Lent

Insurrection in the Empire

I am meeting with people from my workplace over the lunch hour to read scripture from the Common Lectionary and discuss the implications of following Jesus in our culture. We met yesterday, and got to know each other a bit more, and had some lively discussion. Then, we read through scripture together, read a poem from the Desert Fathers, and shared the peace of Christ with each other. This all happened in a little conference room in the heart of what many would call the center of the Empire. And we kept that in mind as we wrestled together with what it means to be followers of Jesus right here, right now. It feels like a small gathering of rebels. A true insurrection. :)

I don't share this as a way to spotlight my holiness or anything like that. Far from it. I share it to encourage you. As I've blogged through Lent this year, my eyes have been opened to the depth and mystery of the season. I have, as I've shared, never observed Lent, and never paid much attention to the Church calendar before. While attempting to establish a rhythm to my spiritual practices, I've become (at least it feels like it) increasingly in tune with God. And this little burst of insurrection happening in a conference room has made my soul come alive. I'd like the same for you.

Grace and peace to you on this Holy Tuesday.

This is a part of a series of daily reflections on the season of Lent.

Rest and Lent

I took a few days off of work (my 8-5 job) and away from online work. I didn't blog, tweet, facebook, etc. I made reference to it here, as this is a daily series and I would be missing a couple of days. Turned out I missed three. And. It. Was. Glorious. :)

A bit about the psychological impacts...

I have to say, I had no idea how stressful it would be to disconnect from work. There was a part of it that was simply hard to break the habit, and alter my routine. For example, I wanted to kick off my time away with the Unplug Challenge.

I failed that challenge simply because I have formed habits around social media. I got my phone out, fired off a tweet, and then remembered the challenge. Woops. It was eye opening to see just how engrained social media has become in my day-to-day. Eye opening of course here really means horrifying. I have allowed my social networks way too much space in my life, and I'll be making adjustments in the near future regarding boundaries.

(Side note: if you haven't already, pick up Justin Wise's ebook The Top 10 Mistakes I Made in Social Media - I got it this past weekend. It was a timely message. Justin is a brilliant friend.)

On a deeper level, I felt just how important it is to my self esteem and ego to interact with others and add my voice to certain conversations. I went through what felt like a healthy detox. Through the process of disengaging, I was able to gain some perspective on what I value and why I value it. Although I can't say I was surprised by what I observed about myself, the honest look at how I spend my time and spend my attention truly helped me to gain some fresh perspective. I have a lot of work to do in order to align what I want to do and what I actually do. I'm sure you can relate.

My biggest takeway

Since I wasn't engaging in social media, and I wasn't writing a daily post here, I was able to reset my focus and reallocate my attention to other things. My spare time wasn't spent on adding to the world wide web. And you know what...? The internet didn't shut down. People didn't run out of things to read, say, or respond to. Everything simply carried on. You probabaly didn't even realize I was gone. Who would have thought?

Most importantly, I spent a lot of time with my family. We relaxed, ran errands and spent much more time outside than we normally do in our daily routine. I never knew yardwork could be so relaxing. I was reminded that my family is the most important gift God has given me, and just how little time I make for them in my day.

A little bit of rest went a long way. I'll be making some major adjustments by making lots of small tweaks in my life. I'm curious, do you have a rhythm of rest in your life? If so, what do you gain from it? If not, I'd challenge you to give it a try.

This is a part of a series of daily reflections on the season of Lent.

Immediately A Rooster Crowed

Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed.

This is one of those events leading up to The Passion, where we feel Peter's emotion, doubt and fear deep within our bones. It's almost too much to read the next verse that says Peter went outside and wept bitterly.

We know this story, because it's our story.

Lord, help me to understand the ways in which I deny you. Help me to overcome my fear by clinging to your promise. As we weep bitter tears, we thank you for the act of redemption that you showed on the cross, and we thank you for setting all things new.

This is a part of a series of daily reflections on the season of Lent.

Strong in Toungue, Weak in Faith

Then Jesus said to them, All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered. But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee. Peter answered and said to Him, 'Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.

Jesus said to him, Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.

Peter said to Him, Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!

I often relate with the Peter we see in moments such as these throughout scripture.

Strong in tongue, weak in faith.

This is a part of a series of daily reflections on the season of Lent.

