Lent: what I’m giving up and adding in

Confession: The first time I heard of Lent, I thought it was awfully funny. I was nine years old or so, working in a neighbor’s greenhouse transplanting seedlings and getting paid by the individual flat, which I painstakingly tallied on a dirt-smeared paper beside me. The owner’s granddaughter Lindy worked alongside me. We chatted about things, and at some point she asked what I was giving up for Lent.

“Lent?” asked the little Mennonite girl.

“Yeah, because Jesus suffered. You give up something until Easter.”

“Oh,” I said, and immediately started thinking high and holy. Giving up selfishness? Giving up complaining? Giving up worry, or losing my temper?

“I’ve decided,” Lindy said calmly, “to give up gum.”

Oooh I thought it was funny. I knew better than to laugh aloud at any sacrifice for Christ, but weren’t we supposed to give up big things so we got holy?

Only in recent years have I begun to realize – begun to realize – that giving up doesn’t have a size. Or a neat physical/spiritual split. Fasting from anything I want can become a strong step toward mental clarity, wise evaluation of my activities and loves, personal discipline, and ultimately, dependence on and presence with Christ. I’ve started giving things up for Lent.

Here are some ideas of what I, or the people I love, have chosen to go without during Lent in various years. No laughing.

  • Coffee
  • Buying “extra” or “impulse” things online
  • Bedtime snacks (shudder – that was a horrible six weeks)
  • Reading news on a phone
  • Desserts
  • Checking sports scores
  • A favorite snack, like nuts or chocolate
  • Buying more clothes
  • Drinking pop

But I admit I do laugh some, because I have great fun thinking of impossible things to give up for Lent.

  • Chores
  • Talking
  • A few kids
  • Washing dishes
  • Sharing my bed
  • Appearing on photographs
  • Reading Scripture

I’m sorry. Laughter should not be part of this, probably. But wouldn’t they make great memes? “I gave up dieting for Lent.”

This year I’ve chosen to give up Facebook. It’s taking up a disproportionate amount of my unstructured time, and netting me unhappiness at this season – which makes it a win-win sacrifice. I hope.

(And by the way, I’ve been meaning to say this… If you befriended me on Facebook and I didn’t accept it, please know it’s not personal. Bloggers draw their public lines at different places, but for me, Facebook is one spot where I want to know personally all the people that I’m friends with. It’s a way of offering more privacy to myself and my family. I hope you will understand.)

Besides giving up something, I am adding something to my life during Lent. My friend Piper introduced our church ladies to the book Bread and Wine: readings for Lent and Easter. It’s produced by Plough Publishing, the Bruderhof’s publishing house, and contains daily reading selections from the works of a wide variety of Christian authors, both ancient and modern: Philip Yancey, Augustine, Dorothy Sayers, C.S. Lewis, Wendell Berry, Christina Rossetti, Peter Kreeft, and N.T. Wright, to name just a few.

I am thoroughly looking forward to Bread and Wine. As an additional joy, Piper is arranging a brunch after Easter with the church ladies who are reading it, to discuss the book – what we learned, and how we experienced the readings. You could start something similar in your own church.

If I’ve given you enough time.

As Advent quiets the heart for Christmas, Lent makes space for the Resurrection. How do you prepare your heart to welcome Christ afresh?

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4 years ago

I kind of love that you’ve made that choice about friends on Facebook. That’s always how I’ve felt and I thought I must be a little odd! ☺ I finally chose to have a separate page for my blog. I like that a lot better!

PS. If I am indeed odd, it’s nice to know I’m in such lovely company ?

4 years ago

oh Shari, how could you?! now I want to go out and buy the book and start a group and I only have 4 days?! What do I do?? 🙂

4 years ago
Reply to  Cor

Amazon Prime is a beautiful thing. ? But with six weeks to experience the book, receiving it a few days into Lent would probably not hurt…

Actually I do feel badly for springing this so late; I intended to write about it some time ago and was waylaid by life. ?

Missing you.

4 years ago
Reply to  Cor

Cor, (if indeed you are “my” Cor) I would totally join this group. Just saying. Also, we have Amazon Prime. JUST SAYING.

4 years ago

Thank you for the book recommendation! My husband and I have majorly scaled back on personal Christmas festivities because of the intense schedule surrounding that holiday here. I’ve wanted to spend more time and energy on Easter but feel a little helpless and void of ideas. I quickly ordered this book and am excited to begin.

Maybe you could write a post giving ideas for celebrating Easter??? Please?? ??

4 years ago

Oh this book sounds so good! However, I’ve given up buying books of late. Not for Lent, just for finances….but still! It sounds so good. Maybe next year. I’ll add it to my save for later.

I may be been someone who sent you a friend request. I enjoy following my favorite writers. I follow several, Dorcas Smucker, Dwight Gingrich, Katrina Hoover Lee and their Facebook pages are often very interesting and truly enjoy that peek into their lives and the posts they share.

