This year, for Lent …

Welcome to Lent 2010. (For those who are unfamiliar with Lent, check out this primer from Beliefnet.)

Writer extraordinaire Julie Clawson penned a great and very thought-provoking piece on just what Lent is about (which you can find on God’s Politics or on her own blog). Of particular note:

Lent isn’t about denial; it is about transformation. It is the season in which we prepare to encounter Christ’s sacrifice by endeavoring to become more Christ like ourselves. Transformation is about letting ourselves be filled with God’s presence so that we can be shaped by God’s grace. Our acts of kenosis — denying ourselves in order to empty ourselves enough to allow God to fill us — are means to an end. They are disciplines that prepare us to be transformed. We deny ourselves so that we can be reborn as new creations — to live more fully as the kingdom citizens God desires us to be.

Various friends are doing various things for Lent. Some decisions are related to food: one friend is going vegan for lent, while another is committing to the Daniel fast. Others are choosing to spend less time staring at a screen, whether it’s through swearing off of Facebook or abstaining from watching TV. Yet others are choosing proactive resolutions, in one case deciding to commit to a half hour quiet time every day.

Me? I’ve been thinking more about what it is that would be healthy for me, and what would best clear space for God. I went to an Ash Wednesday service last night at which Dallas Willard reminded us that “Christ died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them” (2 Cor. 5:15). Like Julie, I don’t want to withdraw from Facebook, which is one of the few ways I’m able to keep contact with my widely-dispersed friends. I don’t really drink coffee or eat sweet things all that much, so abstaining from those wouldn’t create much lifespace.

I’ve decided that my Lenten plan will be a little mish-mash of everything:

  • I’m giving up alcohol. I’m an artist. I don’t need any additional aids to make me emo.
  • I’m gonna try to be more consistent with working out a little every day. I’ve been hobbled by various ailments since I’ve moved here–I blame a more sedentary lifestyle.
  • I’m cutting down on my TV intake–not completely, but some. So I’m still keeping Lost, Smallville, Chuck, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother … uhhh, I might rethink this one. 😉
  • For those of you who remember the 6-month dating fast of 2007–Micah and Christie?–I’m instituting something similar for Lent. The last few months have made me realize that I need to be a little more settled, especially since I’m still trying to find my feet in DC. (Six months was a doozy; Lent should be a breeze.)

What about you? What’re you doing for Lent (if anything)?

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This is Love

From pastor/musician Jaeson Ma:

We are loved

C.S. Lewis:

We are all receiving Charity. There is something in each of us that cannot be naturally loved. It is no one’s fault if they do not so love it … You might as well ask people to like the taste of rotten bread or the sound of a mechanical drill. We can be forgiven, and pitied, and loved in spite of it, with Charity; no other way. All who have good parents, wives, husbands, or children, may be sure that at some times — and perhaps at all times in respect of some one particular trait or habit — they are receiving Charity, are loved not because they are lovable but because Love Himself [Christ] is in those who love them.

The Four Loves, 182-183.

Only a few days to go …

Welcome to the fourth Sunday in Advent. In a few short days, we will celebrate the coming of the Light of the world, and the commemorative time of waiting and darkness will be over. During the last month or so, somewhat coincidentally on my brother Gabe’s recommendation, I’ve been reading Ben Patterson’s Waiting: Finding Hope When God Seems Silent. I could write much about my own journey of waiting (and I will, eventually), but that’s not what this blog is about.

Four hundred years. It had been four hundred years since anything had been heard from God. And the children of Israel languished under Roman occupation, oppressed and marginalized in what was supposed to be the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey, a land of freedom and prosperity. This was not what the fulfillment of God’s promises was meant to look like.

And into that environment, into that darkness, into that uncertainty and longing, hope came, love came, justice came, grace came: the Word became flesh and moved into our neighborhood. Jesus was born: the fullness of God in a fragile, helpless baby.

It’s been two thousand years since that cosmic event and those who follow in the heritage of Israel—the followers of the Way—are waiting. Jesus came, and we wait for his return, when the earth will be made right and justice, hope and healing will reign on the earth. Still, we live in the in-between time, and we might often find ourselves thinking that this is not what the kingdom of God that Jesus heralded and inaugurated with his coming is meant to look like: conflict abounds around the world, disregarding God’s commandment to love one another; poverty and hunger continue to afflict millions, even as we move into the second decade of the 21st century, flying in the face of Jesus’ exhortation to care for the least of these; a blithe disregard for the creation shows a blatant disrespect for the Creator. And that’s just a snapshot.

But in this environment, this season reminds us of the coming of Jesus, the hope of all creation. We remember that though there is much that may discourage us or deflate our spirits, the most ultimate victory was begun with the birth of a baby boy, over two thousand years ago.

“For God loved the world in this way: that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

Theologizing Superheroes (or, Revealing my Inner Geek)

Last night I satisfied for a brief moment my inner comic book fanboy and watched Superman: Doomsday, the cartoon adaptation of The Death and Return of Superman series. [Some of you may be saying, “Superman died?!” Others will be rolling your eyes that I even need to explain that, and there will undoubtedly be a few who don’t really care.] I’ve always loved superheroes. Maybe I’m mindlessly buying into what Robert Jewett in Mission and Menace calls “the American monomyth paradigm” (236-238); maybe I’m just indulging in childish flights of fancy. Regardless, since I was a kid, I’ve loved Batman’s fun gadgets, Wolverine’s ridiculously cool adamantium claws, and Spider-Man’s webbing (and humor). But Superman has always been my favorite superhero.

Every hero has angst. It’s part of the comic book code: everyone struggles with something, whether it’s Spider-Man trying to figure out how to balance school and girls and fighting crime, or Wolverine wrestling with his shadowy past and trying to control his feral nature. Superman’s angst is his otherness, his difference, his rootlessness; his struggle is to find his place in a world that is simultaneously his home and yet not.

Here then is the first parallel, one of the reasons I like Superman: because I identify with him. Both for myself as a Third Culture Kid, and for myself as a Christian, whose citizenship is not in this world but in heaven (Phil. 3:20), this search and longing for home—to find people who really understand me and welcome me for who I am—is one of the struggles I face. Where do I fit in this world?

But the second parallel is what struck me (again, but with more clarity) last night, when I watched Superman: Doomsday. What makes Superman who he is? It isn’t just his super-strength, or his laser sight, or his super-speed, or his ability to fly, or his invincibility. It’s his values. It’s the fact that, even though he’s got the capacity to have the world fall at his feet, even though he’s got the power to subjugate all people and do whatever he wants, he chooses to be a servant, even to the point of laying down his life to defeat evil. Uh … obvious analogy, anyone?

Of course, the Superman mythology can be interpreted another way, as feeding into some of the American myths that Richard T. Hughes looks at in Myths America Lives By: of invulnerability, of always trying to do good, of American innocence. But I think even this way of understanding the Superman/Christ/America association belies the way that we as Americans (and we as Christians) can sometimes tend to (consciously or unconsciously) claim for ourselves a messianic mantle. (New discussion … go!)

Anyway … just wanted to bare my comic book-loving soul for y’all.

[Disclaimer: The movie isn’t all that amazing; but it is 75 minutes of fun.]