How To Have a Last-Minute Lent

How To Have A Last-Minute Lent_1I’ve been there; we’ve all been there.  

First, the candy starts appearing in the convenience and grocery stores.  The bulbous Reese’s Eggs and the shimmering Yellow Peeps.

People start making plans for Spring Break.  Road trips to the beach or the nearby amusement park.

March Madness comes and goes.  Baseball season begins.

The sun returns; the leaves re-appear; your winter coat gets packed away.

Then, one Sunday, you arrive at church to find everyone holding palms and the pastor talking about extra parking for the holiday services.

Easter is right around the corner.  

And, you didn’t even see it coming.

Such is life.  It gets busy.  You really did mean to prepare for Easter thoughtfully and faithfully.  You just didn’t get around to it.

It’s okay.  I’ve been there.  We’ve all been there.

And, the good news is: you haven’t missed it yet!  You’ve still got time!

How To Have A Last-Minute Lent_2So, how can you make the most of the next few days?  How can you prepare to truly experience the beauty of the Last Supper, the sorrow of Good Friday, and the joy of the Resurrection?

1. Give Up Something You Love.

Intentional sacrifice reminds us how deeply we need and desire Christ.  I gave up desserts for Lent this year, and I am looking forward to Easter with all of my physical senses.  Its sweet scent.  Its cool texture.  The colorful sprinkles.  I’m desiring the Resurrection in spirit and body.

Since there isn’t too much time before Easter, consider giving up something you enjoy routinely.  Like meat or bread or alcohol or coffee.  Give up something you consume regularly, and you’ll be craving Easter asap.

2. Give Away Something You Want to Keep.

Almsgiving has long been part of the Lenten tradition.  Instead of giving a monetary donation or doing volunteer work, consider giving away something you really like. When we feel the pain of sacrifice, we better appreciate Christ’s costly sacrifice for us.

Some possible ideas:

  • Donate one of your favorite pieces of clothing to Goodwill.
  • Give one of your favorite mugs or books to a friend who is struggling right now.
  • Buy a snack or coffee for a friend or colleague with whom you’re struggle right now.
  • Grant forgiveness to someone from whom you’ve been refusing it.
  • Intentionally give your sins to Christ.

3. Read the Scriptures Surrounding Easter.

Each of the Gospel writers has an account of the events surrounding Easter.  Consider starting with the Preparations for Passover and continuing through the Resurrection.

  • Matthew 26-28
  • Mark 14-16
  • Luke 22-24:12
  • John 13; 17-20:18

How To Have A Last-Minute Lent_3

4. Attend an Additional Church Service.

The Resurrection on Sunday is only one part of the Easter story.  Many Protestant churches commemorate the Passion with a Good Friday service sometime between noon and three.  Some churches even present Living Stations.  Most Catholic churches also have special services on Thursday and Friday evening to mark the Last Supper and Good Friday.  

If you can’t make it to a church service, consider watching DreamWorks’ The Prince of Egypt or Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ.  I’ll also be sharing a reflection here next week for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday.

5. Listen to Christian Music.

The background noises in our lives affect us in profound ways.  Try tuning into Christian music to keep your mind and heart oriented toward Christ.  I recommend checking out Gungor, Run River North, Emeli Sandí, or Punch Brothers.  Not all of these artists are “Christian” per se, but their songs delve into the spiritual themes.

6. Listen to Christian Podcasts.

A good podcast is a great way to restart or reassess your spiritual journey.  Right now, I’m enjoying The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey and Catholic Stuff You Should Know.  I also have a love-hate relationship with The Liturgists.

7. Pray daily.

Take 15 minutes apart from the chaos of daily life to soak in the peace and joy of Christ. If you need some guidance and structure, feel free to join me on Facebook Live each night through April 12th for Evening Prayer.  I also recommend the Pray-As-You-Go podcast.

A Final Note:

These Lenten practices, of course, are only a means to an end.  We do not keep them to satisfy some rule or to elevate our own status.  We keep them as a way to deepen our relationship with Christ.  The practices are the means; the relationship is the end.

