A Slow Fast

I’ve finally discovered a way to slow down time.

Fast from something for 40 days.

My, how the days do seem to drag on.

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For Lent this year, I chose to give up reading. At first it was nice to have quite a bit of extra time to do other things. But now I’m getting antsy — longing for the feel of a book in my hands. 

Here’s what I’ve been learning on this slow fast:

1. It’s good to have a chance to be alone with my thoughts. When I grab a book every time I have a few minutes (or hours) I’m continually cramming information into my brain. It all gets squished in there and I can’t differentiate between my thoughts and the notions of the five authors I’m reading. I was pleasantly surprised to find that, given a little space to breath, I do think my own thoughts.

2. There has been a feeling of empowerment with denying myself something I assumed I needed. I can look at my TBR pile of books and say, “You’re not the boss of me.” I can drive by the library and gloat, “You have no hold on me. (Or holds for me.) ” I can click out of Amazon and resist the urge to hit “Buy now with 1-Click”. I can.

3. Limiting my reading to only one book (the Bible) has made that precious time delightfully sweet. My eyes are more eager in the early morning hours to open the pages and soak in the words. I’m paying attention better, staying more engaged and falling in love with the words of life.

4. I am learning that I can do without things and it’s not really that hard. What seemed like a lofty and admirable plan on Ash Wednesday, quickly showed itself to be small potatoes. Coffee, chocolate, Facebook, spending money, reading — those things aren’t as big a deal as we think. We could live without any of it and survive.

5. Reading lots of books had become a source of pride for me. I’ve kept track of every book I’ve read over the last twelve years and adding a title to that list was puffing me up a bit. Or maybe a lot. I don’t know who I thought I was impressing, but I didn’t see it for what it was until now.

6. Now I know what it’s been like for PB all these years when he’s wanted to go to sleep and I’ve kept the light on to read. It’s so annoying. But I’m proud of my hubby – he’s read more than I have in the last month.

7. It’s been confirmed in my mind that TV is a wasteland. Outside of watching a few documentaries and basketball games, my only other go-to activity has been to go to bed. I’ve definitely gotten more sleep than usual.

8. On the scale of what qualifies as true sacrifice, giving up reading is pretty weak. It doesn’t come close to donating a kidney or falling on a grenade to save a fellow soldier. My little experiment pales in comparison with what this Lenten season is really all about. The supreme sacrifice will never be required again – my debt has been paid in full. My eternal future has been secured, not because I gave up reading for forty days, but because my Savior gave Himself up for the love of the world.

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Reading Fast

I’m not referring to a speed reading technique here. This is not a “how-to-read-a book-a-day” post. No, this is something different. Much different.

I gave up reading for Lent.

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In Lauren Winner’s book, “Girl Meets God”, she was challenged to give up her voracious reading habit during the six weeks of Lent. When I read that I gasped. No way.  I could never do that. Reading is a huge part of my life. I love reading so much. So very much. So so very very much.

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I argued with myself, “Just because Lauren Winner did it, doesn’t mean you have to do it.”

I pouted and whined, “I’m in the middle of a really good book right now. Can I just finished it first?”

I wrung my hands, “How am I ever going to get through all 180 titles on my To Be Read list if I up and quit reading for six weeks?”

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

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One year I gave up sugar for Lent, but I admit that I was hoping for a little kick-back in terms of improved health for myself.  One year I gave up Oprah – a whole hour of TV watching — and never went back.

If Lent is supposed to be a time to consider the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made on my behalf, then I need to give up something that makes me gasp at the thought.

For me, it’s books.

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Over the past week and a half, some interesting things have happened.  A good friend handed me a book she had just finished and said, “You are going to love this. All the time I was reading it, I thought – this is a Dinah book.” Then, my public library sent me an email– a title I had requested months ago was finally in and waiting for me. I talked to the librarian to see if I could keep it longer than four weeks. But, no. I told her, “I gave up reading for Lent.”  She gasped.

Then, another sweet friend gave me an unexpected gift – these magnetic page clips.

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That spell R-E-A-D.

I have banned all books but one – The Good Book. I have my bookmark securely placed at chapter 24 of the story I’ll pick back up on Easter Sunday. I’ll put my name on the waiting list at the library once more. Fasting from books for a few weeks isn’t that great of a sacrifice. I will survive. Gasp.

Lead the Way

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“They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid.”  Mark 10:32

 This is the picture that has gripped me during Holy Week:

Jesus, striding up to Jerusalem, determined to carry out his mission….

which would involve betrayal, mocking, flogging, crucifixion and death.

He led the way.

Four times, Jesus told His disciples what was coming, except He always added the final part – resurrection — but they didn’t seem to hear it.

“The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.  They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.”  And the disciples were filled with grief.  Matthew 17:23

Jesus lost them at “they will kill him”.

The twelve were full of fear, perhaps wondering if death was also waiting for them in Jerusalem.

BUT THEY STILL FOLLOWED.

They did it scared.

