Tag Archives: lent

A Vulnerable Post

I loved this post this morning (again at Jessica’s blog, this time written by her friend Constance–also, is it just me or do a lot of cool people live in Texas????). And it got me thinking about all the ways I strive to NOT make myself vulnerable in my life.

I can’t really write about the nitty gritty details of working with refugees on the internets, for many reasons. Suffice it to say, in some of the populations I am in contact with, the amount of sadness and oppression is threatening to swallow me whole. On Sunday I cried all throughout the service, feeling so powerless. And then, of course, there was this amazing sermon on prayer and I left feeling empowered and determined to keep going.

 

Besides the emotional toll of living life with people (some of who are in desperate and tragic circumstances), sometimes I am overwhelmed by how petty I can be when it comes to giving up stuff.

 

It can be simple, like the fact that I am really careful not to cook beef whenever my Hindu friends are over (which is becoming more and more common). Or that I now mentally budget in a “hospitality” section under grocery money, for fruit and biscuits when people drop by. Or how I have to keep my apartment cleaner for the same reason (when really, I am fine with living in a certain amount of filth messiness, i.e. you can’t ever see my bedroom floor). I have to grind my own spices in order to make chai the way people like it.

How I have to let go of schedules and preferences for my own daughter in the presence of others (it seems someone is always shoving something sugary in her mouth). I (sometimes) dress her in the princess-themed sweat suits that my neighbors/students love to buy her but make me cringe.

I try hard to dress modestly at all times, but sometimes I would like to waltz around in yoga pants and a tank top and call it good. I glance at fashion blogs now and then but despair when I realize 90% of fashionable clothes need to be modified to make them refugee appropriate. So I give up and wear jeans and sweatshirts all the time.

I scrimp and save and work part-time and am quite vocal about doing without and work towards being more of a giver and not such a hoarder, and then I go and sit in my neighbors apartments and silently covet the iphones they were coerced into buying but don’t know how to use, the $200 water coolers that every family now inexplicably owns, marvel at their derision towards any car that doesn’t look brand-new. I am jealous, sometimes, of their things, have a little pity party for myself every now and again.

 

It is amazing how small-minded I can be. How it is a constant struggle, to close myself off and live as selfishly as I want.

 

There are winds changing in our future, directions being pursued where our lives would have to change even more drastically. What would be hard for me to give up? (I already know some of the answers: coffee every morning, bi-annual trips to H&M, Mad Men). Now I am in the process of analyzing why it would be so hard for me to give up these things. And how sad it would be if these trappings kept me from bringing the kingdom of God.

 

Does anyone else think like this too? Did Lent dredge up any surprises for you?

What would be hard for you to give up?

 

PS: Tomorrow I am posting a Holy Week(end) Playlist. So stay tuned!

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Holy Week

Maybe it is just a sign of where I am at in my life, but I am so excited about Holy Week. This has been a rough couple of weeks, and things with the refugees that I work with are very, very hard right now. The darkness seems to be pushing pretty hard right now, and I feel all shaky and powerless.

And then yesterday I remember that this is Holy Week. So I am praying, thinking, dreaming about all the things Christ did. It puts things in perspective.

 

 

When I was a kid, I loved Palm Sunday. Some of my favorite Sunday School memories revolve around that holiday: making the palm fronds out of construction paper and waving them around, marching in a circle and shouting “Hosannah!”, thinking about donkeys.  I loved that people were being so nice to Jesus, falling all over themselves to welcome him into their city.

Now, it is such a confusing day for me. Thinking about how people loved Jesus until they suddenly didn’t, about how Jesus must have felt while riding on that donkey. How he knew, he knew, what was coming mere days later. Palm Sunday to me seems like one of the saddest days of the year. There it is, written down: our fickle, selfish human hearts on display for all to see. How we love Jesus until we realize how much he wants us to love others, and then we discard him. How I wave my branch for him until life doesn’t go my way and I turn to myself for answers. I am a palm sunday person: I sing Hosannah, and then I turn around and demand Christ’s death.

 

And oh, how he died. I don’t like to think about it all the time, but this week it is inescapable.

And I am truly seeing the beauty in it, the wonder of experiencing the palms and the cross and the resurrection together, not rushing through one to get to the other, but really experiencing the width and breadth of the story of God saving us.

 

that mystery the Jews traduce, the Greeks deride, but we adore. For it is a fact that the more unbelievers pour scorn on him, so much the more does he makes his Godhead evident. Thus by what seems his utter poverty and weakness on the cross he overturns the pomp and parade of idols, and quietly and suddenly wins over the mockers and unbelievers to recognize him as God.

