February 2009


Here are some great lent resources and guides to help navigate this sacred season.

Christine Sine – Mustard Seed Associates: A Journey Into Wholeness: A Lenten Reflection Guide

Richard Rohr – Center for Action and Contemplation: Journey Into Lent

Frank Ramirez – Upper Room Ministries: Lenten Devotional

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: 2009 Lenten Reflections and Worship Resources

Lenten Daily Calendar: Evangelical Community Church

General Information and other great link pages…

The Text This Week

Per Christum

My only caution is this.  Do something, it is so easy to get overwhelmed by the number of great resources.  Find what fits and then wear it for 40 days and let this season change and impact your life.

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How can you not like a book that begins in the prologue with this quote?41okvydm4rl_sl500_aa240_

It is about a God of surprises, of One who comes in ordinary and the seamy.  It is about a God who will goose you.  It is about mystical moments when clearly the only thing that finally matters is this God who will never leave us alone, especially in the ordinary and angular places of life.  It is, I hope, a spirituality for unspiritual people.

A God that will goose you… what  a refreshing picture.  This book, Earthy Mysticism by Tex Sample is a breath of fresh air.  What it inspired me again was the idea that there is a God of surprises, a God who deals with the icky affairs of life.  It reminds me that the Old Testament is akin more to a modern day soap opera than the highly refined religiousness that we like to imprint on it.  And that is my life and the lives of those around me.  

Tex shares stories of his life that hint at the tragedy and injustices and hopes and dreams that real life is made of.

The sub title for this book is titled, “Spiritually for Unspiritual People”.  If one thing that I am convinced of is that there are very few spiritual people.  Come on, let’s just admit the reality, we are unspiritual people.  The life stories represented in this book rekindles the hope for a spirituality that would come regardless of my deservedness.  A spirituality that is and intersects life in unexpected places.

Tex shares a story about the height of the civil rights movement.  He tells his experience of joining Martin Luther King on his march from Selma to Montgomery.  This story is amazing, a must read for sure.  Another chapter ends like this…

Protest implies that the world is meant to be different.  The world is not created for futility and death.  It is not a place finally of cynicism and despair.  The silence and absence of God point to a different destiny, a different aim for the world.  Death, bondage and alienation do not have the last word.  The world doe snot end that way.  In this strange and paradoxical sense, I see God’s grieving, absent Silence as good news.

That is good news that we need to hear more from.

A hardline Hindu organisation, known for its opposition to “corrupting” Western food imports, is planning to launch a new soft drink made from cow’s urine, often seen as sacred in parts of India.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), or National Volunteer Corps, said the bovine beverage is undergoing laboratory tests for the next 2 to 3 months but did not give a specific date for its commercial release.

The flavour is not yet known, but the RSS said the liquid produced by Hinduism’s revered holy cows is being mixed with products such as aloe vera and gooseberry to fight diseases such as diabetes and cancer.

Hmmm, and what flavors will they come out with?  Dr. Hayer, Cow Zero, Utters-Up, Bovine Dew?

But really is this just another disguised attempt at using fundamentalist and religious fervor to conceal the true motive of capitalism?  Never mind throwing in the health benefits angle.  Who ever these guys are they are brilliant.  Combining hate for the West, religious idealism and health consciousness.  Wow, now that is a recipe for instant success.  One just has to get past the part about drinking cow urine…

We may scoff at such products.  But are our Jesus dolls, scripture mints(at least they are sugar free) and the latest Purpose Driven Life for Your Grandchildren installment any different.  We package things that sell.  What really is the difference between cow urine soda or the talking Jesus doll?  Don’t both use our religious sentiments to sell a products.  

And this is the one reason why christianity and capitalism should always walk away from each other and not beside each other, holding hands, walking into the sunset.  For if christianity and capitalism walk embracingly into the sunset, I fear that the darkness will be a night that we may not survive.  At least as we know it.  And maybe that is a good thing…

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I received my son’s school newsletter and it had the following compelling information…

Of course, who hasn’t felt better after tending their tomato plants or walking in the park? But a growing body of scientific studies suggests even passive contact, like glimpsing nature from the window of a speeding car or looking at a picture of nature, can be as therapeutic as physically being in the midst of it. The bottom line: Nature can provide nurture — for the young, old, healthy, and sick. It can nurture those in a car, a hospital, a dorm room, and even a prison.

The problem is that directed attention is a finite resource-everyone has expiereinced the fatigue of taking a test or a big project at work.  Attention restoration theory suggests that walks in nature and views of green space capture our involuntary attention, giving our directed attention a needed rest.  ” We advocate that children be given views of green space from the classroom,”  Dr. Faber Taylor said.  ” We’ve done research on children in public housing that shows the ones who have a green view perform better on a broad range of tasks.”  

Why does nature have this kind of power?

“We have two kinds of attention,” says Andrea Faber Taylor, an environmental psychologist and postdoctoral research associate at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. “Directed, attention, which we use when driving or doing our taxes, for example, is effortful and gets tired. When directed attention is fatigued, we feel trashed and it’s hard to make good decisions and to inhibit one’s impulses.

Faber Taylor says the best way to restore directed attention is by giving it a rest and relying on our second type of attention.

“Involuntary attention is what we use when we stop thinking in an effortful way, like when we watch a fire or meditate,” she says. “Looking at nature is soothing and undemanding of our attention. This uses our involuntary attention, enabling directed attention to rest and recover.”

If you are a typical Western evangelical you are likely experiencing Direct Attention Fatigue.  You have heard so many sermons, teachings, things to do and things not to do, ways of praying, ways of not praying.  If you are a faithful church goer that means you have heard on average of 52 sermons each year.  If you have been in the church for 20 years that means that you have heard approximately 1040 sermons (this does not include Sunday evening services, podcasts, books, tapes and the list goes on).  WE ARE TIRED, FATIGUED, THEOLOGICALLY STUFFED TO THE GILLS.  

What we need is some Attention Restoration.  

It appears that God also believes in the Attention Restoration Theory.  If you begin to look at the places where God interacts and reveals himself it consistently surrounded by nature themes.

-Walking with Adam and Eve in a garden

-Moses and 10 commandments given on top of a mountain

-Jesus baptism in the middle of a flowing river

-Transfiguration on top of hill

-Teaching moments with his disciples on a boat in the middle of a terrific storm, on a hillside sharing the beatitudes, 

Our churches need some green space.  Some park benches void of all calls to new methods, ways and the latest 40 day do this and everything will be better. Our brains need some rest and our eyes need to be re-engaged again.

We serve a God who says taste and see.  Not read and think.  

Dr. Faber Taylor notes that in adults, there is also evidence that a green view is beneficial.  “Most people recognize the pattern,” she notes.  “For so long we have ignored the effect our physical environments have on our ability to pay attention.”

If our physical environment does have a profound effect our our ability to pay attention what would this means for the architecture of our churches, bible schools and seminaries, even our homes?  Most evangelical churches and seminaries are closed, cold and windowless boxes.  (in fact now that I think of it, not one of the numerous churches I have attended had windows of any sort)  

What kind of “Green space” could be incorporated into our sacred spaces?