I must remember, when I am astonished at being led down the road marked with suffering,

that it’s a place He’s been before….

and He knows the way.

I can do it scared.

“The cross is never the end.  It’s only partway through. The cross is necessary, but the cross is always accompanied by the resurrection and the victory that comes from the resurrection…..that’s always true.”  Experiencing the Cross, Henry Blackaby

Lead the Follower

It’s frustrating for leaders when followers don’t follow very well.

Moses was an A+ leader, but those stiff-necked Israelites were D- followers, at best.

They grumbled, they whined, they rebelled.

Leading is tough when you have to hogtie your tribe and drag them, kicking and screaming all the way.

Across a desert.

For forty years.

OY.

But what if we flip that thought:

It’s frustrating for followers when leaders don’t lead very well.

What if there are people who would be willing to step out in faith, if only there was someone to take them by the hand and say, “Let’s go!”?

How long before followers are expected to do a little leading?

Jesus’ first words to the disciples were, “Come, follow me.”

His last words were, “Go and make disciples.”

The best leaders still follow…..

and the best followers, lead.

 

 

Follow the Leader

calfI learned how to be a follower when I was about seven years old.  My older siblings were in 4-H and showed calves at the county fair every summer.  Part of their responsibilities in getting ready for show-time was to teach those calves how to be led around a ring in front of a judge.  The animals had to be taught the commands for walking forward, walking backward, stopping, and standing still.

Early in the summer, my sister would put the halter on her Shorthorn calf and they would go for long walks down the gravel country road.  My job was to walk behind the critter with a stick in my hand and whack her rear end if she stopped walking. (Clarification: I’m referring to the rear end of the calf, not my sister.)  Even though I had to watch my step, I remember thinking that it was kind of fun.  I got to spend an afternoon with my big sister and smack a cow every so often.  We would sing our hearts out walking down that back road.

“If you wanna be a Badger, then come along with me…”

*whack*

“by the bright shining light, by the light of the moon…”

*whack*….

By the end of the summer, my services were no longer needed.  The bovine was adept at showing off her stuff.  My sister was pretty good, too.  One year her calf was awarded Reserved Grand Champion at the State Fair.

All this to say: while I’m learning the art of becoming a follower, I may need someone pulling me along, showing me which road to take and how to walk in it.  But I also may need someone coming behind me, making sure I don’t lag — prodding me with a loving whack.

Come After Me

Hudson has his own way of playing games.

Especially the one where Nonnie is down on her hands and knees and says, “Hudson, I’m gonna get you” with a slightly growly but not too scary voice.

He looks up with wide eyes, starts dancing back and forth on his toes and giggles.  At this point, he’s supposed to take off running so I can give chase all around the house.

But Hudson has his own rules.

As soon as I make a move, he runs straight at me.

The little guy doesn’t want to be chased, he wants to be “got”.

If I should do something as foolish as turn around so he can chase me, I look back at a frowning two year old.

Getting caught up in Nonnie’s arms with hugs and tickles is the best part, so why not cut right to it?

The key verse for our Lent study this year is,

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  (Luke 9:23)

Now I’m wondering if maybe Hudson has it right.

Jesus says, “Come after me”.

Maybe Jesus doesn’t want to be chased as much as He wants for us to be caught….

…in His wide open arms.

It is the best part.

Are You Following Me?

 

twitterIt’s so easy to be a follower these days.  With a touch of the Twitter app on my iphone, I can become a follower, just like that.  I can get a message (or 10) from Beth Moore and C. S. Lewis every day.  (I’m pretty sure someone else is tweeting on behalf of C. S. Lewis.)  If I were so inclined, I could become a follower of any number of celebrities, politicians and athletes. (I’m not so inclined.)  Curiously, this morning I discovered that I have one Twitter follower, which is interesting given the fact that I’ve never actually tweeted anything.

I hope all this “following” on social media isn’t watering down my understanding of what it means to be a disciple.  Jesus defined it this way: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)  According to Jesus, this is a bigger commitment than checking in occasionally to get a pithy 140-character-or-less inspirational message.  There is no “unfollow” button to hit when things start to get uncomfortable.  Denying self and taking up a cross doesn’t get a lot of thumbs-up “likes”.

Perhaps it wasn’t that much different two thousand years ago.  There was no Facebook or Twitter, but people were still looking for a quick and easy route to eternal life.  The rich, young ruler in Mark 10 approached Jesus with the right posture (“he ran up to him and fell on his knees before him”), with genuine respect (“Good teacher”), with an insightful question (“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”) and with impressive credentials (“all these I have kept since I was a boy”).  But instead of a pat on the back, Jesus challenged the wealthy young man with the concept of sacrifice. That’s where the conversation ended.  We don’t know how long the man considered Jesus’ invitation to sell his possessions and become a follower, but we do know he rose to his feet without another word and walked away sad.

Reading my tweets and liking me on Facebook and even following this blog doesn’t cost anything.  Being a follower of Jesus, however, does come with a cost, if it’s the real thing.

Are you following me?