I'm doing Lent this year. Observing Lent isn't common in the LDS religion, so it's not something I've done often in the past, but I was talking to Notredame (my soon to be ex-boarder) about it and I'm attracted to the idea. I like that its purpose it to get closer to God. I like that it precedes a celebration of renewal and redemption. I also like that it happens over forty days. It's a Goldilocks amount of time ~ not too long or too short, but just right. :)
The three traditional practices of Lent were prayer, fasting and almsgiving, and these represented justice to god, self and one's neighbour. The modern interpretation of those is to give up some vice, adopt some good practice that brings you closer to God and to spend time or money giving to others.
So what am I giving up? It was tempting to choose housework, but I've decided on television. In the absence of that major and largely mindless distraction I think concentrating on some deeper issues will be easier. I also get more sleep when I watch less TV and use my time better as a result. If I want this to be a serious project, then I'll need both the time and the energy.
For my added task I've decided to reread a book a friend lent me several years ago that I later bought. I think it will be a useful exercise. It's about Christianity, but very focussed in on simplifying the living of it. I've lived the complicated version - the one that fills your schedule, but doesn't always develop you as a person. It's surprising how effectively you can crowd out real spirituality with 'good' activities. I think reading this book over the forty days and considering its questions and challenges will give me a vehicle to focus on this area of my life.
Last year could have been one of introspection over activity, but it wasn't. I even thought I was going through the process of examining my beliefs, but at some point that process wound down into nothingness without me even noticing. In hindsight I think I needed to take a break spiritually ~ to pull away from any kind of religion/religious practice or belief before I could approach them again with new eyes and decide with more objectivity what it means to me now.
The last challenge is almsgiving. I wanted to think of something really cool to do for that. Finally I remembered a project I was involved in a long time ago in Adelaide to create the packs they give to women when they first go to a women's shelter. Often when someone is escaping domestic violence, they don't have time to plan for it. A crisis occurs and they just have to run. They also may have very little money to start over. These packs provide basic toiletries: soap, shampoo, toothbrush, comb, that sort of thing. I like the idea of giving something so immediately useful to the woman receiving it.
So there's my plan. I'll let you know how it goes. Anyone else celebrating Lent? If so, what did you choose to do or give up for forty days?