Lent is a strange animal to most people. Giving up something for 46 days doesn’t seem like much when it’s coffee or chocolate. Here are 20 things to Give Up for Lent.
20. Getting Your Way
One of the classic Christian traditions is submission. Monks and nuns around the world submit themselves to a Rule of Life and the leadership of an Abbot or Mother Superior. It doesn’t have to come to that for us to find a way to submit. Give up your choice for where you’ll eat out. Or let someone else decide what programs to watch on television. Just let the other person decide.
When you do, think about how Jesus gave up his place in Heaven to become a human being. Where would we be without His willingness to embrace submission?
19. Rich Foods
This is a classic. Some folks, rather than giving up food and fasting altogether, would simply eat more simply. This is a way to remember what it means to live simply. As that old song says, “‘Tis a gift to be simple, ’tis a gift to be free.”
Use the money you’d have spent on that sumptuous meal to help feed the hungry.
18. An Entire Meal
Fasting is an ancient tradition. It has always been a means to train the body and to strengthen the will. There are very few bodily urges that are stronger than hunger when you’ve been without a meal for a while. Please exercise caution. If you are on a diet that your physician has ordered, please do not fast without first consulting your doctor.
17. Breakfast and Lunch
If one is good, two is better, right? John Wesley, founder of Methodism, skipped two meals in a row at the end of each week. And he asked his followers a simple question: “How often do you fast?” Note that he didn’t ask, “Do you ever fast?”
If this is your chosen abstinence, pray when you feel hungry.
16. Close-Up Parking
How many times have we circled the lot waiting for that spot to open up? For this season, choose to park farther away.
Use the extra time it takes you to get to the door to pray for those whose bodies require them to park close. And give thanks that you are able to make the journey of a few extra feet.
Maybe you don’t yell at your family. Or your dog. But maybe you yell at the television. Or other drivers when the traffic is heavy and the decisions made by drivers around you leave something to be desired.
Every time you find yourself wanting to yell, take a breath and pray for peace — yours as well as those around you.
This one is tough. In a world where the facts don’t matter as much as they once did, we find ourselves trying to prove our points and making other agree with us. Sometimes, it is enough to disagree and move on.
If you choose to cut back on arguing, simply offer a blessing to the other person: “I pray your day is richly blessed.” Or ask God to show you what you agree on instead of how you disagree.
13. Going First
This one seems simple, but it can become a life-changing habit. If you are in line, allow someone to go ahead of you. It’s not just for the folks who have fewer items than you do.
Use the extra time that this will cost to pray for the least, the last, and the lost. And, remember, that Christ said that the last should be first and the first should be last.
12. Your Voice
Pick a few hours in your day when you can give up speaking. Let your coworkers, family, and friends know what you are doing. You’ll find your thoughts become more prominent; your awareness of your inner conversation will come to the forefront.
Invite God into your interior conversation, and let the silence of your lips become the silence of your soul, so that you might more clearly hear God’s voice.
11. Your Couch
You can actually keep your furniture. What I mean here is that couch potato lifestyle that we can sometimes be guilty of living. When you find yourself with a half-hour that you’d normally spend on the most comfortable furniture you own, use it instead to take a walk around your neighborhood. Or run an errand for a neighbor. Or maybe just sit somewhere that isn’t as comfortable and write down a few things in a prayer journal.
Remind yourself that you have many luxuries compared to some folks in this world. Pray for those who have less than you.
10. Your Favorite Television Shows
As with your couch, you can keep that widescreen you just bought. But don’t turn it on for an hour or two. We often leave the television on for noise or “company” in an empty house. Use that time instead to pray, or to listen for God’s voice.
Start by giving up a show you don’t care for much. Work your way up to that Netflix binge you’ve been promising yourself. And let God have that time instead of HBO or Showtime.
9. Your Money
Keep what you need, and don’t go overboard. But consider giving some of your money to the poor during this Lenten season. We have more than we think we do. Perhaps if you set some of that pocket money aside for a higher purpose, you might find a reward that is better than cash.
Consider using the Lenten World Hunger Prayer Calendar to guide your giving.
This one seems simple, but it’s not. Give up that need to share that juicy tidbit with your friends at work, school, or church. But, more to the point, give up your desire to hear that next story, rumor, or pseudo-fact.
Instead of listening for gossip, listen for needs. Share a positive story. Recap a good sermon you once heard. Or, maybe share a memory from your childhood. In all things, glorify God. This is great place to do that.
For forty-six days, pretend your alarm doesn’t have a ‘snooze’ function. When that alarm goes off, make the effort to get out of bed.
Spend some of that extra time waking up in the presence of God with that early morning devotional you’ve always wanted to do!
6. Social Media
Okay, we’re getting into the hard stuff now for some of you. Limit yourself to a few minutes a day, and turn off those notifications that have you reaching for your phone every five minutes.
Spend some time instead with a new Bible app, or an online devotional. Or bring up a verse in your web browser, then return to it every time you feel like checking your timeline.
Let’s pretend for a moment that I’m not a pastor. We both know that those words you don’t use around me slip out from time to time. If that happens more than you’d like, now is a great time to set up a jar for that dollar you’re going to put in every time you say one of Carlin’s seven words you can’t say on television.
Pick a new way to vent. One of my colleagues shouts numbers when he stubs his toe. And then, ask God to take your anger from you and give you peace.
This one doesn’t cover everyone, but it sure has become one of the leading causes of frustration in the world. If you are one to let a text message sit and stew for a while before answering, you might want to submit yourself to your friends and family for a season. If they keep coming and you need to get some work done, you can schedule some face-to-face time later, set a healthy boundary, or phone them instead.
When a text comes in, offer a quick prayer of thanks for that person’s presence in your life.
3. Your Bad Habit
Chewing your nails? Smoking? Overeating? Insert your bad habit here.
When you find yourself thinking of your bad habit, take a breath and offer the temptation up before God, asking for strength. Even if you fall victim to the temptation, you’ve spent a moment with God that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
2. Giving Things Up
Instead of giving something up, simply take on a spiritual discipline like prayer, fasting, meditation, or tithing for the course of your Lenten journey. You don’t have to give up something to take something on. If you find that to be the case for you, simply focus on the time you’re giving to God rather than the things that you might need to give up.
Do set aside a time for your discipline. Make an appointment for yourself with God, and devote that time with your full attention and energy.
You give up your phone and Number Four (Ignoring Texts and Voice Mails) at the same time. But if you choose to give up your phone, you might want to set some boundaries. When are you available? I would suggest that you set the simple rule. “Faces outrank Facebook. Real is more important than virtual.”
Place your phone facedown during meals. And keep your eye contact with the people you are with. And, while you are with them, be fully present. Give thanks that God has your full attention, and think about what it means to give God your full attention.