An Ash Wednesday Reflection: Meteorologists, Interruptions and Does God Exist?

Ash Wednesday – the day of interruption.  Nearly out of the dreariness of winter and so badly wanting to experience the life of spring, but first, here’s a little more gloom.

For those of you speak “movies,” maybe it’s something like after watching all eighteen of the coming attractions, you get that  “Now the feature presentation” slide which in that split-second, you have to remember what you actually came to see. Then comes Ash Wednesday stopping the opening scene so you can be shown 40 more previews. Oh come on, will we ever get what we want?

As you may know, Lent simply means “springtime.” Here in the Northeast, it feels like a rumor. And now that I live in New England, it almost feels like the speculation that meteorologists come up with, “We might get 15 more inches of snow, or just a little rain.” (Every time I hear a meteorologist give the weather, I thank God this person chose a career outside of medicine or commercial aviation).

Now, I know as a pastor, it is possible that if the faith I profess is wrong, then I am worse than any meteorologist who ever stepped foot in front of those green screens. I can’t really say, “There might be a God or not. You might be created in the image of God or there really is no soul and your body just decomposes six feet below the ground if your family didn’t cremate you. Come back next Sunday for an update.” I’m all in this faith thing and frankly, I [Read more…]

Ash Wednesday: 5 Quick Thoughts on Lent

Some quick thoughts for this new Lenten season:

1. Lent is about preparing our hearts for the journey of Easter.
It includes themes like brokeness, redemption, self-denial, forgiveness, death and life and many more. I have found that if focus on only one of these themes and neglect others that I miss out on part of the goodness Lent can offer. A Lenten journey that covers a lot of ground is the way to go.

2. Whatever you do, don’t become a legalist.
What to give up, what to add, which devotional, how much do I say or not say to my right [Read more…]

Book Review of God Is On the Cross: Meditations for Lent and Easter by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Note: I was sent this book from the publisher and as always I am not required to give a positive review but an honest one. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

As mentioned in a previous post regarding devotionals, I’m not big on them but I do look for them come Lent and Advent. I have to say, I was pretty excited when I saw God Is On the Cross: Meditations for Lent and Easter by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and here’s the summary according to the publisher Westminster John Knox Press:

“These forty stirring devotions will guide and inspire readers as they move thematically through the weeks of Lent and Easter, encountering themes of prayerful reflection, self-denial, temptation, suffering, and the meaning of the cross. Passages from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s letters and sermons provide special encouragement as readers prepare themselves spiritually for Holy Week and Easter Sunday. Supplemented by an informative introduction to Bonhoeffer’s life and a Scripture passage for each day of the season, these daily devotions are moving reminders of the true gift of Christ on the cross.”

Having read it through this Lent, I have to say it’s good work. Of course the material is great and one cannot [Read more…]

Reflecting On Easter Through the Eyes of My Children (Hopefully Future Disciples)

As part of the nature of this blog, I like to look back as much as I can … with my best effort of not boring you. The nature of blogging is to respond to the now, the what just happened, and if possible, the what next? Part of me is drawn to this as I feel it’s not only my temperament to opinionate and participate in conversation but your blog stats are certainly helped by being among the first. This is the Ricky Bobby philosophy of blogging “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

Though this week has shown no shortage of topics to jump in on another part of me feels otherwise. The problem for me anyway, is not only do many of these posts come across as premature but I end up actually resenting some of them within a few weeks. I can handle the changing my mind part, but this social media vehicle is not as conducive as I would like. I struggle with the adding to the hype and not being able to pull back from it. It’s different than sitting down with a friend over coffee and saying, “It’s funny, last week when we sat here, I thought that now I think I’ve changed my mind to this…”

Further (and getting closer to beginning my point ;) – I am ever-concerned with the consumption of [Read more…]

What I Am Doing for Lent

Almost every year since 2001, I have given up coffee for Lent.  I remember the first year I did it, I honestly didn’t know if I was going to be able to keep my commitment.  As you probably know, part of the idea of giving up something for Lent is remembering the sacrifice of Christ throughout your day.   Though it may sound odd to read that, I always liked it. I remember one moment in particular when I wanted to stop at Starbucks on my way to something and then realized, “oh yeah…”.  I drove to my destination reflecting about some worthy things with nothing in the cupholder. 

Anyway, giving up coffee wasn’t so bad.  It was cool, the one year, this gentlemen from my church and I gave it up together and our deal was to meet at Starbucks on Easter Sunday at the break of dawn.  It was the best Easter Dawn service I’d been to – lol.  Anyway, it turns out, my addiction to coffee is more psychological then physiological.  It’s true, I’m a coffee snob and if there isn’t good coffee (like at church before I brewed my own), then I’ll drink tea, or water, or rain water from the gutter. 

