Tag Archives: meditation

Ash Wednesday Breaking Routines with a Lenten Reader

It’s already that time of year, Lent is here. Today is Ash Wednesday (see also history), marking the beginning of the season of Lent, which then takes us to the Passion and into Easter. There are many things our church does that I really like and producing a Lenten Reader for the past few years is one of them. It is such a great tool, especially how we use it in our particular church, where it ties each day of the week to the message being taught on Sunday.

If your church doesn’t put out a Lenten Reader there are plenty of other options, YouVersion has two great Lenten Reader plans, Lent For Everyone and 40 Days of Lent. A Lenten reader is more than just a daily devotional, it is intended to be a meditation, a call, to pull us out of our daily routine and refocus our lives back to Christ and His sacrifice. Lent is more than a time of self-denial, it is a time we can use to get back to the spiritual disciplines like worship, confession, meditation, fasting, study, and prayer.

In our culture of busyness to excess, these disciplines become the most expendable. When time is short, these are either the first to go, or denied their proper place at all, and a Lenten Reader is a great way to pull ourselves back into the fold. Our American culture seems to have no problem celebrating the over indulgence of Fat-Tuesday, (see a great post by Beeson titled, Fat Tuesday And We’re Running Out of Options) but there is rarely a mention of the ashes of repentance on Wednesday. Ultimately, even though the world may not take notice, we do, and we look through this season of Lent, and the next 47 days, to celebrating the greatest event even known to history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Our Life of Multitasking and Skimming in Search of Productivity

Maybe its photography over the past 20 years that has made me over sensitive to our cultural demands for productivity, which in turn has given way to our two worst developed habits in search of better productivity, multi-tasking and skimming text. I am probably the worst at putting aside distractions but photography is one of those art forms that takes time, sometimes, a lot of time, and has helped me immensely over the years. Photography takes time just sitting there doing nothing, waiting, waiting on the right moment (hunters will appreciate this too). This one shot of the bird above took me at least an hour to capture last night, and it wasn’t a multitasking hour, it was a setup and wait hour, something almost unheard of anymore outside of photography, hunting, and maybe a few other tasks like actual Christian meditation or prayer.

I am trying to walk (not run) my way through Tim Challies new book, “The Next Story: Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion” where he talks about these very issues. In one section on learning to live without distractions (because we live in a world of constant and continuous distractions) Challies points out that when we turn to the bible we see very little demand for constant productivity, especially in ways we measure today. What we do see is a constant effort by Jesus to slow the pace of life, making time for meditation, prayer, and communion with the Father and His friends. Challies puts it like this:

What is unique in our time is that skimming has now become the dominant form of reading… The danger for Christians is apparent. If we grow so accustomed to skimming words, to passing quickly over texts, we will eventually impose this practice on the words of God… The danger today, in an era of skimming and fragmentation, is that we will fragment the Bible into small bits and have no time or ability to craft unity from the parts.

Being Productive is Not Our Higher Calling in Life

Productivity is one of those things that came out of our big factories decades ago, something that has never diminished, and has only gotten more and more intense as the years go by. Brought on by an insatiable need for being productive (in anything) we multitask and skim. In fact, if you have actually read this far, you are a rare breed among readers today. Most of us just skim text, especially text on the Internet, in approximately 2-3 seconds, and then move on.

According to Challies research, when we “multitask” we really aren’t multitasking as much as we are just jumping from task to task, paying little attention to either. In fact his research showed that it takes us 50% longer to complete each task than if we had done the one task and then moved on, and when we have completed each task the overall quality was greatly reduced as well. It forces us to give partial attention to the task or person right in front of us.

We Can No Longer Give People Our Full Attention

One of the most annoying traits I run across today is that very few people are actually capable of giving me their full attention. I rarely have a conversation with someone without them constantly looking at their cell phone, checking their email, sending text messages, or whatever. Face to face may be more rare today, but even when we do give someone our time, we don’t get but a part of that person in return. I will often just stop talking and wait for them to finish what they are doing, but many times the person won’t notice at all (something Deborah has done to me for years as well).

