Monday, March 07, 2011

Lent Guide: Ideas and Fasting

Some general ideas for Lent

Inward and Personal Disciplines

Is there something that has become too important in your life, something that has been impacting you negatively? Can you give that up (or a portion or aspect of it) for Lent?

Spend time in solitude and quiet (without TV or music) each day.

Read a book for inner growth. Consider something stretching like Dallas Willard, Henri Nouwen or Eugene Peterson.

Read through one of the Gospels between now and Easter.

Begin to keep a journal of prayer concerns, questions, reading.

Find a way to go to bed earlier, get enough rest and rise earlier.

Make a list of people with whom you need to be reconciled. Pray for them and let Jesus guide you in your thinking and feeling toward them.

Make a list of the priorities in your life at the beginning of Lent. Revisit at the end. Still the same?

Forgive someone who has hurt you.

Outward and Social Disciplines

Visit a "shut-in" neighbor, a rest home or someone sick.

Write a letter of affirmation once a week to a person who has touched my life.

Go to coffee or dinner with someone you wouldn’t ordinarily.

Say "NO" to something that is a waste of money and time.

Give that money to something or someone else.

Work through the Weekly Fasts below

Consider Isaiah 58 and pray through the next 40 days as to what God is really looking for from you.

As a way of being accountable:

Share your intentions for Lent with your housemates/family, with your homegroup or a friend.

Weekly Fasts

(Fasts begin Monday and end Saturday- Sundays are “Feast” days when in celebration of the goodness Jesus brings, we break our fasts. Either do each fast for the week and only for that week or consider letting them build on each other, so that by the end of Lent, you are doing all five weekly fasts at the same time.)

Week One: Sweets, Treats and Self Indulgence

This week, resolve to spend nothing on yourself but what is absolutely necessary. Buy no new clothes or gadgets, books or music, don’t go to the movies or buy coffee or candy. Eat cheaply, save money (or give what you would have spent on coffee, treats, entertainment for the week to Kiva or someone else in need).

Keep journal entries of what happens inside when you deny yourself something you’ve become accustomed to or something you really want. How does it affect you? Why?

Week Two: Food/Meals

Pick either a type of food (like meat or carbs or even “solids”) and fast from them for the week. Or alternately, pick a meal (like breakfast or lunch) to skip on a daily basis. If you skip meals, spend that time you would have spent preparing and eating food in doing something else: Prayer, or reading Scripture, or serving others, perhaps finding a way to bless someone with each of those blocks of time, even if it’s just time spent listening to them.

Keep journal entries of what it’s like to go hungry, even if it’s just for one meal. What is it like to begin to assert some mastery over your body these past two weeks? How does your body/mind respond to that?

If you forgo a whole category of food, consider: What is it like to deny a craving? Is it easy or hard. How does that craving grow the more you deny it? Does it eventually become easier? Why?

(As with all fasting, please consider your health and talk to a doctor before engaging more advanced fasts like fasting from solids)

Week Three: Television/Music/Media

This week, forgo the usual shows. In fact, turn off the TV altogether. Drive without the radio. Leave the iPod at home.

What is it like to increase the silence/decrease the media inputs into your life? Do you miss it? Does it make you anxious? Relaxed? Something else? What does your reaction to this fast tell you about your connectedness to media?

Keep journal entries of what silence does for you, what missing certain shows/events means. Spend the time listening for the still small voice of God.

Week Four: Social Media and Internet

Turn off Twitter, Facebook, blogs, news- check and answer work emails and nothing else. Put a Lent “Out of Office” reply on your personal email letting people know you’ll get back to them next week.

Keep journal entries of what it’s like to unplug and disconnect- to not obsessively check email/Facebook, etc. Do you feel disconnected... or free?

Week Five: Time

Go out of your way for others this week. Fast from indulging yourself time-wise.

Get up a half hour or an hour earlier.

Make it a goal this week:

To bless someone else through your words or actions daily

Once or twice, to give someone else the gift of your listening ear- resist the urge to share yourtroubles and instead focus on someone else and helping to share theirs.

Commit this week to doing something for someone else- help a friend move or paint, serve the poor, stop and help a stranger even if (especially if) you are in a hurry to get somewhere.

Keep journal entries of what it’s like to spend your time on others.

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