Sunday, February 28, 2010


We need to find God
He cannot be found in noise and restlessness

God is the friend of Silence

See how nature...
Trees, flowers,Grass
Grow in Silence

See the Stars, the moon and sun...
How they move in silence

The more we receive in silent prayer
The more we can give in our active life

We need silence to be able to touch souls

The Essential thing is not what we say
But what God says...
To us and through us

All our words will be useless
Unless they come from within
Words which do not give the light of Christ...
Increase the Darkness

- mother Teresa

contributed by Aimee with thanks to Elli for sharing this with us at life group

Saturday, February 27, 2010

remember to breathe

works by Erica Grimm-Vance
1) Cloud of Unknowing
2) Negotiating Rapture
3) For the Journey - Motion Study

prayer written by Christine Sine

contributed by Aimee

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thankfulness on Every Breath

contributed by Jocelyn

As I have spoken with others a little bit about Lent this season, and as I have experienced it in myself, I have been finding that there are 2 attitudes that we can so quickly and easily take on when we deny ourselves something and when we suffer to any extent. One is an attitude of self-pity. "Poor me, I can't have this/do that", "Can't everyone see how much i am suffering here?" The other attitude is one of pridefulness. "I am doing such a good job of this. I can take charge of this/that in my life, I am doing a really good job of controlling this/that". Both of these attitudes can be incredibly destructive and pull us so far away from the center of it all, so far from Christ.

I have a daily devotional that has become incredibly relevant and significant in my life. In the past week or so there have been 2 entries that have stood out to me, which have corresponded with my thoughts about these attitudes of self-pity and pride that I believe can take hold of us all quite easily.

The entries are written in the perspective of God speaking to his children- words and scriptures which the Lord laid on author Sarah Young's heart. I would love to share them here.

from Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young

"Be on guard against self-pity. When you are weary or unwell, this demonic trap is the greatest danger you face. Don't even go near the edge of the pit. Its edges crumble easily, and before you know it, you are on the way down. It is ever so much harder to get out of the pit than to keep a safe distance from it. That is why I tell you to be on guard.

There are several ways to protect yourself from self-pity. When you are occupied with praising and thanking Me, it is impossible to feel sorry for yourself. Also, the closer you live to Me, the more distance there is between you and the pit. Live in the Light of My Presence by 'fixing your eyes on Me' then you will be able 'to run with endurance the race that is set before you' without stumbling or falling.

Psalm 89:15-16, Hebrews 12:1-2"

"Rest in My Presence, allowing me to take charge of this day. Do not bolt into the day like a race-horse suddenly released. Instead, walk purposefully with Me, letting Me direct your course one step at a time. Thank Me for each blessing along the way; this brings joy to both you and Me. A grateful heart protects you from negative thinking. Thankfulness enables you to see the abundance I shower upon you daily. Your prayers and petitions are winged into heaven's throne room when they are permeated with thanksgiving. 'In everything give thanks, for this is My will for you'.

Colossians 4:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:18"

One thing that provides some sort of solution to these attitudes of self-pity and pride is thankfulness. Having a heart full of praise. Recognizing that the Lord is providing for me and directing my path. He sees me and He knows me. He knows when I hurt and suffer, and He is a God of great love, mercy, and provision. He is in control- leading and guiding. I am not in charge of that [and that is certainly a good thing!]. When we give glory to Him for these things, He wants to bless us in return. He honors it. We are filled with joy. We are strengthened. We live in His Marvelous Light.

So I will try to go through my days with a song of praise on my lips. I will try to have thankfulness on every breath. I will do my best to give glory to my Lord in all things.

I am reminded of one of my favorite songs by a band called Page France. The song is called Jesus. I have posted a link below to the website where the song can be heard, and also a link to where you can find the lyrics.

Thoughts on Lent by Frederick Buechner

In many cultures there is an ancient custom of giving a tenth of each year’s income to some holy use. For Christians, to observe the forty days of Lent is do the same thing with roughly a tenth of each year’s days. After being baptized by John in the river Jordan, Jesus went off alone into the wilderness where he spent forty days asking himself the question what it meant to be Jesus. During Lent, Christians are supposed to ask one way or another what it means to be themselves.

If you had to bet everything you have on whether there is a God or whether there isn’t, which side would get your money and why?

When you look at your face in the mirror, what do you see in it that you most like and what do you see in it that you most deplore?

If you had only one last message to leave to the handful of people who are most important to you, what would it be in twenty-five words or less?

Of all the things you have done in your life, which is the one you would most like to undo? Which is the one that makes you happiest to remember?

Is there any person in the world, or any cause, that, if circumstances called for it, you would be willing to die for? If this were the last day of your life, what would you do with it?

