Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A wonderful guide to working through Lent

Have been very blessed and look forward to pursuing this piece of work on how to mark Lent.

Lent typically hasn't been paid alot of attention in the protestant tradition, which mostly just means that it is hard to know what to do if one were to mark Lent. I can't hardly bring myself to say "celebrate" Lent, since it mirrors the time that Jesus spent in the desert fasting. But it is a substantially significant time for those who follow after Christ.

But without that knowledge of how to pass Lent, one hardly knows where to start.

This prayer guide is a superb start.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Lent, Repentance and Survival Mode

A friend mentioned something about Lent and how to mark it in our lives.

Before even realizing that it was a Lenten tradition, I have lately been moved to repentance.

Most of the things going through my mind are from the past. Largely because this has been a season of the past being tromped up just randomly, over and over again. And so the naturally reflective ruminates and inevitably wonders "What was I thinking?" "Who was that person?"

Tonight I realized. It was because I was largely on survival mode for many years. That survival mode was marked with alot of fear, mainly just about one thing: Rent.

edit: Let me extrapolate. I was single until I was 31. When I say "rent" it is because my main goal was just to get a career under me, and that career was to be teaching overseas. However, God had other plans for me and teaching overseas was to be postponed until I wasn't racked with student debt. It was a stressful time, I put alot of pressure on myself and by extension, did so with others. Decisions I made, while not earth-ending, didn't always reflect the values I sought to cultivate.

And when did it end? Well I guess it ended with marriage. And then it really ended with the birth of a child, and of course fortuitous career circumstances.

So when I am done repenting, it will be time to give thanks. But for now, am grieving and praying the Lord will hurl these as far away as only he can, so they will never undermine a changed heart.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Manly Devotions, part 2

At one point a while ago, I posted a poorly written piece with the same title. I say poorly written because it was hard to tell where I was going.

The post was alot of "Devotions are pointless and not very helpful" which meant "Isn't it just as good to do something else, instead?"

Well, I was misinterpreted, and rightfully so since I rushed through the post.

I think it was interpreted as "Spiritual disciplines are a waste of time," which I don't believe, and hope no one would...

At worst, I sometimes feel like devotionals are part of a way to make money. I get my podcasts for free.

To further complicate the message, I was relaying a message from someone else, not from myself.

I should have said something along the lines of "Devotion books that focus on predigested pieces of "spiritual thoughts" one a day are not very helpful for some people. Other ways of exercising spiritual disciplines are more helpful."

Secondary questions were "Do I have to do it every day at the same time? Do I have to do it in the morning? What if my schedule changes, can I change the time?"

The message I was hearing from the friend was along the lines of: "What if I keep reading these "devotions books" and they just make me feel like "this is something I must do", but I get alot more edification, satisfaction and am more motivated from those other media? Why are those "devotions books" so feminine, or they talk to me about generalities of which I have no interest?"

I wasn't really talking about myself, but I could sympathize with from whom it came.

Not long ago an old teacher of mine said this in his blog.

This morning as I sat, before the family or even the sun rose, with my Bible, my prayer journal, a good book to stretch me, I realized- part of my calm right now is simply a result of having cultivated through the discipline of meeting with God on a daily basis, a trust in Him that actually makes in difference when it comes to dealing with the crap life throws at you.

And I had a eureka moment. I almost jumped up, looking for who I could tell this *new* old important morsel to.

I guess the parting thought here is no 1+1=2 with God. There is no prescription or 12 steps to God, at least not in the bible (correct me if I am wrong, gentle readers).

In a piece by Donald Miller he references Mercutio mocking Romeo for "Loving by Numbers" and talks about America's love for 3 steps to this, or 5 keys to that (though Mercutio was referring to the iambic pentameter that Romeo used to communicate to his beloved). Included in this is our relationship with the Lord. Donald Miller suggests, and I have to say that I agree, that there is no such thing in the bible guaranteeing "closeness with God" or "spirit-filled living" if one does this, that and the other thing. If anyone says so, they are selling something.

Where am I going with this?

Point is that no one has "the key" to how to pursue God, only suggestions of what has worked for others. Sometimes, for me anyway, what works is to just keep trying.

I found it profound that Mother Teresa spent her last twenty or more years desperately seeking the presence of God in her life. She simply suffered because she didn't "feel" Him near, as she had in the past. And there is so much talk about the "spirit filled life" (I get frustrated by this jargon) and yet...

Some might say that you can love God by numbers or by a formula, but something I learned from another teacher is that no one can referee between you and God. For example, I can't admonish my daughter effectively to read her bible daily, I can only live by example and pray. And therein lies the truth, that it all boils down to a relationship between the person and God, between which stands no person. Just as it was at the beginning and will be at the end.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

More Shane

Dear Shane;

So you came to the 'berg! Newberg, that is. Actually, as I write this, you are here (I think!?). And while I was going to the Y, I was listening to you on a podcast...it's starting to seem like you are all over the place, or maybe I am just looking for anything you have to say.

Shane, I am incredibly bummed that I wasn't able to see you here in Newberg. Your message has caught my interest because you are the first one to say things I have wondered about--it seemed like there was a strong message of community in Acts (I think this was the place). My husband and I talk about it, it is a challenging but welcome message. But Shane, it cost 40 bucks to go see you!

EDIT: Holy Cow, Shane Claiborne actually read my poorly written blog post (I am still editing it)! Regrets, I am hearing reports it was free, and he himself assured me that he wouldn't want a person to not attend based on cost and would absorb it his self. Good of him, and apologies, it was not my point to deliver bad press. I assumed the fee was coming from George Fox Univ. who paired him with another guy, also talented.

