Fourth Day

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Today is the Fourth Day. Yesterday we were born again into eternal life and today is the day we begin to live like it. That’s why I want to tell you what I learned during this Lent.

I gave up 24 hour news channels.

I did it because I have watched people I know slide into anxiety bordering on mental illness over the last two years from watching these channels.

I did it because of how many times in the last six months the hot take has been wrong and caused massive social upheaval.

I did it because a friend told me she hoped her bro-in-law had been able to drag her sister away from CNN for her birthday.

I did it because these channels are an echo chamber. We watch the one we like the most and all they tell us is what we want to hear.  That’s disturbing on so many levels—but the one that disturbs me the most is that viewership is UP on these channels as we all align ourselves for 2020.

I did it because when the lady from Church called to tell me “Turn on  Fox News!” because Notre Dame was on fire, even after 40 days of not watching any of them, I thought to myself “I know something about you now.”

I did it because those channels are not reporting news. They are opining, which is not news. And they are opining for money which means their integrity is questionable at best and non-existent at worst.

I did it because I have noticed that people who watch these channels have lost their faith in humanity and joy in life. They are always angry, always accusing, always ready for a fight.

I did it because that was me.

I think it was probably the best way I could have spent my Lent and I am not kidding.  I learned something gnarly about myself:  how often I turned on those channels to get my “I’m right” validated.

I’m not going back. A little bit of distance has taught me that these channels want us to worship them, submit to them. And a lot of us have done it, especially the ones of us who work from home or at home or are retired. These channels are the noise running in the background of our daily lives—but what is it costing us?

Our sanity, if you ask me. Our kindness. Our faith in each other. Our faith in God. So many of us are scared, and faith-filled people aren’t scared.

You know what I’m not since I stopped watching? Scared. Angry. Suspicious. I’m not sure the world is going to hell in a handbasket. I’m not anxious.

I see love and light in the world. I see kindness and joy. I see work to do, for sure. But it’s not dire. It’s not endtimes. I believe in our ability to climb this mountain together because there is glory and goodness all around us.

All around us.

Turn them off. Just trust me and turn them off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Into the Desert–A different way to think about Lent

I have always tried to find a better way to come at Lent with my kids.

This year is no different, as we are 1 day out and Annie is settled on giving up the monkey bars.

God bless her little heart, she loves her some monkey bars.

It’s probably too much to expect a 7-year-old to be reflective, but Gabe and Kate are now old enough to learn something from Lent.

And the idea of a token “sacrifice” of chocolate or cursing for 40 days has left me wanting more. Maybe because it was always presented to me as a small thing compared to the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross.

But what if that’s the wrong way to think about it?

Nothing I can do will ever match what Jesus did for me.

On Sunday, a solid catechism Bible Scavenger Hunt from my partner teacher Megan dropped a new way to frame Lent into my lap.

All three of the Temptation stories in the Gospels tell us Jesus went into the desert after his baptism to prepare for his ministry.

Why the desert? If the goal was solitude, why not a boat on the sea for forty days? Or a trek into the mountains?

Why the desperate, relentless austerity of the desert?

Yes, it calls back to the forty days Moses spent on the Mount before receiving the Ten Commandments and the forty years the Israelites wandered after their escape from Egypt. Jesus is tempted by the devil in the desert and refutes the temptation, staying faithful to God, in contrast to both Adam and the Israelites. There’s a whole world of theological scholarship out there about these forty days.

But I’m just a mom in front of a laptop trying to figure out a way to grow faith in my kids, so I’m going with a boots on the ground application: Jesus went into the desert so he could focus.

In the desert, there are no distractions.

We are running with that this year: Focus—not on what we’re not doing, but on removing the distractions that turn us away from our relationship with God. Making our lives more like a desert for the next 40 days.

