Preparation for fasting and feasting

ash berries - life PJ

I belong to a faith tradition that makes no specific preparation for Lent within its practices.

It’s a relatively new thing for me to take note of Lent and consider how to prepare my heart for the journey.

And I’ve come to realise I cannot fully undertake it without surrender, intention and deliberation.

Life itself invites us into a gentle awareness of days and seasons of the heart, an opening to the sacred within the secular.

As nights draw in and days become dark and cold, we may gather dead, dry and dying plants together to make a bonfire. From the embers grey ash rises, ripe for garden mulch.

Ash is precursor to new life, new growth. A potent symbol of the dying and rising we experience within.

Likewise, Lent provides opportunity to sift out dead wood we’ve unwittingly gathered over time, consign it to death and seek the restoration and renewal God offers us through a transformed mind and heart.

Ash Wednesday

Absent from this temple

is smudge and ash of grey

reminder of and reason

why our Saviour came

But deep within this heart

remains a cloak of black

as sin still crouches there

ready to ensnare, attack

Deeper still within this soul

shines a Light without limit

where God’s Love resides

bringing wholeness to my spirit

And as I journey forth

leaning closer into Lent

my value and my worth

become ever heaven-sent


You can’t get a better companion to walk you through Lent and into Holy Week than Malcolm Guite as he invites us to become immersed in poetic reflection with ‘Word in the Wilderness’.

I’ve also downloaded a pdf file: ‘Hungering for Life – Creative Exercises for Lent’ compiled by Christine Sine, with Jean Andrianoff. Here, contrary to the usual emphasis on fasting, we are being asked to consider what we are hungering for during Lent.

You can find myriad resources for Lent on the Godspace blog, including prayers, ways of celebrating with children, musical and creative resources. Click here to discover them. Ignatian Spirituality also has 10 great ideas for Lent here.

This preparation will hopefully lead to deeper reflection on new life rising from death rather than focussing most on loss and death itself.

The words below speak into our need to focus on the positive. They came from ‘Morning, Noon and Night – Poems and Prayers’ and can be found in various forms in Lenten reflections. I’d love to hear how you prepare for Lent and make space for Easter.

“Fast from criticism, and feast on praise.

Fast from self-pity, and feast on joy.

Fast from ill-temper, and feast on peace.

Fast from resentment, and feast on contentment.

Fast from jealousy, and feast on love.

Fast from pride, and feast on humility.

Fast from selfishness, and feast on service.

Fast from fear, and feast on faith.” 

ash fast and feast - PJ

16 thoughts on “Preparation for fasting and feasting

  1. For many years I did not belong to a church which practiced LENT, either. I wasn’t taught the way of sacrifice it provides. I love the tradition of giving up for God, to get more God. 😉 I love the symbolism, Joy. Your words are a beautiful offering of the grace that is a sacrifice of praise.

    • Dawn, these words jumped out at me from your comment: “the tradition of giving up for God, to get more God.” Yes, that’s exactly how I see it too. Because I sense that Lent isn’t meant to be an exercise in self-control and deprivation purely for its own sake. In focussing mind and heart more mindfully in God’s direction, we lean closer, hear better, and gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of just what Christ’s sacrifice on the cross must have cost Him and how it affects our whole lives.
      Your insightful words have impacted me more than you know! May you also experience the wonder of the joy, hope and grace waiting for you each day, not just at the end of Lent. Bless you for stopping by,my friend. 🙂

    • Laurie, we are able to thrill to the wonder of “a Light without limit” on a daily basis. And reflecting on these things at this darker, more dismal time of year for many gives us renewed hope and gratitude for God’s goodness. Thank you for sharing my feelings that this is “so heartening and humbling to think this is available to the likes of us.” Amen, my friend!

  2. I, too, find hope in there being a “Light without limit.” Also in how God brings us out of the ashes and restores and renews us. I love the “Fast from” and “Feast on” statements, too. Thank you for this encouragement today, Joy. Blessings and hugs to you!

    • We hold onto the hope of being brought “out of the ashes” as God restores and renews us while we’re still going through the flames and feel them burning our flesh. Fires of adversity will one day be as ashes and God will bring beauty out of them all. Trudy, may you be encouraged as you feast more on God’s great love for you rather than on the painful past He is bringing you through. Blessings and hugs!

  3. “Ash is precursor to new life, new growth. A potent symbol of the dying and rising we experience within.” I love this! I had never thought of ash being both representative of something dying, but also something growing! I had no idea you could use ash as mulch. Very interesting, indeed! I guess when one thing in our life feels like it’s dying, God uses it to open up another door of opportunity. He never wastes the ashes, but exchanges them for beauty. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Alisa. I’m glad you’ve come away with a fresh perspective on ash! You say it well with these words: “when one thing in our lives feels like its dying, God uses it to open another door of opportunity.” Yes, He does. Although we may take a while to mourn the loss of our hopes and plans until we see and sense the invitation before us to view them as He does. Not a crumb of our life experiences is wasted. There is always hope of renewal and restoration when our lives are in God’s hands. Beauty for ashes, yes indeed! Bless you.

  4. What a beautiful post, Joy. And I LOVE that final poem you shared. Such great things to be fasting and feasting from.

    To be honest, I haven’t seriously considered Lent in years. Growing up in the Catholic tradition, I received the cross on my forehead each Ash Wednesday. I didn’t understand its significance until years later. Now, I’m praying about what this Lenten season need to look like for me, and how to invite our boys into it as well. Your words here give me some good direction.

    Have a great weekend, my friend!

    • Hi Jeanne. I’m glad you found some soul nourishment here! I love that final poem too and have seen it in various guises. I hope you discover creative ways to introduce your boys to Lent and its implications. The Godspace blog has some really good suggestions for celebrating Lent with children. Happy hunting! Have a blessed weekend, my friend. ❤

    • Hi Mari-Anna! I’m pleased you liked the resources I’ve shared. May you also find your heart warmed and your faith enriched during this season of reflection. Blessings to you! 🙂

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