So your messages have been percolating in my head and my thoughts are all kind of around this idea of selling everything and then following the Lord. I have to admit, that passage I have always read with a "surely there is a contextual consideration there...". With a 4 month old and a 3 year old, doesn't charity begins at home? Am happy to take care of my little ones, aren't they a blessing from the father?

I ponder specifics, how do I live out this Simple Way from where I am?

The Simple Way website give suggestions, like tell your college administrator that he should earn only as much as the janitor and that I should pound a war machine into a plowshare. I can only take those comments as tongue in cheek. They are cute, funny, not particularly realistic. Sorry to be a party pooper.

I do keep hearing the quote though... "We can do no great things, only small things with great love," resounding through my head.

What are those small things? I have ideas, am not clueless, but I want to hear from you, too. I had one idea, it would be a challenge for me. Not insurmountable. Just challenging. Some might be surprised that something so small could be challenging. Some might think i was a bit extremist for trying. But I am going to try, Shane.

I thought to quit buying new stuff. Not a huge deal, but its a decision to make. Have always been perfectly ok with Goodwill, garage sales, consignment etc, but admit to those once or twice a year splurges on something nice.

I always feel kinda uncomfortable about all the garbage we get from China. The factories of questionable ethics. The clothes that come from countries that I know little to nothing about, and the stories of labor practices that are a bit less than humane.

I have been mulling on it, and thinking about how to make this work out, logistics. its exciting, but its so small, its easy to think what difference will that make?

Don't know, but it's so small, and it is doable. And if more people did it then we probably wouldn't need to worry about China's economy overtaking the world. I won't feel complicit in the lack of transparency of how factory workers overseas are treated. I won't feel crummy about being part of the consumer culture of America and right now, it makes sense.

All these reasons seem all very, very small. So I think that it will just be a start. We do feel the loss of community and miss it. We have a great community, I wonder if we can put that to work.

Anyway, Shane, we had some conversation about this passage:

The Rich Young Man

17As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

18"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. 19You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'[a]"

20"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."

21Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

22At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"

24The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is[b] to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

26The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, "Who then can be saved?"

27Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."

J made the suggestion that we don't necessarily have to sell all our stuff in order to follow Christ, but that this rich young man was proud and his heart wasn't right with God, and that was what separated him from God. The parable before it tells of entering the kingdom like a child, and that is what this rich young man lacked. Christ saying that "all things are possible with God" simply underscores the fact that his works alone could never guarantee him a spot in heaven, but rather God's grace gets us there...

Anyway, just random thoughts Shane. Sorry I missed you, maybe you can ask that they don't charge so much so that the riff raff like J and I can go see you some other time when you are in Portland, your words are welcome here!


Sunday, February 01, 2009

Shane Claiborne: Irresistible Revolution

Before I started to read this book I heard some refreshing stuff from this young man on Speaking of Faith. I have also heard of him in association with and talking about New Monastics and his movement within those who seek to live a life after Christ.

I was excited by what he said!

So I listened more about him when it was convenient.

Eventually after being on hold for his book from the library I got it. But I didn't read it right away because the lustre had already started to fade on what he was saying.

So is my experience so far reading his book.

I recommend the book. It is just such a wonderful breath of fresh air. It is like a window thrown open in a stuffy old church, and it is just, just really needed.

He does advocate a rather radical approach to showing Christ. And thank God for that! He says go feed the poor, help your neighbor, help out in your community and just do it. He doesn't say volunteer at church, although there is nothing wrong with that, but having spent a summer in Calcutta he is coming back preaching some real on the ground Mother Teresa stuff. Love it.

But his audience seems to be largely for um, college kids. For those of us with kids and a house, the idea of moving into a large house with a bunch of other families just seems really, really, well first of all unrealistic. Certainly there is a way to play out what he is talking about without actually "taking a war machine and beating it into a plow" like his website recommends.

And so my thoughts these days are focusing all around how to take this revolutionary and exciting and severe message and make it a reality in our family.

There are things that can be done. Many things. Cutting down on consumption by buying used. Making sure to be proactive in helping out in our communities. Educating our kids about service. Being in ministry in every little aspect of our lives, whether it is in traffic or at the store.

But Shane calls for a much more radical approach. And therein lies the tension. He advocates not giving money to charities but to find the poor and give to them where they are. I think I understand his point which is don't just throw money, but make charity a part of your life, not just a part of your bills. I understand and agree with that. I am still going to give money to local charities.

His book is easy to read, it is inspiring. I am not a 20 something year old college kid anymore, but I think that had I found this book when I was, my choices may have been different. That doesn't mean I regret anything, I have a deeply satisfying life. And now I guess I feel compelled to not just think that if I pay my tithe, I am done, but to figure out other ways I can positively live this out.

He calls it The Simple Way, but in the same way that we can't all move to Calcutta and serve in the Khaligat (The home for dying and destitute that Mother Teresa runs), it gets complicated. I couldn't figure out what to think when recently OPB went to a food bank and interviewed a recently unemployed guy as he was going home after getting food. They asked him about the very fancy truck he was getting into with his food bank food. He said he hoped he wouldn't have to sell it.

In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.

Furthermore, how does one live the Simple Way with very young children? I guess we wait until young Mr. Claiborne has kids (if he does have them) and he writes a book about that.

In the meantime, I am excited, he is coming to Newberg! Bauman Auditorium on February 7 at 10 am.