consider Lent

This week is Ash Wednesday.

The first day of the season of Lent, leading up to Easter.

Growing up, that didn’t mean much to me. We didn’t pay much attention to the church calendar.

That was for Catholics. Or Lutherans. Or some others like that.

As I have grown older however, the importance of Lent in regards to Easter has grown as well–both personally, and in my understanding of it for the growth and maturity of the Church.

Maybe you don’t share that belief or understanding. That’s okay.

But I’m going to lay out why I think Lent is important, and why we should consider observing it.

Lent is about remembering our Lord’s sacrifice for us, confessing how little we appreciate and value it, thanking Him for it, and focusing on it, to prepare ourselves for the highest day of celebration in the church calendar–Resurrection Day, or Easter.

How do we do it?

We read and contemplate lenten readings.

We pray.

And we may fast.

Sometimes I hear objections to Lent as being “too legalistic” or “too Catholic”.

It isn’t meant to be legalistic. The giving up of something during the forty days of Lent (not including Sundays, which are “feast days”–a Sabbath from your fast, if you will) has to do more with reminding us of Christ’s sacrifice for us. Each time that I forgo that cookie (or tv show, or checking Facebook, or whatever), I am reminded that my life does not consist of these things, but is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). I’m dying to my flesh, just a little bit, in order to live to the Spirit.

It’s also a reminder of who my savior is. What do I go to, when I am lonely/depressed/anxious/angry/worn out/impatient? Do I go to my pseudo-savior (food, internet, exercise, work, sex, activity)? Or do I go to the One who truly saves, who understands, who can meet my needs fully, and in whom I can trust and rest?

As for it being “too Catholic”, I would say, yes–it is catholic. But with a little “c”. Catholic as in universal, the holy catholic church as the Apostles’ Creed puts it–the whole church, the whole world, the unity of believers, all over the globe; treading the same road of remembering the cross, and longing and anticipating his joyful resurrection day celebration.

So, consider Lent. Think about what God might desire for you to give up (and not in a “this makes me feel good about myself because look at what I’m giving up and sacrificing”, a way to feel superior to those who aren’t fasting from anything, or merely a box to check off on your to-do list for the day).

Or perhaps, God is calling you to add something. A time of prayer before you start your day. Memorizing and meditating on a verse of Scripture. Giving more of your money to someone who needs it more than you. Inviting someone who can’t reciprocate to come over to your house and share a meal with you.

The purpose is to retrain our focus on Jesus. When I refrain from grabbing an M&M, it’s an opportunity to remember that my life is more than meat and drink (or chocolate!); my life is in Christ, and I say a prayer to God, thanking him for that fact, and that he sacrificed much more for me. When I give up soda, and drink water instead, I thank God that He is the living water, and I will never thirst because He satisfies me. When I give more of my money away, I remember that Jesus cares for me, much more than the sparrows (for whom he also provides); I can trust him to take care of me and provide for my needs.

(Not convinced? More and better explanations of Lent can be found here (The Journey to the Cross), and here (Why Bother With Lent?).)

Consider your Savior.

Think about what good thing you may wish to give up for a short time, in pursuit of the ultimate One.

Consider Lent.

(note: this is a re-post of mine from a previous blog)


Agree or disagree: Christians and Black Lives Matter

I have a confession to make.

I don’t agree 100 % on everything with my husband.

Shocking, right?!?

Most of you are thinking, “Well, of course you don’t.”

And yet, I am able to live with him, love him, plan things with him, discuss things with him, work on mutual projects together with him—even in the midst of some real disagreements.

So why is it that some seem to have the idea that if you agree with someone about a lot of things, but disagree with them on some things, that you can’t work together or support one another?

Following a December talk that Michelle Higgins did for the Christian college ministry Intervarsity at their Urbana 15  meeting, there was some grumbling.  Higgins seemed to support, and encourage the church at large to support, the Black Lives Matter movement. The pushback seemed to indicate that since there are some issues that the original Black Lives Matter founders would differ on than traditional, orthodox Christians, that there should be no support or acknowledgement of the movement or its aims. Otherwise, we might be wrongly grouped with them.
I believe this is wrong. And I believe it comes from both an unwillingness to understand the impetus of the movement, to listen to the reality and the pain, and to look honestly at both the history of much of the black experience in America, as well as what is happening currently.