The point to all this is that, at least in part, is that we as Christians are in a faith that requires us to learn. And one of God’s biggest chosen methods is text, completed paragraphs of thought, made into full letters and books. Thoughts that flow from one book to another and are all connected from Genesis to Revelation. The Bible isn’t full of bullet points, it’s full of completed thoughts. The more we multitask, the more we demand productivity, the less ability we have to sit and read full blocks of text.

It’s like a drug. The less we sit in one place working on one single task, whether that’s reading, photography, or work, without regards to productivity, the less we can. Over two years ago I wrote a blog post called The Internet is The Church’s New Drug of Choice and it’s quite fascinating to see how much father down the road of distraction, multitasking, and skimming text, we have come in only two years.

Thoughts About the Constant Search for Productivity

Because I know for a fact that almost no one is going to read the above 775 words, I give you the bulleted version. In case you didn’t guess by now, I am far less concerned with the productivity factor in life than I am in developing a history of quality. I personally want to be able to do a few things well, never a lot of things in a mediocre fashion.

Photography has been one of those grounding things for me, because it takes time to perfect. There are no shortcuts to learning how to be a good photographer, it takes time no matter what equipment you buy (even if it’s a cell phone). As the time I spent shooting went down in 2009 and 2010 I had forgotten the value of time spent doing just one task at a time, until I got to this point. Since then I have taken more shots (spent more time) in the first 4 months of 2011 than I did all last year, and it’s a good reminder that productivity isn’t the most important thing in life.

  • Productivity is not what we are called to achieve in life
  • Multitasking is just doing several things at once, poorly
  • Multitasking leads us to ignore people standing in front of us
  • Skimming leads us away from thinking and ultimately knowledge
  • Skimming text is detrimental to our ability to read completed thoughts
  • The bible rarely calls us to hurry up and be more productive
  • The bible is not a book we can skim, we have to actually read it
  • There is a difference between taking your time and being lazy
  • The more we live a distracted life the more we need it
  • Embrace tasks that can only be done by themselves

There you have it, my ten bullet point thoughts from this post. Better stop now, 1,138 words is certainly WAY longer than any successful blog post is supposed to be, next time I’ll try to shoot for the standard 250 words… but don’t count on it.

Our Demand for Constant Productivity

When we turn to the bible we see very little demand for constant productivity, especially in ways we measure today. What we do see is a constant effort by Jesus to slow the pace of life, making time for meditation, prayer, and communion with the Father and His friends.

via in part from The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion

Messages from the Heart to God in Chalk Board Prayers :: Photos

From my previous post you might have seen some of the photos from our Maundy Thursday prayer vigil. These photos here on this post are the images that were left off that post, because until the morning of Good Friday, they were incomplete. Along side our different I AM statement boards were some pieces of chalk where people could write anything that came to their heart as they went through their time of meditation. They ended up being giant pages in a book of prayers from a collective body of believers, and to me, one of the most powerful components of the last few days.

Scripture tells us that what comes from our mouth (or fingers in the way of a pen, keyboard, cell phone, text messages) originates in the heart and that’s why I love what these pages represent. Untarnished by consumerism or commercialism, unfiltered by a greater governing body, just raw messages from the heart, to the fingertips of believers, to the all-knowing God of creation. To see all the images from Holy Week so far you can visit my Holy Week 2011 gallery on Flickr.

What is Maundy Thursday Other Than Communion and Feet Washing?

We hear this all the time, come to worship, or come to God being expectant or with an expectant heart, but what should we be expecting, and what exactly is Maundy Thursday? For several years now this week has been a time of the year I look forward to all throughout the year. Holy Week, and Maundy Thursday in particular, is observed in many different ways around the world, but it’s a unique night for our Cornerstone family. Personally, I do prepare for the night in advance. I bring at least one Moleskine and a pen or pencil, expecting God to be there with me as I go through the night. The last few years I have written names of people I pray for while I’m in the room along with areas of my life I want to give back to the Lord.

I just love dedicated times of Christian meditation (or reflection) since they are so few and far between for our world today. Christian meditation is the counter opposite of what we do in our culture today, so it almost makes us uncomfortable at this point. Both Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:2 among many others, tells us to meditate on the scriptures day and night, so one night out of the year on Maundy Thursday is a great launching point for the rest of the year.

What is Maundy Thursday?

