specific list on March 16.

March 24-30–Give Away Seven Possessions Daily. In an effort to cut the excess in my life, I’ll fill a box with seven items each day to give away. Lest my family panic, only items that actually belong to me will count.

March 31-April 6–Write Seven Thank You Notes Each Day. Gratitude is important and I’m going to practice it intentionally this week.

April 7-April 13–Use only Seven Electronic Devices. You’ll get the list for accountability purposes on April 6. My hair straightener and the coffee maker both count, so if my hair is not a frizzy mess or I appear to be appropriately caffeinated, those items better be on my list.

April 14-April 19–Spend money Seven Places Only. I realize this is one that would be much harder over the course of a month rather than the week I’m giving it, but I still think it will cause me to be mindful about money I spend carelessly. At this point, I’m not sure if I’ll build the list ahead of time or just report at the end as I discern during the week about where I’ll spend money.

So, what’s the point? I want to seek God, but I have to admit that I’ve filled my life with lots of distractions and little regard to the simplicity that Jesus calls his disciples to live. There are so many things that I depend on to make my life fun, flavorful or convenient that have nothing to do with the call to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly. I know that as a follower of Jesus, living in the USA, I am complacent and comfortable, but I have no idea what it means to be content with the comfort God alone can offer, as many of my brothers and sisters living and serving God around the world understand much better.

As usual, I post publicly so I have accountability. I’m also posting as an invitation for you to consider or share your own Lenten journey with me. I hope you will!

But first comes Fat Tuesday! Try to behave a little bit.