Why You May Really [Really] Need Lent this Year [and a Free Family Lent & Easter Devotional]

I can’t seem to follow through in giving up for Lent.

Which makes me want to just give up Lent.

Which makes me question Who I am following.

Which may precisely be the point of Lent.

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What Lent Means

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Last week, I’m standing on a table, snapping the shutter on a bouquet of roses, when by brother calls.

Levi picks it up, his eyes twinkling, stars risen early.

I can only hope Levi doesn’t mention he’s answering because his Mama’s standing smack dab center in the middle of the table, her all happy over a bunch of God glory found in flowers.

“Hello? … Oh, hi Uncle John.”

I smile. Levi’s a miniature mirror image of my brother, smattering of freckles bridging across the nose and the thirty years that span between them.

“What am I doing? But you know already –talking to you.” I can imagine the chuckling on the other end of the line. I set the camera aside, hop off the table.

Levi mouths it large, one hand over the receiver.”ARE YOU AVAILABLE, MOM?”

Oh, but wouldn’t I stop being Mom if I stopped being available? Levi grins and hands over my brother.

“Hey. So tell me. Lent. Fill me in, sister.”

Our faith community doesn’t practice Lent.

My brother doesn’t do Google.

When he’s got a question, he calls me on his cell.

If need be, he waits for me to Google. My brother’s a welder.

I can hear the rumble of the diesel engine of his pick-up. He can hear the low roar of my kids.

“Okay… Lent. It’s the preparing the heart for Easter. Like going with Jesus into the wilderness for forty days, that we might come face to ugly face with our enemy. Our sacrificing that we might become more like Christ in His sacrifice.”

The other end of the line is silent. I don’t know if this is good.

I keep talking.

Lent isn’t about forfeiting as much as it’s about formation.

We renounce to be reborn; we let go to become ‘little Christs’. It’s about this: We break away to become.”

Still silence. I have one last swing at it.

“Don’t think of lent as about working your way to salvation. Think of it as working out your salvation.”

I wait.

And he speaks slow.

“Yes…. Yes…. I get it. I’m doing it. I’m doing Lent. God’s been speaking things into my life and I think this is how He wants to meet me right now.” Like brother, like sister.

I stack clean dishes and we talk about some dark corners.

We confess. We pray.

We live the week

I forsake and I fast and I forget and I flounder, I fall… I fail.

I’ve made soup. I’ve lit the candle. We bow.

I serve bowls, I pass out bread, I pour cups. They’re talking and I am listening and I blithely sit down and I eat.

I have bread in the mouth, the bowl half empty, when I drop the spoon. I shake the head hard. I taste disgust. I absentmindedly eat in the evening, a meal I vowed to fast from. What was I thinking? I can’t scrub my lips clean.

I choke it out in a whisper, “Do I not think enough of You to remember?”

I close the eyes tight and the heart cries the words silent. Do I love You so little?”

It is an irrefutable law: one needs to be dispossessed of the possessions that possess — before one can be possessed of God.

Let the things of this world fall away so the soul can fall in love with God. God only comes to fill the empty places and kenosis is necessary — to empty the soul to know the filling of God.

But the flesh is corrupt. I can’t do it.

When my brother calls late in the week to talk Lent, I am honest and it hurts and he listens. He unwraps his week haltingly. Like brother, like sister.

But Lent is teaching me.”My throat stings. “I see how depraved I am. How incapable I am in the flesh, how in bondage I am. That I can’t keep any law perfectly. Worse – oh, this cuts deep — at times…”

I struggle to keep composure, to grip the words and hand them over. Can I even say these words?

“Worse… at times… I don’t even want to keep the law. Lent’s revealing my depravity, my impotence. The utter death of my flesh. I can do nothing. My Lent convicts: I am a lawbreaker. ”

Does the emptying come only when we know how empty we are?

I feel wild, desperate. My brother honors my struggle with witness. I am grateful.

I turn towards our Lenten wreath, the path our oldest son made out of oak, the path we mark each of the forty days with a moving forward of the candle, of the symbol of the cross.

