Lent is coming up – it’s the six (or so) weeks from Ash Wednesday (Wednesday, 18th February in 2015) to Easter Day (or, possibly Palm Sunday).
Traditionally, at least in the Catholic and Anglican churches, it’s a time when we “give things up”. But it is not about giving things up for the sake of it. It’s more about making us better people – and doing something useful with the time or money we save.
So I thought I would suggest a few things that we could give up or take up for Lent – on the basis that taking something up is what happens when we give up not doing something.
Stop eating sweets: a pretty common one, and one that I’ve been doing since a child. Though I’ve never decided whether or not an ice cream cornet is a sweet. Depends on how hot the weather is!
Stop eating cakes and biscuits: if giving up sweets is just so easy.
Give some money to a charity: doesn’t really matter which one. The money you save from not buying sweets and cakes.
Go to church. Or go to a different church for a few services.
Give up the car. OK, doing entirely without a car for a full six weeks might be a bit much. There are times when the distance, luggage, or time demands a car. But have a think – are there some shorter journeys that could be made by foot or bicycle?
Meditate. Or just sit and think (“sometimes I sit and think, and sometimes I just sit”). Or walk and think – one of those car-free journeys.
Cut down screen time. Don’t cut-out online time completely (otherwise no one would be reading Chandler’s Ford Today) but reduce the time you spend online. Include computer games, TV, smart phones in this. How about trying a completely screen-free day once a week?
Speaking of which. Stop watching television. Yes, completely. See if you can get through Lent without watching any television.
Eat more fruit: to replace the sweets and cakes you’ve stopped.
Read a book. Or several books.
Turn down the central heating. It’s far too cold (at least at the beginning of Lent) to turn it off completely, but how about turning the thermostat down a few degrees or set the time switch to turn off a bit earlier.
Take up knitting: your goal is to knit a jumper by the end of Lent.
Do you have sugar in your tea or on your breakfast cereal? Lent is a time to stop. And this is an abstinence that you can carry on after Lent – because by Easter you will be so used to sugar-free drinks you won’t want to go back.