Easter, with all its candies and brunches, will come regardless of your preparations for it or celebration of it.  Just like spring.  Just like baseball season.  Lent, however, offers us an opportunity to experience and appreciate that Easter holiday in a more meaningful way.  Even at the last minute.

So, buy the candy.  Put away your winter coat.  And, take a few minutes to pray.  God is right there.

5 Reasons To Go To Church This Sunday

I’ll be honest: coffee is always the first thing.  The alarm goes off, or my husband rubs my arm, or the dog licks my face, or my eyes flutter open, and I immediately stumble into the kitchen, toward the coffee pot.  

I watch the coffee brew.  I pour in the skim milk.  I stir in a bit of brown sugar.  I breathe in that beautiful, bitter scent, and I take that first, sweet sip.

5 Reasons To Go To Church This Sunday

This is the beginning of my Sunday morning.  Maroon 5 may have said it best, “things just get so crazy” and “living life gets hard to do,” but there is something subtly sacred about Sunday mornings.

Once the caffeine hits my bloodstream, I start moving through the other motions.  Eating my breakfast.  Taking my vitamins.  Showering.  Staring at my closet.  Doing my makeup.  Searching for my car keys.  Crating the pup.  Setting the alarm.  Driving to church.  I do it all with the coffee cup in my left hand.  I take the last sip as my husband parallel parks the car.

I’ll be honest: I almost always go to church on Sunday mornings.  And, I almost never want to go on Sunday mornings.  I don’t want to go anywhere on Sunday mornings.  I want to sit in bed with my coffee and a book.  But, I go to church anyway.  I usually go sleepy-eyed.  I rarely go bushy-tailed.

5 Reasons To Go To Church This Sunday_1Which begs the question: why go to church at all?  If you’re reading your Bible…  If you’re saying your prayers…  If you’re trying to be a good family member or co-worker…  If you’re attending a small group…  If you’re doing all those other spiritual practices throughout the week… Why go to church as well?

1.God is there.

God is everywhere, but He reveals Himself in a unique way in the community and in the liturgy.  A dear (brilliant) friend once said, if you’re trying to hear the voice of God in your life, why would you avoid the one place where He is most present.  In the community of believers.  In the Word.  In the Eucharist.  Jesus says it best in the Book of Matthew: “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (18:20, NRSV).

2. God wants you there.

Or, in other words, “because the Bible says so.”  As Paul wrote to the Hebrews, “let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” (10:24-25, NRSV).  It is not easy being a Christian; it is a demanding call.  We need a community of like-minded believers to encourage us, challenge us, and hold us accountable.

3. Your neighbor needs you there.

I once skipped church to read Harry Potter.  It was the second to last book, and I was just beginning to understand horcruxes, and I could not step away.  So, I put my will, my wants first.  Over God’s.  Over my neighbor’s.  

As stated above, we all need a community to encourage and challenge us.  Just because you don’t want to go to church on a particular day doesn’t mean your neighbor doesn’t desperately need you at church on a particular day.  You owe it to your neighbor to put down the book and go to church.

4. You don’t know everything.

It is just true.  You don’t know everything.  I don’t know everything, either.  I went to seminary for three years full-time, and I barely learned the basics.  The Bible is the Word of God.  There is simply no way you – or I or even your pastor – could make sense of it alone.  By studying the Word in community, we avoid manipulating it according to our own (often subconscious) desires or fears.

5. Jesus did know everything… and he still worshipped in community.

Jesus is the Savior of the world, the Son of God, and he was always at the synagogue. Even he saw value in studying, worshipping, and praying with others.  His community was imperfect, and he frequently criticized both the institution and the members, but he went anyway.  There are worse examples to follow.

So, come Saturday night, get your coffee cup ready.  And, come Sunday morning, get showered, get dressed, and get to church.  Adam Levine was right.  “Things just get so crazy” and “living life gets hard to do.”  That’s not a reason to stay in bed next Sunday morning.  That’s the best reason to go to church next Sunday morning.

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