This would make a great start-of-Lent interactive session with a youth group, RE class, assembly, church, Bible study group or Messy Church.
Encourage folks to think of better ways of holding a fast – then challenge them (and yourself) to pick one!
Reflecting and Doing
‘Giving Something Up for Lent’ – giving up chocolate usually. But let’s be honest, isn’t it a bit of a cop-out? Quit the choccy for six weeks then pig out at Easter to make up for it? It’s all a bit easy. I had a friend who gave up alcohol for Lent – but he never drank anyway, he didn’t even like it! Is that really what fasting is all about?
Here are some ideas for a more spiritually satisfying Lent, some ‘food’ for your fast, if you’ll pardon the pun. I expect you can think of loads more.
Which one will you pick?
Giving Up – something that will have an impact on more than just your waistline.
- give up social media / your on-the-way-to-work coffee / smoking – then spend the time / money on something useful.
Waking Up – Yes, I know, beds are warm and comfortable. But wouldn’t this make a much more meaningful sacrifice than the odd choccy bar?
- Wake up ten minutes earlier (and actually get out of bed) to spend time with God.
Taking Up – always been meaning to volunteer at the foodbank / join that walking club / help out at the kids’ footie club? Now’s the time!
- take up a new habit that will benefit you and your community
Looking Up – lift your eyes from the daily grind. Grab a little ‘Awe and Wonder’.
- Look up at the stars or clouds. Take a few moments to remember to one who created and sustains both them and you. Everyday.
Breaking Up – take a long, hard look at your daily life. Are there any things that are having a negative impact on you?
- Break up with any negative influences in your life, be they places, habits, attitudes, whatever.
Building Up – You never know what effect your words might have
- Build up a random person each day with a genuine compliment or thanks. ‘Your hair looks good’, you could say to another mum at the school gate; ‘Thanks for doing that’, to a cleaner; ‘You are good at that’, to the person who wraps your chips.
Making Up – You might want to start by praying for the person, ask God to help you forgive whatever might need forgiving, and ask for forgiveness for yourself (things are rarely one-sided).
- Make up with someone you have fallen out with.
Lifting Up – Whatever you do for the least of these …
- Lift up someone in need. Pre-pay food and drinks for a homeless person at a local coffee bar (if you have one that does that) or take double lunch to the park and eat with someone who you’d normally walk past.
Showing Up – be there. Presence is the best gift
- Show up when your kids want to play a game, even if you hate it. Show up home early and cook (or bring!) dinner. Show up at lunchtime and sit next to the guy who is always alone..
Stumping Up – this is where it hits
- Stump up the cash. One pound a day (or more) throughout Lent will soon mount up and buy a goat for a widow in India, or a bed for the night for a rough-sleeper in London.
Washing Up – You know, it can be fun
- Wash up for a community event, or for a friend, or in the communal kitchen, or … wherever. See if you can do the washing up for someone every day. “Excuse me, I’m doing a Lent challenge. May I do your washing up?” It could become a thing.
Picking Up – Making the world a better place, one crisp packet at a time
- Pick up five items of litter a day
Filling Up – we should not need foodbanks, bit we do.
- Fill up a box to make someone’s Easter. Add some goodies every day.
Cutting Up – if you find the plastic a bit too fantastic … take a deep breath and
- Cut up your cards if they are getting you into trouble. Contact CAP for advice if you need help.
Messing Up – we all do it. Don’t be so hard on yourself
- Mess up (OK, that was the easy part). Now admit it, and realise that it’s not the end of the world. God knows you’re a mess and he likes you anyway. Think about it.
Isaiah 58:4-11 New Living Translation
What good is fasting
when you keep on fighting and quarrelling?
This kind of fasting
will never get you anywhere with me.
You humble yourselves
by going through the motions of penance,
bowing your heads
like reeds bending in the wind.
You dress in burlap
and cover yourselves with ashes.
Is this what you call fasting?
Do you really think this will please the Lord?
“No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
“Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumours!
Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.