Tag Archives: lent for non-lent people

my simplest statements about Lent for Non-Lent People.

I’ve tried to simplify how to talk about the book I wrote for Lent and how I describe myself in a couple places. With Lent starting one week from today, I wanted to share these with you and ask, if you would be willing, to share them with people who may find them helpful. And then, starting tomorrow, we’ll go back to other kinds of posts. But I realized one day that this book can help some people hear God more clearly. And that I need to encourage that, at least a little, as clearly and simply as I can.

Thanks for your help and patience.


“How can I hear God better?”

One way is by learning to pay attention. “Lent For Non-Lent People” is a seven-week guide to learning to listen for God. In this short book, pastor and social media chaplain Jon Swanson helps readers use the season of Lent to learn to focus on God by:

-Learning how to break habits of distraction and busyness;
-Learning how God spoke to a prophet in depression after a big event
-Listening to Jesus talk to an ostracized woman, to a close friend, and to the enemy of our souls.

In the appendix, Jon shares his own story of Lent and the loss of a child.

Whether or not you grew up with Lent, this book can help you listen for God.

Available in paperback and for Kindle and Nook


Jon Swanson helps people understand. Understand some of the Bible. Understand what Lent can be about. Understand what it means to follow.

Once upon a time, Jon thought he would use his PhD in Rhetorical Theory and Criticism to teach college students how to analyze speeches. Instead, he has been helping people read the Bible for more than thirty years. In small groups and conversations, he tries to listen to the text, listen to people and connect the two in ways that are practical and often unexpected.

Recently, he’s been writing about changing our routines, and his books on Advent, Lent, and the Sermon on the Mount give practical examples. His most recent book, “A Great Work”, is a conversation with Nehemiah which, in the words of one reader, “offers the gift of allowing people to feel they can understand without having to be scholars.”

Jon has been a communication prof, college administrator, and, since 2000, an associate pastor. Currently, he’s the executive pastor at Grabill Missionary Church. (His published writings do not necessarily reflect the positions of that church.)

He and Nancy have been married since 1983 and have two children (one married). Jon and Nancy walk at least two miles a day, conversing the whole time.

Jon has been blogging since 2005. In 2008, he started 300wordsaday.com, where he writes in simple language about following Jesus, 300 words at a time.


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33 questions to review Lent.

If you want your Lenten journey to make a difference, you need to think about the journey. Set aside an hour. Turn off the connections to other people. Ask God to help you think and remember. And then read through these questions which review the journey we’ve taken.

1. Why did you decide to walk though Lent this time?

2. What did you give up?

3. What did you start instead?

4. How long were you able to keep each commitment?

5. How many times did you renew those commitments?

6. After seven weeks, what habits did you find you had changed?

7. How has the routine of your life changed? Even little behaviors, thoughts.

8. What have you learned about Sabbath?

9. When you thought about Elijah walking across the wilderness for 40 days, how did that feel familiar?

10. Did you recognize the quiet voice that Elijah heard?

11. How have you understood God’s ways more clearly?

12. How has God spoken to you?

13. How did you find the words of the Bible helping you change habits?

14. How did the Bible become part of your routine?

15. How did you find conversations with God becoming part of your routine?

16. How did you find food in relationship with God?

17. Who did you talk with about the gradual changes in your life?

18. Who did you talk with about God?

19. What parts of your conversations with God found their way into your conversations with other people?

20. How have you been more comfortable with silence?

21. During this season, what happened that was painful?

22. What kind of pain was it? The pain of sin? The pain of death? The pain of change? The pain of relationship change? The pain of muscles not used before? The pain of guilt? The pain of separation? The pain of restoration? The pain of being reminded of disobedience?

23. What did you say to God about that pain?

24. What kind of healing did you find? (mind? heart? body? soul?)

25. What relationships have changed because of this experience?

26. What did you learn from the story of Jesus’ last days as you read the story this year?

27. What was new to you?

28. What was more raw and real to you?

29. What was more clear?

30. What do you understand even less?

31. What three things do you want to remember for the next month?

32. What changes in your life do you want to celebrate?

33. What will never change?

(Taken from  Lent for Non-Lent People which is still available for the Kindle and for the Nook.)



Reflecting on lent, reflecting on Easter

There’s no reason to be surprised about our confusion about living after Lent, living beyond Easter. Consider the responses of people during the days following the first Resurrection day.

