Feb 10 2016

Using Creation to Help Us on Our Lenten Journey

VA SNP dawn and crescent moonToday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. This is a special time of the year when Christians begin a 40 day journey, excluding Sundays, that leads them to Easter. One of my dear friends, Lon Oliver, put together a Lenten devotional guide for his congregation where he urged them to reflect on God’s two books of revelation–Creation and the Scriptures. Concerning Lent Lon writes: “This special time in the church year always comes when the days are lengthening with the arrival of spring. During Lent not only will the hours of daylight become longer, we will also witness the renewal of the earth as flowers blossom, trees bud, and the wildlife absent during the winter months make a reappearance.” He goes on to say, “During the season of Lent we believe God desires that each of us experience a renewal not unlike that we observe in nature. Lent calls for a spring or rebirth to awaken our souls.”

KY Bernheim Forest spring hYesterday I saw a posting on Facebook from Green Chalice, a group that gives attention to environmental issues in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), that offered a list of things a person might do each day during the season of Lent that will help them connect with the Creation and the Creator. I want to share a similar list of items with you and hope you will consider using it in the days to come. If you do, it may well help you to experience the “renewal” Lon wrote about in his devotional guide.

Feb. 10 — Listen for a bird’s song

Feb. 11 — Read Psalm 104

Feb. 12 — Recycle something

Feb. 13 — Notice where you see life resting or hibernating

Feb. 14 — Read Genesis 1:1-2:3

Feb. 15 — Take a shorter shower

Feb. 16 — Watch a sunset

Feb. 17 — Look at the sky

Feb. 18 — Sweeten something with honey

Feb. 19 — Make a donation to an environmental organization

Feb. 20 — Hug a tree

Feb. 21 — Read Job 38-41

Feb. 22 — Watch a sunrise

Feb. 23 — Ask someone what their favorite part of nature is

Feb. 24 — Notice five birds/animals/plants

Feb. 25 — Light a candle and give thanks for the elements

Feb. 26 — Take a picture of a tree with your camera or smart phone

Feb. 27 — Draw in the dirt

Feb. 28 — Read Ecclesiastes 1:2-11; 12:1-7

Feb. 29 — Take a walk

Mar. 1 — Feel the breeze

Mar. 2 — Read a poem about nature

Mar. 3 — Visit hubblesite.org and marvel at the universe

Mar. 4 — Purchase an organic food product

Mar. 5 — Go stargazing

Mar. 6 — Read Proverbs 8:22-31

Mar. 7 — Visit a local park

Mar. 8 — Sit still outside for five minutes

Mar. 9 — Visit BlessedEarth.org

Mar. 10 — Pay special attention to the “smells” of nature

Mar. 11 — Plant something

Mar. 12 — Meditate on the words to “Morning Has Broken”

Mar. 13 — Read Genesis 2:4-3:24 while sitting outside

Mar. 14 — Google “endangered species”

Mar. 15 — Notice how the days are “getting longer”

Mar. 16 — Take a picture of a flower with your camera or smart phone

Mar. 17 — Read Psalm 23 outdoors

Mar. 18 — Contemplate the many uses of water

Mar. 19 — Do something to learn more about renewable energy

Mar. 20 — Read Colossians 1:15-20

Mar. 21 — Eat lunch outside

Mar. 22 — Water a flower

Mar. 23 — Savor the taste of something fresh

Mar. 24 — Visit nps.gov and learn more about our national parks

Mar. 25 — Meditate on the words to “How Great Thou Art”

_CES1624I pray God will bless your journey through the season of Lent and that you will be drawn ever closer to the Maker of heaven and earth.




Mar 5 2014

Beauty From Ashes

“He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:5)

dutchmen's-britchesToday is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the season of Lent.  It is a season that traditionally has carried a somber mood.  People use the days of Lent for penitence and as a preparation for the celebration of Easter.  The black ashes that are placed on the foreheads of believers is representative of Lent’s dark mood.  This year, however, I have noticed that a lot of people are challenging the idea that Lent must be so somber and dark.  Yes, it is meant to be a time to look inward but it should also include the idea of darkness being overcome by light.  Appropriately enough, the word Lent means “lengthening.”  This special time in the liturgical year always comes when the days are lengthening with the arrival of Spring.

On a couple of blogs I have even seen suggestions that Lent is a great time for people to get outdoors and to contemplate what is happening in the natural world.  During the Lenten season not only will the hours of daylight become longer and longer, we will also witness the renewal of the earth as flowers blossom, trees bud, and the wildlife absent during the winter months make a reappearance.  Spring is a glorious time in the world of nature.  The greening of the earth in locations like where I live remind us that the gloom of winter does not have the final word.  Darkness gives way to light; what appears dead is revealed to be full of life.

wild-geraniumsNeedless to say, I concur with those who say Lent is a wonderful time to get outdoors.  That does not mean I believe that the somber spirit of Lent should be totally eliminated or that acts of penitence are not appropriate.  I just happen to believe we need the balance that nature can provide to the season.  By all means I need to take notice of the darkness that still yet resides in my soul.  It would be foolish of me to deny or ignore those areas where I am not what my Creator desires for me.  But if I focus on only the darkness and sin in my life I could easily succumb to despair.  I hardly think that is what God desires.

What I do believe God desires is that each of us experience a renewal not unlike that which we observe in the realm of nature.  Our goal is hardly to linger in the darkness but to move more and more into the light.  Lent calls for Spring in our souls.  And just as the lengthening of the hours of daylight takes time, so does the lengthening of the light within us.  Lent reminds us that the spiritual journey is not a short one.  It also serves as a reminder of the cyclical nature of the spiritual life.  Spring will follow Winter, but Summer and Autumn will also come.  Behind these Winter will reappear and then, of course, once again Spring and so forth.

Kingdom-Come-SP-Raven-Rock-springRight now people around here are eager for winter to transition to spring.  It has been a long cold winter.  Hopefully we are just as eager to experience the renewal of our souls.  Lent gives us a chance to help make this happen if we will let God’s two books, the Scriptures and the Creation, guide our steps.  It is indeed my hope and prayer that beauty will rise forth from the ashes of this day in your life and mine.


Feb 17 2010

Solitude and Lent

bison 154In a number of instances we are told that Jesus went off by himself to pray.  The one who “came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many,” realized that he could not do what he was supposed to without time alone with God.  This is something we should all recognize.

In observing wildlife over the years I’ve noticed that frequently you will find animals that are typically found in groups or packs all alone.  I’m sure there is some pragmatic reason for them doing so.  We have a pragmatic reason as well; our souls need solitude.  We may have been created social creatures but we still need time away from others and time alone with our Maker.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent.  We start today a 40 day (not counting Sundays) journey to Easter.  For centuries Christians have been encouraged to use this time for introspection.  We are called to remember our sins and our need for a Savior.  Most of us would prefer to forget our sins, and  many don’t like to be reminded that they can’t save themselves, but the season of Lent demands that we do so.  

Someone once said, “We must come apart or we will come apart.”  The season of Lent is a good time for us to make time for solitude.  It’s a  lonesome pine 852good time for us to slow down and look within.  The discipline of examining one’s sins is not meant to be a demoralizing experience; it is meant to bring us closer to the One who died for our sins and rose again the first Easter.

I would suggest you consider using the Psalmist’s prayer in the coming weeks: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps. 139:23-24)  Find some time alone each day to offer this prayer and to enjoy being in the presence of the One who made you (and the rest of Creation) and loves you most.


  (The images above were made on my recent trip to Yellowstone.)