To hear yourself try to answer questions like these is to begin to hear something not only of who you are but of both what you are becoming and what you are failing to become. It can be a pretty depressing business all in all, but if sack-cloth and ashes are at the start of it, something like Easter may be at the end.

Source: Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark: An ABC Theologized, pp.74-75.

Contributed by Nelson

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

contributed by Rebecca

I hadn’t been particularly enthusiastic about the coming of the Olympics to our city – I was rather apathetic, in fact. However, the day before the Opening Ceremonies, I found myself watching some of the torch relay on tv, and suddenly something odd was happening in me. I realized that, out of nowhere, I was feeling an inordinate amount of excitement about the event – like the past 7 years of anticipation had finally caught up with me, all at once. But it wasn’t just patriotic pride coursing through my veins; there was a strange anxiety attached to it – I suddenly felt almost DESPERATE to find a way to glimpse the torch going by.

It was such an out-of-character response for me that I started to question why it was that I was feeling so strongly about this, and I quickly realized that I was chasing a ‘high’ – the rush of being a part of something bigger than myself. Now, I don’t think that there’s anything particularly wrong with that feeling – there’s something truly beautiful about that sense of unity with thousands upon thousands of other people that one would normally feel completely detached from or oblivious to. But I knew that I was longing for that high to fill a place in me that can’t be filled by anything manmade.

Over the last several years, I have inadvertently allowed my connection to God to grow somewhat distant as I’ve outgrown my old way of ‘doing Faith’ but haven’t yet found a new way to believe. I felt the need to toss out almost everything I had learned and start from scratch, building my faith from the ground up again, as an adult, so that I knew that it was authentic and not just inherited. In the midst of my searching, though, I fear I’ve become rather inward-focused.

As I’ve been trying to find my way back into closer relationship with Him again, one of the Christian themes that I haven’t been able to discard and that continues to arise for me is that of service. Giving of myself is one of the things that immediately makes me feel like I’m in close communion with God again. It takes me out of myself, and I experience Love and Beauty. It puts everything back into proper perspective.

That Friday, when I was so desperate to go see the torch, I decided instead to go visit my lonely, aging grandpa. And it was so much more soul-satisfying than catching a glimpse of the Olympic flame would have been.

So for Lent this year I decided to try to ‘give up’ my self-absorption, in a small way, by intentionally finding one way, for each day of Lent, to give to someone else. I’m no Mother Teresa, but so far my little acts of service or love have been bringing me closer to the heart of God than I’ve felt for a long time.

Monday, February 22, 2010

contributed by Mike

As Lent approached this year I had a hard time thinking about what I should 'give up'. I thought about giving up chocolate for Lent, but that seems so popular these days. It's like when 'Napoleon Dynamite' came out and everybody was watching it, I purposely avoided it just for that reason. Maybe I should give up 'Avatar' for Lent. And I don't even really like chocolate that much. Now, giving up caramel nougat and peanuts with a touch of fudge robed in creamy milk chocolate, that's a different story.

So I decided to give up 'Buying Food Out'. Weird, hey? 'Buying Food Out' is significant though. To me it means I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want, of whatever ethnic persuasion I feel at the time. I don't think that's healthy for me, physically or mentally, it separates me too much from the 'process'. Immediacy is a killer. I want my hands to prepare it, and know what it is that goes into the 'process'. I want to be less of a 'consumer'. So, 'Buying Food Out' is what I've given up. Now I have to make my lunch, and cook dinner (and lots of it so that making my lunch is easier - it's hard in the morning).

Five days in and I've realized that what I've really given up is my wanting. For me, I think wanting is the root of all evil. Money just gets me the stuff I want, but it is the wanting that distracts me. Wanting undermines gratitude. I'm feeling thankful for the means to purchase ingredients to prepare. I'm feeling thankful that I get a choice as to what I would like to prepare to eat. I'm no longer separate from the making of food to the eating of food. I no longer have a nameless person serving me something that another nameless person in a non-descript factory 'prepared', packaged, and sent out to the 'restaurant' in the food court where I can purchase it to consume. It's less immediate, I'm more connected.

I also tried to give up beer... which lasted a day and a half, until I visited the 'Holland House'... Maybe next Lent.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Going Through the Motions

contributed by Terri

So I was walking home from work on Friday and stopped by a window of an Olympic pavilion. A man was creating on a pottery wheel. I love watching clay being thrown into something beautiful and useful. I went into the pavilion, for Calabria -- a region in Italy -- and continued to watch the potter. After the potter finished a bowl he asked me through a translator, “Do you want a turn?” Of course I said ‘yes’ and promptly was given instructions. I began to work the clay in my hands and was not really thinking about what I would create. I just wanted to get the feel of the wheel. I figured that whatever I made would be crushed and reformed by the next person to have a turn. So I found myself mostly playing around with the clay and just trying to figure out how to keep my hands still while pushing the non-electric wheel with my foot. I was trying to simply go through the motions of the wheel.