Pack up the toys, clothes, stuff that surrounds us. Clear out the clutter. Save money by forgoing nights out, expensive dinners, new things. Use less words, especially of the cursing and gossiping kind. Spend less time online wanting what we don’t have, or what someone else has. Spend less time watching news that is designed to scare, addict, divide. Reject all the ways we are tempted, as the devil tried to tempt Jesus, by the things of this world.

Practice simplicity. Prayer. Contemplation. Fasting.

Listen for the angels who will minister to us.

Open our hearts and hands every day to the word and will of God.

This will be our Lent, our walk in the desert. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.
After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
Matthew 4:1-2

The Moon

Have you ever been loved well by someone? So well that you are secure that person will receive you and will forgive your worst fault? That’s the kind of security the soul receives from God. When the soul lives in that kind of security, it is no longer occupied with technique. We can go back and do the rituals, the spiritual disciplines, but they are no longer idolatrously followed. We don’t condemn people who don’t do it our way. All techniques, rituals and spiritual disciplines are just fingers pointing to the moon.

But the moon is the important thing, not the pointing fingers.

~ Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs

We are entering the end of Lent and Holy Week is fast approaching. This is a Christian’s most sacred time, when all our pretensions should be stripped away, and we reach for the poor, the humble, the hurting both outside and inside ourselves.

Don’t get distracted by the pointing fingers. Everything we need is inside of us. Just look to the moon.

Because what is the moon?

A bright light shining in the darkness.

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The Promise of Spring ~ Dana

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So, it’s been a while.  And I have wanted to write this great post about the symbolism of Spring and Easter, about the daffodils and the tulips pushing their way up through the ground to greet the first days of spring, about the warming earth, about the days lengthening into summer after the equinox.  But it just didn’t come.

I blamed my writer’s block on kids, stomach flu.  You know, life.  And as I was talking to Jen about it, she, as a good committee member should, told me the real truth.  “Maybe you haven’t written your spring piece because you just don’t feel like writing about life and regeneration and renewal.”  Boom, baby.  Truth.

Since Halloween night, I’ve watched my dad waste away to 120 lbs at the hands of chemotherapy.  He missed the birth of my second daughter.  We’ve missed holidays, birthdays, and just every days.  This week he’ll be heading to San Diego for two months to undergo a stem cell transplant.  How can I write about Spring, hope, and life, when I’m watching and fearing his death?

But on Easter morning, I had an epiphany.  While on Facebook, nonetheless.  I was up early with the baby and I felt pretty sorry for myself.  I would miss seeing my mom and dad again.  Another holiday missed.

I settled down on the couch with my phone and began to read my Facebook news feed.  Glennon from Momastery updated her status with the following: “Easter means that nothing is too dead to live again. Underneath the frozen, barren ground a seed is pushing its way toward the light. We can’t see it, but it’s there just the same. Friday comes and we cry. Saturday we wait. Sunday we REJOICE.”

Suddenly I couldn’t stop the tears.  NOTHING is too dead to live again.  Nothing.  In the depths of my sadness, these words were a small pinhole of light. This is the symbolism of Spring.  The tip of the equinox means that days are filled with more light and warmth.

And hope.

Before all of our modern conveniences, Spring’s warmth meant health. It meant that the cows had their nutritious milk.  It meant longer days for farming.  It meant the return of the crops.  All of these things brought the hope of life that winter’s cold stole all too easily.

Perhaps underneath his frozen, barren ground, he is pushing his way toward the light.

We have passed our fall and winter, literally and figuratively.  And Friday has come and gone and we have cried.  But when those cells are transplanted, they will be his own little Spring tulips and daffodils, pushing their way to the surface.  It’s true that we are in the Saturday wait.  And waiting sucks.  We wait and we pray.  But Spring shows us renewal with the return of the sun, and promises us the hope of life.

The Best Dang Caesar Salad Ever* ~ Jen

Grace

I was 18 when I first ate this salad at my teammate’s home over Winter Break. Like so many of the best things we eat, there was no written recipe for this salad. Her mom “just knew” how to do it. So one time, I showed up early for a party at their house to watch her do her stuff. I’ve been making it ever since.

