Lent Resources

Ash Wednesday is coming up on March 1, which is just a week away!

I’ve been very much enjoying Word and Table, a podcast about liturgy, sacrament, and the great tradition of Christian worship, which also means that I’m continually wiping tears from my eyes while folding laundry, washing dishes, and making lunches for the little people in our home.  I recently listened to an episode about the Church Calendar, which was fantastic. Historically, Lent was the time that new believers would practice spiritual disciplines in preparation for baptism on Easter Sunday.  They would also learn The Lord’s Prayer and the Creed during this time. A really beautiful thing I only recently learned is that this was something that the entire church would intentionally join them in.  This just makes me love Lent even more.  What a beautiful picture of what Jesus has done for us, what it means to be the body of Christ.

Maybe, like it did for me, reading or remembering this reinvigorates your desire to observe Lent as a family.  Maybe it helps to guide you into the areas you specifically want to focus on.  Maybe you’ve never celebrated Lent before, but you’re going to go ahead and give it a try.  Friend, I encourage you to prayerfully consider how the Lord would have your family observe this season of penitence and preparation as we look forward to Holy Week and Easter.  And, because this is a part of my job now (AMAZING!), I have roped together some resources and some ideas and I’m passing them on to you, with a note of caution:

If you’re anything like me, this can get overwhelming.  There are a fair number of wonderful ideas and practices your family could take up during the Lenten season.  I encourage you (and myself) to be cautious.  Pray. Carefully decide what direction you will take with Lent and choose a few things that serve the purpose of continually directing your heart toward Jesus. These practices are no good to us if they don’t stir in us a grief about and hatred for our sin and raise our gaze to Christ.  So, whatever you choose to do, do it in joy and in freedom that the purpose of our fasting and our praying and our giving is to feel the ache of our brokenness, our deep need for a Savior and to lift our eyes to his beautiful face.
Books
Books for Children
Peter’s First Easter– Walter Wangerin Jr.
Amon’s Adventure: A Family Story for Easter Arnold Ytreeide *We haven’t read this one, but it comes highly recommended and is a book you can read throughout Lent, finishing on EasterSunday. Probably best for ages 7/8 and up.

 

Books for Adults or Families with Older Children 
Reliving the Passion– Walter Wangerin Jr.
Bread & Wine: Readings for Lent & Easter– Various including Lewis, L’Engle, Nouwen, Chesterton, etc.
Living the Resurrection– Eugene Peterson (an excellent read during holy week!)
The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent- Fr. Aaron Damiani *I haven’t had the chance to read this one yet, but we’ll be reading it this year. It is written by a priest in our diocese, and it’s been suggested to us by a few of our friends from his parish.  Includes a section on celebrating Lent with children.

MUSIC

Here’s a Spotify Playlist  of songs for Lent.

PRAYER

Family Worship: Lent is a good time to establish a family routine of prayer and scripture reading together or to continue in an already established routine.  Perhaps you would like to try to learn the Apostle’s Creed or the Lord’s Prayer together.  Consider using a resource to walk through the stations of the cross, following the revised common lectionary readings, or using a Lenten Liturgy
 
Commit to pray together each day, give special attention to repentance and to praying for the least of these.  Perhaps your family would like to choose a specific group of people to pray for during the season (see more about this in the “almsgiving” section).

Activities 

Prayer Chain: Create a paper chain with 40 links– You can write names of people on them, things your family is praying for, or scripture passages. Each day take one of the links off during family devotional time and pray for the person or issue on the link.

Prayer Station: Create a prayer station in your home. This can be as simple as a chair with a purple cloth or piece of construction paper taped to it, or you can choose to include a small tray or basket filled with items such as: a children’s Bible, prayer book, small pad of paper and crayons or markers, pictures to color or printed Bible verse cards, brave parents of older children could include a candle (or a battery powered one!).  Ann Voskamp has a beautiful piece about how they use a station like this in their home.