When I was done, the translator told me to come back tomorrow to pick up my piece. I was a bit in shock. There I sat looking at my dilapidated creation, thinking why did I not actually try to create something useful and beautiful.
This brings me to what God has been speaking to me about in the last few days as I continue to give up something I love and am reminded of what Christ gave up for me some 2000 years ago. I like Lent because I am forced to think about all the distractions in my life that come in the middle of my relationship with God. All the things that fill my life with and help contribute to simply going through the motions. I am not content with this simply going through the motions. I want to live my life to its fullest in all that I do.

The best part about clay is that it can always be reused, recreated and reworked before it is fired. This is my plan with my oddly-shaped bowl (or is it an ashtray?). I will be reworking this clay to make something that I can honestly say I have put everything I have into it and I am proud. It may not be as good as the potter’s but it will be the best that I can do. I suppose that is my hope for my life -- that I will continue to allow myself to be reworked into the best that I can be.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

contributed by Jocelyn

This whole idea of denying myself something is a concept that I am finding increasingly interesting and wonderful lately; in the last 7 months or so more than ever before. I really believe it is something that has been lost a bit in Christianity today, but is something that God wants to teach us in.

I fasted for the first time in September. I had learned a lot about fasting since I was younger [growing up in the church, youth group, etc] and I had known tons of other people who had fasted, but I had never done it myself. I hadn't even done a 30 hour famine [thinking that I wouldn't be able to do it]. However, the Lord had very clearly called me to fast at the start of September, and I went without food [just drank clear liquids] for 9 days. During this time, God taught me many, many things; far too much to cover here. However, leading up to my time for fasting, the Lord had been revealing something to me. He had shown me that I have a very deep fear of pain. During my fast [and since], God has been teaching me that the way He sees pain and death is much different than the way that I view these things.

As human beings, we so badly want to avoid pain and discomfort [in fact, we often go to great lengths to do so]. However, when God asks us to deny ourselves something, He is asking us to choose pain and discomfort [whether it is on a small scale or a large scale, whether it is during Lent or over the course of the rest of our lives]. This is very backwards for us, but it must hold some great value. Some of the greatest value that the Lord has shown me in it is the following:
Experiencing pain and suffering and discomfort and choosing to die to our own selves causes us to be more relational and compassionate. It also helps us to understand our Creator, to connect with Him. He sent His son to come into this world and suffer the most. He is the most relational and the most compassionate. Having this connection with Him also creates in us a more thankful heart.

I wrote the following [untitled] poem about 9 months ago. During my fasting in September, and now as Lent is upon us, God brought this poem to my mind many times. It touches on this idea of being okay with pain and discomfort [even choosing it], and in turn, we become a bit more relational, a bit more like our Creator.
That is an incredible thing.

what if i bled and bled and bled and kept bleeding and thanked God for it?
and smiled each time i were cut or tripped up?
and sang songs each time the vultures swooped down and did some damage, each time my wounds deepened or multiplied?

what if i was created and destroyed and created and destroyed and built up and held down?
thrown into the mire after receiving some sort of crown?
and what if i were okay with it?
what if i were willing to just stay with it?
to stay in it.

what if i walked around in my naked skin?
[like adam and eve did before there was sin, because they didnt have to look around for things to find value in]
if i made an exhibit of every imperfection.
blushed freely, and exposed every inch of my shame and guilt and my criminal self. and my beauty and my pride, and lived honestly because there is no need to hide a thing or conceal my messy insides.

to live each day this way?

to bleed and bleed and bleed.
and maybe even weep.
and to feel okay about it.
so that when you are covered in wounds, i might be able to grasp it just a little.
and i might reveal some of my scars.
and i might say 'hey, i know a really good song'.
and i might see blood in a whole new way.
and i think i know about pain, and i think i know about it today.

to be made into some sort of opus, and to have dirt thrown in my face.
to rub it into my very clean surface.
to feel pretty. to feel stained.
to see a process of fabrication, development, construction and design.
to witness desolation and see the insides of wreckage.
to understand creation and destruction so that i may create and destroy, and create and destroy, and create and destroy.
and so that both may hold some kind of beauty and all kinds of truths.

so that i might find things, and you might find things; even amidst uncomfortable things.
to be okay with the dirt in the presence of kings.
and to sing.
and to bring love.
because thats what this guy did once and it was revolutionary i think.

i can find things, you can find things, we can see things, and we can sing things.
and we'll feel things together even when we are apart.
and we'll never quite know where it started, or exactly how it came about, but we feel it today, and we know it in a personal way.
and we're okay.

we know some things now, we do.
so that we can be relational because somebody else was relational once and it was revolutionary i think.
and He bled so that when we bleed its okay.
and He experienced freedom so that we may.
and He created with the hope that we would do the same.

and He loved and loved and loved so that now, when either of us are bleeding or weeping or thirsting or seeking,
i can say 'hey, i know a really good song'

Thursday, February 18, 2010

a compelling kind of fasting

contributed by Aimee

Am I passionate about fasting? Does it get me excited? Have I even taken a moment to contemplate fasting during this Lenten season? No. No. No.


