Five For Friday: The Ways I’ve Failed at Lent

photo credit: DocChewbacca Picnic at Ueno Park via photopin (license)

I’m kind of crappy at being Christian.

I have a lot of the New Testament stuff down pat. I often turn the other cheek. I love you all the way Jesus loves me. I really, really like parables. And Paul’s letters. The dude can write. The old-school stuff gets me, every time, though.

I wear a shirt and tie for Easter, get all reflective when we sing “Silent Night” at Christmas Eve mass, and back when I was a Catholic, I would eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday like a good disciple.

Some areas have proven troublesome for me, in my fifth official decade, B.C. I sometimes root against the New Orleans Saints and Notre Dame. I’d rather eat cookies and play disc golf after church than attend a committee meeting.

And I sometimes often do the sign of the cross Mary Katherine Gallagher-style.

Forgive me Spirit in the Sky – I’m a work in progress. But as the song says, Jesus is just all right, and he understands, in all his New Testament tolerance. I believe that. I particularly struggle in the Lenten season.

A Lenten primer (you heathens)

For the uninitiated, Lent is 40 days preparation for Easter.

Not painting eggs. It means something different to everyone. It’s most famous for the sacrifice of alcohol, soda, cursing, chocolate – you know, the things that give us the most pleasure. I knew a dude in college who gave up his bed for Lent.

That’s 40 days sleeping on the floor. I know Jesus has a wink and thumbs up for creativity on that one.

No one can top the Prince of Peace. His 40 days in the desert without food, water, or spring training updates, punctuated by a visit from El Diablo … God’s son set a pretty mean standard. It’s like Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game. Only bigger.

I’ve narrowed my failures to five. Jesus will get a kick out of it. When I get to Heaven, he’ll put an arm around me, introduce me to George Carlin, Alexander the Great and Natasha Richardson, and say “hey y’all, you have to hear this!”

Maybe Paul and I can write a blog together.

Forgive me Lord, for I failed at giving up:

1. Soda

photo credit: Chris Blakeley via photopin cc

I don’t try this one anymore, but in my youth, it was my staple. My dad would reward my gut-wrenching sacrifice with either a fifth of root beer or a beautiful six-pack of root beer bottles on Easter Sunday.

During my “sacrifice,” I had school assignments to struggle through, deadlines to meet, and other pressing matters, so I leaned heavily on tall drive-thru sweet teas to get me through. And got a good dose of type 2 diabetes free, with purchase.

2. Beef

Imagine 960 consecutive hours without a sliver of cheeseburger on my lips.

Cruel and ridiculous. But I would do it. No beef. I felt like Ghandhi. But early in my sports-writing career, I attended a media luncheon for the state basketball playoffs, in Hickory, during Lent. At a steak house. (No, it didn’t occur to me.)

Before I knew it, a waitress had plopped a plate with a steak on it so vast it rolled off both ends of the plate.

(Yes, I think about it often.) Rather than send it back, and be, you know, rude and unappreciative of God’s mercy, I savored every delicious bite in thanks to Jesus for creating cows, and promised a do-over. Starting tomorrow.

3. Fast Food

photo credit: mitanei Scull Cup – Train doodle via photopin (license)

Stock prices suffered during Lent for McDonald’s, Burger King and Taco Bell.

I put them through the sacrificial experience of Lent. The resourceful mind my Heavenly Father blessed me with helped to set the boundaries: If a restaurant has a drive-thru, it’s fast food, and forbidden.

Good thing the Chick-fil-A in the mall didn’t have a drive-thru. Yes, I considered it the sacred cow. If only I used my powers for good, and not evil …

4. Cursing

I’ve a bit of a potty mouth around grown ups sometimes.

I try to keep it holy around the kids, and I do a much better job of washing up the language around my soccer teams. It’s not cool when your team gets smacked on a Saturday, and the coach drops blue language all around the pitch.

Within 2 minutes behind the wheel, or two holes on the disc golf course, I sound like Adam Sandler in “Happy Gilmore.”

5. Being kind

I’m a nice dude. I tipped a hair stylist 20 percent after she butchered my hair and shaved my head to fix it. I worked free hours in the middle of the night for every newspaper I’ve ever worked for. I even share pizza with my kids.

But, not unlike Happy Gilmore, sometimes, people just set me off, and in the real world, a dude can’t pull a jerk’s shirt over his head and punch him in the ribs.