There are moments of sheer delight.

Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. It was empty. She went to find the disciples. She ran into Jesus on the way, first mistaking him for a gardener, then knowing the voice. She was ecstatic. Like the people who celebrate Easter with big events, with great smiles. Like the people who are bubbling from the freedom. The people who thought they were dead, thought their lives were over. Easter is a reminder of everything wrong gone right.

There are moments of disbelief.

The disciples didn’t think they could trust what the women said. The disciples didn’t think they could believe the people from the walk to Emmaus. Thomas couldn’t believe the other disciples. The people like Elijah who have had an amazing experience but get up the next morning and everything is normal, everything is worse than normal. The people who worked hard getting everything ready for the Easter celebration at church, hours and days and weeks. And they walk out after the Sunday services and the right rear tire is flat.

There are moments of explanation.

Two of the disciples headed out from Jerusalem on that first Sunday, full of confusion about what had happened to Jesus. They were so wrapped up with the introspection that when Jesus started walking with them, they didn’t recognize him. As they walked toward Emmaus, Jesus walked through the whole Old Testament, from Moses through Jeremiah, Isaiah, Micah, and the rest. He traced the threads that pointed to him. That kind of teaching likely happened often after his resurrection.

What’s so clear in the responses of the people who knew Jesus first is that they responded in different ways at different speeds. And so do we.

(Taken from Lent for Non-Lent People, still available for the Kindle and for the Nook.)

occupational lent.

That phrase came to mind recently while reading a book Hope needs for a class. I got to it first and began to read.

The writer talked about a passage from Augustine’s book on rhetoric, De doctrina Christiana. I pulled it off the shelf above my desk to look at the passage. In the slowly darkening room, in the late afternoon of midwinter, I realized that I was removed from the writing. I could read the words, of course, but I couldn’t follow the train.

I skimmed the book. Derrida. Kierkegaard. Kenneth Burke. I started to tear up. I looked at the index. I recognized the names and topics of hermeneutics. Of the understanding of texts.

These are the names of the people I used to know. Not face-to-face, but in theory. Literally, through their theories as they talk about texts and interpretation and communication. When I was in graduate school, when I was writing my dissertation, these were the names I studied.

I remembered a walk I took by a small pond near a library on a campus in Fort Wayne.

In the days after the invention of the telephone but before the invention of the cellphone, interruptions were limited to the length of a wire. I discovered that if I went away from my campus, I could avoid the sense of work responsibility that always drew me in. And I discovered a library on another campus where I could smuggle a thermos of coffee into the lower level. Once there I could read, reflect, sip coffee, and make progress on my study of “The Rhetoric of Evangelization.”

One day I was taking a study break. I walked around the small pond just outside the library. I’m not sure why, but I was thinking about my work in higher education. The role of a faculty member was built on teaching and research and service.

“I like research. Exploring and writing are fun. But there are people who love research. I like teaching, and my students seem to think that I can do it well. But there are people who love teaching. I can do administration, and everyone hates it. I’ll be an administrator.”

At the time, part of my responsibility was chairing a division of our college, the general studies division. It wasn’t the Biblical studies division, where people studied the important work. It wasn’t the professional studies division, where people learned job skills. It was the liberal arts part, the necessary evil. Literature, history, science, writing, speaking. But I had found that I could think through curriculum design and course schedules and budgets in ways that many of my colleagues couldn’t.

That day by the pond, I gave up being devoted to teaching and scholarship. Within a couple years, I was a full-time administrator. More than two decades later, it’s still part of my title. a decade in higher ed, and now a decade in church.

Do I regret that commitment? Not at all. The opportunities I have had in administration have been suited to me. My friend Terry says, “leaders make matters better” and that’s what I’ve tried to do.

But there has been a lenten abandonment. As I discovered while reading Hope’s book. a whole set of arguments has been left aside for two decades.

And yet.

During that time, I have gained the understanding of texts. I have been forming as a student of the Bible. Not a bible scholar, not trained by seminary. But I have been able to take audience and take text and take author and say, “How do these connect”.

Abandonment for the sake of others has its own blessing. I know that now. Or discover it in the writing.

(More on the Jacob’s book by Hope’s prof. And my book on Lent, Lent for Non-Lent People has more on giving up and gaining.)