Category Archives: Lent Series

Let’s Not Check Our Brains at the Door

I have attended church on a weekly basis for the majority of my life. It has never been my nature to check my brain at the door. So, you can imagine my frustration when intelligent people assume that if a message comes from the pulpit is it ordained by God. Here are a couple of the challenging issues facing the church today.

When Service is Selfish

The Myths of Multiculturalism in Church

Where do you see people putting their heads in the sand?

I Must Confess

I will admit that although I have been a United Methodist for most of my adult life the one thing I miss about my Presbyterian/Calvinist upbringing is a good Prayer of Confession.

Here are a couple I came across today while studying for my upcoming class.

You are the giver of all good things.
All good things are sent from heaven above,
rain and sun,
day and night,
justice and righteousness,
bread to the eater and
seed to the sower,
peace to the old,
energy to the young,
joy to the babes.

We are takers, who take from you,
day by day, daily bread,
taking all we need as you supply,
taking in gratitude and wonder and joy.

Marking Time

A spiritual practice that has come to the surface frequently for me is marking time.  I do this in several different ways, but I do find that there is one rule that makes it a meaningful practice for me.  I mark my time with people and events that I love and that give me hope and I consciously try to release the marked time of people and events that bring me sorrow and despair.  I say release and not forget because I do not think it is fair to have to forget those moments but each time those moments come we can acknowledge them hold them briefly and then release them to God, to the world, to the heavens….wherever you imagine they go.

This has become a crucial spiritual practice in my adult life but I think I could have benefitted a lot had I had the insight as a teenager.  What in the heck do I mean by marking time?  Let me try to explain.

I mark moments in my day with certain pauses, prayer (when I say prayer….it is usually a brief, ‘thank you’) in this context, certain times of the day/week/month/year conjure certain memories and even smells and sounds.  I stop to remember why, and I create time and space to spend certain time with certain people.  Here are a few examples.  When I pick my children up from school and they run out the door to tell me about their day, it reminds me of the times I could not wait to see my mom, waiting for me and ready to listen to the daily drama of a teenage girl’s life.  Friday night is always date night even if we have the kids home with us, we are not getting along, we are exhausted.  It is always time marked for us.  Thanksgiving is always the day that I found out I was going to be a mother.  So even in years when I have struggled to be thankful, I find myself smiling all day thinking about Thanksgiving 2004.  The 14th of each month is my special “Nathan” day because we share birthday numbers.  The tornado siren that goes off every Saturday at noon is always “the noon whistle” signaling it is time for our family to figure out lunch.  I could go on and on.

The more difficult part of this spiritual practice is the second part, releasing the marked time of people and events that bring me sorrow and despair.  Most of this relates to my mother, her illness and wishing she was still around to know my adult self and my children.  This marked time comes every spring.  I still wake up on my birthday in April and think it is my ____ birthday to not have my mom.  Memorial weekend is no longer the time I wish my parents happy anniversary, but the weekend we held her funeral.  Again, this list could go on and on, but with some intentionality I can turn these times back into moments of hope.

I think this is an important part of Lent.  Not forgetting the sadness and despair of the crucifixion but moving forward to the resurrection.  Knowing that this is how life cycles and that we get to choose how we mark time.  I will never forget May 17-22, 2009 but I can move forward and know that there is still a lot of room for redemption.

Everything Is Awesome

I love, love, loved the Lego Movie.  I am not usually a kid movie person.  They are ok, but if the grandparents want to take the kids, I am A-OK with that.  However, on our 9th snow day this winter I was out of ideas to keep the kids from climbing the walls and we went to a movie.

I could go on and on about different aspects of the movie, but my favorite part was the song Everything Is Awesome.  I am sure everyone has a family member who silently blesses you with this attitude.  Currently my favorite are people’s Facebook posts.  No offense but no one’s life is as perfect as it appears on Facebook.

“Everything is better when we stick together
Side by side, you and I gonna win forever, let’s party forever 
We’re the same, I’m like you, you’re like me, we’re all working in harmony”

This song also resonated with me and the idea(s) that surround church.  I believe in a loving and compassionate God, but I also believe that church can be marred with ideas, fake art, platitudes, and sometimes even people.  Yes, I said it.  Pray for me please.  So, why does the church go to such extremes to convince us that Everything Is Awesome?

Here are just a few things online that I am talking about.

  1. Small Groups — The more successful small groups a church has, the more successful it is.  Sorry but House Churches Aren’t the Answer 
  2. United Methodists all get along because not raising a fuss is what makes us United Methodist.  An Open Letter to the Mad Methodists 
  3. Perfect Churches have hip bands, edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall, a pastor who wears skinny jeans, an updated Web site that includes online giving, just to name a few.  Why Millennials are Leaving the Church 
  4. Our Church does good things….we are perfect.  (This one is a bit tongue in cheek but you get the picture.)  Local Church Full of Brainwashed Idiots Feeds Town 
  5. All Christians agree on what Biblical Marriage Means  In which I Disagree… 

Again, the solution is easy.  Think and ask the hard questions.


Let it Crumble

I am working on a series for my church that is going to look at some hard questions and challenges individuals to do what we all resist and that is to think for ourselves.  The idea is to give ourselves permission so that we can ask the hard questions.  I am doing this through looking at social media, blogs, podcasts, etc. and debates that are taking place now.  It is easy to look at issues that were discussed and generally agreed upon in the past, but the issues of today can hard and divisive.  So, during Lent, I will try to post some of these issues here on R&TM.  I hope to be as unbiased as possible with the selection of interviews and articles.  If you are looking for a way to challenge yourself this Lenten Season, follow along and give your input.  If you have thought provoking and challenging blogs, interviews, etc. feel free to share them.

Today’s Lenten Look comes from an interview with Sharon Baker on the Nomad Podcast.  You may listen to it HERE and if you want a thoughtful post about the interview, check out the Nomad Blog post HERE.  There is also a summary of Baker’s book on the Huff you can check out HERE.  Full disclosure….I do not consider myself a Universalist and I have not read her entire book Raizing Hell, but it she makes some really good points and more than that, she asks some good questions.

Q:  What do you say to someone who has the insecurity to ask “if the house of cards of faith I have built starts to crumble when you start asking these questions, what should I do”?

A:  “Let it crumble…..Then, you will have faith instead of absolute certainty….Trust God to rebuild it.”

On that note…..Happy Ash Wednesday!