Forgive me, Heavenly Father, as I admonish the guy who dropped a can of tuna at Food Lion, and left it. Or the schmucks who parked in the fire lane to preserve an extra 37 steps it would have taken for them to park with the rest of us good citizens.

I’m sorry for disturbing thoughts I had about the woman who saw me behind her in line at the 12-items-or-less checkout, glanced at the bottle of Coke Zero and frozen pizza in my hand, then proceeded to unload her 72 items from her cart.

God, your children get on my last nerve. But I promise to muffle my bad words. To love my illegally-parked neighbors as you’ve loved me. And I promise, Lord, that I’ll give my heart-felt best at the next pancake dinner you set before me.




  1. letizia says:

    Giving up his bed for Lent- I never heard of that one before!

    1. Talk about sacrifice – I’m sure the Big Guy took note of that kid.

  2. ilene says:

    So what would the church suggest as lent for someone like me, who hasn’t touched hamburger in 30 years, drinks alcohol maybe once every 3 months, and traded in Diet Coke for purified water? A friend has suggested that I try a reverse lent – take on a bad habit instead. Chain smoke and knock back tequila shots for 40 days. I wonder if I could get the church to back me up on that one.

    1. At the very least, that would give you something to give up the next year! I wanted once to give up broccoli. Or scooping cat litter. Granted, I gave a pretty narrow focus of Christian sacrifice, but I don’t play golf or anything dastardly like that, so I have to write from where I live, you know?

      I wonder if you kicked the purified water and went to chemical-laden energy drinks if the Big Guy would note the degree of your sacrifice.

      Wow, I feel like I’m back in college in one of my Religious Studies courses.

  3. Even though I left the Catholic Church a few years ago, I still find myself giving something up for Lent. My go-to is cursing and I fail 20 minutes after Lent starts. Every.single.year. I’m still trying so I am hoping I get points for that.

    1. It’s a good practice, no matter how religious we are. It’s like non-Irish wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day, only nothing like that. You know what I mean.

      I always wondered if Jesus said “me!” when he stubbed his toe.

  4. Chris Carter says:

    I never give up stuff… isn’t that awful??? Never have. I’m conceited and selfish that way, I suppose. Perhaps, I should seriously consider doing this Lent thing. It’s truly the right thing to do… but I don’t want to give up anything that makes me happy- and by golly, there’s a lot of bad stuff I do that makes me happy!!! At least you have TRIED and have your pure and lovely intention, sweet Eli!!! You totally score points for that… 🙂 BTW- I’m all about Paul and you’re right… that dude can WRITE! HA! Love it. 😉

    1. Paul would have like a million followers. I’d want him to guest blog about who is better, the Anaheim Angels or the San Diego Padres.

      You already do good things for people, but maybe you could just add something. I like that concept better, anyway, than sacrifice. Random acts of kindness especially rock.

  5. Oh how funny. We follow Eastern traditions which, typically means no meat for 40 days among other things but being pregnant, I have fallen so short. I have tried the no cursing but I live in a Middle Eastern country where people SUCK at driving so, that is out the window. I have cut out chocolate and grain, but being a nutritionist, it’s not THAT big of a sacrifice so I have decided to buy nothing new as far as cosmetics or skincare or anything else unnecessary and see if that’s an ok “sacrifice”…. Tough days ahead…:)

    1. Being pregnant, I’m pretty sure all 12 disciples would agree that you’re exempt from the meat sacrifice, and welcome to use curse words at the slightest provocation.

      Are Middle Easterners worse drivers than Southerners at the first hint of snow?

      I like your cosmetics embargo. This from the guy whose only venture into the industry is 99-cent shave cream.

  6. “To obey is better than sacrifice…” 1 Sam. 15:22

    1. I can dig it. I’ll give Him a little glory and still do my best to help support the American soda industry. Amen.

  7. LOL! Great post. In my opinion, you turning your cheek and being Christian is a much bigger deal to Heavenly Father than giving up soda or beef!

    1. Thanks Jamie! Yeah, I think God would rather I play nice and set a good example, even if I do it with Coke Zero breath. (I like how you put it much better).

  8. hilary says:

    Love it… then again I frown on organized religion… how is skipping soda for a month really going to matter????

    1. I prefer unorganized religion, actually … in fact, I’ve begun having micro-discussions with the family in lieu of going to church and mumbling the psalms with dozens of others. Like Abraham Lincoln said, “when I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad. THAT is my religion.”

      And yeah, if I drink soda during Lent am I not appreciating God’s creation in some twisted and fizzy fashion?

      Thanks Hilary – just found your blog, and really like it.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.