Throughout the years, I’d add various devotionals, readings and every year I’d read the gospels through.  I noticed last year, these practices started growing stale for me.  Giving up coffee was getting easier.  I don’t really eat that much chocolate and I’m not a big dessert person but I added that to the list.

Technological fasts never made that much sense to me.  I use email the way a carpenter uses a hammer.  If I was still playing Jetman on Facebook, then I’d consider it but it’s about relationships for me and now that all my worlds have collided on there, it’s not as fun as it used to be.  Those that give up Facebook, Twitter, etc. God bless them, it just doesn’t connect with me.  

So what am I doing?  It’s hard to explain but it looks something like this:  Reflection, People and Responsibility  (I admit I was tempted to use ‘P’ alliteration of Perspective, People and Prosperity but the latter one has more to do with the idea of being more  responsible). 

Some of these are hard to explain and I don’t think I’ll be able to articulate through blogging.  In “Reflection, I’m using various books, prayer guides and devotionals throughout.  It’s a bit.  But whatever I have to give up for the extra time for the reading and reflection becomes what I am fasting from.  I think this will bug me more and thus be more sacrificial than my previous fasts. 

Regarding “People”, in short, I need to be more intentional with spending more time and showing more love to those that I do not normally.  It’s hard to describe this on this type of forum without sounding either snobby or self-righteous but here’s how I came to it.  Christ sacrificed his life for people and I feel convicted that I need to sacrifice more of my time with people.  This includes strangers, old friends, those hurting and many others.  Also, I want to be more intentional with the quality of my relationships, this includes the repairing and reconciling of a few of them.

The last one, “Responsibility” is a weird one.  I’ve described in a journal entry as, “being faithful with the opportunities that I’ve been given in the most Christ-like way”.   During Lent, I want to be more intentional in what I consume, what I give towards, what I complain about, and what I celebrate.  Vague enough?

To be truthful, I am not real sure exactly how this will look like.   But it’s what I want to do and throughout Lent, I want to explore, struggle, pray, repent, respond, celebrate, give and hopefully by Easter, be closer to my Savior.

Feel free to comment on what you’re doing.  In the meantime, may we reflect on the cross.

How I Came to Appreciate Lent

Here we are in Lent and I am among the heathens who did not go to any formal Ash Wednesday service, still drinking coffee, eating meat, and listening to U2’s new album non-stop.  Later, I’ll post on what I am doing for Lent.  

As most of my friends know, I come from a conservative Protestant background.  Lent was deemed a “Catholic thing”, and we all knew what that meant.  Well, actually we didn’t, that’s why we are so interested in it now.  There are many beautiful aspects of the way the Catholics (and main-line churches) celebrate their faith.  And while there are reasons why I am not Catholic (and fewer of not being a main-liner), among them, you don’t need to be Catholic to observe the practices of the Church prior to the Reformation, I am grateful for the many beautiful traditions they celebrate and practice.  Among my hopes is that they too would be blessed by many of the Protestant aspects as well. 

I think some of my evangelical Protestant friends believe that Lent was invented just 10 years ago with this emerging church thing.  It came right along with Lecto-Divina, Henry Nouwen, and the Holy Spirit.  For some, they just won’t get it.  That’s fine, there are a lot of things that I don’t get (like country music), and I am content that they practice their faith the way that Spirit leads them.

The first church I began working at observed the Advent-Lenten seasons.  It was an independent, conservative, Protestant church and its doctrinal statement is virtually identical in terms of belief to where I serve now.   Combined with the emergent books that I started reading then, it’s not that great of a mystery that I haven’t given up these traditions.  That’s interesting to me but I’ll move on.  Each year, we would have an Ash Wednesday service where we would actually perform the imposition of ashes.  We even used the palm branches from last year and mixed them with oil that was from a catalog that had a picture of the Holy Lands on it (we weren’t complete suckers).  Truth be told, it was one of my favorite services and one year, the senior pastor was too ill and I had the honor of leading it.

It is clear to me how observing Lent has blessed my celebration of Easter.  In all honesty, I was glad to leave that church but God showed us a lot during those 5 years.  Combined with the great friendships we made, the experiences we had, and connecting with some of these traditions were a great blessing to me and I am grateful to continue in some way.  An example includes the worshipful moment of doing Ash Wednesday in our Senior High youth group last night.  (Maybe I’ll mention that later.)

If you haven’t, I’d like to encourage you to do something for Lent, even if you begin today or next week. Whether it be reading a devotional, giving up something or serving in some new capacity or the many other ideas, I think you will find it beautiful in connecting it to this time where we reflect on the cost of our sins and the resurrection of our Savior.