YMB #67 Lenten Practices for Everyone

Today’s episode of the Your Morning Basket podcast has not one, but two great interviews. First up on the show is my good friend Fr. Doug Martin who is here to talk about the spiritual observation of Lent and how all Christians can practice this in their families. As we were preparing that interview we were approached by author Asheritah Ciuciu, an evangelical author who has her own Lenten devotional recently published by Moody Publishers. We decided to have Ahseritah on the show as well to talk about her new book and the practice of Lent from her perspective. A wonderful benefit is that both guests focus on how we can observe Lent within our families and use it to join our sufferings with Christ, slow down and grieve our sins, and experience the joy of the Resurrection more fully. I hope you enjoy this episode.


This is Your Morning Basket, where we help you bring truth, goodness, and beauty to your homeschool day.

Hi, everyone. Welcome to Episode 67 of the Your Morning Basket podcast. I’m Pam Barnhill, your host. I am so happy that you are joining me here today.

Well, I just love the way these things work out sometimes. We had planned this episode of the podcast a couple of months ago. We knew we wanted to have an episode of the podcast all about Lent and how all Christians, not just Catholic Christians, but everyone, how they could all bring a little bit of Lenten practices into their family and why they might want to do so. We planned to do this podcast, and I asked my good friend Fr. Doug Martin on to the show to come and talk to us a little bit about Lent. Well, it wasn’t too long after I set up the interview with Fr. Doug that I got an email in the inbox from Asheritah Ciuciu. Now, Asheritah is an evangelical author who has written a Lenten devotional for non-Catholic Christians. She was wanting to come on to the show to talk a little about that, and I thought, “That sounds fabulous.”

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So what we have today is a little bit of a different kind of show than what we normally have. We actually have two guests. We went ahead and did the interview with Fr. Doug. He has a wonderful perspective on Lent. He is a Catholic priest, but he is also a homeschooling dad. We'll talk a little bit about how that happened in the interview. Then we also had Asheritah come on, and she talked to us all about her book, what led her to the practice of Lent, and how non-Catholic Christians can experience the joy of Lent. I know you don't always think about Lent and joy going hand in hand, but really, they do.

As you listen, I would love for you to listen to some of the similarities that go on between the two conversations. You're going to notice that both of my guests talk about this slowing down and grieving for the sin that we've brought into the world and the opportunity to join with Jesus in His suffering. I think you're going to find, actually, more similarities than differences between the two conversations. We'll get on with those right after this word from our sponsor.

This episode of the Your Morning Basket podcast is brought to you by the Spring Into Shakespeare Challenge. Come on over to the website at pambarnhill.com/shakespeare to download your Spring Into Shakespeare Challenge packet. What we're trying to do with this challenge is encourage you to read Shakespeare with your kids. We want to take some of the intimidation out of reading Shakespeare and all do it together. The packet is going to explain everything about the Spring Into Shakespeare program for you.

We're using Mystie Winckler's five-step Shakespeare lesson plan process to walk you through, provide everything you need to help you get started doing Shakespeare. The play we're doing together is "The Comedy of Errors," and we have a whole packet of information for you on resources you can use, how to get started with your kids, a reading schedule, everything that you need. We're outlining Mystie's entire five-step process of how she does this and giving you all kinds of wonderful resources, and then we're having a live kick-off event for you and your kids. We're just trying to get you into doing some Shakespeare, and we want to provide you with the resources and the handholding that you need to make it less intimidating for you. Come on over to pambarnhill.com/shakespeare, get all the information about the fun live event, and also sign up for your very own Spring Into Shakespeare packet.

Now, on with the podcast.

Fr. Doug Martin is a homeschooling father of three kids, ages 19, 17, and 11. He and his wife of 22 years, Amanda, have always worked as a team to homeschool their children, focusing on their faith as the central pillar of their children's education. On today's podcast, Fr. Doug will be offering us his unique perspective as a Catholic convert and now ordained priest on the liturgical season of Lent, sharing ways that all Christian families can enter into this season in their Morning Time. Fr. Doug, welcome to the podcast.

Fr. Doug:
Thank you. Looking forward to this all week.

Oh, good. I am so glad to hear that. We have to tell everybody that you and I are actually in-real-life friends.

Fr. Doug:
That's correct. We are friends. Pretty good friends, as a matter of fact.

Yeah. We've known each other for 10 years?

Fr. Doug:
At least 10, yeah.

Yeah, at least 10 years. Fr. Doug, before he was Fr. Doug, was actually the Director of Religious Education at my church here in town, and his wife, Amanda, and his kids, we've been in and out of co-ops together for a number of years now.

Fr. Doug:
Yeah. We go almost as far back as the co-op that started there. I think we may have even been one of the families that was in the beginning of that. I'm not really for sure, but I think we were. If we weren't, we were a year after.

You totally were, because I remember Jillian was in sixth grade, so-

Fr. Doug:
That's right. Oh, yeah, so there you go. Yeah.

Yeah. Well, tell us a little bit... We've started this already, but tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.

Fr. Doug:
I was an Episcopal priest for several years and came into the Catholic Church and was not a priest for several years. The Catholic Church has this thing where they allow former married Episcopal priests to become Catholic priests, even though we're married and have children. That's really what I'm doing now, is I'm a priest. My wife and I have three children together, and we've homeschooled them all the way through. We've never not homeschooled. Our family life is just as crazy as any other homeschoolers' family life is.

