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3 Ways Into a Holy Lent

Posted by on March 8, 2019

3 Ways Into a Holy Lent

by Matthew Kozlowski, alumnus

Most Christian holidays have joyful greetings: Merry Christmas! Happy Easter! But as for Lent…not so much. I’ve never had someone wish me a “Happy Lent”. This 40-day season before Easter is unique. Yes there is joy, but the deep meaning of Lent is found in prayer, self-reflection, and growing closer to Jesus.

Ok, so Lent might not be the most fun season of the Christian year. But think of it this way: Lent is like the camp worship song “Days of Elijah”— it’s coming whether or not you’re ready.

How might you live into a holy Lent this year? Here are three suggestions:

1. Take an Inventory
As a Brookwoods counselor, I remember the last days of camp when we cleaned and put everything away. All supplies had to be counted, whether they were sailboats or Nerf balls. What was missing? What was in good condition?

In Lent, we do the same thing, but with our spiritual lives. We take inventory, asking: What’s bringing me closer to God? What’s drawing me away? What don’t I need anymore? What’s broken? What’s working well? This process may sting a bit, but it can also feel really good—especially, if we ask God for the grace to be honest and the strength to make changes.

2. Consider Others First

The 40 days of Lent mirror the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert, fasting, praying, and resisting the devil. Notice how Satan tempted Jesus to do miracles that were self-centered tricks: feed yourself by turning stones into bread…jump from a height and be caught by angels. Jesus refused. He knew that his power was mainly for the sake of others. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, ESV).

In Lent, we follow Christ’s example by considering others before ourselves. Be generous, not just with money, but with time and intention. Write a card, send an uplifting text, or take an extra minute to call. A friend of mine once said that Brookwoods was the first place he knew where people asked, “How are you?” and really meant it. That’s the kind of spiritual generosity we can practice in Lent.

3. Give Something Up, for the Right Reasons

It may be old-fashioned, but I still give something up for Lent. Some people give up chocolate, or Facebook, or the snooze button. This is good. But it’s important to ask: what’s the point? If the goal is self-improvement, I think we miss the mark. Lent should not be a 40-day diet or self-help program.

Instead, Lent is a time to grow closer to Jesus Christ, full stop. Giving something up helps us focus on Jesus, and lean on Him. Think of it this way, when you remove something from your life, how will you fill that empty space? A wise minister told me that when he fasts, he prays for the Holy Spirit to fill him. The Spirit always shows up—you can count on it. Just like “Days of Elijah” showing up at the end of camp worship—you count on it.

The Rev. Matthew Kozlowski is an associate priest at All Saints Church in Chevy Chase, MD. He lives in Alexandria, VA with his wife, Danielle, and two daughters. “Koz” was a counselor at Brookwoods and Moose River between 2002-2005, where he taught sailing and wrote mildly amusing skits for the Staff Special. matthew.koz@gmail.com

Epiphany

Posted by on January 11, 2019

What Is the Epiphany and How Do I Celebrate It?

Craig Higgins

“I’ve had an epiphany!” Have you ever heard someone say that? I don’t know that I’ve ever said it, but I’ve felt that way—the excitement of new insight breaking through my thick head! An epiphany is a manifestation—a disclosure of something not previously fully seen. For Christians, the Epiphany is a festival day—and an entire season—in the traditional worship calendar. And what we celebrate is God’s full disclosure of His love for the whole world.

The Epiphany is celebrated on January 6—the first day after (yes, just like the song) the Twelve Days of Christmas. The focus is the visit of the Magi, the Wise Men of Matthew 2. In some places, this is the day (sometimes called Three Kings Day) on which gifts are exchanged, remembering the gifts brought by the Magi to the Christ Child.

Remember: The Wise Men were Gentiles, the first non-Jewish people to worship Jesus! This event, therefore, is an epiphany of God’s love for the whole world—the revelation that Jesus is not only the Messiah of Israel, but the King and Savior of all the nations of the earth. The Epiphany season then lasts from January 6 until Ash Wednesday.

 

Celebrating Epiphany

First, don’t cut Christmas short; celebrate all twelve days! In our house, we set up our creche well before Christmas—but baby Jesus doesn’t appear in the manger until Christmas Eve. Similarly, our three Wise Men start on the other side of the room and only make their appearance on the Epiphany!

Do something special on January 6. One tradition is to bake a King Cake, in which some trinket is hidden. Whoever gets the trinket wins a small prize—which could be a book, or simply the privilege of not doing the dishes!

Last—and most importantly—the entire Epiphany Season is a time to focus on the church’s global mission. Matthew’s Gospel opens with Gentiles worshiping the Christ Child, and closes with Jesus sending His church to make disciples of all the nations. So, during the Epiphany season:

  • pray for missionaries, especially those in distant or difficult places.
  • pray for the mission of the church—including the mission of camp!
  • consider ways that you can make a special offering in support of the church’s mission.

Maybe you’ve known about the Epiphany for years; maybe this celebration is new to you. In any case, why not make it a part of your year? After all, don’t we all need to be reminded of God’s amazing love for the whole world?

Dr. Craig Higgins is the founding and senior pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in the Westchester suburbs of New York City. Whenever possible, however, he is at camp, where his nametag reads “Resident Theologian.” His wife, Ann, serves year-round as camp’s Director of Development. They have three young adult children, all three of whom were campers, and all have been either LDPs, on staff, or both. You can find him on email, craighiggins@trinitychurch.cc