Category Archives: The Church Year
At Easter, we celebrate the ultimate victory of Joy over suffering. Christ is Risen! Alleluia! Death, where is your sting?
All this hoopla must look a little silly from the outside. Its hard to understand the thrill of Easter if you have not experienced the agony of Good Friday. And our current culture is not high on Good Friday. Usually, we are trying to find ways to avoid suffering. The implicit message is often that happiness results when all suffering is eliminated or successfully avoided. As Christians, however, we believe that the joy of Easter is possible precisely because of suffering. This is our model: it is by dying that we can rise to new life.
At a time in my own journey when I particularly needed it, I read a book called Hinds Feet On High Places. It is an allegorical story of the spiritual life, and the main character, Much Afraid, attempts to journey to the high mountains where The Shepherd lives. One of the things that stuck with me most is that The Shepherd chose two companions for Much Afraid to help her make it through the journey: Sorrow and Suffering. Continue reading »
A few weeks ago I was wandering around the house engaged in some task (which I can’t recall now), when I had that unsettling, terrifying feeling…the 3-year-old is not making any noise! Upon reflection I’ve realized that I tend to unconsciously keep track of him by the distant sounds of “Vroom, vroom” or other various forms of screeching, laughing, and/or crying. But silence. Silence means that he is into something he shouldn’t be! He’s quiet when he is in the bathroom putting his toothbrush in the toilet bowl or squeezing all of the toothpaste into the sink while running the faucet water perpetually. Silence with a toddler screams trouble.
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I’ve sometimes wondered what Lent must look like to a non-religious person:
- We spend one day a week not eating meat, and on a few days we skip meals altogether.
- We voluntarily deprive ourselves of good things.
- We intentionally ponder and ritualize the torture and death of our God/Leader.
- Oh, and our male leaders all dress in purple (and occasionally pink).
In this thought experiment, I can imagine the other thinking: “Those people are intentionally causing themselves to suffer. Who does that? All the sane people are trying to avoid and reduce suffering.”
Checking in with myself, I notice that often avoiding suffering is indeed my main motivation. Continue reading »
We are all broken. We think of this as our biggest liability, but the reality is that the beauty in our brokenness is overwhelming.
Cancer. Addiction. Chronic pain. Anxiety. Poor physical fitness. Depression. Job burnout. No one I know wants experiences like these, but everyone I know has some. Does that mean we are somehow diminished?
We come into the world as a small bundle of needs, completely dependent on our parents, unable to control even the movements of our limbs. We are not angels – our will is frail and flawed. Yet, as we grow, we are told to seize the day, hold the fort, take charge of our future. We are fed with illusions of control and individuality, and we begin believe that sanity consists of the ability to shape our world to our own desires. Our entertainments feature actors and athletes who are strong, beautiful, powerful. Our cultural narratives promote constant self-improvement, rising above our humble beginnings, and eliminating our flaws. We learn to fear our weaknesses as cracks in the armor that protects us from harm.
That’s all backwards. Continue reading »
I hope that you fail at your New Year’s resolutions.
Admittedly, I have never been much of one for New Year’s resolutions. I suspect, if I am being honest with myself, that one of the reasons for my avoidance is the security of knowing that if I don’t make a resolution I don’t have to fail at a resolution (or experience the unpleasant feelings of guilt and defeat that accompany repeatedly forgoing exercise for a Netflix binge). Now, I do appreciate and even envy folks that devise thoughtful and creative goals for the New Year. A fella over at Verily has written about some of his previous resolutions and they are both fun and creative. Anyway, I have been inspired to try resolutions this year. They are simple: exercise five days a week for at least 45 minutes, silent prayer for 30 minutes a day, and read one new non-school related book each month.
I hope that I fail at my New Year’s resolutions.
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“Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”
Theology of gratitude. Yesterday, on the last day of the “O Antiphons,” the beautiful and ancient recitations made the week before Christmas during Evening Prayer, we implored the Lord, “O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people: Come and set us free, Lord our God.” Well, our prayer has been heard. The Christ has come. The chorus of the popular Advent hymn enjoins us to rejoice because Emmanuel, the Savior of all people, has come and set us free. Our joy and exultation arises from this pure gratia (grace)—this undeserved gift. Derived from this notion of gratia is the word gratitude. We rejoice because we are grateful for the gift of Emmanuel, God with us—born to save us. Gratitude is the recognition of grace; it is the acknowledgment of those free and undeserving gifts that we have not earned or merited, but enjoy in our lives. Without this recognition we cannot be grateful this Christmas season, and without gratitude we cannot rejoice. Continue reading »