Tag Archives: lent madness

Forward Today: We can make time for Lent

In the new Forward Today, Scott reflects on how even Lent is something we often find ourselves trying to fit into our schedule, and asks: How will you use the gift of this season?

Dear friends in Christ,

As I write this, I’m sitting in an airport. Someone near me is talking loudly on a mobile phone, and I’m having trouble thinking anything other than “Would you please quiet down, so I can draft this important email?” Of course, that’s ridiculous. I can move. I can do a better job of focusing here. I can be more generous.



It’s actually not a bad parable for Lent. “Can’t my work just stop a bit, so I can focus on the importance of Lent?” We try to fit Lent in around other things, and we blame the other things when we don’t enter fully into the season of Lent. But of course, that’s ridiculous. Perhaps we can make choices about what we do during this season. We can make time for Lent. We can be more generous.
Lent starts in exactly a week. How will you use the gift of this season, this time of year devoted to helping us repent and return to the Lord? How will you make sure that a distraction does not become the thing. Lent – in fact, our repentance – is the thing. It’s easier said than done.
As for me, I managed to focus a bit. I looked up and enjoyed the view out the airport window. I took a deep breath, and I even gave thanks for my fellow travelers. It’s a lesson I could learn from, again and again.
Good thing Lent is just around the corner. I need it.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Today’s sale item is our new book of daily Lenten devotionals, Are We There Yet? Pilgrimage in the Season of Lent.

The book is also available for $4.99 for for Kindle, Nook, or in the iTunes store. To get future reflections from Scott in your inbox, subscribe to Forward Today.

ICYMI: Week of 2/26/17

Welcome back to the latest In Case You Missed It, a.k.a. ICYMI, our weekly blog roundup of the latest stories around the @fwd_mvt and #Episcopal world.

Did you make it to Kanuga last week for the Church Leadership Conference? Or DC for CEEP? If so, we hope you stopped by the Forward Movement table and checked out some of our resources! Here’s a shot of our DC setup:

We’re looking forward to meeting even more #Episcopal folks at the Episcopal Communicators conference in April, in our hometown of Cincinnati. Will you be joining us in Ohio? The conference is always a great opportunity to share knowledge and ideas—and it’s a blast.

We also met more of the Lent Madness Celebrity Blogger crew this week. Pop quiz: Which Lent Madness blogger owns a horse? Who moonlights as a romance novelist, and who wrote a book called The Use of Scripture in the Apocryphon of John: A Diachronic Analysis of the Variant Versions (which we’re pretty sure is not a romance novel)? All those answers and more here.

On a more serious note, Lent Madness Supreme Executive Committee member Scott Gunn—who himself moonlights as the Executive Director of Forward Movement—shared some thoughts in his weekly newsletter on the meaning of 40 days in the desert, and what that must have been like for Jesus.

“I was hiking in a desert not too long ago, and my appreciation for the extreme nature of Jesus’ journey only grew. The desert is not a hospitable place. Because he was fully human, he must have yearned to be home.”

We’ll be deepening our reflection on the desert this year in our Season of Prayer project, which will explore themes of exile, hospitality and migration. You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter for daily shareable images, and watch related videos or download weekly bulletin inserts for your church at forwardmovement.org/seasonofprayer.

We’ll close with a sneak peek at one of the daily images. We hope you’ll join us in this time of reflection.

ICYMI: Week of 2/12/17

Welcome back to the latest In Case You Missed It, a.k.a. ICYMI, our weekly blog roundup of the latest stories around the @fwd_mvt and #Episcopal world.

Here at Forward Movement we’re in full-on Lent prep mode. And that can only mean one thing: They’re baaack:


That’s right: it’s just over 2 weeks until Ash Wednesday, and that means a certain annual early-spring tournament is about to sweep office coolers around the nation. We speak of Lent Madness, of course. Not familiar? Check out the video above from the SEC (Supreme Executive Committee), a.k.a. Scott Gunn and Tim Schenck.

