I'm a Presbyterian now and as most people know, they’re not big fans of liturgy. I grew up Methodist, reciting the Prayer of Humble Access and the creed regularly at communion services. Presbyterians don’t even take communion that often and to be honest, while I love the fantastic expository preaching, I do miss a bit of liturgy and knowing that the readings being used in our church are being used by God’s people throughout the church that day.
So what about the season of Lent? Again, it’s not something that gets much attention in some protestant traditions. And often when I hear people talking about Lent, it’s based on the denial of a love – wine, chocolate, crisps with little thought to why.
I didn’t ‘do’ Lent growing up but for years now I’ve enjoyed marking the season. Yet for me the idea of going off something, be it chocolate or wine or Facebook – feels like only half the story. Like it needs coupled with a positive action too. I think this is because denial of something we enjoy over Lent is to do with self-control, which is a fruit of the Spirit. That doesn’t mean we deny ourselves things we love and then try really hard not to have them, or pray lots that God would help us to walk on by the chocolate aisle in the supermarket.
The fruits of the Spirit, like self-control, come from being IN HIM. The way apples appear on the tree by tending to the roots and health of the tree, so self-control (as with the other fruits of the Spirit) will come when we are spending time in the Bible, with God, working on the roots of our faith and relationship with Him. The fruit is an outworking of that.
The passage in Galatians 5 that ends with the fruit of the Spirit actually starts;
You were called to be free…walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
– so we are not slaves to trying to be more patient, or kind, but living step by step with God we will see a transformation of character.
Don’t despair at the six week period ahead if you’re giving something up. See Lent as an opportunity to build a positive habit – spending more time in His word.
How will this look as a parent of little ones?
Catch me at 8pm and you’ll see I’m a morning person – I need time each morning to spend with God and reading His word. Unfortunately I’m still in a season of very early mornings and inconsistent sleeping patterns. The boys take it in turns to be up at 5.30am and it is exhausting. There is no consistent wake up time, but if there was, say a normal 6.30am rising, it would be easy to set the alarm and get up at 6am everyday. But yesterday Daniel was up at 5.15am, today it was 6.30am yet Rory woke the last two mornings at 5.30am.
So my plan over Lent is once we’re all up, maybe at 7am, when the boys are having breakfast I’ll go back upstairs and do my reading then. Hopefully this will be a great new routine for me, helping me deepen my faith and have no chocolate for 46 days!
Is there a time slot each day, even if only ten minutes when the kids are able to entertain themselves, if you’re at that stage, or you have someone around to help with the children – maybe your husband is around at breakfast everyday? Or if you are able to concentrate in the evenings, then?
What will I read?
Instead of using a devotional this year, I have decided to spend some time each day over Lent reading through the Psalms. I considered setting the target of three Psalms a day. But then I decided that it’s better to read slowly and more thoughtfully than rattle through 150 Psalms in a little over six weeks. So I will do one a day, starting at Psalm 1, and finishing on Easter Sunday in Psalm 46 (what a great one to end on!).
While at my writing retreat earlier this month, we spent a session on spiritual disciplines. I read a book last year on St Benedict’s Rule (to be honest it was a dry read...!) as I have felt more and more led to these ancient monastic approaches to our faith. At the retreat we did a lectio divina of Isaiah 61, a slow, contemplative approach to the passage. I plan to approach each Psalm like this, and writing down a verse or word each day on a Post-It to carry around that day, put on the cooker splashback when I’m making dinner, on the steering wheel to look at when sitting at a red light.
Could you use this meditative practice to help you hear God afresh this season?
Lent for children
Just like doing a Jesse tree for Advent, I think it’s good to use the church calendar and seasons like Lent and Advent to show our children the big picture of the Bible. This year for Lent we’re doing the book “I Am: 40 reasons to Trust God” which goes through 40 of the names for God in the Bible using Bible stories, prayers and a short devotion. I am hoping that through it, even at their young age and with Daniel’s learning disability, God makes His love for my boys clear so that they will grow to love and know Him better. I’ll make sure to update you with how it’s gone!
So, what are you doing for Lent this year? Personally and with your children… I’d love to hear and get some good ideas for next year! I’ve spoken to a few people who are planning to do the ’40 Acts’ this year – have any of you done it before?