It's really a neat thing. We've always tag-teamed everything that we've done with homeschooling. We both have our strengths and weaknesses. We recognize that. For several years, Amanda didn't work, but when she did go back to work, we really had to work on tag-teaming it together. It took a little time to get into a good pattern, but we did.

Yeah. That's one of the things that I've always noticed about the two of you. It's always very much a family affair. Even when you were Director of Religious Education there at the church, you and she were passing back and forth with educating the kids. It was flexible, and you could take them with you, so you were always just as involved as she was in the whole process.

Fr. Doug:
Yeah. That really did make it easier. Because of my job, because of being Director of Religious ed and youth minister, it was very flexible. There's times where I could make it fit the schedule that we needed. If we had a field trip or if she couldn't be at co-op, or if the kids had a project due the next day and she was working, all those sorts of things, I was able to finagle my schedule and finesse it so that I could be a part of that and do it, outside of what I normally did. I normally did most of the religious educational part, obviously, because that's my background, but I would also help out with other things, as well. Now, I didn't help out with English and writing because I'm terrible at that stuff. Believe it or not, even though I'm pastor and delivering homilies, thank God I've got a wife who knows how to do some of that editing. It really came in handy. Everything else, we worked on and did together.

All right. Now, growing up in the South, you didn't grow up Episcopal either, did you?

Fr. Doug:
I didn't. I grew up a United Methodist. I grew up in a very small town. In my little town, there was Methodists, Baptists, and I think, Assembly of God or something like that. There wasn't too many options for you. When I went off to college, I started encountering a lot of different things. It piqued my interest. There's some people that it really didn't. They were ensconced in what they grew up in, and that's fine. For me, it really became a journey for me to figure out what all these things were, Lutherans and Episcopals and Catholics and all these other things, to figure out what they were, and where do I really fit in? Do I fit in as a Methodist, or really should I be somewhere else?

I guess I was maybe more open to it than maybe others, and so I moved on. I moved to the Episcopal Church and then to the Catholic Church. I think part of that has to do with my background. In the way that we worshiped as Methodists, we had a very liturgical way of worshiping, specifically for Methodists. When I went to the Episcopal Church, I just saw it as the next step of really becoming a little bit more engaged in liturgy and a little less of it being, well, not as structured. Then in the Episcopal Church, going to the Catholic Church, it was really a natural move for me. I was always searching until I became Catholic. Once I became Catholic, I just knew I was home. There was a rest that I was able to receive from that, and it's been fantastic.

I have a similar story. I grew up with a variety, Baptist. Actually, I spent some time as a Methodist myself and then moved into the Catholic Church. That was one of the things that I felt was unique about your background. You've been seeped in this religious education thing for a number of years now, where you are educating others on things like Lent, but then you also have the perspective of other Christian communities that you can bring to this conversation, as well. And you're a homeschool dad.

Fr. Doug:
Yeah, all of the above.

All of the above. You checked all the boxes.

Fr. Doug:
Yeah, I hit them all. That's pretty cool.

Well, let's start off by talking a little bit about what Lent is all about. Where does this practice come from?

Fr. Doug:
Great. Lent is the 40-day liturgical season of fasting, special prayer, and almsgiving in preparation, really, for Easter. The name Lent is from the Middle English word lencten, which means spring. This is a season that takes place mostly in the springtime, some maybe at the end of winter, but mainly in the springtime.

Fr. Doug:
Its more proven ecclesiastical name was the 40 Days. There's a Latin and a Greek term for both of those. The number 40 is noted in, actually, the canons of the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., so this is a very early practice. It's likely an imitation of Jesus' fast in the desert before His public ministry, like in the Old Testament precedent of Moses and Elijah being in the desert for 40 days, or experiencing 40 days of preparation for whatever it may be, going to the promised land or whatever it might be.

If we're looking for a biblical precedent for Lent, because the word Lent is not going to be found in Scripture, then that period of time in the desert is going to be it.

Fr. Doug:
That's correct. By the fourth century, in most of the West, Lent was referred to as the 40 Days, and it was including Ash Wednesday through Holy Thursday. Some of the biblical ideas of it is, it's really true, there's not a specific time period in Scripture that's called Lent, but what happens is it's taken from Scripture. It's something that we use from example in Scripture. It's really a number for discipline, devotion, and preparation, 40 is in the Bible.

You look at Moses on the mountain of God for 40 days, and then you have the spies in the land for 40 days in the Book of Numbers. That's Chapter 13, Verse 25. Elijah traveled for 40 days before he reached the cave that he had his vision in in 1 Kings 19:8. Nineveh was given 40 days to repent in Jonah 3:4. Most importantly, of course, prior to his undertaking his ministry, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness, praying and fasting. That's in Matthew 4:2. There's a very biblical precedent to the number 40 and to it being tied specifically to preparation for something else.

Yeah, preparation and waiting.

Fr. Doug:
Yeah, waiting and trying to prepare yourself for something greater or for something bigger or for something else that you have to do or you're being called to do. The 40 days, it really does represent that time period, and so what normally happens in that time period, because it's a time for preparation, discipline and devotion are usually tied to it very specifically. It's not just a matter of waiting; it's actually getting prepared for something.

Okay, so practically, what can this look like for somebody who is observing Lent?

