Suggestions for Lenten Practices

Lent is a season of forty days (not including Sundays) when the church prepares for Easter by taking time to pay special attention to our own spiritual growth and faithfulness to God. Beginning on Ash Wednesday (March 6 this year), Lent is a time to ask forgiveness for our sins, think about how we can live more faithfully, and try out new spiritual practices. It has traditionally been a time of fasting (“giving something up”) but is also a very appropriate time to “try something new.” So, below we have offered some suggestions of things you might try to help you experience Lent more fully. Don’t try all of them (that would be overwhelming) – just pick a few that work for you and your family, or come up with your own practice. This should be challenging (we need to be challenged if we want to grow) but not so challenging that you quit after a few days.

• Come to worship each Sunday (10:00 AM at Gravely Elementary School, 4670 Waverly Farm Drive, Haymarket, VA 20169).

• Commit to reading two chapters from the Gospels each day. If you start with Matthew 1 today, you should finish John sometime during Holy Week.
• Or, instead of reading the Gospels, spend Lent reading the book of Job. It’s a hard book, but a powerful reflection on suffering and loss. If you read one chapter per day, you should be done by Easter.
• Commit to spending 10 minutes each morning and 10 minutes each evening in prayer. If you already do that, try to pray for 10 minutes at lunch time as well.
• Have a conversation with someone who represents a perspective that you don’t understand. Listen more than you talk.
• Have a conversation with someone who is really different from you. Particularly look for someone whose voice has been marginalized (immigrant, ex-prisoner, veteran, LGBTQ+, homeless, atheist, etc.). Listen more than you talk.
• Give up going out to eat at restaurants. Figure how much money you save and give it away to an organization that fights hunger.
• Do something really nice for someone who annoys you.
• Take a true Sabbath each week – no work emails, no working from home, simply resting and caring for yourself.
• For most of history (and in much of the world today), meat was a rare delicacy/treat. Give up eating meat during Lent and learn about how most other people in the world have lived.
• Don’t use any paper towels or napkins – instead, use only cloth products. Then, take some time to wonder about how much trash we produce each day.
• Visit someone in prison, a nursing home, or the hospital weekly.
• Offer help to someone who is struggling to pay his or her bills.
• Cook and deliver a meal for a family who is overwhelmed.
• Each week, take someone who is on a tight budget out for lunch. Have a good conversation and then pay for the meal (tip well!).
• Write one thank you note each day to someone who has made your life better. Take time to think about unnoticed people (servers at restaurants, workers at grocery stores, people who make the things we use) and try to include them too.
• Pray for your enemies each day. Include (among others) violent groups around the world, criminals in this country, people with whom you disagree politically, and folks in your family and daily life who you just don’t like very much.
• At the end of each day, spend a few minutes reflecting on what happened during the day. List the times when you felt close to God, the times when you felt far from God, the times when you were faithful to God, the times when you were tempted to sin, and the times when you actually sinned. Then confess your sin to God and thank God for sustaining you.
• Try tithing – giving 10% of your income to church – from now until Easter. See what happens.
• Make a list of 5 people in your life who might need to experience more of God’s light and love. Pray for them each day and ask God to show you how to share God’s love with them.
• Spend 10 minutes each day reading the news and praying over it – read the articles with an eye towards praying for the people involved, and ask God to show you how you can make a difference.
• Slow down and listen. Take a walk and pay attention to the world around you. Sip your coffee slowly. Breathe and notice the presence of God.

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