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Meditation 468
What to do for Lent

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When I was young, Catholics were the only ones who took Lent, the forty days preceding Easter, seriously. Oh, the Anglicans (Episcopalians) gave it lip service, but most Protestant denominations pretty much ignored it. After all, the early leaders of Protestant reform such as Calvin, Zwingli and Luther were quite dubious about the fasting associated with Lent. And Lent really has no biblical foundation.

But now, at least in North America, giving up something for Lent seems to have spread through the Protestant evangelical community. It is not that unusual for an acquaintance, in making conversation, to say "I've given up .... What have you given up for Lent?"

How to answer?

One way is with a hard stare, a raised eyebrow and stony silence. That should end the discussion, and indicate that you consider religious issues out of bounds for casual conversation. Of course, it does also communicate a degree of unfriendliness which may be a message you do not want to send.

A simple "Nothing," seems somehow defensive, and invites the other person to respond with something like "Oh, you should." And now you are onto the slippery slope of an unwanted discussion on religion.

You have to go further and say, "Nothing, my beliefs do not require it." A sensitive person will then realize it is best to change the subject; an insensitive one may try to engage you in a discussion on religion, to which you can appropriately respond with the hard stare, raised eyebrow and stony silence.

Or you can take the offensive. "Oh, I don't give things up for Lent. I try to do new things. Last year, I took up skydiving. This year my spouse and I decided to get together for a nooner every lunch hour to put a little extra spice in our sex life. Next year we are thinking of a white-water rafting expedition in Chile." This should dumbfound the other person enough to drop the subject, but if he or she pursues it with a plaintive "But you are supposed to give something up for Lent" you can reply "Perhaps in your religion... but excuse me I have to get back to work, so things are cleaned up for lunch hour. Other commitments you know."

And that's my Lenten message. If you don't want to do nothing for Lent, then do something new. Make sure it's fun. There is no need to deprive yourself just because others do.