Tag Archives: Lent

Preparing for Lent 2017


Lent_Three Croses

This year Lent is March 1st to April 13, 2017. This is thee most important and spiritually focused period of the liturgical year. It’s also the time when some of us are most miserable. Sometimes you can easily tell who has given up their favourite foods and habits for Lent. Have you ever encountered the Starbucks coffee lover who is in desperate need of their daily 2 litres of straight black coffee, but is determined to make it through the 40 day period? Yeah, not a lovely experience.

What about the person who has given up Facebook for Lent? You discover they have given up Facebook when there is a sudden increase in texts and emails from them.

Did you notice the person who has given up beer for Lent? Friends start to notice this when the person begins to drink more wine and other adult beverages in lieu of beer.

So why am I making these borderline judgmental observations? Because, I’m annoyed by the cultural misunderstanding that we have about Lent.

In my lifetime I’ve certainly chosen random, meaningless, and spiritually empty things to give up during the season; but with each passing year I am learning more about the deeper meaning of Lent. I now realize that things I used to give up didn’t bring me any closer to identifying with Christ. These thoughtless acts didn’t help me grow in my faith.

For some people giving up items such as beer, chocolate, and coffee is very important. Giving up these luxuries and habits are a major victory over the material things in life that we become dependent on for happiness, meaning, and ability to live in peace with others.

Where I think some people miss a great opportunity for spiritual growth is when they take something away, but don’t replace it with something that will help them grow in their relationship with God. Giving up coffee and replacing it with tea, is a filler, but it’s not a time for growing unless you are intentional about it. An example of making the experience spiritual would be to use the money you would put towards coffee and donate it towards a cause that is important to you. Another idea might be praying each time you feel the need to get a coffee. When the urge hits you stop and pray to God for strength, recite a helpful verse, or engage in another spiritual activity that will help you.

These are only examples. We all lead different lives and this means how we choose to grow closer to God during Lent will look different for all of us.

If you want to get serious about Lent this year, below are some ideas and links to help get your started.

Lenten Symbols

Some Ideas on Ways to Prepare for Lent


-The Gospels

-The parables of Christ

-Listen to the Gospels or parables of Christ on audio

-Choose a daily devotional to read each day

-Do a 4 week bible study to prepare for Easter



-Choose a specific topic to pray for (peace, oppressed women in other countries, persecuted Christians in other nations, poverty in your city, etc)

-Pray through verses in the bible

-Add additional prayer time (e.g. pray morning and evening, pray grace during all three meal times, try new styles of prayer, etc.)



Almsgiving is the spiritual act of giving money or food to the poor; almsgiving is also the act of providing something to someone in need for free without the expectation of anything in return.

-If you already give regularly to a charity or cause, give a little extra if you can. If extra money is not an option for you, consider giving extra by donating your time.

-Volunteer at a soup kitchen by helping to serve food during their Spring/Easter holiday meals

-Go through your clothing and household items, donate items that are still in good condition that you no longer need.

-Do you have skills and occupational experiences that are normally unaffordable to the average person or those without insurance. Consider providing your service for free to one or two people (e.g. Offer free message services to low income parents, offer a draw for a free meal at your restaurant, file someone’s taxes for free, shovel your neighbour’s sidewalk and driveway etc.).


Repentance:Engage in authentic soul searching during the 40 day period. This involves a lot of prayer, a lot of silence, and a lot of listening. Here are some resources to help you with this process.

Daily Examen


Intentionally Engage in Various Spiritual Disciplines










General Ideas




Do You Turn a Blind Eye or Turn the Other Cheek?


Turn The Other Cheek

There have been a few incidents that have happened in various environments that I am involved with that made me stop and ask myself, “Have I been turning a blind eye or have I been turning the other cheek?” I think this is a question we should all stop and ask ourselves sometimes.

To honestly ask yourself this question, it’s best to take a look at the meaning of both of these phrases and actions.

Turn a blind eye: “An idiom describing the ignoring of undesirable information.” Source: Wikipedia

Turn the other cheek: This requires a much longer explanation and can’t be simplified into one sentence, so I opted instead, to quote a few paragraphs from Marcus Borg as found on Belief.net

“The key to understanding Wink’s argument is rigorous attention to the social customs of the Jewish homeland in the first century and what these sayings would have meant in that context.

To illustrate with the saying about turning the other cheek: it specifies that the person has been struck on the right cheek. How can you be struck on the right cheek? As Wink emphasizes, you have to act this out in order to get the point: you can be struck on the right cheek only by an overhand blow with the left hand, or with a backhand blow from the right hand. (Try it).

