Ideas for Lent: Fasting, Prayer, & Generosity


Note: This was originally three separate posts that have been collated into one for future reference.

The Lent tradition began in the 3rd-century of the early church and is a 40-day season of preparation and repentance in anticipation of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter. Whether you are only beginning to explore the claims of Jesus, or have been a Christian for some time, Lent is a perfect season to allow God to shape your life around the cross and empty tomb of Christ in fresh ways.

Historically, Christians have used three broad categories of practices in this season: fasting, prayer, and generosity. If you’re like me, you forget to think about this until Lent has already started, so hopefully this helps us all.

If you think of these practices as external means and postures for shaping one’s soul and interior life, then fasting is a process of removing things to create a space, prayer is the way we fill those interior spaces, and then generosity is giving out of the overflow we trust is there.

To use another analogy, prayer is like the soul’s inhale, and love/generosity is its exhale; fasting or other ascetic practices are ways to increase our “lung capacity” or quicken our breath for a time from spiritual exertion in order to take in and give out more than we normally would. Continue reading

The Weight of Gratitude: A Sermon of Mine


job-silohetteI’m going on three decades of attending church services. I’ve heard a lot of sermons on gratitude and almost all of them are the same.

They spend much of their time trying to convince us Americans that we actually are far more wealthy than we ever thought. We have more stuff than most any other people in human history, and so we need to stop being so consumeristic and unsatisfied and just learn to be grateful and give thanks for what we have—because we have a lot. And us Christians have even more reason to be thankful, as we have the greatest gift of all: Jesus!

But all this does is lead us towards some brief, unsustainable, inch-deep emotion of happiness which we then call “gratefulness” and then walk out the door thinking we’ve gotten our annual “gratitude shot”—all while being able to ignore the violence raging in the world and in our souls.

So where is gratitude when we face violence and doubt, or when we hit the muck and mire of life, the pits and poverties of existence, the pain and injustice? Does gratitude have nothing to say?

Well that’s what my most recent sermon discusses (I’ve also written about this before). The sermon text is Psalm 40,  Let me know what you think. Here’s the audio:

You can also download it here, or subscribe to our podcast. If reading is more your style, here is my manuscript for your perusal. Continue reading

The Pain & Substance of Gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving. [REPOST]


Yesterday, the annual meal referenced in this post occurred at my work, so I thought I’d re-post this today on this Thanksgiving Eve.

Sorry that this isn’t your typical feel-good Thanksgiving post.

On Tuesday, my job had a large Thanksgiving lunch for all the staff and clients we serve. I got my food and sat down next to some of my coworkers and across from a client I had never seen before. She was very friendly. She didn’t ask me my name or anything; she just began asking me questions about what I was doing for the holiday, where I was going, if my parents were still alive/together, if I had any siblings, so on and so forth.

As she kept firing one question about my Thanksgiving week after another, I started to feel the awkward tension developing because I wasn’t returning any of these questions back at her. I wondered if my coworkers thought this was odd of me to do, but it was very intentional.

Continue reading –>

[art credit: “Freedom From Want” by Norman Rockwell]

The Pain & Substance of Gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving.


Sorry that this isn’t your typical feel-good Thanksgiving post.

On Tuesday, my job had a large Thanksgiving lunch for all the staff and clients we serve. I got my food and sat down next to some of my coworkers and across from a client I had never seen before. She was very friendly. She didn’t ask me my name or anything; she just began asking me questions about what I was doing for the holiday, where I was going, if my parents were still alive/together, if I had any siblings, so on and so forth.

As she kept firing one question about my Thanksgiving week after another, I started to feel an awkward tension developing because I wasn’t returning any of these questions back to her. I wondered if my coworkers thought this was odd of me to do, but it was very intentional.
Continue reading