Lenten Calendar #15

A Time to Reassess

A 40-Day Guide for Lent and Easter


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After a natural disaster - like a hurricane ripping through Florida - we hope that people will rebuild in a more Earth-friendly way. Some do. Some resort to old, comfortable ways.

After a human disaster like September 11th, we all have a chance to reassess many aspects of our lives - our Lenten disciplines, our connection with Earth, our overconsumption, our relationships with other peoples.

In a modern culture that places high value on immediate gratification, the idea of "disciplines" seems out of place. While "disciplines" in the form of exercise routines are recognized as necessary for good physical health, the need for "disciplines" for spiritual health is not so widely recognized. Observance of a Lenten discipline can be an important way to gain new perspectives about ourselves and what it means to follow Jesus today. It is also a way to help develop "a spirituality of cultural resistance." That is the purpose of this 40-Day Calendar.

We listen to discern God's desires for our lives and world. Suggestions for thought or action are offered for each of the 40 days of Lent. Set aside time each day to consider the day's suggestion, preferably as a household.

Throughout Lent reflect on the 5 Life Standards of Voluntary Simplicity:

Choose a project you want to support, and find an empty container to collect your offerings. Make a pledge - a "token" for an adult may be $1; for a child, 25¢; for a household, $5. At the end of the 40 days, the organization of your choice will be pleased at your generosity.

1 Ash Wednesday. Read Matthew 6:1. Fasting, praying and almsgiving are common Lenten practices. Matthew 6:1 grounds these in justice. How might these activities promote more justice in our world? Am I willing to give alms, pray and fast this Lent? Find a quiet place to pray and reflect this Lent.

2 Thursday. For the next two days, turn off the car radio as you travel. Use this time for quiet reflection. Pray: Faithful God, Forgive my waste of non-renewable resources. Help me consider ways to travel that use less fuel. In Jesus' name. Amen. Give one token for every mile you drive these two days.

3 Friday. Read Matthew 6:19-21. Consider St. Valentine's Day, named for the patron saint of prisoners. Learn more about the real meaning of his life, not the commercial meaning foisted on us each year. Pray for prisoners, prison guards and prison chaplains.

4 Saturday. PRAY: O God, you know us for who we are. Call us to acts of self-denial in which we may identify with your Son and all who suffer. Save us from our ignorance, excuses and pretensions, so that we may truly grow in spirit and commitment. Amen.

First Sunday in Lent. Read Matthew 4:1-11. Am I willing to enter "the wilderness?" Consider that children suffer most from hunger. Over 30,000 children die every day from hunger related causes. (UNICEF) Give a token for every soft drink you decide not to consume this week. Give two tokens for every one you do drink.

5 Monday. To help control overconsumption, try the "halving principle" for toothpaste, shampoo, etc. Use only half the amount you normally use. Magically the tube gets twice as big. Start halving one thing each day or week.

6 Tuesday. Consider displaying an Earth flag or decal along with or instead of a US flag as a way of focusing on the need for global justice. Consider posting "God Bless the World," in addition to "God Bless America."

7 Wednesday. Remember a time you were tempted to purchase something you really didn't need. What forces were at play? Consider using this time of Lent to develop better consumer habits. At least till the end of Lent, try to buy only those things you really need. Journal your experience.

8 Thursday. What are your special gifts or talents? List them. How are we tempted by arrogance or pride to use our gifts primarily for our own satisfaction or personal gain? Offer praise to God for your gifts. Give one token for each gift you listed.

9 Friday. Power represents the ability to influence. How do you have power over others? Do you ever misuse your power or position of authority? Give a token for each case of abuse you can remember.

10 Saturday. In To Dance with God, Gertrud Mueller writes, "Perhaps prayer is less an exercise to get God, out there in never-never land, to hear us, as it is our hearing and responding to God as [God] reveals [God's] self to us...." Spend 15 to 30 minutes in silent reflection.

Second Sunday in Lent. Read John 3:1-17. In terms of materialism, how can I be "born from above?"

11 Monday. This week apply the "halving principle" not only to products but also to unhealthy habits, such as overconsumption of caffeine (like coffee) and highly processed snacks and convenience foods.

12 Tuesday. Our water is both precious and finite. While water covers 3/4 of the earth's surface, 97.4% is salt water; 1.8% is frozen; only 0.8% is fresh water. Prayer before showering: Generous God, Thank You for water, a resource vital for all life. Help me use only the water I need. In Jesus' name. Amen.

13 Wednesday. Consider "investing" in micro-enterprises, usually run by women in Third World Countries. Small loans help them to start businesses to support their families. The rate of repayment is very high.

14 Thursday. Spend some time outside today. Pay attention to what is going on around you. How does the wind feel against your skin? What sounds do you hear? Is the Earth beginning to be reborn into spring?

15 Friday. 25% of the food in North America is wasted! - from spoilage at grocery stores, restaurant discards and the back of refrigerators. When dining at a restaurant, consider splitting one entree. Add a soup or salad if needed. Also, learn about gleaning... sharing surplus food from fields, restaurants, grocery stores with hungry people in your community. How does this promote the biblical concept of "Jubilee?"

16 Saturday. PRAY: O God, Giver of life and light, call us from our wombs of security and isolation to rebirth into the world you are creating; call us from the darkness of our fears and anxieties to the daytime of hope and confidence in your ministry. Amen

Third Sunday in Lent. Read John 4:5-42. Who are the Samaritans that I avoid in my life? We like to think that we are beyond the schoolyard days of shunning or tormenting another. Are there any "outsiders" in my life today?

