Forty Ideas to Incorporate or Give Up this Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  Today we remember our station, that we are dust, and one day will return to dust.  It’s a time of personal reflection on the passion of Christ, and the imitation of Him.  It’s also a time of intentional resolve to follow the exhortation of Philippians 2, to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  The sacrifices we make should be from a heart of obedience, and not for outward show.  In this, we draw near to the heart of God, as obedient children, and have the opportunity to participate in His suffering and death.  The practical application of this participation is denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Him. We give up things, attitudes, or bad habits that may have taken a place in our hearts that is reserved only for the Lord.  We put these things aside, and work on developing good habits while we nourish our souls.

If you don’t know what to give up for Lent, I’ve compiled a list of 40 ideas for you to choose from:  If you’e already made your Lenten sacrifice, there’s an idea for each day of Lent for a little extra sacrifice to keep you extra focused.

I’m always on the lookout for new ideas, and would love to hear yours.  Feel free to share your Lenten inspirations with me in the comments.

  1. Spend some time developing your prayer life this Lent.  I’m still adding to and organizing my own prayer journal, and working on making better habits.
  2. Give up social media.  So much time is wasted here.  I’ve actually fasted completely in the past.  This year, I’ll be partially fasting, because of work that requires me to be on social media.  My goal is balance, my plan is to abstain from sun up to sun down, then prioritize the time acquired between work, familly, and ministry. I hope to be able to continue this even after Lent is over.
  3. Television.  Turn. It. Off.  Seriously!  We actually are planning to disconnect cable altogether as soon as this billing cycle ends.  What a waste of money and resources.  It’s just a vast wasteland of mind rot.
  4. Replace TV time with reading a good book.
  5. Read Story of A Soul, or if you prefer, listen to it online.
  6. Give up some sleep.  Wake up an hour earlier than usual, or stay up an extra hour before going to sleep.
  7. Replace sleep time with prayer and/or contemplation.
  8. Learn and pray the Divine Office.  It’s online here.
  9. Give up your telephone.  Turn it off for an hour, or an afternoon, or all day.  Let your voicemail pick up important calls and you can return them later.
  10. Make and send a handwritten greeting card or letter.  Don’t you love to get REAL mail?  Give, and you will receive.
  11. Give up laziness.  When you feel like sitting and relaxing, get up and DO something.  Combat laziness with activity…go for a walk, exercise, garden….
  12. Offer up your hobbies.  We enjoy them, but sometimes they take more time than they should, time away from necessary things, even.
  13. Give up worrying and fretting.  Aint’ nobody got time for that!  Replace it with thanksgiving, and allow His peace to fill your soul.
  14. Memorize Philippians 4:6,7
  15. Pray the Rosary.  If you are a baby Catholic (like me) or are just learning the Rosary, it is helpful to listen and pray along with one of the many youtube videos available.  Check it out, and pick your favorite.
  16. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  I prefer to sing it.  This is my favorite version right now.
  17. Give up your pride.
  18. Pray the Litany of Humility
  19. Turn off your electricity for a day and meditate on Jesus being the Light of the World.
  20. Pray for those who do not have electricity for refrigeration, cooking, heating/cooling, and etc.
  21. Give up your favorite Alcoholic drink.
  22. Replace your usual alcohol beverage with water while you meditate Jesus’ first miracle.
  23. Give up caffeine (!)  (I have to admit this one is a huge sacrifice for me, I really, really love and appreciate my morning coffee.  If you can’t give it up completely, what about cutting back and limiting yourself to just one cup instead of half a pot?)
  24. Cut out all sugar and carbs and replace them with healthy alternatives.
  25. Give up one meal.  Offer it up and replace the time with a Rosary for world hunger.
  26. Give up meat.  Try some new meatless meals on another day besides the usual Friday fast.
  27. The ever popular “sweets”.  Give up candy, sodas, desserts, etc.
  28. Give up that second helping.  That dinner was good, and you could easily polish off another plate of it?  Resist.  Offer it up.
  29. Give up salt. Experience the absence of salt while you do a topical study on all the times salt is mentioned in the Bible.  You won’t forget it.
  30. Visit a shut-in
  31. Read Thomas A’Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ 
  32. Did you know Thomas A’Kempis has another beautiful work?  I’m reading The Imitation of Mary this Lent, after finding it in our church’s bookstore.  So far, I don’t see a free version online, but Amazon has them if your church bookstore doesn’t.
  33. Give up your inclination to anger.  When you feel it rising, offer it up, and and look for an opportunity to exercise your compassion.
  34. Memorize Colossians 3:8-13
  35. Give up grumbling and complaining, replace it with thanksgiving.  This requires you to think before you speak, a worthy habit to develop!
  36. Memorize Philippians 2:12-16
  37. Give up shopping for 40 days.  Learn to be content and make do with what’s on hand.
  38. Memorize Hebrews 13:1-6
  39. Give up procrastinating.  Whatever it is you’re putting off, do it, so you can get it done!  You’re not getting any younger.
  40. Memorize Ephesians 5:14-17 — in fact, if you’ve got serious penance in mind, memorize the whole chapter.  It is RICH, isn’t it?
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Christ Renews His Parish

I’m off early in the morning to a ladies retreat with CRHP.  I would appreciate prayers.  I believe strongly that the devil doesn’t want me to be there, which makes me believe even more strongly that the Lord has something specific for me to receive in it.

