I did not grow up celebrating/practicing Lent in my childhood church; but I do think it's OK [nay, good!] to take positive things from other Christian denominations and incorporate them into your life, if they bring more focus on Christ and help you remember Him. :-)
I don't believe Lent should be about the stuff you give up or using it as a second chance for already-failed New Year's resolutions. Mark Sandlin's "Don't Get Caught In The Lent Trap" articulates this so well: "Assess what is getting between you and your relationship with God. (Here's a hint: it is much less likely to be your desire for sweets and much more likely to be your desire to keep up with the Joneses; it is much less likely to be the glass of red wine you have at dinner and much more likely to be the attitude you have towards those who are not like you or disagree with you). Give up something that really gets in the way of your relationship with God."
My Lenten focus is not giving up sweets for 40 days; it's on making positive strides that will strengthen my relationship with God that will not end just b/c it's Easter. [Totally NOT judging those who choose to give up something in that fashion, b/c it's NOT about the thing - it's about the heart behind it! :-)] What about giving up "my thing" for 40 days is going to extend beyond Easter? That's the litmus test for my heart re: whether it's a surface ritual I'm doing b/c church says it's a good idea or whether it's going to be something deep & lasting. :-) I keep thinking, myself, stuff like angry words, temper tantrums, negativity, rude sarcasm, etc. would mean more to give up than Starbucks. I'd start going back to Sbux - happily so, as my reward for being "so faithful" - on April 9th, if I chose that as "my thing". Sure, I'd miss it in March, but how would my heart for God be changed on April 9th? Even if I donated my Lenten Sbux money to the needy - which would be awesome for that short time! - I wouldn't keep it up beyond, and I'd just feel good about those past 40 days, you know? There's got to be a deeper component than just "the thing".
So yeah, my Lent isn't about hanging on for a 40-day challenge, after which I go back to life as it is today. I want to keep learning and going deeper with God, and I want that to last. :-)
For years now, I have enjoyed the free daily devotional "Journey to the Cross" during Lent (same group that does "Following the Star" at Advent :-)) and will continue to focus on it this year, as well.
I've also come across some great ideas for Lent with the kids! I don't know how ambitious we'll(I'll) be - not that they're hard, it's just consistency has never been my strong suit :-P - but I still wanted to share:
I'm thinking about doing the jellybean jars one mom suggested on Dannah Gresh's (Secret Keeper Girl) FB where my kids will earn jellybeans for good deeds. Then on Easter, when their jellybean jars are still lacking, we will fill them to the brim with white jellybeans, representing Christ's grace, which we can never earn. We are also going to make our Resurrection Rolls on Easter. I adore the Almsgiving sticker crosses and the Crown of Thorns that Amanda blogged about, and I'm considering Janna's red dots.
What about y'all?
Closing with a Lenten prayer from Sir Francis Drake, 16th century:
Disturb us, O Lord
when we are too well-pleased with ourselves
when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little, because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, O Lord
when with the abundance of things we possess,
we have lost our thirst for the water of life
when, having fallen in love with time,
we have ceased to dream of eternity
and in our efforts to build a new earth,
we have allowed our vision of Heaven to grow dim.
Stir us, O Lord
to dare more boldly, to venture into wider seas
where storms show Thy mastery,
where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.
In the name of Him who pushed back the horizons of our hopes
and invited the brave to follow.