Wednesday, March 5, 2014

What's All This Talk of Lent and Ashes?

Growing up, I never celebrated Lent or Ash Wednesday, and I didn’t know anything about it.  My only Lenten memory is spending a Friday night at my Catholic friend’s house and it being a big deal that we ate fish. 

My first Ash Wednesday experience
It wasn’t until seminary that I even heard much about Ash Wednesday.  I was interested, so I tried an Ash Wednesday Bible study with my student small group.  It was a wonderful experience, and I subsequently continued the tradition for years.  

A few years ago I gave up something for the first, and until now, only time—chap stick.  It was a dry, cracked, bloody experience.  It reminded me all day every day that Easter was coming.  The small sacrifice prepared my heart for Easter.  I have never been as excited to gather at church and worship the living Christ as I was that Sunday.  I stood up front and worshipped loudly and proudly, because I had so greatly anticipated this moment—the worship and adoration of our God who came to earth to be with us, suffered horrific torture and death, and then overcame death!

But much confusion abounds around Lent.  My church has a lot of people who were raised Catholic and who have since left the Catholic Church.   Some of them have fond memories of Lent and wonder if they can still observe it; others have negative memories of all things Catholic, and they hope they don’t have to observe Lent.

Others are like me, they don’t know much about, or why they would consider observing, Lent.

If you’re like me (clueless), then this blog might help.
If you’re looking for ways to observe Lent for the first time, or to revisit Lent from a different perspective, then this blog might help.
If you’re looking for an overall explanation, albeit a long one, then this blog might help.  

If you want to observe Lent, but aren’t sure how, then there are lots of options and resources.
  • Many people give up something for Lent.  The possibilities are endless.  Popular options include Facebook, chocolate, soda, and alcohol.
  • Some people do something instead of giving up.  They encourage someone every day or volunteer to serve.
  • Many people read a Lenten devotional or Bible plan. 
    • YouVersion.com (and the app) offer several Lent reading plans.  
    • Susan Hughes is doing this Bible reading plan.
    • Search for “lent devotional” on Amazon and peruse the options.  A quick search brought such fantastic Christian thinkers as Bonhoeffer and N.T. Wright to the top of the list.
How are you observing Lent this year? 

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