Lent is upon us! Lent is the forty days before Easter, not including Sundays. Sundays are not included in this season because we celebrate the resurrection of Christ EVERY SUNDAY!
The first day of Lent is Ash Wednesday, which is March 5, this year. These days are a time for reflection on our faith ans so we look for ways we can grow our faith through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
A few years ago I came across a website, ship-of-fools.com, which had some creative and adventurous ideas for how to do that. I am going to share some of those ideas. It is going to be a mix of thee challenging, the reflective, the alternative and the ancient. They involve paint, bags, money, traffic jams, and poetry. They are designed to stretch you, make you think, tone up some forgotten spiritual muscles, put your time to good use and get some fresh air in there. They are practical and positive.
Try them … you might like them.
#1: (Wednesday) Increase your praying time by at least 10 minutes today. And let it be listening time, not talking.
#2: (Thursday) Read one of the Gospels in whole, in a translation you are unfamiliar with. Read it as if you are coming at it for the first time.
#3: (Friday) Compose your own obituary, summing up what your life meant to other people. Remember, people always say nice things in obituaries.
#4: (Saturday) Go to a neighbor’s house and offer t do the dishes after the evening meal as an act of service. It won’t take much time, and it will give you the opportunity to get to know them better.
First Sunday in Lent: Genesis 2:15-17;3:1-7
#5 (Monday) Research Lent. Find out why it’s as long as it is, whether there’s any basis in scripture for it, and more! You might even find a valuable reason for doing something “spiritual” these next few weeks.
#6 (Tuesday) Buy something to give to a homeless person instead of money: a sandwich, some chocolate, even a hat. Look them in the eye when you give it to them.
#7 (Wednesday) Eat nothing but a bowl of plain rice this evening. You may want to supplement this with a thorough reading of the foreign news section of the newspaper, the latest catalog from an aid and development agency and a smattering of prayer.
#8 (Thursday) Send a not of thanks to your pastor or spiritual director. Let them know how much you appreciate their guidance.
#9 (Friday) Lent and deserts go together. Jesus went into one to find space, to be alone, confirm his calling, overcome temptation, hear from God, and come out changed. Seems like a good idea or at least a challenge. But maybe the closest thing we come to the desert is a traffic jam. So why not make that a piece of desert this Lent? Every time you are stuck in traffic, use that bit of space to reflect, listen and pray. Transform it from a place of frustration to a place where God can be found.
#10 (Saturday) Make a completely gratuitous gift to someone – for example: a chocolate cake for the bus driver, or some flowers for your favorite waitress.
Second Sunday in Lent: Genesis 12:1-4
Romans 4:1-5; 13-17
#11 (Monday) Find out about a Christian tradition appreciably different from you own.
#12 (Tuesday) Practice the art of mindfulness – being aware and in the moment. Pay attention as your senses take in what’s going on around you. You’ll be surprised how much you miss.
#13 (Wednesday) Young children take delight in the smallest of things – a leaf, a muddy puddle, even the rain! Follow their example and see how it changes your day. You may even want to visit The Zone after school today.
#14 (Thursday) Pull the Christmas cards you received this year out of storage and put them in a bowl on your dining room table. Select one card at each meal and pray for that person or family.
#15 (Friday) Find out who lives next door (and the next … and the next … )
#16 (Saturday) Go somewhere quiet and take a moment to be as still, inside and outside, as you can. Don’t talk to God, or to yourself, just notice what the silence sounds like.
Third Sunday in Lent: Exodus 17:1-7
#17 (Monday) Find out about a non-Christian religion. Read an article or book, search the Internet, or ask someone who knows about it.
#18 (Tuesday) As it is Lent, lend something to someone. Be generous with your possessions and don’t worry if they are never returned.
#19 (Wednesday) Send God a knee-mail.
#20 (Thursday) Draw or paint God.
#21 (Friday) Pray today for those people whom you see/mix with/work with, who you wouldn’t normally pray for. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know a specific thing to pray, just lift them up to god. He know what they need.
#22 (Saturday) Make a joyful jar. Take an empty glass jar. Decorate it with stickers or paint; making it a thing of beauty. Keep it on the window ledge, office desk, kitchen counter, or wherever you spend a lot of time. When something good or unexpected happens, write it on a piece of paper and drop it in the jar. Then when you are having a bad day and the world seems especially unfriendly, tip out the jar and read your slips of paper. Then you can literally count your blessings. Don’t forget to thank God for them.
Fourth Sunday in Lent: 1 Samuel 16:1-13
#23 (Monday) Be nice to your boss.
#24 (Tuesday) Take time to find out where you can give blood. Mark it on your calendar. If you are able, go give.
#25 (Wednesday) Look out the nearest window and take in the shapes, patterns, contrasts and textures of what you can see. don’t stop looking until you find something beautiful that you had not seen before.
#26 (Thursday) Lose yourself in prayer today.
#27 (Friday) Take a completely gratuitous walk. Don’t go anywhere, just go out, have a walk around and come back.
#28(Saturday) Live on wartime rations for a few days – see the Sainsbury’s archive website. Great resourcefulness was applied in wartime to doing things which people these days talk about but rarely get around to doing, such as minimizing food miles, growing your own produce, preserving and finding ingenious ways to stretch fat and sugar rations.
Fifth Sunday in Lent: Ezekiel 37:1-14
#29 (Monday) Send an email or facebook or snap chat or mail a note to soeone you haven’t been in contact with for at least a couple of months.
#30 (Tuesday) Tell God about all the thing you feel you ought to believe, but have lurking doubts over. I don’t’ suppose it will be news to him, but it might be news to you.
#31 (Wednesday) To insist on informality is just as ritualistic as to insist on formality … so why not try giving up spontaneity for Lent? It’s got nothing to do with the Gospel – it’s mostly an amalgam of the Enlightenment, the Romantic movement, and Existentialism dressed loosely in the borrowed clothes of the Reformation, which itself only half-understood what Paul was talking about. Think about all this too hard … and you’ll be giving up sleep as well.
#32 (Thursday) Pick out something that a friends or family member enjoys doing but that you aren’t fond of doing. Then do it with them without playing the martyr. You might even want the other person to suggest something.
#33 (Friday) Make a list of things you most enjoy doing. Pick out one or two that you haven’t done for the longest time. Take the trouble to do them, even it it means making long-term arrangements.
#34 (Saturday) Go outside your front door. Clean up some litter, rip up some weeds and tidy up the clutter. Make the place ready to welcome God. More realistically, make it ready to welcome the humans whom he loves and in whom he dwells.
Palm/Passion Sunday: Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
#35 (Monday) Do one chore today that is always done by someone else in your office or home.
#36 (Tuesday) Take a leaf out of the Old Testament, and complain to God. Voice all the grievance you’re usually too spiritual to mention. Don’t worry, he can take it! And if you really can’t think of something to complain about, complain on someone else’s behalf.
#37 (Wednesday) Pick a short poem you like, and learn it by heart. Then repeat it to yourself in quiet moments.
#38 Maundy Thursday: Exodus 12:1-14 Psalm 116 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 John 13:1-17, 31-35 Turn off your phone for 24 hours. I DARE YOU!
#39 Good Friday: Isaiah 52:13-53:12 Psalm 22 Hebrews 10:16-25 John 18:1-19:42 Don’t buy anything today.
#40 Holy Saturday: Take time to reflect on the events of Jesus life in the last two days. And especially the fact that GOD DIED! Then, make some space. Fill two bags with stuff you don’t need and take them to a charity shop.
HAPPY EASTER! Acts 10:34-43 Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 Colossians 3:1-4 John 20:1-18