The next step in joining the Madness is to pick up a Saintly Scorecard (also available in poster size, great for parish halls). Then make your selections, vote online during Lent, and enjoy learning more about these saints.

Lent Madness is silly by design, of course, but a funny thing happens during the March mayhem—we learn some pretty powerful stuff. Scott writes about that in this week’s Forward Today, titled “Inspiration from the Saints.” A key quote:

“Every saint we remember is known for their advocacy of the vulnerable or for calling people to transformed lives or for prophetically calling the church to return to its Gospel life. To celebrate the saints is to celebrate rocking the boat. To celebrate the saints is to discover that God works for justice through people like you and me.”


Speaking of advocacy of the vulnerable: One powerful Lenten practice we’re recommending this year is Meeting Jesus on the Margins. We produced this book in 2016, but just reprinted it for yearly use. It focuses on Jesus’ message in the Gospel of Matthew, in which Jesus urges us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, and visit the prisoners. That message is certainly timeless.

Also: Have you been following along with Minda Cox’s Forward Day by Day meditations this month? It’s not too late to join in this daily practice for February—and to weigh in with the new Moving Forward feature, using #ForwardDaybyDay.

On Feb 6, readers responded to the following action: Take or draw a picture of your favorite real-life servant-leader in action. On the hashtag, we saw a wide variety of answers:

“One of my favorite servant leaders, @elizabethforma #ForwardDayByDay”

“Servant leader

“Father Bill Wright @eecsanangelo informs & inspires my own servanthood. He’s a blessing to our parish … & beyond. #ForwardDayByDay

Really cool to see such a range of answers! And there are more great Moving Forward questions and actions coming up. Wishing you all a peaceful week.

Forward Today: Inspiration from the Saints

In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott writes about Lent Madness, the annual saintly smackdown that’s all in good fun–but can have a powerful impact, too.

Dear friends in Christ,


We are just around the corner from the eighth year of Lent Madness, the “saintly smackdown” that pits 32 saints into a competition for the Golden Halo. It’s all very silly, but it has a profound impact on participants. You see, over the course of Lent, as you vote for your favorite saints, you read about them and their witness. By the end of Lent, we get a glimpse into the extraordinary ways God works in ordinary women and men.


Some will object that this kind of silly and slightly irreverent fun isn’t appropriate in a world rife with serious problems. But as I blogged yesterday, there are no saints of the status quo. That is, every saint we remember is known for their advocacy of the vulnerable or for calling people to transformed lives or for prophetically calling the church to return to its Gospel life. To celebrate the saints is to celebrate rocking the boat. To celebrate the saints is to discover that God works for justice through people like you and me.
This year more than ever, I’m looking forward to a fun, informative, and inspirational season of Lent Madness. As in previous years, I know a vibrant online community will form as we discuss the merits of various saints. Perhaps you will join us, if you haven’t played before. This might be in addition to your regular Lenten discipline, or maybe it will be your first-ever Lenten discipline. Whatever you do, I invite you to use the season of Lent to recommit to following Jesus. It is hard work, to be sure. But sometimes it can be fun. This is appropriate. After all, the Book of Common Prayer describes Lent as a season to “prepare with joy for the Paschal feast.” Indeed. Let us prepare with joy.
Yours faithfully, 
Scott Gunn
Executive Director

To get future reflections from Scott in your inbox, subscribe to Forward Today.

ICYMI: Week of 1/15/17

Welcome to the latest In Case You Missed It, a.k.a. ICYMI, our weekly blog roundup of the latest stories around the @fwd_mvt and #Episcopal world. We’re publishing on a Sunday this week; we’d love to hear if you prefer this new timing, or if you’d rather get these posts on another day of the week. Just let us know in the comments, or on Facebook or Twitter.

As we wrapped up Christmastide and celebrated Epiphany, we read a great post from Mary Lee Wile (author of the Epiphany book Star of Wonder) on the many, multi-cultural ways to enjoy this holiday, from king cake to “star caroling.” Check out ‘Epiphany Fun—Foods, Songs, Stories & More’.

