Having been raised Mormon, I actually had never heard of Lent until I went to college. I vividly remember the first time I was working at the Music Library on Ash Wednesday and saw students coming in with ashes on their forehead. It's interesting to learn more about other religions, and I'm often surprised at how different all the permutations of even one religion, such as Christianity, can be.
This year, during the first week of Lent, I asked Chris if he had observed Lent while growing up. We had a discussion about Lent and its purpose, and then he challenged me to give something up. He suggested I give up books, except for religious books. I agreed to this, providing he picked the book. He chose the Bible.
I have never read the Bible, but I am familiar with all the highlights from a good 10 years of Sunday school. I've started and stopped several times in my adult life. Chris suggested that I start with the Gospels in the New Testament, which I did, but I admit that I was playing a lot more Sudoku than usual and not really doing much reading for the first few weeks. Then, at the end of March, I picked up my iPhone and noticed that someone had left the app store open on free Bible app. So I downloaded it and picked a 90 reading plan. And I've read my alloted amount or more every day since.
30 days in, I really like reading the Bible on my phone - I like that I have a specific amount to read each day, but can choose to read more if I like. I particularly like that I can choose from a variety of translations - even though I've always been partial to the King James version, I have to admit that that was one of the reasons I never made it very far. It just makes me work too hard. I also prefer reading on my phone because I don't get distracted by the multiple column layout of my print version, and all the footnotes. I can just focus on the verse and chapter at hand.
I also didn't read comic books or magazines, but allowed the newspaper and blogs. I found that I really started craving a novel after about 2 weeks. I missed my books! But this exercise has really emphasized how much a proportion of my entertainment now comes from video games, so it really wasn't like I didn't have anything to do. There were maybe a handful of nights that I just really wanted to read something and that's what I would have preferred above all else. I know that I don't read nearly as much as I used to, and I actually want to make more of a dent in my to-read list this year than I did last year. Of course, it doesn't help that I keep adding more books.
Now that I can read anything again, I've got a book club book to read for next week (Pictures at a Revolution) and a new summer science fiction book club selection to start soon (Greg Bear's Moving Mars, which has been on my to-read list for a while), but I intend to keep to my Bible reading plan as well.
This has been an interesting experience. I'm not sure I'll give something up for Lent every year (after all, Chris didn't give anything up!), but I think I learned a few things, and I certainly think it's a valuable exercise. The timing is fortuitously soon after New Year's Resolutions, and I think most people, religious or no, could stand to review their lives and give up something that seems important for a couple of months.