Lent {for the newcomer}: Learning from my Father

**Edited to add:  This podcast on Lent with Pastors Todd Wilken and Heath Curtis is one of the best I’ve heard.  Blessed Lent to you.

Thank you for those who came to the live chat last night! It was fast and fun and maybe we’ll do it again some time. You can view the transcript here.

Lent begins this week on Ash Wednesday and lasts 40 days with it’s culmination in Easter.   This is a repost from last February {and the February before that!) and will explain Lent in further detail for the newcomer to the season.  My thanks to Pastor Will Weedon for allowing me to republish part of his post.

emme&daddy

“Lent begins with this realization. That we are a people in exile. That we are wandering far from our true home.

And thus the beginning of  repentance isn’t merely the terror that one finds in wandering in a strange land; the beginning of repentance is homesickness.

Lent teaches us to fess up to how often  we settle down in the land of our exile as though it were our true home; attempting to still the yearning the Spirit has created by throwing at it physical or    psychological pleasure, and how it never works.”

courtesy of Pastor Will Weedon

Lent is a 40 day period leading up to Easter that is characterized by prayer, reflection, repentance and often fasting, then culminating in the celebration of the resurrection and the feasting of Easter. It roughly mimics the 40 days Christ retreated to the wilderness and wrestled with the devil. Many evangelicals reject ‘lenten’ observance because it’s just too Roman catholic and because there is no mandate for it in scripture. As a former evangelical, I can say that I’ve spent 30 years enjoying the ‘feasting’ of Easter without the penitential and preparatory time of Lent  and I wish I could go back and change that. I find that one of many benefits of following the traditional church calendar and being in a liturgical church is that nothing gets overlooked.

It’s a methodical way of proceeding through the scriptures and it prevents such things as quickly glossing over the celebration of Christ’s resurrection without spending time in quiet reflection of His death on the cross, the mental anguish and suffering which took place while He was in the wilderness, and the details of the events of His life during Holy Week. It’s like walking in ‘real time’ with Him during the last weeks of His life. Is Lent discussed or commanded , per se, in the scriptures? No, but penitence and fasting and prayer are  and what better time to observe a more rigorous christian discipline than as we reflect upon the last days and weeks of the life of Christ.

And we all practice degrees of discipline already. Lent is the spiritual equivalent of physical exercise for the body. The body gets stronger when we demand much from it—not when we always ‘give in’ to what it wants. The same is true in disciplining our children. Because we love them so much, we demand what is best for them, which is often not what they, in their immaturity want for themselves.  In C.S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain, he puts it this way:

“It is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms; with our friends, our lovers, our children, we are exacting and would rather see them suffer much than be happy in contemptible and estranging circumstances. God has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense………The Church is the Lord’s bride whom He so loves that in her no spot or blemish is endurable.”

Though the analogy breaks down when taken to extremes, God compares our relationship to Him to that between a parent/child. And Lewis, in his book, compares our being brought into God’s family to a very ‘badly brought up boy’ being introduced into a decent family. When they see traits in this child that are detestable, Lewis says ‘they not only hate it, but they ought to hate it. They cannot love him for what he is, they can only try to turn him into what he is not’.

…we are at present, creatures whose character must be, in some respects, a horror to God, and as it is, when we really see it, a horror to ourselves.”

God our Father, despite our unloveliness, has given us everything we need and has clothed us with the righteousness of Christ, but we, like Adam, want to ‘clothe’ ourselves. Lent is a time to strip down; to take off the filthy clothes of our own righteousness and to let our Father give us from His hand what He knows we need.

It’s like the picture of Stevie teaching Emme to fish. We learn from our Father by spending time with Him. There is much He wants to teach us and much that needs to be changed in us. But more than all that, He wants to give us Himself—-knowing that we were created for relationship with Him. And  nothing will satisfy the deepest longings of our soul save Our Father’s perfect love.   Lent is time to retreat with Our Father. To confess to Him that we have wandered so far from home and that we have become far too ‘comfortable’ in the pleasures of this life. To confess to Him how utterly dependent we have become on everything, but Him. And He will gladly ‘receive’ us back with open arms:  not because we demonstrate to Him our growing discipline and holiness,  but for the sake of Christ and Him alone.

