My 2011 Lenten Disciplines

I’m about a week late in posting them, but here are my disciplines for Lent this year:

1.) Pray daily for two friends. This is a communal discipline that we’re doing at Upper Room. We’re all committing ourselves to two people who don’t yet know Jesus. There are two particular people I’m praying for. Since I don’t want to break any confidentialities, I won’t post their names here. Along with praying for them, I’m planning on taking intentional steps at deepening our friendships.

2.) Meditate daily on a passage from Mark the Ascetic. This is also a communal discipline that I”m doing with folks from the House of St. Michael the Archangel.

3.) Full fasts starting after dinner Thursday evening and ending at dinner Friday evening. This one’s pretty much self-explanatory, though I will say that I’m terrible at fasting. There have been multiple times in the past when I’ve remembered that I was fasting while placing a handful of potato chips in my mouth. With my marathon training schedule, Friday is really the only day I can fast, and even then I’ll need to eat dinner that night before going to bed since I’ll be running 5 miles every Saturday morning. At one point, I seriously considered just letting my marathon training be my Lenten discipline, but that felt like a copout.

4.) I anticipate that this will be the hardest one. It’s kind of complicated, and maybe more of an experiment than a discipline, but here it is: I’m giving up driving alone for distances less than 5 miles. About 2 or 3 months ago, I had the idea of giving up my car altogether for Lent after reading Shane Claiborne’s suggestion in Common Prayer to try going “fuel free” for 1 week. However, I soon decided that was unreasonable. I had completely forgotten about the idea until last week on Ash Wednesday when, due to some poor planning on my end, I found myself without a car at Quiet Storm in Garfield and needing to get to CMU and then back home. I didn’t have exact change for bus fare, so I had to walk. So, I decided maybe this was God’s way of telling me to take up this discipline. Here are the rules I’ve set:

– If I’m going somewhere that is less than 5 miles from my house, I have to either walk, bike or take public transportation.

– I’m allowed drive within that distance if I’m providing a ride to somebody else.

– I’m allowed to drive by myself if going somewhere more than 5 miles away. (I call this the “public transportation in Pittsburgh if awful” clause.)

– I’m not allowed to ask others for a ride if it takes them out of their way. But if they offer, I can accept.

My original purpose behind the discipline was environmental stewardship. Now that I’m a week into it, though, I’m discovering that the real blessing I’m experiencing behind it is a slower pace. Having to walk or take a bus means that I can’t rush from one meeting to another (as I’m prone to doing). Taking the time to walk or sit on the bus is giving me space to think, process conversations, let ideas digest, and pray. Several times now, I’ve found myself praying the Jesus Prayer while walking, modifying it to pray blessings on the people/places I see. (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on ________”) On Sunday evening, I took a prayer book with me and prayed evening vespers as I walked.

I’ll try to post more about these disciplines as Lent continues. God grant us all a Holy Lent!


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