The Silly Practice of Fasting from Facebook…

In the life of Christian discipleship, we are formed less by grand spiritual gestures—such as the occasional three-week silent starvation-fast retreat—and more by the small choices we make daily to embrace the contours of the Jesus-patterned life.
 
So maybe forsaking chocolate for forty days won’t change the world.  It can, though, change me.  It can change you.  Each time we sacrifice in order to identify with Christ, or move in synch with Jesus into the world even though we feel entirely incompetent doing it, or when we embrace a holy practice for the sake of the kingdom, we are transformed a teeny bit more into his likeness.

I didn’t write anything yesterday…I have something brewing in my mind, but it has not come together yet, so I’m waiting. In the meantime, I found  some more gems of articles about Lent. It is somewhat staggering how many articles are out there. The nuber of us writing about our journeys. The number of people writing, period…that is rather staggering.

The quotation above is from Margot Starbuck and the rest of her article is worth reading. I like the little bit above though. I know that it sounds silly to friends who are not Christians that we are giving up FaceBook or chocolate or soda for Lent. Maybe it is a little bit silly.  Especially when we look at what Lent is about…what we are to be contemplating during these forty days.

Jesus being taken into the desert to be tempted.

Now Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by the Devil.  (Luke 4:1 from The Message)

He was full of the Holy Spirit.  He didn’t give up soda. He didn’t give up chocolate. He didn’t give up luxuries or frivolity. He did not play at this.

He was led by the same Spirit that filled Him into the wild. To face temptations and to be tested.  This was not a game.  This time in the desert that the Church has through the years come to think on in this time leading up to Holy Week, this spiritual sobriety, leads us to be prepared to remember Good Friday.  We are preparing our hearts, not playing at fasting.

I have to be honest, looking full-on at Jesus as He is tempted and ultimately as He comes to the Cross, is difficult. It is easier to think about how spiritual it is to give up Facebook or chocolate.  It is humbling to think on all of this because it involves me.

We’ve all thought about Jesus thinking of us on the Cross. We’ve been encouraged to do so. It’s true, though. That’s what we believe.  He knew.

He knew me. He knows me.

This is not frivolous.  Even if it is simple and we giggle some, maybe we are able to take offer this simple act of sacrifice so that we can encounter the Living God. It can be slightly frightening. Encountering the Living God.

We have more time. Lent is still settling into our souls. The simple things we have set in place to train ourselves to think on Him…they are settling in. Maybe we’ve faltered a little and wondered if it was silly to attempt this. It’s not. It’s serious business…contemplating the temptations of Jesus and the journey to the Cross (ahhh…..but, Easter.).

Whatever it is that you felt led to give up…stick with it, even if it is little or seems silly. Has it made you think more about Jesus? Has it caused you to pause. Have you filled the absence with a space for the Spirit to lead you? There’s still time….preparing our hearts for Holy Week. Making space this season to encounter the Living God.

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Messy Monday…Reality strikes on Mondays.

I read an article awhile back on Art House America where the author talked about posting a realistic view of her life. She had begun posting about the messiness in Messy Mondays, and the article I read explained what this was about. She talked about “mom blogs” and how often we try to just present what is the best of us…and that is natural and not altogether a bad thing when blogging. Still…

“In turn, other mothers, regular mothers, tired mothers, new mothers, mothers with sick kids or stressful jobs or people like me who have a very, very low capacity for stress are left discontent, disheartened and wondering what mistake we must be making that our cups aren’t overflowing with these lovely moments. What my cup overflows with is coffee…that I’ve stuck in the microwave 3786493 times because I’m freaking EXHAUSTED and I keep forgetting that it’s in there.”

So, she posted pictures of the messy and the beautiful. Because that is what life is, right? It is messy and beautiful in turn.  I could post a picture right now of my kitchen, but honestly, I just don’t have the desire. Not that I don’t want you to see it…I don’t have the desire to get the camera, take the picture, plug in my external drive I use for pictures and upload the picture and then get it onto this page.

