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Lent is about to begin. If you haven’t figured out what to give up or take up for Lent, it’s not too late to decide. First, let me begin by saying you don’t necessarily have to give up anything for Lent. First of all, it’s not a commandment. It’s a suggestion.
I personally think it’s one of those things that helps draw our attention to God and to the Lenten season (after all if you’ve given up coffee, each time you begin to reach for a cup and stop yourself, you will be reminded of why). So, in that way I find it helpful to my spiritual growth.
Note: You might have to adapt some of these ideas to your current pandemic restrictions in your area but the majority can easily be used as is.
How Do I Choose What to Give Up?
If you are limited for time available in your schedule, giving up something is an easy way to “take part” in Lent. You can choose to give up something like chocolate and then each time you remember that you aren’t supposed to have chocolate, you can take that moment to think of God, to think of His sacrifice for us, and say a quick prayer of thanks.
Or you can give up an activity (Facebook? television?) and replace the time you would have spent doing that activity with time in prayer or Bible study instead.
But, often when I was teaching Grade 8, I would encourage my class to think of options of things they could ADD to their lives instead of giving something up. Sometimes making a sacrifice seemed too overwhelming and they would give up even before they began!
Adding something, taking on something new seemed far more achievable – and in fact, was almost always just as valuable. The point of the exercise in the past may have been sacrifice and suffering, but the point now should be even more so on growth and spiritual development (in my humble opinion – and that of the priests and Catholic instructors I have spoken with).
So, here are 99+ Creative Ideas of What to Give Up or Take Up for Lent:
Try giving up these indulgences:
- Facebook. Or Snapchat. Or whatever social media platform sucks up the most in terms of your time and attention.
- Caffeine. Or sugar.
- Snacking between meals (if that’s a problem for you) – or at least unhealthy snacking.
- One hour of television per day (replace it with prayer or devotions or Bible study – or how about family time?)
- Video games.
- Eating out.
- Your favourite food.
Or what about these habits that can interfere with your relationships with others?
- Complaining and whining.
- Withholding your forgiveness.
- Interrupting people.
- Being late.
You could work on being kinder to yourself too. You are a child of God and precious to Him. He wants you to take care of yourself as well as others!
- Stop skipping meals. Set regular times for your meals and keep your energy flowing all day long.
- Not drinking enough water. Remember, water is a gift from God.
- Being so hard on yourself. God gave you life. You are His child. God loves you. Put a stop to devaluing His gift of life by looking in the mirror and stating 1 thing you like about yourself each morning.
- Saying yes to everything. Take a breath, pray about it, think about whether you really want to do what’s being asked of you and whether you really have time to do what’s being asked of you first.
- Not getting enough sleep. Establish a bedtime and follow it.
- Crazy mornings. Say no to chaotic mornings. Get clothes laid out, bags packed, lunches packed, breakfast figured out (bonus points if you can make it ahead of time!), and dinner planned for the following day.
- Give up the snooze button. Set your alarm for the time you want to get up and then do it.
- Worrying. Hand it all over to God.
- Stress. Refuse to be rattled by anything. When you feel stress building, talk to God. Ask for His strength. Ask Him to send you peace. Then handle what needs to done with a sense of calm. Look for stress-relief products or techniques.
- Cherish yourself. Keep telling yourself that you are one of God’s precious creatures. Maybe even write it on Post-It notes and place them all over the house as a constant reminder. Show yourself some love, grace, and understanding each and every day.
I find these items really helpful in relieving stress and helping me achieve a sense of calm when combined with time spent with God.
Acts of kindness towards others
- Instead of giving up something, perform a random act of kindness each day during Lent – even just making a point to smile at strangers as you run errands or sending an “I’m thinking of you” message to one person each day can make a difference.
- Each day, send an online $5 donation to a different worthy cause.
- Each day choose one of your possessions to give up and donate.
- When on your daily walk, take a plastic bag and pair of gloves along so you can pick up any trash you see. Stewardship of the earth is so important.
- Do one household chore (one that someone else is supposed to do) each day. Make someone else’s bed, do the dishes when it’s not your turn, fold another family member’s laundry for them, for example.
- Spend 10 minutes praying for a different family member or friend each day. You may add them into your prayers as one of many but on these days, really really focus on that one person for the whole 10 minutes.
