Lent. It's kind of lost it's popularity, hasn't it? It's been overshadowed by its more popular sidekick, Mardi Gras: the day associated with general debauchery. But Mardi Gras wouldn't even exist without Lent, and Lent is far more powerful than one night of drinks and regrets.
What is Lent? Lent is a 40 day period observed by Christians to prepare them to celebrate Jesus' amazing sacrifice and resurrection over Easter. 40 days is a throwback to Jesus' 40 days of prayer and fasting in the wilderness. It was the time that set him up for his incredibly powerful ministry and power over evil.
How did Jesus gain victory in the Wilderness? By saying no to temptation and by talking to God. That's the basic gist of Lent: giving up things in our lives to gain something even better: closer connection to God. And with closer connection comes answered prayers, greater joy, and peace in ways we couldn't feel before. (As a side-note explanation, early Christians would clean out the cupboards of anything tempting like meat and sugar and prepare a big feast with it the night before Lent, hence, Mardi Gras.)
Anyways, back to the power of Lent. There's a key principle in the Bible that John the Baptist shared: "He must increase; I must decrease" (John 3:30). The powerful truth is that when you give something up, you make room for something greater: God. And that means more of this in your life: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22,23).
So how do you celebrate? Here's a great starter list for ideas from UpperRoom.org.
9. Start a prayer rhythm. Each day of Lent, go to The Upper Room's prayer wall and pray for another person.
8. Go deeper into the Bible.
7. Forgive someone who doesn't deserve it (maybe even yourself.)
6. Give up soft drinks, fast food, tea or coffee. Let Juliana’s Ice Cream Fast inspire you to give up some food or drink as a way to grow closer to God. Give the money you save to help folks in a different part of the world who are in crisis.
5. Create a daily quiet time. Spend 10 minutes a day in silence and prayer. See how it can help you add spiritual practice to your daily life beyond Lent.
4. Cultivate a life of gratitude. Write someone a thank you letter each week and be aware of how many people have helped you along the way.
3. Participate in a Lent Photo-a-Day practice and pray each day with your camera in your hand.
2. Volunteer one hour or more each week with a local shelter, tutoring program, nursing home, prison ministry.
1. Pray for others you see as you walk as you walk to and from classes or drive to and from work.
What do you think about all of this? Is Lent something you want to celebrate this year? Let us know in the Comments! We would love to hear from you!