In the past, I never paid much attention to Lent. The little I had heard about this season in the Church just led me to believe that Lent was a time of personal austerity, when you weren’t supposed to enjoy things (especially chocolate!). It seemed to me that Lent was mainly about following outward restrictions. But in the last couple of years as I’ve drawn deeper into my faith, I’ve begun to realize that Lent is an important season that prepares us spiritually for the joy of Easter. Of course, sacrificing a favorite food or pastime and giving to others during Lent are important ways to engage with the themes of the season, and I’ll try to do both this year.
However, I’m learning that it’s not so much about following the same rituals year after year, but about opening ourselves to an increased understanding of the true meaning of the crucifixion and the resurrection, and sharing that with others. So by adding a deeper spiritual dimension and creativity to my Lent practices, I feel that my preparations during Lent will enhance the celebration of Easter and all that it means.
And nowadays there are many creative ways to recognize Lent. Last year, I was given two huge (and delicious) cakes, both from kind church friends who’d each decided to bake a cake every day during Lent and give it away. This was their way of giving something to others as a reminder of how God loves us. So, this year I’ve decided to pay more attention to Lent as a season of repentance and renewal. I’ve been looking for more creative ways to bring Lent to life in my daily devotions. If you’re considering what to do during Lent, these ideas might inspire you.
Make your own cross
Making a cross to act as a centerpiece for prayer and worship can actually be quite an easy craft. It can be as simple as binding two pieces of stick together and hanging it on the wall or displaying it in a prominent position. A cross made from recycled materials can look very beautiful, like one made from clothespins, and the whole family can get involved in prayerfully crafting one for your home. If you’re keen on DIY, you could make a more sophisticated cross, such as one made from different colored woods. Or consider a fabric cross, like a stunning patchwork cross, or perhaps embroider a stitched cross.
A couple of years back, my adult daughter took part in a “Peaced Together” course, focusing on how beauty can come out of brokenness. One week, she made a stunning mosaic cross from crockery shards. It reminded her that even though she’d been through some difficult times and was in some ways “broken,” beauty could still shine through.
Meditate with symbols of the season
Having a focus for prayer, Bible reading and meditation can be very helpful. Lent in a Bag is a perfect example. This set of meditations features a rock, sand, a human figure and a candle placed in a fabric, paper or plastic bag. Each object is accompanied by a Bible verse and reflection prompts. For example, “Sand represents Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. What wilderness experiences have you lived through? What did you learn?” Lent in a Bag could be used for individual or communal prayer. For example, you could invite family members or friends to choose a symbol and share its significance to them.
Look at visual prompts
Displaying small Lent-related objects around the home (or even at your workplace if it’s appropriate) is another way to bring the season to life. Our church once gave out a large nail to each member as a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice – I taped mine to the freezer door so I saw it multiple times each day. Images are also great for this. Consider some of the events in the last few weeks of Jesus’ life, and find some pictures to remind you of them. Choose one each day and display it in a clip frame or on a pinboard. Each time you notice it, spend a moment in reflection about its significance for you or offer a short prayer to God.
Use a Lent calendar
A calendar is a wonderful way to keep track of your devotions during Lent. The Busted Halo Lent “Fast, Pray, Give” calendar features a daily inspirational quote and a concrete action to take each day, such as donating to a charity, volunteering your time, or attending a weekday Mass. A calendar for coloring each day is also a good way to focus your thoughts and prayers. Praying With Color has several printable calendars including a spiral, boxes, and a stained glass window, together with instructions to get you started. Or, why not make your own calendar? Take a large sheet of paper and divide it into 40 squares. Then, use one square a day – you could stick photos of people you’ll be praying for, draw a Lenten symbol, or add a scripture verse each day. You can even engage the family in planning what to put in each day’s square.
Keep a Lent journal
Many people find that keeping a written journal during Lent is a valuable way of recording what they discover over the weeks. Some like to take a deeper dive into the Bible reading for the day or imagine they’re an observer at key events in Jesus’ ministry. But often, a prompt makes the process easier, especially if you’re new to spiritual journaling. Amy Brooks, blogger at Prayer, Wine and Chocolate, has a thought-provoking prompt for each day of Lent that I always find useful.
So as I observe Lent this year, I intend to be as creative as possible, both to enhance my appreciation for Christ’s sacrifice and also to share that appreciation for God’s love with others around me. Maybe you could consider introducing some new and creative ways to observe Lent in your home too!
Elizabeth Manneh is a freelance writer, sharing her time between the UK and The Gambia, West Africa. She’s written for many publications, including Huffington Post, ReadersDigest.com, and The Good Men Project. She’s on a lifelong exploration to find ways of bringing God into all aspects of her everyday life.