FASTING

Many families choose to give something up for Lent– this may be a meal once a week, treats, television, etc.  It is important that no matter what you choose to give up, you explain to your children the reasons we are doing this– to join Christ in his sufferings and to lift our eyes to him. It can help to think of and talk about Advent and Lent as the similar seasons that they are– we are fasting before we feast.  In Advent, we are consciously waiting for the coming Christ, and in Lent, we are actively paying attention to how sinful and empty we are without the risen Christ. Disciplines and practices that we take on during these seasons of waiting (Advent) and penitence (Lent) should always serve to direct our hearts towards Jesus.  
Activites

Burying the Alleluia: This hands-on activity can help children understand Lent as a time to mourn and repent of our sin.  Together make alleluia banners– these can be as simple as markers or watercolors on large pieces of paper or as complicated as fabric banners sewn together– the important thing is that this activity can be done together and can provide an opportunity to talk about alleluia– what it means and why we say it, and to discuss why we won’t be saying it in our services during Lent. Together, either on the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday or on Shrove Tuesday, bury the Alleluia banner, either in a box outside or in a closet in your house, in your basement, etc.  Then on Easter morning, get it back out and display it in your house throughout the Easter season.

Sundays are Feast Days: Lent is 40 days plus Sundays. Sundays are always feast days.  Decide together whether you will continue your fast through the Sundays or whether you will choose to feast on the Sundays: if you choose to eat simple meals during Lent, for example, perhaps you would have pancake breakfast on Sundays.

ALMSGIVING
The third spiritual discipline observed during Lent is almsgiving. It can be beneficial to focus on a specific group of people for the entire season, to learn about them and to commit to pray for them.  Some examples include: refugees, the unborn, children in poverty, people in the 10/40 window, orphans, foster children, etc. There are many tangible things that your family could do in addition to monetary donation during Lent to support ministries and organizations that are dedicated to these populations and bountiful resources online to help your family learn about them and pray for them.

Activities: 
Gift Jar: Throughout Lent, place money in a jar to give as a gift on Easter.  Together as a family decide where that money should go.  Some families choose to eat simple meals and put all the money saved in this jar, other families agree to put a portion of any money they receive as gifts in the jar– talk together about how you will give sacrificially during Lent.

40 bags/items in 40 daysGo through your home and collect things that you no longer need (one bag/item each day) and either donate them, or sell them and add the money to your giving jar.

I hope that these resources are helpful to you as you prepare to enter into this season with your family.  If you are interested in more resources, I will be adding ideas and suggestions to this Lent Pinterest Page throughout the rest of the week, so please check that out if you are looking for more ideas.

Maybe this is old news to you, or you have practices your family has treasured practices for celebrating Lent.  I’d love to hear about them!

Living Room Liturgy: Third Week of November

Psalm 37

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently before him…

The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, 

and his tongue speaks justice. 

The law of his God is in his heart, 

his steps do not slip.” 

Today, Lord, make me still before you.

In a world that rushes to do violence and to repay violence, may my heart hush still before you, eager for your wisdom.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently before him.

When my heart is tempted to worry and to preoccupation with the ache of our world, steady it with your wisdom.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently before him. 

When all my heart can muster is fretful longing, fill it with the delight of the Lord.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently before him. 

When the world creaks with sin’s ugly brokenness, remind me that sin is always first an offense against a Holy God.

Be still before the Lord.

When I come upon injustice in the world, in my home, in my community, be my voice.

Wait patiently before him.

When I choose complacency and convenience over justice and mercy, lead me in the way of righteousness.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently before him. 

When this world’s brokenness and wickedness and injustice tempts me to close up, help me to open up the very same way your son did.

Mark my life by the generosity of the cross.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently before him. 

Whatever interruption shakes the world, my country, my community, my family today, may I be found stubbornly trusting in your Lordship.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently before him. 

Though all I have fall aside, though wickedness prospers, You, Lord, uphold my life. You are the keeper of my soul. 

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently before him. 

As you daily teach this truth to my heart, may it move me to a place of fearless righteousness and resolute mercy.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently before him. 

