Tag Archives: lent

It’s Not About the Chocolate: Grace and self improvement in the season of Lent.

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“Eat Chocolate” Caged By Freedom

It is Ash Wednesday and throughout the day and the week my friends and I will be bantering back and forth about what we intend to give up for the season of lent.  The list will inevitably include more and less brave endeavors.  After many years of self-discovery, I now try to keep my personal commitments, ahem, modest.

Lately I have begun to think that our lenten choices are beginning to feel more and more like new year’s resolutions than spiritual exercises: quit smoking, exercise, skip dessert, drink less, eat more broccoli…  And if I happen to loose a couple pounds along the way, so be it.    Self control and discipline are good and praise worthy, but I do have to wonder if that kind of discipline really needs God.  If our lenten practices have become mere efforts of will power and self-help then I am pretty sure we are still missing out on the transformative power of this kind of fasting can be: grace.  Continue reading

Five Un-truths of Easter


There are somethings we can mistakenly embrace about Easter that distract us from the real hope that can help shape our lives.  These things are worth evaluating, not to deflate us, but to focus us on where the real hope lies. Continue reading

The Impossible Will Take A Little While.

It is harder than it looks to know how to take Easter. On the one hand it feels like an easy home run, a touchdown, a triumphal entry.   But those were the kinds of thing we were celebrating last week. How then is this week different?   For one thing it amazes how few people  to whom Jesus appeared after the resurrection.

The first to arrive.

One would think he would be taking out billboards all over town that said, “I told you so!”  but he doesn’t.    The first to see Jesus would be the last we would expect.   It was not the disciples, not even his family, but one of the worst outcasts of all of his company: Mary Magdalene.

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“Unless our Hopes Fall to the Ground and Die” — We have some grieving to do, but not for Jesus.

The Gospel of Mark is my favorite.  I especifically  love the eighth chapter.   It is hysterical.  I still find myself being caught off guard and LOL-ing sometimes.
The disciples are dolts.  They have the hardest time learning the most obvious lessons.  Jesus goes and feeds several thousand, gets on a boat with them, and suddenly they are afraid Jesus will be mad because the didn’t pack a lunch.  Zheesh.  In that same chapter Jesus heals this man in a most unusual way and he has to do it twice.  Either Jesus is losing his touch or Mark is writing to try to be be obvious: We don’t see clearly yet.   The first time Jesus touches the blind man he sees part way. ” I see people, like trees walking around.”   I get that.  That makes sense to me.  If he is still half blind, then he is not wrong.  But there is more to be seen and it will be a shocker.   So don’t stop now…

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“How many hands does it take to wash two feet? All of ours”: One of the defining moments of my life.

John’s body was less like mine than anyone else’s in the room.  In that room full of people with some very unique bodies and abilities, that was saying a lot.   Everything in this particular prayer service was going to have a lot to do with what bodies can and cannot do, and how we live with that.  It was this night I found and answered a new question:, “How many bodies it take to wash two feet?”  Answer: All of ours. Continue reading

Five Things I Will Never Give Up for Lent.

Lent is pulling into the station and Holy week is just about to begin. I think there are lessons and moments of clarity I have discovered this year just by slowing some things down and cutting some things out. Part of what I have learned about the careful dance between God’s grace and our participation is the difference between trying to make things happen and making room for God and others to do things in us. I offer these in hope you can learn from my mistakes.  These are some of my lenten attempts that, surprisingly, have proven to be enemies of grace. Continue reading

Then I Looked Up: The shocking revelation that plants and souls like to grow.

This year's first.

When I moved into this place its outside looked very much like my inside did.  The branches of the tall trees drooped to the ground as if to hide the house everyone knew was there.  The house kept dark. The yard looked very much like a bad case of male patterned baldness, only growing around the edges.   The backyard was in no better shape.  It was waist high in un-welcomed greenery and while I am not absolutely positive I think some of that greenery was, how shall I say, questionably legal leftovers from the previous tenants.  Toward the south was a fairly ominous twisting of dead limbs that once was a tree and now became a kind of outdoor dandruff, flaking down  little by little when provoked by even the smallest breeze.   Yeah.  My heart looked like this house.  Things were growing where they shouldn’t and things refused to grow where they were needed.  So when I started purging the untamed overgrowth, I became nervous I would never get the good stuff to live where I wanted it to. Continue reading

How to Drive Out Snakes: Lessons from a guy who wasn’t even Irish.

Saint Patrick

Saint Patrick (Photo credit: elycefeliz)

The story is not so ironic as just surprising because it has been so long forgotten.  St Patrick’s particular story of redemption, the reason he is considered a saint, is so mashed up with corned beef and green beer that when we finally do hear it does seem a little surprising. In fact just like the story of St. Valentine it can actually sound surprisingly subversive.  The big reveal that makes the story so interesting is simply this: St. Patrick wasn’t Irish.  In fact, he had good reason to hate them. Continue reading

What Withered Hands Can Heal: How John’s profoundly disabled body kept me in the game.

John’s body was less like mine than anyone else’s in the room.  In that room full of people with some very unique bodies and abilities, that was saying a lot.   It was the end of a weekend I spent on retreat with L’Arche, which is a set of communities of people with disabilities and the people who choose to build a life with them.

A picture of another celebration at L'Arche Antigonish, Canada

L’Arche retreats are celebrations that, in some ways, put Burning Man to shame in creating an environment where everyone can unapologetically  be themselves.  I knew the people in room were experts in living with unique limitations and gifts, but I still could not imagine how the evening would unfold in a way that John could fully play along. Continue reading

Help Me Get This Sadness Out My House. A Story About Rubber Gloves and Grace.

Years ago I got caught in a pretty debilitating depression.  I let things snowball to a point I felt I had little or no refuge left. Every part of life looked bleak including my own bedroom.     On weekends I would lie in bed all day and look at piles of laundry, fast food wrappers, stacks of unopened bills and just junk.   Blech.  It literally made it hard to get out of bed in the morning (or sometimes in the afternoon). One could sprain an ankle on the way to the bathroom.  At one point it became difficult for me to imagine that the room would ever be clean. I would lie in bed and pray, “please, someone come and get this sadness out my house.”  To my great surprise, one time, someone did. Continue reading