Saturday, March 1, 2014

Lent: Giving Up or Giving?

            My former student told me she is giving up Starbucks for Lent. 

            Lent, starting this Wednesday, is “…a special time of prayer, penance, sacrifice and good works in preparation of the celebration of Easter,” writes Father William Saunders. ( Throughout the history of Lenten observance, giving up something has been a key practice.

            As a Baptist, Lent has been a hit or miss experience for me. When my husband was a full time pastor, our church often had Lenten Bible studies with our Methodist neighbors, sometimes using the Spiritual Adventure series by David and Karen Mains. It was a good time of study, prayer, and fellowship; however, we never talked about fasting. In fact, I seem to remember refreshments.

            When I worked as secretary for a United Church of Christ pastor, I saw his denomination emphasized Lent much more than Baptists. When I wondered aloud if I should give up chocolate, the pastor said he wouldn’t want to have to work with me if I did. So I didn’t.

            My young friend is not just giving up Starbucks. She is donating her estimated Starbucks expenditures to Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl. (

            She inspired me to revisit the idea of giving up something for Lent. I’m not foolish enough to think it should be coffee, even more necessary than chocolate to my own well-being and the safety of my family and students. Then I had the terrifying thought that I could give up purchasing new books for my Kindle from March 5 through April 20. 

            I bought myself a Kindle Paperwhite for my birthday in October, and it has been a source of enjoyment and comfort since I broke my ankles in early November. No hopping and hobbling around the house looking for something to read. No excursions to the library. Always something to read for 99 cents or for free. Reading in bed without a light. (Sigh of contentment.)

            So, no, I don’t want to give up my Kindle. And besides, the authors whose books I’m buying need an income, too. We don’t want to see any (more) homeless authors on the sidewalks trying to warm themselves with the air venting from their laptops, holding up signs, “Will Ghostwrite for Food.”

            But what I will do—and now I’m being serious—is match my Kindle purchases and direct the money to an organization that’s doing God’s work in the world. 

            I know Jesus instructed us to give secretly, not letting our right hand know what our left hand is doing. But I’m hoping, by telling you about it, you might be inspired to do something similar during Lent.

            Even as my student inspired me.


  1. I like your Kindle matching idea, Roberta, but we'll both have to stop ogling the freebies for that to really make a dent in any charity's cause!

  2. Hi, Roberta! Good post.
    As you can tell by my books, making Lenten sacrifices mean more is a concept close to my heart. (Look me up on Amazon if you're interested in a Lent Bible study or drama that emphasizes this.) I usually sacrifice time (my most precious commodity these days) to do a behind-the-scenes helping project the Holy Spirit directs me to, that has no benefit to me. Much better than giving up sweets to lose weight! :)
    Linda Bonney Olin

    1. Thanks, Linda. I will have to look at your resources. Like the drama idea.

  3. What a great idea. I've had to give up a lot of things to stay home and cyber school our oldest, I'll have to think hard on this one.

    1. I know what you mean. You are already down on time and money. Your workshop was a gift to us.