We’re sharing it now because it is a magnificent accompaniment to Easter ham. I have already been told that it is my contribution to my family’s Easter table on Sunday.

Serves six; I usually make a double.

1 large head of romaine, chopped or torn into pieces, chilled

¼ cup olive oil

1 garlic clove

1 large, juicy lemon

Grated parmesan cheese (the good stuff, not the stuff in the green can)

Worcestershire sauce

Croutons

Directions:

Crush garlic into olive oil and let sit for at least one hour (if you want some serious kick, let it sit longer than that)

To assemble salad, add olive oil with garlic, the juice of one lemon and a healthy dose of Worcestershire sauce to taste. Toss and taste. Adjust lemon, oil and sauce as needed. Toss again. Add pepper to taste, parmesan cheese and croutons. Serve.

MmmMmmmGood!

Approximate nutritional information:

Calories: 142; fat 11.2; cholesterol 7; sodium 209; carbs 7.2; protein 4.2; vitamin A 6%; calcium 11%; vitamin C 9%; iron 3%

Happy Easter!

*In my family, this salad goes by the name of Bad A**. As in “Hey, will you make Bad A** for Easter dinner?” I tend to go strong with the garlic.  But we’re not trying to offend anyone here. So feel free to call it what you like.

Revival ~ Jen

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Our church does a Revival during Lent. I’ve never been, but the picture in my head was a version of the movie style tent Revival—songs, scripture, Spirit. Loud and joyful.

This year I decided to go, looking for some Lenten feel good. The speaker was a young, hip missionary named Ennie Hickman. You can see his website here. He rocks.

Within five minutes, he was inside my spiritual kitchen, talking about the sad state of the world and how Christians are instinctually, compassionately, emotionally moved to help. I was feeling it. Loving others, helping others. Here comes Easter, when Jesus gave the Greatest Help of All. Bring it, brother. Call me to help.

Except  Ennie said this: “We don’t get to heaven by helping others. We get to heaven by belonging to God.”

Whaaaaat?

This is a Revival! I’m not here to talk about my personal relationship with God. I want to talk about how I can score double bonus points by helping others during Lent.

“You know when people come to your home for the first time, and you show them around? Do you open the closets? Or look under the beds? Right? Because that’s where we hide stuff. We present the home we want people to see. What do you do when you welcome God into your heart? Do you open the closets and show what you’re hiding?”

Oh wow. So when you say Revival, you don’t mean fluffy, feel good, pump us up for being people of God. You mean down and dirty in the muck, shine the light and find some Truth.

Well, all right then.

I think Ennie knew he had us on our heels. He gave us a moment to pray. And I noticed something, in the quiet.

Have you ever felt like gravity increased and grounded you in a moment, holding you right there, where you needed to be?

It happened to me at Revival.

The idea of walking away from the belief that helping others comes before helping myself. Even though it feels counter-intuitive, it’s true. I have to be right with God before I can serve others.

The idea that we can’t only show God the lovely parts. We have to open the closet doors. God already knows what is in there, but he wants us to show Him, to lay it all at His feet. Then He will show us that even so, we are worthy of love, and He loves us.

The idea that my intentions in helping others are important. I can’t tap dance my way to distracting God by helping others. I can’t help to cover up or polish what’s in my closet. I have to help from a place of good intention towards the other and not towards myself; I can’t use helping others to fill what’s missing in my own heart.

The idea that I can walk away from the stress of the world, to take care of myself. I don’t have to be driven by anxiety. I don’t have to worry about the upheaval, the strife, the suffering. God is Here. He will handle it.

I went to church this week to feel good about myself and my faith. I came away knowing that I have some housecleaning to do.

Good thing Lent is a time of Reflection and Repentance. Those are heavy words.

As it turns out, so is Revival.