Lenten Sacrifice Suggestions?

Lenten Sacrifice Suggestions? February 24, 2011


Lent starts very late this year, but I was prompted to start thinking about the season while reading a blog post at Abigail’s Alcove.  Abigail is trying to focus on strengthening a sense of love and charity for all people, and is considering praying for Osama bin Laden as part of her Lenten discipline.

Last year, I made two Lenten resolutions: one religious, one secular.  I tried to commit to using my free weights every day and to giving prayer a chance every night.  Frankly, I’m not sure which of those was more of a failure. To protect my pride, I’ve only blogged about my frustration with the one pertinent to this blog.  (Reflections on trying prayer were posted in two parts).

When it comes to secular endeavors, I’m planning to stick with physical fitness, since I have no upper body strength and have a tendency to get winded walking up the four flights to my dorm room.  My considerably more athletic brother has recommended the 200 Sit-Ups program to me, and I’m going to give it a shot.  It’s a really clearly laid out program you work through at your own pace, and I like everything to be as quantified and benchmarked as possible.

When it comes to a religious endeavor for Lent, I’m at sea.  Christian readers are welcome to recommend a task or practice I should adopt during Lent, and I’ll be open to experiment.

If atheist readers want to suggest any books/activities that they think Christians should try to better understand our side, I’ll write up those suggestions in a separate post.

And if anyone wants more information about the season, Mary’s Aggies wrote an omnibus post to give you an overview.

Thanks for your thoughts!

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  • You know, I'd suggest just memorizing some prayers. Straight up memorizing them- not analyzing them, not trying to mean them- just pick as many as you think you could reasonably get to and cram them all in your head.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Litany_of_humilityAnd the Psalms.I'm trying to find this insane Prayer Rule I tried to keep myself to once– it was far beyond me– but it included some really beautiful prayers.Found it! http://www.orthodox.net/services/#S2

  • I have a considerably more athletic brother too! Two of them, actually. Maybe I'll try the two hundred sit-ups too this Lenten season… At the very least, it would probably help my running a lot more, now that I'm not playing on a team anymore/ being forced to do sit-ups. For Lent, I usually give up sweets and peanut butter. Now, this may seem like a diet. It is not, and here's why: especially when I was playing lacrosse year-round, peanut butter was my staple food. I used to go through jars of it by the month in hs and college. Then it became a crutch food, and that's what sweets are to me too. By fasting from these foods, I create a discipline for myself. It's about the intent as much as the action. If I accidently eat something, that's okay. But if I give in to temptation, that's the problem. God isn't going to punish you for breaking your Lenten promises, but it's something we offer up for God to bring us closer to God through self-sacrifice.So, in terms of us recommending stuff, that's not going to be as effective as you really looking at yourself and seeing what could be decreased or sacrificed for 40 days. That's got to be up to you. As small as not biting your nails anymore (if you do) or not nagging or keeping your room clean. They might seem small, but when you do it for a bigger reason (God), then it glorifies the sacrifice even more.Anyways, hope that helps! I'm praying for you in this discernment of your token Lenten sacrifice! 🙂

  • Ditto to Julie. You should take a few days to really figure out something you feel drawn to do. I'm not in your position, so I don't know what you're thinking…But in case this is close to what you're feeling: I would suggest trying to avoid the automatic "this feels really silly." Just embrace it for a little while, find the purpose that drew you to that certain sacrifice. You're already drawn to do one Christian sacrifice for Lent, even if it's just to humor your boyfriend, so just explore (as I know you've been doing).

  • Michael Haycock

    I'd suggest setting aside a certain amount of time per day (20-30 minutes) to read and ponder upon the book of scripture of your choice, considering what importance it would have to your life – what changes you would have to make – if you were to apply what it teaches. Though as a Mormon I've never observed Lent, I have put myself through similar ordeals in the past, and have found a great ability to change my life and my perspective by giving up something that might be detrimental in some way to my physical/emotional/mental/spiritual wellbeing. Sometimes these things can be near and dear to us, but if they're in the way of our relationship with God, they're the price He asks us to pay to know Him. I'm actually attempting something very akin to this right now, and while some days I've been a miserable failure at reaching some of my goals, there are others I've been able to keep – there's always room for improvement, and even incremental gains are worthwhile!

