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The Lenten Challenge

As most of us are well aware, Lent is just around the corner. I've already had a few inquiries from friends asking me for ways to help them improve their Lenten experience. I thought I would share with all of you what I shared with my 5th grade students on preparing for Lent.

When we think of Lent, we think of the three primary Lenten practices: 1) Prayer, 2) Fasting, 3) Almsgiving. It doesn't take much for most of us to realize that we need more prayer in our life. 
  1. Prayer is the essential communication line between us and God; therefore, praying more often helps to strengthen that line of communication. We establish more trust and a better relationship with God when we pray more sincerely and more often. Perhaps there is an area of your life where you can pray a bit more. Perhaps before you roll out of bed or before you go to sleep. Perhaps it would benefit you to pray in the car or before you take a big test. Praying before doing an activity brings God into that activity, and as we know, God is always ready to walk any road with us if we invite Him to do so.
  2. Fasting is often viewed from a negative standpoint in our culture. People see it as simply giving something up. While there is sacrifice involved, there is also an opportunity for growth. When we give up something for Lent, it provides us with the opportunity to find alternatives. For instance, 7 years ago I gave up soda-pop for Lent. Because I was away from it for so long, I had to think of alternatives to drinking the soda I enjoyed so very much. The opportunity to grow provided me with a way to go without drinking soda for the last seven years while enjoying other beverages...namely, water. Fasting improves the virtue of temperance in our lives.
  3. Almsgiving is the third Lenten practice. It pulls us out of ourselves in order to think about the needs of others. As a child, my form of almsgiving during Lent was giving up various sweets during Lent in order to put my extra change into the CRS Ricebowl. I learned that $1.00 could feed a family for a day in many countries. Knowing this made it easy to give up my lunchtime ice cream.
There are many things that we can do to improve our Lenten experience, but the best thing to do is to start the planning process now. Make an action plan for yourself. In the link above, I created a Lenten calendar for 2015 that tracks all of the days of Lent until Easter Sunday. Print it out and challenge a friend to do the same. Answer the questions on the back and make yourself accountable to doing these things on a daily basis. You'd be surprised just how impactful something so simple can be on your life.