My feelings on Lent

I’ll start with an addendum (oddly enough): prior to writing this piece, my knowledge of Lent was incredibly haphazard and incomplete. I had no clear idea what Lent was beforehand, beyond being the 40 days spanning the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter. When I first thought about what I was going to write about, I found myself absentmindedly thinking of Pentecost instead of Lent, which somewhat drove it home that I didn’t know nearly enough about the subject at hand. As a result, when I was thinking about what to write about I decided to read the Wikipedia article about Lent.

While I was aware that virtually all Christian denominations observe Lent to some extent or another, I was quite surprised to find that the extent and details of Lenten observation varied so dramatically. It reminded me of nothing so much as the myriad discrepancies that colour the field of modern Christianity. Were you aware that the Sundays in Lent don’t count towards the 40 days? I wasn’t. That some traditions count Good Friday and others stop beforehand? Completely unaware.

However, while writing the above paragraph, I realized something that went beyond these relatively petty discrepancies. That realization was the fact that despite these differences, we all observe Lent. While I would hazard a guess that many people, including myself, tend not to have a really clear idea of what Lent is or represents (apparently the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert!), it is one of the events on the church calendar that brings people from that community together in shared experience. And despite the fact that Lent is one of the more subdued periods on that calendar, it remains a reminder to me of the ecumenicalism that exists within the church in the world,  and that never fails to bring me some small joy.

-Jordan

The temptation to seek fame and power

I’m continuing my thoughts on Luke’s account of the three temptations that Jesus faced during his 40 days in the wilderness.
The second temptation finds Jesus up a hill or mountain from which he can see (at least in his imagination) “all the kingdoms of the world”. “The devil” says to him “To you I will give their glory and all this authority….If you will worship me, it will all be yours.”
The very rational and convincing inner voice is saying “You’ve got what it takes to be famous and successful – to be the the Messiah – to save the world. Do you really think you’ve been called to spend your life in the hopeless task of proclaiming the Kingdom of God to illiterate peasants in a backwater like Galilee? That’s a waste of your potential. It won’t get you very far in the world – you know that. You could do great things; you could make a great name for yourself; you could be popular and powerful. Just think of all the good you could do! All you need do is devote your life to achieving fame, influence, power.” (?Devotion = worship?)
But Jesus resists the temptation to sell his soul to the devil. He believes that God has called him to a particular task. God hasn’t called him to seek popularity and power. He dismisses the tempting inner voice by recalling a verse from the Hebrew Scriptures: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him”.
What I know, in my heart of hearts, to be God’s call to me in some particular situation, often doesn’t make much sense – especially when the going gets tough. There doesn’t seem to be much future in it. Wouldn’t I be more successful if I were to devote myself to being a well-thought-of leader? I could use that popularity and influence to do good.
This Lent, thinking about Jesus’ response to the second temptation, “Worship God and serve God only”, I am reminded that Christian discipleship – being true to God’s call – can sometimes require me to resist tempting possibilities that I know (if I am honest with myself) are not what God wants for me.

Luke tells us that when Jesus went into the wilderness he was “full of the Holy Spirit”. I thank God that we are not left alone to fight temptation – but that the very same Holy Spirit has been given to us – to enable us to remain true to God’s call and serve God only, however hard it may be.
Andrew B.

Hold On To This

We’ve always been told, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” But I always wondered, well where do I get the sugar? It is of course the last major ingredient depending on how you sweeten or flavour up your lemonade. I’ve always agonized over the expression, then it dawned on me that perhaps that “sugar” I’m looking for is the rocky, but present peace and strength I would find in overcoming my burden; the half-filled glass of a brighter tomorrow because I did everything I could to get through today.

So simply take it day by day. And when it’s your darkest or the day is at its greyest, smile and get your “sugar” rush from making lemonade with today’s lemons.

Keriece H.

 

 

Why I am celebrating Easter in Lent

Today as I entered the chapel for our Ash Wednesday service, I felt apprehensive. I am not ready for Lent.  I felt the need to go to Ash Wednesday to help push me into the season of fasting from things and bringing new spiritual disciplines into my life.  But, it wasn’t helpful; in fact I ended up in tears after the service was over.
But over the last several years, I have been stuck in Good Friday.  I felt alone and distanced from my friends and family.  I felt like Jesus, first in the garden, pleading with God to take this trial away from me and then like Jesus on the cross going through the pain (both physically, emotionally and spiritually) and separate from my family and friends even though they were there to witness the whole event.  I may not have quoted Jesus exactly, but I am pretty sure I asked God why He left me and why must I go through this.
So for many years I was in this place – still seeing glimpses of God – kind of like Moses seeing God’s back, but still wondering where He was and where He went.
In recent weeks things have begun to clear – I am starting to feel better, but I am still doubting that this is real.  I feel the Thomas doubting the resurrection of Jesus.  He needed to see the scars in His hands and in His feet in order to believe that He was real.  As for me, I need to see the change and for others to acknowledge and see the change in order to know that my experience is real.  I feel like I finally moved from Good Friday into the Easter season.  God has finally reappeared again in my life, but I am still angry. I don’t want to move into the season of penitence.  I want to enjoy being with friends and family and enjoying preparing feast foods and eating feast foods.  And I am going to.
This year my “church seasons” are not going to line up with the actual “church seasons”.  I am going to start my journey into Easter and celebrate for as long as I need to.  Then I will move into Ascension, Pentecost, and then into ordinary time.  Maybe I will do Advent and Christmas in July and Lent and Easter in the fall, but regardless Lent is not a helpful place for me to be right now.  So Happy Easter!!
Laurie G.