- Go old school and mail a greeting card to a family member or friend each day. Simply sign it – I prayed for you today. Offer up a quick prayer for them as you address it and put it in the mailbox.
- Jealousy. Each time you feel jealous of someone else, make a point to say something nice to them – for example, if you are envious of someone’s trip to Greece, compliment them on their lovely travel photos.
- Find a way to care for God’s creatures every day. Put out bird feeders, set up bat boxes, plant bee and butterfly friendly flowers (or plan your garden if it’s too cold out right now), walk dogs at the shelter, make mats for in the cat’s cages, donate money or items to charities that assist wildlife causes.
- Crochet or knit tiny little hats for the babies in the NICU, praying for them as you work. Depending on your skill level, you could probably finish one per day!
More ideas of things to give up:
- Nail biting.
- Is there a particular place where you spend too much money? Starbucks or Tim Horton’s for example. Give up that place for the duration of Lent. Go one step further and donate the money you saved to the church.
- Swearing. Put 25 cents in the swear jar every time you slip up. Donate the money to charity or use it to treat your family to something special.
- Hiding your faith. No, you don’t have to corner everyone you know and tell them about God. There are plenty of other ways that are a little easier to begin with like: Wear your ashes on Ash Wednesday (don’t wash them off!) and use them as an opportunity to talk about your faith when asked. Wear a crucifix or rosary bracelet or other religious object. This is a quiet way of witnessing to others if you’re not quite ready to speak up. Share a favourite Bible verse each day on social media.
- Driving. Okay this might be a tough one for some depending on where you live and what the weather’s like. But you could do a modified version and choose to walk or ride a bike every time that’s at all possible. Put off errands that don’t necessarily NEED to be done or combine them all into one big errand day for all of the Lenten period.
- Your pillow. My friend used to give this up every year. She said the discomfort of sleeping without a pillow helped remind her of those less fortunate and encouraged her to come up with more ways to help.
- Secular music.
- All reading except the Bible.
- Meat. Don’t just go meatless on Ash Wednesday and Fridays; do it for the entire time.
- The word “hate”.
- An idol that you’ve created – the Internet? Television? Food? Inappropriate music or movies?
- Fast food.
- Eating what you want – at one meal (or at each meal if you’re really committing), skip one item that you really want. Maybe you will leave off the main dish and only eat sides. Or maybe you will skip dessert. You could eat your baked potato without the butter and sour cream.
- Drinking anything but water.
- Taking selfies.
- Online shopping.
- Fizzy drinks.
- Breaking promises.
More ideas of things to take up
- Get holy water from your church and with your family, use it to say a blessing over each other before starting your day. This could be as simple as saying “Samantha, I love __________ (name something you love about them). God bless you through your day.” Beginning your day with such beautiful messages of love can be powerful.
- Let your significant other choose – the movie you’re going to watch, the restaurant you’re going to eat at, the way you’re going to spend Saturday afternoon (yes even if it’s with his mother).
- Take on an attitude of joy. Share that joy with everyone you encounter each day.
- Want to bring a little more creativity into your life (you can tell by my blog name that I do!)? Spend time (even just 15 minutes) each day working on a painting while listening to praise music. Let God and the music guide you!
- Quilt, knit, or crochet one square each day to be assembled into a blanket and given to someone in need.
- Spend half an hour each day organizing your home.
- Keep a daily list of the blessings in your life. I highly recommend Ann VosKamp’s book, 1000 Gifts”: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are for inspiration.
- Spend 20 minutes each day giving your dog a belly rub or petting your cat or somehow showing love to your pet. You will both benefit from the attention.
- While sitting in the school pickup line, say a prayer for your child’s school, their teachers and administrators and all of the students in it.
- Make your bed every day. Use that brief time to offer up a prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God.
Ways to bring God more into your life this Lent
- Reading a chapter of the Bible each day too much? Just read a verse (only one!) from the Bible and pray about that verse for 15 minutes.
- At the end of each day, set aside a few minutes to reflect over your day and look for the hand of God in it. Keep a list in a notebook of each of these instances.
