Would I really rather step on a Lego when we have this gift?

I feel like God gave me a gift this week. As I walked the four blocks from my house to my office, I lamented that the horse stables are recently all gone and now there is a big hole. I don’t even know what’s going in there, but likely some kind of expensive new housing. With so much of that going on, it kind of irritates me. My mind easily goes towards the character of our neighborhood being under threat by capitalists as well as friends and neighbors facing spiking rents and taxes moving them toward forced displacement.  And I feel some kind of way about it. I’d rather step on a Lego then be stuck in midst of the ugly parts of gentrification.

That much wasn’t the gift. Maybe my “default setting” tends to be pessimistic or I have a healthy hunger and thirst for justice & righteousness – but I feel the brokenness of Shalom. When I walked this time, I felt astounded by how much good stuff Circle of Hope has been generating or helping generate right here in the thick of it for over a decade. There are loads of people who are choosing to do more with their lives than make personal profit paramount – so many that I felt free to not condemn or damn the stuff that didn’t make it through my personal righteousness filter that day. I felt genuine gratitude.

Since Jesus’ 40 day fast in the wilderness serves as our central story of why to do Lent, it’s is a good time to go back to Isaiah 40 or John 1 –

A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

I have let Jesus transcend two of my bad instincts about this little prophecy about John the Baptist and the coming of the LORD. First – Isaiah talking highway doesn’t mean anything remotely like my conception of highway. Making the path for God did not mean putting up a toll road, a Cracker Barrel, Walmarts, oil derricks, or destroying the wilderness. It’s closer to the opposite. God is coming into the wilderness and we are preparing more for ourselves to participate (does God need a highway??) in the wasteland. The inside-out, upside down, and sdrawkcab way of God’s fullness gets realized in and through Jesus. Advent prepares us for His coming, Lent gets us into the wilderness with him.

Putting too much of a highway takes over the wilderness. My other bad instinct was to think that the coming of the LORD meant the wilderness is gone because of the stuff about mountains and valleys and plains. Maybe that would mean Jesus coming meant injustice was over or that I don’t have to suffer anymore. It’s the injustice and suffering that are the precise location for where Jesus comes to save and erode. My preparation does not mean it no longer hurts – but I have hope in the rising tide of Christ’s redemption project.

The US War of Terror reached a dubious milestone – over 1 million dead in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan. We talked about some of the havoc that drugs (legal and other wise) wreak the other night at Doing Theology. God gave me this gift like a lovely wave – one that I could ride if I concentrated on it. It’s like surfing in Atlantic City. I can think about the pollution, predatory poverty profiteers, or grandmas chained to slot machines. That wouldn’t be bad – but then there’s this wave. I can ride it – but I’m going to need to focus. And it’s fun.  And I still want to work for justice. And I’m grateful for this gift today.

For the Lent keepers out there

Here is something I wrote to the cell leaders of my congregation this week.  I hope it might be an encouragement about how to get into this great season.
I’m dusting off this blog.  One of the things I am doing this season is writing poetry every day.  I had a good year or so (a few ago) and it was really healthy.  I will probably post some of them here.
Lent begins this Wednesday.  It’s popular for Christians to participate in some kind of fast or take on a new discipline.  Much of the time, that is either laying off of junk food (meat, candy, coffee) for a fast or building in intentional God time (Scripture reading, prayer, reading a devotional every day).
The temptation is to start out by feeling bad about yourself.  “I drink too much coffee than is helpful” or “I don’t pray enough” and respond to guilt or shame feelings by compensating for a season.  This isn’t the worst thing to do, as in there are worse reasonds for fasting or being more disciplined.  My wish for you this Lent, if you are participating, is that you could bypass the guilt/shame reflex and get a different motivation. Prepare to receive the resurrection of Jesus in a fresh way. Flex your spiritual muscles so we can accomplish what God has for us this year.

Here are a few thematic ideas you or your cell might want to consider to prepare for the Resurrection.  If you were looking for “40” in the Bible, there are a number of stories that you could draw a fast or a new discipline from.
Gen 7 (Noah, 40days & 40nights of rain)
“Stay in” to eat for 40 days. Don’t buy any food or drinks outside the house. See what God might teach you about preparing a meal with others.

Ex 24, 34 (Moses on the mountain twice)
Stay close to the stories of Moses being directed by God in looking for your own direction. Read CoH Daily Prayer every day and leave a comment each time to leave your own sort of mark in the virtual stone.