Make us Generous

It’s a quiet September morning. It has taken all my energy and stamina, but I have loaded up a toddler and my very pregnant self into a car and driven a half hour to a church building full of women I have never met before, praying that my very obvious pregnant stomach will act as a buffer for my awkwardness around people I don’t know.

I have braced myself for sympathetic smiles and circles from which I am excluded and less-than-enthusiastic welcome for my daughter, who has never been away from me before and doesn’t actually fit into the appropriate age category.

After all, I am new here and this is a church.

I am met by something much different from my expectations. I am welcomed. My child is welcomed. And over the next 9 months, that welcome continues to grow to include my new baby for whom there technically is no class, but somehow always is someone willing to hold her.

It has been a year, I now bundle up my two toddlers, load them and my (very non-pregnant) self into the van and drive the ever-so-worth-it 30 minute drive to my Bible Study. Our Bible Study. The anticipation grows, and I am greeted and greet others by name, gather in that familiar circle, and our leader smiles warmly and begins to pray. Her words strike me deep in the heart, between deep breaths and the smell of fresh coffee.

“May we be generous…”

Generous? At first I assume she is referencing the offering envelopes we pass around the circle each week. And then I listen again, and I hear what she is saying. I hear what the Lord is saying.

“May we be generous as we share with one another.”

Her prayer is that we will share generously the truth that has been generously shared with us, that the grace extended to us we will freely extend to one another.

I wipe a tear from my eye and lift my head, eager to share with these women who have become such a welcoming place for me.  Eager to receive all the Lord has for us this morning.  Eager to be generous.

For me this is a place where it is easy to be generous. Where I walk in feeling like I’m brimming with insight and joy and expectation, and leave just as full as ever I walked in, full of new insight and joy and anticipation.

Another day, I sit in a different circle, and my heart breathes that prayer quiet, Lord make me generous. Here it is not so easy. Here I do not always leave feeling affirmed and encouraged. Here I often feel misunderstood and marginalized.  It is not easy to be generous.

Weeks later, I sit in my living room alone and feel that familiar pang. The sting of being misunderstood and alone. That homesick longing for “my people” rises in my heart and I’m tempted to wish those if onlys.  And the Lord reminds me again that he can make me generous.

He, the very same God who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also along with him graciously give us all things?

Jesus. Very God of Very God.  The God who became a man and gave himself for us and for our salvation.

Generously.

Though he was misunderstood and marginalized.

Accused and brutally murdered.

Generously. Gave Himself.

And while the pang is still fresh in my heart, while my eyes still feel the sting of tears as I think of familiar people and comfortable places, I feel his hand gentle around mine, carefully prying clenched fingers open. The generous king making me generous.

Living Room Liturgy: second week of november

Psalm 43

Send out your light and your truth, let them lead me.

Lord, as I take my steps today, make me a channel of your grace.

Send out your light and your truth, let them lead me. 

As I move through the rhythms of my day,  make my ears quick to hear your voice and my feet ready to obey.

Send out your light and your truth, let them lead me. 

As I speak to my children, husband, friends, co-workers, family members, strangers may my words be filled with your truth and rich in love.

Send out your light and your truth, let them lead me. 

As I walk in the way set before me today, may I be attentive to the presence of your Holy Spirit.

Send out your light and your truth, let them lead me. 

When I stumble, Lord correct me.

Send out your light and your truth, let them lead me. 

Lord, by your grace, grant that i may live today as artwork and offering to the glory of your name and the coming of your kingdom.

Send out your light and your truth, let them lead me. 

Amen.

Fourth Sunday of Lent

I recently read this book that changed my life.  Seriously. I’ve had those moments where I read a book and I thought “I want this to change my life.” This was not like that. I read this book quick. It was like water to my thirsty soul. And even though I didn’t read it slowly, I felt it make me slower.

And it was a few days after I read it, while I was sitting on the floor looking at my husband over our wobbly coffee table that I said, “I think this book changed my life.” And I felt an excited grin creep across my face. I love the way Jesus is always making us new.