Fr. Doug:
Yeah, so in the Catholic Church, there's a specific way that this happens, and then outside of the Catholic Church, there have been various expressions of it. For a Catholic, for the season of Lent, it usually starts at Ash Wednesday. We have two fast and abstinence days in there, and I'll explain what those are in a minute. We have two of those days, which is Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Then, for us, each Friday is a day of abstinence from meat. Those are some of the characteristics of it.

One of the things that carries over from Catholics to non-Catholics is the idea of fasting or putting on something spiritual. What generally you hear is people giving up chocolate during Lent as a very common thing. There's lots of people that do that, and they're not even really sure why they're giving it up, except that it's Lent. Most people give up chocolate because that's a pretty tough thing to give up, I must admit. Again, the whole idea of giving that up is not only sacrifice, which that's part of it, is sacrificing something, but most of it is about, really, self-mastery, or for that matter, bringing our body into submission and bringing our mind into submission in being able to give something up for the purpose of giving ourselves to Christ Himself.

What this really could look like is a very simple thing. An example that I would give is there was one year that I gave up coffee. I love coffee, and so I gave up coffee. Rather than drinking coffee or really any other drink, I only drank water during Lent. Another example could be, rather than watching Netflix, you add an hour of spiritual reading or more, depending on how much you watch Netflix. It just all depends. There's lots of things that can be done to make this a practice of not just a Catholic practice, but really a Christian practice, and a Christian practice and spiritual principle, which is fasting in preparation for a purpose.

Jesus set the example for this during His days in the desert when He went without, and this was a spiritual discipline for Him, as well, correct?

Fr. Doug:
Correct. The idea of abstinence and sacrificing, or even fasting, in prayer and Scripture is really all throughout Scripture. The idea of penance, prayer, and almsgiving are all really tied together very tightly in Scripture. One of the prime examples of that is we see Jesus Himself preparing Himself for the ministry that He was about to have, going out into the desert and fasting in preparation. It was a spiritual discipline of getting Himself ready, much like an athlete would do. An athlete, if you're going to run at a marathon, you sacrifice, but the sacrifice isn't just giving up what you're eating. The sacrifice is also exercising, doing something and preparing yourself for the very thing you're about to do.

That's really what we see with Lenten sacrifice of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, is it's preparing us to be, really, a better disciple of Christ, someone who is more willing to pray, more willing to bring ourselves into submission to what God has called us to do, and also in giving to those who need, which is really all that we're called to do. Very clearly, we're called to do that in Scripture.

Okay, so this is interesting because so often, and this was an understanding that I came to about Lent over the years, is that it's not just giving something up that you like, but it's also preparing yourself. That's where the prayer and the almsgiving comes in, even more so the preparation part than the fasting.

Fr. Doug:
It is. It being tied to Easter is very important, too, because this is a time that's leading up to the commemoration of our Lord's death for our sins and the commemoration of His resurrection for our salvation. We as Christians all share that. The idea of repentance during this time is very appropriate because we know what God gave up for us, we know what Jesus gave up for us, and so for us to be willing to deny ourselves something that we enjoy, we discipline our wills so that we're not just slaves to that pleasure. It also allows us to prepare ourselves to really celebrate something that, on Easter, is one of the biggest things. It is the salvation of all Christians, which is the life, death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As we prepare ourselves for that, the acts of repentance is, in a way, our way of not only showing, but preparing ourselves for that. By giving up those things that mean so much to us, it helps to discipline us, so that when we take up new things, hopefully those become a part of our life. The last thing I really hope and want to hear is that someone has given up Netflix and picked up spiritual reading, and then at the end of Lent they go back to watching Netflix. Really, the whole point of Lent is not to give something up for a short period of time, but really to make, if you will, a lifestyle change. Okay, it's not as if you're not going to watch Netflix again, but maybe you spend less time watching that and you spend a little bit more time in spiritual reading, especially if you didn't do so before.

It's a period of time of discipline to make permanent change in your life, to maybe even build a habit that's going to end up being a permanent change.

Fr. Doug:
Correct. It's also appropriate for us to mourn the sins for which Jesus died. Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and so we take time to mourn those things. That's what this period does. It's human to have an innate psychological need to mourn tragedies, and our sins are tragedies, really, of the greatest sort. Due to our fallen human natures, we also have a need to set times in which to engage in this behavior, to really mourn those things that have been lost.

People do this after they lose a loved one or lose a relative, lose a part of their family, maybe a dog or a cat, they lose their job, they move somewhere. They take time to mourn those things, and so taking this time to mourn what really led to the Crucifixion itself. It's appropriate to set those times of repentance for that and to remember those things while we're being disciplined to prepare ourselves for it, so that afterwards we can be a good example for it.

Okay, so we're about to get into talking about what this can look like in the home, especially with younger kids, during Morning Time. But I have one more question for you, and I'm not asking it for anybody in particular. What happens if you stink at sacrifices?

Fr. Doug:
Asking for a friend, hey?

Asking for a friend.

Fr. Doug:
That's right, asking for a friend.

What happens if you start off really gung-ho and really good, and then you fizzle out during the 40 days?

Fr. Doug:
Yeah. Well, the thing is, the only thing that's required for a Catholic is just the fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and then abstinence on Fridays. The idea of taking something up or sacrificing something or giving something up for Lent is really more of a personal piety type of act. It's not controlled by the Church; it's really controlled by you. If it becomes too difficult, you're able to change those things.

