But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Matthew 6:17-19, NIV (emphasis added)
What’s a good Baptist to do with Lent? We aren’t a terribly liturgical people by nature. Certainly we celebrate Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter and Christmas, but most of the ecclesiastical calendar slips by us without so much as a notice. In case you’re contemplating “doing something” for Lent this year, here’s a few things to get you started.
1. Fasting is Biblical
Fasting is a part of Christian practice. Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert. (Matt. 4:2) Fasting was a part of the commissioning of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:2-3). Jesus said that when he had departed his disciples would fast. (Matt. 9:15) The Old Testament is full of examples of fasting, from Moses to Daniel, and the dramatic move of God’s Spirit as a result. While Lent doesn’t make an appearance in the Bible, fasting definitely does.
2. It doesn’t have to be chocolate
If giving up chocolate is the nudge you need to get you focused on Jesus, then away with ye, sweet temptation! But if you’re not much of a chocoholic in the first place, maybe that’s not the choice you should make. In today’s busy, attention-seeking world, it might help to think “What is it that steals my focus away from my relationship with Jesus?” Is it television? Sports? Business reports? Video games? Food? Exercise? Good works? (Sometimes the things that take our attention are good things!)
Spend some time discerning what little idols in your life might be sucking your attention away from connecting with Jesus, and consider using Lent as your pause button, allowing yourself to still your mind and eke out time with Jesus.
3. Sundays don’t count
Say what now? Sunday is the Lord’s day—how could it not count?! It doesn’t count because Sunday is the Lord’s day. Every Sunday is a mini-Easter. No matter how austere the Lenten fast, Sundays are a day off—a day to live in the beauty, majesty and relief of the Resurrection.
4. It’s not the time to start your diet
It’s an easy mistake to make. Like January 1, Lent might feel like a new beginning—the impetus to get that pesky overeating under control. But weight loss isn’t the goal of Lent. If food has become the idol in your life that has replaced your reliance on Jesus, then sure—it’s a good time to cut back. But if your “success” at Lent is losing pounds, then you may have missed the point.
5. Don’t beat yourself up
If you fail, don’t waste time on self-flagellation. Beating yourself up isn’t the point, and even when we’re fasting, we’re still people of the New Covenant, saved by the grace of Jesus. So if or when you allow the distractions of life to creep in, acknowledge, turn around and start again. Sometimes learning how to return to our Beloved when we’ve messed up is the most important lesson.
BONUS PANCAKE RECIPE
If you’ve decided to celebrate Lent, then that makes this Pancake Tuesday! As a bonus, here is a tried-and-true no-fail pancake recipe that is sure to delight. And yes, you can definitely have pancakes for dinner.
You will need: A large bowl, a small bowl, a whisk (or fork will do in a pinch), measuring cups and spoons and a frying pan or griddle.
Mix the following in a large bowl:
1 c. flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar (or honey, maple syrup, agave, etc.)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Mix the following in a small bowl:
2 eggs, beaten lightly (you can substitute 2 T. ground flax seed mixed with 2 T. hot water if you’re allergic)
2 c. buttermilk or sour milk (add a tablespoon of vinegar to normal milk) You can also use almond, oat or other milks—they just won’t be quite as fluffy.
2 tablespoons oil or melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Add 2 mashed bananas to the wet ingredients OR a cup of applesauce and a teaspoon of cinnamon, OR lemon rind and blueberries, OR strawberries and chocolate chips.
Pour wet ingredients into dry and whisk gently until just combined. Pour ¼ cups of batter into a preheated, medium heat pan. Flip once when bubbles start to appear and DON’T press down on them.
Serve with butter, maple syrup, bacon, sausages, yogurt or fruit. The sky’s the limit here, folks.