The implication in the slogan “Black Lives Matter” is the word “too”. Are those who say it  saying that only black lives matter? No; there is a perception that black lives do not matter as much as white lives; they do not matter as much as police lives. This perception is backed up by the continual parade of black people being shot and killed by police, only to have the outcome be that no charges will be brought against the offending officer–even in the most egregious, blatant cases. What are we to think? The simplest conclusion is that black lives have less value to society at large. “Those people” are lazy, don’t have jobs (never mind that part of this is the systemic issues that have been brewing for decades), don’t respect the law or its officers. They deserve to die—even if it’s just for playing with a toy gun or looking at an air rifle in a Walmart. (Compare that to how white people are treated when they openly carry guns. FYI, Ohio, where Tamir Rice was shot and killed for possibly having a gun, is an open carry state.)

BLM at its core is a movement to get the larger populace in America to acknowledge that black lives have historically (and currently) not mattered as much as white lives. This has been true across all aspects of our society–economically, educationally, in our justice system, and in social acceptance and treatment. The stain of slavery that powered our country economically for 200 years has not been easily removed; its effects have seeped nearly everywhere, with governmental indifference and racial prejudice slowing progress. There have been some gains, to be sure. However, systemic problems grind on. The recent increased visibility of unequal treatment of black people by police and the justice system has helped the swell of the demand for fair treatment and an assurance, backed up by action, that black lives do indeed matter. To believe or to act otherwise is contrary to how God views all humankind. He created them all, and created them in his image. They are worthy and worthwhile, based on their personhood, made in the image of God. Christians, of all people, ought to support the general movement, because the movement is primarily about affirming the value of the lives of people of color.

“But there are parts of the platform that I disagree with, vigorously! I just can’t support this, with these issues.”

While is the “original” group who started agitating for change in the past couple of years, the phrase “Black Lives Matter” has grown to be a far greater, more widespread movement and slogan. The phrase has come to be identified with the belief as expressed above: that black lives have been treated as if they do not matter, and that this needs to change. Just as the civil rights movement of the 1960s had disparate groups that had different approaches and even different philosophies as to how change should happen, they were all part of a larger movement for an integrated society in which black people were afforded equality, both in essence and in opportunity. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led by Martin Luther King, Jr., worked in different ways than those of Malcolm X. King was an integrationist and promoted and practiced nonviolence, and advocated civil rights. Malcolm X, a black nationalist, espoused use the use of violence in defense of blacks and freedom, and advocated human rights. They both contributed to the overall progress that was achieved.  Understanding and appreciating the achievements of the 1960s and the expansion of democracy as a result of the ‘60s struggle, requires seeing the contributions of Malcolm and Martin together, and that the two of them are “related not as inferior and superior, not as better and worse, not as weaker and stronger, but as complements–complements in one necessary and symmetric whole.” (Malcolm X and Martin Luther King: The Motive Force of Change in America)

There were many people, both black and white, who didn’t agree with everything that Dr. King, or Malcolm X, or other black leaders in that day, did; but they supported the vision and the progress of civil rights, in spite of that, because they saw the overall goal as being one they could support.

I believe that there is something similar going on now. One can support the idea and the movement of Black Lives Matter, without supporting every single “plank” in the official BLM platform. ( One good idea would be to read it, first, before reacting.) One can disagree with parts of Campaign Zero without throwing the whole idea out the window (again, read what it entails before forming an opinion). One can listen to Michelle Higgins’ talk at Intervarsity, and try to see that there might be far more agreement than disagreement, so long as a defensive attitude is set aside.
Listening to black people and their experiences should be our starting point.