Yep, far too much work for today.

What does this have to do with my current thoughts on Lent?

Well. Everything.

I don’t do anything perfectly. I sure don’t keep the house up perfectly…although I am much better than I used to be.  I don’t keep up with laundry perfectly or cook the best meals all the time or spend my time wisely.  And often on Mondays I am, frankly, lazy.

I’ve spent the whole morning doing nothing…other than playing with the amazing and wonderful Madeleine. She’s been asleep for the last hour and half, though, and I’ve not used that time wisely. I’ve wasted my time and not payed attention.

I don’t like when I do that….but….it happens.

We all get lazy. We all have our moments when our attention is on something it shouldn’t be, and we all get frustrated with ourselves. Even during Lent. Even when we’ve purposed in our hearts that this will be the season we will draw close to God and seek Him and be diligent.

We’ve rolled up our sleeves and gotten about the business of being serious. And, well, if you’re like me, you’ve stumbled.

 

With that said…I’m now off to tidy and do laundry and hopefully work out and get a few things done. And I hope that my attention will be brought back into line. I hope that the wonder that there was an Incarnation will arrest my attention today. I hope that the reality that God walked in the desert and faced temptations will astound me today. I hope that the reality of Good Friday will shock me today.

And that the knowledge that a Living God who loves me. Me. You. Will bring me alive again. Even on Messy Mondays filled with the reality of dirty dishes and laziness.

Marked by Mortality…

So today is the first Sunday of Lent.  Most of the churches I have participated in do not follow the church calendar and do not follow the liturgy for Lent. There are a variety of reasons, but I do think we miss things when we do not know the church year. We come to Good Friday and sometimes feel like we have to scramble to bring ourselves into a sober mindset to be able to think on the suffering of Jesus on that day.  Many churches do not have Good Friday services either. So we come to Easter and welcome a different type of service and enjoy the songs…but we come to the place of praise and celebration without completely coming through the time of sobriety and contemplation….the celebration is much richer if we have spent the time of Lent preparing for Easter.

So, today…I’ve included a few links that offer some readings and the liturgy for the first Sunday in Lent. That is all below, under the “Links”

It’s been a long few days for me since Ash Wednesday. It is funny how when we try to do something different in our spiritual walk there seems to be a heightened emotional response. Maybe it is in the expectation that something should happen because, after all, we are paying attention. I have tried to guard myself against having expectations in this season, but being human, that’s a little tough.

The other day, Thursday, I was standing in the hall at the boys’ school getting ready to return to the car for dismissal. I was coming down the hall and a few of the teachers were coming from the other direction. One was holding a little boy, 18 months old, and he was completely limp. Another was shouting that he was not breathing and for someone to call 911. A friend who is a teacher in the preschool went down the hall and took the little boy. She told me later that his eyes were fixed and dialated and he was blue. She performed CPR and was able to resuscitate him and the ambulance arrived quickly. He was taken to the hospital and is doing well.
It was highly emotional. My friend who did the CPR was overcome with emotion. She had saved a little boys’ life. God was gracious. All of us in the hallway had been praying and were so relieved. He was too young…but he is still marked by mortality and I know of a dozen babies and little ones struggling for their life even at this moment.  We are all dust.

At midnight Saturday morning my Uncle Barry breathed his last. There was no scramble to resuscitate him, there was no CPR. There was longing instead for him to be taken home, to leave behind the destroying forces of Alzheimer’s and the body that was ready to return to dust. There was longing for him to put on his eternal body…to be made whole and for the family to be able to release him to this peace and promise.  He has returned to the dust.

Our mortality surprises us sometimes. In the abrupt stopping of breath in an infant we are stunned. In the last breath given of the older we are relieved sometimes…and yet we still mourn.  We are weighted by this brokenness.
Jesus knows death. He knows it intimately, and yet he has conquered this greatest foe.  Still, it didn’t happen as a surprise to Him. He was prepared.

