Lent 1.1 (Redemption)

Since the beginning of Lent, I have done some amazing reading and just finished a very powerful, redemptive book titled “Found: A Story of Questions, Grace and Everyday Prayer” by Micha Boyett. I read it in two days and had tears in my eyes when I was done. I even called a friend to rave about the book almost the minute I put it down. It’s one I’m going to read again almost immediately, at a much slower pace, savoring every moment. It was so ordinary and yet so sacred that I couldn’t even glean great quotes out of it to share on my Facebook status, which is unusual for me when I’m reading a great book.

I can tell that this Lenten season is going to be huge for me, I’ve already learned so much. I keep using the word redemptive, and I truly believe that if I continue to being open to learn, that this will be a redemptive season for me, which totally makes sense when I realize that after Lent comes Easter, when we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. The resurrection is what makes all of this possible. The resurrection is why grace exists. The resurrection is a promise of life when there should be death. God has spent the last six months uprooting my entire life, leaving nothing untouched. A lot of dreams and plans for the future have died, in many ways I have died to an old way of life, and yet I have the promise of the resurrection. God will resurrect these things because using the bad and the ugly and the downright horrible things in life and turning them around for good is what God is all about. Which is why the word redemptive fits, and this is a redemptive book.

As I work on my own book, Micha Boyett’s book is something I am glad I read during the writing process. Seeing as I am writing a memoir about faith, I have been reading a lot of memoirs about faith, particularly new releases such as this one, because I’m trying to make my book relevant to the current market, because after all that is how to sell a book. The process of writing requires as much or more time spent reading as it does writing for me, because reading helps to inspire my own work. I am glad to have read such a redemptive memoir because I hope that mine will be powerful and redemptive also. This particular book was a very positive memoir even though it was about an ordinary woman like me, a mom trying to recognize her value in the world and her value to God. Perhaps that was even part of its value. I’m not expecting the next memoir on my list to be as positive in tone as this one, but that doesn’t mean it’s not relevant, and I could be wrong about it. The next book on the list is also a brand new release that I pre-ordered called “Girl and the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future” by Elizabeth Esther. I guess I will see where that book takes me. 
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Lent 1.0

So, that fancy list I earnestly wrote at the beginning of Lent of just one thing I would do to observe Lent each day…I did it…for two days. After that, life happened and the list fell apart. I haven’t done more than two or three of the things on the list I wrote for the kids, either. Until now, that’s been my pattern; I’ve had big ideas and set out to change the world, and then let life get in the way. I’ve made excuses, used the fact that I have been abused, that yes I did something wrong but so did somebody else, or said that I was just unworthy of what I longed for. And it’s true, I have been abused, somebody else did do something wrong, and I have felt unworthy.

It’s time to get past all of that; the truth is that I haven’t done the things on my lists because I used the time for other things. And the truth is that I haven’t done a lot of things because I used the time for something else, or I made the wrong decision, or I was sulking and figured it was just too hard, or I lacked the confidence that I could do it. The Girl With the Grace Tattoo is a concept I have had for at least two years now, and I’ve worked on it slowly. I’ve been excited about writing my book, but I’ve also sabotaged myself with some terrible marketing, and a huge lack of confidence. I’ve complained that others get opportunities that I don’t, saying that they were just “more special” but I’m beginning to question that attitude.

It is true that some people have had far more advantages and opportunities than I have, but it’s also true that I haven’t taken full advantage of the ones I have been given. I’ve been burying the few talents that I’ve been given just like is described in the parable Jesus told because I compared myself to others and I was afraid. I need to start taking advantage of the opportunities I have been given, which is why I am using The Girl With the Grace Tattoo as my dissertation for my honors work, locking myself into finishing it well and in a timely manner.

While I haven’t been keeping up with the lists that I set out to do at the beginning of Lent, I’ve chosen to let those go because the truth is I think God has decided on a different focus for me for Lent. He wants to redeem the abuse I have suffered, redeem the wrong others have done to me; redeem the mess I have made of my own life. He wants to change the entire way that I think about life, he wants me to change what I do. And because of that, the theme of Easter is all through the Lenten season for me. It’s a death of old thoughts and attitudes and a resurrection to new life, one where I take responsibility for my life and the things I choose to do with it. 