It’s okay to support a larger idea, without agreeing with all the people who support that idea. We do this already with many groups we are a part of. For example, do you identify with a political party? Do you agree with everything in that party’s platform, or what they stand for? Are you a member of a community group? Are you 100% on board with everything they support and stand for? What about your church? I know of many folks who are a part of, and support, a church, but don’t necessarily agree with every aspect of every doctrine or practice (for example, people who are not paedobaptists but happily attend and are even members of a Presbyterian church).

Perhaps the best example of this is the cooperation between pro-life Protestants and Catholics. These group disagree on some major things that are related to the issue at hand (for example, the use of contraceptives), and yet they are able to work together on the larger issue of eliminating abortion, and supporting families.

If we can do this with other causes and groups, why can’t we do it with the larger cause of Black Lives Matter?

I see this as the civil rights movement of our day. Will we join with, support, and use the resources we have to work toward a Biblical view of all people being created in the image of God and worthy to be treated in such a way in all aspects of life? Will we be co-belligerents (as Francis Schaeffer said) with others who are working to repair and renew the broken down system that has contributed to the plight of so many people of color in our nation? Or will we be like the white clergymen of Birmingham, who chose to withhold their support from Dr. King, because of a disagreement over his methods?

The decision is before us.










Confession is speaking truth.

It is telling what is true about us.

Sometimes that is telling the truth about things that we are happy to share with others, because they are things in which we delight.

We confess our love for R&B.

We confess our passion for citrus-y desserts.

We confess our addiction to The Walking Dead.


Confession is also speaking truth about things that we are not so excited about sharing with others—aspects that generate shame and guilt.

We resist confessing them, hoping that, by hiding them, they will somehow disappear.

Instead, they grow in the darkness. Their roots dig down deeper, their tentacles grab on more tightly.

Sin loves the darkness and isolation. The more we keep our sin private, the more we keep it covered and away from others, away from the light, the more it grows in its power over us. It uses the shame and guilt to make us even less likely to bring it out into the light, because (it tells us) others would turn away from us in disgust.

And nobody wants that.

But the truth is that there is freedom in confession. Confession is truth, and the lies that are told about confession are just that—lies. When we confess our sins, we bring them out into the light. There is freedom in confessing our sin to another believer who is trustworthy, and knows the freedom of confession as well. The power of sin dissipates in the bright sunlight of the gospel. It bleaches the sinner clean in the truth of the love of Christ.


Confession to our brothers and sisters is a two-way street. As we confess our sins to our brothers and sisters in Christ, they confess the gospel truth back to us.

We confess to the sinner (whom we see as not a wretch unlike ourselves, but a fellow, forgiven son or daughter): here is the truth about you.

You are forgiven.

You are loved.

You are holy, because He is holy, and you are in Him.

You are a royal priesthood.

You are chosen.

You are beloved.

You can never be kicked out of the family.

We speak the Word of truth, and confess it, one to another. We have failed, and will fail. But he is faithful and just.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. “ 1 John 1:8-9

“…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

“If we are faithless, he remains faithful–for he cannot deny himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13

We remind each other of these things (2 Tim. 2:14). We encourage one another and build each other up. ( 1 Thess. 5:11) As we confess the truth about our sins and about ourselves to each other, we also confess the truth about the One who has taken care of it for us, the Spirit who is walking with us, and is in and through us, every day.

We confess the truth through the praying and singing of Psalms.

We confess that we deserve the curse.

We confess that because of his mercy, Christ has taken the curse for us.

We confess that we live in freedom, to pour out his mercy to others, because we are beloved and forgiven.

Confession has to happen, to bring out the blessing and the truth of the confession of what God has done in Christ for us.


The church recognizes that we not only need to confess to God privately, and to a trusted friend and believer, but that we are strengthened and helped by confessing things corporately, as the body of believers: locally, globally, and spanning the generations of time. Those who have gone before us have written creeds and confessions for us to repeat, to say, to agree with—to confess the truth together.

So at church, we confess our sins together, in a time of confession, both silently and corporately. And then we confess the historic truths of our faith, together.


I believe in God, the Father Almighty,  Creator of heaven and earth,

and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.

 He descended to the dead.

On the third day He rose again;

He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,

and  He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church,

the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.



