The 40 Days of Lent: Day 14

Lent has been very interesting so far, and I’m glad that I said I would try to post every day instead of saying I would post every day because last week, the everyday posting didn’t happen. Partly it was because I thought my Lenten posts had thus far been boring and uninspiring, but I have also started a new semester at school and I have been sick. I’m still keeping up with my reading for Lent, have finished several books already.

So far I’ve read:

“Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections Between Sexuality and Spirituality” By Rob Bell
“Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate” by Justin Lee
“Jesus Wants to Save Christians: Learning to Read a Dangerous Book” by Rob Bell and Don Golden
“A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars” by Jonathan Merritt
I’ve just started:

“Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate” by Jerry Bridges
“Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture” by William D. Romanowski
“The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical” by Shane Claiborne
“A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story” by Donald Miller
I also want to read:

“Red Letter Revolution: What if Jesus Really Meant What He Said?” By Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo.
As to my goals, I was sick for three days and didn’t sleep at all in that time and I still managed to get by without consuming caffeine, which makes me really happy. I haven’t stopped cussing entirely, sometimes a word still slips out, but since I have been intentional in trying to stop, I’ve done it a whole lot less than usual.

I have learned a lot, a lot of things that I wouldn’t have learned if I hadn’t been intentional to set some goals and do some reading during Lent. My entire theme for Lent has been to be intentional, intentional about getting rid of bad habits, and intentional about developing new ones. Being intentional means that I have to put a lot of work and effort into what I am doing, but I am hoping that by being intentional with my reading and with my goals, that I will be closer to God on Resurrection Sunday. 
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The 40 Days of Lent: Day 7

So, it’s been a week since the beginning of Lent, and while I haven’t been perfect at keeping my goals, I have to say I can count the times I’ve cussed since the beginning of Lent on one hand, and that makes me happy because I can usually count it on one or maybe two hands for a day. I think this whole idea of being intentional is great for me, and so far Lent has been a great time of repentance and self-reflection. I’ve been analyzing whether how I live is glorifying to God, and if not, where changes need to be made. I’m certainly not perfect and I’ve certainly messed up, but I am beginning to wonder if I will be able to give up cussing for Lent, as in, by the time Resurrection Sunday rolls around.

So far God has shown me how much I overindulge in certain things, especially food like a candy bar that I might like. I decided as a result of this to not eat my favorite candy bar at least for the rest of Lent, maybe longer. The thing is that if I don’t eat my favorite candy bar, I still have the option of having candy, but I probably won’t eat a lot of it because if I’m not eating my favorite I’m often not interested. Another reason for doing this maybe permanently is because slave labor is used to make most chocolate and I don’t want to be contributing to that in any way. I know that it isn’t really going to make much of a difference, because everyone else is still buying and consuming that candy bar, but I am making an intentional choice to try to be true to my principles.

Overindulgence is a big thing for me, probably the main reason why I feel the need to attend 12-Step recovery meetings.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading as part of my participation in Lent. I already know that next year I want to have a focused reading list prepared before Lent.

The 40 Days of Lent: Day 5

Tonight I want to share a post by Shane Claiborne about Lent, as it’s really a good explanation of why I and many other Christians choose to participate in Lent. It’s called “Fat Tuesday and Skinny Wednesday” and it really is a great article. It explains where I’m going on trying to give up cussing over Lent. I did curse once today when I dropped a box of lightbulbs at work and they shattered. It kind of just slipped out without notice, which shows what a hold that has on me and why I’m trying to give it up. So far Lent has been an awesome time of reflection and of learning, as I’ve meditated on God he’s brought so many things to mind. I’m so thankful for this time to just reflect, take inventory, and work on some active change.

I’m tired so I do believe I’m going to allow Shane Claiborne to do the talking for me tonight.

The 40 Days of Lent: Day 4

People change all the time, sometimes for good, and sometimes for bad, and already I myself know that I am not going to be the same person on Resurrection Sunday than I was at the beginning of Lent. I know that there is nothing magical about Lent, to be honest I used to scoff about people who “did Lent”. But focusing extra on Jesus and for me using these 40 days to try to kick an old habit, well, there is value in that. I’m doing a lot of reading, probably just as much reading as I do during the semester, which will be starting again soon.

This morning I finished Justin Lee’s book “Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gay-vs-Christian Debate”. I read is as part of the research I am doing for the book I am writing. While I disagree with Justin on his belief that acting on gay desires is a sin, his book has value and much to offer the contemporary church. He encourages the church and the gay community to move away from an us. vs. them culture war mentality. He has a lot of insight on the “ex-gay” movement which is important to know. So while I disagree with his theological position, the book is a must-read and helped me see what else I can do to make sure gay people experience the love of God through the church.

