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Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Giving Up for Lent by Rosemary Johnson

What are you giving up for Lent?  Are you giving up anything for Lent?  Should we give up anything for Lent?

“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”  Joel 2:12-17.

This was read out in our church on Ash Wednesday.  I believe we ought to make adjustments to our routines, to remind ourselves that we are leading up to the most important festival in the church’s year.  After all, Jesus prepared himself by fasting forty days and forty nights in the wild.  Translating this into twenty-first century life is challenging.  Alcohol and chocolate seem to be the most common things to abstain from, although some do something positive at Lent, for instance, a daily good turn, or charity donations.  I’ve done that too.  Some years ago, I opted to say extra prayers every morning… but I'm still doing it.   (It wouldn’t make sense to stop.)  To my mind, we should give up something non-essential in our lives.  Returning to that luxury is part of our Easter Day celebrations.

Photo of Author with Taj Mahal in Background

This year, Christian Aid has launched the Give it Up for Lent Campaign.  I have chosen to give up alcohol.  For me doing without booze for six weeks is a bigger deal than it should be.  I enjoy my wine o’clock, but, every evening I switch on my television to see people without food or medicine, without even a roof over their head, and that puts everything into perspective.  My fundraising page is here.  You’ll know you’ve got to the right page when you see this photo.  That’s me, taking a picture with my iPhone, with the Taj Mahal as a backdrop.  I'm not doing very well (although I do have a few promises on my sign-up sheet in church).  I’m useless at promotion.  If you can, please do sponsor me to support those in poverty.  (Christian Aid receive tax back on Gift Aid, provided you yourself pay tax.)  I can assure you that I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol since midnight on Shrove Tuesday.  And there are only three days to go. 

My husband, Bret, has given up meat, fish as well as alcohol, although he’s not doing the Christian Aid thing.  (I’m a vegetarian.)  If you are able to make a donation, please think of it as being for both of us.  He’s stuck to his resolve, even though he comes from a northern family, who eat meat, more meat and fish and chips.  I am so proud of him. 

The Giving Up for Lent thing has also been a useful tool for raising the Christian profile, in other words, a useful talking point, especially with non-Christians.  Why?  Who says you have to give up alcohol?  They don’t?  So why are you doing it?  Can you drink on Sundays?  People are genuinely interested in how Lent works and respect me for my modern fast, even my atheistic son with the Muslim girlfriend.  ‘Noted’ was his laconic response by text when I told him, but, when husband and I went out with them in London, but they took us to a non-licensed vegetarian restaurant. 

Happy Easter.  And don’t miss the Easter Tuesday deadline for the Alfie Dog/ ACW Crime Writing competition.  That’s Easter Tuesday, 18 April.  More information on the ACW website.

Rosemary Johnson has had many short stories published, in print and online, amongst other places, in Alfie Dog Fiction, The Copperfield Review, Circa and Every Day Fiction.  In real life, she is a part-time IT tutor, living in Suffolk with her husband and cat.  Her cat supports her writing by sitting on her keyboard and deleting large portions of text.

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