Light is brought to bear on what was hidden. Shame is uprooted and banished; guilt is taken away.

Our roots are more deeply grounded in the truth of the gospel, and the light of truth shines down on us.

We confess this truth.

We are set free.

letting go

A friend prompted me with the following question: if you could go back in time, when you were the mother of young ones, what would you do differently? Not different in specific ways you would parent, or even mistakes that you made that you would want to go back and “fix”, but what would you do with your time? What do you wish you would have poured more of yourself into, and what do you wish you would have let go?

I did let go of some things along the way.

I tried to maintain a level of clean that didn’t trigger a health department official coming over to investigate.

I kept a reasonable schedule of laundry–one that recognized that I would never be “caught up” until there were far fewer people living in the house.

I accepted no shame over not having dusted and vacuumed before friends came over.

I pursued an acceptable level of involvement in my children’s school–picking the activities and things that I was more interested in, and dropping those that were not a good fit for me, without guilt.

I recognized my limited interest in cooking anything beyond “tastes decent, within the budget, doesn’t take a lot of time, feeds everyone” and being okay with that.

So mostly—I tried to fit things to the reality of our family and our needs, without comparing myself and what I was doing to other people and how they were doing life in their families.

The oft-quoted “Comparison is the thief of joy” is oft-quoted for a reason. It’s true, y’all.

The releasing of these things was not all at once, but rather progress was made, in fits and spurts. I worked on trying to please God and serve my family, without being worried about what everyone else thought of how I was doing in those areas.

The question of what to pour yourself into? This is a hard question, in a way, because I think that it looks different for everyone. Things that may be more important to you, and worthwhile to pour your energy into, are not going to be the same things necessarily for me. As a believer in Christ, there are two things that are essential: loving God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength; and loving my neighbor as myself. The specifics on how I carry that all out will rest on my own specific gifting, abilities, situations, and experiences.

So how do I know how to spend my time and energy?

I think the only way is through a consistent conversation with God.

When we look into his Word and ponder it, think about it, pray it, we get a clearer view of Him, of his love and care for us, of his vision for our lives.

When the view is muddy, we ask for a clearer view and for what he wants us to do. We ask for eyes to see and ears to hear what that might be.

We continue on in the faithful, mundane-to-our-eyes daily service to our families, our workmates, our neighbors, and our community, knowing that that is important, necessary work.

We watch for opportunities that God may be bringing our way, to do other things that He would have us do.

We ask trusted people in our lives if they see those opportunities as well.

There’s no list or hierarchy that fits everyone. We are all unique parts of the Body, with unique roles to play.

Don’t be swayed by the idols of comfort, control, power, or the approval of others. Ask God what he wants you to do.

Pour yourself into a full, committed relationship with God.

Everything else will pour out from that.

A shift in perspective

There is a trail behind my house, where I often take the dog. Sometimes I go a short way one direction—just long enough for him to “do his business”—turn around, and come back; sometime I go a short way in the other direction. And sometimes, I walk the entire loop. Two whole miles (it’s hilly! Don’t judge me 🙂 ). Usually I turn to the right when I am going to do the entire loop. There’s no particular reason for this; it’s just become my habit.

This morning I decided to go to the left instead. And, although I have walked this path many, many times, I was surprised how different it looked to me. Familiar landmarks were not so familiar from this perspective; I noticed details on the plants, trees, and trail that I had never noticed before. The pond came upon me suddenly, instead of the leisurely descent of the path toward it from the other direction.

A different view of the very same trail—walked from a different perspective.

When we think about race relations, this is what we need: a view from a very different, unfamiliar point of view—theirs.

I grew up in a small, very white town in the Midwest. My husband (who grew up in the same town) and I can only recall one black person in our entire community: the guy who had a shoeshine stand in the lobby of one of the professional buildings downtown. (Yes, I realize how racist and stereotypical this sounds.) I did not know his name, or anything else about him. Nor did I give him, or what his life must be like, much thought.

