Make Lent a time for learning

The kids leaned forward with curiosity as my husband set out various study skins and skulls for the class of youngsters studying animals and their environment to examine. As each specimen was placed on the table, storytelling began to fill the room.

“Once we were walking on the beach and we found something dead that stunk,” a student reported.

“Once, when we were camping,” another student began, “this lady took her cat out of her motor home and the dog in the next campsite raced over and ….”

“OK everyone,” my husband quickly interjected, saving us from gory details he was certain were about to be related. “Let’s phrase our comments in the form of questions you may have about what you’re seeing here on the table.”

Matt’s quick glance—the one that silently relayed to me, “Dodged that bullet”—-said it all. The adventure had begun!

And so it was that the morning progressed in ways this biologist—who welcomes the chance to occasionally step away from office paperwork and spend time in a classroom filled with kids—enjoys as he began to demonstrate the secrets that skins and skulls reveal when you learn what to look for.

Matt had a feeling this presentation had the potential to be special, for sitting with her classmates was a child born without the benefit of sight. Nevertheless, she was an active participant and leaned forward with interest, as if to capture everything Matt had to say.

After introducing a number of mammals, it was a stuffed barn owl that caused this student to shoot up her hand and wiggle with excitement. “I hear them in my backyard at night!” she exclaimed for all to hear.

Realizing an opportunity ripe with possibility, Matt picked up the owl and crouched down in front of her. “Give it a good feel,” he encouraged, “I think you’ll like how soft he is and you can’t hurt it by touching it.”

Out stretched her little hands but in a surprising move, it was his face and not the owl she reached for. Starting at his forehead and working down the bridge of his nose she moved her fingers. When she got to his beard, she pulled her hands away in surprise and giggled.

“You can’t hurt that mustache either,” he playfully assured her. After the two were adequately introduced, she moved on to investigate the owl with the same thoroughness.

“I’ll never forget watching her feel every part of that owl,” Matt reminisced the other day, “but the best part was her reaction.” As her classmates intently looked on, a huge smile brightened her face.

“I see it!” she exclaimed.

It is this most precious girl who has touched me this week, as I continue to challenge myself to experience this Lenten season—the 40 days leading to Easter—with enthusiasm. This year I want to see Christ’s life with new insight and plan to do so by working through a Lent reading plan offered at Each day’s reading consists of a passage from the Gospels offering accounts of Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection.

I don’t want to miss it—the life God says can be ours if we invite Him to teach us, then show us how to respond in ways that will reflect our personal growth and His love for those around us.

How often do we feel so scheduled we conclude that it’s impossible to set aside time to allow the Lenten season to be deeply instructive?

And yet, if we make some small, workable adjustments to our schedules--if we ask God for energy and enthusiasm and insight, and if we use those moments with God to focus on His sacrifice and profound love, we will begin to see Him.

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