Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday

It is hard to write about Lent when it is sunny and 74 degrees outside.  The weather is decidedly un-Lenten. Who wants to think about fasting and deprivation when all you feel like doing is sitting and soaking in the sunshine and letting your body create more vitamin D?


Today is Ash Wednesday.  All around the world liturgical Christians are reminded in tangible form that we are dust without the Spirit of God.  It begins a forty day journey of remembering.  Lent is the abstaining, fasting, from something that creates in our souls room for more of  God.  

I have forty days to practice this discipline.  I have forty days to try and fail.  Yes, every year I fail miserably at Lent.  Forty days is a long time to try and be better than before.  Even when I get it "right" and complete my fast perfectly I fail. 

How can being perfect mean failing?  It is failing when I think I have completed my fast under my own power.  I can force myself by sheer will to not do something.  However, it is failing when I focus too much on the abstaining and not enough on the reason for the fast.  

I forget, slip up and "paint pictures of  Egypt" the way the Israelites did during their forty year Lent.  Complaining all the time even when God provides for me.  I also fool myself into thinking I have something to do with my getting it right, like the Pharisees; either position is failing to focus on Jesus.  

Lent isn't about Lent.  It is really about Easter.  It is the process of opening our hearts to Easter Grace.  

Grace that is greater than all our sin.  

Grace that meets us where we are - dirt.

Grace that creates beauty out of ashes


Here are some great resources for Lent:




Saturday, February 11, 2012

Bible, Blindfolds, Paper and Pens

I made the realization yesterday that blogging in your head it not the same as actually blogging on the internet.  If it were, there would not be such a huge lapse in my entries.  


Someone needs to create a voice recorder that transcribes to your blog.  Then I could speak my blog while I am tending sick children, or driving all over Oklahoma City or lying in bed sick myself.  All of these things are happening around here as well as one allergic reaction thrown in for good measure.  In case you were wondering, I am still allergic to nuts.  


In the middle of all this normal activity, I spent last weekend at a confirmation retreat with a bunch of 7th graders.


You may ask, "Why in the name of all that is Holy would a home-school mom, who is with her kids 24/7 volunteer to spend her personal time with 40 middle-schoolers at a gross, old Methodist camp with communal bathrooms and try to teach them about Jesus?!"   


I don't know why, I must have been temporarily insane when I said I would help out.


Well, God works through temporarily insane moments.  Thank goodness because I have a lot of them.   




If you are not aware of the phenomenon that is a  "Confirmation Retreat"  let me give you a definition.   


You take 40 or so 7th graders to a remote, rustic camp.  Arriving Friday night and staying through Sunday morning.  Your schedule consists of large group worship, where they sing and play silly group games.  This is followed by copious amounts of sugar, caffeine, Dance, Dance Revolution and games involving shaving cream.  In between  these times you meet in small groups of 5-10 and try to have serious discussions about such topics as the Trinity, Sin, Salvation and Faith.   So that, at the end of the confirmation process (it takes 12 weeks at our church) they can make an informed decision about following Jesus and joining the church.


(Good luck with that)






The main goal as a leader is to try to slide information into the children between the sugar high and the sugar crash and try to keep the boys and girls from falling to their deaths hiking or creating the color "purple" (It took me a minute a too, blue for boys mixed up to closely with pink for girls equals purple.)


Forget about sleeping.  Forget about personal space.  Forget about trying to control the giggling, the screeching and the ever present obsession with boys and body spray.  


Moderation is not a familiar term to middle-school girls.


(Do middle school girls, not see how stinky and ridiculous middle school boys are?)


Somewhere in the middle of this chaos I realized that I was having fun.  More importantly I realized that I was experiencing Jesus through these kids.   It is ironic that when you think you are there to give something away, you end up receiving something you never expected.  


I never expected to moved to tears when I saw a 12year old boy worship Jesus.  I never expected to have my faith renewed through girls asking me to explain what Bible verses meant.   I never expected to be awe of how mature high school assistants can be.  (Yes, you read that correctly "mature high-schoolers")  I never expected that just by going on a hike with a group of girls, they would learn to trust me. 


These kids renewed my hope for the future of the church. 


The underlying, sneaky goal of the retreat is to stick people together until they form a relationship.  You get to know a lot about people when we are in such close proximity.  Sometimes more than you wanted.


I listened as the girls talked about their "boyfriends", wondered about high school, shared how hard it is to have divorced parents.   I saw them using make-up and flat-irons to cover what they think is wrong.  


Then I helped them connect all these fears, questions and insecurities to Jesus.  My main mantra of the weekend - "Jesus loves you more than you can imagine, just the way you are.  He wants you to become the person you are created to be."  


Then you stand back and watch the seeds of faith sprouting.


Who wouldn't want to volunteer for that?


Like the memories of child birth that fade, so we foolishly sign up for it again, I will probably make a habit out of this confirmation leader gig.    (If they don't kick me out first)


It turns out spending time with middle-schoolers is good for your soul.