On Wednesday, some of us will begin 40 days of preparing for Easter through renewing our call to follow Jesus. If you’d like to join us, and could use a conversation to get you started, I’m glad to make myself useful. Here are a few things that have been helpful to me:
Careful attention to Jesus in the Gospels: There are a number of reading plans you can find online. I’m using YouVersion right now, and you can choose a reading plan that will take you through the Gospels and set your start and end date from now until Easter. They offer several options that might be helpful. I like YouVersion because of the ability to keep notes and the potential for connecting with other readers on the journey (I’m lemdavely there).
Committing to a new routine: Lent is a good window to develop a “rule of life,” setting a pattern of spiritual disciplines through the day that I keep for a period of time. Sometimes a few of them stick when it’s done. There are a number of resources on spiritual disciplines, but I’ll recommend Marjorie Thompson’s Soul Feast as one option.
Attentiveness or acts of love towards others: A new routine might mean making the choice to give attention to some aspect of discipleship or exercise of your spiritual gifts that brings growth. It could be making a regular stop on your usual commute, looking for a particular person to bless with your time and attention every day, or becoming part of the ongoing ministry of a team or organization doing good.
Choosing a fast: There are many ways to observe a fast during Lent. A simple way is the traditional restriction of food, whether a meal or a usual part of your menu. I’ve benefited from a few friends who have blogged about their fasting from foods, social networking, or forms of entertainment. Last year, I was captured by a colleague’s intention to eat on the poverty level for forty days. An important thing to consider about fasting is 1) not to engage in an activity that is unhealthy for your mind, body, or spirit over time or 2) not to beat yourself up about slips. Just move on; the blips along the way are part of the growth. Both of these things are great reasons to involve others in keeping your fast.
Following through a prayer or devotional guide: I have been deeply blessed by the collection of readings in Bread and Wine. There are a number of print and online resources along the same line. Any time I need a good book recommendation, I start here.
Regardless of what you choose – and whether you choose – a guiding principle is what scripture describes in Isaiah 58. Our religious commitments are never a blessing to God if they continue to ground us in disregard for those in our community suffering neglect, abuse, or injustice. We might even need to consider whether it makes us a better member of our families, roommate, or contributor to community. As we are conformed to the image of Christ during this time, we hope to also conform our thoughts and actions to his way of being in the world. As we set aside our ambitions (even for spiritual things) and ask for God’s will in our lives, we hope to be joined to the ongoing ministry of Christ.
This blog will be hosting reflections from past and present Pepperdiners during Lent based on the scriptural “stations of the cross,” a traditional series of stops along Jesus’ journey to the cross to identify with his devotion, suffering, and love. You’re welcome to join us for that, and I’d love to know about your ideas or intentions along the way.
If you decide to explore what this forty days can bring, I hope you’ll find some friends to go with you.