Spirit Come – Lenten Practice Updates

The 2018 Lenten season started almost a month ago now.  Ash Wednesday was on Valentine’s Day.  And Easter falls on April Fool’s Day.   So needless to say that Lent is not quite the same this year.  Plus, I’m in a new church community that celebrates Lent differently than in my past congregations.
This year (like most years) Lent snuck up on me because the start of it fell in the midst of my busiest season as a youth pastor – Retreat Season.  For those who follow me on the social medias – you’ll have noticed that between January and February I spent three weekends up at camp.  One weekend was spent at a Youth Pastors’ Conference.  And two others were spent pulling together some fun fundraisers.
So when Ash Wednesday came around, I was like – oh no!  I haven’t picked a practice yet and my brain cannot handle picking up something or giving something up. It’s all too much right now. 
So, instead, I decided to reimagine an old practice that I had gotten a little lax on in the past few months.  Sabbath.
Partially I chose this because I had just recently listened to Annie F. Downs interview John Mark Comer about Sabbath.  And partially because of my aforementioned schedule, I was needing to be very intentional about my down time and resting to be ready for all the things going on in my life.
On a typical week of life I have two days off – Friday and Saturday.  Now, being a pastor doesn’t always mean those days are totally off, sometimes things come up and you need to deal with them, etc.  But for the most part, I try to do all my “work things” between Sunday and Thursday and then I disengage for two days.  In the past I’ve looked at one of those days as a Sabbath day and one of those days as a day to get all the household things done.
Sabbath comes out of the Old Testament, and the most common place to see it is in the 10 Commandments where God tells the Israelites:

Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.  You have six days each week for your ordinary work,  but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your livestock, and any foreigners living among you.  For in six days the Lord made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy. (Exodus 20:8-11, NLT) 

In the interview I mentioned above, John Mark Comer expands on this concept still being practiced today within the Jewish faith tradition.  (You should probably go listen to it.)
For me, reimagining Sabbath meant making time in my week to truly rest and find refreshment.  Rest looks like a lot of different things for a lot of different people.  So when trying to plan a Sabbath day, it’s important to take into account what gives you rest and refreshment.  Then you can build your Sabbath rules around those things.  This gets difficult when you have to take into account the desires of others (spouses, kids, roommates, etc.)  Luckily for me, in my current season I live alone and can shape my Sabbath days in a selfish manner.
So, here are some of the things required in my Sabbath day that help me to find rest:
Cook a meal from scratch
This seems like work, I know.  But for me, it’s really calming to do the work of creating a meal from raw ingredients.  The work part of it for me is the finding the recipes and shopping.  So I invest in a meal delivery service that helps me live into this practice I love.  The ingredients and recipes show up at my door once a week and gives me the ability to do the parts I love without the headache work of other parts.
Be with dear friends
I’m an extrovert who values quality time.  I need to be with people.  BUT – as an extrovert, not all interactions with people fill me up.   On Sabbath days I limit my interactions to people who are on the journey with me, my inner most circle wherever I am at physically.  This can mean family (if I’m in Denver) but most often it means friends that become like family.  Friends who know my heart and are in the trenches with me.
Limited Phone Time
I try my hardest to limit the time on my phone.  Sometimes it means turning off my notifications.  Sometimes it means intentionally leaving it on silent, in another room or in my purse.
Listen/make to music
I connect to music more than any other type of media.  It’s where my heart finds a home.  So every Sabbath day requires an extended music session – sometimes that means sitting at a piano and playing and sometimes it means pulling up my iTunes and playing through some of my faves.
Intimate time with God
I had a spiritual director once that loved to call me out on the lack of intimacy I had with Jesus.  She always challenged me to do things that caused me such discomfort that would deepen my intimacy with the One who created me.  I’m not talking about spending time in His word or praying.  I’m talking about talking about solitude, about embodying your relationship with Jesus – as if you are physically with him.  Tangibly this means trying to have solitude with just me and God.  Taking a walk with no music or podcast, sitting in his presence and not saying anything.  I try to do something to deepen that part of my relationship with him.
The Silly “No Work/Vain” Things
Sometimes you just need to name the things that you will not be doing on the Sabbath.  For me its:  No e-mails.  No housework (except dishes cause I weirdly love doing dishes).  No guilt for not texting/snapchatting/messaging back.  No social media stalking.  No early mornings.  No mind numbing activities (like TV or Netflix).
So there’s a look inside my sabbaths.  It’s the practice I’ve taken most seriously in my history of Lent practices.  It’s also been the thing keeping me alive throughout a busy ministry season.
What makes it on your Sabbath list?

thank you for the wilderness

thank you for the wilderness
where I learnt to thirst for your presence
if I’d never known that place
how could I have known you better

thank you for the lonely times
when I learned to live in the silence
as the other voices fade
I can hear you calling me Jesus

