Written by The Rev. Kristen Yates - The Mission Cincinnati
Lent is almost here, friends, and we are excited at the Mission Cincinnati to journey through this season together. If you come from a tradition that does not follow the Christian Calendar, you may be wondering what Lent is all about.
Well, in the simplest terms, Lent is the 40-day period prior to Easter that starts with Ash Wednesday. It is a time of devotion and discipline as we prepare our hearts for the great celebration of Jesus’ Resurrection on Easter Sunday. (By the way, the Sundays in Lent are not counted in this 40-day penitential period since Sundays are always feast days.) As we journey through this 40-day period together, we keep a double focus.
On one hand, during Lent, we seriously consider sin and our fallen human condition. If we are truthful with ourselves, during this season of Lent, we say with the apostle Paul “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15). During Lent, we admit that we are sinful individuals – that we continually wrestle with pride, self-centeredness, hatred, a need to be in control, envy, prejudice, and many other vices.
On the other hand, we also reflect on the Christian hope throughout the entire season of Lent. Though we are sinful, Christ so loved the world that He died for us while we were still sinners and then He was raised from the dead, opening up the possibility for those who believe to be reconciled with Himself.
Not only that, but he opened up the possibility of healing, transformation into Christlikeness, and abundant life through the power of the Holy Spirit working within us. So, in Lent, we are always looking forward to the triumph of Easter Day even as we grapple with the our fallen conditions.
So while Advent (the Season before Christmas) can be said to be about “God with us”, Lent (the Season before Easter) can be said to be about “God for us”. As Greg Pennoyer says,
“If Advent/Christmas is a revelation of God’s presence with us, then Lent/Easter is a revelation of God’s desire to use all of life for our wholeness and our healing – the revelation that he will pull life from death. . . . Lent and Easter reveal the God who is for us in all of life – for our liberation, for our healing, for our wholeness. Lent and Easter remind us that even in death there can be found resurrection.” (Pennoyer, “God for Us”, x)
So with this great truth in mind, we enter into this season of Lent with a firm sense of God’s love for us, as well as a desire to engage practices that will open us up to God’s healing, liberation, and transformation.
And so friends, since the earliest of times, it has been typical in the season of Lent to take on some new rhythm of prayer, self-examination, confession, fasting, and giving/generosity. We give up certain habits and take on other habits so that we might we might become more like Christ and so that we might grow closer in our relationship with Him.
Some of you may be wondering, however, “how do we do this?” So, with this question in mind, I have compiled a list of suggested practices that you might take on during this season. You can find it below.
Before you check out this list, however, let me provide the following caution. Please do not feel as if you should do all of these. Especially if you are new to Lent, take on one or two new practices and put your energy into those.
Remember that the point of these practices is not to check off as may boxes as possible but to be self-reflective, to draw closer to Christ, and to open yourself up to the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. So consider which practices will help you do this the best in this season. And if you are unfamiliar with these practices, consider coming to Oasis on Wednesday nights, where we will engage in some of them throughout the season. Also seek me out for guidance.
Practices for Lent - Some Online Resources
Daily Lenten Devotionals – Take on a daily Lenten devotional. There are many out there, but here are two that I suggest for you:
Prayer– Consider taking on practices of daily prayer, examen, or lectio divina during this season. You can find explanations of these practices at The Vine and the Way, my spiritual formation blog, as well as find links out to prayer resources.
Fasting and Feasting– Consider taking on rhythms of fasting and feasting during the Season. Here are three articles to help you understand what fasting is all about: “Fasting for Lent” and “Fasting and Feasting for Lent” and How to Fast for Lent. Also, you may consider fasting from a habit, a habit that in itself may not be bad, but seems to be increasingly taking you away from “loving God and loving neighbor”, a habit that is becoming a bit of an idol, is controlling you rather than you controlling it. (i.e., many people give up social media for Lent.)
Reading Scripture– Take on a Scripture reading plan or join a Bible study for this Season. If you are a woman, consider joining Katie Mosley’s Women’s Bible Study this Lent. As another option, Anne Rothaas also suggests this Bible study on Job that you can do on your own. If you would like to wrestle more with some of the content of Anne’s sermon from a couple of weeks ago, this could be a good study for you.
Article originally published March 1, 2019
Written by Janet Mueller - Heartland Church of Fort Wayne
"Do you recognize this?" my sister asked me in a note accompanied by a photo of a blue blouse. I thought to myself, “No, should I?”
After pondering the photo for a while, I remembered she used to wear a blouse like this back in the 70's. But why was she sending me a picture of it? I called her to ask for an explanation, and she relayed to me this incredible story.