Observing Lent Daily For Children

As I was making the lists for observing Lent for myself, I wanted something that I could use to engage my small, special needs children in the Lenten season. So here is a list of 40 daily practices for Lent that were designed for my children. If they help you with yours, then that is awesome. Again, if you pick and choose between several lists or observe in a completely different way, do what makes the season meaningful for you and your family. These are little things that shouldn’t take too much time. And remember, be flexible. My children have special needs so if something doesn’t work out, don’t worry too much about it.

1. (Wednesday) Plant the seeds for the garden indoors in a Jiffy greenhouse or similar, seeing as it is still too cold to plant outside. Spend time explaining to the children how God created the seeds to work, try to inspire wonder in their minds.

2. (Thursday) Get the children to help cultivate the gardens, pulling the rest of the weeds and getting the gardens ready for planting. Explain how, after the seeds have germinated and sprouted, we are going to plant them in the gardens.

3. (Friday) Read the children a story about Easter.

4. (Saturday) Take the children for a walk outside to pick up trash and talk to them about taking care of the earth God gave us.

5. (Sunday) Teach the children some prayers, and encourage them to pray them. Things like “The Lord’s Prayer” for example.

6. (Monday) Pull up some worship music videos on YouTube and spend time singing and dancing in worship.

7. (Tuesday) Fill pots with dirt, letting the children get dirty and explaining that God made us out of the dirt.

8. (Wednesday) Begin reading Matthew 5. Read Matthew 5:1-12 today. This list will cover the entire Sermon on the Mount during Lent. Explain that God’s Kingdom is different to our culture and his ways are different than society.

9. (Thursday) Plant one of the seedlings, even if it is too cold still to plant them outside yet. Plant one in a pot for the children to be able to keep inside and observe.

10. (Friday) Make a very basic meal, such as beans and rice, or ramen noodles for dinner, and talk to the children about how other children in other places don’t get three meals a day, or don’t get to eat all the wonderful things that they do.

11. (Saturday) Continue with reading the Sermon on the Mount. Read Matthew 5: 13-21. Continue discussion about God’s Kingdom vs. the world.

12. (Sunday) Have prayer time with the children, encouraging them to pray their own prayers, as well as reciting some well-known prayers. Talk with them about how they can dialogue with God at any time.

13. (Monday) Do something creative with the children, letting them make a craft, draw a picture, write something, etc. Have them thank God for giving us ways to express ourselves and be creative.

14. (Tuesday) Continue with reading the Sermon on the Mount. Read Matthew 5:22-37. Continue discussion either where you left off last time or on specific things that come up in the reading of this section.

15. (Wednesday) Sit down and read a story that shows them something about God. Discuss the story.

16. (Thursday) Let the children spend extended time playing in water, talking about the cleansing power of water and also about how we are very blessed to have running water, and clean water, for drinking, and that other children don’t have that. Encourage them to spend some time thanking God for the gift of clean, running water.

17. (Friday) Continue with reading the Sermon on the Mount. Read Matthew 5:38-47. Discuss themes of justice and charity.

18. (Saturday) Encourage children to help with household tasks, doing more than they usually would. Use this time to talk to them about love and unity and cooperation and being part of a family and how we each do different things and all are important.

19. (Sunday) Have special prayer time with the children, continuing with the recited prayers as well as encouraging them to pray their own prayers. Have those old enough to do so write God a letter.

20. (Monday) Continue with reading the Sermon on the Mount. Read Matthew 6: 1-13. Discuss themes of forgiveness and for doing the right thing because it is right, not because people can see you.

21. (Tuesday) Spend some time tending to the new gardens and plants, extra time than your normally would on a day to day basis. Encourage the children to look closely at how much the plants have grown, tear out any weeds and use this to explain how weeds come up in our lives and we need to get rid of them.

22. (Wednesday) Get your children to write a note or draw a picture for someone that they love.

23. (Thursday) Give your children a treat, for no other reason other than that you love them. Especially if they have been less than good today. Explain to them how much you love them and then use it as a springboard to share with them how much God loves them.

24. (Friday) Continue with reading the Sermon on the Mount. Read Matthew 6:14-23. Discuss how hoarding things doesn’t benefit us in the long run, also explain about walking in light and being careful what you allow yourselves to engage in and look at.

25. (Saturday) Sit down and read a story that shows them something about God. Discuss the story.

26. (Sunday) Have special prayer time with the children, continuing with the recited prayers as well as encouraging them to pray their own prayers.

27. (Monday) Watch a movie with the children that has a good message and discuss.