I'll give you an example of it. When I was working at a company, I had agreed to stop drinking... Well, I had decided I wasn't going to drink Coke and I wasn't going to drink coffee anymore. I had a bad habit of drinking both of those, and so I stopped drinking both. Apparently, my coming off of caffeine wasn't going so well. On Ash Wednesday, I began that, and by Monday, I had a couple of the ladies I was working with that said, "You're about to start drinking one or the other of them because we can't put up with you like this." So I added one back so that it wasn't as hard.

What happens is a lot of times we're really gung-ho about it and we... I know someone that was giving up three things, and I was trying to tell him, "Man, that's an awful lot. When you haven't given up anything the whole year, to give up three things for 40... That's really tough." Just tampering it and being careful, and on top of that, realizing it's more of a personal discipline rather than something that the Church is calling and asking for us to do, and so being patient with yourself and realizing that... Well, if you're a runner and you're practicing for a marathon, there's some days that you may be hurting and you may not be able to run as long as you wanted to that day. You may have committed to "I'm going to run five miles a day," and there's a couple days you only can run three miles a day. Well, it's not as if you just give it up completely, and it's not as if you feel like you've failed. You see it as a part of the process.

Part of that is we're not going to do this perfectly. We do need to be patient with ourselves because we are preparing ourselves for something, meaning that we're not where we need to be already. Taking that time in Lent to say, "Man, I didn't live up to what I wanted to today or this week," is actually a really good thing. It's not as negative as maybe people make it on themselves. I think sometimes we're a harder grader on ourselves than we are other people. What I would say is, yeah, sacrifice, and if you fall off, man, get back on the bike and start riding again.

Yeah. I think, to me, Lent is... Obviously, I want it to be a time of spiritual discipline, and I think the biggest thing I learn out of it every single year is I can't do this by myself. If I'm going on the will of Pam, it doesn't work.

Fr. Doug:
Right. Well, and for someone who specifically has... If sacrifice is a problem, in other words, giving something up, then maybe, for that person, adding something would be better. And maybe that wouldn't be either because that's a sacrifice all its own. To add something to your schedule or to your time or to whatever you're doing can be just as big of a problem as taking something away from it, and so either becomes a sacrifice. Sometimes people find it easier to add something, and specifically, add something small, rather than trying to take something away, and specifically, something that they're going to desperately miss. If you're a coffee drinker and you don't drink coffee for 40 days, it can have a radical effect on you.

And your children.

Fr. Doug:
And your children and your husband. I've seen all the memes of the line on the coffee mug "Don't talk to me," "You can look at me now," "All right, now we can talk." It can be that way. Just really not taking on too much is really the thing. I think sometimes we want to take on a lot, and we really want to dig into something and be all in. The truth is we can be all-in in small ways. It doesn't have to be the biggest thing in the world, because Jesus takes our small sacrifices and makes them big.

Lots of times, it's... We hear this said all the time. It's the small things that matter. Jesus even said, "How can I trust someone in big things if they're not trustworthy in small things?" Sometimes we have to start small, and there's nothing wrong with that. There's no shame in it. There's nothing wrong with saying, "Yeah, look, I can't give up coffee for that long. I think I'm just going to start drinking water rather than soft drinks," or whatever it may be. Or "I'm just going to try and drink more water." I'm trying to give just a rudimentary example, but something to that effect.

Yeah, or instead of "I'm going to get up and pray for an hour every morning," if you haven't been doing that at all, it might be a better practice to say, "I'm going to start my day with five minutes or 10 minutes.

Fr. Doug:
Exactly. Or if you haven't been a reader or you haven't read spiritual things, yeah, read five minutes a day in a spiritual book or in the Bible itself, or 10 minutes or 15 minutes, and making it manageable, as opposed to failure.

Yeah. Well, talking about sacrificing small things and doing small things, let's move on to smaller people, and let's talk about what could a family do in a Morning Time or any other time of day that they're all together to bring some of these Lenten practices and make them meaningful for children. What do you tell your kids about Lent?

Fr. Doug:
We usually flog them. I'm kidding.

Don't write letters, folks. We don't need emails. He doesn't really flog them.

Fr. Doug:
No. Only kidding. You may feel like it, but no, you don't. No. Again, remembering that whatever you're doing is not a requirement, that it's something that you're giving up together. Specifically, you can do things... You can give up things together or do things together. One of the things that I suggest always with a family is adding a prayer or a devotional that has an emphasis on penance or on the life of Christ, really, specifically, on His time in the desert if you can, so adding something that you normally wouldn't. If you're already praying together as a family, adding something of penance or of encouraging giving. We call it almsgiving, but really almsgiving is simply giving out of sacrifice, so in some ways, practicing talking about those things.

If you normally eat meat with your breakfast, don't. Just eat eggs and toast. If you normally eat a warm breakfast, eat a cold one instead. Rather than saying, if you eat eggs and bacon every day, you decide that you're going to just have a banana or something like that, something where what you're giving up isn't necessarily being full on sustenance, but is a trade for something you might prefer to something that, yeah, this is good too. There are several things you can do with food. Those are some things you can do where you're not punishing the little ones, but you're making an impact on the older ones.

As a Catholic, if you're near a parish or a church, you try to go to daily Mass. Now, again, that one can be one that can get overwhelming if you're trying to go every day and you've never gone before. Maybe you make it one day a week, we go to Mass. Or if your church has adoration in the mornings, maybe go to 15, 20, 30 minutes of adoration, and do that as a family. Understand the time frame will depend on the ages of your children.

