Friday, March 4, 2011

Launch Into Lent: Giving Up, Giving Away

Before I move into my posts about adding as a Lenten discipline, let's think about some other ways we could fast. In her comment on yesterday's post, Di said that she's giving up make-up; it will be interesting to see the ways that going bare-faced into the world may change her interactions.

What else could we give up beyond food and drink? Or maybe we don't give up these things completely, but we limit them. Here's a short list:


--Facebook and other online areas that take us away from local family and friends

--speeding (both in the car and in other areas of our life)



--local news, which often focuses on the scariest story

--self-help books and magazines--what would happen if we decided that if God can love us the way we are, maybe we should learn to do that too?

--self-loathing (see above)



--working extra hours (if we can give this practice up without losing our jobs)

You see the pattern here; we should give up practices and mind sets that are harmful and take us away from God.

Many of us think of Lenten disciplines as involving some kind of sacrifice, so before we shift to adding items into our lives, let us think in terms of giving away. In past years, I've used the term "cultivating generosity," which I prefer to words like "tithing," words which scare us.

So, what could we give away? How can we cultivate a spirit of generosity?

--Money is the obvious choice. Are you tithing? Probably not. Most of us can't even give 10% to our savings accounts, so I expect that we're not giving 10% to God. So let's start on a smaller scale. Could you give away 1%? If you're already giving, could you increase your amount just a smidge?

--Other ways to give away money: become a bigger tipper. Give money to that homeless guy on the corner. Buy stuff from the kids who are fundraising.

But maybe you face severe economic contractions in your household, and you're barely holding the household together financially. What else could we give away?

--Old clothes. If you're like me, you have several wardrobes in several sizes. If you're like me, you're holding onto old clothes, hoping to be able to fit into them some day. In the meantime, there are people who could be wearing those clothes now. Clean out those closets. You probably only wear 7-15 outfits each week anyway. Forgive yourself for the clothes and shoes that you bought thinking they would be perfect, but they weren't. Forgive yourself for the weight you've gained or lost. Keep the clothes you love and give the rest away.

--All the extra stuff in your kitchen. Many of us, especially if we've been on our own any amount of time at all, have accumulated extra stuff for the kitchen that we don't use: the odd size pan that came in the set, the extra set(s) of dishes, the gadget(s) that you no longer use, the machines that gather dust and take up shelf space. Get rid of that junk.

--You probably have other areas of your living space that accumulate stuff, stuff you no longer remember you have: the tool shed, the linen closet, the study, the book shelves, the toy chests, the closets that hold who knows what.

You could have a yard sale and give the proceeds to your church or your favorite charity or social justice group. You could give the stuff to any number of worthy groups who run thrift stores or who redistribute your stuff to people who are down on their luck.

But maybe you're saying, "Hey, we've already liquidated our stuff. We're out of work. We cannot do these things."

Another thing we could give away is our time. Many of us who have held onto our jobs are working more hours than ever before, so I know how hard this can be. Still, there are groups that need us.

How could we give away time? We could:

--work in a food bank.

--clean up roads or parks.

--work with an illiterate person.

--work with immigrants.

--go to a nursing home or retirement center and sing or read poems or play games.

--write letters to our legislators.

--write letters to our elders who don't communicate other ways.

This list could be endless, and you probably already have favorite ways to volunteer. Do more of that activity during Lent.

In the days to come, we'll explore more things you can add to your life to enrich your experience of Lent and bring you closer to God.

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