Tag Archives: spiritual discipline

40 Notes in 40 Days

40notes40days2014Rethink Church has come up with a great Lenten discipline focusing on taking pictures of different themes.  It looks like a great spiritual discipline, and I’m looking forward to seeing the creativity that gets shared in Pinterest and other sites.  A week ago, I decided that one of my Lenten disciplines would be to write 40 notes to people in 40 days.  Inspired by Rethink Church’s effort, I created my own list.  Below is a list of 40 different people to write a note to.

There are no real rules to this idea.  This is just a way to write a note to 40 different people, and pray for them in the process.  I’ll leave the content of the note up to you.  Only share what you feel comfortable sharing with others.  For example, you don’t have to tell someone that you’re writing them a note to fill in their “might be fearful” slot, and you don’t have to offer forgiveness to the person on March 27.  Any note could be as simple as saying, “During the course of my prayers today, you came to mind.  I hope you are doing well.”

And if any readers feel compelled to take this idea, and create a better-looking picture to share, I wouldn’t mind (just please send it to me before you share it).

If you try it, and want to share experiences on twitter, use #40Notes40Days or #FatPastor.  Also, you can go to the facebook page and share on the wall.

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Thank you to two readers who took the idea, and redesigned it for me. I think either of these look a lot nicer than the one I created a couple of years ago.

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Sermon: The prayer we live

The Ancient Celts spoke of "Thin Places," where the distance between the Spiritual world and the material world was thin.  This is an interesting idea, and one I touch upon in this sermon.

The Ancient Celts spoke of “Thin Places,” where the distance between the spiritual world and the material world was thin. This is an interesting idea, and one I touch upon in this sermon.

Full audio of the sermon: The Prayer We Live

The Lord’s Prayer is one of the first things that children are taught in Sunday school.  It has been prayed by the congregation in nearly every worship service I have been a part of.  For many Christians, the words “Our Father” trigger the rest of the prayer to flow easily.  There is power in having the words of Jesus so readily available.  There is also a danger.  The danger is that the power of the words in the Lord’s Prayer can lose their edge.  They can become something that we recite without thought.  That is partly why I love the Common English Bible’s translation of the prayer.  It is different from the prayer that I memorized as a child, and the difference points to something that is important that is sometimes lost.  I’m lucky to have studied with a great pastor who opened up the Lord’s Prayer to me in a powerful way.  The translation of the Common English Bible picks up on this:

When you pray, don’t pour out a flood of empty words, as the Gentiles do. They think that by saying many words they’ll be heard. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows what you need before you ask. Pray like this: Our Father who is in heaven, uphold the holiness of your name. Bring in your kingdom so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven. Give us the bread we need for today. Forgive us for the ways we have wronged you, just as we also forgive those who have wronged us. And don’t lead us into temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.’ (Matthew 6:7-13, Common English Bible)

“The Lord’s Prayer can’t be just words that we recite.  It is a prayer that we live.  It is one thing to say the words of the Lord’s Prayer, but it is an entirely different thing to live the Lord’s Prayer… When you live the Lord’s Prayer, it becomes more than words that you say.  It is the choices you make, the grace you show, the forgiveness you give, and the bread you share.”

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Take up something for Lent

I’ve been reading a lot on facebook today about people giving something up for Lent.  Several have said their FB “goodbye,” because they will be giving up facebook.  Thousands (millions?) will be giving up chocolate, french fries, cofee, swearing, late-night snacks, food during the day, or somesuch other thing.

They will do it in the name of fasting.  The idea of giving up something for Lent has taken on a certain cultural cache.  It is a strange phenomon in our culture of overindulgence.  On the surface, I see it as a good thing.  Self-denial, even of menial or luxuriant things, is a much overlooked virtue.  So I applaud all of those that, in the name of God or their faith, are trying to give up something for Lent.

I just want to add a word of caution.  Don’t let your giving something up for Lent replace an actual relationship with the living God.  And don’t let your sense of piety over giving up something for Lent keep you from taking a hard look at what God really wants us to be doing.

This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.  (Isaiah 58:6-7, The Message)

Just be careful.  It is great to do something for God.  It is great to remember the sacrifice that Christ made for us.  Just do it for the right reasons.  Don’t get caught up in the cultural trend of giving something up without also trying to take something up.  We give things up to make room to take things up.  Give up something that is getting in the way of your relationship with God.  Give something up that is getting in the way of the Kingdom.

Give up chocolate.  Give up chocolate that is made on the backs of the working poor.  Give up choclate that enslaves children and puts them in dangerous working conditions. Give up Hershey.  And take up Fair-Trade chocolate.

Give up facebook.  And take up a pen and piece of paper and a stamp, and write a note to a teacher, a friend, a loved one, someone sick, or someone lonely.

Give up TV.  And take up conversations.  Take up stronger relationships.  Take up the Bible.  Take up prayer.

Give up oppression.  Give up resentment.  Give up fear.  And take up justice.  Take up reconciliation.  Take up love.

Mark your forehead with ashes – not to take up shame and guilt.  Mark your forehead with ashes – and take up your inheritance as a child of God.  Take up your task to do the work of Christ.  Mark the start of your journey to the cross, so that when you get to Easter, you can look back and know that this Lent, you did something with God.  Then sing “Hallelujah, The Kingdom has come.”

If you liked this post, you might find the podcast “Pulpit Fiction” interesting.  Go to the Pulpit Fiction homepage for commentaries on the Biblical text throughout Lent – and every week of the year.

40 Notes in 40 Days – An old-fashioned exercise for a digital age.

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