Monday, February 11, 2013

Lent is coming. Yes, it’s that time of year.

For those who aren’t familiar with Lent, it is the forty days leading up to Easter in which we concentrate on how we can become closer to God; how we can become more mindful of God and our relationship with Him, with a focus on prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Unfortunately, for many, Lent simply means denial. What is the most asked question this week? “What are you giving up for Lent?”

Over the years, I’ve given up chocolate, diet coke, cursing, yelling, beer, and gossiping. (Wow, reading all these vices in print makes me look like a bit of a derelict!)

My children always use the same line – “I’m giving up school.” Or “I’m giving up homework.” So predictable!

My husband has joined us at times, giving up snacks or desserts. (He uses this time as a way to get back into shape before spring. Who am I to judge?) Not being Catholic, he doesn’t abstain from meat on Fridays, which has led to a few uncomfortable meals during Lent, with four pairs of eyes glaring at him as he eats his cheeseburger!

When discussing Lent with my children, I often stress that it isn’t always about giving up something. It can be about starting something positive. I tell them to think about turning a negative (no snacks) into a positive (3 pieces of fruit a day).

I like that idea. Rather than feel like we are depriving ourselves of something, why not feel like we are rewarding ourselves with a better diet or better behavior? Rather than focusing on what we are doing wrong, let’s focus on what we can do better to become a better person and closer to God.

Last week, I was sent a link to two great sites that discuss some different ideas to toss around with your family this Lenten Season. Both focus on making Lent a joyful time of devotion and anticipation rather than deprivation and dread.

Busted Halo, ( an online magazine for spiritual seekers, has posted a calendar on their site entitled Fast, Pray, Give. It offers daily prayers and practical ideas for fasting and almsgiving.

It encourages readers to keep at it, even if there are days that we forget or fail in our devotion. “The idea isn’t to be perfect but to continue on our path, so if you slip up one day, don’t give up; simply begin again the next day,” say the editors.

The other site that I found was LentMadness ( Similar to March Madness and the basketball brackets, LentMadness can be described as a showdown of Saints. Started by two Episcopalian priests who wanted to lighten up the whole mood of Lent and get people a little more excited about God, this site posts two saints and allows viewers to vote for their favorite. The “Field” starts with 32 and, in keeping with the March Madness theme, narrows down to the Saintly Sixteen, the Elate Eight, the Faithful Four and finally the winner, who receives the Golden Halo.

According to their website, they are hoping LentMadness will “allow people to get to know some amazing people who have come before us in the faith and remind one another that there’s no reason for a dreary Lenten discipline.”

Last year, about 50.000 people visited the site!

Why not change things up a bit this Lenten season? Check out some of the sites mentioned, or think up some positive changes you can make in your life. Rather than ask, “What are you giving up this Lent?” let’s ask each other “What are you doing to change for the better this Lent?”

(And let me know what your Lenten resolutions are. I’d love to hear about them.)

As for me, I’m planning on checking in with the “Fast Pray Give” calendar daily. I like the idea of mixing it up each day.

I am also planning on giving up Social Media for Holy Week. This could be a tough one, as I am a bit addicted to Facebook. Stay tuned!

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