Christians are the church, not the building that we meet to worship in. So far I’m about 70 pages in to Shane Claiborne’s book “The Irresistible Revolution”, and the message so far is to be the church we want the church to be rather than complaining about the inadequacies of the the church. If we don’t like the way the church behaves, we can change the behavior of the church.

Today I saw a conversation on Facebook where some extremely conservative Christians were disparaging a woman who had hot pink highlights in her hair. They accused her of worldliness and some said that they would not want to attend a church where the youth pastors wife had pink streaks. I used to get involved in this kind of discussion, agreeing with those who said it was worldly and wrong, but today I argued a little for the other side before letting it go. My view now is that God created each of us to be a unique individual, and our expression of that individuality is an act of worship to God.

I’m looking forward to worship tomorrow with all my brothers and sisters at church, on this first Sunday of Lent.

The 40 Days of Lent: Day 3

While I have a short break from college, I am doing a LOT of reading, reading that I don’t get as much of a chance to complete while doing school work. I am going to be busy in this upcoming semester, taking some classes that I’m not as excited about but that are necessary to getting my degrees. And yes, I said degrees. I am not studying a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Writing and Sociology and was just admitted to the Bachelor of Professional Communications program majoring in Journalism. The purpose of this is to make up for some mistakes from the past and meet the qualifications to enter a Masters degree program. I will probably only have a year to a year and a half to actually complete the other degree as well, at which time I will qualify for the Masters program that I want to enter. Of course, none of this has anything to do with Lent except for maybe the fact that it’s taking place during Lent. I just figured that it was boring to blog only about my goals and nothing else.

We’re three days into Lent and already I am learning a lot. There is another issue that God has really shown me that I need to focus on as well, and so I will begin focusing on that as well. As far as working on my language, I managed to get through another day without cussing, although there were several times the words were on the tip of my tongue and they went through my head. I am hoping that if I continue being intentional about it, that the words will one day leave my thoughts as well. Today was a day where I craved caffeine bad, I wasn’t feeling very well and all my muscles hurt (no, I don’t have the flu, I have chronic pain). I was tired and somewhat lethargic, and I had to work an eight hour shift. I did make it through and resisted the urge even though everyone around me was drinking coffee.

My entire theme this year is to be intentional, and to do all that I do with excellence. These are the two words that I think of whenever I go to make a decision: intentional, and excellence.

The 40 Days of Lent: Day 2

This is just the beginning of Lent, and I am at the end of my rope in some personal situations right now, and although I am pursuing unity and peace and reconciliation, things are still tough. So for me Lent is an opportunity to change my focus from me and turn it onto Jesus. I totally get all the people that are going to tell me that I should be focusing on Jesus all the time, that is true, however, I still like the idea of being more intentional for 40 days. I think that really being intentional about my relationship with God and my own spiritual growth is my theme for the season.

Rachel Held Evans has written her 4th annual 40 Ideas for Lent (2013) and some of the suggestions are very helpful, but it is the first three questions that I am focusing on: “1. When I wake up on Resurrection Sunday, how will I be different? 2. Is there a habit or sin in my life that repeatedly gets in the way of loving God with my whole heart or loving my neighbor as myself? How do I address this habit over the next 40 days? 3. Is there anyone in my life from whom I need to ask forgiveness, or pursue reconciliation?” These were my thoughts going into Lent and so I based my decisions for the season on questions such as these.

Today it seemed that everyone at work was talking about and consuming coffee, but because I have decided not to consume caffeine for the entire 40 days (and hopefully beyond). Also it seemed like everyone was cussing, and I’m really happy to say that I don’t recall using any cuss words today. If I can do that for an entire day, I can do it again tomorrow!

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” Matthew 5:3 ~ The Message.

The 40 Days of Lent: Day 1

Just as I knew he would, God is already showing me some unexpected things, some very much too private to tell except to say that when I started this journey of reconciliation a week ago, I had no idea that it would come as far as it has, and that it’s a good thing, or even a God thing.

As far as the goals I have shared on here go, I have not consumed any caffeine today, and I only said one curse word which I know is probably not a big deal for a lot of people but for me to get through the day only having said one, is a big deal.

I have some interesting reading right now, some of it specifically for Lent and some of it for research for my book and some of it for research for a topic I will be studying this next semester, and some of it just because I want to read, which means that my reading isn’t any lighter than it is during school anyway.

Today’s post is going to be short, but I wanted to write it up because I want to try to blog every day through Lent.

The 40 Days of Lent: Day -3.

When I was a fundamentalist, I wrote off the season of Lent as something that didn’t apply to me and something that Catholics did to try to earn brownie points with God. However, over the last almost two years now of being out of fundamentalism, and seeing the world in a different light, I’ve come to realize the beauty of Lent and the great possibilities the season has an intense season of personal growth. Knowing that I was going to be observing Lent this year, I wanted to prepare my heart and so I made sure that I was reconciled with other believers and doing my best to live at peace with the world.

