Lent is the forty-day-long season of fasting, prayer & giving before Easter. The forty days represent the time Jesus spent without food in the desert, where he endured temptation by Satan. It is a reminder that Jesus went through a period of suffering to make him stronger and more trusting in God.
Following the delight of pancakes (with a little sugar and lemon for me!) on Shrove Tuesday, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter (the Sunday’s are not counted).
The purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer—through prayer, fasting & giving – for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. It’s to be understood as a time for self-examination, a time of ‘clearing out’ our lives, a time of ‘cleansing’ in preparation for Easter.
Lent is of course traditionally a time when people decide to give something up such as chocolate, crisps, cream cakes or some other treat. However, rather than giving up chocolate or going on a detox, may I encourage you to use Lent as a time to focus on God and to undertake an act of generosity each day that will make a positive difference to the life of someone else.
The following lists some activities that you can do during Lent:
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- Pray the Psalms or use a Lent devotional/study guide.
- Write a short Lenten prayer to add when saying grace at meals.
- Pray the Lord’s Prayer each day during Lent.
- Pray for forgiveness for past judgments of others.
- Pray for the patience and the courage to develop your gifts.
- Each day during Lent pray for a different friend, neighbour, stranger or member of your family.
- Go for a walk around your neighbourhood and pray about what you see.
- During Lent look through the newspaper or listen to the news to identify someone who may be suffering or having difficulties and then pray for that person.
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a. Taking off
- Go through your closets and give away clothes/toys that are still in good condition, but that you can do without.
- Clean your house and give unneeded items and clothing to charity.
- Treat yourself to a meal of rice and tea once a week as a physical sign of concern with the hungry in our world.
- Once a week serve a simple meal that consists of soup or salad and count your blessings.
- Give up watching a favourite TV programme or forego some favourite sports event.
- Have a ‘No Screens’ day or evening. Switch off your TV, computer, tablet, smart phone, games console etc. play a board game instead or do something creative together.
- Limit yourself to checking email and texts only once a day.
- Slow down and savour an experience – a walk, a meal, a piece of music.
- Have a ‘Spend nothing’ day. Can you do it?
b. Putting on
- Spend 30 minutes each day praying, reading scripture or a Christian book.
- Select 10 people over Lent and sincerely encourage them.
- Invite someone for a cup of tea/coffee, or offer to shop for them or help them in some other way.
- Visit or write to someone you have not seen for a while.
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- Put loose change in a jar during Lent and then give it to a charity.
- Invite people to lunch and ask them to give a suitable donation to a selected charity.
- Offer to baby sit, wash a car, do window or general cleaning and give proceeds to a charity.
- Buy a special gift for a neighbour, friend or family member.
- Buy a coffee and give it to someone on the way to work.
- Use a buy one get one free and give one to the Kingston Foodbank.
- Give a home-made gift to someone.
- Buy something from a charity shop and reverse haggle.
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The following are some additional things that can be done over Lent
- Make it a point to spend some time alone with someone who is feeling discouraged or rejected.
- Give a bouquet of flowers to a friend or family member.
- Go out of your way to perform a generous act to someone in need such as someone who is homeless.
- Join a worthy cause and commit yourself to giving time throughout the year.
- Forgive someone who has hurt you.
- Baby-sit free of charge for someone who doesn’t get out often.
- Do something in the community to make God’s world more beautiful.
- Prepare a meal for a person who is shut-in.
- Buy an Easter lily and give it to someone.
- Give family and friends Lent cards or letters that express your love.
- Spend time with an elderly parent, a small child, an ill or lonely person.
- Offer to help a house-bound neighbour.
- Write a brief note to a friend, relative, or neighbour to let them know you remember and care about them.
- Avoid gossiping or being critical of others.
All of the above are suggestions from the Church Army or from the ‘Live Life, Love Lent’ book. I commend them to you and wish you a blessed Lent, Holy Week and Easter