What Will You Give Up for Lent?



Believe it or not, Easter is just around the corner. Which means something else is almost upon us:


I love the idea of a 40-day preparation for Easter, of refocusing our hearts and minds to spend more time in prayer and contemplation of what Christ has done for us. And I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of “giving up” something for those 40 days. Even more intriguing—and sometimes amusing–is what people choose to surrender. For example:

Watching TV
Playing computer games
Chocolate (now there’s a sacrifice!)
Going online
Caffeine (just shoot me now!)
Wearing shoes

And on and on it goes. But I want to suggest something a bit different for those of us who make our living in publishing. How about giving up something really tough? How about giving up something like:

  • Comparing your writing, your craft, your career or anything else to anyone else. Make contentment the key word and concept for 40 days.
  • Checking your Amazon rank. Nope, not even once. For 40 days.
  • Reading reviews of your books. Not the good, not the bad, not even the ugly. Just like that wonderful old hymn: No, not one!
  • Complaining about your publisher/editor/agent/client/writer/spouse/career/family…okay, just complaining in general! My family and I gave up complaining at all for 40 days one time. It was terrible! (Just kidding!) But it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. In this Twitterized, FB posted, share-every-opinion-that-breezes-through-your-brain world, we’re programmed to complain, and to do it with impunity. So how about a 40-day fast from complaints? Maybe make it 40 days of living out Philippians 4:8: “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
  • Worrying about sales, the market, changes in the industry, where you’ll come up with the next book idea, if you’ll meet your deadline, etc.
  • Careless words. Friends, we’re writers! We understand the power of words. And yet we so often use our words to criticize, judge, and hurt. We, above all others, should be purposeful in our words. So how about, for the 40 days of lent, anytime you’re tempted to let loose words of anger, criticism, sarcasm, judgement, you have to stop and look in the mirror. And ask yourself, “Will the words I want to speak reflect Christ?”
  • Talking down your brothers and sisters in Christ. Sure, the organized church isn’t perfect. Yes, there are people who call themselves Christians and yet their words and lives tend to challenge that claim. But I’ve noticed over the last 10 years or so how free we believers, especially those I encounter in the writing world, seem to feel to talk down the church and other Christians. To say they’re hypocrites, simple minded, and far, far worse. Why not, for these 40 days, focus instead on God, on what He is doing in people’s lives, rather than on how we think others miss the mark on our standard for Christian living?

So as the Lenten season approaches, think about it. What about your career, writing, calling, words will you give up from Wednesday, March 5th, to Thursday, April 17th? And how will you use what you surrender to focus instead what really matters–not the calling, but the One who issued the call?

May this Lenten season lead us ever deeper into understanding that One and what He seeks to accomplish through us in our writing.

And our lives.

18 Responses to What Will You Give Up for Lent?

  1. Avatar
    Carolyn Knefely February 26, 2014 at 5:18 am #

    This post is inspiring with a unique perspective.
    I’ll be following your lead.
    Write on!

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    betsy stretar February 26, 2014 at 6:07 am #

    How wonderfully refreshing. The act of turning toward the One who has ordered our steps and numbered our days is the one perspective we need to keep at the forefront of every writing endeaver. The Giver. Not the gift. This Giver…who has entrusted us with the gift of words. Oh may we be free from the above snares of self numbers, followers, inadequacies, , comparisons, etc and just write…for an audience of One! Thank you for this good and right reminder.

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    Chris Malkemes February 26, 2014 at 6:30 am #

    Karen. Good thoughts. At Lent we think about what we’re “giving” up. We want to give up the good things, like chocolate and coffee. What if we added just one thing and watched what happens.? I think I’ll add gratefulness, daily. With gratefulness complaining, frustration and selfishness just don’t have room to grow.

    I’m ready. I’m jumping in. Here goes. “Thank you!”

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    Martha Rogers February 26, 2014 at 6:38 am #

    Great post, Karen, thank you. I usually don’t pay any attention to Lent, but you’ve given me some food for thought. Our lives would be so much better without any of these things you listed. I like Chris’s idea of “adding” something to our lives. If you do something for 40 days, it can become a habit, and what better habit than to focus on the ONE who makes everything else possible. He’s the only One we need to please.

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    Meghan Carver February 26, 2014 at 8:02 am #

    I haven’t given up anything for Lent for years, but your post is inspiring. I especially LOVE the idea of giving up complaining. My household of six children could get really quiet! Thanks for this today, Karen.