It has not been until the past few years that my seemingly benign (yet absolutely neglectful) ignorance of my fellow black citizens has been challenged. My eyes and heart have been opened to the real racism and oppression that continues to be a reality in our 21st century culture here in the United States– both in individual hearts, but also baked into our systems: economic, social, educational, and judicial.

I know that I only see a small sliver of it. But I want to know more, to be more aware, and to be a part of a change that will work toward solutions to these centuries-old issues.

How does this happen? How can I shift my perspective on my trail?

I can start by listening.

In my last post (which has been awhile ago, but check it out if you haven’t read it), I wrote of listening to others better, and trying to understand things from a different point of view. How do we do this, this “listening” to others?

The first and most obvious way is the simplest definition of it—we sit with people. We let them tell their stories, without pre-judgment or defensiveness. This applies to everyone we come in contact with: friends, co-workers, schoolmates, neighbors, and family.

This is difficult for us, mostly because we are self-centered creatures, and prone to think mostly of how we perceive things, how things affect us, etc. It takes real work and persistent effort to listen and empathize with another.

In the case of listening to people of color’s experiences and feelings, it starts the same way—sitting with them, being with them, and listening to their stories.

But what if we don’t know any people of color? Many of us live in areas where there are few to no black people, or any race other than whites. What do we do then?

My first suggestion is to look carefully at whether your geographic are is as “white” as you perceive it to be. Often we self-segregate with those with whom we identify, and with whom we feel more comfortable. That may happen through our choice of neighborhoods, churches, clubs, and groups. It’s fairly normal—but that doesn’t mean it’s ideal. All of us could do some stretching in this area (myself definitely included). If you do not have any friends that are of a different ethnic group than you are, you have some work to do.

In the meantime, there are additional ways in which we can stretch ourselves. Nonwhites have been telling their stories for a long time, for those who have been willing to listen; through their oral histories and writings, we have access to their experiences and their thoughts. I confess that I have been woefully undereducated in these stories. It has not been until the last few years that I have sought out and read works by black authors: Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Dubois, James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Michelle Alexander, to name just a few. Through reading their words, I am able to listen to their experiences, their thoughts, their concerns, and their cries for justice. I can listen. I begin to understand, in a small way, experiences that are so unlike my own.

I listen to my black brothers and sisters through films as well. Ava DuVernay’s “Selma”, Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing”—these help us to see another viewpoint, to hear another story, told by those whom it has affected the most. Music is another avenue for listening. I am not as well-versed in this, but I have benefitted from listening to and reading about Kendrick Lamar‘s music, and his commentary on what it is like to be black in America today (graphic language warning if you listen to his music).

Note: I am not saying that we must all agree with absolutely everything that these artists convey (you don’t agree with everything you read or see that is conveyed by every white person, do you? And these authors and artists don’t always agree with everything the others have to say, either). I am saying that we need to expose ourselves to other ways of thinking about things, especially if we have formed opinions about groups of people or about current or historical events, without having a full view of or a framework for what has happened/is happening.

In an effort to seek out a more fully fleshed out history of black folks in the US, I recently read the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Slavery by Another Name by Douglas Blackmon. I was only vaguely aware of what the post-Civil War/Reconstruction era was like. The reality was far more horrific than what I had imagined, as a system of convict leasing and debt peonage (pseudo-slavery) sprang up that was as bad as the slavery that had been “abolished”. Blackmon is not black himself, but in this book, and the subsequent PBS documentary based on it, he has given a voice to the thousands and thousands of “freed slaves” who endured systemic oppression well into the 20th century. The effects of this abusive system are still with us in black communities today. We have come far, but have so very far yet to go.

I have much more that I want to read and listen to and mull over and act upon, from black authors and bloggers, and from Native American writers and histories as well (Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown is high on my ‘read next’ list).

We are all products of our environment, our education, and our exposure. We would do well to “walk the trail in a different direction”. If we wish to know truth and to love others in a God-pleasing way, then we should not be either fearful or disdainful of what minorities have to say, but instead seek out their voices.


They are speaking, and they have something to say.

something new

September often seems more like the “new year” to me–the beginning of school, the subtle shift in the weather. And so it seems appropriate that I start my new blog in this month.