Productivity and Guilt

I often struggle with the pressure to be productive, and the guilt that comes along with a lack of productivity. Hear me out...I'm not trying to make excuses. However, in a productivity obsessed culture, it can become overwhelming when you feel the constant pressure to perform and produce. When this pressure permeates our view on what it means to be valued, we face the temptation of buying into the lie that we are worth what we create. This pressure creates a burden that enslaves us, and can also end up with us projecting unrealistic expectations on others as well. Needless to say, this is toxic for all involved. This is especially true to the person of faith who creates art, but that's a different conversation entirely.

While it's important to be cognizant of how much time we waste, especially among the jungle of information feeds, alerts and pushes, it is vital that we don't get sucked in to equating our worth with our productivity.

You are not your work.

You are not you expectations of yourself.

You are not the expectations other have of you.

You are valuable because you are you.

This is a part of a series of daily reflections on the season of Lent.

Bread, Wine and Proclamation

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me. In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me. For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

That's us, right now. Any time we take the Eucharist, but specifically now, in this season of Lent. The depth and beauty and power and agony and glory of taking the bread and the wine and proclaiming the Lord's death, is heightened during Lent.

We yearn for Resurrection Sunday as it serves to remind us that the first fruits of the Resurrection has occurred. That Jesus is risen and he will return to restore all creation. He will set things right.

Today, we wait. We proclaim his death, knowing the story doesn't end there.

 This is a part of a series of daily reflections on the season of Lent.

Poison Ivy, Metaphors and Observing Lent

I did some yard work last weekend, and ended up covered in poison ivy. I'm sure there's a metaphor there, but I'm not sure what it is...and I'm too itchy to think much about it. As it is with Lent. I've been attempting to extrapolate lessons and observations while ruminating on the season, but there have been moments where there's nothing to say. There are deep truths being uncovered, moment by moment. There is pain surfacing as I've spent more time reflecting. I have certainly experienced the hopefulness and anticipation for Resurrection Sunday, more so than any other year in my life.

But some days, there is no metaphor, there is no lesson. There is only rest, and quiet, and pain, and joy, and waiting. Some days you're just itchy because you came into contact with a substance that your skin does not agree with, and that's that.

This is a part of a series of daily reflections on the season of Lent.

On Sin and Lent

This is a guest post by Jonny Craig. Also read Jonny's other Lent post, A New Take on Lent. He's the same great mind that brought us, Let's Talk Religion and Politics.

How do I empty me of... me? When I investigate my innermost desires, I believe I can say honestly that I want to be a vessel from which God pours our healing to the world.

But how?

This is where my self-reflection continues to take me. How do I die to self? I’m struck by the way Paul says “Put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” There’s a very pronounced action that I must take here. God has forgiven me through Christ, yes, but I still have a responsibility to kill my former self in order for my new self to live.

These are dark thoughts for lent.

But oddly appropriate.

We celebrate this time of year as a countdown to history’s most important death and even more vital Resurrection. We are all called to be reflections of Christ, isn’t our death and subsequent resurrection related to his own? Hasn’t his sacrifice showed us how to sacrifice?

Several days ago I found myself alone, sitting in silence. I took the opportunity to journal, and here’s a bit of what I wrote: “I readily admit that I’m a sinner, but when I put names to those sins: anger, lust, jealousy, greed... it begins to crack at the image I keep of myself.”

These are the things I’m full of. Paul names these same things and says “put them to death.” After that difficult command, he explains the result: that we’ll be clothed with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Those are the qualities God will use to change the world.

It’s time to get murderous with my sin.

This is a part of a series of daily reflections on the season of Lent.

The Problem With Lent and Why It's So Great

This is the 20th daily reflection on Lent. As I admitted last week, I missed a post, so this should be the 21st. And since I'm not posting on Sundays, that means that we are more than halfway through Lent. I have to tell you that this is harder than I thought it would be. And, I've only written 13 of the posts. Further, several of those were not my thoughts, but curated content. So...I'm learning some things through this process. I'm learning how intentional you have to be to write (close to) everyday.

I'm learning that you can't casually, or passively, observe if you are going to reflect.  

I'm learning that a butt in a seat is worth more than a busy calendar.

I'm learning that I can't earn a successful Lent.

