I'm not Catholic or Anglican or even Lutheran. I grew up knowing virtually nothing about Lent, and remember hearing about it for the first time when my mom said something fairly scornful of people giving things up for it. Apparently she had a friend while growing up who in January would start a habit that she didn't really care about so she could give it up for Lent and not have it "hurt." From this my mom decided that the whole idea of Lent was ridiculous.
And I didn't think anything more about it until a few years ago, when I got curious about many things religious. I've turned away from so much I was taught growing up (which is a good thing; I grew up in a very weird religious group) and so I am slowly reading and studying about many things that were before all lumped together as "wrong/sinful/misguided/whatever it was that church thought"
The more I read about it the more it resonated with me - the idea of 40 days of dying to self, symbolized by something of my choosing. It could be as meaningful or meaningless as I made it, in other words, as in so much of life, I'd get out of it what I put into it. So to speak.
So in 2007 I gave up leisure reading. If you had any idea of my love for and habit of reading you'd know what a big deal this was. This also included reading blogs and internet sites. My only exceptions were for real-life friends blogs (and at that time I think I had two). I said "leisure reading" because I still read the Bible, and devotional materials. I also read some religious biographies, so it's not that I quit reading, it's that I focused my reading time onto spiritual material only. It was very beneficial, but I don't want to just get in the habit of doing the same thing.
In 2008 I don't even remember what I tried to give up - I know it was food-related. Maybe eating after 8:00? No sweets at the computer? I don't really remember because while I succeeded in following it, it really wasn't that beneficial, not like 2007 was. There was no significant impact on my spiritual life, either short- or long-term.
So, for 2009. What to do? I don't want to do leisure reading again, in large part because I know that this is one of the last seasons of my life for awhile where I'll have as much time for it, and I'm appreciating it so much. I watch very little TV and virtually no movies, so those are bad choices - so simple as to be meaningless.
Something food-related seems like not the wisest choice. Last year I almost chose giving up sodas, since I knew it'd be difficult enough to be beneficial for me. But this year I'm virtually soda-free ever since getting that positive pregnancy test, so it's no longer such a big deal. Last year I also considered following the Catholic Lenten Fasting Regulations, but I've had such food issues with the pregnancy I sort of hate to try and put anything additional on me related to that - I'm not sure any possible spiritual benefit would outweigh what I can see as real drawbacks.
What will I do? Well, not that long ago I listed to a podcast sermon on praying with God for one hour. It spoke to me in a way I wasn't expecting, and I've decided to try their suggestion. One hour a week. Not split up into small chunks of time. One hour. It still seems doable to me because it's not one hour a day, which would be such a huge jump in my current meagre prayer life that I'm not sure I'd sustain it long. But one day a week? I can manage that, but it's still significant enough that I think it will have an obvious impact in my life and routine. I've found a few resources online about praying one hour, including one from the church that gave the sermon that inspired me.
Because I don't want to only have Lent be about something that I do one day a week, I'm also going to add 30 minutes a day of Bible study on prayer. I'm not sure that I could do anything else right now for my spiritual growth that would have more impact than to strengthen myself as a woman of prayer.
Some sites on Lent:
Praying Through Lent
Lent I especially like his six tips at the end, especially #1 - what is holding me back from being the Christian I want to be?
And anyone would is willing to pray for me to be diligent about sticking with this plan, I would appreciate it!