what I’m doing during Lent this year

 

journalWith the vision that I should commit to doing something “out of the ordinary” over the course of the next forty days to deepen God’s tracks in my heart, I’ve decided to hand write out (not type) Jesus’ five blocks of speech in Matthew’s Gospel over the course of the next forty days. That is, I’ll put the words of Matthew 5-7,10,13,18,24-25 down on paper with a pen.

Just exactly how much material is that? That works out to eight chapters over the course of forty days (or a little under 200 words per day). Or to use last night’s State of the Union Address for comparison, President Obama’s address (as prepared for delivery) was 6,607 words in length while in the chapters enumerated above, Jesus speaks 7,227 words (in the CEB rendering). That’s enough material to be challenging without it being too much to digest in one day. Very doable.

Why do this? Because I want his words written on my heart.

What translation will I copy? Though I’d like to use the Common English Bible (CEB) – my default translation of choice – I’m going to deliberately use a different one for this project – N.T. Wright’s Kingdom New Testament (KNT), simply because it’s different from what I use most of the time.

One more question. Why do this now, starting the project on what some know as Ash Wednesday? Because I’ve found that by deliberately doing such project during a time period in which many others are also seeking growth in the Lord (such as during Lent or other times in the liturgical calendar) doors of conversation are opened to me with others that I know I would not otherwise experience.

Anyone care to join me?

this went thru my mind

 

Discernment & the Holy Spirit: The Church as a Community of Discernment

“…  I wonder what conditions are necessary to say, ‘it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.’ I wonder if most congregations have orchestrated their life together so that this is a possibility. And if it isn’t–if the church isn’t conceived of to express its life as a matter of faith–then what do we imagine the church is, and how do we imagine that God is related to it? Is it really a church?”

Facebook: Protect Your Privacy From Facebook’s Newest Feature

“The feature in question here is Facebook’s Graph Search.”

Finances, generations & responsibilities: The Sandwich Generation: Rising Financial Burdens for Middle-Aged Americans

“Nearly half (47%) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child (age 18 or older). And about one-in-seven middle-aged adults (15%) is providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child.”

Hell: Hell is for Real by Jason Micheli

“During the course of my ministry, I’ve met far too many people who’ve been hurt by Christians who spoke callously or cavalierly about Hell.”

Journaling: The 7 Benefits of Keeping A Journal by Michael Hyatt [podcast]

“If I had to sum it up, I would say journaling has afforded me seven benefits. 1. Process previous events. 2. Clarify my thinking. 3. Understand the context. 4. Notice my feelings. 5. Connect with my heart. 6. Record significant lessons. 7. Ask important questions.”

Lent: Why Lent? by Kai Nilsen

“‘Lent? What’s that? Are you talking about the fuzzy stuff I often find in my belly button?’ (Lint!)”

Security: More Than A Dozen Brands Of Security Camera Systems Vulnerable To Hacker Hijacking

“Eighteen brands of security camera digital video recorders (DVRs) are vulnerable to an attack that would allow a hacker to remotely gain control of the devices to watch, copy, delete or alter video streams at will, as well as to use the machines as jumping-off points to access other computers behind a company’s firewall, according to tests by two security researchers.”

Twitter & Vine: Twitter’s New Vine App – Opportunities for the Ministry by Ben Lichtenwalner

“How can we use this new medium for the ministry? Below are some thoughts to get us started.”

this went thru my mind

 

Evangelism: Proclaiming the Gospel as Reality-Creating Event: or 3 Reasons Why This is Not Your Parent’s Evangelism by David Fitch [required reading]

“The evangelism of my youth used verbal words to communicate information. … If this presentation took place “to” someone outside the church, it often turned into an apologetic exercise. It was NOT born out of everyday relationships. And this presentation often sought to secure a result … Enough has been written on the way this plays off a Christendom world that no longer exists. It was often coercive (which works against the Holy Spirit). It was often pre-packaged. It was often unrelational. All of which, I suggest, disqualifies it as the gospel.”

Journaling: I Take It Back: Why I’m Journaling Again by Dan Bouchelle

“… people who live the fullest lives practice gratitude in an intentional way …”

Listening: Learning to Listen by Josh Alan Turner

“… the idea that we may have something to learn from someone should not be a novel concept or one that strays too far beyond the pale of our particular brand of orthodoxy. Still, it is rare to hear anyone — particularly anyone interested in the concept of evangelism — advise Christians to actually listen to their non-Christian friends.”

Muhammad Ali: Ali, Round Two by Dick Cavett

“Hey, Dick Cavett. I hear you lettin’ niggers sleep in your bed.”

this went thru my mind

 

Charitable giving & money: * Faith and Giving; * Study Reveals The Geography of Charitable Giving; * How America Gives [interactive; very interesting!]; * How America Gives [article]

* “Donors in Southern states, for instance, give roughly 5.2 percent of their discretionary income to charity—both to religious and to secular groups—compared with donors in the Northeast, who give 4.0 percent. … But the generosity ranking changes when religion is taken out of the picture. People in the Northeast give the most …”

* “Households with incomes of $50,000-$75,000 donate on average 7.6 percent of their discretionary income. That’s compared with about 4 percent for those with incomes of $200,000 or more. … The more wealth you have, the more focused on your own self and your own needs you become, and the less attuned to the needs of other people you also become. … it’s not that rich people aren’t generous. They’re often just isolated. They don’t see a lot of poor people in their daily lives. [As you read this quote, recall Houston's ranking as #1 in the state in terms of economic segregation.] Simply reminding wealthy people of the diversity of needs that are out there is going to go a long way toward restoring the empathy or compassion deficit that we otherwise see.”

