Thursday, February 23, 2012


I came across a quote from Stanley Hauerwas' commentary on Matthew while preparing for yesterday's Ash Wednesday sermon. Hauerwas, in his typically poignant way, shared how "nothing enslaves us more than that which we have convinced ourselves we cannot live without."

The words forced me to think all day yesterday about what has me enslaved. I have convinced myself that there are all kinds of things I cannot live without. In a weak moment in New York City last weekend I convinced myself that I could not live without the Tory Burch shoes I have been eyeing for more than a year. I later convinced myself that I could not live without a little frozen custard with chocolate pieces mixed in at the Shake Shack. I often convince myself on the weekends that I cannot live without a couple extra hours of sleep. I am convinced that I cannot live without coffee in the morning and Diet Coke in the afternoon. There are all kinds of things that have been added to my life and my closet because I just could not live without them at the moment. And certainly we all have sins that we have convinced ourselves we cannot live without. As a pastor I hear about sins that have us enslaved all the time. I'll let you do your own thinking here instead of naming my own.

I don't like being told that I am enslaved to anything. Being enslaved has a rather negative connotation - like being behind bars or cuffed to something powerful without a way to find the key to unlock the cuff. I can justify each of these behaviors and purchases. I am rather good at justifying my actions and even the words that come from my mouth when someone has cut me off on I-395.

But God is even better at providing the justification.

Part of my Lenten discipline is an effort to look all around me and see what I have acquired that is not really necessary. Lent is a time to get naked instead of adding layers to ourselves. It is a time to clean out instead of store on. It is a time to look deep within and see that to which we are enslaved.

We have been invited to return to God with all of our hearts. We have been invited to come back home and receive a clean slate. We are forgiven. We are loved. We are adored.

When you see me, please don't judge me for my new shoes and if we are being honest, the bag I added to match them. Please do continue to encourage me to look deep within, to use this holy season as a time of examination and reckoning. Please ask me often how it is with my soul.

I'm ready to fall in love all over again.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Making the Most of the Journey

My husband and I spent the last four days in New York City. The trip was part of Craig's Christmas present and part of my efforts to keep our marriage strong after being away a lot for work recently. I love New York and have decided that I would go once a month if I did not work weekends. We had an amazing weekend! But getting there and back was not exactly smooth. There was traffic in route to Union Station, a bummed knee in route to Penn Station, and some confusion with the map in route to our hotel. Some of the stress was repeated during our route home yesterday - enough that Craig said, "Traveling is really stressful. The destination is great but getting there and back is really hard."

Tomorrow we will start our journey to a new destination. Our journey is one of denial and one of discipleship, one of letting go and one of taking on. Our journey commences with ashes placed on our forehead as we hear the words, "From dust you came and from dust you shall return." We will then be invited to think about what makes a holy Lent - what can we do to become more fully aware of our sin and the meaning of Christ's death and resurrection. And, if we do Lent right, the journey will be anything but easy. It might require a few sacrifices - a few bumps along the way. The journey may challenge us. It might even make us mad. But if we journey with the hopes of our destination being an increased awareness of who Christ is and how Christ longs to work and is working in our lives, then we could be on the trip of a lifetime.

Perhaps you have spent much of your life giving up chocolate or Diet Coke for Lent. Want to try something new to make your journey through these next 40 days more meaningful? Here are ten ideas:

1) Write 40 notes to people - not emails but hand-written notes. Take time to let 40 people know how much your life has been blessed or enriched because of them.

2) Seek reconciliation. Who are you currently separated from as a result of an argument, a disagreement or an action? Who needs to hear the words, "I'm sorry" coming out of your mouth?

3) Embody the joy of generosity. Send a gift to a ministry that matters to you. Increase the amount you currently give to your church. Send a check to the college or seminary that shaped and formed you. What if you were to give away $4 each day or $40 a week or $40 each week of Lent?

4) Give thanks. Don't put a single bite of food into your mouth without first giving thanks to God.

5) Join a small group. Allow yourself to be shaped and formed in community with others.

6) Read scripture daily. Start with the Psalms and read one each day or pick up the Bible and turn to the Gospel of John and read one chapter a day.

7) Journal. Spend 15 minutes a day writing a prayer to God.

8) Treat your body like it is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Exercise twice as much as you currently exercise. Sign up for a new class or even start training for a run. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Refrain from smoking or drinking alcohol.

9) Watch what comes out of your mouth. Promise yourself to not cuss and refrain from talking about other people.

10) Serve others. Call a local ministry and make a commitment to serve once a week for the next six weeks.