Category Archives: lent

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.


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. 

readings for HOLY WEEK

as i participate in the lenten season, i have found myself increasingly excited about holy week. the anticipation is palpable. one practice i’ve wanted to incorporate into my experience of the week is reading through the passion week in the gospels. i looked several places to find a “reading plan.” and i never found one that was comprehensive, for lack of a better word. so, i did my own trek through the pages of my bible to figure out the passion week. hopefully, my list is decently accurate. i will be reading through all four gospel accounts this year, but in the future, i may just go through one writer’s accounts. i thought i would post it here for anyone else who would like to follow along, too. have a blessed holy week!

>> matthew 26:6-13
>> mark 14:1-9
>> luke 7:36-50
>> john 12:1-11

palm sunday:
>> matthew 21:1-11
>> mark 11:1-11
>> luke 19:28-44
>> john 12:12-19

>> matthew 21:12-17
>> mark 11:12-19
>> luke 19:45-48
>> john 2:13-22

>> matthew 21:18-27
>> mark 11:20-33
>> luke 20:1-8
>> john 12:37-50

[nothing specific is recorded for this day, but these passages are appropriate.]
>> matthew 24
>> mark 13
>> luke 21:5-37

>> matthew 26:17-75
>> mark 14:12-72
>> luke 22:7-65
>> john 13:1 – 18:27

good friday:
>> matthew 27:11-61
>> mark 15
>> luke 22:66 – 23:56
>> john 18:28 – 19:42

>> matthew 27:62-66

easter sunday:
>> matthew 28
>> mark 16
>> luke 24
>> john 20:1 – 21:25

[a different calendar] ASH WEDNESDAY

i hope you have been preparing for the lenten season with me! i’ve spent quite a bit of time reflecting on & journaling about the questions posed by rachel held evans last year regarding lent. [she has a new post for lent this year that includes ideas for children & families.] i thought i might share with you the questions i pondered & my thoughts in part on them.

when i wake up on resurrection sunday morning, how will i be different?

i want to be acutely mindful of the real experiences Christ endured as He went to the cross & died for me. i will be desperate for the celebration of His resurrection & the hope it brings me for new life in Him. 

is there a habit or sin in my life that repeatedly gets in the way of loving God with my whole heart or loving my neighbor as myself? how do i address that habit over the next 40 days?

is there anyone in my life from whom i need to ask forgiveness or pursue reconciliation?
what practical steps can i take to carve out time each day for contemplation?
i use a prayer liturgy for morning, midday, & evening prayers [common prayer for ordinary radicals]. i have not been good about stopping for midday prayers, so i’ve got my locket with the liturgy tucked inside back around my neck, & it will be my constant accessory these next 40+ days.

what spiritual discipline do i need to improve in or want to try?
fasting, hands down.

what are some things in my life that i tell myself i need but don’t? can i give one or two of them up for 40 days?
stuff. just lots of stuff. i’m going to take advantage of this season of remembrance, repentance, & return to God to declutter not just my spirit but also my surroundings. i hope to donate much of what i get rid or to sell some items & donate the money to those in need somehow. i hope i have the courage to give up many things that i want to keep…

why am i giving this particular thing up? how does giving it up draw me closer to God & prepare me for easter?

i’m giving up things i already own to rid myself of the weight that ties me to this temporal world. i believe it will draw me closer to God by showing me in very visible & tangible ways that He is all i really need. my spirit can become lighter from worldly concerns while it experiences the heaviness of the spiritual realities that are the passion. and when easter comes, my spirit can be buoyant in every way!
what am i going to tell myself when self-denial gets hard?

i thought a memory verse would be appropriate. i’m on the siesta scripture memory team with living proof ministries this year, so my next verse [for february 15th] will be 2 corinthians 9:8 [ceb] — God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace. that way, you will have everything you need always and in everything to provide more than enough for every kind of good work. 

is it necessary/helpful for me to share the nature of my fast with others or keep it private?
i want to share something i’m doing that you can do, too — 40 days of water. this is a way to tie our personal spirituality to communal justice. you can join me & hundreds of others who are giving up all beverages except tap water [& in my case, occasionally a tea bag thrown into a mug of hot tap water!] for the lenten season in an effort to raise money for digging wells that provide clean drinking water to people in uganda. you track the beverages you would have drank [drunk?] each day & the money you saved in not doing so. each sunday [feast day, in which you get to drink whatever you want again], you donate your saved money to blood:water mission. i think this is a beautiful way of remembering what Christ came to live & die for — all people — to bring to earth love, reconciliation, abundant life, freedom, truth, & justice. you can find more information & join the throngs here.

what do the ashes mean to me this year? what does baptism mean to me this year?

having not grown up in a church that practiced lent, i don’t know what the ashes actually symbolize. i’m tempted to look it up, but i thought it might be better to record my thoughts first. ashes remind me of the legend of the phoenix – the mythical bird that dies in a burst of flames & is reborn from the ashes. it recalls to me the refining fire of God, in which He burns up all that is impure in me. then, i am created a new creature with a new heart, ever more in His image. “imago Dei — who i am & am becoming.” baptism represents much the same idea, but i think of a continual cleansing so that i live the resurrected life, even here & now. from the ashes, through baptism, i am in the present & powerful kingdom of God here on earth.
i have since researched lent & ash wednesday more, & i have learned that the ashes [which in the catholic church are from the burning of the palm leaves from the previous year’s palm sunday] represent our mortality — “for dust you are and to dust you will return” [gen. 3:19] — & the act of mourning over our sinfulness — in the spirit of sackcloth & ashes often mentioned in the bible in association with mourning. i think this is beautiful symbolism, & so i have also chosen to dress simply & in black today. it’s a far cry from sack cloth, but it is a visible reminder to me all day to be mindful of my need for repentance & God’s grace.

and then we can’t forget the actual ashes! i thought about attending a catholic ash wednesday mass today, but i decided to keep with a little tradition of my own instead. you may think it’s sacrilegious, so i’m asking you ahead of time for your grace & understanding as i explain this little ritual.

in past years, i’ve explored 12 classic spiritual disciplines throughout the year [with the guidance of richard foster’s celebration of discipline], & each year, i [theoretically] spend one month focused on confession. [please don’t be impressed — i’m far from consistent in how i practice these disciplines & am a poster child for failure.] one ritual i’ve come to establish & enjoy during that month is the writing out of my sins each day, then burning the piece of paper to symbolize how God blots out my transgressions. i used to do this in my fireplace, but one day when i was perusing my local thrift store, i found a beat up copper basin that i decided to use for this daily confessional. it’s been such a horrifying eye-opener to spend time trying to remember all the ways i messed up in a day. and while it’s been painful, it has been good. i’ve come to practice it long beyond the month i spend focusing on confession, although i haven’t been very consistent in it until this year. as part of the prayer liturgy i’m using, evening prayers include a time for confession, so i’ve been a little better about practicing the listing & burning on a daily basis.

today, i spent time reading the account of Jesus’ baptism & subsequent 40 days in the wilderness from matthew 3 – 4:11 & one of the penitential psalms, psalm 51.

then i listed alot of sins…

and i burned them while rereading psalm 51.

it’s no catholic mass, but it has meaning to me!

then, [& here’s the potentially sacrilegious part], i used the ashes from the past year as the mark of the cross for my forehead. because while i think it’s really neat to use last year’s palm leaves for ashes, those don’t have a particularly personal meaning to me. the ashes in my coppen basin do… they are a visible reminder of every sin i’ve confessed that God has wiped away, a symbol of His mercies, which are indeed new every morning.

may God bless you as you remember, repent, & return on this ash wednesday!