One of the things I would suggest is, specifically if you're not Catholic, but if you're Catholic as well, is one of these things they call the sacrifice jar of beans. What we do is we place an empty jar next to a bag of dry beans, and so for every sacrifice or prayer or act of kindness or penance that we perform, a bean goes in the jar. Now, on Easter morning, what we do is we replace the beans with M&Ms, reminding them that the rewards of heaven are sweet. What Jesus gives us in His death and resurrection is actually sweet and not necessarily beans. Of course, if your family likes beans, make a bean soup. That'd be cool.

Other things you can do is no music in the car, if you're a family that likes to listen to music in the car. No eating out, which can be a tough one for families who are on the go. Or even having silent monastery-type breakfasts. In monasteries, when the monks eat together, when the brothers eat together, they normally don't talk at mealtime. Maybe having that as a time where you don't speak to each other and you just enjoy each other's presence.

Can we do that all year?

Fr. Doug:
Wouldn't that be a nice thing? Yeah, it can be-

I'm sorry, that's not very much of a sacrifice for me.

Fr. Doug:
It can be a practice that starts in Lent, couldn't it?

Well, I think what we want to do as we're doing all of these different practices with our kids, even down to the littlest kids, is explaining what's behind these practices, why we're doing them. We don't want to just do something like this in isolation and not maybe read the passage from Scripture about Jesus' 40 days in the desert, or talk about sacrifice with them as we're doing it.

Fr. Doug:
Right. Yeah, exactly, reminding them why we're doing it. Lots of times, what we would do is we would say as we're about to go do it, "Why are we giving up radio in the car?" "We're giving it up for Jesus," as everybody grumbles about it. Just explaining and trying to reinforce, "No, this isn't just for Jesus. This is for us. This is so that Jesus can work in our lives and can work in our hearts and in our family, and so that when we're in the car together, we're not all isolated; we're actually talking to each other," hopefully not yelling at each other, but hopefully conversing and sharing family time together, that just being one of the examples. Yeah, making sure that there's an understanding of why we're doing it, and it's not just something that we're doing. I think probably the worst thing we could do is pick up a practice like that and not explain why we're doing it, just to start something new and not really explain why.

We've talked a little bit about giving up with children, and we've talked about adding some extra Scripture or some prayer to our day. We can certainly do that in Morning Time, as well. What about service? You mentioned the bean jar and making sacrifices. A lot of times, for us, those sacrifices were acts of service or works of charity towards each other and for others. Do those have a place in Lent?

Fr. Doug:
Absolutely. Choosing to do something nice for... Like when it's not your turn, for kids' sake, when it's not your turn to do the dishes, doing the dishes for whoever that is and being able to offer that up. Helping someone with a chore that you wouldn't necessarily do. If it's one of their jobs to sweep the floor, maybe helping with sweeping. Just all sorts of things. If you have little ones, one helping the other get into their car seat is a great way to encourage, and it helps mom out, too, and dad out, too, those sorts of things.

Then I think some other things, too, is choosing to do something nice each day or each week for a neighbor, or even for the church. I know in a lot of churches, they have to fold their own bulletins or they have to make copies of particular things. As long as there's not 12 kids up there in the church office, I think that's something you could help with. I know that churches have to do clean-up in their pews and stuff. People will leave candy wrappers or even just the bulletins from that week, or the hymnals need to be straightened up. All those sorts of things can be done in a church, and that's usually a place where you can go and give service that they're happy to take it.

Also, having a neighbor or maybe someone who's elderly that you know needs help or who just enjoy the company of young children. I know one thing that we used to do, because we were homeschoolers, we could do this, we would go up to the nursing home, and we would play checkers on Fridays with some of the residents that were there and just spend time with them. Man, they loved having the kids around. Or playing cards. The little ladies there loved having their nails done, and so we would take teenagers sometimes in my youth group and we would go over there, and they would do nails for them. Just because it's service doesn't mean it has to necessarily be sacrifice. It can be doing something fun for someone, too, like spending time with them or playing games with them for someone who doesn't have that or for someone who needs that and doesn't get it regularly.

It's still sacrificial. It doesn't feel horribly sacrificial, but it is still sacrificial because you are giving of yourself and you are taking the time to do that. Those are all great ways that kids can get involved with that kind of Lenten practice.

Fr. Doug has given us a number of links and resources that we are going to share with you guys in the show notes, and some great ideas on how you can pull your little ones close and have these conversations about prayer, fasting, and almsgiving and sacrifice throughout this season leading up to Easter.

Fr. Doug, you have a fun Instagram account. Where can everybody find you on Instagram?

Fr. Doug:
Yeah, if you want to find me on Instagram, you would go to Fr. Doug Martin, F-R, D-O-U-G, M-A-R-T-I-N.

Well, thanks so much-

Fr. Doug:
Appreciate it.

... for joining me here today.

Fr. Doug:
Thank you so much for having me. This was a lot of fun.

Asheritah Ciuciu is a bestselling writer and speaker, wife to her high school sweetheart, and mama to three spunky kiddos. She grew up in Romania as a missionary kid, and studied English and women's ministry at Cedarville University. She is the founder of One Thing Alone Ministries, an online ministry that helps overwhelmed women find joy in Jesus through creative and consistent time in God's Word.

Asheritah, welcome to the program.

