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Category: Lent

Leaning Into Lent: Finding Light


For all of the Lenten season in which I have pastored, I have always challenged my congregants to resist the temptation to skip the darkness to find the light. I have asked them instead to sit in the darkness and to contemplate why it is so difficult for us to sit in darkness and why the darkness makes us so uncomfortable.

This Lenten season is different.

We are experiencing new things and change at such a rapid pace. I think this Lenten season the invitation for all of us is to see the darkness. See the changes that are rapidly surrounding us. See the way these changes and this upending of our “normal” is having an impact on our physical selves as well as soul selves.

And as we see the darkness, see also the light. See that around us there is still new life blooming. See the people who are creating content for children and families who are out of school and who are in a new normal. See the companies whose CEOs are giving up their salaries to try and support the workers they have had to lay off. See the companies that are shifting to provide things like hand sanitizer. See the way people are not going out and who are social distancing in order to give the most vulnerable in our population.

See the light in the midst of the darkness. The Spirit is still moving and God is still speaking.

Leaning Into Lent: Sitting in Darkness

The last few days have been overwhelming to say the least. There is a darkness and uncertainty that is surrounding and engulfing us. I don’t know how many times I have heard and uttered the phrase, “We’ve never experienced anything like this before.”

If you are feeling overwhelmed. That is ok. If you are feeling disappointed. That is ok. If you are feeling lost and confused. That is ok. If you are feeling grief that you have lost your previous way of life. That is ok.

These feelings are coming fast and furious in the midst of the darkness. They are demanding our attention and space in our hearts and minds even as we are trying to stay calm and hold onto our energy for the long journey that lies ahead.

And so when the sun sets and the darkness of begins to creep in, let all those feelings come. Let them wash over you in the darkness. Let the tears fall and the anger out because darkness is difficult. Darkness that we know will lead to light. Darkness that seems to never lead to light. Darkness always asks us to be vulnerable and needy.

Darkness always reminds us that we cannot do this alone. May God grant you the courage you need in the midst of this darkness that reveals our vulnerability, our grief, and our needs.

Leaning Into Lent: Walking in the Wilderness

To be sure the events of the last week have overwhelmed so many of us. Every day things are changing. Events are being canceled. School schedules are changing. We are all walking in the wilderness of a new way of life.

Walking in the wilderness began our Lenten journey with the story of Jesus being tempted there. Walking in the wilderness continues our Lenten journey as we go back to the people of God in the wilderness after escaping slavery in Egypt. The change in our day-to-day activities is asking us to adjust rapidly and think of how our decision to be present may be perpetuating a virus that can hide sometimes for as long as fourteen days. The change in our day-to-day activities is asking us to trust in something bigger than ourselves.

Perhaps you didn’t mean to find yourself in the wilderness even in the middle of Lent. Perhaps you don’t want to be in the wilderness of uncertainty of a virus that is spreading all around you. Perhaps you don’t want to be in the wilderness of social distancing. Wilderness walking always challenges always frustrates and almost always reveals our hunger and thirst for food and water, but also for the safety and security of control.

May you rest in the assurance in the midst of this wilderness walking that you are not alone. The same God that walked with God’s people in the desert via a cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night is with you. The same God who was tested and tempted in the wilderness is with you. You are not alone. Creator God is walking with us all.

Leaning Into Lent: Walking by Faith and not by Sight

In the midst of the fear and uncertainty of the Coronavirus and uncertain stock market, it is easy to become dismayed. These are not things we can control. These are events that are rapidly changing the way we interact with each other, the way that we gather, and the plans we have made to travel. To be sure we can do our due diligence in washing our hands, greeting each other without touching, and wiping down common spaces, but there is so much we still don’t know about this particular strain of viruses.

It is easy for us to think that we have control over our environment when things are calm. It is easy to begin to believe that we know what the day will hold, what the week will hold, and even what the year will hold, but anyone who has walked through a season of life that held unexpected health issues, job loss, or death of loved one knows that control is merely an illusion. We are dust and to dust, we shall return. There is no controlling when that truth will come for any of us. Not one of us is guaranteed tomorrow.

