Lent – Becoming Fully Alive

Today is Ash Wednesday. It marks the beginning of the Lenten season in the Western Christian calendar. These 40 days (excluding Sundays) culminate in the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday. Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 11.09.16 AMLent is about preparation, self examination and meditation on Jesus’ life and suffering. It’s about journeying with him to become like him. It’s about taking up our cross prior to being raised with him.  Before being raised to life on Sunday, Jesus was lifted up on Friday.

Our culture shuns anything that remotely hints of denial. “Why should I have to give up anything?” we ask, if not with words then through how we conduct our lives.  Examining the deep inner contours of our hearts is not something we do naturally – yet it is what followers of Jesus have done for centuries during this season and have found deep life in the process. This, of course, is the point.  Lent is about finding life – finding the true source of life – the very author of life himself.  In Lent we give up other embraces to make room to be more fully be embraced by Jesus.

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 11.23.07 AMThis season, you may want to embark on a journey asking the question, “what in my life is crowding out the very source of life?” This is the essence of fasting – another practical marker of Lent.  Jesus wants to bring us to a place of being more fully alive and yet he won’t do it without our partnership.  As we posture ourselves toward him, the Holy Spirit will transform our self-centred lives into new lives of community and justice. Lent prepares us to live worshipful lives of compassion, generosity and all embracing love.  This sounds like a good definition of being fully alive to me – how about you?

 

Here are a few resources that may help you on the journey:

Lent: the road to the Cross  – a booklet prepared by the Vineyard UK.

Pray As You Go – a daily contemplative podcast that leads the listener through a series of meditative prayers and scripture readings.  Each episode is about 10 – 13 minutes long.  You can listen right from their website or subscribe to it via iTunes podcasts.

Lent for Everyone – this is an online devotional created by N.T. Wright.  It includes daily scripture and a well crafted and thoughtful devotion by one of the foremost New Testament scholars of our time.  (You have to sign up to view it)

Living Lent Daily – features prayers, thoughts and more each day to inspire you throughout your Lenten journey. A new article will become available daily throughout Lent.  These are quite short.

More with Less Fast – Invitation

The world around us always seems to want more from us, but gives less in return.  It may be your schedule demanding more from you.  Perhaps there are debtors wanting to be paid.  Maybe there is a situation in your life that requires a lot of extra energy and it’s simply draining you.  Or it may be one of the “stories” our society tells us – like the script that says the more money we have, the happier we will be.  Or the more we exercise, the more desirable we will be.  Or the more we drink, the easier it will be to forget.  But these never really work.  The more we feed these various appetites, the less we seem to get in return – we are less comforted, less happy, less satisfied and less fulfilled.

The Kingdom of God is the opposite.  The more we give ourselves to him and his Kingdom, the more joy, satisfaction, fulfillment and sense of his presence we get in return.  The more we are fully given to our Father and his Kingdom, the less we need all the other stuff.  It’s not that all the other stuff is necessarily bad.  Rather, when we look to all those other things to fill us, they can make us numb to his presence in our lives instead of giving us life.

You may ask, “what does this have to do with fasting?”  The answer is “everything!”  If you’re like me, when I think about fasting, images of suffering, discipline, pain, and self-denial fill my mind.  The end goal of fasting has been lost to the activity itself.  Like one who looses the forest for the trees, too often those who fast see only the lack, and miss the more!

The end goal of fasting is to open us up to more of God, not to make it through a week without eating or checking Facebook!  While, there is an element of giving up in fasting, this is never the whole picture.  There is always more, rather than less, when it comes to fasting.

surrender1In this “More with Less” fast, we are calling us to recapture the joy in fasting.  There is a beauty in the simplicity of sharing a meal with a stranger (in the Isaiah 58 sense) and there is a simple goodness in forgoing a meal in order to spend time with the Lord.

In your life, what dulls you to God’s presence?  Certainly, there are many things which have the power to either numb us or draw our attention towards God.  What might he be calling you to detach yourself from during this week of fasting so that you can more fully experience his “more” for your life?

