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    Lent: A Primer

    Today is “Mardi Gras,” which means “Fat Tuesday.” In many parts of the world, people call Mardi Gras “Pancake Day” or Shrove Tuesday, and they eat stacks of syrup-covered cakes in celebration. Pancake Day is the liturgical polar-opposite of a last-chance workout. Because Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, people snarf up all the stuff from which they’ll fast for the next forty days. Items included in the traditional “fast” were sugar, butter, flour and eggs—which, if you mix them up, make pancake batter. So, people made pancakes out of the ingredients they needed to use up, and they consumed the resulting “stacks” the day before austerity set in. Voila! The story…

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    Lent for Beginners

    Today is Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday. Today we eat the chocolate we may be giving up starting tomorrow.  Lent, the forty-day season preceding Easter, begins on Ash Wednesday, tomorrow. On Ash Wednesday, participants receive ashes on their foreheads as a reminder that from dust we came, and to dust we shall return—not in some morbid zombie sense, but because remembering the brevity of life and our mortality can help us live more holy lives. Long before the Eastern and Western Church split, and long, long before the Protestant Reformation, Christian believers observed this special season of penance. “Lenctentid” literally means both “springtide” and “March,” the month in which most of…

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    The Burden of Shame

    If anyone should have been burdened by shame—the feeling that at the core of his being, he was inherently flawed and unworthy of love—it would have been the Apostle Paul. His crimes weren’t minor. He zealously persecuted Christians and personally condemned and participated in the deaths of many (see his story in Galatians 1:11-24). If I were Paul, I don’t think I could have ever forgiven myself for my crimes. I imagine that I would lay awake at night for hours, struggling to fall asleep as the scenes of brave Christians dying for their faith, replayed in my mind. I would find it hard to smile at children and their…

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    Another Recommendation–Enrich your Lenten season, see Risen

    All week I've asked the Lord what to write in my blog and all week no answer–until this evening. David and I just returned from viewing the new film Risen and I simply want to add my hearty recommendation along with my friend, Sandi Glahn, and her friend Chrissy. (See their blogs 2/19 and 2/15) The earlier blog contains the film trailer. I fought back tears during multiple scenes, and I'm not a crier. How refreshing to view a creative work that isn't sappy or contrived. Invite a non believer to go with you. Productive discussion is likely to follow. For you who demand that every Christian film follow verse…

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    The First Day of Lenten Season

                              Today marks the first day of the Lenten season—the beginning of the 40-day period (excluding Sundays) that ends with Easter Sunday. On this Ash Wednesday—across the country and around the world—Christians from various denominations will commemorate this “Day of Ashes” by fasting and praying. Others will participate in ceremonies that will involve ashes marked on their foreheads in the shape of the cross.    For those of us who will participate in Ash Wednesday and Lent, we do so in anticipation of renewal and newness in our intimacy with God. We shift our focus towards spiritual reflection…

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    Humility: The Art of Self-Forgetfulness

    This Lenten season I’ve been reading The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis. In this eloquent novel that cuts to the heart, Lewis writes about the basics of Christian life, our relationship with God, and how to avoid temptation. The fictional novel is written from the point of view of Screwtape, a senior demon, to Wormwood, a lesser demon, on how best to tempt humans and limit their spiritual growth. Since Lent is a season of reflection, repentance, and renewal, I’ve appreciated how Lewis draws my attention to the many ways in which I wander from God and the grace with which God calls me back. Over and over again, I’m…

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    FRO*ZEN

    Weeks of record low temperatures of – 42, – 26,-17,-11 are causing a freezing phenomenon. Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory reports that the lakes are now more than 85 % iced over. The world’s most famous waterfall, Niagara Falls is frozen enough that professional Canadian ice climber, Will Gadd, was able to climb to the top of the frozen left side. It is not supposed to thaw until May. Even in the Texas Hill Country are recent reports of trees iced over creating a winter wonderland effect that rivals the graphics in the movie “Frozen”. We know according to Webster’s Intercollegiate Dictionary that frozen means the state of “being treated,…

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    Chores, Lent, and Discipline

    My mother used to say she had a hard time disciplining me. "Send you to your room? You would be thrilled to have an excuse to read books uninterrupted. And it seems somehow wrong to take away books from a kid…" I’ve always understood discipline in two basic lights, one negative and one positive. You either get disciplined, or you are disciplined. Both can result in positive change, but one is somewhat less painful than the other. Getting Disciplined Like my mother years ago, my husband and I now wrestle with creative and effective ways to discipline our four children. Timeouts, spankings, grounding, withholding electronics or books (yes, I went…

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    Ash Wednesday – what questions should I ask?

    Today is Ash Wednesday…what is it and should I participate? This day of repentance, which for many in the Western church marks the beginning of Lent, the 40-day period of fasting before Easter following the example of our Lord who spent 40 days in the desert to fast and pray (Matthew 4:1-11).  It is also known as the “Day of Ashes,” so called because on that day at church the faithful have their foreheads marked with ashes in the shape of a cross.   In the Old Testament ashes were used for two purposes: as a sign of humility and mortality and as a sign of sorrow and repentance for…

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    Lent 101: Five Suggestions

    “What are you giving up for Lent?” For many Protestants, our only knowledge of Lent is what we perceive as excessive asceticism on the part of other Christians, often preceded by binging on Mardi Gras. We connect the season only with “giving up” something. Because today is Mardi Gras, I propose that we take a closer look. Just because some people abuse a spiritual practice, does that warrant our dismissing it altogether? “Mardi Gras” means “Fat Tuesday.” And Fat Tuesday precedes Ash Wednesday, which happens tomorrow and which marks the beginning of Lent—the forty-day season leading up to Easter. On Ash Wednesday participants receive ashes on their foreheads as a…