Lent 2018 assignment


This is posted by Nathan Hershberger for Joy.

Job 14:1-2 A mortal, born of woman, few of days and full of trouble, comes up like a flower and withers, flees like a shadow and does not last.”

Confession first: I’ve not spent much time in the book of Job. I wonder if you are anything like me? It makes me uncomfortable. In all honestly, so much of the Old Testament can be challenging to me in this way. However, if I look at the Bible comprehensively, I see that the Old Testament is pointing us to the New, to Christ! So, although I am no expert in Job, I am a follower of Christ, and I think even Job’s words in this passage are giving us a full glimpse at God’s story and the Good News for those who have “ears to hear” it.
As mortals, “born of woman” it feels like Job is taking us back to the beginning, to Eve, the mother of all living (Genesis 3:20). However, this birth does not bring us eternal life. Just as Adam and Eve fell from God’s eternal paradise, we are destined to do the same, unless. Unless we are born of water and the Spirit. Jesus gives this clear instruction to Nicodemus and to us in John 3:5, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Two categories, a very important distinction.
This distinction is important as we continue in the passage. Life is “few of days and full of trouble”. Whether we live to one or one hundred, our days in this life are short and with each passing year seem to go by faster and faster. Short and hard. Job certainly new this. We know this. For those who are born of the spirit, it is good for us to acknowledge and give thanks to God for His many ways of helping us through His provision and presence. We also have the gift of life eternal, that begins now as we walk with God, and continues into the next life.
That mortal life “withers like a flower” again is a distinction between life in the flesh and life in the spirit. While life in the flesh may allure us, it’s attrativeness will not last. Life in the flesh will wither. It is only life in the spirit that will sustain us. If we connect this to 1 Peter 1 24-25, “’For all flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord endures forever.’ That word is the good news that was announced to you.” Only Christ’s redemptive work on our behalf will remain when all of the flesh has withered away.
While shadows obstruct light, just as sin obstructs our communion with God, Christ is the source of light, and He is everlasting. Job again is pointing us to Christ and to life everlasting that is found in Him. Christ is our connection to communion with God, now and forever.

Livening liturgy vs hollow holidays

Ash wednesday was a couple weeks before I started this post. That means lent is in full force. It feels like the New Year Holiday to me. I mean the part about making an empty promise and breaking it. And besides that, a long period of abstinence seems silly when it is preceded by a Fat Tuesday where, in our culture, people feel like they have to repent all the way to Easter for their Mardi Gras indiscretions.

The sermon bringing in the season at Harmony was helpful for me. The big point I took from it was that the tradition works when the fasting is a springboard for reflection.  So the key is deciding to engage with the tradition, rather than just slide through, if I want to connect with God and be able to more properly align with him.

I am not fasting from food. But I do need the time to reflect. I won’t bore you with the details of my fast because it is would seem silly and still I am not doing that well. Actually that is the reason I am writing this post.

I have a problem and I can’t tell which side it is on (but it’s probably the inside).  I came into Lent looking forward to deep introspection and growth.  What I saw when I looked in was ugly: I still crave the opportunity to sin.

I guess that’s the deal. Lent isn’t about me. It is about Him. Maybe I should be contemplating the One this time celebrates rather than just introspecting. Hopefully that will provide the strength to make it through the rest of Lent.


 

On New Years Resolutions: Nate

The first thing that thought of when Joy challenged me (or we challenged each other) to do a blog about new years was a song from the 90s by Carolyn Arends.  I pulled the first few lyrics from elyrics.net to explain my approach to New Years

New Year's Day Lyrics [excerpt]
I buy a lot of diaries
Fill them full of good intentions
Each and every New Year's Eve
I make myself a list
All the things I'm gonna change
Until January 2nd
So this time I'm making one promise

Chorus:
This will be my resolution
Every day is New Year's Day

 The song goes on about a life of belief and making changes, but I want to focus on this first part.  I like this idea that I don’t really need to wait until New Years to make a change.  I just need to decide that something is important and live into the change.   However, experience and lines 5 & 6 of the song point out how temporary [New Years] resolutions are.  The silliness of New years resolutions is such a meme that people joke about how quickly their resolutions will be broken.  To me, rather than being silly, this frustration that makes me feel like a failure.

The next thing I thought was that Joy is pushing me to make a New years resolution to get more fit (eat better, get more active, etc).  It takes work and focus stop sitting around like a bump on a log and attend to to what I am putting into my mouth, so I am reluctant to commit to a change like that.  As I pointed out earlier, this is to avoid that sense of failure as much as anything.  That said, I am not happy that my belly impedes my ability to bend over, and I know that some of my physical ailments would go away if I were in better shape.