This Lent has been the first I've really truly observed. And I've grown from that. But along the way, there's been a persistent nagging that I would fall short in my attempts to observe and/or write my way through Lent.

Let's cut to the chase...my fear is that I'm insufficient. That my writing isn't good enough. That my spiritual life is too weak. That my faith is shallow. That I am not good enough.

I hate it. And it's completely necessary. By looking my brokenness in the face, I am learning the truth and depth and beauty of the Lenten season.

This is a part of a series of daily reflections on the season of Lent.

My Eyes are Dry

My eyes are dryMy faith is old My heart is hard My prayers are cold And I know how I ought to be Alive to You and dead to me

But what can be done For an old heart like mine Soften it up With oil and wine The oil is You, Your Spirit of love Please wash me anew With the wine of Your Blood

My eyes are dry My faith is old My heart is hard My prayers are cold And I know how I ought to be Alive to You and dead to me

But what can be done For an old heart like mine Soften it up With oil and wine The oil is You, Your Spirit of love Please wash me anew With the wine of Your Blood

My Eyes are Dry by Keith Green. This song is a perfect prayer for Lent.

Lord, please wash us anew. Amen.

This is a part of a series of daily reflections on the season of Lent.

All This Waiting is Making Me Crazy

This is a guest post by Mandy Thompson. Mandy is a twittererblogger and musician. Of course, she's on Facebook too. She's also a talented artist...more on that after the post. I write this on a Saturday afternoon while waiting for my husband to complete his sermon work so we can go out and celebrate. We've been waiting for months to receive word from our local Dept. of Human Services office that they have reviewed our inch-thick file and have deemed us fit to be Adoptive parents. That part of the waiting process is over. We received the "okay" yesterday. It's official.

Finally!

We get to adopt. Some kid. Or kids. Sometime. Maybe soon. Maybe not.

We don't know all the details yet. We're still waiting for names and profiles and photos. Tonight is sort of a pre-celebration. We're in the "already, but not yet" of adoption. We've got something to celebrate, but there's much more to anticipate.

This stage of the adoption process feels a lot like Lent. It's hard. Exciting things are happening, and heartbreaking things are happening. We are walking away from the old and embracing the new. We are grieving. We are receiving. We are looking forward while still looking back.

We've been approved as Adoptive parents, but we haven't yet adopted.

Lent is the same. Christ is coming and Christ has come. Even though something has happened that's worth remembering, we can't ignore that we're still on our way. We're still on this journey and we haven't arrived at our final destination yet. The same holds true for this spiritual season. We remember Christ's death and resurrection, but we also remind ourselves that we are on a journey to something much greater. We're still waiting. Waiting on Christ comes back to take us home. So we sit with the homesickness of Lent, knowing we aren't meant to stay here where we are. Waiting on that moment when the "already" and "not yet" collide into one big "Gotcha Day" in Heaven, and all of us who have been adopted as sons and daughters, are met with a new home.

It's gonna be amazing, y'all. And, I don't know about you, but I can't wait.

This is a part of a series of daily reflections on the season of Lent.

Some art after the jump...

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This art piece is one of Mandy's orginals. I had to pry it out of her, but she has an Etsy store where she posts these pieces. You should seriously check them out. The piece above can be purchased here, and you can visit the rest of her store here. Insider info: you can get 25% off any piece by using the code CTHEOLOGY at checkout...offer is good through Friday.

Worry

Mark 8: 17-18

Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?

Despite having just witnessed a miracle specifically involving food, Jesus' disciples begin to worry about bread. Their worry cripples their faith. My worry cripples my faith. Yours does too. Our hearts are hardened. We have eyes but fail to see. We have ears but fail to hear. We readily forget.

"In the sermon on the mount, Jesus says, Do not worry because nothing that ultimately matters is at risk." - @paul_stewart

This is a part of a series of daily reflections on the season of Lent.

A Bright Sadness

This is a guest post by Chris Kretzu. Chris lives in Southern California with his wife and son. He is a big fan of cooking, the beach, and front porches. He is the Growth & Development Director at Mariners Church. @kretzu

It's the time of year when people are cranky, crabby, and reaching for the Advil. That's right, it's Lent. We're a couple weeks in to a season in which hundreds of thousands of people in countries all over the world fast from something or some things.

