Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Lenten discipline and Living Biblically

Lent is almost over and Easter is coming. That means that next Monday, I can drink a whole pot of coffee, wash my clothes in very hot water, and dry 'em in the dryer all day long just for fun.

The Lenten disciplines will be done and I should be getting ready to shout Ha****jah. (Another part of Lent, we don't say that word until Easter).

But I'm a bit sad to see Lent go. I am terrible at New Year's resolutions, but I'm surprisingly good at Lenten disciplines. There's wisdom in the 40 day timeframe - long enough to make you realize it is possible to function without a gallon of coffee every morning, but not so long you're afraid to try.

But it's deeper for me. I have a pious, desert father-esque spiritual side that enjoys fasting and a bit of spiritual extremism. I was that way even as a kid. One year I went from Good Friday to Easter Sunday without speaking, by choice.

I just read a hilarious and smart book called "The Year of Living Biblically." The author, AJ Jacobs, (pictured above) is a culturally Jewish New Yorker who decides to try to follow all the Biblical laws for a year. It was a great book to be reading during Lent.

I figured he would do it in order to poke fun of religious people who take things to an extreme. (It didn't occur to me - even as I was reading it on the bus because I'd declared a car fast - that I might just be an extremist he'd poke fun at.)

I was mistaken. Not about me being an extremist, but about him being irreverent. He was remarkably reverent, even as he pointed out the ridiculousness of a stance that says you can follow the Bible literally 100% of the time. This video is a bit long, but worth it to introduce him.
His biggest lesson was that practices influence disposition. That makes sense to me. I am disposed to prayer, but I also pray daily because once I took it on as a Lenten discipline and it stuck. I'm disposed to going to church, but now that my work puts me in worship 3 times a week, I find I love it more.
Religion has a very different role for AJ Jacobs than it does for me, but I agreed with him throughout his book and especially on that major point: Practices are important for cultivating faith.
Question to think about: what practice (religious or otherwise) has changed your life?


  1. Sarah, Jason riding the bus every day has been such a blessing for us. It has saved us money on parking, gas, wear and tear on our vehicle. It's cheaper and extremely predictable. I love that. I know exactly when he will walk through that door. When we had little babies, that practice would have been so helpful for me and a relief for him. No more 4pm phone calls to his office with me saying, "Babe, when are you coming home?!?" Babies crying in the background. :)

    I would love for him to chime in and share how many more books he has read since switching to public transportation.

  2. Agreed..."The Year of Living Biblically" was HILARIOUS...and often quite accurate/true.

    A religious practice that has made a big difference in my life is centering prayer / contemplative prayer / Christian meditation. Three very different things, but are sometimes grouped together by different experts/authors. It was very difficult to find a practice that fit into my fairly conservative Lutheran background. But, it is usually worthwhile to those who have given it a try. We don't practice this type of prayer "for the benefits", but instead to strengthen our relationship with God. However, the side benefits are nice. :)

  3. Thanks for commenting to both of you. Yes, contemplative prayer is a great practice. The line "it was difficult to find a practice that fit into my fairly conservative Lutheran background." Was it hard because meditation seems kinda buddhist and centering prayer seems too catholic?

  4. Let me preface by responding with: I've explored (and attempted to be open to,) other faiths, and especially other Christian denominations. I think there is much to be learned. And, if anything, it has strengthened my preference for the Lutheran denomination.

    But,'re right...each type of prayer/meditation "method" seemed a little too much of some other type of faith -- not necessarily "harmful", but not necessarily "helping me grow" in a Lutheran Christian faith. In fact, anybody pursuing any of these types of prayer/meditation should probably be under some kind of spiritual guidance (like a Pastor), because there are some wild and crazy ideas out there.

    I think "Lectio Divina" looks kind of promising:
    But it should probably be combined with a "standard" Bible study with a knowledgeable leader (like a Pastor, etc.).

    Right now, I'm reading an Augsburg Fortress book (by Joann Nesser) on the subject of Contemplative Prayer...we'll see how that goes. Any other book suggestions?

  5. We do occassional Lectio Divina here - have done it with the youth and I incorporate some of it with Bible Study sometimes. What I like about it is that it dismisses the notion that you need to be an expert before you crack open a bible. Anyone who prays with scripture can hear God.

    Will think about other contemplative prayer books. Do you know Joan Chittester? I like her stuff.

    Also, we have a hard time finding a formula for Bible Study that works for people here - any suggestions?

  6. I think I may have read one of Joan's books. Her last name sounds familiar. Thanks for the recommendation. Looks like she has a lot on I'll pick one out and give it a read.

    Formula for Bible Study? clue there. I think POP is doing just about everything right when it comes to Bible Studies and other activities. The best studies I've attended (at other churches) have an interesting mix of young, mature, guys, girls, etc. The people who are "advanced in years" sometimes amaze me with their knowledge and insight. Topical? Book-by-book in the Bible? Differing times/days? Maybe even one combining Bible Study and prayer (kind of a head/heart combo thing). Unfortunately, it seems like everybody and their brother/sister have a different opinion. :)


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