My First Lent, My Way

As an unaffiliated (or non-denominational, if you wish) Christian, I’ve never observed Lent. Many of my friends do, however, and in past years, I’ve simply nodded to show my attentiveness as they described what they intended to abstain from during the countdown to Easter. Chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, bread, and other such foods were the usual victims, but sometimes activities or perceived bad habits made the hit list: the snooze alarm, unnecessary spending, smoking, watching television, etc. All very interesting, but never enough to lure me into the observance of it.

Easter, on the other hand, has always been one of my favorite holidays. There are spiritual reasons, which I won’t go into, but there are also mental and physical components to this holiday for me, probably because it’s so handily observed in Spring, when my mind and body are beyond ready to be rid of the winter doldrums. Whatever the reason, I always feel more energized and alive around this time of year.

If you’ve read here for any length of time, you know that I like to shake things up now and then, to toss something new into the mix. Some things “take”, some things don’t. The joy is in the trying. And that’s why I’ve decided to observe Lent this year, for the first time in my life.

As I understand it there are three general areas of focus in Lent: prayer, sacrifice, and charity/almsgiving. I’ve got the prayer/meditation thing covered, which leaves abstinence and charity.

You’re probably on the edge of your seats now, wondering just what I plan to give up, aren’t you? Well, if you guessed anything food-related, guess again! :) Now that I’ve cleaned up my daily diet, there’s not much to sacrifice without giving up a nutritional component. Not a road I care to travel.

No, I’ve decided to go another route. When I think about some of my daily practices and habits, along with the ways I want to grow, I’ve chosen three Lenten-ish sacrifices (I chose three because it’s such a big deal number in Christianity):

1) Reading fiction – I don’t consider any reading to be time wasted, but I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time with my nose buried in a cozy mystery or silly romance novel. I have a shelf full of unread non-fiction books, all obtained with the purpose of enriching my mind and/or spirit. For the next six weeks or so, I’ll direct all of reading time to these books and the stack of unread magazines that have accumulated since the beginning of the year. In addition to a recharged inner self, I’ll also accomplish a bit of decluttering. A two-fer sacrifice, if you will.

2) Free Cell – I have a healthy practice of using a few minutes of Free Cell play as a reward for getting some task accomplished. Finished my workout? Cool down with a few games of Free Cell. Complete a somewhat difficult item on my to-do list? Two games! Or I’ll use it as a distraction from nighttime snacking urges. No problem there, and much healthier than large amounts of popcorn or chocolate. Lately, though, I’ve noticed that I’ll head over to Free Cell when I want to avoid doing something difficult. I recognize it now as a form of fear, a way of hiding from risk, and it’s NOT healthy. Taking away Free Cell as an option will give me more time to spend on more enriching pursuits. More on that in a minute.

3) 40 Personal Items & 40 Books – I’ve been blessed to live a life of abundance, and I’m grateful for that. I’m also embarrassed about the amount of stuff I have. While I’ve been made progress in ridding myself of some of it, I still have things I don’t use, need, or love. In addition, my bookshelves are spilling over again, and many of those books will never be opened again. I’ve set up two boxes in my office and for the next six(ish) weeks, I’ll be filling them with 40 unused items from my house and 40 books from my shelves. The purpose of this sacrifice is two-fold: to rid myself of unnecessary clutter and to put some useful-to-someone-else items back into circulation via a charitable donation.

Speaking of charity, for that component of Lent, I’ll be attending a weekly series of Lenten lectures at a nearby church. They caught my attention with this title: Just Eating: Practicing Our Faith at the Table. Some of the topics look very interesting:
A Call to Action – changing our lives with faith in action steps, making our eating just, our bodies healthy & energizing our spirits to serve others.
On Nutrition – food as fuel, how our choices make a huge difference in our energy & our health as we make caring for our body a priority.
Food & Community – creating community with food, the importance of gathering at table and the power it has to nourish our bodies and souls.
Food & Environment – food and our environment, awareness of local cuisine and how to build ties between farmers, food artisans and community.
Food & Hunger – the problem of hunger in the Mid-South. Needs in our community can inform our actions & inspire us to examine our lifestyle.

I expect this series to be personally enriching and also to educate me on how I might better serve my community.