The journey to the wilderness. The night in Gethsemane. The knowledge of what was His purpose…He knew that He *must* suffer for us.  This time before Easter, this time leading up to Good Friday we set aside frivolity for a little season so that we can enter in in some way to Jesus’ suffering. Enter into the knowledge of His suffering is maybe a better way to put it.

We’re just getting started. I’m thankful for more time. I need to quiet my mind. To follow Jesus to the desert and watch Him resist the temptations. Watch as He sets His face toward Jerusalem. Watch as He prays in Gethsemane. Watch as He endures the trials and the mockery. Watch as He walks to Golgatha.
Watch as He saves us all.

And Watch as He comes forth from the grave.
There is a lot to watch. There is a lot to settle into our souls. Taking it a little at a time….and being moved and changed during this Lenten season…

LINKS:

Desiring God Lenten Readings

Bishop of London talks about Lent

“Perhaps it is the time to live more simply in order to tighten up the drumskin, so that God’s drumbeat can be heard more clearly in our lives.”

Lent Liturgies

The Collect

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan; Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of this week are the traditional spring Ember Days.)

The Readings

Year A
Psalm 51 or 51:1-13
Genesis 2:4b-9,15-17,25-3:7 

Romans 5:12-19(20-21) 
Matthew 4:1-11

Year B
Psalm 25 or 25:3-9
Genesis 9:8-17 

1 Peter 3:18-22 
Mark 1:9-13

Year C
Psalm 91 or 91:9-15
Deuteronomy 26:(1-4)5-11 

Romans 10:(5-8a)8b-13 
Luke 4:1-13

The Freedom of Limitations

Yesterday I talked about paying particular attention during our Lenten fasts and journeys. That is a difficult pursuit in a world where there are so many distractions and so much noise. Some of the distractions are good things…there is much in our world to enjoy and in which to be immersed. Still, sometimes the amount of information and the number of people we are in contact with is staggering.

We know more, more quickly, than ever before. We know about more needs, we know about more people who are suffering and we want to help in some way.  We are able to enjoy relationship with so many people through blogs and through Facebook…it really can become overwhelming.

Again, Lent speaks a word to us to slow down and to limit ourselves. To pay attention.

I came across an article yesterday from Winn Collier that really struck home…

“Lent asks us (could we please, just for this stretch of 40 days) to be more discriminating, more present. Sometimes to seek your one truth thing, you have to hide from hundreds of others.”

Limit ourselves.  Turn some things off so we can pay attention to the eternal, to Jesus’ time in the desert and to His walk to Good Friday and ultimately Easter.

 

There is great freedom in being limited. There is freedom in being told that we do not have to worry about everything in this moment. At least for these few days we have the freedom to set aside some in order to make one thing more bright.

 

The freedom of limitations. It sounds wrong….and yet, as we enter a little more each day into the discipline of Lent we find that the limits help us and give the space we need to concentrate.  That doesn’t meant that we immediately are at ease in limits; sometimes we need a few days to let the noise clear out of our own minds before we can settle into thinking about just one thing. Forty days is a good stretch, long enough to give us the space to clear our minds and to be comfortable in thinking about Jesus more intentionally.

 

I’m getting there…yesterday was better than the day before and today I am already looking forward to the time to read and to contemplate and to pray. I am hopeful that this Lent is going to be a season of truly seeking Jesus. A season of understanding more what it means that Jesus died to save me, a sinner. Then Easter….the explosion from the grave and our explosion of joy and praise after this season of austerity.

Pay Particular Attention.

I remember Andi Ashworth saying at one of the women’s retreats for our church to pay attention because everything is important. I’ve tried to be better about that, with a mixed level of success.

 

Some days when the hustle is too frantic in the morning and the list of to-do’s around the house is too large and the distractions in my mind too loud…it is difficult to think it is all important. Some days it all seems rather mundane, or just chaotic.

 

Those are the days I need the reminder, though. Those are the days I need the check to remember that even that day is important.  We don’t get many, after all.

