Lent begins on Wednesday, February 14. Lent is the 40 days before Easter Sunday, excluding the Sundays. Historically it has been a time when believers focus on self-denial in order to relate to the sufferings of Jesus.  Many Christians have a practice of giving up something they really like for Lent such as sweets or alcoh ol or social media.The sacrifice is supposed to be a reminder that Jesus was willing to give up everything, including his own life, for our sake.

I, on the other hand, more often choose to take on some new spiritual practice for Lent. Some years I join or start a new Bible study group. Other years I add something to my daily devotional time. One year I got up thirty minutes earlier than usual everyday to participate in something called The John Wesley Great Experiment. Those thirty minutes were spent in focused prayer and meditation.  In each case, the idea is to use the time during Lent to get re-centered on your Christian faith.

This year I am organizing two projects to help others grow spiritually during Lent. First, with the help of a Des Moines artist, Abigail Livingood, Panora UMC is offering a four-session Lenten Bible study in which participants will be invited to process what they are learning from the Lenten scriptures by creating 3D sculptures using “found” (non precious) materials. The idea is to encourage thinking about the texts at a different, perhaps deeper level.  I have never considered myself to be an artist, but I do have a crafty side. I am excited about the prospect of learning something new from scriptures that are quite familiar to me.

The second project is my plan to begin another small group to study Alice Fryling’s book, “Seeking God Together” and to practice group spiritual direction. Spiritual direction is a form of compassionate friendship that focuses on listening to one another and to God.  Unlike a typical Bible study group that spends most of their time together reading and discussing the text, a spiritual direction group spends their time together sharing contemplative practices such as guided meditation, Lectio Divina, and examination of conscience and listening to how God is being experienced by others. Silence is also an important component of group spiritual direction.

I want to encourage all of you to consider taking on some new spiritual practice for this season of Lent. The possibilities are almost limitless.  Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Start a practice of daily Bible reading and prayer, if you do not already have such a practice. Add something to your daily time of  study and prayer if you already have such a practice.
  2. Select a spiritual book to read and study or join a small Bible study group.
  3. Keep a journal of the things for which you are grateful or the times and places where you have experienced God’s presence or God’s leading each day.
  4. Take on some form of Christian service for the season. Volunteer at a hospital or care center, knit or crochet prayer shawls, or visit people in your community who are not able to go out on their own.
  5. Try you hand at tithing 10% (or 5% or 3%) of your income to your church or other charitable causes. You might enjoy it so much that you decide to continue your giving even after Lent.
  6. Pray intentionally for people or circumstances in the world that are dear to you.

Whatever you choose to do, make it a priority and do your best to sustain your commitment throughout Lent. This experience just might be the beginning of a time of spiritual growth for you.