Lenten Practices 2014

March 3, 2014 — 2 Comments

IMG_3236I love Lent. Not in the same way I love things like pizza and new books and rainbows. Those things are all wonderful and fun to smell or touch or look at.

I love Lent because it challenges me and gives me the opportunity to focus on the places in my life that have grown rough and unholy. It’s a chance to start over, to allow God to again have all of me, to practice discipline and seek God in a journey that leads to a garden, cross and, thanks be to God, an empty tomb and victory over death’s grip and sting.

Every year, I pray about my Lenten practice. I ask God to show me what it is running amok in my life and I do my best to listen and discern what God is leading me to do. Usually, God gets me just in time and I find myself doing things I really don’t want to do, but I fully understand are my Lenten calling. In the past few years, I’ve given up sugar, given up all beverages but water, given up multi-tasking, and last year I arose before the sun each morning to spend extra time in reflection and prayer.

This year, Lent is arriving quickly. Last week, when I was at lunch with my local youth minister friends and we were planning out our Fat Tuesday Lunch ExcessTravaganza, I marveled at how soon Lent would arrive and felt a bit guilty that I hadn’t even bothered to think about what I should do to mark the impending 40 days.

I mean, forty days ago, I gave up wheat and although I’m eating some sugar again, it’s very limited. That’s pretty good discipline right there! I’ll just keep that going!

Oh, but what does the Lord require of me? To do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).

No wheat, no sugar ain’t gonna cut it. Whether I wanted to pray about it or not, God found me. God always finds me.

(Thank God.) (Literally.)

In the midst of everything, I’m nearly done with Jen Hatmaker’s book called “7.” This is a fantastic book that includes Jen’s journey to combat excess and complacency in her life. For each of seven months, she takes on a new challenge. The first month, she only eats seven foods. Another month, she only wears seven items of clothing. It’s a great book and Jen is a fantastic writer. I completely recommend it.

It hit me hard, that book. I was completely convicted and her words resonated with me in a way I can’t put out of my mind. I wasn’t looking for or praying about Lenten discipline, but it found me anyway.

Based on her ideas, I’ve prayerfully considered the nearly seven weeks of Lent. Here’s how I plan to spend them.

March 5-9–Seven Pauses. Throughout Lent, I want to pray the hours. I’ve heard this presented lots of ways (Lauds to Compline, for example), but I’m going to go with the Seven Sacred Pauses that Jen used (attributed to Macrina Wiederkehr).

The Night Watch (midnight or late night); The Awakening Hour (dawn); The Blessing Hour (midmorning); The Hour of Illumination (noon); The Wisdom Hour (midafternoon); The Twilight Hour (early evening); The Great Silence (bedtime).

I want this to be a practice that does not just last for this first half-week of Lent, but throughout the season. That’s why I’m starting with it. I want to get my new schedule down before I add in each of the other six practices. I’m setting alarms on my phone daily to remind me to pause and pray.

March 10-16–Seven Foods. I’ll give you my specific list on March 9, but I’ll only eat the seven foods I choose for that week.

March 17-23–Seven Items Of Clothing. I’m not much of a clotheshorse, but I’m pretty sure this will be a challenge. Again, I’ll share a specific list on March 16.

March 24-30–Give Away Seven Possessions Daily. In an effort to cut the excess in my life, I’ll fill a box with seven items each day to give away. Lest my family panic, only items that actually belong to me will count.

March 31-April 6–Write Seven Thank You Notes Each Day. Gratitude is important and I’m going to practice it intentionally this week.

April 7-April 13–Use only Seven Electronic Devices. You’ll get the list for accountability purposes on April 6. My hair straightener and the coffee maker both count, so if my hair is not a frizzy mess or I appear to be appropriately caffeinated, those items better be on my list.

April 14-April 19–Spend money Seven Places Only. I realize this is one that would be much harder over the course of a month rather than the week I’m giving it, but I still think it will cause me to be mindful about money I spend carelessly. At this point, I’m not sure if I’ll build the list ahead of time or just report at the end as I discern during the week about where I’ll spend money.

So, what’s the point? I want to seek God, but I have to admit that I’ve filled my life with lots of distractions and little regard to the simplicity that Jesus calls his disciples to live. There are so many things that I depend on to make my life fun, flavorful or convenient that have nothing to do with the call to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly. I know that as a follower of Jesus, living in the USA, I am complacent and comfortable, but I have no idea what it means to be content with the comfort God alone can offer, as many of my brothers and sisters living and serving God around the world understand much better.

As usual, I post publicly so I have accountability. I’m also posting as an invitation for you to consider or share your own Lenten journey with me. I hope you will!

