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Posts Tagged ‘Lent’

So when I restarted this blog back on 26th February, just 26 days ago, no-one would have imagined that by time Lent was hardly half done we’d all be locked down, that church would be shut, that weddings and baptisms would be forbidden, that the Vicar would be recording Bible reflections and Morning Prayer to YouTube and Facebook and that all our meetings would be happening on an app I had barely heard of until a few months ago.

And I also didn’t realise that my reflections on coping with a messy head would actually become tips for coping with the weirdness of a global pandemic. I had a messy head about other life things, but now Covid19 has come along to mess with all our heads. So much is not normal. So much is strange. The boys are home schooling. The Queen is sat in her student flat with the campus almost empty. Our days are revolving around video uploads and contacting parishioners online and over the phone.

The Vicar’s reflection tonight was about lament, and there is so much to lament at the moment: the removal of the normal, the deaths that have come and will come, the battles faced by medical staff, the struggles of businesses, the increase in domestic violence, the anxiety and the disruption. And we are lamenting and will continue to do so as this virus causes pain and trouble.

And yet we are people of hope here in the Vicarage and in this parish. God’s people under siege in Jerusalem so many years ago could say that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. And we can say it too. We are waiting here too. Waiting quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

[Text in green circle over photo of hawthorn blossom] The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord..

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It was World Book Day yesterday. I think I always thought it was on a Friday because our primary school used to celebrate it on a Friday, and my Twitter timeline has been awash with stressed parents sourcing and/or making costumes all the way to last night. If you have googled this post desperately seeking inspiration, I have previously written on both easy solutions and also my most triumphant costuming ie the one I planned more than two days ahead.

But now my little munchkins are large lumpkins and World Book Day costumes are a thing of hideous joyous memory. But we still read books in the Vicarage, obvs. And to help that process, a few months ago I actually started a book club thing in our church.

I decided to start the book club when we took a break from the Church Society book review podcast I had been doing. And I found that (surprise, surprise!) without a deadline I was failing to read any Christian books at all. But the book club was also something I’d had on my heart for a long time and this seemed like a good point to get it going. I have scheduled six meetings a year – one towards the end of every half term. We meet on a Saturday morning for about an hour and I have provided fresh cinnamon rolls as an extra incentive. I decided to go for short(ish) books that people would hopefully read, rather than ‘classics’ or ‘important’ ones.

I have been aided enormously by 10ofThose and their extremely helpful book bundle scheme, which allows you to buy 20 books for £20. Not everyone in our church is a great reader, so the low cost encourages people to give books a go, even if they aren’t used to panic reading 200 pages the night before in anticipation of a podcast recording. And we’re now onto our third book since we began.

The first couple of meetings was just me and Dream, our Families and Community Worker, and the Joker. But last time numbers were up as we met to chat about Stand by Warren Wiersbe and we are praying that this trend will continue. But even if they don’t come to chat about them, people are definitely getting the books and are reading them. We’ve even found that people who’ve not actually read all of (or even any of) the book still enjoy coming to the brunch, not just because of the baking, but because a discussion about the Lord can only ever be a blessing.

For Lent I got a pack of The Forgotten Cross, which has a chapter for each week until Easter. You could even get it yourself and catch up with us. Perhaps you’re someone who is good at reading edifying books, but I’ve found that this discipline of a group has helped me.

Forgotten cross

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I blogged for four whole days! In a row! More blog posts than in the whole of 2017, 2018 and 2019. I wrote on Ash Wednesday and then all the way to Saturday. And then it was the First Sunday in Lent and I had small rest. A lifting of the fast to feast for the Lord’s Day.

And a very good Lord’s Day it was too, thanks for asking. We had more people than usual at the All Age Service, with more songs than usual and a great feeling of joy as we read through God’s Very Good Idea together:

This is God’s very good idea: lots of different people enjoying loving him and loving each other.

God MADE it.
People RUINED it.
He RESCUED it.
He will FINISH it.