A few stray thoughts:

1. Lent is a time for penitence and reflection and the practicing of christian discipline. It does not make God ‘more pleased with me’ and is not a ‘good work’. God is pleased with Christ alone and good works are those things which I do in service to my neighbor.
2. If I purpose to ‘give something up’ for Lent and then two weeks later find that I fail and can’t keep my lenten discipline, God is not disappointed in me. God is pleased with Christ and thus pleased with me when I have faith in Christ. I am a sinner who fails and sins constantly. And my failing is not a surprise to God.
3. If I keep my lenten discipline to the ‘tee’, I must be careful not to try and convince myself that I’m ‘more spiritual’ or holy than before. I have been freely clothed with the righteousness of Christ and am only learning to ‘fit’ into clothes that were given me by God.
4. We must also be careful not to view our discipline as ‘suffering’ and remember that Christ suffered on the cross for our redemption and we do not get to choose our own suffering (by giving up, say diet pepsi for a month).
5. It is a good exercise to occasionally deprive our bodies, to not give in to every fleshly desire. We are so often slaves to our own bodies and teaching ourselves discipline in any area is often met with resistance.

I leave you with another quote from Pastor Will Weedon who kept me from seeing Lent as a season where ‘I work hard to become more holy’;

The holiness into which you seek to grow has already been given to you, whole and entire! It’s yours in Jesus Christ, the gift of His righteousness  fully bequeathed you in Baptism, and constantly renewed in you by absolution and the Holy Eucharist. Through these wonderful gifts, we get to GROW  in the apprehension of that which is already our own, learning to live more and more from it, more and more from union with Christ and less and less  from the old self. So it is not that holiness grows in you; it is that you grow in holiness! Getting used to whom God has made you to be in His Son.   There’s real effort here, of course, but the effort is working at resting in Him who works all things through us. I don’t overcome sin by my willpower (ha!),  but by the strength of Him who has united Himself to me.

I have been unbelievably blessed since I started blogging and using various other modes of social networking.  I’ve made wonderful friends.  I’ve been  inspired in countless ways.  And I owe you a debt of gratitude for how you’ve encouraged me and shown God’s love and grace to me.    But the internet can quickly suck you into a black hole where you’re left wondering where the last 2 hours went.  During Lent, I’ll be going ‘unplugged’ (no blogging, twitter or facebook) for parts of the season to rest, refocus, reenergize.  I’ve said it before, the internet makes a great servant but a poor master.  I’ll try to finish answering your questions from this post in the next few days and then will sign off for a while after Wednesday.   I will  be praying for you.  I wish you a blessed Lent.

You might find these  podcast links helpful.  The Gospel-Driven Church, Dr. Micheal Horton , Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent, The Sermon on the Mount with Carl Fickensher,  The Parable of the Lost Son with Bill Cwirla all brought to you via my favorite radio program Issues,Etc

Kyrie Elieson

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68 Comments

  • mary beth says:

    Thank you so much for this post! I’m a new reader of yours, and had not read these yet! I am a So Baptist, and we don’t observe Lent, but I have become very curious and wanted to learn more about it. I hope that your season of Lent and Easter are a time of drawing closer to the Lord and letting Him bless you richly!

  • Amy Avery says:

    Edie, thank you for posting this again! This is going to be very helpful to me during this Lenten season. I am happy for you that you are taking some time to be away, to reflect and to reenergize. I admire you for your recognition of needing to do so and for taking the time that you need. You will be missed in this cyber world, but in the other realm of the real world, you will be prayed for and thought about with much love. I wanted to also tell you that I love your house plans. It somewhat reminds me of the house that we live in. I hope you have such a grand time picking out materials, finishes, etc. for this new home. I am certain it will be very beautiful and welcoming. Have a restful and energizing Lent sweet friend. I hope to see you in real time very soon! XOXO Amy

  • Cha Cha says:

    You bless me, thank you for walking out your faith so openly. I FB you last night about what I will be fasting for Lent and to read yours this morning confirms why my heart so connects with yours, Our Father is doing a good work in us. Thank you for being the friend I have needed on many days without ever knowing you were.

    Cha Cha

  • Tricia says:

    Edie: I am unable to open the transcript linked above. I just see a message that says something like “oops, the link you want is missing.” Thank you for the great post about Lent…

  • kendal says:

    thank you, edie. i have so much trouble clearing my mind at any time, but this spring, i have a lot on my plate, and my head is spinning. i want to inhale god’s exhalation this season.

  • Bonnie Morgan says:

    I clicked on view the transcript here and it said, Sorry page not found.