And speaking of king cake… We’re excited to try this recipe from the Church’s ‘Make Ready the Feast Blog’ (shared by a New Orleanian, so you can trust it’s the real deal!)

The whole ‘Make Ready the Feast’ blog is terrific, by the way—great seasonal and holiday-specific recipes for the whole family, from a range of culinary traditions.

Another good one from Grow Christians this week: Nurya Love Parish wrote about the various prayer spaces she has created over the years—some spacious and some small, some treasured and some less used. Do you have one of these in your home? Here are a few photos that readers shared with us on Facebook:


How neat is that backyard labyrinth? Wow.

And yet another Grow Christians goodie this week: A post by Roger Speer, the Georgia artist behind Forward Movement’s new all-ages coloring book, Pathways of Faith. We loved Roger’s words about creativity, and his wonderful point that “God is a maker … Within each of us dwells the spark of that same creator spirit.” Inspirational stuff!

We hope that Pathways of Faith will help you access that creative side.

If we’re eating king cake and talking resolutions this week, that also means that Lent is coming up before we know it… and with it, the annual early spring tournament that sweeps the nation: Lent Madness. You can now get your 2017 Saintly Scorecard, for all your tourney tracking needs. And why not pair it with a Lent Madness mug?

Just who will take home the Golden Halo this year? Tune in to Lent Madness on Facebook and Twitter as the anticipation builds.

Have a great week!

This Month’s Obscure Saint: Macrina the Younger

It’s coming! Can you feel it? Thanksgiving and Advent are right around the corner, and that means you’re probably looking for your comfy pants, because skipping a piece of Aunt Lu’s pumpkin pie is a terrible idea. Maybe you’re really looking forward to spending time with all your relatives and friends, or maybe you’re really looking for a quiet corner to gaze upon the majesty of family from a safe distance. Whatever you end up doing, we hope you are able to spend time with people you love (and people who love you), thanking God for all the blessings of this life, and waiting to see what other wonders God may have in store for you in the coming days and months.


Families are weird, you guys. And if you think your family isn’t a tiny bit odd, you definitely have at least one friend who will disabuse you of that thought. Take my friend Macrina the Younger as an example. She’s one of those saints you might not know anything about. The most important thing to know about her—the most important thing you can know about yourself or anyone else—is that she was a beloved child of God and friend of Jesus. Another helpful bit of information: she came from a pretty unusual family.

You know those families you can hardly believe are real? The ones with the ridiculously overachieving children and the magically organized parents? Yeah…that was Macrina’s family.  Both her parents are saints—Emmelia of Caesarea and Basil the Elder, and her grammy Macrina the Elder is one, too. Also, four of her siblings (Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Peter of Sebaste, and Naucratius—who was allegedly The Cute One) are saints as well, and Basil and Gregory are counted as TWO of the three Cappadocian Fathers—who are a pretty big deal, as they did much of the heavy lifting involved in fleshing out (see what I did there?) the doctrine of the Trinity. Rumor has it that Macrina the Younger was actually the Fourth Cappadocian Parent, but since the Church had a really hard time remembering to count women as actual human people for a few hundred years, she has been recognized as a part of this group in only the last few decades. You can read more about her life of faith in the 2017 Saintly Scorecard!

By now, many of you will have read, marked, and inwardly digested the Lent Madness Bracket for 2017—you may have even pre-ordered your giant wall bracket, Saintly Scorecards, and lit a vigil candle in preparation for the Saintly Smackdown. Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.

This year’s Lent Madness promises to be a real barn-burner, and we can’t wait to play. To help you get ready, we’re running a Saintly Special until Sunday 11/13 on Lent Madness-related swag—coffee cups, pint glasses, giant tea mugs, t-shirts, Golden Halo flying disks, and our family resource Meet the Saints so you can work toward making your family as weird and wonderful as Macrina’s, for Jesus’ sake.