I’m an extravert.  I’ve always known it – I love people.  I am a talker.  I excel in places that are bustling.  It’s partially why I get more work done in coffee shops than alone in my apartment.
But I’m also shy.  If you’re reading this and you’ve spent time with me in person you are probably surprised by that statement.  But I am. I haven’t always been shy.  I used to be very outgoing.  But somewhere along the way I lost that trait.  I’m sure it had something to do with fitting it.  I realized somewhere around middle school that I was not like everyone else at school.  I didn’t exactly fit in.  So when I am placed into a situation where I am surrounded by peers, I shrink into myself.  I default to the people around me that have bigger personalities.
Again – if you’re reading this and you really know me, you’re surprised.  I have a larger than life personality when I’m comfortable.  When I feel loved and valued, I am a little over the top.  I’m a little much – and it’s great.
But the problem is, I’ve been told that I’m a little much – and that’s a bad thing.  I’ve been told I’m intimidating.  I’ve been told that my confidence is off putting.  I’ve been told that I feel like I’m entitled to something.  These critiques of my personality have created a negative thought pattern in head.  When I feel resistance, I tell myself these lies – over and over again.
In my last post I wrote about finding a way to claim the freedom that was freely given to me.  I realized after I wrote it how much of my life has been spent being less free than I could have been.  Because I’ve bought into these lies.  I’ve given into my life circumstances rather than giving into the one who created me.
As Lent was starting, I put myself into the wilderness.  I followed Jesus’s example and purposely turned down the volume on some voices and turned up the volume on God’s voice.  I purposely placed myself into situations that were lonely in order to find fulfillment in Jesus.
In doing this I realized something about myself.  I’ve learned to drown out the lonely with people, tv, music and other things.  I’ve learned to numb the pain of feeling alone through these other things.  When those negative thought patterns arise, I don’t fight them with the truth, I simply drown them out with other things.
But doing that doesn’t make them go away.  It simply quiets them for now.  But they will always come back.
But they don’t have to rule my life.  They don’t have to be the loudest voice because the Truth is – I’ve been healed by the Healer, made new by the Creator, stronger because of the places where I was weak and needed him.
God gave his Son so that I could be free.  Jesus sacrificed his life for my freedom.  And as I’ve been in the wilderness this Lenten season – as I’ve leaned into the truth and given control back to God, I am thankful.
Thankful for the loneliness because it shows me I’m created for community.
Thankful for my Too Much-ness because is shows me I’m alive and unique.
Thankful for my messy story because it gave me the moxie I need to live this crazy life.

Honey, you are free…

… as much as you can stand to be

Today’s post title comes from a song by Jimmy Eat World.  I’ve always had a special place in my heart for this band – they were the soundtrack to my high school years.  Every once in a while when they drop a new track I download it and their sound takes me back to a time in my life that seemed easier.  This song is called “You are Free” and it’s no exception.  It’s undeniably a Jimmy Eat World song, but it’s also been a little bit of a soundtrack to my 2017 Lenten season.
I’ve written a little bit on the things I’ve added into my life throughout Lent but here’s the semi-comprehensive list:

Life Lived Beautifully’s Breathe Bible Study on the Psalms <
> Reading Jennie Allen’s Nothing to Prove <
> Reading through 1 Corinthians alongside the Goddaughter <
> Journaling (almost) everyday <
> Intentional involvement in the Lead Stories Community (and Podcast) <

Throughout this time I’ve started to see some patterns come out.  Some threads throughout all of these different practices.  God has been tying in everything around me, He’s shown up in some pretty amazing ways and the overall message that I’m hearing him tell me over and over is this:
You can be free – as much as you can stand to be.
God’s been pouring into me and reminding me that He’s already set me free.  It’s not Him who limits my freedom – it’s me.
He sent Jesus to earth for me.  Jesus died for me.  Jesus was resurrected so that I could have freedom.  Not limited freedom – complete freedom.
So the things that I have put in the way of my freedom, the lies that have been told to me that limit my freedom, and all the excuses I’ve made as to why I can’t be free.  Those are nothing for the power of the Holy Spirit.
This Lenten season has drawn me closer to the throne.  I’ve sat at the foot of the cross and dug into why and how I’ve limited my own freedom.
Saying those words to myself: You can be free – as much as you can stand to be.  Reminds me that I have to do the work to clear out the junk.  To take the time and space to claim the freedom that was so graciously and mercifully gifted to me.
So as we step into Holy Week, how can we live our freedom out?  How can we lay down the lies that the enemy has put into our heads and pick up the freedom of the cross?
Let’s remember that the story we tell and the traditions we participate in this week shine light on the one who set us free.
You are free – as much as you can stand to be.