I’ll be back next week to share all the wonderful things I learn with you, thank you for remembering me in your prayers.

 

Add to your faith…

I was thinking tonight how often Christians are put on the defense regarding their faith.  It’s true we are to contend for the faith, and to be ready with an answer when we are asked.  I have never been good at this, as a rule, I tend to shy away from confrontation, and I do not like to argue, and this is especially so when the person on the other side is articulate and eloquent, and on the offensive.  Seriously, I just shut down.

When I first was confirmed in the Catholic Church, it caused a lot of questions from my Protestant friends that needed to be answered. For me, faith comes easy, once authority is established.  Often my answer consisted of “I believe the Catholic Church is the authority that Christ established on the earth before he ascended to heaven, and I’m still learning all the particulars”.  As I have continued to learn and grow in my faith, I have still been overwhelmed at the challenge to defend it.  I’m still working all that out, but I think the fault of that lies somewhere in between my nature, and the nature of the questions hurled at me.  I don’t know where to start with a vague question like “how can you believe in purgatory”?  My eyes glaze over and roll back just thinking about all the information and misinformation there is about purgatory, I mean, where does one even start with that answer?

I have determined from now on, my answer will be a question, something like “what about ______ do you find hard to believe?  How do you define _______, or what do you believe about it?” and go from there with my answer, addressing what I don’t believe and affirming what I do believe.

I was thinking about how we are instructed to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind.  And how different people are wired differently, but we all have the same command.  It’s easy for me to love with my heart and soul.  I am an emotion-driven believer.  That doesn’t mean I don’t engage my mind, but that it doesn’t come as naturally to me to do so, as emotions do.  But I am still instructed to love the Lord with my mind, and so knowledge is important in a proper defense of the faith.  As I’ve grown and learned, I have tried to follow the advice given in 2 Peter 1:5-11

…support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For anyone who lacks these things is short-sighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins. Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.

A list!  I love lists!

When I first read this passage, I thought faith was the foundation, and onto our faith we add goodness supported with knowledge, and so on…but the more I look at it, I believe I read it in the wrong order…love is the foundation, and love supports mutual affection, which supports godliness, which supports endurance, which supports self control, which supports knowledge, which supports goodness which supports faith.

Love is first…then all the other things are added on and should be increasing in us, building our faith.  As long as they are, we are effective and fruitful in the KNOWLEDGE of Jesus Christ.  This line of thinking reminds me of 1 Cor. 13…where without love, I am nothing.

I love the next part of this passage.  Peter basically says, “I know you know this, and are already established in the truth, but this is so important, I’m going to keep reminding you of it anyway.”  I think we should be reminding each other as well, this is important.  Love, mutual affection, godliness, endurance, self control, knowledge, and goodness need to be increasing in us while we are growing in our faith, in truth.  

 

 

Recognizing Jesus

Today’s gospel reading is from Luke 24.  It is the account of the disciples on their way to Emmaus after Christ’s crucifixion.

As they walk, they are talking with one another, no doubt grieving and consoling one another regarding the events of the past few days.  The Word says that as they were walking and debating, that Jesus drew near and walked with them…but their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him.

And as they don’t recognize Him, they begin witnessing to the crucified Christ Himself:
…about His words and his deeds
…about His betrayal and death sentence
…about His suffering, and death on a cross
…about His missing body, and rumor of his resurrection

And Jesus engages them
And rebukes them
And teaches them, starting with Moses and the prophets, he explains how all those events in Scripture were fulfilled in Him.

And still, they did not recognize Him.

I love the next part of this passage.  As they near their destination, they urge Him to stay and have supper with them, and He accepts.  Then a really cool thing happens…Jesus says a blessing, takes the bread, breaks it, and gives it to His disciples.

THERE HE IS!  In the breaking of the bread is where He made Himself known to them.

There, they finally recognize Him, and just as soon as they do, He is gone.

Can you imagine the excitement?  It was not their imagination, they both spoke with Him, listened to Him, and recognized Him.  They leave at once for Jerusalem to testify, and recount to the eleven who are gathered there all that had taken place on the way, and how he was made known to them in the breaking of bread.

Because He is the same yesterday, today and forever…today, He still makes Himself known the same way.  When we eat His body and drink His blood as we are instructed to do (John 6), He comes to us.  He indwells us.  He makes known to us His will…and when He does, we recognize Him, and testify of Him, and we are strengthened by Him.

