Life of Giving Series- The Three Practices of Lent
The season of Lent is typically thought to be practiced only by those within the Christian Religion. But, many other religions have a season of Lent as well. Whether you practice Lent for religious reasons or not, applying the concepts of lent to your life can give you time and the needed thought to make positive changes in your life, as well as the lives of others.
Three Main Practices of Lent
The three main practices of Lent are Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving. These practices are in the ebb and flow of most of our lives whether we recognize them as such or not. For instance, everyone has a moment where they sit back and reflect, talk to God or a Higher Power, and change resolve or direction. Most people naturally have a time of fasting whether from food, culture, TV, or Social Media. And many people, thankfully, participate in Almsgiving to some degree with money or deed.
So let’s unpack this a little bit. Prayer. To many secular people, and even those who are religious, prayer might sound like a long ritual of memorized words. Or possibly you see prayer as struggling through a long conversation with a higher power. But prayer is in its most simple form, is a conversation. I am a Christian, so for me prayer is talking with God. Sometimes my prayers are long and thoughtful, sometime they are harsh and desperate. They could be a begging, crying, angry, mess, or a full flow of gentle praise as I thank God for all I have in this life.
Prayers are whatever you make of them, but they need to be self- reflective and outward focused. Prayers are meant to take the focus off the problem, and lead to the solution. Often during the Lenten season prayers include supplications working towards a change in life, attitude, heart, or circumstances. It is a good time to ask God or your higher power what it is you should fast. In other words, what is getting in the way of your contentment, success and or peace?
This leads us to Fasting. When I truly think of fasting, I envision a much older person, in wrapped clothing, starving. Maybe that is because of my great love for food. But, fasting is so much more than giving up all food. Fasting can be taking away one food you have an unhealthy relationship with. Giving up alcoholic drinks or even caffeine for a period of time. Or, in my Mother’s case and she won’t mind me sharing, giving up Chocolate. Now, this year presents the challenge that Lent starts on Valentine’s Day. I am not sure everyone has noticed this yet, but it does put a challenge on Fasting for some.
But, fasting does not have to be about food. Fasting can be removing something from your lifestyle for a time. I have heard of people fasting from a social media platform, eliminating TV during Lent, or quitting smoking for Lent. The specific item or action is not as important as the fact that you are removing something from your life, so that you have time for prayer and reflection.
This year I am giving up going to Fast Food and Coffee Stops. I have found that I spend around $75 a month taking the family to fast food, or stopping for a coffee. I don’t need to go to fast food or coffee. With a little planning, I always have what is needed to feed my family and my personal love for coffee at home. So, I am planning on giving up the quick trips which will save my family $75, and probably help our waistlines as well!
This takes us to Almsgiving. Okay, I agree, that Almsgiving is a very archaic word, and reminds me of moving scenes with a beggar yelling, “Alms for the poor, Alms for the poor”. We are pretty blessed in the United States that for the most part, we have amazing charities, churches, and other religious organizations that take care of the poor. But, there is always still a greater need. Almsgiving in modern day is giving money or time to help people through a charitable enterprise. For instance, donating at the grocery line, monthly donations to charity or church, and donating time and useable items to those in need.
On a personal note, I give. I truly believe in the power that giving money and time has not only to make someone else’s life better, but my own as well. Giving gives me a sense of peace and purpose. I firmly believe in giving a tithe, aka 10 percent of my income to my church. I also believe in picking out a few charities that have deep meaning for my family and giving a monthly pledge. As well as keeping a small amount in my monthly budget for giving cash to worthy causes. I am not made of money, I am a self- employed blogger, but I give.
Knowing that I have a desire to give, I keep a better focus on my finances. I, of course, also plan for regular budget items, vacations, and gifts. But, I also plan for giving. I don’t want to get to the end of a month having spent my money in such a way , that I couldn’t give to others.
The Final Part of Almsgiving
The final part of Almsgiving is donating your useable items and time. Maybe your Fasting for this month will be cleaning out a room each day and taking good useable/saleable items to the local charitable thrift store. Or maybe you have too many cars or boats in your driveway. They could be donated to those in need.
My Dentist runs a program where he fixes donated cars and gives them to single mothers. No strings attached. Can you imagine the difference that would make in the life of a family? He donates his time to this cause, and it makes his smile shine, no pun intended. But literally, when I hear my Dentist talk about restoring cars for the use of single moms it makes me want to be a better person.
So, there it is: My basic talk on the Lenten Season. As the season approaches remember to spend time in prayer or reflection, give up something for a period of time to make room for listening, and give. It really is that simple, and the return on your investment will be huge. Not just for you, but for whomever you help.
So, what will you give up for Lent, and what will you give? Share in the comments below.