She had stopped at a vintage clothing store, one she had never been in before, in Des Moines. Her eyes landed upon a blouse, and she felt very drawn to it. She kept looking at it and studying it carefully. It was handmade with a hand-embroidered piece in the center. There were flaws in the seams, and the zipper was not sewn in straight.
Suddenly, it dawned on her that she had made this very blouse herself! She wore it when she was in high school 40 years ago in our hometown about 100 miles from Des Moines. How in the world did it get in this used clothing store?
She concluded that she had probably given boxes of clothing to Good Will when she moved into her current house 30 years ago. Someone evidently bought the blouse and just recently decided to sell it in a consignment shop that my sister just happened to walk into that particular day. She bought the blouse, of course, expensive as it was! It was her blouse, now twice owned. Once by virtue of creation. And once by virtue of paying the price.
Have you ever lost or sold something you made only to have it returned many years later? Do you remember the feeling of joyous astonishment? These kinds of stories tug at our hearts because they speak a universal truth to us. That which is created by someone will always hold a piece of their heart. Even if it is sold or lost, it remains theirs in an abstract sense because they were the creators of it. They hold a type of ownership over it because it originated in their mind or imagination.
So it is with our Creator. He made us, and He wants us back. He loves and likes us in spite of our flaws. We will always hold a piece of His heart. Will you place yourself there again?
“And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’” (Luke 15:9 NKJV.)
Written by Allison Gardner - Heartland Church of Fort Wayne
Growing up, I had the absolute best dad. He was loving, funny, protective, and wise. I knew, no matter what, he was the guy I could depend on. But when my grandma passed away during my junior year in high school, something changed. The drinking became more frequent, and his behavior became more and more unpredictable.
There was one night I vividly remember. I sat on the front porch, staring blindly into the pitch black of night, begging God to make it all better. My dad still wasn’t home. It had happened before, and it would happen again.
That was the night I began gaining weight. It came in waves, and it compounded year after year, hurt after hurt. The weight of rejection and fear, the weight of shame and perfectionism, the weight of anxiety and the need to control.
For several years, I carried that weight around. It got heavier and heavier until it was more than I could bear. It was too much for me to carry. But God. He rescued me. You see, we were NEVER meant to carry those weights. He showed me that trading my weights for His was the way to freedom.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)
What weight do you need to lose? Is jealousy weighing you down with its chains of comparison? Is the weight of bitterness or unforgiveness sagging your soul? Maybe it is anger crushing you. Maybe it is fear, lust, or rejection. The list is long. The weight is heavy.
BUT take heart. His weight loss plan is simple. Lay it down. Lay it at the feet of Jesus, and run into your newfound freedom that is only possible because of His sacrifice.
Watch and listen with me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HT5JrK1J6OU
Pray with me: Jesus, thank You that You bore every sin and took on every weight as You gave up Your life for us. Thank You that we don’t have to carry this weight any longer, and we can simply lay it down at the foot of the Cross. Thank You for the freedom You give us in exchange for this weight we were never meant to carry. Amen.
Written by Janet Mueller - Heartland Church of Fort Wayne
So he said to me, "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty. (Zachariah 4:6 NIV.)
“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” (James 5:16b NLT.)
I have been praying for years for the heart of someone I love to be open to Christ. As a simple reminder, I placed some Scrabble tiles on my kitchen window ledge to spell the word, PRAY. This was just a visual prompting to pray for my loved one whenever I stood at the kitchen sink.
One day as I was dusting the window frame, I accidentally knocked over the letter A. Now it spelled PRY. In that moment God asked me, “Which will it be? PRAY or PRY?”
Heading to the online dictionary, I read that pry means to move, raise, or open by leverage; to obtain, extract, or separate with difficulty, for example, to pry a secret out of someone. Was I going to trust the Holy Spirit to open the heart of this one or was I going to turn to the leverage I have to pry it open? If through leverage, I am able to get the result I want, will it be the result I would want years from now? Will it be genuine heart change? Will it come from the free will of the individual? Will it be lasting? Sadly, I knew it would not. Only the Holy Spirit’s power will work.
We all have been given good gifts that can serve as leverage to open difficult situations or people. Things like wisdom, persuasiveness, knowledge, strength, beauty, gifts, and yes, even love. “Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” (James 5:20.) How and when we wield our leverage to turn a soul and whether it is in our own strength and will or in God’s way and time, determine the effectiveness. And sometimes God does things without any of our help. Because He can. Because He is God.
For eons of time, He has been opening darkened, deceived, blinded, and broken hearts. He has been reversing circumstances that have been set in stone for years. Impenetrable, immovable, and seemingly unchangeable situations can change in a moment. This one is no exception. Neither is yours.
Pray with me: Father, I yield my leverage to you. Help me to wield it when You say, “Now,” and not a moment before. Give me Your patience as silently and secretly the Holy Spirit works. Amen.