40 ways for 40 days: keeping a joyful, thankful, holy Lent
(adapted with thanks from a blog by Maggi Dawn)
- choose just one of these (such as writing a thank you note) and do it every day.
- choose one category and repeat it throughout Lent.
- choose one from each category to do throughout Lent.
- agree with a group of friends on one or more of these to practice together.
You could even do them all but that really isn’t the point. Lent isn’t something to achieve; it’s God’s gift to us to use to deepen our spiritual lives.
1. Start or join an online book club and read a Lent book with others.
2. Start or join a local book club to read a Lent book with others.
3. Watch a film like ‘Twelve years a slave’. How does it change the way you look at the world.
4. Choose one great novel you have never read, and read it this Lent. Middlemarch, or To Kill a Mockingbird, for instance. Is there a character you closely identify with?
5. Choose a great novel you have read before and re-read it. Take your time. What do you see this time that you didn’t see before? A character you didn’t notice, a theme you missed the first time, a theme that touches you now because 5/10/20 years on you see the world differently?
6. Choose one new musician or artist and listen to their work regularly throughout Lent. Listen to the words. Listen to the tone, the melody, the structure, the texture of the music. Why does it move you?
7. Where is there a relationship that has cooled, is ruptured, upset? Say sorry.
8. Write a random thank you note (or email) Who do you appreciate?
9. Make a list of your friends. One per day, send a brief email, make a phone call or post a brief note to say hello. Keep it short and do-able: the point is to keep in touch, not write a novel!
10. Keep a journal.
11. Invite friends for a Simple Sunday Soup lunch. The company is the point. Eat together. Simple, unfussy food; good, sustaining company.
12. Make a point of smiling and saying thank you to people – in shops, on buses, in pubs, on pavements, to delivery people, to teachers and…
13. Power down. See whether you can agree a no-phones at meals policy in your home, switch off all technology 30-60 minutes before bedtime, and make sure you have 30 minutes of uninterrupted time with the person(s) you love the most several times a week.
Spirituality and prayer
14. Don’t give up cake, or chocolate. Instead, give up inherited ideas about God that cripple your soul.
15. Read all the way through one Gospel of your choice. About half a chapter a day, or less if you pick Mark.
16. Say a prayer of thanksgiving every day. Thank God for the things you usually take for granted: food, clothes, shelter, life itself.
17. Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down, and learn to keep still and silent for five minutes every day. (You might need to start with one minute and work your way up gradually.) Listen to the inner voice.
18. Take your unwanted clothes and goods to the local charity shop.
19. Volunteer some time at a local charity.
20. Make a donation to a charity.
21. Join the dots between prayer and action: choose something to pray for *and* give time or money to.
22. Find out if any of your local schools needs volunteers to hear children read.
23. Revive a medieval habit: reduce your household bills by eating more simply, and give the money saved to the poor. (Combine with no. 11 to make it a community exercise.)
Ecological/environmental – form a new habit in Lent to care for the earth.
24. Change the light bulbs in your house to eco-bulbs
25. Turn the heating down by one or two degrees
26. Turn off lights when you leave the room
27. Unplug your appliances when you aren’t using them. Do the earth a favour, and save around £60 a year as well, which you could give to charity or church.
28. Learn how to reduce your energy consumption. (Bonus: your bills will go down so you can give a little more away!)
29. Reduce, Re-use, Recycle i) – reduce food wastage. Shop with a list; use up leftovers, only buy and cook what you can eat and really need.
30. Reduce, Re-use, Recycle ii) – spend a couple of hours one weekend thinking about your shopping habits. How can you buy less, avoid buying what you don’t really want or need. Buy vintage, buy fairtrade.
31. Use your bicycle, the bus, or share car journeys. Less fuel used = happier earth.
32. Find a source of locally grown food and support it, or grow something yourself.
Joy-inspiring spiritual practices.
33. Pause 4 or 5 times today to give thanks for what you usually take for granted. Food. Shelter. Life.
34. Take a walk, alone or with friends. Stop to look for beauty.
35. De-clutter a cupboard or wardrobe. Give away what you don’t use or need.
36. Sing! Singing fills your system with oxygen and makes you feel better.
37. Look up! What do you miss on your daily commute by looking down at your feet?
38. Clean the windows. Let the sunshine in!
39. Plant some bulbs in the garden or in a pot for the windowsill.
40. Say thank you to others, for simple things. Tell people when you appreciate their kindness or value their friendship. Don’t wait to give a eulogy at their funeral: tell them now.