Maundy Thursday is of course the day before Good Friday, which is the day Jesus was crucified on the cross. It is also called “Holy Thursday”, which is part of the greater week called “Holy Week” or Passion Week. The date changes according to the schedule of Easter, which changes each year. Maundy Thursday is the date that Jesus celebrated the passover, which became known as the last supper, and instituted what we know as communion. The two main events if you will that occur on Maundy Thursday are washing of feet and communion. The washing of feet was done by Jesus after supper was over (John 13:3-17) to give his disciples an example of humility and to show them a great act of love, providing all of us with an example of how we should treat others.

Scholars agree that the English word Maundy comes from mandé, from the Latin mandatum, or “command”. The first word of the phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” (“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you”), the statement by Jesus in the John 13:34 where Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet.

How Will We Observe Maundy Thursday

In our church specifically, Maundy Thursday is a time period from 8pm to 8am set aside as a time of meditation and reflection. Much in the same way Jesus prayed in Gethsemane on that Thursday night as described in Matthew 26:36-46 before Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. Matthew 26:36-46 is part of a larger story of course, but a few sections earlier we see that Jesus celebrates the passover with his disciples and then institutes The Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:17-25 and Matthew 26:26-29 respectively).

Because the bible doesn’t mandate or command (or deny) the observation of Maundy Thursday specifically, observing this night is something that some churches do and some don’t. Before we came to Auburn I don’t really remember being in a church that observed Maundy Thursday night into Good Friday quite like this, but it is an experience I would hope everyone could go through.

In a world increasingly busy and full of distractions how can we ever stand still long enough to just be an awe of God and his brilliance. Maundy Thursday is that night, at least for our church. Each year I hope to pull a little more momentum from that night into the remainder of the year, trying to remember God also finds us in our silent meditation of his word.

I AM Lenten Reader, Journaling :: Lent Day 4

Day 4 :: Friday, March 11, 2011, Journaling

Journaling has been a practice throughout the history of the church. Prophets, philosophers, theologians wrote down their thoughts as they sought to understand God and grow in their relationship with Him. Throughout scripture, God commanded people to write things down and keep a record of what He had done so that the coming generations would know what He had done.

Psalm 119:15-16 says, I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. Journaling is active meditation on the Word of God and what He is doing in your life.

When we make a practice of journaling, it not only allows us to remember what God has done in our life, but also gives us the opportunity to reflect upon what He has done. It reminds us of His faithfulness throughout our life and serves as a tool in the growth of our relationship with Him.

Journaling is a discipline, and it may take some time to get into a good habit. This reader is a tool for you to develop the practice of journaling. There is space throughout this book for you to write your thoughts, prayers, confessions and ideas.

Take time now to begin the practice of journaling.

Contemplation Over Day 4

Journaling is something I have tried to do for many years now, but it’s also something that takes effort, time, and discipline. Journaling is quite close to blogging so it’s something I talk about with people all the time and the biggest reason I hear why people don’t do this is (1) I have nothing to say anyone would want to read (or I just have nothing to say), and (2) I don’t have time to just sit and write. Both of those reasons are quite valid but I could probably make a pretty strong argument that neither of those reasons should keep you, or myself, from writing.

The first point is a misconception about journaling or blogging, and really the only difference between journaling and blogging is one is private and one is public. Even the most mundane points or details can and do become very interesting months down the road. One reason to write down your thoughts is to specifically go back after some time has passed and reflect on your own thoughts. You will be amazed at what details you found to be important enough to write down at the time. The only regret I have in my own journaling process (and it is a process to get into the habit of writing) is not writing more, and more often.

Besides the two points listed above, the words of the Lenten Reader today couldn’t be more accurate. For me, gradually over the years, writing down my questions and thoughts about my faith have become a wonderful way to better understand my own faith, and what God’s word has to say directly to me at any given point in time. Jonathan Edwards was a master at this, and I have learned quite a bit from Edwards on how to journal, but you don’t have to be Edwards to write.

Some suggestions I might make for getting started would be:

  • Start off slow, try to write a little each day
  • Write down raw thoughts and questions
  • Use whatever format is easiest and fastest (pen and paper or digital)
  • Don’t worry about grammar or spelling
  • Write for yourself, not filtered for what others might think

Journaling is certainly a slow, long, continuous process that takes effort to develop, but is so well worth the time it takes. I have been working on this habit for years and feel like I have only scratched the surface.