There have only been a couple new years resolutions that took well for me.  In college, I once resolved to do 100 sit-ups a day. It wasn’t perfect, but that year I remember feeling good about it … especially when my brother commented my physical fitness.  Another time I resolved to listen to the bible in a year via the Daily Audio Bible podcast.  That resolution started around May rather than January, and I think that it basically worked.  Notice that both of these were actual 1 year resolutions and less daunting. They were easier to commit to, because there was an endpoint in sight.  When it comes to making changes for a better whole life, like eat better, I don’t want to plan for them to end.

So I guess I feel like a weasel setting this up.  On the one hand, the lyrics to that song show how ridiculous it is to set up a resolution that I will keep only until I quit and then feel like a failure.  On the other hand that Chorus suggests “Every day is New Year’s Day.” In a way it sounds like a good 12 steppers philosophy: “One day at a time.”  Or “keep coming back … it works if you work it.”  So what can I stand to improve? A lot, I want to Learn more about God, and find a way to truly enjoy him.  I want to be a better father and leader in my home.  I want to help my wife not to feel so overwhelmed with our household.   I even want to live in a healthier, slimmer, more toned body.

I am not ready to make commitments to all these things at once.  But my actions (or inactions) have consequences and I do not want to give up on doing good.   My resolution is to not give up on improving.  I feel like I have gotten lazy spiritually, occupationally, relationally, and personally/physically.   My resolution is to intentionally improve one thing listed in purple above as often as I can remember, and I hope and pray that I can remember at least daily.  And when I give up on that: today can be new years day.

What I have above is not meant to be a specific one action resolution.  To clarify,  it is about approach.  I want avoid the frustration of giving up on a new years resolution, so instead I am resolving to take things one day at a time and not feel frustrated about yesterday, but instead see what I can do about making todays 153 become tomorrows 154.  I will look back on a daily basis and rate (in the book that Joy gave me) how it went and maybe plan for the next day.  Instead of seeing a failed past and whining about history, I hope that I can accept the gift that is the present,  and relax about the mystery of the future.

On New Year’s Resolutions: Joy

The first day of a new year always feels so full of promise: “Let this be the year; the year that I finally do all of the things I’ve been trying to do or change about myself throughout my life.” You know, the year that I will finally take care of myself. I will have quiet time every day. I will eat clean and workout 4-5 times a week. I will stop emotionally eating. I will take ME time regularly. I will invest in meaningful friendships. I will finally organize my entire house (including the most dreaded basement) and follow a cleaning plan. I will declutter and become a faithful minimalist. I will play with and encourage my kids more. I will teach them how to be self-sufficient little people who will happily do chores and learn how to responsibly manage their money. I will responsibly manage my money. I will cheerfully sit down with my husband to create a budget that will snowball our way out of debt and I will cheerfully stick to it- every month! I will creatively and intentionally pursue communication and meaningful interaction with the man I love- no more passing ships in the night. I will find energy- somehow, someway, to do all of this- because this shall be the year.
In reality, if I’m honest, yes, I want all of these things. I am also a strange combination of realistic enough and skeptical to realize that most of, if not all of these things, are likely to remain as they have throughout my accumulating years.
However, as I enter 2017, there is a deep longing for things to be different. Not different as in “I hate my life and want to switch with someone.” Different as in the last year, for me as it has been for many that I know, has been exceedingly difficult. Not that it has been filled with all bad things, although some of the things I could certainly do without. Just hard. So, as I look into this new year I do so with a sense of longing, for knowledge about questions I have had for a long time. Longing for answers that will allow me to love the people in my life more effectively. Longing for peace, that in the middle of these storms can only be found at the feet of Jesus.
As I step forward into this year, I do so prayerfully. I pray that I will remember each day to treat myself and others with dignity. I pray that the Lord will continue to knit my husband and I together. That we will enter into this year with the strength of unity and determination. That God will bless our family and help us continue to unravel the mysteries that exist in each of us. I pray that we will take the lessons we have learned thus far as gifts to help us on our journey. I pray that my children will know each day that they are loved and cherished. That each of us will be mindful of the great blessings we have- placing each other at the top of that list. And as I sit here on New Year’s Day, writing a piece that my husband asked me to have finished a week ago, maybe, just maybe, I’ll add “stop procrastinating” to that first list.