Once again, we find ourselves entering the season of Lent! This is a bittersweet season on the Christian calendar–and for some of us, a fairly new observance and that may feel unfamiliar. Growing up, I was aware of Lent with Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday being the primary focus. (I wonder how some brothers and sisters within the Protestant camp view Lent–e.g., as a primarily Catholic tradition–though I realize a large percentage of Protestants have observed Lent over the centuries). When I first graduated seminary and served on a mainline church staff I was introduced to a liturgical expression of the Lenten season. Then, when my wife Gina (who has a charismatic, Anglican background) and I married, we took a more intentional approach to fasting, prayer and learning more about how other Christians around the world observe Lent.
I appreciate Lent. It offers you and I a chance to slow down and reflect, identifying what things need to be part of our lives and how to remove obstacles to give more space to our spirituality. Lent can introduce new rhythms in our spiritual lives that can enhance our faith and the communities we serve. In my coaching and training with liturgical church leaders, my friends come from a wonderful depth of tradition that the evangelical church could and should learn from. There are many ways to embrace this season: some fast, taking the 40-day period as a solemn and serious retreat from ordinary life. More importantly, it’s an invitation to invite the Holy Spirit into your day-to-day life to intentionally reflect, grieve and rejoice in the story of Christianity.
Through the next seven weeks leading up to Easter, I will be using the classic stations of the cross. We will follow Jesus on his journey through death, highlighting the significant events that led to our salvation. This year I want to invite you to use this time not only to think about Jesus and His sacrifice, but also to discover what we can learn from Lent, specifically as leaders who multiply disciples, groups and churches. The season of Lent can breathe new life into your dry bones.
Questions for your reflection:
- What is your experience with Lent?
- What does Lent mean to you?
- How could you benefit from engaging with Jesus this Lenten season?
For me, the reasons to slow down are very personal. In the past I’ve had seasons when I’ve been willing to engage in Lent more fully than other seasons. It probably was the combination of stage of life, family rhythms, church orientation to Lent, etc. This year, I am in a different place. I find myself wanting and needing to slow down. Life has been busy. Gina and I are now fully in the “empty nest” season of life. After having both of our young adult children home through their final year of university, they are now truly living on their own.
Back in the fall of 2021 I began my journey with a cohort into spiritual formation and enlisted the services of a spiritual director. I didn’t know then how timely this would become. Gina and I are now part of a new church startup in our community, and 2023 is a different season altogether. The fruit of that spiritual journey has been invaluable, and the season of Lent is a great opportunity for me to delve deeply into reflection and communion with Jesus during the start of a new chapter of our lives.
Where do you find yourself? If you are like me, coming out of lockdown has presented many challenges. The isolation we experienced and the artificial nature of human interaction over the internet has taken a toll on us all–whether we’re aware of it or not. Upon returning to the airport for the first time pre-Covid, it felt oddly familiar yet also subtly different. Everyone acted as if nothing had changed, yet people are now hyper-aware of things like personal space and cleanliness. Minor things but notable.
This is my invitation for you to pause and reflect–not as a one-time act, but throughout the entire 46 days of Lent. Use these questions to help you prepare as we approach this special season:
- What would you like your focus to be during Lent?
- How will you engage?
- What is one area of your life that needs attention?
- What are you willing to give up to give this area the attention needed?
- Describe your intention throughout Lent to draw closer to Jesus.
I’ll close with a quote from the poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning:
Earth’s crammed with heaven
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes;
The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries.
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