Forty days, I am reflecting on my cross, my sins.

My lent has me hard after the light…

Looking hard for release from this wretched body of death.

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And there is Jesus.

Jesus with a crown of thorns. Jesus bent low, God carrying my rotting mess, Grace doing what I cannot do, and I cannot ascend to God but He will descend to me.

I whisper goodbye to my brother because I can’t speak.

I kneel down by my symbolic journey.

I finger the wood of the cross. I trace the back bowed. Jesus will have to do everything.

He will have to accomplish it all. I am ashes and I am dust and there is no good in me and I am in dire need and lent has given me clear eyes to see my sin and I am the one broken under all this skin.

I can feel the grain of the tree under my fingertips.

He is the one going to Calvary.

I love Him because His love is the only thing that can save me. This wrestle has made me know it full well.

A failing lent? It is a good Lent because this Lenten Lament of my sin — it is preparing me for the Easter Joy of my Savior.

Lent gives me this gift: the deeper I know the pit of my sin, the deeper I’ll drink from the draughts of joy.

Grief is what cultivates the soil for the seeds of joy.

She who knows her sins much, loves much, and the road to heaven is paved with the realization that I deserve hell. His rising will be all my joy, because I know it in the marrow of the bones: He is all my hope.

The candle wavers.

I know that frailty.

I sit in a dark lent.

And I feel the warming flame of Grace on my face.

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Why doing Lent is what we need — because it leads us to Christ:

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

-Ephesians 2:8,9

More: John and Noel Piper and a Month of Preparing for Easter
Lenten Lights: Devotions to Prepare for Easter by Nicole Piper

 

Free Family Lent & Easter Devotional

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Free Easter Devotional Book

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Remember the free Advent Jesse Tree?

Now this free Lent & Easter Jesus Tree devotional…

Each days of free devotional includes:

The full text of the day’s Bible reading in either ESV, NLT or MSG (of course, feel free to read from your own Bible, if you’d prefer another translation.) Readings are selected to lead chronologically through the significant events in the story of the life of Christ — each passage of Scripture another step on our “Trail to the Tree…”

(Yes, it’s a 17 days devotional. If days are missed, there’s absolutely no guilt. There’s no rush. 17 days of reading over 40 days. Entirely Doable. Family Friendly. Slow-pace. Reflective. Heart-changing.)

A verse to prayerfully linger over as a family — a verse to pause over for a moment or two, close eyes and deeply reflect on. This journey is different, in that it is just focused alone on Scripture and prayer and living the Gospel — without any peripheral notes or added commentary, only prayer… simply, powerfully Christ-centric and Biblically focused.

A short, simple action point for the day — a way to do something together as a family that not only invites the coming Kingdom of God and Jesus’ love into your home and community, but is an opportunity to apply and obediently live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

A full color ornament, all classic art from the masters, to hang on your own Easter Passion Tree…. an art study, like a prayerful walk through a museum. The very last pages of the book include all of the ornaments in several pages so you can easily cut each ornament out and creatively mount to your own preference.

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To Download the Free Devotional

The link to the free printable Easter Tree book is a gift… Thank you for your grace.

If you’ve already made yourself a friend and subscribe to daily updates from this site.

 

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Make Your Own Jesus Easter Tree

Jesus Tree

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To Make A Jesus Easter Tree:

1. A container to hold branches — dogwood, pussywillows, forsythia etc.

2. Cut out and mount the classic paintings of the masters, to hang as ornaments {consider writing the number of the day’s devotional on the back of the ornament}

3. Perhaps hang decorative eggs from the branches, symbolic of new life in Christ…. that out of His sacrificial death on the tree, comes new life found only in Christ

3. After prayerfully meditating on each day’s devotional & Scripture reading, hang each ornament of a classic painting upon the passion tree.

5. Consider using the Jesus Easter Passion Tree as a natural opportunity to share our only hope, the Gospel of Christ, with those who visit your home throughout the Easter season…

edited post from archive

A failing lent? It is a good Lent because this Lenten Lament of my sin — it is preparing me for the Easter Joy of my Savior.

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