So, maybe you’re more on the game than I am, but we’re already well into the first week of Lent, and, as per usual, I still have not settled on a Lenten spiritual practice. And, to be honest, I’ve gone back and forth over the years about how I feel about picking up a Lenten practice anyway. There are all sorts of theological and practical reasons people have picked up such practices during these 40 days: to be reminded of the suffering of Christ, to practice self-discipline in faith, to rely on God’s strength in personal weakness or temptation, to repent of personal and systemic sin, to reorient ourselves to God’s love for us. Motivation might stem from a sense of dutiful obligation, guilt-ridden repentance, personal piety, mere curiosity, yearning for God’s presence, a longing to “do better,” or a million places in between.
As we find ourselves propelled into this new season, I have been striving to discover my own motivation for taking up a Lenten practice (or not). I find myself longing for simplicity and stillness, and for a renewed sense of God’s love for me so that I might in turn love my neighbors a little more fully. This year, I’m curious about practices that invite a sense of mindfulness, encourage regular prayer, help me examine how I steward my time and energy as well as the earth’s resources, and challenge the ways in which I engage with my neighbors.
On the off-chance that maybe you have procrastinated as much as I have this Lent, I have compiled a list of 15 ideas for Lenten practices. Some invite mindfulness and meditation. Some call us to dive more deeply into Scripture. Some require us to consider new perspectives or to grapple with how our daily choices impact the well-being of our neighbors and all of creation. Some of these practices are ancient; some might challenge existing perceptions of what spirituality entails. Whatever you choose, I invite you to dive in with a sense of openness and curiosity as we explore together where the Spirit might be calling us in this season and the next.
- Lent Photo a Day Challenge
- Praying in Color
- Pray through or meditate on the Psalms.
- Lectio Divina
- Finger Labyrinth meditation (or find a “real” labyrinth to walk!)
- Variations on the Daily Examen
- Keep a daily gratitude journal or some variation one. Maybe you tweet one thing you’re grateful for each day. Maybe you share your daily moment of gratitude with your family or exchange a daily gratitude text with a friend.
- Yoga! This has been a transformative practice for me in the past couple of years that helps me become more present in the moment and compassionate with myself and those around me. Plus, a daily home practice can be a great study break! (If you’re looking for an accessible home practice, I’d suggest Yoga with Adriene’s fabulous and free YouTube channel.)
- Practice a daily newsfeed prayer. Scroll through your social media feed, praying for the people, causes, or situations that pop up.
- Send a note to a different person each day, just to let them know you’re thinking about and/or praying for them.
- Declutter your home.
- Find a cause that matters to you and seek out a related volunteer opportunity.
- Pick a resource to focus on for all of Lent or a different resource each week and pay attention to how you steward it. Examples might include water, electricity, gasoline, food, time, money, trash accumulation, etc.
- Pay attention to the food that you eat during Lent. Where does it come from? Who is involved in the preparation/farming/transporting process? What is the environmental impact?
- Listen to a podcast, follow a blog, find a devotional, or pick up a book offering a perspective that is new to you: people of color, people in the LGBTQIA community, people with disabilities, people in rural areas, people in urban areas, liberals, conservatives, people belonging to other faith traditions, as well as people offering global perspectives on faith or politics.
Do you have a favorite Lenten practice? What types of spiritual practices resonate most deeply with you? Or are there Lenten practices that you feel totally miss the mark? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave me a comment below or send me a note!