Lent begins Wednesday February 26. It’s traditionally forty days, leading us towards Holy Week. And this year, I decided to write down forty simple practices, one for each day of Lent, that we can do together.
I’ll be participating in these myself and I’m eager to see how the Holy Spirit meets us in our days as we prepare our hearts for Easter. And of course don’t feel that Lent is a solitary exercise. However you worship or observe these coming days, I hope you can find a way to connect with the larger community of faithful ones on The Way in some way during this season, too. Perhaps you could consider participating in any one of these practices as a small group of friends or as a faith community, too.
40 Simple Practices for Lent
by Sarah Bessey (all rights reserved)
Day One :: Participate in an Ash Wednesday service in your town. Receive the imposition of the ashes and consider your mortality. Read Jan Richardson’s Blessing for the Dust.
Day Two :: Download an app or online resource like Common Prayer or pick up a prayer book like Eastertide by Phyllis Tickle and begin to pray the daily offices at morning, midday, and evening. Do this throughout Lent.
Day Three :: Choose something to fast for the remaining days to remind you of your dependence on God. Something like the traditional meat or alcohol, sugar or caffeine or even social media. (One year, my friend Rachel gave up sleeping in. Another friend gave up complaining, another gave up cynicism, another unnecessary spending.) Be creative and honest about your dependencies. Look for ways to channel that energy into something generative and healing. P.S. you don’t have to fast on Sundays!
Day Four :: Pray for your friends and for your enemy/ies by name. Bless them, one by one. Think of the person you most struggle to love and pray for them as a beloved child of God.
Day Five :: If you normally listen to a podcast or music or watch TV, choose silence for the day.
Day Six :: Unfollow or mute five social media accounts that make you feel angry, afraid, or envious.
Day Seven :: Read Psalm 51 three times out loud in a different Bible translation than you usually read. Here’s the Message for instance.
Day Eight :: Step outside and walk/ride/drive/motor/wheel to a spot with trees or water.
Day Nine :: Repent. The kingdom of God is at hand. Read Amos 5 while you’re at it.
Day Ten :: Make a list of 40 things, experiences, or people you’re thankful for.
Day Eleven :: Look at your bookshelves and ask yourself: where are the women? the people of colour? disabled voices? LGBTQ+ voices? the ones who come from a different tradition? Ask yourself, “who is forming my spiritual life? and whose voices are missing?” (P.S. You could even join us for Field Notes Book Club as a start.)
Day Twelve :: Think of five people who inspire you or others on social media. Amplify their voices or buy their books, send them an encouraging note or share their work with a friend.
Day Thirteen :: Donate 40 things to a charity or thrift shop.
Day Fourteen :: Educate yourself about whose land you are living on by visiting Native-Land.ca and learn something about the people. If there is a learning centre nearby, plan a visit.
Day Fifteen :: Bring your own bags to the grocery store and your own mug to the coffee shop or work.
Day Sixteen :: Read a poem. Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese is one of my favourites but there are many.
Day Seventeen :: Skip the Internet for a day and turn off notifications on your phone.
Day Eighteen :: Invite someone over to your home and cook them a simple weeknight meal. If they are also a believer or comfortable with the practice, pray for one another together at the table.
Day Nineteen :: Speak words of forgiveness out loud to yourself for that thing you’ve been holding onto for too long.
Day Twenty :: Send an encouraging email to your pastor or priest and tell them how much you appreciate all the extra work they are doing for Lent and Easter prep. Drop off a coffee or a gift card or a note.
Day Twenty One :: Light a candle and meditate for five minute, bringing yourself back over and over again to one word you need to cling to right now (example: beloved).
Day Twenty Two :: Plant a tree or a flower. Take a moment to be grateful for this world. Place your hands in the dirt and rejoice.
Day Twenty Three :: Tell someone you trust the truth you’ve been holding back.
Day Twenty Four :: Ask for help with something or for a three-minute quiet hug from someone you trust.