(Any Memphis people plan to attend? Give me a shout! The church is on Quince, just West of Kirby Parkway. There’s a Starbucks around the corner that would be perfect for a meet-up! No pastries allowed. Not where I can reach them, anyway. :))

So this is my version of Lent. I’m sure to be breaking some sort of rules, but I don’t particularly care. I’ll be pushing aside some things (panicky note to self: fiction=temporary) to allow time and space for building a better me, both on the inside and on the outside, to the community at large. That seems to be the purpose of Lent, within my limited understanding of it. And who knows? If it works well, I may create a Supplemental Lent to follow it. :)

Feel free to chime in with your own Lenten intentions. Or not. I know it’s a highly personal thing. :)

Whatever your beliefs, I wish you peace…



29 thoughts on “My First Lent, My Way

  1. Those are great Lenten goals! I especially like your 'give away 40 items in the house and 40 books'.

  2. I am totally and completely impressed. I was only going to give up being so cranky! Now I have to rethink that. :)

  3. LOL. I can relate to your fiction fix. I'm a librarian and I read lots of fiction. Whenever I pick up a nonfiction book, I'm pleasantly surprised how much I enjoy it.

    For Lent this year, I'm going to add something to my life, not sacrifice something. I haven't yet figured out what that will be, but I've got about 8 hours left to decide . . . :)

  4. Best version of Lent EVER. I love this idea!

    I like challenges and goals but am not religious at all… so I'm, um, taking advantage of this religion (is that blasphemy?) to make a goal to not binge and to not exceed 2,000 calories each day. I've been overeating a lot lately and need to reign it all in.

  5. I've never practiced Lent before, but you've given a new meaning to the reason. I think you have some great things listed.

  6. Love your post Cammy. This is not my religion but even with my own, I make my own rules. It works for me & that is what counts. Nothing says it has to be one way…

  7. I was raised Catholic but don't really practice any religion although I was thinking of participating in Lent this year.

    I love your version of Lent. I haven't been reading much since I'm not commuting on the train everyday so I can't "give it up." I waste a ton of time playing spider solitaire but I do it in spurts so that's not really giving anything up either. I love the idea of donating the 40 personal items and 40 books. I could totally do that along with abstaining from alcohol. We'll see if I can come up with some other sacrafices before the night is over. Good luck on your Lenten goals.

  8. I was raised Catholic but don't really practice any religion although I was thinking of participating in Lent this year.

    I love your version of Lent. I haven't been reading much since I'm not commuting on the train everyday so I can't "give it up." I waste a ton of time playing spider solitaire but I do it in spurts so that's not really giving anything up either. I love the idea of donating the 40 personal items and 40 books. I could totally do that along with abstaining from alcohol. We'll see if I can come up with some other sacrafices before the night is over. Good luck on your Lenten goals.

  9. I was raised Catholic but don't really practice any religion although I was thinking of participating in Lent this year.

    I love your version of Lent. I haven't been reading much since I'm not commuting on the train everyday so I can't "give it up." I waste a ton of time playing spider solitaire but I do it in spurts so that's not really giving anything up either. I love the idea of donating the 40 personal items and 40 books. I could totally do that along with abstaining from alcohol. We'll see if I can come up with some other sacrafices before the night is over. Good luck on your Lenten goals.

  10. OOOOps … sorry about the multiple comments, I think my computer froze up so I hit "publish" two too many times.

  11. your three things are great! i'm not catholic, but i still do something for lent as well!! check out my blog later to see what i'm giving up…i thought it was original (until i just read your post!)

  12. i kinda forgot about Shrove Tuesday (argh! pancakes!!) and Ash Wednesday until today.

    Um. I have no plan..(surprise!)..but I like your idea of 40 things in 40 days.

    I'll think on that tonight and see what I can contribute.

    thanks!
    xo

  13. Hey Cammy! enjoyed reading your ideas for lent. :) I've never given up anything for it (that I can remember), but your choices are thought provoking. thanks!

  14. Love this idea. I don't observe/practice Lent so I have nothing.

    I am interested in knowing what you will be reading.

  15. This year I'm going to give up old grudges. I have an annoying habit of remembering whenever someone 'done me wrong' and resenting it. Sometimes years later, the memory will come back and I'll still resent it and get angry over it.
    For Lent I'm going to make a conscious effort to take a deep breath and let it go.