In fact, I would say that most people - religious or not - understand Lent as a season of fasting or abstaining from different things. It causes us to suffer in very small ways and to be reminded of the suffering that Christ endured, even to death. As I "suffer" or find myself wishing I could have a soda, I take that opportunity to spend time in prayer. Prayer is the second part of Lent. Short prayers or long; it doesn't matter. The hope is to deepen my relationship with Christ and be reminded of what it means to pick up my cross.

Interestingly enough, there is a third aspect of Lent that is often forgotten or neglected; serving. (Or more traditionally "alms-giving.")

Lent and Justice

Lent has been described as a time of justice towards God, justice towards self, and justice towards our neighbor. Justice is essentially giving someone their due. So during Lent we reaffirm who God is in our lives, we remind ourselves who we are, and respond to who our neighbor is.

We can't reaffirm who God is (Creator, Lord, King, Savior, Friend) and remind ourselves of who we are (broken, forgiven, graced, loved) without responding to who our neighbor is. The prisoners, the fatherless, the widows, the aliens and immigrants, the poor, the disadvantaged and the enslaved. Something is broken with us if we can spend 40 days trying to focus on, and grow deeper in, relationship with our great God, yet we somehow manage to forget "the least of these."

In this season of dying to ourselves and following Christ, we must hold a balance of all three parts of Lent, which also happens to be the three parts of the Great Commandment: God, others, self. As we try and mold our lives to more clearly look like Christ's, we have to be willing to give every part of ourselves away. Soda, meat, sweets, Facebook,...and maybe even something that actually costs us something. Time, money, energy, a coffee, a bag of food, an hour of our day, a day of our week.

Death and Increasing Life

Lent is a season of bright sadness. It hurts to give ourselves - our lives - away. But just like physical death isn't the end, dying to ourselves isn't the end either. Christ died so that we could have life, and He said that we should also "do this." When we die to ourselves, when we give ourselves away, it brings new life to others. And what is even more amazing is that as we give ourselves away, we don't just lose ourselves. We don't shrivel up and die. We don't lead miserable lives, wandering around muttering; "I really wish I didn't buy that homeless man a cup of coffee last week." We are actually filled and fulfilled! We receive beautiful promises from God because this, in fact, is "the kind of fasting that He has chosen."

Isaiah 58

If you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

So as you walk through the rest of your Lenten season, may you remember to walk in justice towards God, justice towards self, and justice towards your neighbor.

This is a part of a series of daily reflections on the season of Lent.

The Emergency Room and Lent

Last night, after a few days of being unable to break my daughter's fever, we took her into the hospital to see a doctor. After a few tests, and a few hours, everything turned out to be okay. Traumatic experience for me, even though Kennedy was the one being poked and prodded. I am not the cool, calm and collected parent by any strectch of the imagination...thank God for my wife.

 Last night's experience did make me think about how this life, even in the midst of my own self-centeredness, is not about me. And it's not supposed to be about me. This life (when experienced in all its fullness) is about caring for those who God has placed in our lives.

I experienced the miracle of Kennedy being born almost two years ago, and it changed everything. Although on a lesser scale, this happens each time God places someone in our lives. And we I must learn to lift our my eyes off ourselves myself and be available to serve those around us me.

Lord, help me open my eyes and my heart. Amen.

This is a part of a series of daily reflections on the season of Lent.

 

A (Not So) Simple Prayer

Our Father in heaven,hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

In this season of Lent, I'm using the Lord's Prayer as a way to keep myself in a posture of prayer and reflection. To align my life with that of the Kingdom.

It starts with acknowledging God for who he is. It must start here. If I am to be aligned with God's purposes, I must seek his Kingdom and his will, rather than my initiatives and desires. This is tough.  Even in the "new iPad", consumerism-soaked, advertisement-riddled world that I live in, I must focus on daily bread, rather than things that moths ruin and theives steal. Oh boy... For this to work, I must seek forgiveness, and give it away freely. The posture gets more difficult to maintain. Finally, back to focus; keep me from the one who wants to lure me into snares and lull me into complacency.

Lord, give me strenth to submit and refocus my life around your purposes. Amen.

This is a part of a series of daily reflections on the season of Lent.