Day Twenty Five :: Read or listen to the Gospel of John. Write down a verse that you like or want to remember in your journal.
Day Twenty Six :: Go outside late in the day and don’t take a single picture, just look, while the sun sets. Or stare out a window for at least 5 minutes and consider what you notice.
Day Twenty Seven :: Write a lament for injustice you or people you love have experienced, modeled on the Psalms of Lament. Bury that piece of paper at the base of a tree or in a garden so that your grief and lament can nourish the soil of a living thing.
Day Twenty Eight :: Sign up to a monthly supporter of a ministry or non-profit that you feel doesn’t get enough love or attention. Even $5 a month matters. Look for a way to turn your anxieties about the world into real, positive work.
Day Twenty Nine :: Donate some of your in-good-condition books to the library. Recycle any books with toxic or abusive theology in your home, get rid of them.
Day Thirty :: Go to a church or a concert or an evening prayer service and sing your heart out.
Day Thirty One :: Read Psalm 139 out loud.
Day Thirty Two :: Wake up early to pray for persecuted Christians around the world including our LGBTQ+ siblings.
Day Thirty Three :: Imagine God looking at you with infinite love and tenderness, kindness and mercy.
Day Thirty Four :: Try to meet or get to know a neighbour.
Day Thirty Five :: Buy (or collect from your pantry) a bag of groceries and drop it off at the Food Bank.
Day Thirty Six :: Write out by hand Matthew 11:28-30 and tape it to your mirror.
Day Thirty Seven :: Memorize the Jesus Prayer - “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner” - in the morning and pray it throughout the day. Consider switching the word “sinner” for “your beloved child” and see how that changes things.
Day Thirty Eight :: Write a short one-page letter to your younger self at a time when you felt most vulnerable or afraid or sad to encourage her that despite difficulties and challenges, she is never alone or forgotten. Tell her what you wish somebody would have said to you in those days.
Day Thirty Nine :: Every time you become aware of your body in any way - positive or negative - speak kind words to your body or say, “I bless and love my body.”
Day Forty :: Sing the kids’ song “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” but switch the pronouns to feminine ones: “She’s Got the Whole World in Her Hands.” Notice how it feels to use a feminine pronoun for God.
Imagine how God would mother you today, how it would feel to be held in the hands of God, and open yourself to those possibilities.
Bonus :: Think about the past forty days and choose one practice to carry forward.
And now it’s Holy Week! (you could begin to plan a way to celebrate Easter Sunday with friends or family - the time of lament and repentance has nearly ended, it’s time to celebrate with a good party!)
A Quick Announcement
This year, I’ll be doing a special daily Holy Week series for paid Field Notes subscribers.
It will begin on Palm Sunday (April 4) and be a daily email with a verse, a prayer, and a quick meditation as we go through Holy Week together until the following Sunday which is Easter.
More details on that later but wanted to mention it now so you don’t miss it:
If for any reason, you can’t afford to subscribe, just email email@example.com and we’ll look after you. Promise! I never want money to be the reason anyone can’t participate fully.
You can also directly gift a subscription to a friend.
I asked for a few ideas on Facebook and Twitter earlier and was overwhelmed by the responses. So if any of my practices don’t resonate with you, check out this Twitter thread or the Facebook comments and please feel free to build your own list.
My thanks to Laura Turner for Day 33, Jenna DeWitt for Day 6, Kaitlin Curtice for inspiring Day 26, Nan Kuhlman for Day 38, and EmIpsaLoquitur for inspiring Day 28, and Anne Ferris for inspiring Day 27.
In case you missed it
It’s like TV in your head! February’s book chat and reviews - for subscribers only
Conversation: What is giving you hope today? - for subscribers only
Wisdom from the Field: How do you navigate marriage while in deconstruction? - for subscribers only
Water in the Desert: February’s Exclusive Essay - for subscribers only