Monthly Archives: March 2017

Lent and Atheism

If you are reading this via the Facebook link, I will not see any comments or responses you make there. I am not on Facebook other than through things like WordPress, Instagram, and Twitter that post there automatically. If you want to comment or reach me use one of those means to do so. 

Hmmm. Yes, Lent and atheism.

About six years ago I came across what Craig Groeschel called “Christian atheism.” In its simplest form, it means believing in God but living as if he does not exist. It is what the Bible calls idolatry: rather than worshiping and yielding to God as he is, we create a god in our own image. Made in the image of God, we make a god in our image who conforms to our expectations. Those poor people made gods of stone and metal and wood. We make gods in our imaginations. Far more subtle and dangerous. It is easy to know that I am bowing before a golden image. It is far harder to discern when I am bowing before a god of my imagination.

If we take seriously the spiritual journey that Lent offers we will see this atheism for what it is. We will allow God’s Spirit to reveal where and how we bow to ourselves or others. Am I seeking God’s will? Or am I weaving a myth in which God wants for me what I want? Convenient. And deadly.

The other atheism that Lent brings to mind is more subtle but also necessary. On the day of Jesus’ death that we will soon observe, Jesus cries from the cross “My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me?” The weeks that remain before Good Friday allow us to ask – What if God isn’t there? What if God were to abandon us? What if God were not there and is as much our imagining as the idols we make in our hearts?

This may not seem right – to wander into doubt and uncertainty. This Lent I wonder if that is indeed a place to go. Pondering what would be if God were not. Or if God were not interested in our lives and well-being. Not to believe that God is not but to understand more fully what it means to live as if he isn’t in the subtle illusion of a functional atheism that is as bad as not believing at all.

To recognize anew our utter need for God. Our entire dependence on Christ. To hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit always speaking into mind and heart.

This Lent join me in seeing where our faith is in ourselves more than in the Self Beyond All Selves. Ask where I want what I want – and always left wanting. The looming death of Christ invites us to seek the death of the atheism in us that robs the death of Jesus of its power to transform and make whole.

May our idols die. May our atheism yield.

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Lent and Anxiety

If you are reading this via Facebook, know that I am not on Facebook for the remaining days of Lent. If you want to respond please do so on the blog page otherwise I won’t see your words. 

Been a little under the weather, too, this week so today’s post comes on Saturday rather than Friday. Hopefully back to the schedule next week.

Continuing Friday (Saturday) Lenten reflections…. today I turn to Lent and anxiety. A subject I know well. Anxiety more than Lent.

This Lent has brought to light how anxious I am and always have been. I have never been a calm person, even when I appeared so. I have always been anxious even in childhood. I don’t understand the roots of this anxiety but it is there. Fretting. Worrying. Over-thinking. Some of us are predisposed for a variety of reasons to such anxiety. Some of us experience trauma that instills it in us. Most of us are anxious and driven at times by that anxiety.

We are anxious about being left out. That we will fail. About our status – with another person, in a group, in the broader strata of life. Anxious about how someone feels about us. We fret about the future. We worry about the outcomes of decisions or mistakes made. How anxious are you?

Lent can help reveal the depths of our anxiety. In sacrificing something, we have an opportunity to reflect on our hungers and drives. Longing for chocolate or coffee or social media helps us stop and look at what drives our decisions, our reactions. Acting out of our commitment or decision is a different thing than reacting to our urges or drives. Awareness of what drives us allows us to give this to Christ and to allow the Holy Spirit to shape our drives and hungers in different directions.

As I am thinking about my interactions with people online, in person, over time I see this anxiety in bold letters. How many times I act (react) out of my anxiousness instead of wisdom, charity, or grace.  I could name specific people and situations over the last few weeks that would have been different absent anxiety.

This is not just Christian-ish pop psychology. Or a God of Therapy made in my own image. Anxiety is addressed in the Scriptures. For instance, Paul tells the church at Phillipi:

 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)

The antithesis of anxiety is peace. And a peace that “transcends understanding:” a peace that is greater than the very powerful and very real sources of anxiety. An anxiety against which God can safeguard us if we allow.

Paul’s advice is prayer. Lest we find this trite, it means hard work. It means working to put the outcome of things in God’s hands rather than our fevered and painful imaginings. It means believing that God’s imagination of what can be is greater and better than we can manage even at our best. And often do at our worst.

 

 

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Lent and Losing Things

This Lent I am doing things solo (by which I mean without a church home and therefore without the usual groups I have had or led for study and reflection and discipline and sometimes worship). It has underscored for me that Lent is partly about learning that we can do without things we think we cannot. Many of us surrender some cherished thing for Lent – an activity, a food or beverage. Some people take social media fasts.

Most of us do not need these things – chocolate, Diet Coke, Twitter, coffee, meat, Facebook. They are things we enjoy. Or (like coffee for me) crutches we need to get through the day or get the day on track.

These sacrifices, great or small, serve a variety of spiritual purposes. The one that is on my  mind today is loss. Not losing things like our keys or an umbrella. But losses that cut us to the soul – friendships, jobs, loved ones, financial security, marriages, a home, things we thought were true but turn out to be false, dreams we cherished and held but that never came to be. These are things whose loss is painful and not merely inconvenient. It can feel like death. Because it is death.

Lent is a training ground for loss. Learning by not drinking coffee how to lose a friend (either to death or the relationship’s end). Learning by not eating meat how to lose a job or a home. Inside these little losses that we intentionally suffer God works to help us grapple with the deaths that come and not just during Lent.

I am not sure I would have thought so, but this Lent is for me a time of loss. I haven’t given up anything this year but have lost lots of things. It is unsettling to have lost familiar patterns and not feeling able to reclaim them elsewhere – study groups, special activities, the weekly flow of worship. I have a new career that I love and to which God led me. But the old one hovers around in the background and won’t be ignored. My weekly pattern of life has changed dramatically and after four months it still feels… odd.

Just recently I experienced the loss of a friendship or at least I think so. It was a renewed acquaintance from my youth that now seems to be gone. Like all loss of personal connection it is disorienting, confusing, troubling. We always wonder what could have been different. What we did. What we didn’t. Even when we know the facts we don’t always  understand the why. Sometimes we just know it is gone and nothing more.

Lent can teach us about enduring even in the face of loss. We will not die even though we have experienced death. We will not be unmade because some part of us seems lost or broken or injured. We will not be overwhelmed even if we feel like we are sinking in grief.

And even when we are overwhelmed… God remakes on the other side of Lent. This is not just the therapeutic God who comes to make things better. There is a God who comes to make the dead alive. And to make death yield to life. There is destruction but also new creation. There is a cross but also a vacated tomb. There is death but there is also resurrection. We cannot bear it all but we lean on and toward a Someone who can.

 

 

 

 

 

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