But in that world, people did not use the left hand to strike people. It was reserved for “unseemly” uses [Wiping one’s self after having a bowel movement]. Thus, being struck on the right cheek meant that one had been backhanded with the right hand. Given the social customs of the day, a backhand blow was the way a superior hit an inferior, whereas one fought social equals with fists.

This means the saying presupposes a setting in which a superior is beating a peasant. What should the peasant do? “Turn the other cheek.” What would be the effect? The only way the superior could continue the beating would be with an overhand blow with the fist–which would have meant treating the peasant as an equal.

Perhaps the beating would not have been stopped by this. But for the superior, it would at the very least have been disconcerting: he could continue the beating only by treating the peasant as a social peer. As Wink puts it, the peasant was in effect saying, “I am your equal. I refuse to be humiliated anymore.”
Source: http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Christianity/2004/04/What-Would-Jesus-Think-Of-Kings-Protests.aspx?p=1

It is tempting and often times easier to turn a blind eye to injustice and other wrongs we witness being committed against others. This past lent I have once again been reminded that Jesus does not want us to turn a blind eye, instead, he has commanded us to turn the other cheek. It isn’t easy to do, and it comes with a cost which is why it is often the option least likely to be chosen.

Jesus calls us to not retaliate. Justice is not a form of retaliation. Jesus doesn’t expect us to be docile and allow ourselves to be abused, discriminated against, and systemically oppressed. However, what he does tell us is that injustice exists, and we can fight against it without resorting to violence, bloodshed, and physical injury.

When we live in an unjust society, we still have to go to work for corrupt employers, we still need to follow certain laws that are passed, and we still have to deal with dishonest institutions who are often ready to discriminate against certain populations. If we spend our time fighting injustice with constant community violence, we take away from being able to use our minds and skills to change our culture from one of injustice to one of justice and inclusion.

When it comes to dealing with atrocities in our communities, I truly believe that Jesus is asking us to use our minds instead of our weapons. Have an open mind, be willing to sit at the table with a diverse group of thinkers and together create a legal and social society where violence is not a necessary way for living. When we use our minds, we might never have to pick up a weapon to strike our oppressor and those who discriminate against us.

Show Respect To Others


How do you respond to uncomfortable situations involving discrimination and systemic oppression? Could it be categorized as “turning a blind eye” or “turning the other cheek”?

What are ways that you can deal with others in a non-violent manner while fighting for respect, justice, and rights?

If you haven’t already read all of Matthew 5, I highly recommend it. If you’ve read it in the past, it’s still a great chapter to review, these teachings are never outdated or irrelevant.


Giving It up For Lent

Preparing for Lent 2016


Lent 2016: Wednesday February 10th – Thursday March 24th. Sundays are excluded when counting the 40 days. Lent is for all Christians, not just Catholics and mainline protestants.

For the past couple of year’s I’ve switched my focus during Lent from saying “no” to saying “yes”. In the past I had placed my attention on what I was giving up at the expense of realizing what I was gaining by practicing the spiritual disciplines of the Lenten season. When Jesus spent time in the desert, he didn’t simply say “no” to the temptations before him; he was also saying “yes” to all that God had to offer.

Our spiritual practices during Lent aren’t meant to be easy, but they aren’t meant to be torture either. When I choose something to give up during Lent I try to find something that benefits my spiritual life beyond the approximately six weeks of the season. This year I have chosen to say “no” to garbage foods and say “yes” to foods that make my body feel great. Sounds like a diet doesn’t it? But… it’s not a diet.

I decided to eliminate garbage foods and foods that my body doesn’t react well to because I have once again experienced negative physical reactions due to stress induced junk food snacking habits. I’ve been dealing with an increase in stress again and a decrease in my mindfulness and meditation practice. As a result of these changes, I realized I had started turning to mindless snacking to deal with unpleasant life stressors. My goal during this Lenten season is to reconnect with the spiritual discipline of turning to God when I feel anxiety, stress, or fear. I don’t need to use food or exercise to deal with issues when I have a God I can turn to instead.

If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to take some time to pray about what earthly habits or unnecessary pleasures you might want to say “no” to in exchange for a spiritual “yes” during this season.

Remember, Lent is not the same as our regular liturgical year. Whatever you take away you replace with extra time spent in prayer and reflection.

