Growing up in a Lutheran family, Lent was a significant aspect of the Liturgical year. While we discussed it in church, Sunday School, and Youth Group, my family did not partake in Lenten rituals at home. There was no ‘givings up’ or ‘takings on’. This was not a reflection of our belief in Christianity, just not a tradition kept in daily life. Because we were descendants from German Lutherans, I suspect that it was seen as “too Catholic” for some of my ancestors, and dropped.

It was not until I joined the Belfry: Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry in college that I began the practice of giving up and taking on for Lent. Both years I gave up soda. I enjoyed this, although I did slip up a couple of times (unintentionally!). I did it for health and money reasons. While soda is not completely out of my diet now, I do drink it less. I have come to understand the damage that over-consumption of soft drinks does to my body, as well as the amount of money I save by ordering a water instead of soda with dinner. The discipline of refraining from soda during Lent has contributed to this lifestyle change.

This year I wanted a challenge for Lent. So I have decided to forsake meat for Lent 2017. I grew up with a Midwestern diet. A dinner without meat is no meal at all. Breakfast certainly can be meatless, you can get away with a meatless lunch. But whenever my Grandmother or Dad made dinner, meat had to be present. This Midwestern diet also ties in to the fact that my paternal family were farmers, raising corn, hogs, and cattle. Vegetarianism is looked down upon, and even my siblings and I raised livestock bound for slaughter as Future Farmers of America projects in high school. This background makes my choice non-conventional, as well as those previously mentioned anti-Catholic German Lutheran ancestors would look at me with skepticism.

So then, why meat? It is a challenge. I eat meat all the time, so I want to give up something that will make me consider why I am participating in Lent regularly. And because I have meals every day, meat is a good option. Another reason is for expense. I am participating in a year of simple living, which means a simple living stipend. Cutting out meat will save on my grocery bill. I also like the “traditional” aspect of giving up meat. It has been practiced by Christians for centuries. Father Mike Schmitz explains the reasons on bulldogcatholic.org. According to him, between meat being a luxury to our ancestors, its associations with feasts and parties, and the simple fact that it tastes good, made meat a prime candidate to be forgone during Lenten Fridays, Ash Wednesday, and Good Friday. I am a sucker for tradition, so I am interested in taking on this practice for Lent.

So that is what I am “giving up”, what am I “taking on”? I want to learn how meat production affects our planet. I want to look into books, articles, and films that research this issue. I want to learn the pros and cons to grass fed, local, organic, sustainable, factory farms, genetic modifications. A lot of those terms are thrown around, and I want to gain a nuanced understanding of them, and which would be best for my diet after Lent. If anyone reading this article has any recommendations on books or documentaries I should check out, I appreciate if you let me know in the comment section below!

I also want to learn how meat should best fit into my diet for health reasons. As I mentioned in some previous blogs, I am trying to become more healthy. I have been very good about going to the gym, and I exercise twice a week during my self-defense class. But because I am so tired after my workouts, I usually do not cook my meals. I want to find some really delicious, healthy, and wallet-friendly vegetarian recipes to enjoy for the next forty days.

Being at the Belfry and LEVN will present little temptations to break Lent, as we always have vegan or vegetarian options with our meals, which I appreciate. I wrote this post on the night before Shrove Tuesday. The Belfry hosted its annual Pancake dinner. Having pancakes before Lent was another tradition which I didn’t do growing up, but have since discovered. I never pass up an opportunity for pancakes!

I will give updates on this experience in my next blog post! I hope everyone has a fulfilling and meaningful Lenten season. As I wish you luck on your giving ups and takings on, please keep me in your prayers as well!

– Mackenzie

Lutheran Social Services