But first comes Fat Tuesday! Try to behave a little bit.

41TGDvaQLJL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Title: This is a Book

Author: Demetri Martin

Date Started: March 2, 2014   Date Finished: March 3, 2014

Number of Pages: 268    Total for 2014: 5,714

What It’s About: Demetri Martin is a comedian. I fell in love with him the first time I saw him on Comedy Central and he told his class, often quoted joke about glitter, the herpes of craft supplies. His humor is subtle and smart. This book contains stories, drawings, charts, the longest palindrome I’ve ever read, statistics and hilarious observations about life in the form of comedic prose. Martin is incredibly creative and originally surprising.

Why I Read It: Jason got it at the library for me, which was sweet. So I read it (and loved it)!

516gbDKJLjL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Title: I’d Like To Apologize To Every Teacher I’ve Ever Had

Author: Tony Danza

Date Started: February 27, 2014   Date Finished: March 2, 2014

Number of Pages: 272   Total Pages for 2014: 5,446

What It’s About: Before he was a boxer or an actor, Tony Danza wanted to be a teacher. On the heels of a failed talk show, Tony decides to begin a third act career of sorts. He wants to teach in an inner city school. A&E signs on for a reality show that will showcase complex issues in inner city education as Mr. Danza signs on to teach students who have never heard of him before in a Philadelphia High School. He teaches one period of tenth grade English. He wrestles with engaging the students, teaching them complicated curriculum in ways that are creative and exciting. He mentors tough kids, works long hours, allows for debate, ties the literature he’s sharing with current social justice issues, does his best to befriend and mollify fellow teachers and principals, learns about his own shortcomings as a teacher, friend, father and husband and keeps the students first even when the reality show threatens to go belly-up. This book features students who are smart, creative and kind, willing to learn and hopeful about the world. It features teachers who work hard under tough circumstances when parents aren’t always engaging and students can be tough to reach.

Why I Read It: I like Tony Danza! And his willingness to teach for a year and passion for reaching students was something I could relate to, even though I’m not a school teacher.

super freakonomicsTitle: SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance

Authors: Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Started: February 23, 2014    Finished: March 1, 2014

Number of Pages: 320   Total for 2014: 5,174

What It’s About: The authors use original studies to challenge the way we think about various “truths” we’ve learned. Do car seats really keep kids safer than seatbelts? Did 38 people really watch Kitty Genovese’s brutal murder and not call the police? How does television affect kids from a young age? How do we catch terrorists? Is prostitution seasonal work? Which kinds of doctors should we choose? Global “warming?” Can a simple, relatively inexpensive fix really prevent devastation from hurricanes?

In their willingness to challenge conventional wisdom, the authors provide a series of “huh!” and “huh?” moments.

Why I Read It: I loved “Freakonomics” and refer to it all the time when various topics arise, especially baby names. I was excited to read this follow-up.

imperfect birdsTitle: Imperfect Birds

Author: Anne Lamott

Started: February 8, 2014  Finished: February 27, 2014

Number of Pages: 278   Total for 2014: 4,854

What it’s about: Writer James and recovering addict and stay-at-home Mom Elizabeth are raising Elizabeth’s daughter Rosie. Rosie is almost eighteen and it’s the summer before her senior year of high school. The couple struggle with parenting a child who is using drugs, alcohol and sex casually. Elizabeth and Rosie both try to figure out life, themselves and what the future looks like.

Why I read it: I love Anne Lamott and had never read any of her fiction. As a parent struggling with a teenage child who makes choices I wouldn’t choose for him, I found this book fascinating.

walking deadThe good, the bad and the downright stupid:

1. Preparing my speech for Toastmasters tomorrow.

2. Binge watching “The Walking Dead.”

3. Searching for new crock pot recipes my family will eat.

4. Helping my mom get her house ready to sell.

5. Selling Girl Scout Cookies, delivering Girl Scout Cookies, collecting cash for Girl Scout Cookies.

6. Reading 3 books (“Super Freakonomics,” “Imperfect Birds” and “The Giver.”).

7. Candy Crush Saga. Yes, still.

8. Preparing two lessons on John 3 (one for a middle school small group; one for our high school youth group).

9. Reorganizing Children’s Church curriculum in preparation for Lent.

10. Scholarship applications!

HRC

Title: HRC

Authors: Jonathan Allen and Amy Parnes

Started: February 12, 2014   Finished: February 19, 2014

Number of Pages: 448   Total for 2014: 4,576

What it’s About: The book starts in the middle of the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary. Hillary Clinton is losing votes, endorsements and steam to Barack Obama. What was happening behind the scenes in those moments? How did she poise herself for a strong career in politics going forward and get an invitation to serve in the Obama administration? Filling in her State staff, Arab Spring, Benghazi–all he hits and all the misses of her tenure as Secretary of State told from the points of view of insiders.