28. (Tuesday) Continue with reading the Sermon on the Mount. Read Matthew 6:24-33 today. Discuss how God wants us to trust him with our lives.

29. (Wednesday) Get children who are old enough to talk about a time when someone hurt their feelings. Discuss how so often we ourselves offend other people and talk about how we should treat others.

30. (Thursday) Light a candle for just a few minutes, so the kids can see it. Talk to them about how fire keeps us warm and gives us light, but how it can also be dangerous because we can say mean things and gossip which can spread like wildfire and be very destructive.

31. (Friday) Continue with reading the Sermon on the Mount. Read Matthew 7: 1-6. Discuss how the way we judge others will come back to haunt us. For instance, if someone is having a rough day and we say they aren’t a nice person, that might not be true. Maybe they are just having a hard time. Also talk about how we want to be treated when we aren’t being nice.

32. (Saturday) Take the children to the park to run around in the fresh air. Discuss how God gave us fresh clean air to breathe, and how that is what gives us life. God breathed life into us after he created us specially.

33. (Sunday) Have special prayer time with the children, continuing with the recited prayers as well as encouraging them to pray their own prayers.

34. (Monday) Continue with reading the Sermon on the Mount. Read Matthew 7:7-14. Discuss how doing what everyone else is doing isn’t the best choice because following God is hard sometimes.

35. (Tuesday) Take pictures of all the children, telling them how beautiful they are and how glad you are that God made them.

36. (Wednesday) Read a Bible story about Easter to the children, spend time discussing it.

37. (Thursday) Continue with reading the Sermon on the Mount. Read Matthew 7:15-20 today. Discuss not only false prophets but for the kids use the time to discuss bad friends and how they can lead you astray.

38. (Friday) Spend time talking with the children about the death and resurrection of Jesus.

39. (Saturday) Continue with reading the Sermon on the Mount. This is the final reading. Read Matthew 7:21-28. Discuss the wisdom of following God and the foolishness of not doing so and the consequences.

40. (Sunday) Explain to the children about the resurrection, preferably before church. Also have special prayer time with the children, continuing with the recited prayers as well as encouraging them to pray their own prayers.

Observing Lent Daily – Part 2

Earlier today I posted a list of daily practices for the first 20 days of Lent, this is the list for the final 20 days. Again, this list is for me but I hope that if you are looking for some meaningful practices, this list can help. Some of the things are repeated, and some are not. 

21. (Tuesday) Light ritual candles on your prayer altar: green for earth, yellow for air, red for fire, blue for water, purple for spirit. You place the first four in a circle, with the green candle facing north, the yellow facing east, the red south and the blue east. The purple candle goes in the middle. Candles are lit in order starting with the green one and ending with the purple one. They are blown out in reverse order, beginning with purple and ending with green. Thank God for the earth he formed you from, and the earth he uses to sustain your life. Thank him for air, the life-giving breath we breathe, thank him for fire, for giving you certain passions and desires, and thank him for water, the fresh, clean running water that we are blessed to have, his cleansing of our sins. Spend time on your knees in front of the prayer altar, focusing on God, the purple spirit candle. Be ready to receive what he has to say to you. 
22. (Wednesday) Work in the garden, focusing on the new life that is coming up out of the ground, and how it parallels your life.
23. (Thursday) Create something: art, a story, a delicious dish.
24. (Friday) Create a playlist of worship songs and play them, not in the background, but as the foreground, engage with the songs and the words by singing, dancing etc. 
25. (Saturday) Write an encouraging note or card to three different people.
26. (Sunday) Study the scriptures in the lectionary. 
27. (Monday) Choose one of the questions or doubts you are currently facing about your faith and spend extra time studying the issue and asking God what he has to say. 
28. (Tuesday) Pray for your enemies, and those who have mistreated you whether you realize it or not.
29. (Wednesday) Spend extra time reading an encouraging book than you normally make time for.
30. (Thursday) Find a quiet place, perhaps somewhere you haven’t been before, or somewhere you love. Spend time (at least 30 minutes) in solitude and quietness, with a prayer journal and your Bible, communicating with God, writing down anything he has to say to you. 
31. (Friday) Write a poem, something meaningful.
32. (Saturday) Focus on something you know is true, but that you have been struggling to believe. Write down the things that you know to be true and then spend time in prayer asking God to help you to believe them. Possibly write a personal statement of faith about the issue.
33. (Sunday) Study the scriptures in the lectionary.
34. (Monday) Go outside in the evening, and lay on the ground and look at the stars and the moon, and focus on the amazing God that created all of that. 
35. (Tuesday) Engage in conversation with another Christian who disagrees with you on a topic that is important to you. Do so with the goal of listening to the other person and their beliefs rather than trying to change them or be right. The point is to promote unity within the body of Christ whilst respecting our differences.
36. (Wednesday) Observe communion privately on your own, wine (or grape juice, whichever is your preference) in a wine glass and home made unleavened bread, focusing on the sacrifice that Jesus made for us, the bread his body and the wine his blood, and the significance of such.
37. (Thursday) Reflect on what you have learned by observing these practices during Lent.
38. (Friday) Read the account of the crucifixion in the Gospels. Fast from dinner and spend the time instead remembering what Jesus did for you. 
39. (Saturday) Read and pray Psalm 51, and then confess particular sins and faults.
40. (Sunday) Study the scriptures in the lectionary. Thank God for the things he has taught you during this time, and thank him for the resurrection. 