Num 13 (Scouts to the Promised Land)
Every day, go somewhere you have never been before. This might be exploring a new block, going into someone’s home, or taking a different route on your commute to work. Be conscious about possibilities for the Holy Spirit to work.

1 Sam 17 (Goliath taunts for 40 days before David smites him)
Don’t be afraid, face the actual fears or other things that keep you from bringing a new person to your cell every week during Lent. Think that’s ambitious? Why not let your apprentice share this discipline with you. What could an influx of new people do to your group?

Jonah 3 (Ninevah had 40days to repent)
Add more time to your life. Count to 3 slowly before you speak. Wait 30 min in the morning before you drink your coffee. Wake up 30min earlier than you do now (you may have to compensate your bed time).

Acts 1 (Jesus walked resurrected for 40days)
Walk everywhere you can. It might mean getting creative to get groceries home (you may need to do multiple smaller trips) or leaving earlier to get to work, playgroup, etc. See if by walking you don’t bring some of that resurrection goodness to your neighborhood simply by walking around in it all the time.
I hope you can get creative enough to engage your imagination in this whole resurrection business. Using the calendar isn’t something that mindlessly will make your normal or even better, but we might be foolish to not use the good tools that are provided.

swimming in a sea of wormy fish hooks

One discipline that I’m trying to keep for Lent is saying no to the enticing distractions that would keep me from following Jesus through the season.

I am pretty extroverted.  I like affirmation.  I like doing stuff.  I have a full life.  I have lots of hobbies.  I have lots of responsibilities.  I am a fish swimming in a sea full of wormy fish hooks, and the discipline is a fast from taking the bait.

For me this season that means not to fall into discouragement, judgement, procrastination, self-justification, or be led around by my appetite.

I’m fasting from worms.  And I want to avoid that which would ensnare me.

Simple English

My hilarious friend Steve was telling me about the Simplified English version of Wikipedia the other night around the fire.

Here is an example of the difference, using a word that most of us commonly use every day.

(from regular English)

Dinosaurs (Greek δεινόσαυρος, deinosauros) were the dominant vertebrate animals of terrestrial ecosystems for over 160 million years, from the late Triassic period (about 230 million years ago) until the end of the Cretaceous period (65 million years ago), when most of them became extinct in the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event. The 10,000 living species of birds have been classified as dinosaurs.

(from simple english)

Dinosaurs (Dinosauria) were reptiles that lived a very long time ago. The word “dinosaur” comes from Greek, meaning “terrible lizard”. Scientists think dinosaurs first appeared about 230 million years ago. About 65 million years ago, dinosaurs became extinct. Birds are sometimes considered descendants of dinosaurs.

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addicted to crisis

Great time at the vigil last night.  Afterwards, some of us remarked how different it was to not only be downstairs (past 4yrs we were upstairs) but that we had chairs to sit in.  We had 2 stations to use for the burning & ashes.  It flowed smoothly.  It actually took only one hour.

Sometimes when things go smoothly or according to plan I think something must be wrong.  I get a little suspicious.  I’m so used to crisis and even though I really want peace-I have an instinct to not allow myself to receive it.

I would be into receiving a mug with an image of something peaceful on it, but I get so caught up in it being a mug and an image that I forget what I really want is peace!  I want to be in there, not just get some facsimile of it.  Why would I cheapen peace?

This is part of Lent for me.  This is part of growing up for me.  I can’t really make peace.  I can’t wait until I’m at peace to go to Jesus.  He is peace, and has been offering it freely for a long time.  I am willing to live with him where my heart is not troubled and I am not afraid.  There are some allegiences, behaviors, and trends in me that need to change so I can more fully live into his peace.  This is Lent.

kicking Lent old schol

I think I have been influenced by some ideas floating around that seem to be more and more common.  Some of my friends seem to be losing “faith battles”, some returning to destructive lifestyles, some grow harder spiritual exteriors but are still really soft in the middle.  I know a lot of people that get bogged down in sort of “extra curricular” spiritual activities.  I feel a need for maturing.  I’m glad to begin Lent.  I need to get old school about now.  I’m thinking about every Rocky movie when he gets down to business.

I miss apollo.  He’s such a great image in the training about how the Holy Spirit can work.

I want to let some of my own “extra” stuff go.  Anyone else want to get old school and spend time getting a good prayer discipline going?  Eating better?  Exercising?  Sleeping in your own bed alone?  Spending less time/money on things that don’t deserve it?  Kicking habits?  Telling the truth?  Taking ourselves out of the center of our spirituality?

Wanna let some stuff burn tonight at the vigil?