–Fourth-century bishop Athanasius of Alexandria (from the reading from Common Prayer today)

 

And that is how he is winning over my life, slowly but surely. I love him because he first loved me, as evidenced by this week.

 

So will I do anything different this week? I will create a space for more prayer. I will read the stories from Holy week, and I will not shy away from the grief. I will meditate. I will listen to Keith Green. I will not buy into any Easter-related nonsense (and if you aren’t with me on this one, please read this amazing blog post by Jen Hatmaker). I will dwell on the utter poverty and weakness and be amazed that this is who I follow. And I will celebrate hard core on Sunday.

 

Happy Holy week, ya’ll.

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spring sabbath

ah, spring break. it started for me today, after i sent in my column, made an edit for another magazine, and turned in all of my grades (don’t i sound fancy and grown-up?).

tonight, the baby went to bed very very early. she is teething, and i do believe i witnessed my first real tantrum. but in good news, she finally has become attached to a stuffed animal (in this case a panda bear that my parents got for her when she was a garden gnome very small). When she is done with the nighttime routine (reading 3 books, singing “twinkle, twinkle” 3x, praying to Jesus), she now points to her crib, lays down, and clutches her panda tight. it is these little picturesque moments that make me so happy i could die.

so i am going to celebrate. in a couple of days me and some girls are going to a cabin on the coast (no husband or baby for 2 days–which has never been done!). i like that this is happening during the no-stress lent week. i think i will have plenty of solitude and time to pray. a nice, long sabbath.

and tonight, i celebrate in my own way. a Y/A novel by l’engle. a sip of bourbon. some chocolate. and asleep in bed by 9pm, if all goes well.

spring break! i get so crazy, right?

 

 

ps. my cousin amy just posted this picture to fb and it made my entire night:

this is my niece. a more beautiful baby you would be hard-pressed to find (and i am including my own here). amy, can you come over and take pictures of my baby? because when ever i do only her cray-cray side comes out.

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The Great Lent Experiment (or, our own “mutiny against excess”)

Edit: Read about Week 1: Food here!

 

A couple of weeks ago I read this book: 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker. It was an awesome kick in the pants, a sort of Shane Claiborne for non-hippies (no disrespect Shane, I just don’t like big, billowy earth-toned clothes). In it, the author embarks on a journey of cutting through excess in order to live a more kingdom-like life, one where she knows the needs of the poor (and the poor themselves) and becomes an active partner in meeting their needs. Pretty wonderful stuff. The book is written almost like a blog, and is very relatable while still being extremely challenging. As someone who experienced a similar “conversion” from safe (and doctrinally focused) Christianity to a life spent wrestling with issues and living on the fringe, I related to the moments of grief, righteous anger, selfishness, insanity, and humor that inject the stories of her months spent “doing without”. Please, read this book. I have a copy, my mom has a copy, my best friend has a copy. Just ask!

So . . .

Lent is coming up. Before I even read 7 I went off Facebook, and halfway through reading the book I had already given away half of my clothes (and that of my small family) and made a commitment not to step inside a thrift store for the month of February (which is where we buy all of our clothes now, but it still seems like we are buying in order to do or be someone). But I have this nagging feeling like all of this tension in our hearts is coming right around the time we are supposed to set aside the things that distract us and anxiously await our redemption in Christ.

And thus: The Great Lent Experiment (aka our own “mutiny against excess”) was born.

My friend Haley and I were talking and we thought it would be cool to approach Lent in a more holistic way–targeting different aspects of our lives that we would like to submit to Christ. We put together a skeleton of an outline which we hope to flesh out here in the next couple of weeks (for all the non-high-church spazzes like me, Lent starts next Wednesday, the 22nd). Using the elements found in 7 (the book), we are taking a long cold look at the following areas: food, possessions, media, spending, and stress (in the book Jen also targets clothing and waste, but we put clothing in with possessions and live in the Pacific NW where recycling is like breathing).

And we want you to join in. Take a deep breath, and be prepared to have our hearts change as we slowly make our lives look a little bit more like Christ. 

In order to make it more do-able, we will target each area for a week. If you feel so inclined, feel free to abstain from certain elements (buying new clothes, eating out) for the entire 6 weeks of Lent. We chose 5 categories, but there are 6 weeks of Lent. Feel free to build in “cheat” days (for a birthday or some other reason), or use the last week to go back and refocus on an area that still needs to be worked on in your life.

There is no condemnation and judgment if you don’t want to participate (or if you break the “rules”). Rather, we are approaching this as an exciting time to break free from the tyranny of endless consumerism that is the hallmark of the modern American dream. We are excited for creating the space for God to move in our hearts by giving up of our time and resources. We are excited to model our lives to look the kingdom of Heaven, and to invite others to participate.

