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Lenten Devotions: Day One

Welcome to Bread for the World’s 2011 Lenten Devotions. These daily installments are designed to help you put aside a moment each day during Lent to reflect on your faith and how your faith is active in your life. Each week we will follow a regular pattern of days; some days are devoted to walking through the story of Lent, while others are focused on prayer, action, art, or meditation.

As you journey through these 40 days, we encourage you to interact with the content and share your thoughts with others by commenting on the day’s posting.

 Wednesday, March 9. Ash Wednesday Woman with cross

Some years I have big ambitions for the 40 days leading up to Easter. Sometimes I plan to fast from some luxury that has, over time, become a “necessity” in my life. Or I plan, somehow, to take a new step and make this Lent the most significant yet. Other years, I’m lucky if I realize the Lenten season is upon me before it’s over.  

This year, I want something simple yet profound. Something that invites me to be intentional in listening, reflecting, and responding to God. Something that facilitates my engagement with the simple yet profound story of Jesus, when he submitted his will to his Abba Father and laid down his life. 

My life has become cluttered. My days are filled with excessive noise. It’s hard for  me  to hear my own inward voice, much less the voice of God. I want to remember, again, the need to really breathe. To breathe in the Spirit of God and to wait on God’s voice. Jesus, I want to be refreshed in my journey with you.

On this first day of Lent, we invite you to spend some quiet time contemplating the coming days and what you want them to mean for you. Some people may give up a treat (chocolate or  shopping), pledge to live simply, or conduct acts of kindness, charity, or justice. Others may pledge to spend time in prayer or quiet meditation each day. What action makes the most sense for you?

Briefly write down how you choose to participate in Lent. What will you do and why?

Zach Schmidt is the Central Midwest field organizer for Bread for the World.

Photo courtesy of Margie Nea.



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Even though I consider myself "joyfully agnostic," I still consider Lent one of my favorite seasons of the year, and I still do the Rice Bowl that I got in the habit of picking up back in my Catholic days. It comes with exercises and brief meditations that I still find meaningful.

I decided to only say positive things. This is ultimately coming from Matthew 15:18, "But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them." I’m hoping this will help me to ultimately kick my swearing habit and to give me a more optimistic outlook. Consciously reminding myself to speak more positively will hopefully change my thoughts inwardly.

I am going to live simply, give more to the poor, attend daily mass more frequently, spend less, give up my morning donut, continue with my daily prayers and meditation, fast weekly and try to be more patient and peaceful.

Lent is a time for reflection, to think about all that has passed, all that is and is yet to be. It is a time to think seriously about what we really need and what we only think we need, and to discard all that is unnecessary and unreal. Do we really need more material goods or do we need more compassion? Can we work together to create a new, truly compassionate world or will we forever be victims of greed and in the process destroy our world and all the beauty in it?

A meditation this morning on Matthew 1:18-25 challenged us to listen to God in our daily lives (as Joseph did) and to respond without fear or certainty of outcome. Having just returned from Kenya, I know that the "voice" of God is present even in the eyes of the children. My Lenten pledge is to hear and respond.

Although no longer Catholic but instead an Evangelical/Pentecostal believer, I am deciding to follow through on doing something even more meaningful than I usually do during lent. I will be praying more with giving up one day per week to fasting; also giving up my favorite habit, eating chocolate in any form.

In our church we are looking at the 7 Deadly Sins during this season...trying to see how we've let Satan, ourselves & the world twist the way we try to find fulfillment for truly good, God-given desires. I am committing to the work of honest reflection on ways I (and my friends) may have allowed that twisting to occur in any parts of my/our lives, repent of those, and seek to follow God's intended paths toward truer and fuller life.

Lent is a time to enter our Lord's passion through a more intimate relationship with Jesus, and through compassion and a deeper relationship with those in need, whatever that need may be. Without the grace of God, I can do nothing. And so I must abide in prayer and walk with the community of my brothers and sisters to better know, love, and serve our Lord and his will for me in the present moment. It is a struggle to do so, and thus attainable. It is impossible without it. I have come to realize that God's presence and will are only found and experienced in the present. Thus I must cultivate a radical acceptance of the sacrament of each moment. This is my aim as I begin Lent 2011.

I'm going to keep a gratitude journal, writing in it several times a week of the people, events and observations that give me joy and I'm grateful for.

As a Friend, I do not normally observe the seasons of the liturgical year, but especially considering the coincidence of the coming of Lent and the potentially disastrous news from Washington about programs of great importance to Bread and others, I will resume daily meditation with the onset of Lent, with a focus on the suffering of those who are hungry and undernourished. I shall also make this concern prominent in the six-week course on Quakerism I am giving for recent attenders to the Quaker meeting.

I am going to give a gift to someone each day of Lent. For some a written or spoken word of encouragement and appreciation, to some a gift of material value, to some an act of love, and to some a physical act of helping with a task like shopping.

I'm going through a very stressful and unsettled time at work. Instead of worrying over who might do what next, I'm going to lift people up in prayer as troubling situations come to mind. Rather than be angry over what's been said or done or worry about the future, I want to refocus my thoughts by praying for healing and reconciliation.

I will try to honor the life that Jesus led, by living joyfully and prayerfully. I will act in public in such a way as to make it obvious that I have faith and belief in God and follow the pathways that Jesus directs us towards.

I will strive to do at least one act of kindness toward others each day.

My son and I have chosen to read, together, this daily devotion. We have given up dining out and are spending more quality time together focused on our Lord's sacrifice.

I am committing to the act of "giving" in the term of "giving up" -- giving up to a special place where I can make a small difference and holding that place in special prayer for that week. Each week will find intentional focus on broader places such as Bread for the World, Episcopal Relief and Development, Nets for Life, The Episcopal Church in Sudan and local ministries such as ALIVE, ministry to seniors at Ladray House, camp scholarship funds at our diocesan summer camps for children ... wishing that Lent was as long as Epiphany was this year!

I am giving up beef and cheese for the benefit of my arteries. Coincidentally, today begins the fight to honor and love the Bible, interacting with the pages often and applying the precepts contained in the words that I so often ignored in the past.

I have felt God calling me in a particular direction. I can trace this back two decades. It has always felt unlikely, impractical, even not particularly ... serious. Why would God want me to do this nonsensical thing? Now, in my middle-age, I'm starting to realize the sense of the thing is immaterial. The point is to follow. So for the season, I'm keeping a separate notebook from my journal, and brainstorming, refining the vision God seems to be calling me to (even admitting this seems silly for some reason).

I would like to meditate every day in order to find some quiet and a clearer mind, very much like Zach above.

I am going to try to reach out to people who have had losses in their lives, who are seriously ill, who are bearing special burdens or have special needs. I will ask God to broaden my awareness of the needs of others.

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