Lent asks us to refocus our hearts and minds on our dustiness. Lent asks us to remember again and again day after day, week after week that we are dust and to dust, we shall return. This season is not to make us morbid of fearful of death, but to break us of our dependence on the need to control our surroundings, our schedules, and our days.

Lent asks us to walk by faith rather than by sight. Remembering that although it may look like we know what is ahead, only the Divine who goes before and behind us knows what is to come. Lent asks us to walk by faith rather than sight, not in fear, but in trust that whatever this hour, this day and this week may bring we walk with the Divine guiding us and leading us.

Lent asks us to walk by faith rather than by sight, awakening each morning to the realization that today is a day we can choose to live to our own selfish desires or with open hearts and minds to the ways we may bring light and love to a world clouded in the darkness of fear and uncertainty.

 

 

Leaning Into Lent: The Uncertainty of Tomorrow

Our son’s school sends out a monthly calendar and as I was perusing it, I realized there was a teacher in-service day that I hadn’t been expecting. Maybe it was the leap day or the shortness of February that made me miss the update, but I found myself scrambling because that’s a day I had been expecting to have childcare.

Isn’t it funny how we get so accustomed to routine and patterns that we trick our brains into thinking these things are stable and will not change? But they do change. Natural disasters, weather, and sickness all impact whether schools are opened or closed and often these decisions are made last minute when we least expect it.

The same is true in our working life. Companies get acquired or restructured, leadership changes and suddenly we realize we don’t fit there or that our skills and experiences aren’t valued as they used to be valued.

Lent reminds us of the uncertainty of the darkness. The ever-changing and ever-aging nature of our own physical bodies and indeed the world around us. It’s not a comforting reminder, in fact, more often than not we run from these reminders with the hope those brain tricks will kick in and we can get back to “normal” life.

Lent reminds us of the uncertainty of tomorrow. When you are in the wilderness, you don’t know where the wilderness ends or when your wilderness journey will come to an end. You walk, you pray, you fast, in hope that there will be an end and that the Divine will be present with you through the end, however, long that might be.

We can run from these reminders or we can lean into these reminders. When we run, we resist the revelations of the wilderness and the gratitude that comes with the light of day after that dark night. When we lean in, we remember that we are dust that we are not Creator God. We cannot be all things to all people. We cannot do everything, but we can do something. We lean into the realization that we have today, this day, and that we get to decide how to spend this day.

Tomorrow has enough troubles of its own, lean into this Lenten day.

Leaning Into Lent: Naked and Afraid

Have you ever watched the show “Naked and Afraid?” It’s a survival show that involves two people usually a man and a woman being dropped in the wilderness. They have nothing with them except one personal item and they are naked. They have no food and no water and they have to try to survive for 21 days. It’s fascinating to see. In some cases, they are dropped in deserts. In some cases in the heart of the Amazon, but they are always dropped somewhere that makes it difficult to survive. 

I was struck by one episode where the two contestants were walking through the desert and discovered that there were all these little briars. It was painful to watch their feet trying to get used to those little things and eventually, they both formed makeshift shoes to protect their feet. 

Hear now the word of the Lord from Genesis:

2:15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 2:17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 3:2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3:3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'” 3:4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; 3:5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 3:7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

I wonder what it would do to our perception of this very familiar passage to look at the Garden of Eden like a wilderness. At least in my understanding and teaching surrounding the Garden of Eden, this was paradise and this is what we are all deprived of because of the choices of these first people. 

Maybe I have been watching too much Naked and Afraid, but here are two humans just formed out of the dust of the earth trying to figure out how to relate to each other, their creator, and their surroundings. It kinda sound a lot like what we are trying to do every day, doesn’t it? 

And in the midst of their trying to figure out what it means to be in their world, there is a voice that brings doubt to what the Creator has said. Many people interpret this being as Satan, but the text doesn’t provide that interpretation. The text says it was just a talking serpent. And just like us, the man and the woman have to wrestle with which voice to believe and which voice to trust. 

And when they realize that they have been deceived, that they have listened to the wrong voice, they are embarrassed and just like us, they try to hide themselves realizing that they are vulnerable and realizing that they are naked for the first time. 