We will begin this fast on Sunday, March 15 and finish on Saturday March 21.  We will have daily encouragements as well as a time to gather together to worship and pray in the evening of Wednesday, March 18.

It will be a week of revelry in the Holy Spirit as we dislodge our usual comforts and displace them with God’s comfort for us.

March 15 – 21

Join us!

 

An Ash Wednesday Message from God

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent for Western Christians.  Lent is the 40 days that lead up to Easter.  During this time Christians have engaged in a number of practices designed to prepare themselves for Easter.  Often it is a season marked by fasting.  We will be fasting together in March (more details to come), but for now, here is a visual meditation on Isaiah 58, in which God describes the kind of fast he prefers.

Enjoy.

 

Lent – Watering Dry Bones

It’s what we all want isn’t it?  To see life come to the dry bones?  To see skin and flesh clothe hollow skeletons.  To see the goodness and mercy of the Father enfleshed.  To see the dream of a distant land flowing with milk and honey brought to our land.  To see hope restored and death reversed.  It’s what we all want isn’t it?

Here’s another meditative moment from The Work of the People.

Lent – Leaving Ourselves at the Altar

Many are familiar with the line in Psalm 23, “…goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life…”  It’s a nice thought, but a one that does not nearly capture the tenacity of God’s goodness and mercy.  These qualities don’t follow us around like a lost puppy looking for its home.  Goodness and mercy are relentless, tenacious and precise in their pursuit.  They will track us down like a hunter tracking it’s prey.  They will seek us out like a heat-seeking missile.  Simply put, God will hunt us down with his goodness and mercy – through the valley of the shadow of death – through the suffering of the loss of Eden – right to where we are today in the middle of Lent, preparing to celebrate and welcome the resurrection of the one who made it all possible…

Here’s another meditative moment from The Work of the People.

Nepali Fast – Isaiah 58

Isaiah 58 Fast

April 13 – 20

In the bible, fasting and prayer usually go together. Fasting isn’t simply about the lack of food, or the lack of anything else for that matter, but rather an intensified focus, or shift in perspective from something temporal to God. It’s about bringing our attention to the Lord in a specific way for a particular time by reducing our dependence on something physical. Our physical hunger reminds us that we are really hungry for God.

It makes sense, then, that fasting and prayer go together. However, it seems that if our lifestyles are not extending grace, mercy and justice in practical ways, our fasting is distasteful to God. Isaiah helps bring clarity to this issue in chapter 58 where he links “true fasting” with feeding the hungry, sharing with the poor, keeping the Sabbath and in general, living justly.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter
– when you see the naked,
to clothe them,
and not to turn away
from your own flesh and blood?

Nepali Fast

Nepal Woman and Child

This fast is an invitation to hold both fasting and care for the hungry together. To that end we invite you to participate in a very practical fast for one week – that is to eat at or below the level of the average Nepali person.

For just about all of us, this will mean eating less – less quantity as well as less variety.

The fast starts Sunday April 13 (with an evening of prayer and worship) and we’ll break the fast on Easter Sunday, April 20.

There are two objectives for this fast:

1) When we consume less, we can give more.

2) When we fast, we draw closer to God.

 

Consuming Less

Isaiah 58 makes it clear that we are to respond to the “hungry” in our world in practical ways.

God has linked WCV with the Himalayan Region Vineyards in a deep and profound way. Many of our brothers and sisters in this region live on minimal nutritional requirements. We are one body, and Paul admonishes us to “share each other’s burdens” (Gal 6). One way we can do this is to eat at their levels. This will allow us to consume less, while practicing solidarity with them.

Here are some facts and figures concerning the average Nepali that may help frame the conversation:

Canada’s average salary approx. $40,000 ($110 / day)
Nepal’s average salary approx. $1,200 ($3.30 / day)
25% of Nepal’s population live below poverty line of: $1.25 / day. (Nepal Bureau of Statistics)
Major concerns include little or no access to primary health care, education, clean drinking water and sanitation services. Food security and poor nutrition are major concerns, especially in rural areas. (IFAD)
Nepal has one of the highest early childhood mortality rates in the region.  2/3 of Nepali children are severely deprived and just under 40% live in absolute poverty.  50% of children under 5 are stunted and over 2/3 are underweight due to malnutrition. (Unicef)

By embracing their diet, we are in a way embracing our brothers and sisters in Nepal.  Eating their food in a way places them in the centre of our tables every day.