 

My Uncle Barry is in his last hours. He has been struggling with Alzheimer’s and now is nearing the end. His children are with him and are waiting and watching, and praying for God to bring him peace and take him home. Ashes to Ashes and Dust to Dust.

 

There is something very holy about one approaching their death. There is nothing mundane. Every moment is important. Everyone is paying attention.

 

It is folly to think we could live that way continually…we would exhaust ourselves. However, back to Lent, it is possible for a short season to attempt to pay deeper attention. To do things a little differently. Whether it is abstaining from sweets or from FB…it is an attempt to create something different in our routine. To force ourselves to pay attention.

 

Regent College posted an article yesterday that I thought was really helpful in getting started on the Lent journey.  This one paragraph especially caught me:

 

And so Ash Wednesday sends out the call to pay particular attention during Lent. Particular attention to the way we’re spending our lives. Particular attention to the Word of God. Particular attention to the journey of Jesus toward the cross. Particular attention to our souls and to being human.

Go read the rest of the article by Stacie Gleddiesmith, and check out the rest of her blog…it’s great reading.

 

So, today…I’m trying to pay attention. Not to trivialities, but to where the eternal meets the mundane. A man walking to the desert…a savior preparing to fulfill the prophecies. A man dying a criminal’s death….a God rescuing a people.  Pay attention to a Savior approaching His death. And….well, we’ll get to Easter, thankfully…

 

Pay particular attention.

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust…

Many who participate in Ash Wednesday have their head marked with ashes. This is an external sign and reminder that we are simply dust.

Lent for many is about austerity and suffering.

It is our time to mirror when Jesus went into the desert to fast and pray. A time of sobriety.  And yet, we do not suffer to gain our own salvation or to even gain favor with God….so, how do we take this?
It struck me today as I was thinking on this that we don’t walk the same path of the desert with Jesus in this time…we watch Him as He goes on His way of suffering. We are witnesses to this.

We do not have to suffer the cross, we do not have to suffer the turning away of God.  We get to walk in the Resurrection without having to drink from the same cup as Jesus did.

That is pretty astounding.

So, Lent….this year for me it is a time to witness more quietly Jesus on His path to Good Friday and, Praise God!, Easter.

Still…today. Ashes.  We are but dust. Jon Trott from Jesus People USA shared this article yesterday. It is a difficult article to read if you are in the midst of watching someone suffer with Alzheimer’s or demenita…but it also sparks some healing and thinking about what today marks.

http://livelydust.blogspot.com/2010/02/good-bye-daddy.html

Lent Begins

Today is Ash Wednesday. The start of Lent.  The start for many of a season of fasting.

Sometimes the fasts are silly, or may at least appear silly from the outside.  Sometimes they are truly sacrificial fasts that last the full 46 days…fasts that most of us wouldn’t be able to sustain.

What is the point?

I’m fasting from FaceBook. Seems a little, silly I know. And actually, I didn’t think to do it until a good friend posted on her wall she was doing so. And apparently she got it from someone else (at least so Reuben claims 😉  ).  Why, though, would I take a fast from FaceBook and does it actually accomplish anything?

Well, I’ll let you know after Easter if it accomplishes anything.
I’ll tell you what it is not…it is not a desire to impress God. It is not a desire to follow some rule or law or to make myself somehow better.  Those things tend to fail.

It is an attempt to focus.  My days tend to be noisy and sometimes things like FaceBook provide a light-hearted distraction and a good chance to keep up with friends…but they add to the noise.

Easter is an amazing reality. Amazing.  God conquering our barrier of sin, God Incarnate dying. And raising from the dead.

That is astonishing. Reality changing. 

And yet, so often it is just part of the ritual for me.

So, this year I’m going to fast from a little of the trivial in my life. The hope is that in the space that is freed by this there will be time to pray and to think and to be impacted by the reality of what God has done.

I hope to journal a little of that here…not every day, but bits and pieces.  Today’s bit is quick and short….hopefully they will become deeper and richer as the days progress.

To be impacted by the reality of a Holy God who has changed everything.  Want to join me?