Frustration

I want to focus my remaining posts on the not-so-good aspects of my relationship with God, starting down here on Earth, with other people.

I used to appreciate it when people asked me for help. I used to appreciate it a lot! I loved teaching and trying to get people as interested in what I found interesting. That instinct, I am afraid, has been recently put under a lot of stress. I am finding that more and more often, people are coming to ask me for help as a substitute for basic problem solving.

“How do you do X?” I have to choke back my gut reaction to blurt out “header file.” Yes, I am the one who programmed that class and thus it is my responsibility to make it usable. That’s why I spent time creating a readable header file, complete with doxygen comments and parameter names longer than a single character, unlike you, may I add. It simply frustrates me how much work I put into letting people help themselves just to have it completely  ignored.

It frustrates me even more when I think about how the people currently asking for help purport to others that they don’t need it. It frustrates me when someone who has “significant experience in C and C++” according to their resume has to ask me how pointers work. I can no longer read a resume any more without wondering just how often someone blatantly lies in it. (I can sympathize with interviewers a lot more. Especially the ones who start off the interview with a very simple test, confirming that people really know the skills they claim
to have.)

But the thing that frustrates me the most, is that I am frustrated with them. Am I no longer the same person who would put aside a task immediately to teach someone the beauty of combinatorics? Why can’t I be the friendly guy who loved explaining how algorithms could improve someone’s thought? When did I change?

Or more importantly, can I get the person I was back?

How vast beyond all measure

I thought I’d share with you a couple “Praise & Worship”-type songs that our Praise Band back home often plays during Lent. Incidentally, both of them were written by worship leader Stuart Townend, and if you’re a bit annoyed at the presence of contemporary Praise & Worship songs here, hear me out; Townend has been noted for the strength and depth of his lyrics [Crosswalk.com via Wikipedia], and his melodies are fantastic.

The one I’ll share today is “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” (co-written with Keith Getty), as performed by Christian vocal group Phillips, Craig and Dean:

The lyrics to this song are quite powerful, as they draw each of us into the crucifixion story in a vivid way. We’re reminded that Christ didn’t just die to save humanity from our collective sins; he died to save each of us from our own sins. It’s easy to think of the ways in which I have fallen and continue to fall short of living like Jesus, but it’s a sobering thought that these were part of what nailed him to the cross. And the ways in which I fall short are a result of the decisions I make each day.

This is a big concept, but I like to look at it on a smaller scale. Some of you might be familiar with the Christian writer Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years), and his work has been a constant source of encouragement and inspiration to me. Specifically, he encourages each of us to see our lives as a story, using the basic elements of story: a character who wants something and overcomes conflict in order to get it. In these stories, the “something” that we want isn’t so much a car or smartphone as it is a fulfilling role/career/responsibility, a way of serving God using the gifts we’ve each been given, with a climactic scene we can visualize for motivation. Miller notes that by creating these goals for ourselves and expecting to run into conflict, we can produce a “decision filter” for ourselves that helps us focus on the here and now and what it is we need to be working on.

Lent gives us a chance to work on our decision filters: the decision filter that guides us to our goals, and the decision filter that guides us in our desire to be more like Christ. Certainly, I would echo much of what Katie wrote in yesterday’s post, since I might have ideas for things to make and do – or a constant slate of assignments and tests – but I always seem to end up browsing Wikipedia. We won’t be able to fix all our faults in Lent (or on Earth, for that matter), but as we’re reminded in the last verse of the song, the battle has been won for us already:

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

–Jonathan Van Dusen

Challenges

One thing I have been struggling a lot with recently is a lack of motivation.  It is not that this term is particularly hard at this moment—or at least it wouldn’t be if I could bring myself to keep up with my work—but I’m finding it hard right now to remember how to enjoy what I do.  I have interesting classes, good professors, I enjoy my music, and I even like the winter weather.  But it is all too easy to forget that.

For lent this year, I am cutting down on the time I spend procrastinating on the internet.  Yes, I know that I will soon have many other means of procrastination and I will probably waste just as much time as before.  But it is my hope that by spending less time passively staring at a screen, I will be able to renew my interest in the world around me.  My goal for this Lent is to take a good look at my life and remember what it is that I love about physics, about music, and about so many other parts of my life that have become just another thing to check off my to do list.

I don’t think this will be an easy Lenten discipline, and to be honest I really hope it isn’t.  The outtripping program I worked at for many summers had the motto Embrace the Challenge, a motto I have been trying to live up to for years.  So this Lent I will be praying for strength to truly embrace the challenge and see beauty in the parts of my life I have taken for granted for too long.

-Katie S.

Rest

Matthew 11:28

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

This is one of my favourite verses. Everyone is busy – and not without cause: we have each of us found plenty of things to worry about.We live in an age of to-do lists!

This Lent, I hope we can all find rest in Christ.

I found several recommended readings for this day in the first week of Lent, all centred around expecting a ‘sign’ from God. Indeed, sitting on our hands waiting for a sign may not be the most productive way to spend Lent(!). But maybe this is a good opportunity to do some ‘housekeeping’. Quiet our souls, simplify our lives (…where possible). Instead of looking for a big sign, what’s going on around us everyday?

God is with us! Let us prepare ourselves to make the most of God’s presence.