As I was preparing for today's post I read from Isaiah 58. It's a passage I have heard quoted many times over the last year. But this time new parts stood out to me. Like they weren't there before. And they called me. The description of fasting - the kind of fasting God was calling His people to - was compelling to me. And for the first time fasting seemed powerful.

Fasting could be a part of my own spiritual growth AND part of God's plan to bless others who have deep needs. People who are hungry. People who are oppressed. People who are without a home. People who are lonely... My fasting from something could bless someone.

share your food with the hungry

spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry

maybe there is room for fasting from and fasting towards? Going without so that someone can go with.

How the actual translating of this idea will look in my life, I am not sure. But tonight as I write, I am hopeful.

Isaiah 58:5-11

5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD ?

6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness [a] will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
"If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

Please share in the comments any creative ideas you have on how to pair fasting with action. Can you think of any practical ways to tie our fasting from certain things with blessing others and helping to set things right in the world.

God please lead us in your wild and enlivening ways.

Poker and the Tax Man

Contributed by Nelson

Luke 18:9-14 (MSG)

He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: "Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: 'Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people--robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.'

Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, 'God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.'"

Jesus commented, "This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you're going to end up flat on your face, but if you're content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself."


For Lent this year, I'm fasting from online poker. It may come as a surprise to some that I even play it at all. But I admit I enjoy playing a game or two on evenings when I'm relaxing at home. Now, to clear the air: I'm not obsessed with it like some. But that's not the point. In fact, if I tried to make that the point, I'd fall right into the category of Mr. P in the above passage. Can you hear my Phari-phrased prayer? ('Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other poker guys -- the ones who couldn't give up playing for one DAY, let alone FORTY.') So why do I even feel compelled to mention that I'm not as bad as some?

Hmm. Good question. 'God, give mercy.'

Regardless of how much I play, the fact is I have a level of attachment to it that I am feeling would be healthy to let go of for a season. So, what I've been reflecting on is WHY I enjoy playing poker online.

Well, for starters, it can be relaxing. Truly. And I can still multi-task. I can play while watching the news, The Office or The Amazing Race. I can sit out a few hands when it's time to fold a load of laundry. But if I'm honest, the relaxation aspect begins to wane if I'm not doing so well. If I can't get good cards and start making dumb plays, I become frustrated. That leads to more games because I think, "I'll for sure do better on the next table." Sometimes I do, but other times I don't. Enter more frustration.

Another reason I enjoy it is that when I AM doing well, I like the feeling of beating other players. Of being smarter, wiser, luckier, a better liar (which is what bluffing is all about, let's face it). It's a rush when you've played well, caught a few breaks, and come out on top. Who doesn't like winning?

But at what cost? And what does winning do to the way I view 'me'? If it's true that I have an easier time accepting myself as a "winner", then I will give myself to habits that put me onto the podium of more favorable self-perception. If, on the other hand, I have a harder time living with my "loser" self, I will be prone to negative self-talk and condemnation (also NOT the point of Lent, I might add).

And here's the real rub: my self-perception often tends to be linked to the way I think God sees me. Just like the characters in the story Jesus told, we can get real messed up if we think God likes us only when we win, and doesn't like us when we lose.

So that's why I'm laying down my virtual poker cards and cashing in my chips for Lent. Instead, I'm taking up the prayer of the tax man: 'God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.'

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


The Lenten season begins. It is a time to be with you in a special way, a time to pray, to fast, and thus to follow you on your way to Jerusalem, to Golgotha, and to the final victory over death.

I am still so divided. I truly want to follow you, but I also want to follow my own desires and lend an ear to the voices that speak about prestige, success, human respect, pleasure, power, and influence. Help me to become deaf to these voices and more attentive to your voice, which calls me to choose the narrow road to life.

I know that Lent is going to be a very hard time for me. The choice for your way has to be made every moment of my life. I have to choose thoughts that are your thoughts, words that are your words, and actions that are your actions. There are no times or places without choices. And I know how deeply I resist choosing you.

Please, Lord, be with me at every moment and in every place. Give me the strength and the courage to live this season faithfully, so that, when Easter comes, I will be able to taste with joy the new life which you have prepared for me. Amen.

Henri Nouwen from Show Me the Way: Daily Lenten Readings