Lent begins on Wednesday (so soon???).
I honestly thought it started the following week which would have suited me well because I know what I'm going to give up and now I have only 1.5 days to adjust.
My church doesn't celebrate or even acknowledge Lent. (I think they don't engage with Lent because it's not a Biblical mandate...just a church-created ritual...but so is Advent, which we participate in...so who knows???) Anyhow, I went to a Lutheran school from Kindergarten through 8th grade, where Lent was taught and encouraged. Just in case you'd like a little background...Lent is the 40 days prior to Easter...a season which begins on Ash Wednesday.
Ash Wednesday is a day when some churches offer a special church service with the focus of our sinfulness before a righteous God. Typically in those services, the priest or pastor puts ash on everyone's forehead, in the shape of a cross, to serve as a visible reminder of our sins and how only Jesus can make us "white as snow" again. I believe the expectation is to wear the ashen cross on your forehead for the whole day, as you go about your business, to work, school, out to dinner or even to the grocery store. Then it can serve as an opportunity to share the gospel when someone points out the dirt on your face. But my church doesn't offer Ash Wednesday services and plus I work when any of the local services are taking place.
The purpose of the Lent season is to prepare one's heart for the Passion Week: the week Palm Sunday, Passover/Good Friday, and Easter. It also serves as a reminder of our weakness and need for the Lord's salvation. This is (often) accomplished by people fasting from chocolate, sugar, coffee, coke, dining out, watching TV, or whatever else is a key part of one's live. Then as the person struggles with wanting to cave in (or if they actually do cave in), it reminds them that they are weak without the Lord and that only because of the Lord do we have strength and redemption of our sins.
I've heard (and read) some viewpoints that Lent doesn't necessarily need to be denying one's self but could instead be about giving unto the Lord, such as volunteering through the Lent time, reading a large section of the Bible, intentionally encouraging someone every day, etc...this idea works too, I think, because honestly, I think the struggle to persevere would still be there.
Anyhow, this year, having been inspired by Lauren Winner and her book Girl Meets God (a great book!), I am giving up all reading, outside of the Bible (and the Bible Study that I'm a part of). I have been on a bit of a reading craze lately so this is likely to hit hard AND I just started a new book, which I was hoping to finish by next week but seeing as I can't finish it by Wednesday, I think I'll just shelf it until after Easter. *Sigh* But with this self-denial of only reading the Bible, there must also be a goal for me to focus on otherwise I fear that I will just distract myself with TV/Movies, which would not really serve any purpose. I haven't figured out this part yet but will come to some conclusion by tomorrow night. I know I want to include Bible memorization, along with reading...anyhow, I have a day and half to prayerfully determine a plan.
What about you? Any Lenten plans? Does your church do anything special for this season?