One of the final pictures in the book is of a church family eating together. A good illustration, because is that is what we did after we went through this story. Because the first Sunday of the month is our Community Church Day.

gods-very-good-idea-feasting

We didn’t have pink tablecloths but otherwise this is a pretty good depiction

Community Church Day is when we invite people who attend our midweek church groups (toddlers, kids club, Open Church) to join our Sunday congregation for lunch, with crafts, games and a Bible story in the mix. Other members of the community are also invited – we always try to take some invitations around to neighbours.

A few of us bring food to eat, and everyone pitches in to help with putting up tables, serving food, wrangling toddlers, playing games, clearing up and sweeping the floor at the end. This Sunday we had chicken curry, a yellow dhal, roast gammon, a huge lasagne, a vegetarian pasta dish and carbs in pretty much every form (including an enormous pile of chapattis). The glorious mix of food was matched by the mix of people, a reflection of the wonderful variety of God’s good creation.

A day like that is part of God’s Very Good Idea: lots of different people enjoying loving him and loving each other. And our next Community Church Day is not on the first Sunday, because we’re going to celebrate Easter Day together: the very best part of God’s Very Good Idea.

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So today we launch into Lent. I already have a couple of disciplines on the go this year – Doing the Next Thing and the February declutter (just about up to date, I’m pleased to say, mainly children’s books that my kids have now grown out of).

So my main focus this Lent is going to be something partly inspired by the 40acts initiative – we have the family wallchart up in the kitchen. And it’s partly inspired by the door to door visiting that Dreamer and I did in the new estate in the parish. Before Christmas, we went to every house with a paper lunch bag containing a home made Christmas decoration, a bag of chocolate coins, details about regular church activities and invitations to our Christmas events. People were surprised and pleased to be given something with no strings attached. We called them Bags of Blessing.

So this Lent my plan is to take 40 Bags of Blessing round to people in the parish – houses and shops and other places. I began today with a family who live opposite us. I often talk to the mum and admire her as she shepherds four lively boys down to the school gate every day. So today I knocked on her door and handed over the bag, which was almost immediately ripped open by the 3 year old, who identified it as containing goodies. Tomorrow I’m going to visit the pharmacy on the High Street with a bag. I’m enjoying planning who I could visit. The next few will contain a few sweeties, a bargain Lidl daffodil plant, a homemade heart decoration and few leaflets about church activities that might be useful. I’m going to adapt them as Lent progresses and depending on who I’m visiting.

What are you up to for Lent?

IMG_20160210_170958488

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I’ve not been fasting from blogging for Lent. Just a normal blogflop due to life and everything. But here I am again. With some fun pics of my friend Kirby, who made some Resurrection Eggs last week in preparation for the fortnight leading up to Easter.

Resurrection eggs are a sort of Jesse Tree for Easter and a creative way to get kids to engage with the wonderful gospel story at the heart of our faith. Kirby used the verses preprepared on this blog. There’s plenty of time to gather yourself an egg box and some plastic eggs. You can use 15 eggs (as Meredith does), a dozen (as I did) or even a simple six. Why not give it a go?

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coollogo_com-105672830I’ve been thinking about what to do for Lent this year. Although, theoretically, I could start something new at any time of year, I find that seasons in the church year are good opportunity to review spiritual disciplines. Last year I managed to produce a blogpost every weekday throughout Lent and the Vicar and I had a no-screens-after-8pm fast. We found the screen ban very helpful – and did a lot of talking and reading. We did have Sunday nights off for Dr Who after the Evening Service though. And I enjoyed the more frequent blogging, but I don’t think that is on the cards in 2013.