  • I'm considering keeping Shabbat (unclear as to whether I'll do it Fri evening – Sat evening or Sat evening- Sun evening) throughout Lent. It's obviously not necessarily a sacrifice per se (it's probably something which would be a good idea to do anyway), but it certainly is a religious practice with a long history in both Judaism and Christianity.Also, how do you feel about fasting?

  • Iota

    Been lurking around your blog on an on-and-off basis some time now and just decide to come out of the shadows. :-)Some thoughts on Lenten resolutions (BTW – you've inspired me to think over what I will be doing this Lent…):- As you already know, Lenten resolutions are not necessarily sacrifices (they may be positive resolutions).- As a rule, I'd say people should choose their resolutions themselves or with the advice of someone who knows and understands them well enough (e.g. spiritual director, for those who have them).If anyone asked me personally, I'd also add that a Lenten resolution in my case probably shouldn't be expected to accomplish a specific goal. What I mean is that a "secular" resolution may have a very precise aim (e.g be able to run up to your dorm room in X minutes at the end of the resolution period) but to do the same with a Lenten resolution would, in my view, be something of a misunderstanding. After actually deciding on a resolution (and the reason why I choose this and not something else), I'd be inclined to focus on the "doing" part rather than the "result" part. Also, that'd mean that if I fail, it isn't a catastrophe – there never was any specific goal I can't reach now, so I can just continue doing whatever I was doing until I'm done. What's more, there would be no problem of "there's no lasting result" (e.g. giving up some sweets has failed to make me less of a glutton). That's because I assume I do not know the result – much like when learning a language or playing an instrument. Or taking time to develop a relationship (to which I think Lent is closest). In the long run, due to the practice I may become a virtuoso, a polyglot, a devoted friend or just stay my "regular self" and I have no way of knowing that just now or even after Lent is over.Of course this looks like a terrible suggestion for someone who "likes everything to be as quantified and benchmarked as possible". 🙂 So I'm not suggesting that approach would be right for you.

  • Interesting post. I don't think I'm planning on doing anything for lent. My past lents have featured:- giving up coffee except for Sundays (and I drink a loooooot of coffee). My withdrawal was so bad one year that I could not bend forward at all due to the excruciating pain in my lower back, butt, and hamstrings. For some reason I got crazy muscle stiffness — normally I can touch the floor. This lasted three whole days or so.- taken completely cold showers every day except Sunday, using my "phases" of 1) washing hair, 2) washing body, and 3) using conditioner to prayer for three different intentions.- fasted 1-2 days per week (no breakfast, no lunch, only dinner)- regular adoration… I think. I think I added this one year, perhaps a goal of 1-2 days of adoration a week?- confession 1x/weekThese are mostly "negative" actions (removing something). With the showers, my goal was to discipline myself to be able to sacrifice for god regardless of the pain and call to mind that life is but a short suffering compared to the gift of salvation. It was also a way to powerfully (so I thought) pray for various afflictions of others.I'd suggest examining something in your life where you wish you had more virtuous actions. Then use Lent to implement some practice which you hope builds this virtue. Ideas?- go out of your way to spend time with someone who you find difficult to engage, awkward, annoying, etc. Consciously practice seeing them as a fellow human with loves, wants, desires, hopes, and feelings. In other words, try to build your compassion toward fellows you typically avoid due to uncomfortability.- donate your time (a form of almsgiving) toward a cause. Perhaps give up something frivolous or not worth much and spend your time volunteering or perhaps writing letters to a set of family members instead. I've done this before, as well. Write to an older relative, perhaps, who you know will be extremely brightened by such action.- you could fast to gain empathy and compassion for those who eat a fraction of what we have. Perhaps this could inspire you to donate more toward world hunger assistance?- if you think you can be too negative at times, dedicate a day or two a week to not criticizing at all but only saying constructively supportive things. Perhaps instead of poo-pooing someone's idea, you just say, "Interesting thought. I can see where you would get that." Maybe a bad idea… just thought of seeking to improve on positivity and trying to encourage your peers.There's a brain dump for you…

  • Those are great ideas/ brain dump, Hendy! Major wow on the cold shower (although slight confusion over the conditioner and prayer part)… but that is a great idea about adoration and confession once a week! I think I will have to do that this coming Lent. 🙂

