I began my previous article by saying that Lent does not mean “more pressure.” Maybe one of your Lenten practices could involve writing that down on a notecard and using it as a bookmark for your Bible.
If you did that, maybe you'd have a moment or two like the youngster in the picture above. "Wow! Jesus' yoke really is easy. And his burden really is light. He wasn't kidding!" (Matthew 11:29-30)
This article is for a few suggested Lenten practices or disciplines for use during the season of Lent.
To keep us in that spirit of the easy yoke, I'm going to use the word "practices" instead of "disciplines." Another good word is "exercises."
And I want to clarify that practices are wisdom and not righteousness. This is very important. So let me write it again. Practices are wisdom and not righteousness.
In other words, when you select a Lenten practice or two and you don't keep them or do them perfectly, you haven't sinned. You've discovered something about yourself. You've learned something. But you haven't sinned.
This also means that our practices are adjustable and they serve us. We don't serve them. They are not moral commandments. They are practices (not performances!) for exercising our spirits into deeper trust in God and engagement (through trust) with God.
Another practical point of clarification: fasting and abstinence are different things. Fasting means less of something. Abstinence means none of something. You can fast by eating less food. And you can abstain from eating none of a particular kind of food.
Fasting might mean eating one meal and a few light snacks on Wednesdays and Fridays. And you might abstain from red meat on Fridays. That might be a dietary practice for Lent. And I hope that example clarifies the difference between abstinence and fasting.
Finally, Lenten practices are not solely negative. You can fast, or abstain, from somethings. And you can feast on, or increase, others. For instance, you might fast from certain forms or amounts of entertainment and feast on God's Word or spiritual reading.
There are practices of less and practices of more.
Historic practices of less are: silence, solitude, fasting, and frugality.
Practices of more are: study, service, generosity, and scripture memory.
One final tip: don't be heroic. I suggest one practice of less coupled with one practice of more. That's a good minimum. And it works on this idea. Something simple engaged for longer will have a more profound effect in growing Godward than overloaded effort for a short period of time.
I am suggesting and planning to practice the following combination.
Silence as a practice of less.
Start with one minute a day, Monday through Saturday (Sundays are optional). Try to build as you go through Lent. See if you can get to 5 minutes or more. But start simply.
Study as a practice of more.
Study the catechism.
Here's a link to download a .pdf for To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism.
And here's a reading schedule.
These are suggestions. And these suggestions are wisdom, not righteousness.
So you're free to experiment with them, or experiment with other practices. Please ask Jesus if these are practices for you. Ask him how to practice them. Or ask him what other practices would be better for you.
Jesus is the expert in leading us in ways that are good for us. And Jesus, himself, is the way, the truth, and the life. I pray (and trust) that he will surprise and delight us this Lent and Easter.