The Wonder of Patience…

 Lent is an exercise in patience as much as discipline.  It is, after all, a fairly long season. 40 days.

We’re not quite half way through.  I have to admit, I’m glad for that because something dawned on me last night as I was reading to the kids before bed.

We started a new book last night…Wrinkle In Time from Madeleine L’Engle. One of my favorite books and I’ve been waiting until the right time to read it to them. I wanted them to get caught up in the story.

Last night I read the first chapter and introduced them to Mrs. Whatsit.

I finished the chapter and it looked like Nate was falling asleep so I declared that was the extent of the reading for the night.

“NO!!” Zach was mad. No other way to describe his reaction. “You are so unfair! You do this every time..you read too little!”

I loved it. I told him that meant this was a good book…he was already hooked.  Nate woke up enough to ask for another chapter so they met Mrs. Who before going to sleep.

They really wanted me to just tell them more about the book….where’s Meg’s father? What is he doing? Who is Mrs Who? What are they preparing for?

And that’s when it struck me….patience is tied to wonder. They are of this generation that likes everything immediately and they are not patient. They do not like to wait. They like to read the last pages of a book first and know the end.

When we rush things we miss the wonder. They would miss all the excitement of following Meg and Charles Wallace and Calvin on their adventure….and they would miss discovering along with the characters what there is to learn in the adventure.

Same with Lent.

I keep thinking about Easter. I want to skip to the end. I want the result without the process, but I would miss out on the wonder. I would miss out on what 40 days of walking in the “desert” would do in my soul.

So, on this Monday morning I’m excited to slow down and settle more into the process of Lent. I’m satisfied for today to focus on just today and to contemplate Jesus in the wilderness and the temptations He faced (but He did not face them until the end….after the process). I’m satisfied to let wonder brew in me a little before we come to Easter…

Don’t be discouraged by the long process God takes with us. Don’t be too hurried to get to the end…allow the process to open your eyes to the wonder of God working in our midst and transforming us.  Allow yourself, and myself, time to be in suspense about who we will become….

Patient Trust

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ

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GUM!

“Hey J.T.!! What are you giving up for Lent?!”

The boy yelled from the back of the line in hockey skills practice. 

“Gum!” J.T. yelled back from the front of the line.

“Me too!”

“My brother gave up his goalie skills for Lent,” another boy told my Zachary as this yelling-long-distance conversation concluded.

Zach told me about this conversation as we were loading up in the truck after hockey practice. We have talked some about Lent and about how I’m trying to give up FaceBook. The kids have been good at reminding me about my commitment…especially if they catch me on FB during the day. Zach was surprised to hear his hockey buddies discussing Lent, and what they had given up, and it of course sparked my thinking on what Lent could mean to them. I haven’t pushed them to give anything up, though, and I think it is mainly because I’m still getting my thinking straight.

There is something about doing our lives out loud in front of our kids. Letting them see us working through the process of faith, even when we are just making attempts at something new.  Along those lines, I spent some time looking at articles about how to practice Lent as a family. I found some great ideas.

Most of the best ideas are simple ones. Simple things that are used to draw our attention to a specific theme….to preparing for Easter and to meditating on Jesus.

Here are a few ideas, and I’ll list some links at the end:

* Fill a jar with names of family members and friends. Pull a person’s name out every day and pray for them. This could be done at dinner time, or the kids could even pick out a name every morning and pray for that person on their own throughout the day.

* Leave the Bible out on a coffee table as a reminder of doing Lenten readings. This should go beyond just Lent…it made me think about how little the kids see me reading the Bible. I usually read when they are asleep or off to school and things are quiet. I want to be more in their midst with this, though…and I like this idea of having a place where the Bible stays out and open to what we’re reading

* Prepare some simple meals, like soup, and talk about how many people go without food. Spend some time talking about how those people can be helped. If your kids are  old enough see about volunteering at a soup kitchen, or find some other way to reach out. Talk about people and ministries who are helping the poor and spend some time praying for these people as you eat the meal.

* I really like this idea….making an “Alleluia” banner (just whatever you like…on a big piece of paper and letting the kids decorate the banner with colors. Just has to say “Alleluia”) and then burying it until Easter. How cool and simple is that?! I know we’re well into Lent, but I think we’re going to do this…

* Oh, and this is very cool: spending Holy Week with just candle light. I’m thinking as well of no electrical *toys* for that week. Could we endure a week of that in this house of gamers?! We’ll see…but the concept on spending the week in candle light is to emphasize that the world is in darkness without Christ. Then, of course on Easter we are back to light. Love this idea.

One of the articles I read made a really good point….don’t worry too much and just live out your Lent practices in front of your kids. They’ll get it. Sometimes we make things more difficult than they have to be. Still….sometimes our kids need a visual, visceral something that helps them understand what this is all about. If nothing else thy get that this is different than other times in the year. They get that we are trying to pay attention.

I don’t know about you, but much of this Lent is preparing my heart for the next Lent. I am spending more time thinking about Jesus’ journey in the wilderness and His journey to the cross, but I am also thinking about what will happen next year. Especially with homeschooling…I think there are some really great possibilities for bringing hte kids into this process and laying a foundation for them of understanding the Gospel.  I’m excited about this.

