6 Ways to Engage the Lenten Season
I saw a sign, DRIVE THRU ASHES FOR LENT, a few years back. It surprised me and gave me a chuckle. Though, it's not how I planned to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday, I thought about moms with sleeping babies in the backseat, or those with busy schedules trying to make room for their faith, the disabled, and others who may not be able to (for whatever reason, no judgment here) make it beyond their car to receive ashes. I'm certain the need for drive thru ashes might be a reality for more of us than we'd like to admit.
I find myself concerned with something even greater than when and where I'll receive ashes: what am I going to give up or take on for Lent this year? I feel like I'm low on ideas or simply repeating what has already been done. So, I started with prayer as a means to figure out what the Lord is laying on my heart to do this season. I invite you to do the same.
Here are ways we can embrace this season with an open heart to spiritual renewal.
6 Ways to Engage the Lenten Season
1. Keep a prayer journal
Praying more is always good for your spirit and even better for your relationship with God, who always wants to hear from you. Talking more, praising more, petitioning more; these prayers will lead you closer to your heavenly Father.
2. Follow a devotional
This practice never gets old for me. A devotional helps me stay intentional and to hold me accountable each day to Lent. I enjoy taking 5-10 minutes each day, at the breakfast table with a cup of coffee, or while my little one is napping, or before I hit the pillow, to read a daily snippet of faith that grounds me.
3. Focus on a fruit of the Spirit
During Lent, we are remembering Christ's most spectacular and selfless act of love of laying down His life for us. We can respond to His greatest sacrifice by denying our not so admirable attitudes and habits, and instead, focus on bearing one of the fruits of the Spirit.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23
What if you took 40 days to practice kindness? Or faithfulness? Imagine if we each showed a little more love, self-control, or gentleness. It'd be beautiful and I invite you into this stunning display of God's Spirit working in you. Through prayer, let the Lord show you which fruit to foster this Lent.
4. Give up a temptation
This one seems kind of standard, right? We routinely give up chocolate, or pop, or TV on Friday nights during Lent. But I'm talking about something deeper than that. Let's confront those temptations or sins that are really bringing you down and further away from Jesus. Walk away from that for 40 days. Porn. Over-eating or under-eating. Alcohol. Fornication. Avoiding church. Not forgiving your child because of pride. Lying to your spouse. Gossiping. Hate. Politics. Social media.
I find Lent to be a built in season of accountability where I get to commit to the Lord my desire to live more holy and pure by ridding myself of a sinful habit that is only destroying me from the inside out. Examine yourself, pray, and discern what you need to say no to for these 40 days. The Lord will be with you.
5. Don't offer, just do
Do you know a family or friend in need? Heard of someone else's misfortune? When a relative of mine was battling cancer, there was no sweeter gift or relief when someone just showed up to help. They came with dinner, they hired a cleaning lady, they donated money for a medical bill, or they babysat. It was amazing to watch the community surround our family with help of all kinds, each using their own gifts and talents to offer support.
Consider someone in your life that is struggling. Don't offer to help, just do something to make their life a little easier and to bring a smile to their face. Know of a new mom? Bring her some coffee and a bagel, or show up to babysit so she can take a shower. Someone with cancer? Bring them dinner or gift them a night out to the movies. Your neighbor's yard needs mowing or shoveling? Lead the charge! There are countless ways we can help those around us, and I can't think of a better way to honor Christ's sacrifice than by serving others during this season.
6. Be in community
Allow Lent to be a time celebrated with your friends, your roommate, your child, your spouse, or your small group. This doesn't have to be a solo journey, but rather a time where the body of Christ comes together to ready our hearts for His resurrection. Read the devotional around the dinner table, attend church together, or pray with someone. I believe that spiritual practices should be about drawing us closer to God and to carry His light, and they can also certainly be done in fellowship with other brothers and sisters in Christ.
There's no right or wrong way to participate in Lent, so I hope you find the journey that is best for you! May whatever you give up or add to your spiritual life be something you can continue all year long.
Author: Pamela Palmer