Why I Read It: Last week, I was driving down one of Henderson’s main thoroughfares and stopped at a light behind an SUV with a bumper sticker that said, “I’m Ready: Hillary 2016!” I honestly marveled at the fact that this political leader, whose career was pronounced over when she conceded the Democratic Primary to Barack Obama in 2008, is a legitimate potential political candidate for 2016 Presidential race. When I had some “credit” to buy a book earlier this week, I decided on this one, because like her or don’t like her, Hillary Rodham Clinton is a force of moxie and gusto.

Even labels cause creativity! Last week, some of our elementary kids labeled the supplies  in one corner of our art room!

Even labels cause creativity! Last week, some of our elementary kids labeled the supplies in one corner of our art room!

At our church, we are blessed to have an entire room devoted to art. Countertop, cabinets and bookshelves are devoted to art supplies and items kids can reach to be creative. Yes, our art room has cabinets with closed doors and signs that say “STOP” on them, reminding kids to ask permission, but there are supplies we also keep out for kids to use whenever they want to use them. Kids are naturally creative and artistic (you are, too, by the way. It’s just that as you got older, you probably started to doubt that about yourself and it’s likely you’ve convinced yourself you’re terrible at art), so letting them have space and supplies to create often yields exciting results.

Here are ten art supplies that our kids are always reaching for:

1. Markers (and crayons…but kids almost always choose markers)

2. Hole Punches (we have various sizes and shapes)

3. Chalk

4. Yarn

5. Popsicle Sticks

6. Play Doh (Confession: This item is kept behind closed doors, but we do try to get it out regularly!)

7. Foam shapes and letters

8. Stencils for tracing

9. Perler Beads (Probably the best supply investment we make. We’ve ironed approximately 3,843 bead projects in our art room.)

10. Paper of various weights and types

Add to this list glue, scissors, tape and an iron (for the Perler Beads), and you have a fun afternoon!

Now I wonder, what’s the last thing you created?

Salt of The Earth

February 13, 2014 — Leave a comment

386171060Note to the reader: This post is made up of pieces of the sermon I preached at Presbyterian Church of Henderson, KY on Sunday, February 9. The whole sermon doesn’t make as much sense on paper as it does in person, so I’m editing to include the highlights.

 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.” Jesus speaking in Matthew 5:12

In the Hebrew Bible, there are 35 verses that mention salt; in the New Testament, there are 6 verses that do the same. In the Bible, salt is a symbol of durability, purity, loyalty and value. It’s most prominent mention in the Old Testament might have to do with Lot’s wife, but it was mainly used by the ancient Hebrew people in their covenants and offerings. The covenant people even rubbed their newborn babies with salt, as a sign that they would grow up to be truthful and honorable. The new testament use of salt relates mainly to this verse and verses like it. The idea that Jesus’ followers were to “be salt.”

In this particular verse of Scripture, Jesus focuses on the taste of salt. “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt has lost its taste, what good is it?” Humans have 5 different types of taste receptors, and saltiness is one type of taste that is detected. The need for salt is universal among all human cultures. We crave salty things and our body needs a certain amount of salt to survive. Now, of course, this is delicate balance as we also know that in our food world full of preservatives and salty foods, salt is the culprit blamed in some instances of bad health.

But flavor is important. We keep salt in table-friendly shakers so we can sprinkle it on foods that need a little extra something. If our salt did not add flavor, why would we add it? It’s useless to us if it’s lost its saltiness!

So it is in the Kingdom of God. If we’re flavorless, not adding any good to the situations we’re “sprinkled” in, we’re not much use in the scope of Christ’s mission.

What makes us flavorfull? Well, we might have to look around a little bit and even read the verses right before Jesus’ words about salt. It’s the Beattitudes in Matthew 5:1-11. Blessed are…

the pure in heart

the merciful

the meek

the ones who hunger and thirst for righteousness

the peacemakers…to name a few.

We’re called by Jesus to add flavor to the world…but not just any flavor. Anyone with eyes and ears can see that the world is anything but boring. You could say a lot of things about the current state of culture and affairs, but you’d be hard-pressed to convince your average person that it’s boring. More than ever, we have lights and sound and color and hundreds of televisions channels and billions of websites and phone apps and movies to watch in theatres or on demand at home. The world is wildly exciting at times. Believe it or not, in less technical and modern ways, this was also true for believers in Jesus’ time. They didn’t have Xbox or Candy Crush Saga, but they had other intriguing, exciting things happening.

