Friday, February 28, 2020


seeking Christ, Easter, Christian living

Many people think of Lent as a Catholic observance, if they think of it at all. Perhaps they only know it as that thing that happens after Fat Tuesday and Mardi Gras. Lent has been observed in both Catholic and Protestant churches as a time of reflection and preparation before Easter. Most scholars agree that Lent in its traditional sense began around 325 A.D. after the Council of Nicea.

Most of today's Evangelical churches rarely observe Lent. I personally see it as more of an individual choice, because it is more about the inner workings of your Christian life than about the outward observation of the season before Easter.

I grew up in a denominational church that observed Lent, but not as deeply as my friends who grew up Catholic did. It has left me with a unique perspective. While my Christian faith is much more about my daily walk with Jesus than about the outward show of religion, I find both comfort and challenge in the liturgy of church history and worship.

What does it mean to me to observe Lent as a Protestant, and how might this become something beneficial to all of us? That's what I'm hoping to share today.

Traditionally Lent is seen as the season of giving up: sweets, movies, bad habits and the like. But while these can be a positive step towards a deeper walk with God, if they only last for the 40 days/ six weeks of Lent what good are they to us? I prefer to look at Lent as a season to start something new and beneficial in my life. It is a time to create good habits that can continue long after the Easter Sunday celebration is over.

What might Lent look like?

Making daily time to read my Bible - every single day, not just more days than not. 

Choosing to hand-write out a verse that God used to speak to me from that day's reading.

Writing an encouraging note to a friend or a co-worker.

Making the best choice for my lunch selection out of my available options.

Choosing to spend more time listening to my kids than talking at them.

Taking a walk every evening and spending that time in prayer for others.

These are just a few of the things I've done, or seen others do, during Lent in recent years. 

Right now a pretty popular Lenten practice is 40 bags in 40 days. It is the idea of purging out the things you don't need from your home and giving the ones that still have value to those in need. It sounds like a great idea to me. Can you imagine if you had 40 bags' less stuff in your home when it came time to clean the week before Easter?

Since we've already been purging for the past two months, we might not come up with 40 bags' worth - but I think it's worth a try anyway. Getting rid of unused things and donating the good we find can remind us of Jesus' commands to love one another and care for those in need. As you clean you can thank God for His provision of what you truly need, and ask Him to bless those who will receive your extra: clothes, toys, books, etc.

The practice of Lent is about drawing closer to God, reflecting on His sacrifice through Jesus, and allowing Him to work in our hearts. It's about letting God direct our paths for each day, whether that means volunteering more in your community, saying a kind word to a co-worker, or drinking more water to improve your health. It is something we do without drawing a lot of attention to ourselves, because it traditionally points to Jesus' 40 days of fasting in the wilderness.

Lent is not about sorrow, but about trust.

Can you set aside a little extra time each day for the next six weeks for God? Will you prayerfully consider what He might be calling you to give up or begin as a way to draw closer to Him, to understand His will? If yes, then Lent sounds like a great time to start. 

Don't spend this time worried about what you have not done in your life, but instead, focus on what Jesus has already done for you. Think about His mercy and forgiveness. Think about His grace and sacrifice on the cross for us. Ask God to help you follow His example of service to others.

For the next 40 days, and beyond:

Walk, in His steps.

1 Peter 2:21

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Community - part 1

community involvement, definitions, childhood

What first comes to mind when you hear the word community?

No really, I'll wait for you to think about it...

Are you thinking of a beach-front community? You know, the way a realtor advertises a house or condo to make it more attractive by labeling it "part of a beach-front community."

Or maybe you're thinking about that line you hear at church " a community of believers."

Something else?

What would you have thought when you were 10 or 12 years old? Would you have had any idea what to say if your Grandma asked you about a community?

Our definitions in our head are often different than those in the dictionary. In high school I learned that this was the word's connotation (what we think of) instead of its denotation (what the dictionary says.)

Our ideas about a word (connotation), often change as we get older. Funny that. The dictionary definitions (denotations) often change over time too. Words that were used often 200 years ago are now labeled as archaic, or do not even get space in modern dictionaries. Many people would rather look at a website like Wikipedia than pull out an actual dictionary or encyclopedia. I'm not opposed to using either, but I'm more likely to put stock in what the book says over what the collective internet users say - shocking right?!

My modern dictionary says this about community: a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common

My reprint of Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary said this: a society of people having common rights and privileges, or common interests, civil, political, or ecclesiastical 

So which would you rather belong to, a beach front community, senior community, a gated or farm community? That's what the modern definition seems to imply. Community means living in the same place. Does that actually make a community? Maybe. But I think it often lacks a depth of closeness or relationships. 

I've lived in several communities in my life, in regards to a physical place. But what I think we long for is the older definition: having common interests, common rights, having a place where we belong as a person, not just as a number.

I've been writing about community this past month for my book, and it has given me pause. We take so much for granted because we hurry through this life. Where is the community you MOST want to belong to? Is it important enough for you to invest time into? Do you give to your community or only take? How can we teach another generation about the importance of true community with deep relationships and real responsibilities when we don't live in community ourselves? You cannot teach what you do not know.

It is time for us to step back and evaluate our communities, whether they be by geographical location or by common interests. How can we lift others up? How can we give back more than we take? How can we create and sustain healthy communities for ourselves and our families?

I'll be sharing some more thoughts about community as I work through it myself. In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment and tell me something you appreciate about a community you belong to!