Pam, thank you so much for having me. It's my joy to be here.

It is good to have you here. I am really excited about your new book. It's Uncovering the Love of Jesus, and it's all about what? You tell us what it's about.

Yeah. It's a Lenten devotional, and I invite readers to discover Jesus' love in a whole new way by looking at the ways that He loved individuals in the Gospels, so everything from a friend at a wedding who is facing the possibility of public shame and embarrassment because of running out of wine, and the way He loves that friend, to the Garden of Gethsemane and how He loves His enemy by healing the ear of the high priest's servant, all the ways that Jesus' love just pours out toward the people in His life during His lifetime, and the way that we can uncover that love, not just toward us and in us, but through us toward other people, as well.

Awesome. Okay, so this book is a devotional, and it's meant to be read through the season of Lent. Now, I'm going to tell you, I got a giggle out of your email. Most of my listeners know that I'm Catholic, and I get your email, and the subject line was Surprised By Easter. I'm like, "Oh, yeah, she's not Catholic." We're never surprised by Easter. We slog through the 40 days, yearning to be closer and closer and get to that Easter morning. I know that this is not something that a lot of non-Catholic Christians do. What was it that prompted you to dive deeper and create a devotional for Lent?

Yeah, so I didn't grow up observing Lent. Denominationally, I didn't grow up Catholic. I just thought, "That's something Catholics do, and that's great for them, but it's not for me." It wasn't until college that I even heard of my peers in the evangelical world asking me, "What are you giving up for Lent?" I'm like, "Wait, what? Why? We don't do Lent. What's going on?" I was so confused, Pam.

But then over the years, I was intrigued by the liturgical calendar and really drawn to this idea of rhythms in a spiritual life, opportunities to lament, to slow down and grieve for what is broken, not just the sin in my own life, but what's broken in the world. I think that's such a gift that Lent offers the church, a safe space within community in which we can fast from good gifts, but maybe things that steal our affection and our attention from God, and so an opportunity to identify with Jesus in His sufferings, not to earn salvation, which was the way I had thought about it before, but rather as a way of experiencing His grace in a new way.

Actually, my journey more started with Advent, and then once I had done Advent for a few years, the next logical step was Lent. It has been just such a beautiful invitation to slow down and to experience God's love in a whole new way in the season leading up to Easter. Because, you're right, Catholics are probably not surprised by it, but speaking from an evangelical perspective, Easter kind of sneaks up on us. We're like, "Wait, all of a sudden?" It's not the same time of year every year, and so it's just like, "Wait, where did this come from?" Lent is this beautiful invitation to slow down and to identify with Jesus in His sufferings. Yeah, I just love it. I could go on and on about it. Obviously, I wrote a book about it, so yes.

Yeah. It is an incredibly meaningful time of year. You're right about the slowing down and then to taking the time to focus. Jesus was in the desert for 40 days, and so to take the time to focus on what it's like to sit and wait and prepare for 40 days. I think one of the most beautiful things about Lent is it makes Easter all that much sweeter. It really, really does, to have this period of preparation and this period of time beforehand where you're giving up a little more than what you normally would, you're praying a little more than what you normally would, you're focusing a little more on others instead of yourself than what you normally would, and then Easter breaks upon you all joyous, and it's like you're ready for it by the time it gets here and can appreciate it.

Yeah. I think one of the most humbling things about Lent has been that it's uncovered my failures and my weaknesses. It's so easy for me to be all or nothing, like if I'm going to give up sugar for Lent, or whatever, Netflix for Lent, I'm going to go all the way, and then it's just a few days in when I fail. I think the temptation is to say, "Oh, well. I guess I'm not doing that anymore. Sorry, God," and then just go back to my old way of thinking.

It's actually offered a context for repentance and for growth to say, "Yes, I failed. I am dust. I am human. I am prone to wander. I feel it and I know it, and you know it too," and so in these failures, to actually turn our hearts back toward God, say, "Lord, would you do a new work in my life? Would you change what only you can change and obviously I cannot?" In that way, it's such a sweet time of getting away with God in the midst of the busyness of our everyday lives and experiencing that. Just like spring coming to a desolate and winter landscape, experiencing that in our own lives as God prunes away the weeds and the dead growth, it leads to fresh fruit and life and growth in such a beautiful way.

Yeah. I'm always reminded every single Lent that I can do nothing on my own. I have to rely upon Him.

Well, one of the things I loved about your book... Go ahead and break it down for the listener who's interested and who might be clicking over to Amazon as we speak. How did you structure the book, and what exactly are you offering in there? It is a Lenten devotional for women, but it's also for families, as well.

Yeah. There are 40 devotions leading up to Easter Sunday, five a week, and each one focuses on a different aspect of Jesus' love as seen in a personal interaction during His lifetime that we find in the Gospels. What I've done is I've framed each week in a way that invites our families into this experience, because I don't know about you, but sometimes I feel ill-equipped to lead my children into studying God's Word and praying in a way that feels natural and organic, and that actually lines up with what I'm doing in my own time in God's Word. What I wanted to do is to provide these tracks for us to invite our children into this time, studying some of the same things we do.

At the beginning of every week, there are family celebrations, because this is one thing, Pam, that I learned. I was always a bit confused how Lent is supposed to be 40 days, but it's actually longer than 40 days, and how is all of that calculated? It wasn't until, like I said, I was an adult and I was researching, and I found out, "Oh..."