* Texas ranks #14 out of the 50 states & the District of Columbia in terms of percentage of annual income given to charity (5.1%) by those who have an annual income of between $50,000-99,999. Harris County, for this same salary bracket, ranks #1,383 out of 3,115 counties at 6.0%. Chambers County, for this same bracket, ranks #1,793 out of 3,115 counties at 5.3%.

* “Rich people who live in neighborhoods with many other wealthy people give a smaller share of their incomes to charity than rich people who live in more economically diverse communities.”

Civility: Civility in Argument by Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse [required reading]

“Democracy’s success depends upon our ability as a citizenry to reliably make the distinction between argument and sophistry.”

Journaling: 6 Ways to Make Journaling Work by Rachelle Dawson

“Journaling is usually used as a way to chart your spiritual growth. But there’s a lot more to it than that.”

Nigeria, persecution & terrorism: Fifty Christians Burned Alive in Pastor’s Home in Nigeria

“… 50 members of the Church of Christ in Nigeria in the village of Maseh were burned alive after they took refuge in their pastor’s house following a terrorist raid.”

Worship gatherings & mountain-top-experiences: When Worship is Wrong by Skye Jethani

“The problem with these mountaintop experiences, whether legitimate … or fabricated, is that the transformation does not last. … This pursuit of transformation by consuming external experiences creates worship junkies who leap from one mountaintop to another, one spiritual high to another, in search of a glory that will not fade. … The New Testament emphasizes a different model of transformation.”

this went thru my mind

 

Addiction, alcoholism, bitterness & forgiveness: Rodney King Looks Back Without Anger by Jim Kavanagh

“Yes, I’ve forgiven them, because I’ve been forgiven many times.”

Anonymous comments: Why I Never Read Anonymous Letters, Comments, Emails, or Notes In The Offering by Brian Jones

“I have a simple rule: whenever I receive anonymous letters, notes, emails, or blog comments they go straight into the trash. I never read a single word. Ever. Why?”

Ants: SCLQ – Ants by John Acuff

“… [in] this [3 min.] video … scientists pour 10 tons of cement down an abandoned ant colony structure underground. After the cement is dry they excavate the entire colony and study the structure, which is amazing.”

Birds: Study Sheds Light on How Birds Navigate by Magnetic Field by James Gorman

“… two researchers at Baylor College of Medicine, Le-Qing Wu and David Dickman, have solved a central part of that puzzle, identifying cells in a pigeon’s brain that record detailed information on the earth’s magnetic field, a kind of biological compass.”

Blogging: 11 Life Skills Learned Blogging by Joshua Becker

“… the discipline of blogging was forcing me to learn new life skills – life skills that are highly transferable to other endeavors.”

Cell phones: More People Have Mobile Phones Than Electricity Or Drinking Water [infographic]

“How big is mobile? Really big. This slide from analyst Chetan Sharma shows that mobile is the most pervasive technology ever invented.”

Depression & faith: Depression ≠ No Faith by Leanne Penny

“It’s not always easy to be a Christian with depression, because there are still some people in the church that really don’t understand.”

Enemy: “Who Is My Enemy?”A Reflection from Lee C. Camp

“If the light of Christ has overcome the darkness through suffering love, if at the cross of Christ the justice of God was satisfied, and if we are called to take up our cross and follow Jesus, what then? Could it be that the killing of Osama bin Laden is but a continuation of bin Laden’s ways, which in the end can only be overcome in the longsuffering love of Christ? These are neither trivial nor flippant questions, and I raise them with much trepidation.”

George Harrison: The Passion of George Harrison by Dave Urbanski

“More than a few interviewees note Harrison’s determined, at times defiant, nature, most notably when it came to his main spiritual thrust: The ultimate goal of seeing his body, possessions, and the earth itself pass away to make room for whatever was next.”

Government assistance: Myths and Facts: Poverty and the Federal Budget by Amelia Kegan

“Most Christians agree that helping poor and hungry people is an important part of Christian discipleship. But not all agree on what the government’s role should be in this effort. Research … suggests that government programs play an essential role in helping low-income families.”

Handwriting & your brain: How Handwriting Trains the Brain: Forming Letters Is Key to Learning, Memory, Ideas by Gwendolyn Bounds

“… researchers are finding that writing by hand is more than just a way to communicate. The practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development.”

iPhone app: Prayer Notes

“If you don’t have a prayer app on your mobile device, yet, you may want to consider installing Prayer Notes. … We check Twitter. We check Facebook. We check email. … How about checking Prayer Notes?”

Journaling: Why I Don’t Journal: The Danger of Words by Dan Bouchelle

“I do not journal. … I know it is a helpful spiritual discipline for many. … What I need most is not to speak (or write) but to listen.”

Life lessons: Turning 60: The Twelve Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned So Far by Tony Schwartz

“For several weeks now, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned during the past six decades that really matters. Here’s a first pass …”

Non-violence: Nonviolent Resurrected Jesus by William Willimon

“… we have many instances in the New Testament of people violating and killing the followers of Jesus. But we have not one single instance of any of his followers defending themselves against violence, except for Peter’s inept, rebuked attempt at sword play. This consistent, right to-the-end, to-the-point of-death nonviolence of Jesus has been that which Jesus’ followers have most attempted to modify. … You can argue that violence is sometimes effective, or justified by the circumstances, or a possible means to some better end, or practiced by every nation on the face of the earth—but you can’t drag Jesus into the argument with you. … Sorry, Jesus just won’t cooperate.”