Learning Discipline in Lent

As I said a couple days ago, I have no rhythm when it comes to spiritual disciplines. Here's the thing about discipline (especially for a guy like me who leans a bit lazy) - you have to work hard, really hard, to implement the discipline into your life. There's no waking up with this new practice engrained into your routine. More newborn doe, less strutting buck. It's a lot of small, awkward, the-ground-is-shaking steps. But eventually, those steps become more of a gait, and you discover something sacred about time and space. This series on Lent is a daily excercise in two things: writing and spiritual practices. You see, I have to actually be observing Lent in order to write about it. And if I'm not observing daily, I can't just brush it off, because it means I will have missed a post. It is challenging, but it has been worth it. Of course...I missed a post last week.

So this begs the question, what do I do when I stumble in my spiritual practice? When I miss a day, or a prayer, or a scripture reading, or whatever it is. Prepare yourself for a deeply theological explanation...

You keep going.

You can't allow the stumble to turn into a halt. You can't pull up and quit out of guilt or shame. You can't play the victim or make excuses. You must keep going.

You're not starting over, you're carrying on. There's a big difference. Starting over means all is lost, and your previous efforts were pointless. This couldn't be further from the truth. Carrying on means that your stumble is temporary, and that it's the exception, not the rule. Your next step may be a bit shaky, but it must be taken.

I read a tweet yesterday that said something like: it's better to take one step today than wait to take a leap tomorrow. Brilliant.

So maybe your Lent observation, or daily prayer life and scripture reading is moving along swimmingly. That's great. I am thrilled for you. Maybe I need some tips.

For those who, like me, faltered inside of two weeks: don't give up. Take another step today. We'll learn to be disciplined together.

This is a part of a series of daily reflections on the season of Lent.

Lent and Rhythm

I have no rhythm when it comes to spiritual disciplines. I understand the importance of daily prayer, scripture reading, and reflection. I understand the difference these spiritual disciples can make in my life. I've had mountain top and deep valley experiences, directly related to my spiritual discipline.In the scriptures, Jesus set a clear example of discipline. In the height of the frenzy and hype of a new, powerful ministry, Jesus often withdrew to pray. Quiet was part of his rhythm. I often need to be reminded that my worth is not measured by what I create, but rather who I am in Christ.

I need a rhythm.

This is a part of a series of daily reflections on the season of Lent.

Richard Rohr on Scripture and Ashes

I came across this quote last week and have since read it numerous times. It's convicting, freeing and humbling.

The sacred texts of the Bible are filled with absolute breakthroughs, epiphanies, and manifestations of the highest level of encounter, conversion, transformation, and Spirit. The Bible also contains texts which are punitive, petty, tribal, and idiotic. A person can prove anything he or she wants from a single line of the Bible. To tell you the truth, the Bible says just about everything you might want to hear—somewhere! Maybe this sad and humiliating recognition can be your ashes today. Like a phoenix you can rise and rebuild your knowledge of Scripture in a prayerful, calm, skillful, and mature way. Then you can read with head and heart and Spirit working as one, and not just a search for quick answers.

Maybe one of the biggest mistakes in the history of Christianity is that we have separated spirituality from theology and scripture study. In other words, we put the Scriptures in the hands of very immature and unconverted people, even clergy. We put the Scriptures in the hands of people at entirely egocentric levels, who still think “It’s all about me,” and who use the Bible in a very willful way. It is all dualistic win or lose. The egocentric will still dominates: the need to be right, the need to be first, the need to think I am saved and other people are not. This is the lowest level of human consciousness, and God cannot be heard from that heady place. Perhaps it is not accidental that we place the ashes of Ash Wednesday precisely on the forehead.

FromRichard Rohr's Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent (affiliate link)

This is a part of a series of daily reflections on the season of Lent.

It's A New Day

This is a guest post from Jay Caruso. I'm a huge fan of Jay's. He's a great guy and a great photographer. 20120228-110236.jpg

Lent is typically associated with periods of fasting and giving up certain luxuries. I don't believe we need any specific time during the year to do such things, nor do I begrudge those that do.

The image above is one the represents a place where I am at in my life. 2011 was one of the most challenging years of my life. 2012 is a fresh start. New opportunities abound and my family and I will be calling a new city and state home. It is a season in my life where I will praise God for his abundant blessings. It is a time when I can rejoice in the ability to give to others and share the blessings I have received.

It's a new day.

This is a part of a series of daily reflections on the season of Lent.