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Monday, 8 February 2016

The thing to do for Lent. by Annie Try




 
It is time to decide what to do for Lent.  40 days leading up to Easter in which to better myself spiritually.  At least that’s my aim.  I used to give up biscuits and beat myself up if I found myself in a situation where to not take a proffered biscuit would offend someone.  It happened more often than I expected, when I was doing home visits.  I would meet nervous mothers who were grappling with the fact that their child needed to see a psychologist.  They could seem quite traumatised, which wasn’t the idea at all.  Eating their bourbons or rich tea seemed to signify that I was, at least, human.  Maybe God was trying to teach me something?
Giving up chocolate didn’t work either – I thought about it all the time, becoming obsessed with a previously hardly experienced yearning for chocolate deliciousness!  Praying and meditation were important ingredients of whatever I did but I became certain that God wanted more action as well.  So I followed Tearfund’s (or was it WaterAid’s?) 40-day drive to save water and live in an ecologically sound way.  But apart from being a slightly better steward of God’s world, I don’t think it impacted on me spiritually and the second time around was no longer a discipline.
Somehow, three years ago, I stumbled upon 40 Acts.  This scheme is run by Stewardship – a Christian charity set up to help us to give generously.  Every day through Lent they suggest three generous acts to choose from, which reach out to others – sometimes a simple gift, or a smile, or speaking to someone who doesn’t usually get full attention.  The writing tasks can be fun and there is plenty of room for creativity – whether it is making, baking, decorating or helping someone with a fiendish task. I love this practical outworking of spreading God’s love.  I have found it makes me more aware of others’ needs, not just during the 40 days, but throughout my life.  It also forces me out of my comfort zone; for example, through talking to a stranger who looks lonely or helping with a particularly nasty menial task.  Then there’s baking cakes - not quite my best skill!

And somehow, time appears to stretch.  If you are thinking ‘I’d never have time’, then try it!  OK, sometimes I needed to catch-up if I had missed a day, but when I thought back, there was time – but I had used it for something far less important.  On the 40 Acts website (www.40acts.org.uk) there is a brilliant video of someone catching up 21 days in 24 hours.  Quite an achievement, but I think I’ll aim for one a day.
Now I’m writing about it, I am remembering what fun it was to secretly leave a gift or pay for the next person’s coffee.  The acts of generosity were met with smiles, or sheer astonishment. 

I suppose it is the right ‘thing to do for Lent’ if I’m enjoying it, isn’t it?  Or should I hunt out some sackcloth and sweep up a few ashes from the fireplace ready for Ash Wednesday
 
 
 
 
Annie Try is the pen-name of Angela Hobday, ACW Chair.  She lives in Norfolk with her husband and Old English Sheepdog. Juggling her life between her work, church, family and writing, she aims to be a scribbling missionary.

10 comments:

  1. I love 40 acts, and was privileged this time to be able to write the reflection for the task I most enjoyed last year. Looking forward to Lent does feel 'wrong' somehow though, doesn't it?!

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    1. I'm getting used to it - and really like Deborah's comment below. I'm finding it harder to organise this year - I need some warning to invite people for a meal, for example, as I am a long way from any shops!

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  2. Fabulous idea. Will look up the website.

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  3. We did 40 Acts at church last year. It's such a great way to do Lent. I suppose it is "giving something up" in a way - selfishness or something. Turning it around and thinking of others. Your post is very inspiring :)

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    1. Thank you Deborah, and I love the way you look at it as giving something up through giving!

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  4. Great idea Angela. A friend of mine did it a couple of years ago and startled the postman when she offered him a bar of chocolate as one of her 'acts'.

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    1. It can startle people - but in a good way. I helped a stranger find out how to pay for station parking with her mobile phone - it was a non-cash machine and she'd given up and got on the train. It didn't fit with 40Acts (and was the day before it started) but she was very grateful and astounded that I'd helped. Such a shame people are astonished at ordinary helping out.

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  5. Sounds interesting - it's not something I've tried before, but I'm going to have a look.

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  6. It is definitely worth a look. Although I do have to defer some acts because they need planning when I live so far from shops and have days when I don't actually leave home.

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