Preparing for Lent...

"O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk. But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen."

~ The Lenten Prayer of St. Ephrem

I'll be returning to my "thinking out loud" "free time" post later this week, but with the season of Lent beginning tomorrow my thoughts today have been on preparing and I've decided to repost from last year first. I can smell the roses still today...
I was raised and nurtured in the Christian faith in a church that followed a liturgical calendar with an emphasis on the season of Lent. In my prodigal years of wandering as a young adult, services during Lent were like a tether that pulled me back through the doors of the church - if only for a season. I no longer fellowship and worship in a liturgical church like the one where I grew up, but the season of Lent has remained an important and meaningful time in my personal devotional life and in our family and homeschooling worship and studies, as well. During this Lenten season, I am re-reading through John Piper's Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die. Lent does not begin in the church calendar until tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, but I began this past Sunday, reading chapter 1, and I will end with chapter 50 on Easter Sunday. It was late yesterday afternoon before I had the time to read and meditate on chapter 2. Louis was home during the day and the project that we worked on together -collecting and organizing our income tax information - consumed my morning. After lunch I met with two other ladies to craft gifts for an upcoming women's retreat. My favorite gifts were the fabric hearts we stuffed with rose scented cotton balls, and attached satin ribbon hangers with the words from Ephesians 5:1-2:
"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."
All afternoon we delighted in our time together and in the rose scent that permeated the room where we worked - a small yet tangible reminder of Christ's extravagant sacrificial love for us - "a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." After dinner I strung the crafted hearts on a large dowel and hung them in the dining room to finish drying overnight. The aroma pleasantly filled our house, as I gathered my Bible and book to read chapter 2. Reason number 2 why Christ suffered and died.....to please His Heavenly Father. In the chapter heading, Piper quoted these verses:
"Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief." Isaiah 53:10 "Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Ephesians 5:2
I don't believe in coincidences. I do believe that God sometimes orchestrates even the smallest details that manifest His presence in ways that can sometimes be difficult to articulate, but are powerful faith builders for those who experience it none-the-less. Yesterday was one of those experiences. Before the conclusion of our crafting time together yesterday afternoon, one of the ladies expressed urgent needs of prayer. It was a sacred moment between sisters in Christ when we knelt at her feet and pleaded with God in prayer on her behalf. The issues were serious and potentially life-threatening, and as we prayed, she quietly cried out to Jesus - her only hope. When we made the decision to make the fabric hearts and label them with Ephesians 5:2, we did not know that the very same verse would be in my reading that day, or that our friend would be in great need of prayer and an assurance of Christ's presence, or that the verse and the rose-scent would be such a powerful testimony to His presence - but God did. And I believe that it was exactly as He had planned it to be, even if I can't quite articulate it. As with most material from Desiring God Ministries, Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die is available as a free download from their website, but I highly recommend ordering your own copy to annotate and read again and again. Other Lent resources from Desiring God Ministries: Holy Week at the Pipers and Lenten Lights - Eight Biblical Devotions to Prepare for Easter to be used weekly during Lent OR daily during Holy Week
Do you and your church or family celebrate the season of Lent? If so, what do you do differently during Lent that makes these weeks distinct from all the others?