Confession: I have always been really “bad” at Lent. For the first time, I am super excited about all this. I think being in a community of people who are talking and praying and fasting together will really help. So, if you would like to be a part of this experiment in any way, please leave a comment letting me know. Also, if you have any ideas on prayer/practical fasts, please don’t hesitate to add to the content. 

So here is the basic outline:
Week one: Food
For this week, focus on how much you normally spend on eating: going out to restaurants, getting coffee, and even grocery shopping. Much of the world is living on $2 a day, but we spend much more than that on a single latte. Commit to limiting your food choices and your spending, and at the end of the week you should have cleared our some space in your pantry and freezer, and also be left with a nice sum of money (which we would then encourage you to donate to people in need).

Practical fast:
No eating out/drinking coffee out
Eat from your pantry/freezer
Limit grocery shopping as much as possible. If this means several dinners of beans and rice, then so be it. Enjoy the feeling of solidarity with the majority world!

Prayer focus:
Pray for those with limited access to food and clean drinking water.

Week two: Possessions:
In this week we will focus on both clothing and possessions. Focusing on reducing our clothes allows us to free from the tyranny of fashion and trying to impress people. Focusing on reducing our possessions will allow us to de-clutter our lives and highlight what we truly need to live in the kingdom of God. Set aside extra time in this week to go through your house and be prepared to get rid of a lot! As we reduce our possessions we should also look to a future where re-using, recycling, and doing without becomes our new normal. Stuff will never make us happy.

Since this is not only about living a more simple life but also doing with less so that others can have more, we would like to do a community garage sale at the end of Lent with all the proceeds going directly to an organization that helps those in need (more to come on the organization at a later time). If garage sales aren’t your thing, feel free to donate to a women’s shelter or a local clothing closet or better yet–give it to people you know that are in need.

Practical Fasts:
Clothes:
Sort through your clothes (and your families clothes) and reduce by ⅓-½. There is no need to hoard when so many people in America are struggling to clothe their families.
Make a commitment to not buy new clothes for the week (or, for the rest of Lent).
Note: If you do choose to purchase clothes between now and Lent, consider shopping at        thrift stores.
Possessions:
Do not buy any new possessions this week.
Commit to weed through your possessions. Tackle different areas on different days. If at all possible, save items for a garage sale. Areas to target include:
Kitchen
Bath
Books
Toys
Decorations

Prayer Focus:
Pray for the church to become less materialistic, and pray for Christ’s rule and reign in our hearts. Pray for our gospel to become bigger than success, and pray that we would get to know our less fortunate brothers and sisters.

Week three: Media:
We are a culture that loves to be entertained. How much more space for others (and God) can we create by shutting off all of our devices for a week? This will be a great chance to practice old-fashioned community and hospitality. Fill up the silence with good things: worship music, good books, coffee with friends, or just hanging out with your family.

Practical Fasts:
Commit to a week without media: no facebook, twitter, pinterest, television (hulu) or movies.
Limit cell phone and e-mail usage

Prayer: Use this week to focus on communicating with God, allowing silence and a space for listening in your relationship. Use your downtime to get together with other Lenten observers and pray together in true community!

Week four: Spending
This week we will look at all our little justifications for spending money squarely in the eye. By curbing our own spending, we can better identify with our brothers and sisters throughout the world who have little or no money to spare. Limit all spending this week: food, drink, restaurants, entertainment, possessions: put a hold on all  them.

Practical Fasts:
Pick one grocery store (preferably local), one gas station, one all-purpose store (obviously if you have bills to pay, you should do that). Don’t spend money anywhere else.
Invite people over for coffee, and watch old movies that you already own. Be creative!

Prayer:
This week will be another chance to repent of the idols in our life and to refocus our priorities on the kingdom of God. The Bible is full of passages on social and economic justice that we can look to for encouragement and support as we learn to do without.

Week five: Stress
Use this week as a chance to get rid of stress, and to identify those areas of your life where you are holding on to anxiety. The most crucial element of this week is to find a time to spend in prayer for significant portions of the day. As we learn to relinquish control and let God be in charge, we will no longer let our lives be ruled by stress.

Practical Fasts:
Commit to picking a space for every day where you commit to spend time in prayer.
Pick one day to be a Sabbath for you and your family and find your rest in Him. (Variations on the Sabbath abound–we would encourage a time for prayer and joy and rest and solitude, whatever that might look like for your family).

Prayer:
Use resources like the book of Common Prayer for ideas on when and what to pray.

So, starting next Wednesday I will look at each category weekly and probably write some of my thoughts down on the topic as well. I would encourage you to do the same, no matter what kind of fast you are being called to. 

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