With the awesome warm temperatures today (reached 65 here in Binghamton, NY) I was reminded that Spring time is not too far off, aka round two of winter with a few nice days like today sprinkled into the mix of ickyness. Nevertheless, I am looking forward too having shamrock shakes again xD and on a more serious note got me wondering if I should participate in lent again this year, as Easter is right around the corner. Last year, I choose to participate in Lent for the first time, although in a somewhat less than traditional manner as I used the lent time to help me get my time priorities back in line. I was not totally successful in my attempt to give up my morning sleep, last year but it did help set a precedent for giving God the first hour of my day which I still do for the most part, and it did help me focus on the real reason for lent. So I think all in all it did far more good for me then harm even if I am not Catholic. So this year I have chosen to give up Soda! For me that is the equivalent of giving up Chocolate and Coffee for most normal people so this is going to be a hard one but I think it is for a good purpose after all, not to mention my soda habit is getting out of control averaging well over 2 liters a day! So this will certainly be a challenge for me.
As this season of lent approaches, I encourage us all regardless of if we choose to fast from anything in particular to focus on what this season is about. This time also gives us a great opportunity for each of us to assess our current spiritual state and see what areas God would have us grow in, and what things in our life we may need to purge out of our lives.
In order to figure out my current spiritual state I have found these questions helpful to contemplate.
What habits do I engage in that are destructive to my spiritual health?
What material things have I become too attached too?
What areas in my life are unbalanced?
To what do I devote too much or not enough time?
As I have only recently decided to participate in Lent I wanted to figure out a little bit more about it this year before giving up my beloved Deit Mountain Dew so that I might maximize this experience, as well as to better understand this tradition that has been going on for hundreds of years.
The Pope describes so of the benefits of Lent saying,
Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God.
Doing some quick research I found that the most common things to give up for lent include, sweets, T.V. watching, snacking between meals, coffee, soda (like me, this year) and video games. I also found out that many people will also use the lent period to add certain good things to there life such as spending more time with family, giving to the poor, doing an extra chore, volunteering, spending more time in prayer, doing random acts of kindness, etc.
Although Lent has become rather popular and socially accepted even despite not fully knowing what the lent season is really about. Lent is not really about giving up your favorite foods it is about focusing on what Jesus did for us on the cross 2,000 years ago. And by engaging in the activity of self denial, and fasting we as Christians have a great opportunity to grow closer in our walk with God. In today's world self-denial is sadly rare and far between as self-indulgence has become our rule so taking some time apart from this mentality and truing to solely focus on God can me immensely difficult and rewarding. By lifting a person's gaze to God, created goods point beyond themselves, to greater joys. Consequently, he who truly enjoys God's goodness in created things, such as food and drink, will not remain attached to them. Rather, he will go beyond them, readily giving them up, in order to enjoy the higher things. As Christians we are called to seek after God first and for most and not of the things in or off this world. In addition to fasting lent is also a time to purify ones heart. By turning away from his concerns personal pleasures and instead turning more wholeheartedly to God.
This year lent begins on Wednesday March 9th (Ash Wednesday) and goes till Easter Sunday April 24th (46 days latter). And in honor of this season I have decided that in addition to giving up Soda for 46 days, I have decided to also do my best to take this season to get my focus back on God first and eliminating all of my other wanna be gods/ idols. To effectively do this I have decided to write this list of things I will and need to do to make sure my focus and life is back in order and eliminate all the other gods in my life.
I am going to listen to Christian music instead of secular music.
Stop watching shows and movies with gratuitous sex and/or violence.
I am also going to only watch up to 10 hours a week of movies or TV.
Sit in fifteen minutes of silence each day.
Write a letter to God each day.
Set time limits on overall online time.
Resist making or adding to lists that rank people.
Share one spiritual video with your online network once a week.
Focus on the positive things going on in my life.
Leave an encouraging or positive comment on a different blog each day.
Each week I am going to write a letter of thanks to someone.
Write a poem of praise for each person in your family.
Write a list of the ways God has blessed you and add to it each day.
Exercise each day.
Give up foul language.
Give up gossiping.
Make time to pray for at least an hour throughout each day.
Keep up with my quite times and scripture reading.
Lent is a tremendous opportunity for spiritual growth. I hope these suggestions re-energize you on your spiritual journey. If you try one or more of these ideas, or if you’d like to share your own Lenten practices, please leave a comment.