Jesus wanted his followers to add a specific type of flavoring to the culture and we’re called to do the same thing. The flavoring of peace and mercy and love and humility and purity. This flavoring was relevant and needed in Jesus’ day and it’s needed in our day as well. Romans 12:12 stands out as relevant here: “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” We are called to add the flavor Jesus teaches us to add to a world that needs a taste of the Gospel.

Salt is a preservative. Ancient cultures used salt before refrigeration was available. Meat and fish were salted so that they could be transported and traded across deserts. Today, salt is still used in the preservation of foods.

Jesus calls his Church to preserve The Way of truth. It boggles my mind and leaves me scratching my head when I realize that when Jesus left earth, he left his message with his disciples—a rag-tag band of hippies at best. The same guys who seemed to have lots of trouble understanding what Jesus was saying most of the time, such that when Jesus was arrested and crucified—a thing he had been predicting and preparing them for all along—they fell apart! These guys were the leaders of a new church. They were called to preserve Jesus’ words, Jesus’ ways, and Jesus’ story. This is a huge job, but they did it. We have Jesus’ words and we have Jesus’ story and example to follow.

As modern-day preservers of these things, we have a task. We need to study our Scriptures. We need to line up what the culture tells us—even what the Church tells us–with what we see in the red letters. We need to be questioning church leaders and religious experts when what they are teaching does not reflect Jesus’ heart and hope. Love of neighbor…lack of love for money…peacemaking…humble service…love of enemies…the list continues—how are we preserving these teachings so that future generations receive them in tact?

Christians, are his values our values? Are we living in such a way that we’re preserving Christ’s mission? It’s a question we need to ask if we are to preserve.

When you add salt to water, the salt is more dense than the water. The ocean, as I mentioned already, is about 3.5% salt. In Israel, The Dead sea is about 33% salt. People float in the dead sea. If you can’t float in your swimming pool—my husband for example sinks straight to the bottom every time no matter what—you can float in the dead sea. The dense salt creates buoyancy for objects that attempt to float in it, such as humans.

Our saltiness as followers of Jesus should create buoyancy. The world is hard. There’s bad news everywhere, children and friends sometimes make terrible choices, the toast is bound to land with the buttered side down, people get sick for no apparent reason, horrifying accidents happen just feet from the doors of our schools…the world is hard enough. Life is hard, but God is good and that should be the message we carry, not just on our lips but with our actions and our care for others. In every interaction you make a choice: you can beat up or you can lift up. You can offer complaints and criticism, or you can offer encouragement and kind words and hope. That doesn’t mean we say things we don’t mean…that means we choose our words more carefully and seek to be loving first. We look for possible solutions or ways we can help and even if we don’t find any of those, we stand by people who are having a tough time. We hold their hand, we offer prayer, we find reasons to hope in Jesus, who cried and mourned with Mary before he raised her brother, Lazarus, from the grave.

We’re called to be salt. To be flavorful. To be preservative. To be buoyant.

We are not called to be boring or bored…to simply flow along with whichever way the tide turns…Not called to rejoice when others fail or participate in bringing others down.

Being salt is a big calling, but just like the first disciples, we are called nonetheless. So pick one thing—any thing from the “salty” list—and live that way this week. Trust in God’s provision and grace to guide you as you seek out your salty calling. And don’t lose your flavor!

calendar februaryIt’s Tuesday! And It’s a busy day! Here’s why:

1. It’s our first day back to school in Henderson since last Tuesday. The snow has kept coming steadily all week…but it looks like we get a break for a bit.

2. It’s the 42nd day of the year!

3. It’s Girl Scout Cookie Delivery day in Henderson! We’ll be receiving tens of thousands of boxes of cookies into the gym at Presbyterian Church this morning. This means that pretty soon, the Girl Scouts you love will be dispatched to deliver tens of thousands of boxes of cookies all over Henderson! If you live in the 42420, get excited!

4. ACT Club meets at South Middle School this morning at 7:30.

5. Two Zumba classes tonight at Presbyterian Church! Pick one: 5:30 or 6:35.

6. I’m trying a new breakfast casserole recipe.

7. It’s “Make A Friend” Day…which seems perfect for a day we are celebrating Girl Scouting.

8. It’s “Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk” Day…which seems perfect for the day we receive Girl Scout Cookies.

9. Remember when my Girl Scout troop Never, Never, Never Gave Up? They’re meeting with a reporter from the local newspaper this afternoon to talk about that.

10. You get the chance to make a fresh start, seek a new calling, and live with purpose and grace.

Happy Tuesday! What are you doing today?