Monday, February 13, 2012

Lenten Season

"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

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-ish.  To be honest, those things sounded a little cookey to us.  We can be ridiculous that way.  We took a deep breath 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 beginning to understand the depth and majesty of Jesus coming to earth.  The story of the living God was coming alive for each of us.

We decided to give the "Lent" thing a whirl too.  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 the complexities and rich beauty of the cross and the resurrection during one church service.  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 a time of much-needed growth.  The gospel.  God's great love for this world.  Our sin.  Redemption.  Salvation.  God's Kingdom that is breaking forth.  This undeserved gift.  What the resurrection means in our everyday life.  Focusing on these ideas for 40 days straight has always brought about a lot of new thoughts and new life.

art by hayden

This year we are using Chris Seay's A Place at the Table: 40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor during the season of Lent.  This will be a 40 day focus on the life of Jesus, the crucifixion, the resurrection, but ultimately how those realities make a difference in our lives and a difference in this world.

"The ultimate purpose of Jesus is not only individual salvation and pardon for sins but also the renewal of this world, the end of disease, poverty, injustice, violence, suffering, and death."  
-- Tim Keller in Prodigal God

We're going to spend 40 days asking God to bring the truths of the resurrection alive in our family, and asking Him what it means to serve the Jesus that the Bible describes.

"In Matthew 25, Jesus describes Judgment Day.  Many will stand there and call him, "Lord," but Jesus says, stunningly, that if they had not been serving the hungry, the refugee, the sick, and the prisoner, then they hadn't been serving him."  
-- Tim Keller in Prodigal God

The Jesus of the Bible makes me nervous at times.  His teachings make me uncomfortable.  I don't understand all of them, and will never pretend to, but Aaron and I are at this place where we can't pretend them away either.  We can't pretend away this fact:  a lot of what we have called "serving God" in our past was in reality serving ourselves.  We excelled at claiming to serve Jesus while not really caring about the things Jesus cares about.  We know that's our tendency every single day.  We're ready to ask Him what it looks like to sup with the pull up an extra invite the outcast in.  We want to be found on the journey of trying to understand Jesus and His life better.

Lent starts February 22.

"Why on earth would God Himself embrace a season of fasting?  It might be because He knows some deep truths about the world and about humanity.  God's decision again and again to give up His power - from when He came to earth in the form of a crying baby, to when He fasted in the desert, to when He allowed people to torture and execute Him - teaches us something very important: the world will not be changed when we ascent to power.  God's kingdom will not be furthered because an evangelical Christian resides in the White House or the highest court in the land.  God changes the world through humility and service.  It is a subversive tactic, yet highly effective.

To be strong Christians, we must embrace weakness.  It is when we accept our humanity, when we are humbled by our fallibility, when we live vulnerably, that God is strong within us.  Jesus was lowly, humble, even despised. He did not seek comfort.  He did not even have a place to lay His head.  He had every opportunity to pursue power yet didn't.  The world's systems and its currency did not hold value for Jesus.  He  had a vision of a different sort of kingdom."  -- Seay, from A Place at the Table


We put Hudson to bed.  We pile up on the couch with our older boys.  We dive into a short study.  We discuss.  We pray.  Sometimes the boys are great.  Sometimes we want to strangle them all.  Sometimes it feels like something holy has happened.  More often it feels like we're trying to teach ancient, beautiful truths to giggly, bouncy balls.  We finish up and Aaron and I ask each other, "Why do we do this again?  Remind me?"

Every year our goal is to do one devotional with the boys every week night.  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 and inconsistent.  We need a Savior.  Isn't that the very thing we so desperately need to be reminded of during this season?

Aaron and I are thinking through what to "give up" for Lent.  What will help us to focus? What will remind us to think?  Specifically this year, what will turn our hearts toward the poor, and help us prayerfully and intentionally look for opportunities to be near the broken?  Ultimately this is about our hearts and not about what we "give up."  We are asking God for divine rescue.


Reliving the Passion.  This one is best for grown ups or older kids.

Lenten Lights by the Pipers.  This is a free resource.  It can be used once a week or every day during the week before Easter.  This one contains deep spiritual truths, but is written in a simple way.  It has worked well for a range of ages in our house.

Why do Lent:  Why a Failing Lent Actually Succeeds post by Ann VosKamp with more lent resources.  Ann VosKamp has a Lenten study, and it's wonderful for families.  I don't know if the link has been released this year.

Family Devotions for Lent.  This one is pretty simple.  A scripture, a prayer, and something tangible to "do."

50 Reasons Jesus Came to Die by John Piper.  The pdf of the book is FREE.  We have used this book before, but Aaron would read each day's reading and then paraphrase for our kids.  I liked reading it on my own that year.

Thoughts on Lent by The Village Church (you'll have to "pick your campus."  Just pick a random one...then the article opens up.)

Lenten study from The Village Church.  This is a free study that contains five devotionals for each week of Lent.  The Sunday reading is short, and the four other passages to use during the week are simply scripture passages to read and meditate upon.

Sign up for a daily devotional during the Lenten season from Tim Keller's church, Redeemer Presbyterian.
This is our first year to sign up for these daily devotions.  Tim Keller is the author of books like Generous Justice and Prodigal God.  Both books have encouraged and convicted us deeply.  We're excited to learn from him during the season of Lent.  His heart for gospel-motivated justice inspires us.

List of Easter books for kids from Noel Piper

Playdough Mountain to make with kids on Good Friday

A Place at the Table:  40 Days of Solidarity with the Poor.  This is the study we're using this year.  It contains daily readings and short videos for each day (you can find those here.)


Kim said...

"The Jesus of the Bible makes me nervous. His words make me sweaty. I don't understand all of them, and will never pretend to but Aaron and I are at this place where we can't pretend them away." Amen and amen! Thanks for sharing this and your heart, Heather.

Michelle said...

I found you when searching for other bloggers doing 40 Days of Solidarity. We are also doing it this year and boy, I can relate to a lot of what you wrote. :) Looking forward to 40 days of preparing our hearts before Easter.

The Princess and the Tot said...

I have not met personally met you (found your blog many months ago through Yonder Way Farm), but I feel so honored to call you my sister in Christ. I love your transparency and pray with you that you will find such deep intimacy with Christ through this wonderful Lenten season.

Jenn said...

Thanks for your very real depiction of how it goes when trying to do devotions with those wiggly little bundles of energy we call kids, when they are distracted by every shiny thing in the room. Even when it's not shiny. We are at the Baptist end of the spectrum, too, but have tried in the past to do Advent and Lenten devotions. We just can't get it to work, like EVER. I was finally able to do Advent with my youngest, boy who is 10. But the older two? *shudder*

I'm looking forward to seeing how your experience goes, and hopefully pick up a few tips.

Staci Kennelly said...

I am doing this book for lent this year for the first time. It is good to know I can include my kids. Thank you!

MacKenzie said...

One year in college I gave up sarcasm. I'm not gonna lie, it was really really hard and I failed - a lot. But it was very eye opening and gave me lots of chances to pray for forgiveness and examine my motives for my speech.

Tasha Via said...

Hey, just thought I'd throw this out there. I wrote a family devotional that goes through the season of Lent to Easter. Let me know if you want one...I could send one your way!

So glad you found a temporary house. A place to call your own, even if not for very long:)