  • april says:

    Thank you for this post!!! I celebrate Lent as well and it is a wonderful time of reflection….would you mind if I linked this post on my blog? Hope you have a great week!!!
    april

  • Ami M. Davis says:

    The chat link is now active with no sign in’s required. :)

  • Ruth Emond says:

    Edie~Thank you so much for this amazing post on Lent. I have not observed Lent before but have been longing to learn more about it and the church calendar. I think many churches are missing out on these very important and fundamental practices of our faith. Newer is not always better. Thank you for the links. So much to absorb and I will be taking it all in, sitting at the feet of Jesus to learn.

    This quote jumped right off the screen at me:

    ‘God our Father, despite our unloveliness, has given us everything we need and has clothed us with the righteousness of Christ, but we, like Adam, want to ‘clothe’ ourselves. Lent is a time to strip down; to take off the filthy clothes of our own righteousness and to let our Father give us from His hand what He knows we need.’

    A needed reminder that it is not in anything that we do that we receive salvation but in the work of Christ at the cross.

    Hugs,
    Ruth

  • Pmontalvo514 says:

    Thank you for posting this. As an evangelical…I myself find it disappointing that the majority of my life I went without observing lent. I am glad to say that over the years my husband (a former Methodist) and myself have introduced the Lenten season to our family, and many other evangelicals are feeling the same pull to observe this sacred fast. I will be sharing your Pastors words with my Children at our Bible study this evening. They are perfect, and explain EXACTLY why we should observe. I think of you and pray for you and your family often. Many Blessings, and a Blessed Holy Holiday!! <3 Paula

  • Abby says:

    Blessings to you Edie as you start Lent. My church family always start off our the new year with a 21 day fast. Very similar to Lent. I love growing closer to the Lord thru prayer, fasting, and making Him the center of my attention for those special(not always easy) 21 days. I will be praying for you during this time.
    Blessings!
    Abby

  • A devotional that I discovered through another blogger (Joanne Heim at the Simple Wife) is Reliving the Passion. I just made sure this morning that I know where it is to use during Lent. With Easter being later this year, I am hoping to prepare for it more through Lenten observances. Thank you for this thoughtful post…good ponderings upon which to muse.

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang says:

    Thank you so much for that beautiful message. Blessings to you! And thank you for your prayers during Lent.

  • i love words, it’s true but i shall spare us all and offer a hearty AMEN! my spirit soars at the truths in these posts.

  • allyugadawg says:

    I don’t think i’ve ever read a more beautiful, impactful post on Lent. Thank you so much for posting. Thank you to Pastor Weedon for sharing his wisdom as well.

  • laura H says:

    Hi Edie- I love thie post. I’m not Catholic and I’ve always celebrated Lent, which confuses my friends. You posted it better than I could.
    I’m wondering, Lutheran theology isp retty similar to Catholic. Have you looked into their theology and history? Curious to hear your take.

    • laura,
      thank you so much for sharing. yes, we are similar to catholics in a lot of ways because Luther’s reformation was conservative in that he only got rid of things that were not Christ-centered. our services are liturgical and we follow the church calendar. it’s a rich tradition full of depth and always centered in every way on the finished work of Christ.
      bless you friend,
      edie

    • laura,
      thank you so much for sharing. yes, we are similar to catholics in a lot of ways because Luther’s reformation was conservative in that he only got rid of things that were not Christ-centered. our services are liturgical and we follow the church calendar. it’s a rich tradition full of depth and always centered in every way on the finished work of Christ.
      bless you friend,
      edie

  • Julie says:

    Edie, what a blessing you to so many!
    I also celebrate lent and look forward to this time of reflection and renewal as it brings me closer to our Heavenly Father. I will be praying for you during your time of rest, refocus and reenergize.
    God bless you sweet lady!
    Julie

  • Rrg723 says:

    I appreciate this post…this will be the first year my husband and I will be intentionally observing lent…I so love this overview.
    Thank you~xo
    Robin
    All Things Heart and Home

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  • D2bentle says:

    Just found your blog from my friend Robin’s blog all things heart and home. Loved what you said. I feel God’s leading to observe Lent this year and was blessed to read your post this morning. When I was Catholic, I observed Lent one year by giving up Soap Operas. Lol. Funny yes but life changing at the time. I had become so engrossed in them that life had lost its excitement. Thank you for sharing this today. God bless you in your away time and that you receive all the refreshment in Him that can only be found in Him.

  • kristen says:

    thank you so much for this post. i’m feeling very challenged! i’m wanting to get a lutheran prayer book like the one you’ve mentioned before. where should i look? thank you, edie.