I will be posting about things that I’m thinking about (hence the title), and I invite you to come think about them with me.

It’s just “normal”

I’m a pretty normal person.

At least I like to think I am.
But maybe I just think I am, because I don’t know otherwise.

I was sitting with my children and their spouses around our fire pit, talking about our family’s “culture”. My daughter-in-law shared how she had to acclimate and get used to the “Koenig way” of doing things and handling things when she first was getting to know us.

My thoughts started in this way: ,“Yeah, that would be hard to integrate into, if you were used to a different way.”

And then: “What is she talking about? We are just normal. We do things the normal way.”

As the conversation progressed, she brought up another situation where she had felt out of sync with us.

I said somewhat mockingly, “Great. Tell me something else that I am going to feel guilty about.”

My daughter interrupted me, gently but firmly, and said, “Mom. If that’s how you’re hearing it, then you aren’t listening right. Listen to her.”

I was taken aback, and somewhat embarrassed. But I got the message.

I needed to listen.

Listen, and not be defensive.

Listen, and acknowledge the work it took for my daughter-in-law to integrate and feel a part of this large family who did things in a way that was far different from her family growing up.

Listen, and not make it all about me and how I felt about it.


Our family is not big on expressing emotions in a gush-it-all out kind of way. (We are part German. This may have something to do with it.)

Sometimes, there is a holding back, a pondering of what we actually want to say. A silence, in order to keep from saying something that might hurt another’s feelings or make the situation worse. Time to consider our words.

Or, often, less altruistically, a sly or snarky remark, a sarcastic comment. A silence that signals a grudge, rather than a graciousness.

My daughter-in-law’s family is more of the hash-it-all-out kind of family. Right away, right now.

You can see where there might be some clash of culture.

And why she struggled to fit in and feel a part of things at first.

My son-in-law, originally from Georgia, also ran into some cultural differences, with our family. “Bless your heart”, sweet tea, and a full recitation of when you first met Jesus is not a part of our Midwestern sensibilities.

He went away from our first meeting thinking that we hated him (we didn’t, for the record, and were aghast when we found out later that was what he thought).

We thought everything had gone fine and was just “normal.” Because we are normal. (And right. )


Listening is hard.

Sometimes it’s hard to pay attention and not let my mind wander. Sometimes it’s hard to intuit what is behind what someone is saying, when their words may not match up to their body language or facial expressions.

But sometimes (often!) it’s hard, because I am busily composing my rebuttal to tell the other person how they are wrong, or getting ready defend my point of view, instead of really listening to the person across from me.
When I stop my own mind-churning, and my trying to figure out how to present myself and my opinions as superior and right, and just listen to others, it’s amazing what happens. I hear what they really are saying, and it affirms the person’s significance.

We actually communicate.


My reaction at the fire pit reminded me of how many people in the majority culture (whites) react when they hear the stories of minority people who are trying to tell about their experiences, and their difficulties in navigating a culture that is different to their own. Ask a white person to describe his culture, and he may say, “I don’t know. It’s just normal. “ Because it is the majority culture, there is no pressing need for him to examine his culture and compare it to those around him who come from a different one. The majority is considered “normal”; he doesn’t have to figure out how to fit in with any other culture in order to live his life.

The nonwhite people around us, however, have a much different experience. They have to be fluent in both white culture and their own culture, if they hope to succeed and thrive; if they hope to get along.

And many times, if they just hope to survive.

The conversation that night reinforced the idea that if I, as a white person, hope to understand and know my nonwhite brothers and sisters, I will have to be willing to listen to their stories.

I will have to be willing to listen to how they experience life, often far differently than my own experience.

I need to be willing to put down my defenses, lay down my fears and guilt, open my ears, listen, and honor their words.

I need to make it not all about me, and how I feel about things.

Listening well to the minorities in our society will not change situations or solve problems in and of themselves. But it will help. It will acknowledge that there are different experiences that we have not had, different issues and influences, hardships and difficulties that have arisen because of both past and current injustices.

It won’t solve things immediately. But it will be a start.