As an example, for some people Lent will mean not logging onto Facebook; this is great, but it only becomes a spiritual discipline if you replace that Facebook time with something reflective such as prayer, devotional reading, meditation on God’s words, or another spiritual activity of your choice.

creat in me a clean heart Psalm 51:


What is something that you can focus on during Lent? e.g. Praying every day for the poor in your community; praying for political candidates in your area; commitment to learning about a justice issue that you are not familiar with or comfortable with; reading and learning about an area in your life where you need personal growth.

The following are some self-reflective questions for Creighton, “But this year we might reflect and ask the deeper question: What is God inviting me to change this Lent? How do I know what God might be stirring in me? I begin by listening to the movements in my heart. Where am I feeling uncomfortable with the choices I am making? With the things I have done? With the habitual ways I respond? The Lord will be speaking to me in those small nagging moments of discomfort in my heart. We can ask: What would it cost me to change this behavior. …What if I did decide to “give up” something really destructive in my life, ….?  As I reflect, I might realize that changing a particular way I live is coming to me as a call from God and I don’t have to do it alone. God is moving my heart to reflect on these changes and God will remain faithful and help me to stay open to the grace being offered to me for change.”


There are many options to choose from. If you find yourself overwhelmed or unsure what to focus on, pray, meditate, ask God to reveal to you what sacrifices or changes would are needed in your life at this time.

Resources for Lent:








Lent and Winter: Feels the same sometimes

Winter scene
If only Lent and Winter were this smooth and beautiful. 😀


Yeah, it’s finally March! Time to celebrate!

Lent arrives at a time when we are sick of  winter and eagerly anticipate Spring weather. For many years Spring time was difficult for me, it was usually the end of the semester and the school year. I was usually broke, exhausted from being a working student and stressed from studying and completing assignments. Having to throw Lent into the mix was never something I looked forward to. The Lenten season always felt like a time of punishment and it never brought me closer to God. Instead, this period of the liturgical season often left me feeling as if I couldn’t do anything right.

40 days of giving up something that I enjoyed gave me the false belief that I could never please since I wasn’t even able to do something as simple as ceasing from things that put a smile on my face or brought me joy. Following my first degree, I put a stop to practicing Lent for many years; I no longer wanted this season to represent personal misery. Eventually I developed a better understanding and practice of Lent.

God never calls us to be miserable for the sake of misery. God wants our hearts to break over the things that break his heart. What breaks God’s heart? Well… according to the bible things like violence, injustice, abuse, stealing, anything listed in the 10 commandments, poverty, and too many others for me to type at this time.

Yes, let's give up snow for Lent, sounds like a good idea!
Yes, let’s give up snow for Lent, sounds like a good idea!

The misery of Lent is not meant for us to weep over the luxuries that we’ve chosen to give up. Whatever you’ve given up for Lent is meant for you to bless God for being able to have something to give up, and to identify with those in the world who go without the things we can easily put on hold for a mere 40 days. The things we give up are intended to remind us that we need to turn to and depend on God instead of things like Starbucks coffee in order to make us wake up and be happy. Giving up chocolate for the season might be difficult for someone who consumes this item every day, but you know what would be more of a sacrifice for God; buying ethical trade, direct trade, or fair trade chocolate. Not shopping during Lent might be serious for someone who is an habitual shopper, but you know what might make it more meaningful; not purchasing clothing that were made in a sweat shop somewhere over in Asia. Lent is an opportune time to evaluate the deeper meaning of the luxuries we have become attached to.

These are only a few examples of what someone could do to take Lent to a deeper level. Everyone has a different sacrifice that they need to make and it’s not going to look the same for each of us.

I realised the other day that if we can make it through the freezing cold, dark filled, icy days of Winter for 8 months out of the year, then we can make it through a mere 40 days of giving up a luxury so that we can be more aware of the things that break God’s heart. It’s 40 days of asking ourselves, “What material things do I rely on too much to make me happy?”, “What does Christ want me to remember about the things that made him angry, weep, or frustrated?”, “What messages and lessons from the bible am I missing that are causing any distance between myself and God’s will for my life and the world?”.

Let’s not allow Lent to be a time where we spend our energy focusing on the material goods that we are abstaining from for 40 days. Instead, let’s focus on what part of the Gospel and God’s message is missing from our world, our personal life, and our heart.

QUESTION: Do you think there are parts of God’s message that are missing from being an active part of your life?

ACTION: During the rest of Lent take time to read and review the Gospel and get reacquainted with the message that God via Christ has given to us. Prayerfully consider which aspects of the Gospel you are struggling with the most or neglect the most. Ask God to help you with these areas, He is always available and willing to help us on our walk of faith.