  • Vicki says:

    Great Post Kyrie… I found you through All Things Heart and Home. Thank you for the reminder, the refresher, and the peace. This truly is my favorite time of year. God Bless.

  • Lorie Siders says:

    God bless you for listening to the Lord. He has been calling me to do the same thing for at least two months now. So as of tomorrow I will be off-line. Hope many blessing come your way. I plan on enjoying my time with God instead of wasting it.

  • Susan says:

    thank you for this… the Lord told me today to take a break from facebook and after reading this i know why… i didn’t even realize that lent started tomorrow. thank you…

  • Although I read this post last year, I enjoyed reading it again. I think I understood it more this time around.
    I’m not very religious but I will during Lent give certain things up (lattes, muffins and crisps) but also my impatience and my ability to gossip. The last one is alot more important than the first three! Enjoy being ‘unplugged’ – you are so right about the internet. It takes away more than it gives sometimes.

  • Denise says:

    What a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing this. I linked to it on my blog because I really appreciate the practical and easy explanation you offer!

  • I have been missing you…too busy to buzz around to my favorite blogs recently. But today your name popped into my mind at bible study, and I’m so glad it did. It prompted me to come and visit. To to see you friend…

  • patty says:

    edie… so glad it’s just for lent that you are taking time off from blogging. what would we all do without you??? wishing you a blessed lenten (lenton? lentil? no that’s a legume… ;) season of lent. hoping you re-emerge full of rested freshness.
    xoxo
    ps: are cell phones a no-no, too?

  • Thanks for repeating the Lent post for me every year…I’ve been anxiously awaiting Lent for a few months now….not kidding. :) I’m still undecided on what I’ll give up/go without. Probably chocolate. Does it count if I eat it in the form of a protein bar? Love ya Edie!!

  • Mary Beth says:

    Thank you for your words about Lent. I often think we Christians toss around words that non-believers don’t understand. Many people get confused into thinking that by giving something up we are becoming more holy, but the reason for abstaining from some thing or activity is so that we can spend the time and energy on Jesus instead of ourselves. I will miss your posts during this lent season, but will be thinking of you and asking God to bless you and your family during this time.

  • Sharry1949 says:

    I love lent! I find it a lovely way to declutter all things unseen. What is not unseen are the 12 boxes of Girl Scout cookies sitting on our kitchen counter – delivered on Fat Tuesday! Life in grace and laughter!

  • Sue says:

    Lent! My boys went to Immanuel Lutheran school for the first three years of school. Their Dad, and Uncle had gone to the same school when they were young. Anyway my boys would come home with a smudge on their forehead each lent. Brings back a lot of memories. I went to Baptist church for a while when I was young so it was all a learning experience to me.

    I checked out the chat too and looks like you all had a great time. I hope you do it again some time and I check in in time to participate. I have been off the computer for a while and haven’t been well the past few days. Had I made the chat I would have invited you all to my blog to comment on my Give Away which you can stil do till mid-night March 11. I love this time of year and I made an Easter tote for the give away. Blessing to you all during this wonderful time of year remembering the most wonderful event in history. Praise God we have a saviour.

  • Kit says:

    Hi Edie! I’ve never commented before but wondered if I could please put the quote from Pastor Will Weedon on my blog. I will link back you and to him. It’s just the BEST quote I’ve ever read.
    My blog is: kitandhercaboodle-kit.blogspot.com
    Thanks!
    Kit

  • Diana Brasher says:

    Thank you, Edie, for sharing about this season of personal reflection and thanksgiving to our Lord and Savior and God’s free gift of Grace through His son. Unplugging is a wonderful idea. I have recently been convicted of spending too much time social networking and too LITTLE time in God’s word. A blessed season to you.
    Diana

  • Rootswingsandnests says:

    Hi Edie,

    We are Catholic, so every year we participate in various Lenten activities, but I am so struggling this year. I re-read this today, and your words are such a blessing. It has helped me realize that my struggles are exactly what is bringing me closer to God. Every time I want to turn away from my commitment is when I spend the most time considering and building my relationship with Him. So, thank you so much for these words, and I hope you are enjoying your hiatus.

    BTW – Were you writing that comment about giving upu Diet Pepsi directly to me? :-)

  • Rachael says:

    I am so, so glad I found your blog. I feel like I want to be your friend and I JUST stopped by. love your blog, love your faith. thank you for blessing others by being faithful to the call!

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