By Lilly Lewin
I’m on my annual silent retreat this week at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. It’s the monastery of Thomas Merton and Father Matthew Kelty and the place that has taught me the value of silence in my busy life. It’s also the place I first discovered Father Edward Hays and his Lenten Hobo Honeymoon, that is still in the guest library I am happy to say! And since it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d add to a post from last year about falling in love with Jesus for Lent this year.
It was Father Hays who introduced me to the concept of using the 40 days of Lent to fall more in love with Jesus rather than the sack cloth and ashes stereotype or tradition of Lent. It was also Father Hays who said that giving up chocolate for Lent never helped anyone get closer to Jesus, it just made them grumpy and angry…so he’s my kind of guy!
So in honor of Valentines, and since the season of Lent is fast approaching (Ash Wednesday is February 26), what if we choose to spend the 40 days of Lent falling more in love with Jesus? What would that look like?
When we fall in love with someone we often get a little crazy and we do things to show just how much we love the other person. My first real boy friend was in 8th grade. I went to an all girls school in town and he went to the all boys school. We met at church and were in youth group together. I was smitten! And since I am an artist, I expressed my love for him with a hand crafted Valentine. I took a piece of cardboard and collaged it with words and phrases and pictures cut out of magazines glued on to a piece of card board. I even used my mom’s “pinking shears” to cut out the heart and give it a special edging. And since i was too young to drive, I had to get my dad to drive me across town to the boy’s house to give him this created treasure! I’m not sure he really appreciated the time and effort but for me it was an act of love to create something special. My husband expresses his love to me through amazing meals and fun cards. I have friends who write songs for one another. I know friends who go on hikes together and even take retreats to plan together and reflect on their lives. There are just as many ways to express love to someone as there are people!
Consider how you express love and how you experience love yourself. How have you shown someone you loved them in the past? How do you show some one you love them now? How do you show love to your friends? Your family? Your co workers or teammates? How do you like to experience love? Is it through Time, Gifts, Conversation, Creativity? Something else? Take some time to think about this and make a list.
Years ago, I created a sacred space prayer experience based off Father Ed Hay’s book The Lenten Hobo Honeymoon. Father Hays and I are kindred spirits when it comes to experiencing God and practicing our faith in touchable, tangible, symbolic ways. This book is still my all time favorite Lenten devotional. After hosting this Sacred Space for my church and youth group, I was invited to do something at the near by convent. Since it was still Lent, I didn’t create anything new, I just set up the same Sacred Space and sent nuns on a honeymoon with Jesus!
What if we saw Lent as a honeymoon with Jesus? How could this help you focus your time and Lenten practices? What would a honeymoon with Jesus look like for you? Where would you go? What would you do? How would you spend time together and get to know each other better?
Like in any relationship, you have to start small. Usually you date awhile before you get married and go on a honeymoon. So since we have a couple of weeks before the beginning of Lent, let’s start! What will your date with Jesus look like? I’d love to hear about it! Mine definitely will involve chocolate!
Plan a date with Jesus. What do you do? Do you go out for a walk? Do you get out in nature? Do you go out and have coffee and take your journal? Could you find some old magazines and create a collage Valentine with words and phrases and pictures expressing your love to Jesus? or cook dinner for someone who is lonely? Bake some cookies for the neighbors or take flowers to friend who is sick?
Think about Being a Bride. What about being the Bride of Christ…what does that mean to you? Consider how much love Jesus has for you just as you are! Consider all the things brides do these days to plan a wedding. Planning, prepping, pinning on Pinterest! Do we put that much effort into our relationship with Jesus? Can we plan and be more intentional in how we fall more in love with Him between now and Easter?
What if we planned to focus on how much Jesus loves us this Lent? What things would you add into your daily life to help you remember and receive that love? Maybe eating a chocolate heart or a hershey kiss as a reminder. Or posting a Valentine on your mirror to remind you that you are greatly loved by Jesus. Or carrying a heart around in your pocket as a tangible reminder of His love for you! What would be the reminder that you need?
Maybe you could set the alarm on your phone at 2:14pm each day to remind you that you are greatly loved by Jesus! or find special candle to light daily to help you remember. Or listen to a favorite song that will keep you close to Jesus and help you know that you are held in his great love! Listen to one of my favorites here ” I am Held” by Pat Barrett
We have entire season between now and Easter for experience more love and fall more in love with Jesus. Let’s give up hate, and blame, and self criticism this year and add Love instead!
And if you’d like a resource to help you practice love this Lenten Season, or any season for that matter, check out the 40 Days of Love prayer kit that is for individual use or the one for small groups, youth groups and entire church communities. It’s a kit that involves praying with prayer hearts daily and practicing love in your neighborhood.
©lillylewin and freerangeworship.com