Ash Wednesday

It's Ash Wednesday if you're watching your church calendar--or if you knew that Mardi Gras added last net. It came and went around here, sadly enough. I always want to go into Lent with more intent.

A year ago today, I went to the doctor in British Columbia and ended up in the hospital with a ruptured appendix. That was the beginning of a lot of changes for us--for me. It was a long road to where we are today. Almost a year of Lent in some ways. And it's been good. We're in a much better place. Not an easy place, but a better place (as the song goes: "getting better, all the time").

It's amazing how much things can change in your life--if you let it happen. It would have been easy for us when we were first married to settle down in Eau Claire and have a comfortable life. It probably would have been a good life. But we would have missed out on a lot--and we probably wouldn't have grown much along the way, either. Stepping out on a limb can be good.

Maybe I'll pull out one of the Lenten devotionals from the bookshelf and take some time with that this season.


Mobility & the Church

Today in church, Dr. Soong Chan Rah from North Park Theological Seminary spoke. He spoke a bit about what our churches have to say to culture and what our culture has to say to the church.

For instance--look at church architecture. Many churches built in the last century had a high, arched sanctuary. Take a picture and turn it upside down. It looks like a boat. The intent was to remind people of Noah's Ark, leading to the concept that the world is evil and the church is the place to flee that evil influence. Many recent churches look more like malls or movie theaters. Bigger churches, especially, will have stores and coffee shops. Theater seats fill the sanctuary. The church invites people in saying that their experience here will be like going to the mall or being entertained by a movie. Many church buildings (unintentionally, I hope) send the message that their trying to escape the culture or that they're just like the culture.

Then he looked at cars. I know. A good message already, huh? He pointed out that non-American made cars have names that involve letters & numbers. Or peaceful, semi-meaningless names like Accord or Civic. But American cars have names like Voyager, Escape, Explorer, Ranger, Tracer and Mustang. All names imply motion and exploring the wild. The Dodge Sprinter is more like a box and the Porsche Boxster is more fittingly a sprinter. Our culture is about motion. Fifty percent of Americans have moved (whether across the street or to a new city) within the last five years. Our goal is to be like the Jeffersons: "Movin' on up."

Jesus' incarnation was a movement as well. Philippians 2 tells us that He was downwardly mobile. He descended in humility. Though we're in an era where many people are going through some devastating life changes right now, the economic downturn may be a good thing for the church. For too long, the church has tried to be upwardly mobile like our culture. We try to move fast. By speed tends to disconnect us from others. In our downtimes right now, we have great opportunities to reach out in the way we're supposed to. We're reminded that we're called to be servants instead of trying to be upwardly mobile.

I forget who Dr. Rah was quoting with this, but he pointed out that we tend to be a warm religious movement. By that he means that we have a set point of creeds (consider the "4 Spiritual Laws" or theological beliefs to check on a list of what we believe) to accept, and then we consider ourselves "in". Instead, we're called to be hot Christians (great phrase, eh?). We're to have a burning passion within us.

None of this is my original processing (thank you Soong-Chan Rah for these thoughts this morning), but I thought I'd share the recap of the sermon. I know I appreciated it.



I'm glad we're in a new week. Last week was not fun. It started with me having the flu over the weekend. Then, right before Super Bowl kick-off, Nils threw up. And continued doing so until bedtime. The next morning he was running around as if nothing ever happened. I wish I had that kind of recovery. Tuesday our computer died. Thankfully, a friend was able to help us recover our files that were on it. We're still deciding if we can afford to fix it right now (well, we know we can't, but we're not sure if we can afford to not fix it with Beth needing to access her resume for geology jobs). On Wednesday Beth got sick--but a much milder case that Nils or I had. On Friday the car had a flat tire as Beth was going into work. We knew we needed a couple new tires anyway, but were hoping to wait until tax refunds came back (also hoping we get a big one).

So, I'm at the library right now checking my email for the first time in a week. A few people commented on how their lives would be on hold if they had to be without their computers. I can function--every once in a while I intentionally go without computer access for a short time. I just miss being able to work on some writing projects. And being able to balance the check book and pay bills. But especially some of the connections I would normally have through the week. I think I'm getting past some of my former isolation tendencies.


Six More Weeks? Is That All?

I was sick with influenza over the weekend; Nils joined me shortly thereafter. I missed out on the warmest day we've had since November 6--and the first day above freezing in January. I wasn't too happy about that. Beth at least got to take the boys out for some snowman building.

Today we learned from the groundhog that there will be six more weeks of winter (actually that depends upon where you live--Wikipedia listed at thirteen different groundhogs' predections for today; our local friends in Sun Prairie, WI (Jimmy the Groundhog), and Wookstock, IL (Woodstock Willie), both predicted more winter as did Punxatawny Phil). Around here people were excited to hear that there would be six more weeks of winter. We were expecting at least another twelve.