It's now Lent, and my friend Jana Riess blogged about what she's giving up for Lent - shopping. She has a nice plug for Lynne Baab's new book Fasting, which is certainly appropriate Lenten reading. Jana comments, "there's an interesting and unexpected chapter about 'other fasts' like the one Phil and I are doing. Some of the things she suggests are listening only to special sacred music during Lent, or going on a media fast, or taking a longer amount of time each day for Scripture study and personal prayer. The book profiles one extrovert who uses Lent for time alone, and a woman who gave up cosmetics because she felt she had too much pride in her appearance."
Jana also mentions that Lauren Winner tried to give up reading for Lent, but couldn't do it. I don't think I could do that either. On the other hand, one thing that has been a bit obsessive for me lately is that I keep on getting stacks of books from the library. Whenever I see a new book that looks interesting, I click over to my library's website and reserve it. Sometimes I get a dozen or more items a week. The result is that I end up not reading the books already on my nightstand. After all, the due date puts some urgency into reading the library books first, and the books I own just sit.
So for Lent this year, I will stop reserving books from the library. (I'll still pick up those that I have on reserve that come in, but no new holds for the next few weeks.) And I will focus on reading the books I already have, some of which have been there for months, even years. At the top of my list are two books that are intended for Lenten reading, commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The first is Miroslav Volf's Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace, which was last year's Anglican Lenten study book, and the second is Samuel Wells's Power & Passion: Six Characters in Search of Resurrection, which is new for this year. Volf's book has been sitting by my bed since Urbana, along with the other books I picked up there, Philip Jenkins's The New Faces of Christianity and Mark Noll's The Civil War as a Theological Crisis. Without new library books coming in to distract me, I'll try to get through all of these and others that have been piling up.
The other area of my life that has been a bit overconsuming lately has been time spent in the blogosphere. A few months ago I thought I might give up blogging for Lent. Then I started wondering about that, because one of the things I appreciate about the blogosphere is the relational networks and connections. So to drop it entirely might feel like giving up certain friendships for Lent, and that doesn't seem right. On the other hand, I waste a lot of time just surfing and going from blog to blog, and much of that kind of blog reading and commenting does seem superfluous.
It's tricky, since there's overlap and it's hard to tell what kind of blog activity is healthy and what is counterproductive, but for Lent this year I'm going to try to scale back my time in the blogosphere. I'll still try to post somewhat regularly, but my posts may well be cut and pasted from pre-existing material, like my NPC seminars, or I may find alternatives for content - my wife just sent me a draft of a guest post that we'll post soon.
And one more area that I'm giving up for Lent is eBay, both buying and selling. (I just got a purple star for having 500 positive feedback. Yahoo!) My philosophy is that I only buy stuff on eBay when I have earned money from selling stuff on eBay, so the money in my PayPal account feels like free money, but it's still a sphere of consumerism that I'll give up this Lent. (Ron and Deb Rienstra have a nice post about their Lenten plans. Oops, does that count as blog surfing? Drat.) What are you giving up for Lent?