- Read a few pages of The Greatest Miracle in the World by Og Mandino each day. It’s only 108 pages long but it is one of the most meaningful books I have ever read. I reread it every year and it never loses its impact.
- Pray “Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” (the Jesus prayer) every time you stop at a red light. If you don’t drive, pray it every time you wash your hands.
- Get an adult colouring book with a Christian theme. Colour one page per day (or one page every two days if it’s really detailed) and spend the time while colouring in quiet contemplation.
- Have a “mini” sacrament of reconciliation each evening before bed. Think about your day and choose one downfall to share with God, asking for His forgiveness and his help in overcoming it.
- Visit Sacred Space each day and pray the daily prayer. Make it the first thing you do when you come to your computer – prior to any social media, email, or websites.
- Love Instagram? Take part in the InstaLent photo challenge. It’s a modern, creative way to add some spiritual reflection to your Lenten experience.
- Each day, invite your followers on social media to submit prayer requests. Every night before bed, pray for them.
- Sign up for the Best Lent Ever and watch the daily videos as they arrive in your email.
Even more ways to focus more on God during Lent this year
- Focus on one Station of the Cross each day. Really place yourself there – the sights, the sounds, the smells, all of it. Reflect and pray on it.
- Choose a word. Love. Faith. Humility. Grace. There are so many to choose from! Each day focus on that word. Look it up in a Concordance and read the various uses of the word in the Bible. Search for quotes about that word. Find songs about it. Look for articles and blog posts about it. Each day try to find one more use of the word and reflect on it.
- Sit down for a cup of coffee or tea just as you would with a treasured friend – but this time your friend is God. Chat with Him (out loud!) about what’s going on in your life, what’s on your mind. Take a daily coffee/tea break like this each day of Lent.
- For your child’s nightly bedtime story, each day during Lent, choose a Bible story. Or switch it up part of the time with other storybooks about people being kind to one another or other lessons you want to teach and discuss with your child. One Minute New Testament and One Minute Old Testament Stories from Shari Lewis (an oldie but goodie) can still be found on Amazon. If you’re pressed for time, these stories give you plenty of time to read the very brief story and then talk it over with your kids. Lent and Easter book recommendations for kids
- Go on a virtual pilgrimage through the Holy Land. It’s free, but you do need to sign up.
- Look up some Christian themed artwork on the internet each day. Take a few moments to think about it and appreciate it. Offer up a quick prayer of thanks and praise to God if the artwork inspires it. Or perhaps it instead brings up questions or uncomfortable feelings you want to ask God about.
Here’s one great way to find Christian artwork for Lent. Get yourself a copy of The Art of Lent by Sister Wendy Beckett. (She also has one for Holy Week and Easter). There is a painting a day from Ash Wednesday through Easter. I’m going to check out the painting of the day and reflect/meditate on it. It’s something quick that I can do midday as a way to refocus my day and bring the emphasis back on God.
Even more options of things to give up for Lent
- All but one pair of shoes. (You don’t have to give them away. Pick one pair and they will be the only pair you wear all through Lent).
- Underestimating yourself. In everything you do throughout Lent, ask yourself, am I giving it my all? Go the extra step.
- The word “should”. Stop doing what you should and instead, do what you make a conscious choice to do.
- Being a people-pleaser.
- Skipping self-care. Take 10 minutes a day just for yourself.
- Solving everyone else’s problems – yes that includes your kids too! Take a step back and give them the chance to figure it out for themselves.
- Taking your significant other for granted. Take time each day to appreciate them.
- Rushing. Build margin into your schedule so that you can take your time.
- Ignoring your dental health. Brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day and make an appointment to see your dentist.
- Wasting resources. Look for ways to save energy, water, and make other earth-friendly changes every day.
- Avoiding exercise. I have mobility issues and it’s easy to give up on exercise because it’s so difficult and painful. But, I am God’s creation and I want to take the best care of myself that I possibly can. So, I’ve found online chair exercise classes with my local parks and rec department. Perhaps you can find some too? Another alternative are recorded classes you can purchase and use anytime you want from Better5. They have Sit and Get Fit, Chair Yoga, Chair Pilates, Chair Cardio, and many more classes (non-chair options too!) that I find really helpful.
Do you have any other great ideas for truly making Lent a meaningful experience? Share them in the comments below.