Those makeshift clothes are what we are still creating today. We are still trying to hide our vulnerability from each other and indeed from our Creator. We are still trying to hide the ways that we have been deceived and the ways that we have been duped. 

The season of Lent asked us to journey naked and afraid into the wilderness, not knowing what we will encounter. We will probably at some point want to get out. We will probably at some point want to hide. We will probably at some listen to the wrong voice.

But still the Spirit of God invites us, calls us, into the wilderness, naked and afraid.

Leaning Into Lent: Letting Go of Stuff

This suitcase has been with me for eleven years. It was one of the two I packed to move overseas for a year. It was quite an investment at the time because I wanted it to last and because I wanted features like dual wheels.

But I haven’t traveled overseas in quite a while nor have I gone on a trip where a suitcase this size would even be reasonable to pack. Seriously our four-year-old and one-year-old could both fit in this suitcase comfortably.

So why is it still with me?

Because we get attached to stuff.

Objects remind us of experiences and people and new identities. For me, this suitcase was a reminder of my courage in moving to a foreign country for a year. This suitcase reminded me that I really didn’t need as much stuff as I thought I needed to live for a year somewhere. This suitcase reminded me of the clarity and call I received while overseas to become a preacher and pastor. And so I have kept it.

Lent invites us to look at things differently, yes even suitcases. This morning I dropped off this suitcase at a local nonprofit that offers sanctuary and shelter for children who have to be removed from their homes and are awaiting foster care families. They have asked for suitcases because many times the children are relocated quickly and only have a trash bag or grocery sack of belongings. They don’t have sturdy bags that they can move from place to place.

When I dropped off this suitcase, the woman said, “Thank you. This is a nice big one. Oh and it rolls!”

This is where this suitcase needs to be, not in my closet.

Leaning into Lent means letting go of stuff, even stuff that served really important roles in our lives and in our transformation.

Leaning Into Lent

I love Lent. I know that sounds crazy, but I do.

Maybe it’s because it is a bit of a novelty since I didn’t grow up remembering Lent at all. Maybe it’s because in my experience as a pastor, Lent is a season in which so many people have open hearts and open minds to the way the Divine is moving and working in the world.

Maybe it’s because for me personally, it provides a good excuse to engage in spiritual disciplines that have maybe fallen out of practice in day to day living.

Whatever it is, this year I am leaning in Lent with an open mind and open heart ready to see the way that Divine is inviting us into deeper communion and deeper understanding.

May the Spirit protect you, challenge you, and restore you in this season.

“Is it light/dark?”

After school as the sun begins to set and the day is coming to a close, our four-year-old asks, “Is it light/dark yet?” He’s asking if the time is coming where it will be time to get ready for bed and rest. Most of us call it an evening. If we are feeling poetic, we might call it twilight.

But I’m partial to light/dark, especially this time of year. This time of ordinary times wedged in between the Light of the World coming during Advent and the darkness that reminds us of our dustiness during Lent. Yes, this is light/dark.

And perhaps, too, we are light/dark. Capable of both spreading love and hope and healing as well as hate and loneliness and hurt. Yes, we are light/dark.

As we sit in the season waiting for the darkness while basking in the light, maybe we should take the opportunity to ask ourselves, “Did I spread more light or dark today?”

And then get ready and go to sleep hoping and praying for the light to come again and again and again.

Patience, Grasshopper

At four, everything seems pressing. As soon as our four-year-old wakes up, he has a list of questions or reflections he wants to share. His little mind has always been like this even before we could understand the babbles he was sharing. There was an urgency to his need to comment on the world, his dreams, and really every thought that pops into his head.

In the midst of these pressing questions, I often respond, “Patience, grasshopper.” He always asks, “Why are you calling me a grasshopper.” I joke it’s because he is hopping from one thought to another or one request to another.

But this phrase has deeper connotations of centering oneself’s and deciding what is the most important priority for the moment. I have to admit I have to say this phrase to myself quite often. It is easy to jump from one thing to next never considering or reflecting on the way we are spending our time, attention, and money. It is easy to move, move, move and never be present in one space or moment of time.

As we creep closer to the Lenten Season, I hear that still, small voice echoing within:

Slow down.

Wait.

See.

Hear.

Be.