You don't count Sundays.

"Sundays are not counted," because Jesus rose from the dead on Sundays. Even in the midst of this somber season of grief and lament, Sundays are supposed to be celebratory. We celebrate Jesus on Sundays, and so that's what I call them. I call them family celebrations. It's like a 10-minute family devotional that you can do. I provide a passage from the Bible to read, some questions for you and your children to ponder.

Then each week, we explore a different aspect of why did Jesus have to die. I find kids ask the best questions, and that was one that I just felt ill-prepared to answer with my own kids. As you go through the devotional and these family celebrations, by the end of Lent, you'll have explored eight different reasons that Jesus died, eight aspects of what He did on the cross in His death. Then each family celebration devotional ends with a hymn that just puts to music what we've learned and gives a soundtrack for the season, as well. Those are family celebrations that are at the beginning of each week, just a way to invite our children into the season, as well.

Then at the end of every week, I have activities that we can do as a family to explore the meaning of Easter and Lent. This is something, Pam, that I heard from my readers year over year, is that "I want my children to know that Easter is about Jesus, that it's not about the Easter Bunny or the egg hunt or the candy or whatever, the baskets. I want them to know it's about Jesus, but I just don't know how to teach them that in a way that is age appropriate."

Each week, I offer five different activities that help you do that. These range from fun crafts that you can do for the person who is craft challenged, and I'm raising my hand right now because I am not a crafty person. But these are things that even I can do. There are simple crafts like that that just provide visuals and a hands-on way of exploring ideas like "Jesus is the Passover Lamb. What does that mean?" We read the Exodus story and that last plague in Egypt, and how they had to slaughter a lamb and put the blood over the doorposts. As you're reading the story, the craft that goes along with it is cutting out a little lamb out of cardboard and having them wind some yarn around it. I read this idea somewhere online, and I just love this hands-on way for them to picture Jesus as the Passover Lamb.

Every week, there are hands-on crafts like that, but then there are also creative spins on some of these ancient disciplines that are associated with Lent. That's fasting, prayer, and giving. Those are the three disciplines that accompany this Lent experience, so just some, not necessarily fun, but creative out-of-the-box ideas to do that. Maybe inviting your family to give up any beverage and only drink water during the 40 days of Lent, and with the money that you've saved, you could maybe sponsor a child through these wonderful child sponsorship ministries and pray for that child and write letters to that child.

There are ways for your children to be able to grow and grasp the bigger meaning of Easter and Lent. Obviously, there's no expectation that you would do all of the activities. I include over 30 in the book because I know different ones will appeal to families in different seasons, and I love that freedom that comes with do what is right for your family in this season.

I love that. Yeah, our parish hands out rice bowls every year. These are little cardboard bowls that we put together, and as we make our Lenten sacrifices, we put the pennies and the change and the money into the bowls, and then at the end of Lent, right before Easter, on Holy Thursday, we actually take those in and bring them to the altar and make that as part of our sacrifice. Yes, very much in a similar vein, you have those opportunities for the prayer, the fasting, and the almsgiving that traditionally goes along with Lent.

If we have somebody who is listening to us and they're not Catholic, they've never been liturgical, but they're intrigued by this idea, why would you encourage them to take a look at Lent as a practice they might want to pick up this year?

I would say if your heart yearns for rhythm and for slowing down and really sitting in quiet to grasp more of Jesus' love, I would encourage you to give Lent a try. I think one of the beautiful things that I'm seeing now with millennials as they're becoming parents, and especially in the evangelical church, as they're trying to, air quotes, "discover" these liturgical traditions, because really they've been there all along, but now we feel, I think, there's a permission to say, "Maybe I can try this on my own and I can see, how does this fit into my family and to where I feel the Lord is leading me?"

There's a beautiful freedom to say God invites us to come to Him. In Jeremiah, He says, "You will seek me and you will find me. When you seek me with all of your heart, I will be found by you." What I found I my research on the history of Lent is that this practice of taking 40 days before Easter to fast and pray and serve and give and love goes back to the early church. It goes back to the hundreds. The disciples of the apostles practiced this, and such a beautiful and rich tradition. I would just encourage you, if you're in that space where you're like, "I want something more this year for my family and for me for Easter. I want to experience, like Paul said, to identify with Jesus in His sufferings, to become like Him in his death, so that I might attain the power of the resurrection," if that resonates with you, I would encourage you to pick up this book and give Lent a try. Ask God to lead you in it, and you might just be surprised.

Yeah. Well, Asheritah, thank you so much for coming on here and talking about your experience with Lent and this resource that you've created for families so that they could bring this, certainly, into their families, into their homeschools, and into their Morning Times, as well. Can you tell everybody where they can find you online?

Sure. My website is onethingalone.com, and I'm really easy to find on Instagram. My handle is @asheritah, and you can see that spelling in the show notes and in the episode title. Also, Pam, I wanted to just make it easy for listeners to get started with these Lenten activities, so I put together a guide. It's a Lenten family activity guide. All listeners have to do is text the word LOVE, L-O-V-E, to the number 33777, and I'll just send that to your phone. Easy peasy.

All right. Wonderful way to get those Lenten activities for every family, by texting that word. We're going to put the word you need to text, which is simple, LOVE, and the number you need, into the show notes for this episode, as well.

Well, Asheritah, thank you so much, and I hope you have a blessed Lent.

