January 28, 2021

Lenten Notes

By Chaplain Mike

Here are a few notes from around the web about what God is teaching some folks during this Lenten season. Click on the title of each blurb to go to the full article.

Margaret Feinberg is giving up prayer for Lent…

“As I’ve reflected, I’ve decided to give up prayer for Lent. Okay, maybe not all prayer, but lengthy prayers in my personal time with God. I recently heard a sermon by our friend, Jay, which highlighted the importance of praying simple but potent prayers. As I’ve been mulling over this concept, I realize how mindless I’ve become in my own prayer life. Yes, I feel free to express every desire, whim, ache and need to God–which is a good thing!–except that at times my prayers sound like a gushing four-year-old who talks in an eternal run on sentence. I realize that over time I’ve been increasingly unspecific and unattentive in my prayer life.

“That’s why I’m giving up prayer for Lent. Or at least long prayers. For the next 40 days, I’m committed to only offering God three word prayers.

“Help me Lord. Heal oh Jesus. Give grace abundant. Grant strength now. Thank you, God.

“I’m hopeful the discipline will help me be more thoughtful in my prayer, more strategic in the things I ask God, more focused on Jesus, more ready to listen, more prepared to unleash heartfelt worship and gratitude on Easter morning.”

David A. Davis thinks our Lent observance may be too individualistic…

“For the Christian, Lent can be like hitting the refresh button on your computer screen. While the life of faith demands daily examination and commitment, the penitential season provides for a fresh start in terms of confession, forgiveness, prayer, spiritual reflection and daily discipleship. Some practice the discipline of “giving up” for Lent. Others look to add an experience of prayer or devotion each day in these weeks leading up to Easter. But I have come to the conclusion that Lent can be uncomfortably individualistic: my life, my sin, my relationship with God, my confession, my prayer, my devotion, my discipline, my Lord. Jesus and me.

“…The biggest threat in the wilderness comes not from you sinning, or me sinning, It comes when the people of God lose their way. Lent can be so uncomfortably individualistic in this world of wilderness where the greater threat is to our identity as the people of God, our corporate witness as God’s people, our collective servanthood in the kingdom of God. Lent and the temptation of Jesus. It’s not about our morality, or our piety, or our doing battle with the devil. It is about claiming our identity as God’s people here in the wilderness and soaking in Christ’s wisdom.”

Bruce Reyes Chow doesn’t think it is a good idea for everyone to give up social media for Lent…

“First,  the “community” to which I refer that is found on social networking platforms can be positive and meaningful.  I reject the notion that social networking is inherently narcissist, addictive and impersonal as so many charge.

“…If you find that social networking and/or your church life brings you joy, feeds your soul and you deal well with all the other “stuff” that can clutter community, then email this post to the person who told you to give up social networking for Lent and then find something in your life that fits into either of the two scenarios above [to give up for Lent].

Rev. Stephen Charleston advocates taking a more positive approach to Lent…

“How about giving up giving up this Lent?

“We live in an age that seems determined to make us give up.

“The economic crisis we face is complex and unrelenting. The tides of terror haunt us in every corner of the globe. Our own social and political institutions seem to be weak and getting weaker. Our environment is crumbling, but no one can agree on why or what to do. Our leaders seem trapped in a revolving door of blame.

“In the end, we are told that the best days of our nation are gone. We hear that we have failed on so many fronts, we need to be prepared to be a second-class people.

“Is it any wonder we are tempted to give up?

“But this Lent, I suggest we give up giving up. Instead, let us stand tall as people of faith and proclaim that we are neither victims nor losers, but free men and women with the wisdom and the will to face any challenge that history sends our way.”

Mark Birkellen reminisces about Lent during his childhood at St. Luke’s Catholic Church…

On the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, Sister St. Cornelius went around the classroom pointing her yardstick at each third-grader, asking us what we were giving up for Lent.

Finally she arrived at my desk and stood over me, the yardstick cocked at about two o’clock. In golf parlance this is known as “the top of the swing.”

I blurted out the first thing that came to mind:


“You’re giving up peas for Lent?” she asked, as she addressed the ball.

“Yes, Sister Saint Cornelius,” I said. “I’m giving up peas for Lent.”

“Do you like peas?” she asked, waggling slightly.

“No,” I said, smiling. “I hate peas.”

Retribution was swift and merciless. The proverbial “rap on the knuckles” became a painful reality. You’d be surprised how much club-head speed a 90-year-old woman can generate at the end of a three-foot wooden ruler with just one flick of her wrist.


  1. You know, I should definitely give up being such a sour lemon for Lent, because I have to say, my reaction to this:

    ” Instead, let us stand tall as people of faith and proclaim that we are neither victims nor losers, but free men and women with the wisdom and the will to face any challenge that history sends our way.”

    was along the lines of “Ah, for the love and honour of God!” (which is less a pious ejaculation, as they were known in my day, and more an Irish version of “Give me a break!”)

    Okay, anyone else want to reel off a long list of Biblical examples of what exactly happened when both Israel (Old Testament) and the fledgling Church (New Testament) started in with the “free men and women with the wisdom and will” bit? I’ll kick off with St. Peter, in Matthew 26: 33-35 : “Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” 34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” 35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.”

    And we all know how that one turned out, don’t we?

