Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Season of Lent


Great and holy God
awe and reverence
fear and trembling
do not come easily to us
for we are not
Old Testament Jews
or Moses
or mystics
or sensitive enough.
Forgive us
for slouching into Your presence
with little expectation
and less awe
than we would eagerly give a visiting dignitary.
We need
neither Jehovah nor a buddy -
neither "the Great and Powerful Oz" nor "the man upstairs."
Help us
to want what we need...
and may the altar of our hearts
tremble with delight
at your visitiation

--Frederick Ohler (USA/Contemporary)

Traditionally Lent is a season of sober, realistic reflection on our own lives and our need for a Savior. It is a time for turning away from anything that has kept us from God and for turning or returning to him. It is a time to pray that God renew our love for him and our dependence on him. -- Noel Piper

Until a few years ago, our family had never really thought much about Advent or Lent.  We're Baptist.  To be honest, those things sounded a little cookey to us.  We can be ridiculous that way.  We took a deep breathe and decided to give the Advent thing a "go", taking the weeks prior to Christmas to intentionally study the Christmas story and meditate on the beauty of what we would ultimately be celebrating on December 25.  The result?  It was a wonderful experience.  One we have since repeated for several years.  Our Christmas season was drastically altered from previous Decembers.  The joy real.  The worship heart-felt.  Our love for Jesus grew.  Our children were truly touched and were learning to understand the depth and majesty of Jesus coming to earth.  The story of the living God was coming alive.

We decided to give the "Lent" thing a whirl.  We were the first to admit that like Christmas, Easter would sort of land on us.  We'd walk into church, our hearts unprepared, and then try and take in within one church service the complexities and rich beauty of the cross and the resurrection.  Impossible.  We left kind of numb.  Perhaps a tad-bit moved.  But mostly overwhelmed and feeling a little let down.  Just as celebrating Advent completely changed Christmas for us, taking the weeks prior to Easter to really savor the story of Jesus' death and resurrection has been life changing.  The gospel.  God's great love for this world.  Our sin.  Redemption.  Salvation.  This undeserved gift.  What medicine for the soul.

art by hayden

We started Lent last night.  Yes.  Late.  As always.  By now, no one should be surprised.  Our family levels all playing fields.  Hopefully our inability to ever get it together will forever be an inspiration to others. 

We pile up on the couch.  We dive into this study.  We discuss.  We pray.  Sometimes the boys are great.  Sometimes we want to strangle them.  Sometimes it feels like something holy has happened.  The boys ask great questions.  They pray a prayer that makes a momma get teary eyed.  More often it feels like we're trying to teach ancient, beautiful truths to giggly, squirmy, squirrels.  We finish up and Aaron and I ask each other, "Why do we do this again?  Remind me?"  No matter how embarrassing our Lent study can be, I always fall back on this one truth:  It's probably good for our kids to hear their parents pray. 

Every year our goal is to do one devotional with the boys every week night.  The Pipers have a great, free study that can be used once a week (or the seven days prior to Easter).  We shoot for every weekday only because we know we're lame and some days we'll forget, or it won't work out, or right after dinner I'll look at a child and suddenly despise the length of their hair and vow to remedy the situation immediately.  Life is like that here.  We don't stress out if we miss days.  If anything, during Lent we simply confess that we're unfaithful.  We're sinful.  We're incredibly imperfect.  We need a Savior.  Isn't that the very thing we so desperately need to be reminded of during this season?  Makes me think of a beautiful post by Ann Voskamp about failing at Lent.  Perfect words for this season.  She has lots of great thoughts and resources on her blog for Lent.

When not with the squirrels, I'm reading Devotions for Lent and Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ.

In the past we've used this study with our kids.  Last year we simply read through the book, The Passion of Christ, Fifty Reasons He Came to Die.    

Here's a great list of children's books that talk about the concepts surrounding Easter.

Because I just can't stop myself (no matter how old the kids get) we make a play dough mountain on Good Friday. This year my family will have to knock it off with the eye rolling because Hudson baby is the perfect age to love this.  In your face, family.

"It’s not at all important whether we name this particular 40 days Lent. It’s not important whether we think in terms of a church calendar. There aren’t certain specified activities that must be done. Whatever we do or don’t do and whether or not we give a name to the season, at the end of 40 days, it will be Easter, the most important day of the year for a Christian. Will it sneak up on us, or will we have prepared our hearts?" -- Noel Piper


Imperfect said...

"Will it sneak up on us, or will we have prepared our hearts?"

It's a question I have to ask myself. Often Easter does sneak up on me, and I can feel I've missed the gravity and the awe and the celebration of the day. While I've never practiced Lent, I don't want to gloss over the significance of the resurrection this year.

Stopped by from Flower Patch Farmgirl, and I'm so glad I did.

Gwenn Mangine said...

I love this post. We're advent junkies in our family-- from way back when. But we've never done anything special for lent... hmmm. Now you've got me thinking.

mandi said...

Oh thank you for these links! Last year I kind of stumbled through- not really having any good resources. Just making stuff up as I went along!

Avey said...

I'm Lutheran - I kind of assumed every church observed Lent and Advent. I LOVE those times in the church year. I once heard them described as a marinade, and I've really loved that description.