17 Monday. This week work on halving negative attitudes about others and unhealthy attitudes about ourselves. Replace half the negative thoughts with positive affirmations and prayer.

18 Tuesday. Make it a point to smile today. Warmly greet each person you encounter. Give one token for every person you are privileged to speak with today.

19 Wednesday. The average African woman must carry water four hours each day. Give two tokens for each glass of water you drink today. Jesus offered the Samaritan woman "living water." Are there times when we are spiritually thirsty? How are we sustained by "living water"?

20 Thursday. "You shall not covet... anything that is your neighbor's." The ten commandments are not prioritized. This may be the last one but it's no less important than the others. It provides a strong impetus to simplify. How does coveting underlie much of consumerism?

21 Friday. Typical outdoor watering uses 10 gallons of water per minute. Do you live in an area with water restrictions? Collect rain water in a rain barrel to water indoor and outdoor plants. Consider using grey water from showers and laundering to flush toilets.

22 Saturday. Read Psalm 95. Prayer while taking a step to simplify: Patient God, thank you for always giving me the grace to live more as a disciple of Jesus. In his name. Amen.

Fourth Sunday in Lent. Read John 9:1-41. When might my religious observance get in the way of "seeing?"

23 Monday. Jesus broke the law to heal the blind man. Do you know of any other people who have broken laws to minister to others? Why did they do it?

24 Tuesday. The Pharisees were on the lookout for actions they could use to condemn Jesus. When we are "against" someone, do we, like the Pharisees, search for ways to support our attitudes? How is God calling us to reassess our attitudes?

25 Wednesday. Many U.S. assembly plants in developing countries dump toxic waste in remote areas or simply flush wastes down the drain. Do we know where the items we buy are made? Pray for the vision to understand how our lifestyle choices affect other people.

26 Thursday: Central America Week begins March 24th. Be open to the diversity of nationalities in Central America [C.A.]. "Hispanics" are not all the same! Be open to the contributions and the needs of people from C.A. Read about a different Central American country or custom each day this week. Wear an item from C.A.

27 Friday. Look forward to TV-Free Week in April. Escape the Fantasy! No more radiation, laugh tracks or gratuitous sex and violence. Once we try real life, we may never want to go back to the simulated variety again. Info at (800) 939-6737.

28 Saturday. Prayer while shopping. God of mystery, please help me decide if I really need this item or if I should save the money or give it away instead. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Fifth Sunday in Lent. Read John 11:1-45. What tombs keep me from a resurrected life?

29 Monday. This week work on "halving" wasteful habits - halve the time the thermostat is above 68 degrees, the times the tap running is left running while shaving or brushing teeth. Think of at least 10 ways to reduce waste in life and home.

30 Tuesday. Look forward to Earth Day on April 22nd. Plan now. Consider planting trees - the fourth "R" (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, RESTORE).

31 Wednesday. It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef for our table. Plan today's meals without meat. When eating meat, pray: Loving God, Thank You for creating this animal that I may be nourished. Let me never waste any of Your creation. In Jesus' name. Amen.

32 Thursday. What non-monetary gift can we offer another today? A listening ear? A renewed effort at patience or understanding? A kind word? Your sense of humor?

33 Friday. Recall times when identification with people who were suffering meant making yourself more vulnerable? Give one token for each such occasion in the past year. Give two tokens for each such occasion in the past year when you didn't take the risk.

34 Saturday. O God, help us to see beyond the waving of palms to the cost of discipleship. Our Father, who art in heaven...

Sixth Sunday in Lent (Palm/Passion Sunday). Read Matthew 21:1-11. What "garments" do I need to lay down before my God?

35 Monday. Read John 12:1-11. Mary used costly perfume to anoint Jesus' feet. What is valuable in your life today? time? money? relationships? How can you use these things to honor Jesus?

36 Tuesday. Read John 12:20-36. What still needs to be "lost" in my lifestyle?

37 Wednesday. Read John 13:21-32 aloud at dinner tonight. Who are today's "beloved disciples"?

38 Maundy Thursday. Before dinner wash each other's hands gently and reflectively. Read John 13:1-17, 31b-35.

39 Good Friday. Read John 18:1-19:42. Over 100 years ago, Thomas Carlyle wrote, "If Jesus Christ were to come today, people would not even crucify him. They would ask him to dinner, and hear what he had to say, and make fun of it." How do you crucify Jesus today?

40 Saturday: Easter Eve. How does violence undermine a simple lifestyle?

Easter Sunday Evening. Read Luke 24:13-49.

This 40 day Lenten guide, based on liturgical cycle A: Matthew, is excerpted from "30 Years of Alternatives," a collection celebrating Alternatives' 30th anniversary in 2003.

More Lent and Easter resources are available in Alternatives' collection "Who's Risen from the Dead, Anyway?" Read it at SimpleLivingWorks.org >> Archives >> Who's Risen.

Simple Living Works! continues Alternatives' mission of "equipping people of faith to challenge consumerism, live justly and celebrate responsibly." For resources for Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter, weddings and other celebrations - some in Spanish - visit SimpleLivingWorks.org >> Archives.

Page updated 3 Jan. 2014

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