I do understand the need to have your own private space though. I am like that with my Facebook.

4 years ago

In Germany it is not common that real believers do that Lent thing. It is a catholic custom which they do after carnival. Many other people, even non-believers have adapted it because they think it is good to fast for some time. However, we think, that this is not the kind of fasting which is mentioned in the Bible. So, I am astonished to read that conservative Mennonites are doing this.

4 years ago

Love the Lent Ideas. I have already decided what I want to give up for Lent….but adding something in was a bit of a new idea. Let me ponder more.
As far as you giving up Facebook, go you! I am also doing a fb fast…… except be it will probably be a permanent fast. I realized that it was adding to my anxiety and depression. So….I’m in the process of deleting my account. Good thoughts on Lent…..thanks!

4 years ago

I am soo jealous of you MMC ladies. Which is to say, I think Piper’s idea is perfect.

Regina S
4 years ago

I’m giving up “putting people in their place” when it comes to people leaving mean comments on my fellow bloggers blog post. This is something I struggle with because I feel this need to defend Christian ladies who get mean comments from the most innocent of posts. Some comments probably stem from jealousy but I really want to be nicer or even not give the person attention they may be seeking.

4 years ago
Reply to  Regina S

Dear Regina,

I assume you are referring to my comment. After having posted it I thought it might sound a bit harsh, so I wrote a personal e-mail to Shari and asked her to delete it in case she felt offended. But she did not.

For your understanding: I am a non-Mennonite German and I read Mennonite blogs because I like their way of living and their faith.
So, one problem might be that I cannot really express my feelings in a foreign language.
The other thing might be more cultural. The “Christian world” differs from the American one. We have to big churches (Catholic and Protestant/Lutheran) which most people belong to. They will be baptised as babies so it is not necessary to be a true believer if they are a member. And they are practicing lots of things which are not compliant with the Bible (e. g. Praying to Mary, allowing homosexual pastors)
On the other side there are various “free” churches and other groups. They usually request a real conversion. This is what I meant by real believers. Lent is an invention of the Catholic Church which most real believers in Germany would feel odd to follow.
In my town there are a lot of Carnival celebrations these days and my 4-year-old daughter who goes to kindergarten had lots of discussions with her kindergarten teacher about Carnival. The teacher says: “I am a protestant Christian, too, and I celebrate Carnival. Where is the problem?” I explained to my daughter why we do not celebrate it and she understood. And I also told her that after Carnival the Catholics go to church to receive the ashing so their sins which they commited at Carnival would be forgiven. Afterwards they fast during Lent time. I said this is not as the Bible teaches us.

For me it also depicts the Catholic’s efforts to please God by good works or self-denial. Which is not biblical.

Maybe you now understand my point of view a bit better.

I do not want to judge Shari for fasting/giving up things and I do not consider it as sinful behaviour. But as you might understand from my above explanations I was astonished to hear that people who seem to be even more conservative than I do follow Lent.


4 years ago
Reply to  Regina S

Oh, bless you both. Rike, I may be wrong but I don’t think that Regina was talking about you at all. I understood her to be talking about herself, and her own interaction in the comment section of the blogs she writes and follows. I found your comment respectful, not close to the category of a “mean comment,” though they are certainly out there in the cyber world!

You both have blessed me many times. I know you have only the most honorable of intentions… and to be honest, I enjoy some diversity of opinion. ?❤️

4 years ago
Reply to  Shari

You are right, she might not be talking about me… I think sometimes I get some things wrong because English is not my mother tongue!

Regina S
4 years ago

Oh dear Rike, I wasn’t referring to you at all and I’m so sorry for the misunderstanding. I was referring to other blogs I follow. There are people who have tried to leave mean comments on my own blog but mine is moderated so none gets posted. Your comment is very respectful and I appreciate your explanation of what is happening in churches in your country. And again I’m sorry.

4 years ago
Reply to  Regina S

That’s what I thought. ❤️ No worries, hon. Love to both of you.

4 years ago

I thought of giving up Sunday afternoon naps in favor of time with my little people.It would be once a week instead of every day.? But maybe it would be a better idea to give up snow!

Jeanie M
4 years ago

May I add something? I live in a predominately Catholic town & know many friends who do, indeed, look @ their Lent fasting as part of working their salvation. I am deeply saddened to see them not fully relying on Jesus. That being said, I also understand Shari’s idea of fasting on something to clear the mind & meditate on what Christ did for us. I do not take it that she is “working her way into heaven”. But I do also understand Rike’s not wanting to identify with something that is not always done with Godly motives. I have been blessed by this little dialogue of trying to understand & build up one another!

[…] Giving up Facebook for Lent was a relief. I felt somewhat guilty for choosing a sacrifice I welcomed, something I was relieved […]

[…] a last minute recommendation for you. In the spring, I wrote about my delightful experience with the book Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter, by Plough Publishing. Today, I bought […]

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