The season of Lent will soon be upon us. It will begin with Ash Wednesday on February 26 and continue for forty days (excluding Sundays) until we celebrate the resurrection of Christ on Easter morning (April 12). Historically Lent was a time of fasting and preparation for the baptism of new converts on Easter morning. It has evolved into a time of penance and self-reflection for all Christians. Traditionally this has included either the self-denial of a particular habit or the adding on of a specific spiritual practice. Now is the time for all of us to be thinking about how we might want to observe Lent this year. What action(s) can we subtract or add to our lives this Lenten season that will bring us closer to Christ and closer to conforming to the life to which we are called?
Here are some suggestions you may want to consider for your own personal observance of Lent.
Daily Prayer and Meditation – If you are not already in the habit of daily prayer, commit yourself to spending 10-15 minutes a day in prayer and meditation. Find a place free from the distractions of people, phones, and computers. If you want you can use The Upper Room devotional booklets that we have available, or you could use the Lord’s Prayer as a template for your own prayers.
Gospel Reading – Take time this Lent to read and study one of the gospels. Read it slowly and prayerfully. Use a good study Bible or commentary to guide your study. You may want to start with the gospel of Mark since it is the shortest of the gospels.
Worship – If your worship attendance has been sporadic lately, commit yourself to weekly Sunday attendance. Be present for the very special services of Ash Wednesday (2/26) and Good Friday (4/10).
Sabbath – Resolve yourself to truly take one day off a week for rest, reflection, and recreation. If Sunday doesn’t work, choose another time. The important thing is to spend time with God, family, and friends and leave the stresses of work and home responsibilities behind. Consider making your sabbath technology-free as well.
Retreat – Attend the United Methodist Women’s spiritual retreat on March 20-22.
Fasting – Consider fasting on Ash Wednesday (2/26) and/or Good Friday (4/10). To fast usually means to abstain from food, but it could be a fast from any print or electronic media. Or fast from talking and spend the day in silence and prayer. Be creative and consider fasting from anything that you may sometimes feel keeps you from being spiritually aware. If you choose to fast from food and you are not used to the practice, plan to fast for only one day or maybe only until sundown. Fasting is not for the very young or very old, pregnant women, the sick, or anyone not in good health. Never fast from water. On the contrary, drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep you hydrated. Take the time you would have spent eating and spend it in prayer or Bible study. Take the money you would have spent on food and give it to the poor and hungry. Or take the food itself and donate it to a local food pantry. Meditate on Isaiah 58.
Service – Volunteer to participate in service to others. Volunteer at Smith Elementary School, Duncanville Outreach Ministries, or at a local hospital.