Some Thoughts On Lent Inspired by the Rule of St. Benedict

From the Rule of St. Benedict:

We advise that during these days of Lent he guard his life with all purity and at the same time wash away during these holy days all the shortcomings of other times” St. Benedict (2011-04-30). The Rule of St. Benedict (Kindle Locations 732-733). PlanetMonk Books. Kindle Edition.

During these days, therefore, let us add something to the usual amount of our service, special prayers, abstinence from food and drink, that each one offer to God “with the joy of the Holy Ghost,” of his own accord, something above his prescribed measure; namely, let him withdraw from his body somewhat of food, drink, sleep, speech, merriment, and with the gladness of spiritual desire await holy Easter” St. Benedict (2011-04-30). The Rule of St. Benedict (Kindle Locations 735-737). PlanetMonk Books. Kindle Edition.

Lent clearly has a long tradition in the Christian church.  All I recall of Lent growing up in the evangelical church was: (1) Fasnacht Day, the day we eat a donut-type sugary object, and (2) Lent was mentioned as existing.  There was no explanation of what Lent was, or if there was an explanation I missed it!  There was little talk of giving things up.  Now it seems like many churches and individuals who did not traditionally do Lent are rediscovering this season of church life.  It is a time that still tugs at the hearts of many.

Lent is a time of soul-searching as we move toward Holy Week.  It is a time when many give things up, in a word many fast, in order to move into a deeper spirituality, closer to Jesus who gave up all for us.

I have been thinking about whether to give something up.  I want to make it worthwhile, not just giving up something for the sake of giving up something.  After much thought and prayer, I have decided to:

1. Give up snacking after 8 PM.  This was also my new year’s resolution and is probably a good thing to continue doing after Lent.  There is no need to eat that late at night (though working with college students will make it harder on nights I am on campus!).

2. Give up social media (Facebook, Twitter, reading blogs, Goodreads) between the hours of 7 AM and 8 PM with the exception of when I am using them for work (i.e. posting a CSF newsletter on Facebook, tweeting updates during CSF’s upcoming mission trip).  I don’t feel the need to give these things up totally, especially because I often use them all for work.  But I do find myself checking them too often during the day.

3. Don’t just give something up, replace it with something else.  Benedict mentioned this when he spoke of adding to the usual amount of our service.  So just giving up Facebook or coffee or chocolate is not enough, the point is to replace it with something better.  This could be as simple and easy as the old reliables, reading the Bible and prayer.  Or it could be something along the lines of this great list offered by pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber from 2012:

Day 1: Pray for your enemies

Day 2: Walk, carpool, bike or bus it.

Day 3: Don’t turn on the car radio

Day 4: Give $20 to a non-profit of your choosing

(Sunday)

Day 5: Take 5 minutes of silence at noon

Day 6: Look out the window until you find something of beauty you had not noticed before

Day 7: Give 5 items of clothing to Goodwill

Day 8: No bitching day

Day 9: Do someone else’s chore

Day 10: Buy a few $5 fast food gift cards to give to homeless people you encounter

(Sunday)

Day 11: Call an old friend

Day 12: Pray the Paper (pray for people and situations in today’s news)

Day 13: Read Psalm 139 http://bible.oremus.org

Day 14: Pay a few sincere compliments

Day 15: Bring your own mug

Day 16: Educate yourself about human trafficking www.praxus.org

(Sunday)

Day 17: Forgive someone

Day 18: Internet diet

Day 19: Change one light in your house to a compact florescent

Day 20: Check out morning and evening prayer at http://dailyoffice.wordpress.com

Day 21: Ask for help

Day 22: Tell someone what you are grateful for

(Sunday)

Day 23: Introduce yourself to a neighbor

Day 24: Read Psalm 121 http://bible.oremus.org

Day 25: Bake a cake

Day 26: No shopping day

Day 27: Light a virtual candle http://rejesus.co.uk/spirituality/post_prayer/

Day 28: Light an actual candle

(Sunday)

Day 29: Write a thank you note to your favorite teacher

Day 30: Invest in canvas shopping bags

Day 31: Use Freecycle www.freecycle.org

Day 32: Donate art supplies to your local elementary school

Day 33: Read John 8:1-11 http://bible.oremus.org

Day 34: Worship at a friend’s mosque, synogogue or church and look for the beauty

(Sunday)

Day 35: Confess a secret

Day 36: No sugar day – where else is there sweetness in your life?

Day 37: Give $20 to a local non-profit

Day 38: Educate yourself about a saint www.catholic.org/saints

Day 39: Pray for peace

Day 40: Pray for your enemies (you probably have new ones by now) then decide which of these exercises you’ll keep for good

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2012/02/house-for-all-sinners-and-saints-40-ideas-for-keeping-a-holy-lent/

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