I am slightly encouraged that I am not the only one who struggles to see Jesus when I’m focused on my own sorrows.  I don’t see Him, even when he draws near to my brokenhearted self.  I struggle to hear Him speak to my heart, and even though I have His words memorized, I cannot hear the truth in them for the clanging cacophony of my own sorrow, self pity, and despair.  Yet He continues to walk with me, and chide me, and teach me, and He waits for me in the Holy Eucharist.

Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!

 

Litany of the Love of God

Melanie, over at Joy Of Nine9 has blessed me yet again, this time with Litany of the Love of God.  It is so beautiful!  As I read, I found myself praying, in agreement with the words, and as I did, some of the words pierced through places in my spirit that I had been protecting from painful memories and past injuries.

It is challenging to say with complete honesty, that I allow my love to return to Him:

  • with all my heart (above the place that my husband, children, and grandchildren hold there);
  • with all my soul (that part of me that makes me who I am…including the masks I wear, the fortresses I’ve built around it for protection from pain, and the parts of it that have been robbed by fear, doubt, and unbelief);
  • with all my mind (above my own understanding and expectations of who God is, how He works, what He desires);
  • with all my strength (because I know the reserves I keep for the times when I don’t rely on His strength to do what He asks me to, or to do what I choose to do instead of what He’s asked me to do…I know well the areas of my being that are not surrendered to Him, and that I hold back).

Do I really mean it, when I tell Him, “Lord, I love you back, not for what you lavish me with, but just for who You are…”

  • above all possessions and honors,
  • above all pleasures and enjoyments
  • More than myself and all that belongs to me,
  • More than all my relatives and friends,
  • More than all men and angels,
  • Above all created things in heaven or on earth,

Oh!  I want to…but I know I fall short!  I am guilty of placing things above that love for Him.  How easily they get in the way, because I do love my things…my family…my friends…even myself and my accomplishments.  How sobering a reminder to keep all His riches that He shares with us in their proper perspective.  Of course, it’s right and expected for me to be thankful for all these blessings that He gives, with the knowledge that they are from His hand, and they are to given to me for His glory, not my own.

  • In wealth and in poverty,
  • In prosperity and in adversity,
  • In health and sickness,
  • In life and death,
  • In time and eternity (in what I know of in my now, and forever after)

I used to think it was easier to trust God and to love Him in the good times than it was in the hard times.  This notion has been tested and found to be untrue over the past ten years.  We’ve gone from employment and home ownership, to unemployment and homelessness (and back again); from having supportive family around us, to suffering fractured, painful dynamics; we’ve lost aged parents and welcomed grandbabies; and I can honestly say, through all of it, my love for God was strengthened in the days that I cried out for and received His comfort and consolations.  It was not easier to love God in the easy times, in fact, when times were easy, so was the ability to forget Him, and become complacent.

There is a hidden wisdom in the Lord’s prayer, when we ask for our daily bread.  I realized a rich dimension of thankfulness and awe in watching and waiting for daily provision, that was not present in our years of plenty, when I was buying groceries to stock a pantry for the month.  It’s not that I didn’t know where my help came from, but I was not reminded of it every day, and our blessing over the meal did not inspire awe then as it did when we did not know where our next meal would come from and were provided for on a daily basis.

I love the end of this litany…where I can unite the love I am returning to God with the love of all the saints and angels, even with the love of His own mother, and with His own infinite love.  Just in case mine falls short (and it does), it still returns to Him complete, because of the unity of His body.  What a beautiful picture of an answer to His prayer for us, that we be one, as He and the Father are one.

 

Surrender

Do you have a word, or a life verse for the New Year?

I desperately wanted my word to be “abundance”, and I really thought that’s the word that God gave me, so I doodled it into a blotter for my doodle notebook, ready to be laminated…absolutely perfect!

Or not.

Today, the Lord impressed on my heart that this year, He wanted my “yes” to whatever He was asking. He gave me Luke 1:38, along with a wonderful example of how to say “yes” to Him, and in a reckless moment of complete abandon to Him and His will, I said with Mary “be it unto me, according to your word”.

be it unto me 2

Later, I was driving (job hunting) putting on my garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness with Robin Mark’s Revival in Belfast, laying it all out there to the Lord, and the song “All for Jesus” came on.

Jesus, all for Jesus
All I am and have, and ever hope to be
All of my ambitions, hopes, and plans, I surrender these into Your hands.

I was immediately reminded of my early morning resolve, and I received the word that God was singing in my ear, whispering into my spirit:  Surrender.

I believe that may be the most frightening word in the world.  It might mean poverty, it might include letting go of everything I hold dear, it might mean putting lifelong dreams behind me to embrace my reality…surrendering my rights, my love of control, my pride…surrendering what I want in this “now” to the One who promised me a hope and a future; surrendering the old thing, for the promised new thing; surrendering all, in exchange for the One who wants to be my all in all.

I found this beautiful prayer  that says it better than the words I could find, and have made them my own heart cry for the new year.

Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty,
my memory, my understanding and my whole will.

All that I am and all that I possess You have given me:
I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will.

Give me only Your love and Your grace;
with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more.

~St. Ignatius of Loyola