Thursday, 23 February 2017

Lessons From the Desert: 6 Things to Remember This Lent

1. Go BIG or go Home

by Paddie Denton

When it comes to Lent, I've learned that if I don't challenge myself and fully commit to this time of growth, it's just not worth it.  So, each year I push myself further (It’s worrying to think of what I am going to have to give up when I'm 50 if I keep this up each year). However, I’ve learnt that every year, before I can commit to any challenge, I need to ask ‘how do I want to grow?’ To answer this, I may ask myself ‘do I need to overcome a particular vice?’ Or ‘do I need to grow in prayer?’ Or ‘do I need to learn to love more?’ By praying with these questions, I learn where my Lenten challenge lies. When it comes to Lent this year, my advice is this: work out the virtue you need to grow in, and then think ‘how can I best use these 40 days to accomplish that?’ Go deep, go big, and commit. That is my challenge to you.

2. Challenge, Persevere, and Build

by Benedict Hince

Over the years, Lent has brought with it many different intrigues for me. From the family television vanishing when I was a child – without consultation I might add! – to the strict imposition of soup Wednesday's and Friday's whilst living in community. But if I could offer a lesson that I have learnt through them all it would be this:

Challenge yourself! Find something that will be a real sacrifice for YOU! Not something that you think would be hard for others, but something that is going to challenge you personally. That's Point 1. Point 2: Don't get down in the dumps when you fail – which, if you've followed Point 1, is kind of inevitable. Get back up and soldier on! And point 3: Add something. Lent isn’t just about what you’re getting rid of, it's about what you're taking up too – so find something to add into your daily routine that is going to help you to build up the Kingdom of God.

3. To Be Filled, We Must Be Empty

by Megan James

I remember when I was young, before any birthday, my mum would make me have a good tidy of my room, and go through all my clothes and toys to de-clutter all those things I just didn’t need any more. Every year she would tell me ‘you’re making room for the presents you’re going to get!’ But still, giving away those trainers with the snazzy lights that flashed (that I insisted I could still fit my hobbit feet in) was, well, tough for little old me. However, my mum was right (I hope she doesn’t read this…), de-cluttering every year really did give me so much more room, and sure enough, I was blessed every year with bigger and better presents that were much more suitable to where I was in life (y’know, instead of me squeezing my clearly too big feet into a pair of velcro trainers, no matter how cool they were). 
This is Lent

Just as I had to empty my room of what I thought were my essentials to receive those wonderful presents, we too have to empty ourselves to receive the gift of God. 
Last Lent, I realised that I needed to stop seeing fasting just as what I was giving up, or what I was missing out on, but instead, I needed to see that when I fast, I am simply making room in my life and my soul. This room that we all make during Lent is a room that God will delight and thrive in. Just as my mum each year would refill my wardrobe or toybox with things that she knew would be better suited to me than the old things I clung to, our Father wants to do the same. God will take all that we offer Him, all those things that we have out grown or that we have depended on for too long, and He will use them to transform us into who He has planned us to be, replacing them with Himself, and giving us more than we could ever hope for. So don't cling onto things and think about how much you're going to miss them when you're fasting, instead empty yourself, and look forward to the space God is about to step in and fill.

“Thou must be emptied of that wherewith thou art full, that thou mayest be filled with that whereof thou art empty.” St. Augustine

4. Be Realistic, Not Drastic

by Eleanor Hill

A Lent that really stands out to me was when I decided to do something that wasn’t as challenging as some of my other Lenten promises (and trust me, I’ve had some big ones). Instead, this one was something that I knew would simply bring me closer to God. One year, I just decided to be silent in prayer for 10 minutes each day, and made sure I went to Mass twice a week.  Don’t get me wrong, some days I struggled, but for me, it was never as hard as doing something other people may find easy, like giving up those snacks that I needed to get me through tough days at the library. 

My point is this: it's about being realistic with yourself, and not being drastic just for the sake of it. This Lent, don’t run before you can walk.  When you pick your Lenten promise, make a promise to God that, first of all, has the intention of bringing you closer to him, and secondly, that is a healthy and realistic challenge. The simple Lenten promise I made of 10 minutes silent prayer each day, despite the big promises I have made in the past, is probably still the only promise that has had a lasting effect on my relationship with God, and it went above and beyond the 40 days I signed up for. 

So, be realistic, not drastic. Remember; God will use anything and everything for his glory if you let him, so give him what you can and he will absolutely delight and run with it. My 10 minutes of silence a day to God is just as powerful as someone else’s 40 days on bread and water.

5. Keep Your Pride In Check 

by Emily Milne

One Lent a few years back, I was super proud of what I was giving up. I thought it made me just the best Christian ever to do what I was doing. And you can bet that I made sure I told everyone about it. One day, my brother had had enough, and basically told me to pipe down, in front of my parents and a couple of my sisters, after I had mentioned (casually I thought) what I had given up one too many times for his liking. His words had a sobering effect, and now I look back on them and how I acted with that sinking feeling of shame (it should be noted that there’s also a healthy amount of respect for my brother mixed in there). Now during Lent, I won’t shout about what I’ve given up. Instead, I try to live more like these verses from Matthew:

“Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and the streets, that they may be praised by men.” 
 - Matthew 6:2

“But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret;” 
- Matthew 6:17-18

I know I don’t manage it all the time – when someone brings up The Lent Conversation, I do still get sucked in as we all discuss what we’re giving up and how hard it is etc. Those discussions can be quite fun (!) and sometimes can help me reflect on how I’m really doing awfully little in the grand scheme of things, but often they turn a bit a self congratulatory, which is not the point of Lent. Perspective is good, pride is not!

6 Charity Doesn’t Cost A Thing

by Megan James

For me, as a student, the ‘almsgiving’ part of Lent for the past few years has been a little put on the back burner. I think for a long time I believed the lie that I just didn’t have anything to spare, that I had nothing to give, so instead, I would just have to fast extra and pray extra hard. However, last Lent I learnt that this is simply not true. I witnessed so many of my wonderful friends give so much, without spending a penny, and it made me realise this: Almsgiving is not just about financial charity (of course this is great), but instead, it is about giving in the simplest way; it’s about love. Charity is love. So instead of me looking towards my purse this Lent, I’m going to dig a little deeper (although, to find some money, I’d have to dig pretty deep right now…) There are so many other ways to spread love; washing a housemates dishes for them, that shows love. Sitting down and writing a letter to a friend, that shows love. Giving away those clothes you just never wear any more, that’s love too.These small acts of kindness go a long way. So, if your bank account is quivering at the thought of Lent, fear not; to give Alms is to give what you have, in any way that you can, and it's doing it with love.

‘Charity and love are the same – with charity you give love, so don’t just give money, but reach out your hand instead.’ St Teresa of Calcutta

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