I don’t think it was this book alone. I think this book was the last read in a long line of reads that actually started to make changes in my actual diaper-changing, laundry-folding, pastor-wifing life.  And at the same time, I think it’s the first read in a long line of new reads that will change my heart and my life in other ways. I love the way Jesus is always making us new.

There have been so many times in the last two weeks where I’ve found myself sitting and thinking and I realize that my mind isn’t working like it used to. And it’s shocking and unfamiliar, but my friends, I’ve been rejoicing about it the way that I rejoice when morning sickness reminds me I am pregnant.  When the hard and the unfamiliar and the difficult remind me that new life is coming. I love the way Jesus is always making us new.

Friends, can I tell you something? I started seeing Him. All over the place. Jesus giving himself to me. Over and over again. When I’m tired and I’m feeling empty and I can’t fight for words anymore and he turns what I have into prayer.  When that bell chime sounds on my phone and there’s an email that stops me right there in my tracks because someone understands.  When my daughter spills so much milk that it starts dripping down the table onto the floor, making a noise so loud that she says “it’s starting to raaaain.” When that same toddler presses her cheek to my chest so I inhale the scent of roses (ROSES? I haven’t washed her hair in 3 days!) and wraps her arms around me and pats my back, just when I’m feeling like no one sees me. 

Over and over again. Jesus is there. In my living room. On my creaky porch. Giving himself to me. Inviting me. Making me new. 

And in that book. In one little chapter, one little sentence, she mentions this prayer that monks pray twice in their day to help them see God in it.  To help them see God a little better tomorrow. To help them choose to put themselves in the way of God’s grace. It’s called The Daily Examen. And it has five parts.  And this week I’m going to try praying it every night before I go to bed. Not because I think I have to, or because I think it will make me a better Christian. Not because I want a new experience or am looking for another thing to add to my to-do list. I’m doing this because I’m hungry to see more of Jesus, and I think it will help me learn how. Because I’ve said before how I don’t want to miss out on the fullness of my life because of the business of my life.

I love the way Jesus is always making us new.

On Moving.

How do you prepare your heart for a move? When echoes bounce off bare walls and brown boxes take the place of table and chairs, when the packing tape roll runs thin and the long-settled dust gets caught up in the air like dandelion seeds on a summer afternoon.

How do you secure your heart against the rising doubts while you secure the four corners of each brown box? How do you roll off a length of tape and gently smooth your hand over it, not knowing where or when you will remove it?

What are you supposed to feel when you tuck that box of chamomile, 3 months from expiring, between the grinder and the coffee canister and breathe a prayer that it doesn’t go to waste? Not for the tea’s sake, but for yours.

How do you walk out those glass doors that once opened, now slowly closing on people and a place that you love? How do you remain faithful when your place is so changeable? How do you anticipate when your way is so darkened? How do you hope when disappointment has marked your heart the way you marked each brown box?

What do you do when the to do list seems so long and the laundry has piled, when every day the phone doesn’t ring is another day waiting? What do you believe when you can’t believe that everything will always be alright? How do you hope when you cannot see your way? How do you get excited when you know that you might be on the verge of the hardest thing you have ever done?

When the move is exciting, we can hope in the destination. When the destination is unknown, where do we hope? And how do we hope? When the searing memories from the last time still burn deep? When we know that he is always faithful, but sometimes life is still very painful?

I sit down and lean my head back slow. And the peace washes over me like the slow morning waves would. Be still. And know. And there in the quiet, those familiar words come join the questions swirling in my head. Not loudly but quiet. It is a whisper I hear as I sit.

Lord, you have always marked 
the road for the coming day;
and though it may be hidden,
today I believe. 
 
Lord, you have always spoken
when the time was ripe;
and though you be silent now, 
today I believe. 
 

And I breathe in and I breathe out. I close my eyes on boxes and tape and dust bunnies playing there on the floor. And I hope, not in the destination or in a promise of future happiness. Not in an occupation or in a new place to unload our belongings, paint walls, and hang curtains. I hope in the one who has always marked and has always spoken. And my mouth forms the words that my heart is still learning, “today I believe.”