Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Such great wisdom for living...

· Don’t just pretend to love other. Really love them.

· Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.

· Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

· Never be lazy but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.

· Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.

· When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them.

· Always be eager to practice hospitality.

· Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them.

· Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.

· Live in harmony with each other.

· Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people.

· And don’t think you know it all!

· Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.

· Do all you can to live in peace with everyone.

· Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God.

· Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

...from Romans 12

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Why I NEED Lent.

The season of Lent is something that I do not remember participating in my Restoration Movement church background. In fact, I feel like the civil calendar directed our affairs more than the church calendar did, which is unfortunate. Instead of asking questions like, "what should we do during Lent or Advent this year?" it was more "what should we do during Mother's Day or the Fourth of July this year?" I hate that I missed out the guidance that the seasons of the Christian year offer us through the cycle of life, death, and resurrection that we experience with Advent, Lent, Easter, etc.

In fact, I remember perceiving the sentiment that Lent was primarily a Catholic practice by which people seek to earn the favor and forgiveness of God by voluntarily refraining from something (usually meat or chocolate) and that it was something that we Protestants should not be a part of. This is probably a good illustration of what it means to "throw the baby out with the bathwater."

Through the last 3 1/2 years with the Evergreen Community it has been helpful for my personal transformation to be introduced to this cycle and participate in it. As Lent approaches, I am ever more excited to spend an intentional time refocusing my heart and mind on Jesus. I'm excited to lay down those things that I have tended to rely on during the past year to soothe, comfort, and get me through life. If you're like me, you've found yourself relying on things other than God for your support and comfort.

This year I will be spending the 40 days of Lent fasting from beer. To many Midwestern friends, this probably sounds ludicrous. In fact, many would even question my faith for drinking beer (which comes from a cultural christianity that I have a hard time even understanding anymore). But living in the Pacific NW where there are more micro-breweries per-capita than anywhere else in the world it makes loads of sense. We hang out in pubs regularly, we brew our own beers, we follow beer blogs and tweets, we have theological conversations over pints. It's simply part of the way of life here.

But what I've noticed over the past year is that slowly, beer has gone from being a special drink reserved for special occasions and visits with friends, to simply something I drink whenever I feel like it, or whenever a new brew is released, or after I've had a particularly rough day, or when Seinfeld is on :) It's not that I drink a lot of beer at any one given sitting, or even tend to overindulge. It's simply that it's become standard fare with any given meal or tv show to have a pint. And in some way I have to ask the question, "is this something I've come to depend on?"

We discussed the purpose of fasting, whether during Lent or any other time a few weeks ago at Evergreen and basically it came down to a few things:
  1. it helps us to say no to the small things, so that we will be able to say no to larger temptations when they arise.
  2. it helps us to practice impulse control and rein in our desires.
  3. it helps us to lay down our functional saviors and grasp on to the true one.
Even today there are people that hear that we encourage people to participate in Lent and it ruffles their feathers. They equate Lent with some kind of "works-salvation", or legalism. And truthfully it can become either of those things. It can even become a contest in spirituality in which we try to one-up each other: "I've lived off of nothing but peanut shells and watermelon juice for the last 40 days, what did you do?" But so can any other spiritual practice that we choose to participate in. Does this mean we do nothing to intentionally seek God? Should we give up praying, reading scripture, or times of silence just in case it becomes legalistic or a kind of "works-salvation"? Or course not!

And this is why I choose to participate in the 40 days of Lent. Not to mention that spending 40 days putting something to death that has become too powerful in our lives makes the season of Easter resurrection so much more powerful. I've found Lent to be difficult, challenging, and very important in my spiritual formation. I just wish I would have known about it sooner!

Monday, February 01, 2010


Life has been extremely good the last 6 months. God has blessed us in absolutely incredible mind-boggling ways. If someone would have told me that we would have an adorable son, own a house, and be doing what we love three years ago I would have thought they were INSANE. But as we've sought to be faithful to Jesus, God has been good to us. And when I say that, I don't mean that we haven't experienced our share of pain and difficulties. What I mean is that even in the face of pain and sorrow, God has been there for us. Even in times when things have been incredibly tight financially, God has provided through a variety of odd jobs and means. Even when Kelli's delivery went the exact opposite of how we desired it to go, we came home with a wonderful son.

February is going to be a difficult month. Kelli went back to work today. And of course Gram kept us both up all night long (more her than me). But other than waking at 4:30am to a wide-awake child, it was more difficult to see her get misty-eyed as she packed Gram's bag with his favorite toys and got ready to leave him for the day for the first time. It can't be an easy thing to do. And honestly, I keep coming back to the thought: "how do single mom's do it?" I'm amazed at their strength. We're very grateful that this will only be for a few weeks and then Kelli's mom will be in town to help out for three weeks.

After that we're hoping for some other arrangements that can keep Kelli at home with Gram more. With those arrangements we will once again be very strapped financially. It was a good few months while it lasted! Having two salaries is amazing! Wish it could have lasted a little longer than three months, but having Kelli at home with Gram is even more amazing. I would be willing to sacrifice anything for that to happen.

February will be a challenging month as we pass Gram around a little bit amongst our community, but it will make us more appreciative once March rolls around and Kelli will get to be with him during the day again. There are some real bright spots in February. My birthday for one. Turning the big 30 on Super Bowl Sunday! Plus I get to go to a church conference in Washington, D.C. to hear Dallas Willard all week. That will be awesome, but I can't imagine how hard it will be to leave Gram for an entire week! Ahh. Life is definitely not easy as new parents, but it is very, very good.