  • I think I'm going to be observing the Orthodox fasting rules fairly strictly again, you're welcome to join. I was surprised how simple it was last year, and I kind of gave up on normal fasting months ago for stupid reasons, so I'm glad to be getting back on the horse, as it were.Given what a picky eater you are, I'm not sure how much it would either cut out or leave you! 😛

  • Holy Transfiguration, in Westville, has many very beautiful Lenten services. You and Tristyn should go to some of them. Holy Transfiguration is a little bit difficult to get to, but it's worth it. In particular, on March 6th at noon there are Forgiveness Sunday Vespers.http://www.holytransfigurationnh.org/files/bulletins/February-20.2011.pdf

  • @Julie: Thanks 🙂 And re. the shower "ritual", my prayer was aligned with my shower routine. It went like this:- First immersion: turn shower on cold and aim at all. Get in and close curtain. Quickly point shower at self and dance around while praying, "Lord Jesus, help me endure anything for you. Thank you for my life, you are my King and my God, let me join with you in your suffering…" and so on until I was saturated. Then point shower back at wall.- Clean and rinse: shampoo once, rinse head only, shampoo again and leave it in. Then wash body. Upon full body rinsing, I would pray for something else, typically my wife/family. "Lord, bless my wife. Thank you for the gift of her in my life. Help her be strong in you and may our daughter grow to love you…" and so on.- Conditioner and rinse: Next, condition and leave in while washing face with Clearasil. Then the final rinse, which was often the hardest since you get a brain headache from having the cold on your face/head so long (rinsing both hair and face). I'd rotate this one around. Perhaps praying for my Outreach, a friend with Crohn's disease, or any other intention.Then I'd shut the water off as fast as possible.I guarantee that I knew from my shower what the relative (freaking ridiculously cold or just so-so) temperature was outside for the day! Remember, I'm in MN!Oh, I'll add one last thought that having sacrifices of omission (giving something up) during the week and then not doing them on Sunday can help bring about a better appreciation of "Lord's Day" and a future-heavenward mindset. Sometimes you don't necessarily need to give up something that you shouldn't do at all; you can simply give up doing something "neutral" (like coffee) and it can help enter a more celebratory spirit on the day of the Resurrection.

  • I'd suggest trying out the Liturgy of the Hours, or some similar set prayer that can be recited. I'd suggest finding someone who already prays the hours (any priest, for one) to learn the basics and then commit to doing the morning, evening and night hours through Lent, and see how that goes. The following resources would help:http://divineoffice.org/http://www.universalis.com/

  • Leah,Whatever you do for Lent, it should be consistent with one or more of the following core parts of Lent: Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving.I have a few suggestions:1.) Read the Gospel of Mark (it's the shortest of the Gospels, so reading it in 40 days is manageable)2.) Some form of fasting: perhaps skipping lunch one day a week, refraining from eating between meals, fasting from computer usage one day a week, abstaining from eating sweets, abstaining from drinking coffee or soda, etc. You might also consider observing the abstinence from meat with your Catholic boyfriend on Fridays3.) Spending one hour a week in Eucharistic Adoration4.) Doing Lectio Divina one day a week: Lectio Divina consists in reading a passage from scripture slowly, and then reflecting/meditating on it and writing a written response to it about a part that stood out to you while slowly reading it. It's a beautiful way of reading the Bible.5.) Attending the Stations of the Cross on Fridaysat a local Catholic Church

  • Crystal Goins

    May I suggest reading a Psalm or Proverb a day. Regardless of your views on faith, Proverbs has a lot of wisdom for everyday life. While I cling to my faith in Christ’s wisdom, strength, and grace to get me through life, I just think it makes good sense socially to follow the Christian scriptures. While the old testiment “law” can be pretty harsh (stoning to death of one caught in adultery), remember that Jesus said to that crowd, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Grace has overcome the law, but there are principles throughout scripture that are just positive ways to live your life. If someone is following the ten commandments, it’s pretty difficult to get in much earthly trouble. Jesus summed the commandments up into two things to live by. “Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, soul and strength (maybe this is your challenge), and love your neighbor as yourself. Perhaps that last one can be the motivation for something to “take up” rather than “give up” for Lent. Find a way each day to do something meaningful to “love” others. (friends, family, or strangers) Be Blessed!