Okay…as promised, here are some links. Each link has lots of other links, so you can find your way to lots of great articles and lots of great ideas on Lent and the family…

http://homeschoolblogger.com/momco3/784421/

http://voices.yahoo.com/15-family-activities-enrich-2805219.html?cat=34

http://rannthisthat.blogspot.com/2009/02/lenten-activities-for-kids.html

http://ordinarysplendor.blogspot.com/2010/02/decorating-for-home-for-lent.html

Try Doing Something For Lent Instead of Giving Up…

So, the other concept of Lent that I have seen around the web these days is to take up doing something different during this season.

Some of the suggestions are fairly simple, and some are more challenging. The idea is that as Jesus went into the wilderness for the time of temptation, and as we contemplate His journey on to the cross, we should be moved to act for justice and for others.

We should. That is a valid aspect to Lent, I think.  So, I found some links that are pretty helpful.  The first one is from the UK. (Most of these are from varying years). I found this yesterday when I was thinking on Lent and Love…and I googled Lent Love.

I really like this. There are ideas here that work for the whole family, for individuals or for churches. There are great ideas and resources for helping the kids be involved in Lent. I’m a little too late to really get this going for this year, but am marking it for next year…there are still some things that are worth maybe thinking on for this year. Check it out:  Live Lent

This site has, well 101 practical fasting ideas for lent...Some of the ideas are for giving things up, but some are for doing different things during Lent. Worth reading through.

This next one is from the National Catholic Register. This one is really interesting for those who are involved in the arts or are moved by movies. This is about Lenten Films.

Along the lines of the last link, here’s a link to NoiseTrade and a project of Lenten Hymns. You can get them for as little as $1.
Now, along the lines of being moved to justice during Lent, the next two links I think are pretty helpful. Again, these might be things to set you up for next year, but still some things we can do for this year.

First, World Vision. They have some great things to look through and give you ideas for how to pursue Jesus and justice in this Lent.

Second, a group called Steps of Justice. This is a group that came from folks who were with YWAM. They wanted to be able to move toward more justice for the groups they became aware of through YWAM.They have a section on the website where you can post responses of the steps you are taking in your Lent journey. And they have a prayer guide…it’s a 30 day guide, so could be used any time. Maybe something for next year?

With that, I’m off to build our red neck tornado shelter. We only have one little bathroom downstairs, so it’s to tight now to get all 4 kiddos, dog and myself into the “shelter”. Dragging down a few mattresses to extend things today. Pretty good chance of tornados in our area…prayers always appreciated as these stir fear and can of course be deadly.  Maybe I’ll post pictures of the shelter tomorrow 😉

Lent and Love.

Lent and love…not concepts that we often think of together, but they’ve been coming together more closely for me lately. Maybe it is simply that I am a little more aware during this Lenten season and the connection seems true and right.

The other day I was holding Madeleine and she was giggling and laughing, and I would laugh….and she would laugh in response. Her eyes lit up and she laughed with them as well as her little chortling laugh-out-loud delight. It is impossible to convey the emotions of parents in these moments. There was delight that welled up within me just in seeing her delight.

There is love that is awakened in us as parents that is unlike anything else. And it is returned in our infants especially. They delight in us.

Anna, one of my favorite bloggers, wrote about her experience as a new mom and this awareness. I really liked this:

They say that becoming a parent changes everything, but what I think those people missed when they said that was the fact that being a parent changes you profoundly. It doesn’t just shake up your life (it does) or cause you realize that sleep is over-rated (it’s not, but you really can function on far less than you think!), but if you listen to your baby, they will explain love to you in ways that you haven’t known since you were a baby.

She’s right. It disarms you. Even if you are not a parent…if you are around little ones you can see that they love unabashedly and without any fear. It is wonderful.

What does this have to do with Lent? Well, it has to do with what we are to be thinking on.

Jesus went to the desert to face temptations and to be tested as He entered His ministry. He already knew He was taking the first steps to the cross. He knew where the road was going to lead and He knew what was required of Him to bring about our salvation.

But He loved us.

Unabashedly and without fear and without insecurity and without all the baggage we bring.

I know that our attempts at Lenten fasting may seem silly. Some seem sober and respectable. Still…it is just us, attempting to do something to awaken our spiritual eyes to look differently at the way we live and who we are. That is all on our side…we’re trying to do something. And that smacks against what this journey of Jesus is all about….His grace for us.

So, today I’m dwelling on this meeting of Lent and Love. I have already said that I do not think giving up anything will impress God and shouldn’t be done with that intent. But, I do think that He delights in our desire to please Him and to know Him.

Facebook. Thin Mint cookies. TV. Soda. Luxuries. Meat.

Giggle. Laugh. Bat your eyes. Respond to your Father with delight and desire to engage and know. And I believe He delights in us.

“1 The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.”

Zephaniah 3:17

Because Lent is about preparing ourselves to experience Good Friday and Easter…about thinking on Jesus’ journey in the wilderness…it is sober. I don’t want to make it less than what it should be. Still, I think at it’s core it is about love.   Huffington Post is doing a series on Lent, and this quotation from one of the first articles was part of this thinking for me:

“Lent is not 40 days of misery to be forgotten with the first sip of that illicit latte. It’s our preparation for the Resurrection; our chance to grow spiritually before we once again proclaim that the love of Christ overcame even death.”

Don’t be distracted by the details and miss the whole picture. Delight in God in this season. Even in sobriety and with sacrifice…delight that it is the love of Christ that overcame death. For God so loved the world….