I have really been looking forward to Lent. One of the things on my bucket list for 2013 is to read my Bible and pray every single day. I’ve missed two days so far and made them up the very next day, so I’d say I’m well on the way to a habit of daily reading and praying, for me right before I go to bed works best, and my mind is focused on the Lord when I fall asleep. This works for me. I’m reading through the New Testament and the Psalms this year in The Message translation, which has really been working well for me and it’s done by reading just one chapter a day.

For Lent, I want to add to that and do some readings focusing on Jesus, spend extra time than I usually have to do so. I want to be amazed with Jesus during this 40 day journey. I am going to attempt to blog daily about my journey, as this is something I’m really stoked about. There are some things in my life that I have been working on that I know would bring glory to God if I got rid of, and so for that reason, I’m focusing on trying really hard to give up cussing for Lent. I’m going to pray and ask God to help me with this because I want my speech to transformed. The other thing I’m doing, which I had already done and then got caught back up in it, is to give up caffeine. Since I am unable to consume caffeine without taking it to an extreme, I am going to give it up…again. Sometimes our hang ups are like that, we let them go, and then when things get tough we start doing harmful things again, and that’s the situation that I find myself in.

So, in just a few days, my 40 day journey through Lent will begin, and I know I am being joined by Christians all over the world. 

Freedom

There are a lot of things that I have been learning with all this talk about living at peace with all men, and unity, and worship and all that. The more that I get to know Jesus, the more that I love him, the more that I walk with him, the more that I trust him, the more freedom I have. The Bible says that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. I’ve been reading Rob Bell’s book “Sex God” and there are some awesome things in the book, quotes such as this one: “often freedom is seen as the ability to do whatever you want. But freedom isn’t being able to have whatever we crave. Freedom is going without whatever we crave and being fine with it.” (Bell, 2012, p. 66)

The more that I choose to live at peace, the more that I choose unity with my brothers and sisters in Christ, the more freedom I have, not to live in a way that indulges my own selfish desires, but the freedom to truly live. When I choose conflict over peace, division above unity, complaining instead of gratitude, to live how I want to live instead of worship, when I chose any of those, I am a slave to my own desires. A slave is not free.

It’s in becoming more Christlike that we become freer. The more I struggle and the more I battle against my own desires and win, the freer I become, because when I live the way Jesus asked me to live, I am truly free, free to live a better life than I could create on my own.

The quote from Rob Bell also has me thinking about addiction and my own battle with addiction. Giving in and indulging in addictive behavior is not freedom, it’s living chained by my own desires. I have learned that unforgiveness imprisons me while those I will not forgive go free right before my eyes. It’s like looking out through a cage and hating the fact that I am in prison and they are walking free. Ultimate freedom comes from transformation, and that transformation is something that God orchestrates.

Living differently, living above the desires and fancies of the world, that’s what true freedom is about. 

Evolution

I grew up watching videos of Ken Ham and reading Creation magazine. I was one of the kids who would ask my teachers “were you there” just like Ken Ham told us to when they would teach the theory of evolution. I was taught that a literal six 24 hour day creation period was imperative to the gospel, because if we couldn’t trust God when he told us the creation story, then we couldn’t trust him when he talked about Jesus and redemption, either. I also know that a lot of people believe that young people lose their faith in college, but I have to say that for me, college has strengthened my faith and I attend a secular school. This whole thing with six literal 24 hour days of creation being necessary to the truthfulness of the Bible is simplistic.

Not everything in the Bible is supposed to be taken literally, and I don’t personally know any Christian who takes every single word of the Bible literally, usually what happens is we pick and choose based on many different criteria. The Bible is a collection of books about God, books that were written in different styles, by different people, in different periods of history. Some of the Bible is poetry and song, some is a documentary on the life of Christ, and some tells us of ancient Israel and their relationship with God. The Bible is an interesting book made of 66 smaller books.  

When I studied some basic psychology, I began to realize that the theory of evolution was more compatible scientifically than the theory that it took six literal 24 hour days for God to create the world. I’m not saying that God didn’t do creation in that way; I’m just saying that I think another theory makes more sense, the theory that God used evolution as part of his creative process. I believe that perhaps instead of a big bang, God spoke things into existence that eventually evolved into other things. The truth is I’m really not sure exactly how God made it, but I know that he made it and that it was good. I know that I was very much created by a loving God.

Lately evolution has started to make a lot more sense to me as I realize that our lives are constantly evolving, changing us into someone else. A baby starts out as some cells, and evolves into a tiny human who even after birth grows and changes more. To me evolution is about growth and change, something that is an important concept in Christianity. As I think about the possibility that God may have used evolution as part of his creative process, the more sense it makes to me. Evolution is a part of life, and God is all about life.

I don’t claim to have it all figured out, these are just some thoughts that I have on the subject. However it all happened, God is the one that orchestrated it, it’s his creation, his doing, his artwork, and He’s a wonderful God.