I love Lent. I love the reflection, the special programming at the church, the worship, and the discipline.
The past few years, I've struggled with choosing a discipline. I just haven't had good experiences with them. The "giving something up" thing has been played out...I haven't found meaning in that sort of a practice for a while. Maybe one day I will, but not now.
In contrast, I have found great meaning in taking something on. Fasting a day a week, adding a daily prayer time (which I could stand to do anyway), study...these practices, some of the classics, have been much more meaningful to me in recent years.
And so this year I add another classic discipline associated with Lent: almsgiving.
I really don't think I do all that well at sharing my resources with others. I'm wildly inconsistent at best. Like so many others, I mean well but mostly end up paving the road to hell with good intentions. I can do much better. As one who calls himself a disciple of Jesus, I should do better.
The specific way that I'm going to approach this came from a church at which I served as student pastor in seminary. During Lent a few years ago, the pastor there invited the entire congregation to set aside a jar, and then follow a daily calendar of giving in relation to your lifestyle or possessions, just giving a quarter for each item. So one day you put in $.25 for each television you own, and then the next day you put in $.25 for each car, and then the next day you put in $.25 for how many meals you've eaten, and on it goes. On Sundays you just put in $5. I saved that newsletter article because I thought it might be good to invite my church to do this, and then we can give the proceeds to One Great Hour of Sharing, which we always take on Easter.
But for this year, at least, I'll just do it on my own. The season's activities at the church are already planned, and I just wanted to try it out for myself first.
But again, choosing this discipline is not really about my church, not really about any program I want to foist upon them. It's about my need to change. It's about all the preaching I do to give to others in need. It's about all the mission projects I encourage people to be a part of. It's about all the times I myself fall short of that preaching and encouragement. It's about my need to be more faithful to what Christ calls me to be about. So of course, it's not really about me...it's about God and neighbor.
Putting in a quarter for each item may not seem like a lot, but it's about starting small and developing habits. At least that's how I see it.
I hope that your Lenten season is reflective and meaningful.
If you feel so inclined to join me, here is the complete list. Put $.25 in for each of the following. Even if the item listed doesn't relate, put in $1 for the blessing of a new day.
Feb. 17 - gifts received this Christmas
Feb. 18 - pairs of shoes
Feb. 19 - TVs
Feb. 20 - coats/jackets
Feb. 21 - $5.00
Feb. 22 - stereos/radios/mp3 players
Feb. 23 - medicines
Feb. 24 - years of school completed
Feb. 25 - doctors
Feb. 26 - meals/snacks eaten today
Feb. 27 - Bibles in home
Feb. 28 - $5.00
Mar. 1 - rooms in home/apt./condo
Mar. 2 - beds
Mar. 3 - pets
Mar. 4 - years married
Mar. 5 - bathrooms
Mar. 6 - trees in yard
Mar. 7 - $5.00
Mar. 8 - telephones
Mar. 9 - keys on keyring
Mar. 10 - gloves and scarves
Mar. 11 - hats or caps
Mar. 12 - socks
Mar. 13 - slacks/pants
Mar. 14 - $5.00
Mar. 15 - boxes of cereal
Mar. 16 - cans of soup
Mar. 17 - phone calls made/received
Mar. 18 - insurance policies
Mar. 19 - bank accounts
Mar. 20 - chairs around dining room table
Mar. 21 - $5.00
Mar. 22 - closets
Mar. 23 - doorways in home
Mar. 24 - pillows
Mar. 25 - dressers
Mar. 26 - kitchen cabinets
Mar. 27 - pictures displayed
Mar. 28 - $5.00
Mar. 29 - lamps
Mar. 30 - TV shows watched
Mar. 31 - cars
Apr. 1 - shirts/blouses
Apr. 2 - poultry/meat/fish in freezer
Apr. 3 - showers/baths in past week
Apr. 4 - $5.00