Lent

Good Dirt Sunday

2.5.14-frontcover-big

The following excerpt is from Good Dirt: Lent, Holy Week and Eastertide  Till: Jesus, your ways aren't our ways. We have such a hard time with self-sacrifice, serving, and letting go of things we want even when they aren't good for us. Help us to trust you more. Help us to release control and follow you, even in hard situations.

Plant: Mark 8:31–9:1

Water:

Imagine it: When Jesus told his disciples that his path was leading to suffering and death, they couldn't believe it! Peter even told Jesus to stop being so gloomy! Why do you think they reacted that way? How do you think you would have reacted?

Enter it: Jesus’ way leads through suffering and loss. We have to follow him through it too so that we let go of the things that keep us from God. Tell about a time when you had to do something hard that you didn't like, but it turned out to be good for you.

Apply it: Is there an area in your life where you need to give control to Jesus? What is one small step you could take today?

Weed: What was hard today? How did you feel about it? What was easy today?

Good Dirt Sunday

2.5.14-frontcover-big

Excerpt taken from Good Dirt: Lent, Holy Week and Eastertide  Till: Jesus, you are with us and it’s a time to celebrate. Help us learn that you are better than anything we give up.

Plant:Mark 2:18-22

Water: Enter it: In this passage, Jesus talks about fasting—giving up food or something else in order to focus on God. While he was here, his disciples didn’t fast because it was a celebration! What would it be like if you went to a birthday party, but refused to eat cake and acted really sad? How would the birthday person feel about that?

Apply it: Talk about what you have chosen to give up during this season of Lent. How can your fast (or your cravings or habits) remind you to look for Jesus today? (Or, if you are taking Sundays off of the fast,how can enjoying this thing today remind you to rejoice in Jesus?)

Weed: How did your fast help you look for Jesus today? Or, if you are taking Sundays off of the fast, how did today remind you to rejoice in Jesus?

Why Practice Lent with Children?

2.5.14-frontcover-big

This post is taken from Good Dirt: Lent, Holy Week & Eastertide. Lent begins on Feb. 18 with Ash Wednesday—we hope you'll join us on this journey! Lent is the season of the divine paradox. We must die to live. While the previous seasons of the church year burst with life, Lent brings us firmly to our deaths. Lent teaches us that the path of wholeness comes through sacrifice. Jesus himself said that we must die to live. Nature echoes this paradox. Seeds must die to live. Stars die to birth galaxies. It is the way of creation, and we are created. If we live in a constant state of indulgence we will never live a whole life. When we deny ourselves, die to our wants and needs, wholeness seeps into us and we live. Lent is our salvation from the superfluous.

It seems Christmastide and Advent, with all their indulgences, are seasons custom made for children, but what about Lent?

What do we do with children and death? Aren’t we to teach them to live?

Herein lies the paradox. It is our job to teach them to live, but they must learn to die to themselves in order really to live. They must learn to die to having their own way, and they must learn to give what they have in order to receive what God has for them. We are to teach them to love themselves. The next step is to teach them to give up their lives.

However, we cannot hope for that change in our children until we, their parents and teachers, embrace it ourselves. We teach them to die, by dying ourselves.

So we also make a way for death. We clear the path, clean the space, and set our houses in order. That is what we do during Lent, as we participate in the three disciplines of prayer, fasting and giving. Together these disciplines do what we cannot do. They clear the path, clean the space and set our houses in order so that God can bring death and then wholeness.

With all this death talk we may think we must walk around with sour looks on our faces. Not us, the people of God—the paradox kicks in, and we are joyful. Love makes Lent joyful. What we do, we do out of love for God and for neighbor.

