February 26, 2009

My Lenten Journey

I grew up in a very anti-catholic/anti-liturgical home. If it looked like Catholicism that was a sure sign that God wasn't in it...fortunately, I am past that way of thinking. A few years of education and actual conversation with practicing Catholics helped.

A quick survey of Church history reveals that protestants and Roman Catholicism share about 1,500 years of history. The more I studied, the more I realized that we (as a protestant church) had probably thrown the baby out with the bathwater; as they say. There were some spiritual practices that our forefathers (and mothers) took part in as the Body of Christ that we had let go...and might need to regain.

One of the things that was never present in my early spiritual development was the practice of Lent. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (yesterday), and lasts for the 46 days (40 when not counting Sundays) leading up to Easter. It focuses on repentance and fasting in order to remind ourselves of Christ's sacrifice at Easter.

At first I was hesitant. 40 days of fasting?!? But after the initial hesitancy, I dove in. The first couple of Lenten experiences were relatively easy after the first week of breaking away from the habit. I gave up caffeine...and I quickly learned there were substitutes...decaf coffee, decaf soda, etc.

I finally decided that if my Lenten fast was meant to continually remind me of Christ's sacrifice...then caffeine wasn't cutting it for me. Substitutes enable me to circumvent the whole "think about it" part. It was time for drastic measures...I was fasting from meat. Not just red meat...all meat, fish, and poultry.

For some this may not have been a stretch, but for me...I am a meatatarian! I eat meat at every meal and most snacks...some meals are meat only!

As hard as that 46 days was...it was the most beneficial Lenten season I had ever experienced. Because my every meal revolved around meat, I had to constantly think about what I was going to eat that would fill me up and not include meat. As I struggled to create meal plans, I was forced to prayer and to remember the great sacrifice Christ made on my behalf.

I am not fasting from meat this year, but Lent is still a powerful time of the year for me spiritually. I am adding a few things (Bible reading and prayer time), and I am going to fast completely on a few regular days this Lent. I believe God blesses our decision to fast...to abstain from physical things in order to seek His spiritual things.

If you would like...
What are your Lenten experiences?
Are practicing Lent this year? From what are you fasting?

A Prayer for the First Day of Lent

O Lord, who hast mercy upon all, take away from me my sins, and mercifully kindle in me the fire of thy Holy Spirit. Take away from me the heart of stone, and give me a heart of flesh, a heart to love and adore Thee, a heart to delight in Thee, to follow and enjoy Thee, for Christ's sake, Amen.

St. Ambrose of Milan(AD 339-397)

February 23, 2009

The State of Religion in the States


A recent study found that:
An analysis of more than 350,000 interviews conducted by Gallup in 2008 finds Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Arkansas to be the most religious states in the nation. Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts are the least religious states.
I find this very interesting. While about 65% nationwide consider religion an important part...there is a big difference between being religious and being an active participant in the life of the religious community.

What do you think?

February 17, 2009

Nostalgia or Losing Something Important

We live in a time of great change. Things are speeding up...changing at greater pace than ever before. Multitasking, despite the best research against it, is expected more and more. Computers, once the size of a room, have now infiltrated almost everything we touch. In the process, we are losing some things that have been staples of our culture for centuries.

Nostalgia is the word often used to describe those who look back and question the loss of something. It has become a negative descriptor. But is it always? Can we really lose something in the move forward? Is it really forward.

Here are a couple of things that have been prompting some thinking in me:

Hamlet's Blackberry: Why Paper is Eternal...this is a rather lengthy piece about...paper. Really it is more interesting than you might think. It is a pdf.

Drawing Board to the Desktop...this is a NYT piece. Rather short. It isn't nearly as satisfying as the previous piece, but it is quicker.

What do you think?

Francis Chan on the Church

A friend of mine posted this quote from Francis Chan...
Is there any logic in believing that God started His Church as a Spirit-filled, loving body with the intention that it would evolve into entertaining, hour-long services? Was he hoping that one day people would be attracted to the Church not because they care for one another, not because they are devoted to Him, not because the supernatural occurs in their midst, but because of good music and entertainment?
When I looked at the rest of the article, this is the quote that I found most difficult and most challenging...
Our elders started with what we could control. We can't control other people. We can't make the congregation "break bread in their homes" or "sell their possessions." We also can't control God. We can't make Him do "wonders and miraculous signs" through us. I can, however, sell my possessions as people have needs. I do have control over that, so that became the first logical step. As we do our part, we trust God to bring about the "awe" and "wonders" in His time.
It was a beautiful time of sharing as our elders laid "everything" at each others' feet. We surrendered the keys to our cars, homes, and bank accounts. I actually believed the elders who looked me in the eyes and said, "What's mine is yours. If anything ever happens to you, I will support and care for your kids as much as I would care for my own. I will be your life insurance." And because they had a history of genuine sacrifice for the sake of the gospel, I trusted what they said. From there, we began going to some of our friends in the congregation and expressing our commitment to them (something anyone can do).
Do yourself a favor and go read the entire thing...then come back and answer this question, "What part did you find most challenging?" Also check out this video of Francis Chan talking about Risk.

February 16, 2009

Thoughts on Evangelism from an Atheist

I found this truly amazing and challenging...

A Thought from Oswald Chambers

This really spoke to me this morning...

God does not give us overcoming life; He gives us life as we overcome...If we will do the overcoming, we shall find we are inspired of God because He gives life immediately.

February 15, 2009

Servanthood

I was just thinking...the difference between servitude and servanthood is not the particular activities...it is attitude of the person serving.

February 12, 2009

Perseverance

This past weekend, I got to speak at the Dayton Campus again. I love that place. It is fun. The people are energetic. They are the people I grew up around.

I spoke on Perseverance...a very applicable message for me. If you are interested in the message you see it here.

This weekend I will be hosting at the Dayton Campus while Kevin is away in Costa Rica.

February 2, 2009

Notebooks

In addition to my obsessive love of books...I also love notebooks. I have kept a journal (although sometimes less frequently) since I was a teenager. There have been ebbs and flows, but over the past 8-9 years it has been more frequent. I find it cathartic.

I also like reading about notebooks, and what other people put in their notebooks...weird I know. I personally like moleskines, but I like notebooks and journals of all shapes, sizes, and designs. Check out the websites molskinerie and notebookism.

Here is a cool blog post on one person's use of notebooks.

I use my notebooks mostly for my personal journaling. I tried putting writing ideas in them, but that didn't work out well. I would start a notebook just for ideas and then put only a few down. I have also tried all that doodling and cool looking sketches and charts, but that is just not me...so I mostly write my personal stuff in them. Online tools and my blog have become the place for me to write the other more public stuff.

How do you use your notebooks?