    I’m probably being unfair to the Reverend Charleston, but yes, that’s a lovely rah-rah speech about politics. So? How about spiritual lessons for Lent? I’m currently listening to the morning news all about the bombing of Libya and radiation in Fukushima, so I’m not so sanguine about human nature being any different from the old Adam.

    • Bravo, Martha.

      • Weeeelll… I was very grumpy which is less than charitable of me. I realise that he’s being all “Consider the lilies of the fields” about it, and he’s right that Lent is less about breast-beating and doom and gloom, and we should certainly take heed to “when you fast, wash your face and anoint your head”.

        But the confidence in unaided human effort, particularly in the reminders of how helpless we are before the face of Nature, sits poorly with me.

        Free? Certainly; as a Catholic, we’re very big on free will (all the way to freely choosing to go to Hell). But one of the effects of Original Sin is a “weakened will”, so I’m not so sanguine about having the will to do X, Y or Z. And wisdom? My favourite saying is “Humans: we’re stupid.”

        We’re not wise and we’re not whole-hearted. And God has to keep picking us up all the time we think we can do it on our own.

  2. I hate to say this, but what I read from the various people is a great misunderstanding of what Lent is about. It is no wonder that they are confused about what to give up and what not to give up and whether to give up, and even one who appears to have found a ready excuse to do away with “giving up.”

    All of their actions are oriented towards themselves. I see little appreciation for a communal participation in remembering the great events of our salvation: life=> sin=> death=> incarnation=> life=> death=> resurrection=> salvation. It all appears to be thoughts on how God will somehow be pleased if I give something up, with no conception of why I am doing it.

    • I had the same impression as I roved the web and searched for articles. These are pretty representative of what I found. Many were so downright silly that I didn’t want to waste our time with them.

      • I at least thought the first one had something positive, in that there was a conscious attempt to be more disciplined in prayer and not sound like a gushing four-year-old (even if we may not agree as to the particular plan of action). I wouldn’t have put this one in the same level of “negative” category as some of the others. Just my reading of it…

    • John Morgan says

      Bravo, Fr. Ernesto!

  3. One more Mike says

    I’m talking to lots of people who are giving up candy or coffee for Lent. They’re very vocal about it. Not coming from a tradition that celebrates Lent I can’t be too critical, but isn’t that kind of lame? Giving up candy is easy, but if you’ve never given up coffee before and don’t know what you’re getting into, what are you going to do when the headaches and vomiting start? Break Lent (is that possible?)? Become a Baptist? I guess I don’t get it, but IMHO those folks would be better served and would better serve others by giving up being adamant a**holes about what they’re “giving up”.

    Or maybe I’m just a magnet for screamingly uptight religious zealots from all traditions.

  4. What we are giving up for Lent (at our small Lutheran congregation) is the shackles of “religion”.

    Religion being all that we do in order to make ourselves look better, or be more acceptable to the Living God.

    We are doing our best to shed ALL of that in favor of trusting what the Living God has ALREADY done for us. Is yet doing for us, and will yet do for us. Totally apart from anything we do, say, feel, or think.

  5. I think the strangest lenten practice I’ve read about this year is the one where the episcopalian decides to adopt Islamic rituals for Lent.

  6. What’s wrong with the three ancient Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving? It seems to me that when these disciplines are entered into properly, they are great vehicles for spiritual growth and renewal.

    As far as the fasting goes, it bugs me when people make a big show of what they’re giving up. Jesus himself said in Mathew 6:17-19 – “But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

    I personally love Lent. I love that there is an entire season where I am constantly encouraged to be less selfish and to partake – in even a very small way – in the sufferings of Christ. By the time Lent is over, hopefully I’m truly prepared to rejoice in the resurrection of the Lord.

    A wise nun told me, “Never waste Lent!” I think she’s right.

  7. Prayer is commonly misunderstood in the Christian Tradition. As a Christian Mystic I believe that the dropping of psychological attachments is a form of communion with the Divine. Like air into a vacuum, so rushes the Divine Presence or Spirit Breath when we drop these hindrances to trust. The strange thing is that much asking ‘prayer’ is actually the request for God to strengthen or provide these attachments.

  8. Christiane says

    Father Groeschel over at the EWTN site has some helpful daily Lenten meditations. I find myself going there in the evening, and, for a few moments, I am focused on ‘what it’s all about’.

  9. Lent is great. We ought reflect on our Lord, His love for us, and the reason why He had to come, suffer, and die for us. We ought realize that there is nothing within us that could ever save us, or make us look better in the eyes of God.

    If giving up things brings one to a greater realization of those things and their need of a Savior, then, by all means, give things up. There is always the danger of people thinking that by what they ‘do’, they can become better Christians, or get closer to God. It doesn’t work like that.

  10. I have taken on the discipline of silence this Lent. The silence is more about trying to stop flapping my gums about ME and what I am doing or needing or seeing or wanting or whatever … so I suppose I should just cut my comment short and shut up. 🙂 (<- but I do a lot of that … smiling)

  11. LOL, Kimberly!

    I’m trying to do the opposite( for Lent) ! I’m trying to open my big mouth and speak to those who don’t yet know the Lord Jesus .(and sometimes I actually do it!)

  12. Afraid I don’t do Lent guys. I gave up on all forms of Self denial when hijacked by the Divine. In my experience it only fed my spiritual ego and distanced me from the Presence that is a free gift to all.

    Having said that enjoy yourselves in your endeavours.

Speak Your Mind