[Thanks to my husband for setting my mind on this track!]
There are certain “spiritual” practices that most Christians would agree are a Good Idea—practices such as reading the Bible, praying, and fellowshipping with other believers. If you stop and consider, you might add additional items to this list—meditating on God and His word, practicing hospitality, generosity (aka giving), and fasting. We often aren’t aware that those among us are fasting, but I’m sure they are. Jesus assumed his followers would fast; it just isn’t something that we’re supposed to notice. Continue reading
One of our interns from a few years ago somehow ended up on a mailing list for “Outreach” magazine. She has moved on, but the magazines keep coming. I suppose I should contact the publisher and put a stop to it all, but that requires me to be intentional. I’m not all that great at being intentional.
The target audience for this publication is the American Pastor. In addition to some interesting articles, it’s full of ads for Christian books, audio and video technology, and courses promising “Your socially-driven church management solution!” or “Double your Church Member’s Engagement!” While I have a tendency to snicker at the ads, I can imagine that some of these resources are truly a God-send to an overworked pastor who sincerely aspires to be a good shepherd.
So… the current issue just arrived. Picking it out of the mail stack, I read the cover: “100 Largest and Fastest-growing Churches in America: What Can We Learn From the Nation’s Top Churches?”
What do you think when you read that?
In the last few years, at least among those I know, there seems to be a renewed interest in the liturgical calendar and various spiritual practices, and observing Lent is once again on the radar screen. Several friends have asked me what I gave up for Lent, not to assess my spiritual maturity, but rather to get some ideas for their own observance. With no standard practice, we are pretty much open to anything—meat, TV, Facebook… whatever.
Last year I “fasted” from computer games. While I don’t think I’m addicted, I was surprised at how strong the urge was to play just a few rounds of solitaire, maybe to unwind, maybe to stay distracted while waiting for something. But I managed to resist temptation and instead used the time to read my Bible and pray. What a good idea!
This year I had in mind to do something similar, but Ash Wednesday came and went and I did nothing about it. I’m sure I can come up with a list of excuses if you email me and ask.
In my on-again, off-again series on God’s “Steps to Success” (found in 2 Peter 1:3, 5-8), I’ve been meaning to write about self control for some time, but I never knew quite how to approach the topic. Yes, in Peter’s list, “self-control” comes after knowledge—first we need to know the right thing to do, and then we need to follow through and actually do it! But how does this affect my day-to-day life?
Then last month something happened that turned this from an intellectual exercise into a personal issue.
Though Pete was out of town, I still planned to attend a special Christian concert about twenty minutes away. To get there, I had to pass through a rural area with no street lights. Since my night vision is less than optimal, I arranged a ride with another couple.
What are you giving up for Lent?
This was a familiar question in my college dorm, back in the “Jesus Freak 70s.” As a child growing up in a Catholic neighborhood (my non-religious family stuck out like a group of Hari Krishnas at a bar mitzvah), I remember all my friends forgoing meat from Ash Wednesday until Easter. Fish sticks appeared on the school cafeteria menu while brown-baggers munched peanut butter or tuna sandwiches day after day.
Somewhere along the line, non-Catholic believers decided that giving up meat wasn’t the only option. We could fast anything, as long as it had some spiritual impact on our lives. Some of my college friends gave up sugar, while others unplugged their stereos. Bring that concept into the 21st century, and we might have signed off Facebook for the duration, or stopped playing video games.