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    pamela black February 26, 2014 at 8:21 am #

    Thank you for that very convicting post. OUCH! To be honest, I wish I had more reverence for Lent. My husband, who is Catholic, has given up soda every year for as long as I’ve known him. I once tried to give up chocolate (although, mostly it was just in support of his sacrifice)and that was very severe. 🙂
    But I know folks who give up Facebook entirely and say it helps center them for the season, and some who give up internet altogether. Yet, I find that my connections to other believers during Lent (as well as other seasons of faith) even through the wide world of the Web, are what strengthen my relationship with–and desire to grow closer to–Christ. Ann Voskamp, for example, has the most inspiring and reverent Lenten blog series. Her words guide me through and help me focus more on what it really means to observe a time of reflection and surrender. Her open heart makes me reach for more in my relationship with my Savior. So, I don’t think I will be giving that up, and I don’t believe I’m called to either.
    I guess, for me, there are probably plenty of things I should walk away from this Lenten season, but mostly I plan to focus less on those things and instead walk towards the One who gave His life for mine.

  7. Avatar
    Sondra Kraak February 26, 2014 at 9:36 am #

    The item on the list that strikes me the most is the last. It seems to be popular in evangelical Christianity and the Christian music industry right now to inspire the church through putting her down. I don’t think negativity toward Christ’s Bride is the way to inspire more faithfulness from her. Growing up a preacher’s kid, I really do love the church, even with all her struggles and frustrations.

    As for giving something up for Lent, while I love the church calendar, I haven’t been in the habit of doing this. I suppose it pulls me too much toward legalism, but your words have inspired me to seek the Lord and ask what he has for me in this season. I can’t use the temptation to legalism as an excuse not to obey the call to sacrifice!

    Thanks, Karen. Blessings on your Lent.

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    Patti Jo Moore February 26, 2014 at 10:12 am #

    Bless you for this post, Karen—excellent reminders for us all.
    For several years I gave up French fries—now that may not sound like much to some folks, but let me assure you it was a HUGE sacrifice on my part. 😉
    But this year I’m focusing on giving up my biggest struggle: WORRY 🙁 I’ve battled this for years, but am determined that the more I lean on my Lord, the less I will worry.
    Thank you again for sharing this today.

  9. Avatar
    Patrick E. Craig February 26, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    No Amazon Rank for 40 days???? Gee, Karen, I don’t know…

  10. Avatar
    Julie Sunne February 26, 2014 at 11:30 am #

    Appreciate your list, Karen. Gives more meaning to fasting during Lent.

  11. Avatar
    karen Ball February 26, 2014 at 11:40 am #

    Thank you for the wonderful thoughts you’ve shared, everyone. I, too, have found myself labeling the idea of “giving up” for Lent as legalism, but as I researched it to write this blog, I realized the only way it can become that is if I make it so. Remember, it’s not about what I HAVE to give up, it’s what am I willing to lay on the altar that I may redirect my focus on Him. And as I pondered that, I realized that for it it’s not legalism. It’s reverence.

    • Avatar
      Christina Suzann Nelson February 26, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

      I think I’ll go with the three Cs: comparing, complaining, and criticizing. The fourth C, caffeine, I’ll be keeping. Great post, Karen. Thanks.

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      Sondra Kraak February 26, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

      So true, Karen. Makes me think of Romans 12:1-2. A willing sacrifice is beautiful worship.

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    J.D. Maloy February 26, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

    “…what am I willing to lay on the altar that I may redirect my focus on Him.”

    It seems like there should be an obvious answer, but right now there isn’t. This season in life my kids consume me the most and, well, I can’t lay my mom duties down. Not that this is about what consumes me most. I get that it’s about redirecting focus on Him. Ooh, I just got really excited to pray about this!

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    Pastor Sam Peters February 26, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

    Love the article. For Lent, I’m not giving up anything. Instead I’m going to start doing a lot of things and I’m teaching my church how to do it too! I’m going to invest in people – they are awesome! I’m going to look for ways to be a blessing everyday! I’m going to sharpen my focus toward the things and people that matter. Just released my new book “It’s Time” based on Romans 12:1-8. The teaching from it has made a significant difference in my congregation. Really looking forward to Lent!

    • Avatar
      Jenny Leo February 27, 2014 at 9:34 am #

      Thanks for bringing this up, Karen. Having grown up in a liturgical church where Lent meant white-knuckling through some sacrifice usually involving food, I, too, prefer to think in terms of adding new practices or activities rather than giving things up. Technically I guess I’m giving up some things in order to focus on other things–less TV time for more study, for example, or less cash for lattes in order to give more away. (In short, less self-indulgence in order to pry my focus off my own self, for once.) But it doesn’t feel like that a sacrifice as much as a relief and a thorough housecleaning and a fresh start.

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    Terri W. February 26, 2014 at 7:38 pm #

    Karen, wonderful post. I’m not positive what I’m giving up yet, but it will be something and you’ve given me plenty to think about. I will also be adding a Lenten study to my days.

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    Maritha Burmeister March 2, 2014 at 11:04 am #

    Karen, what a refreshing perspective. The first thing on your list is what I think I will try to implement for lent. “Comparing your writing, your craft, your career or anything else to anyone else. Make contentment the key word and concept for 40 days”.

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