Category Archives: holy days

you might be a protestant if… [top 10]

the past two years, i have deeply enjoyed participating in the Church calendar, especially through the lenten & easter season. since i attend a congregation that is very low church in worship style & that doesn’t traditionally celebrate holy days at all, i decided last year to attend the catholic church down the street from our house. i loved it. i had never been to a catholic mass before, & it revolutionized my approach to worship & God. the reverence & the ritual awakened a part of my heart i hadn’t know existed. in part, the experience contributed to my recent obsession with season & rhythm.

still, however much i loved mass & continue to enjoy being semi-catholic during the spring, i cannot escape how very protestant i am. being a lover of top ten lists, i couldn’t resist writing one on all the ways you can tell a person is protestant at catholic mass. i hope you get a good laugh from it & don’t mistake anything i write for disrespect. i dearly love my catholic brethren & their traditions!

you might be a protestant if…

10. …you have trouble kneeling for more than a minute & a half.

9. …incense gives you a headache.

8. …you’ve never heard of the prophet baruch.

7. …your glutes hurt the day after prayers of intercession.

6. …you realize only after sitting down that you were supposed to kneel in the aisle first.

5. …you’re the only one singing along with the hymns within a 10 foot radius.

4. …you cheat during the kneeling parts by keeping your rear on the pew.

3. …an hour & fifteen minutes into mass you start getting antsy.

2. …you have to suppress saying “amen” during a rousing homily.

1. …you mumble along to the various responses as if you’re “in the know” while looking furtively around you trying to figure out what everyone else is saying & trying to commit it to memory for the next time you’re at mass.


a dream for holy thursday

wash basin

photo by jay w2011

this morning, i awoke from a dream in which we were at war, my church against another, over some desperate disagreement on doctrine. we were armed & ready for first light, waiting for attack. swords, guns, bows & arrows, knives… the battle began with a runner from the enemy charging with a long sword. one person from our lines ran straight for him yelling something about love. she impaled herself on his sword & in her last efforts of life embraced him. he just froze in shock. another broke out in a sprint from our side & skewered herself behind the first, arms stretched out. as the second warrior was dying she looked around for another to follow their example of love instead of war. there was confusion, a pause in the hostilities, as if what happened next would determine the outcome. finally, a nearby man — on their side or ours, i don’t know — took the remaining few exposed inches of the sword into his own stomach as he gathered the bloody group hug into his arms & proclaimed, “choose love!” it ended the war before it really began. only three fatalities. and not from being cut down but from self-sacrifice. instead of killing, they chose to be killed, in hopes of showing the rest of us the Way of Christ.

it made me think of a book edited & contributed to by my dear friend justin barringer — a faith not worth fighting for. the various authors defend that our faith is worth dying for, but not killing for. such a crucial distinction.

i remember speeches & conversations from my dream that followed the failed battle. i recall us talking about what we were willing to do for one another in sacrifice to preserve unity. we also talked about those things we would not do, things in which the restraint was sacrificial.

i think these are timely dreams & thoughts for holy thursday as we remember Jesus wrapped in a towel & on His knees. what was He willing to do? in what ways did He choose love? we might first reflect on His crucifixion, innocent but dying for our guilt. He lowered Himself to the death of a slave. but before that, He lowered Himself to the station of a slave in life. He loved in a way that was humiliating, especially considering His position among them, not to mention His position in the heavenlies. He even washed the feet of the youngest james who, in the absence of a servant to perform the task, should have taken up the towel himself. He even washed the feet of peter who argued with Him in his usual naive hot-headed manner. He even washed the feet of judas. the one who had already traded Him for a handful of silver. the one who would hand Him over to that death of a slave.

some versions of scripture say He did this foot washing to “show them the fullest extent of His love.” from my research, i don’t think it a very accurate translation [the new niv changed it], but i enjoy pondering over the phrase anyway. because you would think it would be attributed to His crucifixion! not mundane foot washing. but i think when we consider how He asked us to follow His example, maybe the towel is an even greater test of our devotion & love than the cross. for us, in the after-Christ era, literally dying for someone else can offer air of grandeur. it begs that our name live on in glorious story, in awe of our sacrifice, in praise of our character. but to take up the towel & quietly wash dirty feet offers no marquees of acclamation, no reward of being cast the hero, no honor of others wishing they might do the same if in your shoes. the towel is ironically the height of humility. and to follow Jesus to the cross, we must first don the towel.

so who are the least in your community? who are the dirty in your family? who are the frustrating ones in your work? who are the enemies in your life? and what will you do to choose love? how will you pick up a towel & quietly, humbly wash their feet?


You donned the towel of the slave

while they argued who was greatest.

You washed their feet of the dirt

From which they were created.


