March 1, 2017

Today is the beginning of Lent, a traditional 40-day period of fasting leading up to Easter. Over the last several years Connie and I have tried to incorporate this Christian tradition as one of our spiritual disciplines. Believers around the world, Catholic, Orthodox and many Protestant, observe Lent as they follow the church year calendar. As I did some research on Lent (I am a novice on the “Lenten season”), I came across that gave this very helpful description:

“Lent, which comes from the Teutonic (Germanic) word for springtime, can be viewed as a spiritual spring cleaning; a time for taking spiritual inventory and then cleaning out those things which hinder our relationship with Jesus Christ and our service to him.”

Fasting during lent is commonly a partial fast, meaning a self-denial of certain kinds of enjoyable food or activities. Some give up sweets, others caffeine, still others give up alcohol or smoking. Other types of fasting can be giving up TV or social media. A fast is a simple sacrifice, reminding us of the sacrifice Christ made for us on the cross. I also like to look at my developing appetite during Lent as a reminder of my appetite for God. How hungry am I for Him?

Along with fasting, daily Lent observance includes Scripture reading and prayer. I suggest reading from the gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke or John – to focus on the life of Christ and His teachings.

This year Connie and I will be reading Show Me the Way by Henri J.M. Nouwen to go through Lent. Each chapter starts with a scripture, followed by a meditation from Nouwen’s writings, and closing with a written prayer. Our plan is to read it together at mealtime.

In Daniel 9:1-3, Daniel speaks of “reading the word of the Lord,” turning to the Lord God and pleading with him “in prayer and fasting.” For Daniel, fasting was a regular part of living out his faith. It is a regular part of faith for believers all over the world.

Connie and I invite you and your families to join us in a fast of your choosing for a spiritual spring-cleaning, leading up to our celebration of Easter. It’s a day the global church unites and says, “Christ is Risen!” Let’s begin preparing our hearts now.

Til next week,