Good Dirt Sunday

2.5.14-frontcover-big
 * This is an excerpt from Good Dirt: Lent, Holy Week, Eastertide and Pentecost
LENT
Lent is the season of the divine paradox: we must die to live. Nature echoes this paradox. Seeds must die to live. Stars die to birth galaxies. It is the way of creation, and we are created. While the other seasons of the church burst withlife, Lent brings us firmly to our deaths. As we observe Jesus’ walk toward his cross, we become aware of our own. As he said, we must die to live. Using our gardening metaphor, Lent is weed-pulling and tree-pruning. It is the decay of composted materials that will eventually enrich our soul soil. My (Lacy) gardening is a comedy of errors, except there’s not much laughing.
Two springs ago I decided I needed a strawberry garden. I hauled over goat manure to mix into the soil before planting my tiny new plants, some fifty of them. I painstakingly designed my watering system and dreamed of the mouth-watering delights that would soon be my reward.
Boy, was I wrong. The little plants did grow, but so did the hidden enemy: the not-so-decomposed alfalfa seed in the manure. My Mom always said manure was nothing but grass and water; now I knew she was right. Since the manure wasn’t fully composted, along with my precious strawberry plants I inadvertently planted alfalfa. Somewhat digested alfalfa, but alfalfa nonetheless. In an alfalfa field, alfalfa is good; in a strawberry garden, bad. I spent the remainder of the spring and summer and fall and until blessed winter came, pulling weeds. Everybody got a chance to pull weeds. Children, grandparents, visitors all took a turn in the strawberry garden. One hot summer afternoon I was pulling in this garden, which is flanked by an old St. Francis statue that  has been repainted by various children who seem to have gained their painting skills from the circus. I desperately wanted to burn the whole patch down, with fire or chemical. All this work for a few delights that I could buy from the grocery store didn’t seem worth the effort. I stared at St. Francis, giving him the stink eye, like all of this was his fault. He smiled his usual smile and continued to hold out the bread and wine.
I persistently pulled those weeds while my mind drifted to spiritual practices. The efforts that make our spirits strong and healthy are often like weed pulling. Confession, fasting, simplicity, submission are just a few that came to mind that afternoon. Eventually I began a routine of confession each time I stepped into that weedy holy ground. This confession was a conversation with God in which I could tell the truth about myself and tell the truth about God.
This is Lent.

Sacrificial Thinking

Chocolate? Sodas? T.V.?  What should I give up? Sharing with my newly 13 year old about Lent, these were the inevitable questions that were bound to come up.  I knew that one day she would question why I give something up at this time every year and wonder whether she should do the same thing.  I wanted to explain it in a way that would touch her heart and not leave her feeling as though this were just another trial to get through.  But where to start?

I was born and raised a Presbyterian but attended an Episcopal school though the elementary years.   This taught me about the dichotomy between religion and faith.  I watched my classmates who attended the Episcopal church “give something up” every year in the weeks leading up to Easter.  I heard them talk about how hard it was to not have a coke when everyone else was having one or how they had messed up and it wasn’t worth trying anymore.  I remember thinking “why did you try if it wasn’t worth it?”  To be honest, I thought that the whole idea was just stupid.  I mean, what do cokes and how many you drink have to do with Jesus? Not a thing as far as my grade school self could see.

Fast forward a few years to the time when I was deciding what religion would serve my new family best.  I wanted to raise my children in a church but I was left feeling as though something were lacking in all of the areas that I was seeking fulfillment.  I chose Anglican to try out and it seemed like a good fit.  A comfortable memory from childhood with real meaning.  But then came Lent… and the concept of giving something up was staring me in the face once again.  I looked past it for a few years, choosing to celebrate Resurrection Day without all the denial that came before.  And I realized, the deeper I went into my Lord’s life and His sacrifice, that I was missing something crucial to the experience of Lent. By looking past the trials to the celebration I was not getting the full picture.  I was fully embracing the worship portion of Easter without honoring Him with the surrender of something I was holding too dear.

I started with giving up meat on Fridays.  A simple enough sacrifice.  Until you actually try to live it out.  It’s hard in Western culture.  And there is the point.  I give up something that I have to actually THINK about.  Not something that doesn’t cause me any discomfort at all.  I give something up so that in missing that particular thing, or in having to think a little harder in consuming a meal on that day, I recall the sacrifice made my Lord made for me.  And it makes me think.  A lot.  About His death.  About His love.  About why I am choosing to do this to honor Him in my own very small way.  My sacrifice doesn’t equal His.  It could never come close.  But it can help me remember in a way that I might miss without that reminder.

Every year, I now put much thought into what I might be choosing to sacrifice during Lent.  Sometimes it’s very simple. Sometimes it is quite complicated.  But it always reminds me of Jesus’ devotion to me.  And in sharing with my children this year, the why’s became much clearer.  It all comes down to a deeper relationship.  I want to know Him more and this is one way I have chosen to do that.  It may work for them or they may choose a completely different way to show that they understand His surrender.  But He honors each heartfelt sacrifice.  Big or small.  Because our heartfelt sacrifices mean we are paying attention. And in the end that it truly all we have to offer Him.

Lent

So our Lenten season this year will be a bit different for us. We have in the past fasted as a family things like meat, media, other items from our lives that are "unnecessary." However, this year as Mike and I are frequently reminded how spoiled we are and we are constantly telling our kids how spoiled they are, we are trying something new. We both have travelled both to places where things are easy and where things are not so easy. We consistently find happier more satisfied people in places that struggle. Here in our Colorado lives where the sun shines and we are warm, fed and clothed we feel as if we struggle when we are looking to ourselves and our things or at our "neighbors" for our fulfillment.  So begins our season of Lent. As we were looking toward this season of penitence we asked our kids about what they might feel led to fast. Isabella decided on her own to fast pizza, ice cream, chocolate and peanut butter. Since the rest of us probably could not survive without 1 never the less all 4 of these things we are letting her fast these things alone. To Quinn we suggested he fast hot sauce as he literally has an addiction but you would have thought we asked for his arms...so we let this go too. Kadin is 4 and if it is out of sight it is out of mind so fasting for him is not too difficult since he just goes on to the next thing.  Mike and I just came off a fast from last month for another thing we have chosen to do. All this to say we aren't fasting.