Nepal WCV Group

Giving More

By spending a week eating at these levels, most of us will have saved money on our grocery bills.  Keep track of what you save – or calculate it in whatever way makes sense to you.  Then we encourage you to donate it to WCV (mark it for Nepal) and we we will send it to Nepal to be used to feed those who are poor.

If you do not normally spend money getting your food, but have participated in this fast, we encourage you to give what you can to the “First Fruits” basket and the food will be shared at Drop-in.

Drawing Near to God

This fast is not just a clever way to raise money for those in need.  It can do something in us and to us.  As we turn ourselves towards God in prayer and fasting, we can be transformed.  Our prayer is that WCV will draw closer to God as we participate in this “fast that he has chosen”.

Throughout the week we will be having regular stories sent from the School of Justice, who will be in Nepal during this time.  They will give us short meditations to help us both understand the plight of the people there as well as God’s heart for them and us!

Preparing

Checklist for preparing for this week:

  • Put it on your schedules.
  • We will start the week with an evening of worship & prayer on Sunday, April 13, 7pm.
  • Do your grocery shopping beforehand (check the ingredients in the recipe in this booklet).
  • Calculate your normal weekly grocery bill and get ready to donate the savings.


Recipe – Dal Baht

Plain Rice (Bhat)

2 cups rice (Basmati or Long grain preferred)

4 cups water.

Lentils (Dal)

  • 1½ cups lentil (any kind), 4 to 5 cups of water, ½ tsp turmeric, 1 tsp minced garlic, 6 tbsp butter, 3/4 cup sliced onions, 2 chillies, salt to taste.
  • Wash lentils and soak lentil for 10 minutes – drain.

    Dahl

     

  • Add lentils to fresh water and bring to a boil.
  • Add all spices.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 – 30 mins (until lentils are soft).
  • Fry the onions, chilies and garlic in the butter & stir into the simmering lentils.

 

Lent – Oasis

The water we need to live – that we need to really live – does not come from earthen springs.  It is not discovered in any well dug by human hands, not can it be drilled by any rig of human ingenuity.  This water is not pumped, bottled, chlorinated or dammed up.  It does not stagnate in forgotten pools nor flow with the ocean’s tide.  The water we need to truly live comes from an eternal source, springing from the resurrection into our lives, filling cracks and crevices with it’s cool, beyond-the-grave touch – transforming all in it’s path.

Here’s another meditative moment from The Work of the People.

Lent – a Season of Preparing for More

On March 5, we entered the season of Lent.  A season, 40 days leading up to Easter, that the church has historically observed as a time of preparation.  A time to prepare hearts, bodies and lives for the life that’s made available through Jesus’ resurrection.  Lent is only helpful if it points us towards resurrection.  Giving up for Lent is only useful if it points us to all that God has for us.  Dying to ourselves is only a good thing if the Holy Spirit can come afterwards and bring us to life.  This short video is a great reminder that God is not about scarcity and that Lent is intended to help us prepare for more, not less. 

You may want to check out these resources:

Pray As You Go – a daily contemplative podcast that leads the listener through a series of meditative prayers and scripture readings.  Each episode is about 10 – 13 minutes long.  You can listen right from their website or subscribe to it via iTunes podcasts.

Lent for Everyone – this is an online devotional created by N.T. Wright.  It includes daily scripture and a well crafted and thoughtful devotion by one of the foremost New Testament scholars of our time.  (You have to sign up to view it)

Living Lent Daily – features prayers, thoughts and more each day to inspire you throughout your Lenten journey. A new article will become available daily throughout Lent.  These are quite short.

Have you used any of these resources?  Let us know how they were helpful in the comment section below!