  16. I love the way you've thought this through.

    Enjoy Lent. I've always thought it had something to do with some kind of sacrifice that would benefit another and over time we have corrupted it into something meaningless, or frivolous, like giving up bubble-gum or more commonly, chocolate. I guess that has a lot to do with my Presbyterian childhood. Although I'm a Christian I've never been in a Church that practiced Lent, but like you I love Easter.

  17. Ouch on the fiction and Free Cell. You were talking to me, right? Reminding me that I play WAY too much WordTwist when I am avoiding (fill in the blank)? And all the books on spirituality that seemed like a good idea at the time are STILL a good idea now? Cammy, thank you for the kick in the pants. Wishing you a peaceful and reflective Lent.

  18. These are even better than New Year's resolutions! My reading resolution is to stop wasting time with magazines (my guilty pleasure) and get back to the books! And de-cluttering is such a worthy goal. Clutter makes you feel hemmed in and hopeless. Good for you!

  19. Cammy, these are some a great ideas for observing Lent — I've never done so before, but this year I've felt a tug towards "doing something" for Lent. Your post has given me so very good ideas — most importantly, the idea that Lent can be observed personally and whenever I want (need?) to, on my own calendar. As in "Supplemental Lent". :) So, if I haven't started Lent on time, that's okay — there's really no bad timing for this sort of thing. :)
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  20. Sounds like some thought went into your decisions. Whatever we do for Lent should draw us closer to the one who sacrificed all for us. I've never gone to a church that participated in Lent so I can't say that I've ever participated or a least I don't remember it. Hope you receive all the blessings associated with the observance of Lent.

  21. In my book, there are no "rules" for Lent. Your goals are great, and I especially love the last one.

  22. So, you play games on your cell phone? Is that what you are referring to? That is funny, only because I have no idea how to do that! 😉

    I love how you are always challenging yourself, Cammy!

  23. I like your version better than the traditional one (sorry)… I think Lent is about making a commitment to bettering yourself (for God) but it is something that we should all strive to do.

    That being said, I do the SAME THING with number 2… I actually deleted it off my phone the other day and am trying to break the habit!

  24. Just remember, there's nowhere in the Bible that details the "rules" of Lent. Totally man-made ritual. So you can forget worrying about breaking any "rules." 😉 Only Pharisees look over someone's shoulder to see what rule they may be breaking.

    The way I've always looked at it – if you are doing something bad, you shouldn't wait for Lent to give it up. And doing good should never be limited to a certain time of the year.

    I've always been a bit of a rebel and my love for Jesus is something for which I never apologize. I'm eternally grateful for the sacrifice He made for me. There are lots of man-created rituals that I find unnecessary, but if this time helps some people refocus on HIM, that's the important thing. I focus on sacrifice on Good Friday and then on the joy of the resurrection on Resurrection Sunday.

    Having preached my sermon, 😉 I will now say, I love all of your ideas. They are worthy goals at any time. Hugs!
    Path to Health

  25. I grew up in a church that doesn't observe Lent, so I first really encountered it in Blogland. My life is about to change very drastically in the next few days, so I think I'll just pass this time around.

    I love your sacrifices though!

  26. I too use Free Cell as a kind of crutch or security blanket.. something about that game. I have had to set lots of rules about when I can and can not play it. Maybe I'll make a big push to try to stop playing too.

  27. I really like how you've taken the idea of Lent and tailored it to your specific goals. Keeping the focus on what's important in your life for these 40 days and nights will ensure that you have a really healthy attitude to weight loss, and it will make you more likely to stick with your plan long term.
    Remember too that lent doesn't just have to be about giving up something bad, a lot of people tend to focus on taking up something good instead. One thing that I plan to do for the next seven weeks or so is a series of workouts and stretches before bed every night. Best of luck with your goals!

  28. Oh my. I have a real problem…its been so long since I have kept my word about anything…but I am going to try to give up sugar for 40 days…hoping that by that time it will have become a habit and I can live without it. So, it 9:14 CST and I have not had sugar…also, I worked out after dinner at the "Y." I think I can work out more regularly if I do it after dinner. OK, I will stop now. See what happens tomorrow…

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