So here is a little list of what I’m planning to do throughout Lent this year, to draw closer to God and reset my life compass:

  1. Continue reading my encouraging devotional,Taste and See: Savouring the Supremacy of God in All of Life by John Piper.
  2. No screens after 8pm again, although I may have to make an exception for writing if I’m to finish Messy Ministry by my deadline just after Easter.
  3. Write the book – I’m finding the thinking I’m doing quite challenging so far, and the self-discipline involved in setting time aside to write is very good for me. And I have that deadline to meet.
  4. Increase family devotion frequency to at least 3 times a week. At the moment we’re only managing once a week, although we’re enjoying the format, which includes reading from Sally Lloyd-Jones’ lovely devotional book ‘Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing‘ and praying from prayer diaries from The Leprosy Mission, CMS and the Barnabas Fund, all of whom are supported by our church.
  5. Did I mention finish the book? And not faff about on the internet being distracted.

sCome nearer Easter, we’ll dig out our Resurrection Eggs too. But other than that I think we’re set. I want to be realistic in the challenges I set but also stretch myself. The screen fast will be the hardest. But I’m also looking forward to the space it will bring into our lives. I’m wondering whether the Vicar and I might use this devotional book together in the time that is freed up. How about you?

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Starting next Sunday for the rest of Lent (and a bit afterwards) the Vicar will be taking us through a few chapters of Hebrews in his sermons. So this, of course, will be our theme song to accompany the preaching. It’s also one we sang on my conference last week, so it’s sort of in my head anyway.

I’ll have to listen online next week as I’m in Junior Church for a second week. But I think we might try and sing along to this song in the Vicarage at teatime so those of us who’ll not be in the main body of the kirk during the sermon will have a little taste at what everyone else is up to.

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After a good start to the week? Enlarge your vision of Christ and watch this brilliant kinetic typography clip accompanying Tim Keller explaining how Jesus is the ‘true and better’ Adam, Abel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rock of Moses, Job, David, Esther, Jonah, temple, lamb, life, bread (I may have missed a couple).

[HT: Mez McConnell]

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Lent is a good time for reflection and confession. Today I was reminded of this great song that helps me do just that. We learnt it on our summer Pathfinder venture and it’s on our to-be-introduced-at-church list. Alas, Sam Chaplin’s album doesn’t seem to be commercially available at the moment.

 

Two Sins

Two sins have we committed,
Two sins that we cannot deny,
We’ve turned from you, the fount of living water
And have tried to drink from cisterns cracked and dry

What fools we are, how blind we are!
Have mercy Lord, mercy on us. Forgive us Lord and help us see.
Change our hearts that we might live
For you O Lord, for you, O Lord, always

Two sins have we committed,
Two sins are plain before your eyes
We’ve walked away from the truth that brings us freedom
And have settled for those sweet enslaving lies

Two sins have we committed,
Two sins at which you stand appalled
We’ve turned from you, our glorious Creator
And have worshipped things that are no gods at all.

© Sam Chaplin, 1999.
Jeremiah 2v12-13, Romans 1.
Recorded on Sam Chaplin: You’re My Every Breath, 2001

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I know I know, Lent began yesterday. But just in case you’ve meant to start something and forgot. Or maybe you’d just like to try something extremely worthwhile without worrying about exactly when you begin or end: the Bible Society have got a fantastic idea – wouldn’t it be great to listen to the whole of the New Testament? It will only take 28 minutes a day if you listen every day for the 40 days of Lent. They have a special new recording of the CEV, from Riding Lights theatre company. They also have a Welsh language version available. There’s also a free CD pack available. The Bible Society are obviously keen that we would contribute towards their work if we benefit from this project, but the audio downloads are free on the website.

Here in the Vicarage, we’re trying to listen to a chapter (or two) of the bible at teatime this Lent – we’ve been playing the audio on Biblegateway.com on the kitchen computer. We’ve been impressed by how quiet the kids are as we listen. Early days yet, tho’. But we have found the audio bible a good way to nourish ourselves with larger chunks of scripture.

If you have a tablet, or a smartphone, you can do the same thing using the free Daily Bible app.

So I think it’s worth a listen. Even if I don’t manage the whole New Testament in exactly 40 days, I’ll have taken in more scripture than usual, and that’s only going to be a help since

… faith comes through hearing…

Romans 10v17

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