You then commissioned them & us

to do as You had done:

to serve the least in ways beneath us,

even the undeserving one.


in an act of basest service You showed

the way of those most blessed.

in following You & Your ways,

we become first by being last.


[a different calendar] what EASTER means for us today

happy easter!!! the greatest feast day of the christian calendar! in addition to my personal liturgy & daily devotional routines, i am celebrating today by attending early mass at the catholic church down the road [can.not.wait!], worship at my home church [we make a bigger deal out of communion this particular sunday], & a huge lunch with shaun’s colleagues [one of my favorite traditions]. how are you celebrating the risen Christ today?

these thoughts from my book of liturgy challenged me to view easter not just as a day but, as it should be in the christian calendar, a season. i especially love how the authors reframe what our holidays are in terms of God’s kingdom calendar. i hope you are equally blessed by this!

excerpt from common prayer: a liturgy for ordinary radicals:

“As Paul said in the first century, our faith means little if Jesus isn’t risen from the dead. If Advent is our New Year’s and Pentecost is the church’s birthday, Easter is our Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Presidents’ Day all in one. This is when we remember Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, celebrate his victory over the powers of evil, and honor him as our true Commander in Chief.

“Holy Week begins with Jesus’ inaugural parade on Palm Sunday and takes us through the drama of his last week in Jerusalem. In many ways, this is the week that teaches us our rhythm for every week in God’s kingdom. It’s often called ‘passion week,’ because it’s full of suffering. (Passio is Latin for ‘suffering.’) This is one of the harder things to learn about following Jesus: his way to real life isn’t easy. In the end, it’ll get you killed. And most of us don’t want to die. (This is why we have to practice denying ourselves through forty days of Lent, fasting from stuff that we usually enjoy so we can learn to hunger and thirst for God’s kingdom.) . . .

“Resurrection is such a big deal that we don’t just take one day to celebrate it. Every Sunday is resurrection day. But we also set aside fifty days for the Easter season, putting aside our normal fasts and taking extra time to celebrate what God has done in our world. Forty days after Easter, we remember Jesus’ ascension, when he returned to heaven and told the disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit, so they might become his body in the world. The ascension seals the deal for the disciples. (Up to that point, some of them had headed back to their familiar world of fishing and life as usual.) For us it is a reminder that the resurrection isn’t just a miracle that happened two thousand years ago. It’s a way of life we practice. Pentecost ends the Easter season, reminding us that we don’t practice resurrection by our own strength, but have the Holy Spirit’s power among us as a community called church. Jesus’ story is now our story. And the next chapter begins today.”

[top 10] reasons to observe the religious calendar

10. any excuse to celebrate!
i have a friend who told me once that one reason she participated in the religious calendar was unabashedly because she loves to celebrate. that resonated with me as a lover of all things parties, & i have indeed enjoyed the preparations & celebrations thus far this year. [our purim feast is one great example.] i thrive on planning a party, inviting friends over, & sharing good conversation & laughter. the religious calendar has given me increased opportunities to do just this!

9. to experience something new
as a student of life, i believe one tenet to guide our “studies” must be the willingness to experience new things on a regular basis, even the proactive seeking of new things, & sometimes doing something new just for the sake of the experience & the story. experience enriches our lives, teaches us important lessons, gives us something to share with others, & helps us grow. when we shy away from a new experience, it is usually due to fear, fear of the unknown, & fear is the enemy of the student of life. we must not let our fears prevent us from living life to the fullest.

8. to learn more about our faith heritage
christianity has a two-thousand year history, & before that it is steeped in thousands of years of jewish history & practice. this is our heritage. to understand Christ’s teachings, i must understand the religious audience to whom He spoke & His own life as a jew. to understand the current state of the church in its various sects & traditions, i must know our history, too. in looking to our future, we must first know where we’ve been to understand where we are going. knowing our faith heritage will enrich our current faith walk.

7. to identify with global christian community
millions of christians worldwide observe the religious calendar. [the same is true of jews observing their religious calendar.] it creates a sense of solidarity among us collectively & within each of us individually when we know there are others all over the world saying the same words, praying the same prayers, reading the same scriptures, meditating on the same thoughts. we become unified by our focus. we become thoughtful of one another. we remember we are not alone.

6. to establish new corporate traditions
i could write a whole post on how my particular faith tradition could learn & grow from incorporating some of the practices used in other churches, at least on occasion. but i’ll suffice to say for now that we can all learn from one another, always. just as no individual is perfect, neither is any organization of individuals. every church has need to reflect, to reevaluate, to learn, & to change in some way to more live like the body of Christ.