We have decided to make our season of identifying with Jesus' sacrifice also a season of identifying with certain people groups around us. We have chosen 4 different people groups to delve into their lives. The 1st is those that live where they do not speak the language. In our tiny town of 2000, about half are Spanish speakers. Mike calls it "little Tijuana".  I sometimes find myself thinking that "They should learn English!" That confession out there... these are the 1st we are recognizing. On Sunday we attended a Spanish mass, then went to an authentic Mexican restaurant. I know that you are thinking that doesn't sound like much of a struggle. It wasn't. I must confess...we loved the service and we loved the restaurant. The church was standing room only and the restaurant we were recognized because we frequent the establishment. We used our tiny vocabularies of Spanish words to follow the mass and to order food. What brought it home for us was that we stood out! We were definitely the odd balls in both places and everyone knew it. We were not unwelcomed or treated unkindly. Quite the opposite! Quinn did say that if he couldn't understand his coaches or  his teachers it would be "totally hard!" But it makes him understand his teammates Juan and Sergio better and why they don't talk a whole lot.

We have plans for 3 more weeks of recognizing hardships of others...of putting ourselves into their lifestyles and into their situations. We could do this for many many months without exhausting a supply of groups. We are praying that our kids realize how good they have life and that we remember that our battles in this life could be so much harder. We all need to remember that ALL good things come from God and that to HIM and HIM alone are we to be grateful.

Prayer, Fasting, and Giving with Children

2.5.14-frontcover-big

We are not suggesting you fast from your children or give them away. (Tempting though it may be on some days.) Instead here are a few suggestions, a few practices to engage with children during Lent. A few suggestions from Good Dirt: Lent, Holy Week and Eastertide on celebrating Lent, at home, family style. The Big Three: Prayer, Fasting, Giving

Prayer begins in the heart.

  • Family Altar or Prayer Corner: Cover a small table with a purple cloth,. Arrange on it a cross, or a family Bible, maybe a small shallow box with sand in it, where children can draw their prayers to God, maybe a family prayer journal.  Choose a Christ candle to place in the center. (Battery powered candles are wonderful for the not yet fire worthy.) Invite children to light the Christ candle in the morning or evening, or when you are reading the Bible as a reminder that Jesus is the Light of the World. This is the light of Advent that continued through Christmastide and Epiphany--and still shines on in Lent. Invite family members to visit the Altar at least once a day during Lent.
  • Prayer Box: Take a 3x5 index card box and write prayers from the Bible, or from saints, or beautiful pieces of poetry on the card and place them in the box. Read one each evening before bed, or at the dinner table. Try prayers from This is What I Pray Today by Phyllis Tickle or Prayers for Each and Every Day by Sophie Piper.

Fasting begins in our bodies.

  • Fasting from Meat:Traditionally many folks fast meat on Fridays and they will also choose some other vice to give up for 40 days. If this works for you and your people, go for it.
  • Fasting from Superfluous Foods: Others I know have fasted eating out for 40 days, still others have fasted sugar, or chocolate, soda.
  • Fasting from Technology: For children giving up nutritional food is not an option, but giving up TV, or video games, or texting is certainly a good choice.

Fasting is not popular in our culture. To deny myself something I want will sound strange to others, but it is imminently important that we and our children learn to tell our bodies, “No.” Letting our bodies and our desires run our lives will destroy us. Fasting is directly related to prayer. We will need strength beyond ourselves to die to our wills. The will is loud, and irritating; only the peace of God can quiet it.

Fasting is directly related to prayer. In fasting we teach our wills to ignore our mere desires and focus on our true needs. But the will is loud, and irritating, and is the habit of responding to the body's wants. We need strength beyond our own to die to our desires and retrain our wills. Only the peace of God can quiet  the will long enough for it to learn.

Giving begins with others.

Giving begins right where we are. We look to our families and see where we take instead of give. We make the effort to overcome our natural pet peeves. We do something nice for someone who irritates us.

  • Giving Money: We choose to eat simple meals, or to fast junk food, and send the extra grocery money to someone else. There are many great organizations that truly give life to others.
  • Giving Time: We fast our favorite TV show and instead pack the family up and visit the local nursing home.
  • Giving Attention: We give up always having to talk about ourselves and give the gift of listening.

 Let us know how it goes.