Give Up or Take Up
I am learning there are lots of good pieces out there in “blogosphere.” Naturally, as one who writes a blog every other week and occasionally wonders where the inspiration will come from this week, this is an exciting discovery. Lo and behold, others are blogging good stuff, too. (Humility is not my best trait.)
My co-worker, Bobbie Jo, sent me a blog from the online ministry Intentional Filling. It would not surprise you that their blog “7 Ways to Serve Others During Lent” resonated with me. I am not borrowing their blog in this issue of Compassionaries, but I am using their idea of taking up versus giving up for Lent. In the interest of transparency, they got the idea from another blogger, Karen Ehmen of Proverbs 31 Ministries—“The Reverse Lent Challenge.” A quick Googling produced several blogs about a reverse Lenten challenge. No surprise there. Good ideas tend to have a long shelf-life.
What exactly is Lent?
Lent is the season from Ash Wednesday through Easter. It is 40 days long (not counting Sundays) and is meant to help believers be spiritually prepared for Easter while consciously and intentionally growing closer to God through repentance, fasting, and forgiveness. Even if you’ve never observed Lent, you have heard people talk about giving up something for Lent—chocolate, desserts, time on social media, etc. These sacrifices are one’s way of fasting or doing without something they enjoy. They are supposed to help us remember Jesus’ sacrifice.
No one suggests giving up chocolate is comparable to Jesus’ tortuous death on the cross, nor any of the other things we hear people giving up for Lent for that matter. The idea is doing without something we like keeps his sacrifice front-and-center for the weeks leading up to his glorious victory in the resurrection. To be clear, giving up something for Lent is a good thing, even if it is not much of a “sacrifice.” Anything that helps us remember what Jesus suffered for us is a good thing! Anything!
Taking Up Versus Giving Up
I am joining others in issuing a Reverse Lent Challenge this year. I know we’re already five days into Lent, but we can adjust, right? If we are persuaded to take a different approach, we can do it, right? There is no one way to do this. I’ve read what others have said about taking up serving others for Lent as just another form of sacrifice. Honestly, I am not convinced. However, I can make a case for serving others as a way to observe Lent because that’s what Jesus was about. Furthermore, the 40 days of Lent provide a memorable, doable period of time in which any of us can grow closer to Jesus. There is no better way to do that than serving people in need. I often say: We are never more like Jesus than when we serve people in need. Would you agree?
5 Ways to Take Up Serving Others During Lent
One of the things I learned as a pastor is people need practical ways to implement what you are encouraging them to do. So, here are five ways to take up serving others during Lent.
- Love on a neighbor. Bake cookies and give them away to neighbors. Tip: Don’t just drop them off and leave quickly. Spend 5 minutes to get to know them and offer help when they need it. Offer to pray for them. Roll their trash containers back to their house. In the case of elderly or infirmed neighbors, do some grocery shopping for them.
- Help a co-worker. Most people spend almost as much time with their co-workers as they spend with their family. How can you serve them? Help them with a project or catch up on an overflowing inbox. Ask them to join you for lunch or for coffee and use that time to get to know them. Notice when one of your co-workers is having a bad day and drop a note on his/her desk telling them you’re praying for them.
- Volunteer at a non-profit. Expect some orientation for this service. All non-profit organizations need volunteers. Even if they have a relatively full staff of volunteers, there are always things that need to be done neither their paid staff nor volunteers don’t have time to do—clerical work, cleaning their facility, light painting, phone calls to prospective or established donors, etc. Tip: If possible, request to volunteer in ways that engage people the non-profit serves.
- Love on friends. I am borrowing this idea from another blogger. Buy 40 stamps and 40 blank-inside cards and every day during Lent write a note to a friend telling him/her how much you appreciate them. Be specific. Be authentic. Don’t expect a card in return but celebrate it when it comes. Tip: Resist the temptation to do this on Facebook, text, or even email. Make it a handwritten note. Knowing you took the time to handwrite a note will mean as much as the message itself.
- Serve nursing home staff. We have heard a great deal during COVID how health care workers are heroes, but that’s not just during a pandemic. Nursing home workers have a difficult job of caring for people with simple, but sometimes unpleasant issues. They are unnoticed and unrecognized for their care of others. Bake a cake (or buy one at a bakery) and throw a small party for these workers. Give each of them a note of gratitude for what they do.
Will you give up or take up for Lent?
Have I persuaded you to take up serving others for Lent? If you are giving up something, carry on. Add taking up serving to it. If you haven’t decided to observe Lent this year, will you do that now? I would love to hear your experience with serving others as a life-focus for Lent. How will you serve others this Lenten season?