Lenten Thoughts

Here it is again, looming over us like a giant behemoth. Great Lent. Every year I see memes and cartoons about Lent sneaking up on us almost as if to intentionally spoil our joy. And to be honest, some days it does feel like that. But the longer I am Orthodox, the more I appreciate what Lent both teaches us and allows us to do, namely take the focus off of self.

As much as I appreciate Lent, I do find myself filled with anxiety. What will I eat? Will my son participate with me now that he’s a teenager? How do I manage alms giving on a fixed budget with little to no wiggle room? And what if, God forbid, I slip up and accidentally eat the wrong thing on the wrong day? So much for taking the focus of of self.

This year, though, I hope to do it differently. Rather than asking whether something is okay to eat during Lent, I want to begin asking which charities are best for alms giving. I want to ask how I can give on a tight fixed budget. I want to learn creative ways to give alms and give them freely, unselfishly.

I want to spend time focusing on God more than on what I am doing correctly or incorrectly. I want to take my eyes off my plate and everyone else’s plate, and put them where they belong, firmly fixed on Christ. Too often that focus is lost during Lent, and by the time Pascha arrives, I am worn out from the details, and I realize I haven’t spent time with God. Pascha is still joyous, but not as much as I think it could be.

I said that I want to focus on alms giving and prayer more than dietary restrictions. I hope you can help me with that. How can I practice alms giving on a tight to fixed budget? What are your favorite prayers and devotions during Lent? What are the best charities to give to?

On that last one, maybe I can help a little. It is said that charity begins at home. Maybe your parish single parents would be a good place to start. Find out their needs. Pray for them and with them if you cannot assist. Most of all, let us help each other to focus more on God and loving each other. Will you help me?

About David Dean

David Dean is a full time single dad with a Masters degree in Library Science, and certifications in Youth Librarianship and in Storytelling. He spends his best time homeschooling and gaming with his son, and writing.

4 comments:

  1. David,

    I was at Forgiveness Vespers the other night and just kept praying to Christ, “Help me repent.” It hit me some time ago that fasting, almsgiving, etc., these aren’t repentance, these are practices that encourage and help bringing repentance about. And if we repent truly, we will be healed. Repentance/faith/love/hope are really all the same thing: love. We cannot repent if we do not have faith that God is good and faithful. We cannot have faith if we do not love because faith is knowing security in Christ instead of security in food, money, family, etc. We cannot hope if we do not have faith. In the end, all is love. Figuring out how to train the body and the mind to come into alignment with the mind when it is at its best, this is the difficult part and I fail miserably. I came across a statement, I don’t know who it’s attributed to, that to fast without prayer is the Devil’s Fast, as he always fasts but never prays. This is a good reminder of how not to fast. Since prayer must be accompanied by faith, fasting must be also, and both are for love. Asceticism is for love. We know this already. When our kids need/want our attention and our attention to our priorities leaves them ignored with our conscience later bothering us, to have ignored our own selfishness in their interest, this is love and it leaves us with a clean conscience. I find that being intentional about areas of my life where I feel regret and my conscience speaks before bed, and trying to improve even slightly the next day, it’s not perfect, but a clearer conscience connected with the denial of selfishness – since selfishness proves lack of faith often – make for a better day. We aren’t very accustomed to think of repentance as starting to do the things we know we should have already done, but instead just as stopping behaviors we know are wrong. Yet Judgement Sunday, the Gospel distinguishes the sheep and the goats by their love worked out, or the lack of love.

    If only more people like yourself realized that Lent is about becoming less selfish, which necessarily makes us, more loving – if it is accompanied by prayer/faith. Then we wouldn’t see silly memes mocking or making light of salvation – not that lighthearted poking does not have a place.

    As an aside, when Lent rolls around, I find my sons suddenly appreciating things like apples. What was better for us all along suddenly becomes more obvious and appreciable. Forgive the length, I too homeschool my boys and often have little adult conversation through most of the week! Lord, help us repent, even a little, through this Lent.

    1. Matthew, I truly appreciate the reminder that repentance should include “starting to do the things we know we should have already done”. That’s a powerful statement. I pray that you and yours will have a meaningful, God-focused Lent. Thank you for your thougtful response.

  2. Thank you fir the thoughts today. It is indeed a big struggle for me also to not get caught up in the focus of what to eat or not. So often I spend a lot of time preparing tasty and filling vegan foods that the point is missed. I too am trying this year to just do what I can with food and take the focus off my plate and on God.
    One of my favorite charities is IOCC. Your donation is multiplied with matching funds. Also there are probably local women/children or family shelters in your area. There are three in my local that always need help or donations.

    1. Thank you for your words, Ken. I appreciate the recommendation of IOCC. I truly believe in the work they are doing. I will pray for us both to have success in focusing more on God this Lent.

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