Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Suggestions for Lent 2012

Written by: Conrade Yap

Lent starts tomorrow. Traditionally known as Ash Wednesday, the day ushers in a 40 day observance of Lent. 'Lent' means 40th in Latin. Easter Sunday marks the end of the 40 days journey, which reminds all disciples of Christ about Jesus' journey to the Cross.

(Picture Credit: efl-churches.org)
When I was in Bible school, I managed to catch a glimpse of what some of my fellow students were doing. Some refrained from certain foods like coffee, chocolates, or meat. Others abstained from particular activities. The overriding theme was basically the need to stop, to reflect, to remember, and to experience a little of what Jesus was going through during his time before the crucifixion on Good Friday, the death during the darks days prior to the culmination of Resurrection Sunday. Lent is perhaps one of the most important periods of the Christian calendar.

Not everyone of us are used to a full fast. I find myself struggling to observe a complete fast from coffee. I know it is possible, but I want to avoid becoming overly legalistic about it. That said, the majority of the people I know will tend to prefer a more moderate approach: Partial fast. It is to this group of people that I will be writing for this Lent 2012.

Readers are welcome to adopt one or more of the following seven options. The more adventurous are welcome to practice all. It will be based on a particular activity or food to fast on a particular day of the week.

1) Monday - Fast from Complaining the Monday blues

It is common to hear people complaining about their Monday blues. For some, Mondays can be the most depressing days of the week. After a long weekend, our emotional work engines are cold. The tendency to complain tends to be hot. Perhaps, fast from complaining is a good way to remember that Jesus obeys God's will without complaining. Resist saying anything negative about work. Avoid any tendency to complain. Instead, bite your lip. Hold your tongue. Direct your focus to God and pray. Do that every Monday. One cannot avoid the Monday blues, but one can certainly avoid making it worse. 

2) Tuesday - Tangible Resistance

What are the things that we 'normally' do? Do we watch TV? Do we spend lavishly on things we do not really need? Do we buy things at all? Perhaps, on Tuesday, resist the tangible attractions of materialism. Keep your credit cards at home so that you do not spend anything. Resist materialism. Resist consumerism. In resisting all of these tangible stuff, perhaps, we learn to allocate what we spend on ourselves, and put them in a tangible fund for someone more needy? 

3) Wednesday - Entertainment Fast by moving from Worldly to Worship

We are in the world but not of the world. Instead of spending our usual time in worldly entertainment like TV, Internet surfing, or movies, consider turning our minds and hearts toward worship. Memorize a Scripture verse. Sing a hymn. Meditate on a spiritual writing. As we move away from worldliness, we point ourselves toward anything to encourage worship. We can pray. We can sing. We can worship.

4) Thursday - Fast for Lunch and Give toward Theological Education

I write this with some conviction. Yesterday I received a call from my alma mater about considering a donation to theological education. I promised to consider. Thinking about it, why not allocate a day in which I can devote my lunch money to theological education? If skipping one lunch can enable a needy student to study theology more, why not?

5) Friday - Friendly Gesture

Fasting is not to be understood merely as self-limiting. It can be shared through giving and sharing. Make Fridays a day to perhaps do a kind friendly deed. Call up a friend. Encourage him/her. Do a kind, friendly deed. Buy someone lunch. Show kindness and be a spiritual friend if you can. Fridays are great days to do these acts of kindness. By giving we are receiving too: the privilege of giving joy.

6) Saturday - Fast from Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, or Blogging.

Social media is becoming the main staple of communications nowadays. I know of people who do not know what to do without Facebook. In fact, they are on social networks almost a couple of times every hour. Gone are the days in which we can have an uninterrupted time over a meal.  By fasting from social media at least once a week, we can avoid becoming addicted to social media. At the same time, we remind ourselves that fasting is in essence a way to untie ourselves from worldly things that entangle us. Resist the urge to connect to social networks once a day. Make Saturday that day.

7) Sunday - Keeping Sabbath

I believe that it is important to keep the Sabbath, or to observe a Sabbatical rhythm once a week. A rabbi once said: "It is not the Jews that kept the Sabbath. It is the Sabbath that kept the Jews." Now, Sundays are strictly speaking not a 'Christian Sabbath.' True Sabbath calls us to restrain from normal work. What I am advocating is a day in which we can do something different. For example, six days we work. Let us then rest one day. In our busy world, it is easy to bring work home for the weekend. Some of us work overtime. Perhaps, try to have a day in which we can free ourselves from the tyranny of work and the busyness of life. Slow down. Stop to admire the gardens. Smell the flowers. 

Here they are. Seven ideas for seven days for the Lenten period. You are welcome to practice any of them, some of them, or all of them. Use the first letter of each day to trigger the fasting idea.

M - Monday Blues
T - Tangible Tuesday
W - Wednesday Worship
Th - Theological Education Thursday
F - Friendly Friday
S - Social Media Saturday Fast
S - Sunday Sabbatical

Enjoy. As always, pray every day. Remember, Day 1 begins Wednesday tomorrow!


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