Observing Lent Daily – Part 1

Nadiz Bolz-Weber, pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints, posted a list of 40 ideas for Lent. While not all of these ideas would work for me in my current situation, I was very much inspired to write my own list. I have appreciated Nadia’s perspectives on life and Christianity and was looking for a great way to observe Lent that would be meaningful for me. So here is my list, and I challenge any who feel it would benefit them to create their own list, use this one, use a different list online, or combine ideas from other lists to find something workable for you that will be meaningful to your faith journey. This list is for the first 20 days of Lent and I will post another list for the second 20 days.

1. (Ash Wednesday) Participate in an Ash Wednesday service, even if the service is run differently than the kind of services you are used to. Observe 5 minutes of silence in a quiet place either in nature, or in front of your prayer altar.

2. (Thursday) Connect with earth – do yard work, prepare gardens for planting, walk in the grass barefoot, appreciating the feeling of earth beneath your feet.

3. (Friday) Go for a prayer walk.

4. (Saturday) Choose to see the sacred in the mundane.

5. (Sunday) Study the scriptures in the lectionary.

6. (Monday) Connect with air – walk outside and breath in the air, appreciating the life it gives us, meditate on how God create us out of the earth, breathed his very own breath into us to transform us into living souls. Thank God for life both physically and spiritually.

7. (Tuesday) Read/research/write about those who suffer inequalities due to social structures.

8. (Wednesday) Spend time meditating on the Kingdom of God using the sermon on the mount, skip dinner to spend more time on this.

9. (Thursday) Connect with fire – burn incense, light a candle, etc. Thank God for fire’s warmth, light, and passion. Reflect on how fire can be a wonderful thing but can also be a bad thing if used inappropriately because it burns. Meditate on the verses in James that talk about the tongue causing great fires.

10. (Friday) Create a playlist of worship songs and play them, not in the background, but as the foreground, engage with the songs and the words by singing, dancing, etc.

11. (Saturday) Read and pray Psalm 51, and then confess particular sins and faults.

12. (Sunday) Study the scriptures in the lectionary.

13. (Monday) Pray for your enemies, and those who have mistreated you whether they realize it or not.

14. (Tuesday) Spend time writing about God’s goodness in your life, particularly as it relates to the concept of all things working together for good to those who love God.

15. (Wednesday) Connect with water – spend an entire day drinking only water, thanking God for the easy access to water for the quenching of thirst and running water for cleanliness, take time to soak in the bath instead of taking a quick shower, add some herbs or essential oils if you wish. Thank God for the fact that he cleanses us and is the living water. Meditate on what it means for God to be the living water.

16. (Thursday) Research human trafficking in the USA (or your country), spend some time familiarizing yourself with this problem. Consider some of the things that people do to contribute to the problem that they might not realize, such as viewing pornography or watching certain sporting events, etc. Spend time thinking about what you personally can do about this problem.

17. (Friday) Make a list of 20 blessings that you usually overlook (example, Ann Voskamp’s 1,000 Gifts), and thank God for them.

18. (Saturday) Spend time in prayer, reciting prayers such as “The Lord’s Prayer”, and “The Serenity Prayer” aloud, taking the time to think about what you are praying and declaring.

19. (Sunday) Study the scriptures in the lectionary.

20. (Monday) Skip a meal and use the time to memorize a particular passage of Scripture.