I have never been great at following the church calendar. If you pressed me right now to tell you all I know about Advent, it would be a short conversation. I’m actually wanting to make it more a part of our lives this year, but we’ll see how that goes.
I mention that, because it is actually Lent I’ve been thinking about lately. As a kid, I grew up in a Catholic home. We went to church on Ash Wednesday, and gave up stuff for lent.
In more recent years, when I get on the topic of Lent with someone, or overhear a conversation, it seems that the general theme is about what you are giving up. Now I’m not opposed to asceticism, in fact, I went through a several year period of time, where I’d fast for at least a day per week* (edit…I orignially wrote one day per year) , and at various times, do more extended fasts.
I guess the reason I kinda got down on Lent for a while was that so often when people hear us talking about Jesus, what they end up hearing is about all the stuff they need to give up. Following Jesus is about so much more. We haven’t often been good about what they are being invited to experience. (And I’m not talking about ‘going to heaven’ when you die…I’m talking about the radically abundant life we are being invited into now.)
A few years ago at the Ithaca Vineyard, when Lent approached I brought it up for the first time in years, but rather than giving up something for 40 days, I encouraged them add something to their life. Read a chapter of the bible each day…practice some form of contemplative prayer each day…you get the idea.
Often, we give something up, count down the days until we can have it again, and then over do it when the time is up. But, if you did a spiritual exercise for 40 days, there’s a pretty good chance you might actually build a habit.
So why am I writing about Lent on Black Friday? As you’ve probably seen, Black Friday has become not only a huge money maker for stores, put a pretty divisive day for people. When is it okay to shop? Is it okay to shop online, offline? What about my groceries?
This is not going to be a rant about consumerism…although I have that in me.
As I’ve thought about this the past couple weeks, the idea of Lent came back up. So, I don’t know what you are going to do on Black Friday, or Cyber Monday…but I’d like to suggest you add something to the next week. A few years ago, some non-profit groups began Giving Tuesday. While holding off from shopping on Friday and waiting until Saturday will have an uncertain impact…giving to a church or charity that you care about, can have a great impact. And as you know generosity is good for you!
Would you consider taking some time over the next few days and praying about where you could exercise some generosity? I’ll post a reminder here on Tuesday, and I’d love to hear what you decided to do.