Four eBooks for Lent

If you miss out on any of our print books for Lent (the deadline is this Wednesday for Ash Wednesday delivery), not to worry! Our resources are also available as ebooks via Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, or iTunes. Here are four great Lent resources you can still order as ebooks for the season.

Meeting-JesusblogMeeting Jesus on the Margins

Where do you meet Jesus? In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus urges us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, and visit the prisoners. And in doing so, we meet Jesus. These daily reflections for Lent, offered by well-known faith leaders, provide boots-on-the-ground stories of serving and being served by “the least of these.” The meditations also explore our own hunger, our vulnerabilities, and the times we are imprisoned, either self-imposed or by circumstance. Come and meet Jesus each day this blessed Lenten season. Contributors include Mike Kinman, Becca Stevens, Allison Duvall, Bo Cox, Hugo Olaiz, Lee Anne Reat, and Richelle Thompson. Read sample.

Available on Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and iTunes.



A Grown-Up Lent

It’s a popular question: What did you give up for Lent? Chocolate? Red meat? Facebook? Watching TV? Making a decision to cut out these non-essentials is admirable, but alone, giving up chocolate doesn’t get to the heart of Lent. The lessons offered by Jesus in the parables offer a way forward. In these daily Lenten reflections, Episcopal priest Joanna Leiserson puts these parables into a modern context and develops new models of spiritual practices and engagement to bring us into a deeper relationship with God – and with our friends, neighbors, and communities.

Available on Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and iTunes.




Lent Is Not Rocket Science

An Exploration of God, Creation, and the Cosmos. The season of Lent prompts us to ask questions, big and small, about the nature of our being, and about our role in the world. In these daily Lenten reflections, astronomer, physicist, and Episcopal Bishop W. Nicholas Knisely explores the intersection of faith and science, creation and the cosmos. Read sample.


Available on Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and iTunes.



2410 Saintly ScorecardSaintly Scorecard 2016

Saintly Scorecard 2016 features the biographies of the 32 saints in contention for the Golden Halo, tips on how congregations and individuals can use Lent Madness as a devotional tool, a saintly bracket so you can keep track of the winners, and new this year — Pocket Lent Cards of previous Golden Halo winners with key vital stats. Throughout Lent, you can consult your digital Saintly Scorecard and cast your vote online each day at www.lentmadness.org. Many parishes and families also like to keep track of the Lent Madness action using the Lent Madness poster-sized bracket and we have limited quantities of those still available here.

Available on Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and iTunes.

Lent Madness 2016 Brackets Announced

We’re excited to share that the brackets for the hottest tournament of the spring—that’s right, Lent Madness—have now been announced! Get ready to separate the saints from the aints.



New to Lent Madness? Here’s how it works: on the weekdays of Lent, information is posted at www.lentmadness.org about two different saints. Each pairing remains open for 24 hours as participants read about and then vote to determine which saint moves on to the next round. Sixteen saints make it to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen; eight advance to the Round of the Elate Eight; four make it to the Faithful Four; two to the Championship; and the winner is awarded the Golden Halo.

The first round consists of basic biographical information about each of the 32 saints. Things get a bit more interesting in the subsequent rounds as we offer quotes and quirks, explore legends, and even move into the area of saintly kitsch. 

For those seeking an advanced list of all 32 first round bios along with a personal full-color bracket, the Saintly Scorecard: The Definitive Guide to Lent Madness 2016 will be available through Forward Movement in January. 

And check out Tim Schenk and Scott Gunn’s All Brackets’ Day video, in which they highlight some of the unique battles to come in Lent Madness 2016.

Like that other March tournament, there will be drama and intrigue, upsets and thrashings, last-minute victories and Cinderellas. Unlike professional and collegiate sporting events, there is no admission cost for Lent Madness, but souvenirs are available in the “Lentorium” part of the Lent Madness website. 

And if you’d like to play Lent Madness with a group or congregation, pick up an oversized Lent Madness bracket poster to track the results (perfect for a parish hall).