Playdates with God: Lent I

This morning, after all the bustle fades away, after the boys are off to school and Jeff off to work, after I am left alone … I sit at the table with my morning reading and I focus in. We’ve just passed the first Sunday of Lent and I figure it’s time I get serious about this, right? I’ve made some secret commitments for these next forty days and so far my heart hasn’t picked up the banner. I’ve blamed it on the weather, blamed it on daylight savings time, blamed it on some circumstances happening between these walls that are breaking my heart; but, really, there is only one place to lay the blame.

So I do. I try harder.
I read—pen in hand, journal at the ready—prepared. This will make listening easier, I think. If I write down the wise words of another, maybe they will penetrate my heart. But, though the pen moves across the page, my mind keeps returning to that hard conversation I had yesterday, worrying it the way the tongue does a missing tooth.
Yesterday morning I preached at one of our little valley churches on the temptation of Christ. We talked about fasting and I shared some words from a sermon of Martin Luther’s that I had read in my study.
In his sermon entitled The Fast and Temptation of Christ, Luther says this, 

“[W]e have adopted and practiced fasting as a good work: not to bring our flesh into subjection; but, as a meritorious work before God, to atone for our sins and obtain grace. And it is this that has made our fasting a stench and so blasphemous and shameful, so that no drinking and eating, no gluttony and drunkenness, could have been as bad and foul. It would have been better had people been drunk day and night than to fast thus.” (emphasis mine)

A stench and blasphemous and shameful. It would have been better had people been drunk day and night than to fast thus, he says.
My mind returns to these words this morning as my heart refuses to engage. Isn’t that what faith is? An attitude of the heart? Luther used such strong language because of his sense of urgency to communicate to the people that we are saved by grace alone.
And here I am, trying to force my heart into submission; focusing on the works instead of love. A stench. Blasphemous. Shameful.
Suddenly, I am aware of the music outside my window. Birdsong lifts and speaks the promise of spring. And I remember what that acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton said in that interview I heard on the radio program On Being:

“…we have a very discreet bandwidth of supersensitive hearing and that’s between 2.5 and 5 kilohertz in the resident frequencies of the auditory canal,” he told host Krista Tippett. “Is there something in our ancestors’ environment that matches our peak hearing human sensitivity? Because most of what I’m saying right now, except for the “s” sounds and the high-pitched sounds, falls well below that range. And, indeed, there’s a perfect match: birdsong. Birdsong.”
I put the pen down. And in the middle of this season of fasting, my ears are served a feast.

Every Monday I’ll be sharing one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find Him. Be with Him. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us:

The Playdates button:


  1. says

    So much food for thought this morning, Laura! And I too, sit next to my window being served a “feast” for the ears. Love the sounds of spring! And thanks for hosting my friend!

  2. JosephPote says

    I love this post, Laura!
    Last night I stepped outside for a bit and listened to the frogs, the ‘spring peepers’ as my Father used to call them. It’s the first time, this year, I’ve heard them sing. Such a chorus of praise to our Creator and Giver of Life!

  3. says

    oh, Laura! I am so sorry. My page never refreshed (even though I hit refresh twice!) so I posted my linky twice because I didn’t see the 1st one.

    I haven’t done very well with my lenten promises either at this point… this post gives me hope that I will get it together and maybe do a little feasting at HIs table, too. Thanks!

  4. Nancy Sturm says

    God’s feasts are all around us–if we only have eyes to see and ears to hear. Thank you for a feast.

  5. Kelly Hausknecht Chripczuk says

    Isn’t it grace how a single note can cause our hearts to open, where all of the prying in the world will only leave us locked?

  6. soulstops says

    Love how God gave you the grace gift of the birdsong and opened your heart to His love and grace for you…this morning as I was washing dishes I was thinking the real focus is not on whether you give up something or not for Lent as it is your heart attitude as you do it…and then I read your words and I felt God’s grace again…Thank you…praying God continues to show you how much He dearly loves you, my friend 🙂

  7. Elizabeth says

    Laura, I cannot wait to get my hands on this book of yours. It would be more accurate to say “get my heart on this book”, the one you have penned. There is such a simple symphony in the chorus of His creation. Just crack the window and it is nearly more than we can behold. So beautiful. So life-giving. So uncontaminated beauty. Love this. Perhaps because of Winter, this one we have endured, Spring will be even more lovely. What shall we do with all the beauty once it unfolds? Besides praising Him for it all.

  8. OutnumberedMom says

    It strikes me that, in the midst of your trying and doing, the gift of a feast was not a concidence…but truly a gift. Happy Lent.

  9. June says

    I’m not surprised to learn that God fashioned our ears for birdsong. It is probably my favorite sound – I’m so glad He used it to minister to you today, so you could minister to us – have a blessed week!

  10. Alyssa Santos says

    birdsong, birdsong! I love that. And Jesus directed us to consider the birds… As always, Laura, you give me pause and space to be in the moment of grace.

  11. Sharon says

    Laura, this was really good. All too often we can get caught up in all the *appearances* – when what really matters is the state of our hearts. God loves me with His gracious love – not for what I can perform, but just because…

    Oh, how I love Him back!!


  12. says

    that’s a good illustration. We have some preconceptions of worship, of how God speaks. And when he interrupts with His own voice, we push it aside as Noise. Good for you and encouragement to us to listen to Him in new ways.

  13. Franco Guerri says

    Really appreciate your wrestling with this religious perversion of the gospel. After all it really is good news, that it was a completed work of the cross that relieved us of the weight of sin. I see any repetitive begging and performing for renewed salvation as a slap in the face to Christ. Once a gift is given and received, asking for it repeatedly, and even worse, trying to slip some cash in the giver’s pocket can only be offensive.

    To be fair, the gift of forgiveness for both the sin we’re born with and the ones we blunder into committing, is so beyond anything human or earthly, that it is understandable that we would want to earn God’s love. But how sweet discovering that He not only loves me, but He even approves of me.
    Luther was a remarkable man to come against the athorities of his time as he did, returning to Biblical truth. We still have to repeat his journey, returning to the Word and to His living word, His living heart, over the dictates of religion.

    What if for lent we gave up all that pretense at remorse and giving up something insignificant. God says He gives us beauty for ashes. So much beauty, like those birds and their songs! Maybe He would be more pleased and honored to see us joyous and thankful at the gift of grace, salvation, provision, spiritual gifts, and on and on. What if I gave my son an amazing gift and he moped around and acted all tragic, and tried to pay me for it?

    Enjoying your blog. It’s so very feminine and sensitive compared to mine. I’m always startled and delighted by the uniqueness and diversity of His “designs”.

  14. Franco Guerri says

    Curious about the institution of lent, I found the following:

    “Notice what Alexander Hislop wrote in his book The Two Babylons: “The festival, of which we read in Church history, under the name of Easter, in the third and fourth centuries, was quite a different festival from that now observed in the Romish Church, and at that time was not known by any such name as Easter…That festival [Passover] was not idolatrous, and it was preceded by no Lent. ‘It ought to be known,’ said Cassianus, the monk of Marseilles, writing in the fifth century, and contrasting the primitive [New Testament] Church with the Church of his day, ‘that the observance of the forty days had no existence, so long as the perfection of that primitive Church remained inviolate.’”Lent was not observed by the first century Church! It was first addressed by the church at Rome during the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325, when Emperor Constantine officially recognized that church as the Roman Empire’s state religion. Any other form of Christianity that held to doctrines contrary to the Roman church was considered an enemy of the state.”


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