5. to reevaluate secular holidays
this is something shane claiborne writes about regularly, & his thoughts have affected my own views. as citizens of the kingdom of God, we define freedom, value, sacrifice, leadership, power, & a host of other concepts radically differently from our surrounding culture. these new ways of thinking should also affect our living & celebrating. while there exists a memorial day, an independence day, & a presidents’ day particular to america, when/how to we celebrate ultimate sacrifice [Christ’s on the cross], true freedom [found in Christ], & authentic leadership & authority [Christ’s as King]? do we hail one kind of holiday as more important than the other kind? should we? what are our reasons & motivations? how should we as christians look different from this world? i wish i had more answers than questions, but it is very important to question & to think on these things.

4. to establish new holiday traditions
there are many holidays we celebrate that have both religious & secular histories & traditions. observing the religious calendar helps us review what secular practices are beneficial & fun, & which ones need to be done away with. observing the religious calendar also helps us learn about new beneficial & fun traditions that we can begin. for example, i have a friend who shared her how grandmother includes easter eggs within the normal egg hunt that contain slips of paper with scripture references written on them. once their family gathers back together, after the eggs have all be found, anyone with a scripture egg reads that passage aloud for everyone. there are hundreds of creative ideas for bringing our minds back to the purpose of these holidays — some are unique to specific families & some are common in various faith communities — & we can learn from them.

3. to enrich our personal faith practices
we have probably all been encouraged by various teachers to have a “quiet time” with God each day. but how that quiet time is shaped is unique to each person. for years, i filled it with just bible study from a bought workbook. bible study comes easier to me than any other faith practice. as i’ve grown older, i’ve tried to add in areas that i need desperately to grow in, like prayer. over the years, i’ve used various tools to help me learn how to pray — informative books on prayer, devotionals that lead you through prayer, prayer journals, prayer lists, prayer schedules. all have taught me something, even though not all have been useful to me in the long-term. and what works for me may not work for you. this year, i added a daily liturgy [common prayer for ordinary radicals] & have been tremendously blessed by the practice. observing the religious calendar has helped me expand my understanding of personal quiet time but also ways to practice my faith in the rhythms of every day life beyond that set-aside morning hour. and so i continue to grow towards Christ as my quiet time evolves & as my daily routine includes putting my faith into action, too. [discalimer: i am not as consistent as i would like to be in having my quiet time or going through the prayer liturgy every day, so please don’t be fooled by my speaking in general terms! still, God is faithfully growing me every time i do choose to spend with Him.]

2. to live by kingdom seasons & rhythms
i’ve written about this before in my post on marking my time by a different calendar, but shane claiborne says it better than i, & this portion deserves reposting:

every sturdy society has created its own calendar according to its own values. for some time now, western civilization has used the julian and gregorian calendars, which are influenced largely by the roman empire’s traditions… but if we in the church are going to take our citizenship in heaven seriously, we must reshape our minds by marking our calendars differently. we must remember the holidays of the biblical narrative rather than the festivals of the caesars… the church’s calendar weaves in and out of the world around us. it is not that we need a “christian” calendar because we want to separate ourselves from the “secular” world… the point is not to be sectarian or to try to put ourselves at odds with non-christians. the point is to keep God’s story at the center of our lives and calendar… without liturgical time, we can easily forget our eternal identity. we can get lost in the hustle and bustle of business and efficiency that shapes our culture and society. likewise, without the cosmic calendar, we can become so heaven-bound that we ignore the hells of the world around us. and the glorious goal we are headed toward is not just going up when we die but bringing God’s kingdom down — on earth as it is in heaven.

1. to become increasingly centered on God
this is mentioned in the quote above, so i won’t belabor the point. but this is ultimately the reason for observing the religious calendar because ultimately this is the purpose of our lives — to become ever more focused on God, growing closer to Him, becoming more like His Son, & being Him to a dying world.

words to LIVE by #6 — PALM SUNDAY edition

“Let us say to Christ: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel. Let us wave before him like palm branches the words inscribed above him on the cross. Let us show him honor, not with olive branches, but with the splendor of merciful deeds to one another. Let us spread the thoughts and desires of our hearts under his feet like garments, so that he may draw the whole of our being into himself and place the whole of his in us.”

— Andrew of Crete [8th c. martyr]
this quote reminds me that palm sunday is something i read about taking place in a foreign place & ancient times AND something i can live out in my world today. i can shout Hosana! Hosana in the highest! praising His name today & every day. i can honor Him as my King by living as He decrees i should, acting justly, loving mercy, & walking humbly by His side [micah 6:8]. i can honor my King by preparing the way for the Lord into me, into the church, into the world. i can honor my King by letting Him draw me to Him as He so longs to do. palm sunday is happening today as much as it was two thousand years ago. palm sunday is happening in me.