Pam, thank you so much for having me. Many blessings on you and your family.

There you have it, two great interviews, and also so many wonderful resources for you guys for this episode. Be sure to go over to the show notes at pambarnhill.com/ymb67 to get links to Asheritah's book and all of the wonderful resources that Fr. Doug put together for us, and also information about that fun Shakespeare event that is happening. We want you to not miss out on that one, as well.

If you decide to pick up a few small sacrifices or extra spiritual practices with your kids during the season of Lent, we are wishing you many, many blessings on that one. We'll be back again in a couple of weeks with another great podcast interview. Until then, keep seeking truth, goodness, and beauty in your homeschool day.

Key Ideas about Observing Lent

Fr. Doug talks about the historical and biblical roots of Lent. He shares the significance of 40 days of repentance and preparation throughout scripture and how it became a model for the Lenten season starting on Ash Wednesday.

The key disciplines of Lent are prayer fasting and almsgiving. It is through these practices the Christian prepares to be a better disciple. Christians also use Lent as a time of repentance mourning Jesus’ death on the cross for our sin. Though we don’t seek perfection in our spiritual disciplines, we do seek to make a permanent change in our hearts toward Christ.

As families, we can take time during Lent to make small sacrifices and serve one another, remembering always that these practices are rooted in our love for Christ and allowing Him to work in us.

Asheritah shares that the rhythms found in the liturgical calendar are good for all Christians. Throughout Lent, Christians are able to take some time to grow in humility, realizing how desperately we need God to turn our hearts back to Him. In addition, Lent provides Christians with an opportunity to slow down and experience God’s love as they prepare for Easter.

Find what you want to hear:

  • [4:44] meet Fr. Doug Martin
  • [6:30] how Fr. Doug and his wife worked together to homeschool the kids
  • [11:41] brief history of Lent
  • [13:40] biblical foundations for Lenten observance
  • [15:05] basic elements of Lenten practice
  • [17:53] Lent as preparation for discipleship to Christ
  • [23:09] Fr. Doug addresses those who have difficulty making sacrifices and encourages you to not take on too much during Lent
  • [26:51] other ways you can sacrifice in Lent
  • [29:35] making Lent meaningful for children
  • [32:23] suggestions for non-Catholics who want to observe Lent
  • [35:26] including acts of service with children for Lent
  • [39:39] meet Asheritah Ciuciu
  • [40:12] Asheritah tells us the purpose of her new Lenten devotional for families
  • [41:47] why she, as a non-Catholic decided to dive into Lent
  • [44:52] how Lent can be a humbling experience
  • [46:33] Asheritah unpacks the structure of her devotional
  • [52:35] reasons Asheritah encourages all Christian families to observe Lent

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    This podcast is amazing and has helped me so much as recovering perfectionist homeschooling mama! Pam gives so much great insight into so many aspects of life and focusing on homeschooling.

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    This podcast has been so great. It’s so practical and encouraging without being overly preachy or narrow. It gives ideas in a take-what-fits kind of way. I have used many of the recommended resources and ideas mentioned and been inspired by many others. Even the episodes that I found less relevant to me specifically, often had tidbits that I could use. Pam’s podcasts, books, and resources have been a godsend to me in my beginning years of homeschooling, helping me discover my own way to teach my kids in a way that prioritizes what is most important to us.

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    I enjoy listening to tips on starting and using morning time as I am just starting it this year. We have kind of done it in the past, but when you only have one child you tend to just call it bible, story time, etc… but now that my second one is old enough to join we’re going to have more of a true morning time. I did notice Pam mentioned CNN ten in one episode. CNN can be pretty liberal biased in the main news, I’m not sure if they curb that in the “CNN ten”, but thought I would mention the Daily Wire, which is from a conservative viewpoint (and often covers indoctrination in public schools) and could be fun to compare and contrast with CNN. Our family also recently discovered Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family which has a very Christian perspective, which has been refreshing as news can be so depressing sometimes! Just thought I’d throw that out there… but really do appreciate the perspectives and insights of these women who have been doing this for awhile!

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    I love this podcast for so many reasons. (1) Pam is friendly, funny, humble and kind (2) She covers a multitude of topics (one at a time)- I have learned about nature notebooks, classical music study, narration, living books, Shakespeare and so much more. Whenever I have a question about a new (to me)HS term or practice, I come here to listen to Pam interview someone about it. Her interviewees have all been all-in on their respective areas of interest/expertise and I love the way she interviews/asks questions to really let the guests shine as they speak. I have changed the structure of my homeschool, found books for my kids and me, purchased materials, and found inspiration due to this podcast and I can’t recommend it enough! This podcast has shaped my homeschool in so many positive ways, most of which I probably can’t even articulate yet, as the changes have been done inside of me. Thanks, Pam!

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    I absolutely LOVE this podcast and was so disappointed when I realized you were not actively producing it! I’m NOW relieved to know there is a whole year of episodes ahead! I’m beginning my homeschool journey with 4 little ones very close in age and my style falls somewhere in the Classical and Charlotte Mason. I found your podcast by chance via Instagram recommendation as I was doing research on “morning menus.” Your content is beautifully philosophical but at a level most parents will be able to grasp and appreciate. Filled with truth, beauty, and goodness! Your episodes fill me up and leave me feeling inspired personally and in regards to my children’s education. Everything is so good! Please don’t stop producing ever again! I’ll be grateful forever!

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