Category Archives: Lent

Do You Turn a Blind Eye or Turn the Other Cheek?

 

Turn The Other Cheek

There have been a few incidents that have happened in various environments that I am involved with that made me stop and ask myself, “Have I been turning a blind eye or have I been turning the other cheek?” I think this is a question we should all stop and ask ourselves sometimes.

To honestly ask yourself this question, it’s best to take a look at the meaning of both of these phrases and actions.

Turn a blind eye: “An idiom describing the ignoring of undesirable information.” Source: Wikipedia

Turn the other cheek: This requires a much longer explanation and can’t be simplified into one sentence, so I opted instead, to quote a few paragraphs from Marcus Borg as found on Belief.net

“The key to understanding Wink’s argument is rigorous attention to the social customs of the Jewish homeland in the first century and what these sayings would have meant in that context.

To illustrate with the saying about turning the other cheek: it specifies that the person has been struck on the right cheek. How can you be struck on the right cheek? As Wink emphasizes, you have to act this out in order to get the point: you can be struck on the right cheek only by an overhand blow with the left hand, or with a backhand blow from the right hand. (Try it).

But in that world, people did not use the left hand to strike people. It was reserved for “unseemly” uses [Wiping one’s self after having a bowel movement]. Thus, being struck on the right cheek meant that one had been backhanded with the right hand. Given the social customs of the day, a backhand blow was the way a superior hit an inferior, whereas one fought social equals with fists.

This means the saying presupposes a setting in which a superior is beating a peasant. What should the peasant do? “Turn the other cheek.” What would be the effect? The only way the superior could continue the beating would be with an overhand blow with the fist–which would have meant treating the peasant as an equal.

Perhaps the beating would not have been stopped by this. But for the superior, it would at the very least have been disconcerting: he could continue the beating only by treating the peasant as a social peer. As Wink puts it, the peasant was in effect saying, “I am your equal. I refuse to be humiliated anymore.”
Source: http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Christianity/2004/04/What-Would-Jesus-Think-Of-Kings-Protests.aspx?p=1

It is tempting and often times easier to turn a blind eye to injustice and other wrongs we witness being committed against others. This past lent I have once again been reminded that Jesus does not want us to turn a blind eye, instead, he has commanded us to turn the other cheek. It isn’t easy to do, and it comes with a cost which is why it is often the option least likely to be chosen.

Jesus calls us to not retaliate. Justice is not a form of retaliation. Jesus doesn’t expect us to be docile and allow ourselves to be abused, discriminated against, and systemically oppressed. However, what he does tell us is that injustice exists, and we can fight against it without resorting to violence, bloodshed, and physical injury.

When we live in an unjust society, we still have to go to work for corrupt employers, we still need to follow certain laws that are passed, and we still have to deal with dishonest institutions who are often ready to discriminate against certain populations. If we spend our time fighting injustice with constant community violence, we take away from being able to use our minds and skills to change our culture from one of injustice to one of justice and inclusion.

When it comes to dealing with atrocities in our communities, I truly believe that Jesus is asking us to use our minds instead of our weapons. Have an open mind, be willing to sit at the table with a diverse group of thinkers and together create a legal and social society where violence is not a necessary way for living. When we use our minds, we might never have to pick up a weapon to strike our oppressor and those who discriminate against us.

Show Respect To Others

QUESTIONS and ACTIONS:

How do you respond to uncomfortable situations involving discrimination and systemic oppression? Could it be categorized as “turning a blind eye” or “turning the other cheek”?

What are ways that you can deal with others in a non-violent manner while fighting for respect, justice, and rights?

If you haven’t already read all of Matthew 5, I highly recommend it. If you’ve read it in the past, it’s still a great chapter to review, these teachings are never outdated or irrelevant.

 

Giving It up For Lent

Preparing for Lent 2016

 

Lent 2016: Wednesday February 10th – Thursday March 24th. Sundays are excluded when counting the 40 days. Lent is for all Christians, not just Catholics and mainline protestants.

For the past couple of year’s I’ve switched my focus during Lent from saying “no” to saying “yes”. In the past I had placed my attention on what I was giving up at the expense of realizing what I was gaining by practicing the spiritual disciplines of the Lenten season. When Jesus spent time in the desert, he didn’t simply say “no” to the temptations before him; he was also saying “yes” to all that God had to offer.

Our spiritual practices during Lent aren’t meant to be easy, but they aren’t meant to be torture either. When I choose something to give up during Lent I try to find something that benefits my spiritual life beyond the approximately six weeks of the season. This year I have chosen to say “no” to garbage foods and say “yes” to foods that make my body feel great. Sounds like a diet doesn’t it? But… it’s not a diet.

I decided to eliminate garbage foods and foods that my body doesn’t react well to because I have once again experienced negative physical reactions due to stress induced junk food snacking habits. I’ve been dealing with an increase in stress again and a decrease in my mindfulness and meditation practice. As a result of these changes, I realized I had started turning to mindless snacking to deal with unpleasant life stressors. My goal during this Lenten season is to reconnect with the spiritual discipline of turning to God when I feel anxiety, stress, or fear. I don’t need to use food or exercise to deal with issues when I have a God I can turn to instead.

If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to take some time to pray about what earthly habits or unnecessary pleasures you might want to say “no” to in exchange for a spiritual “yes” during this season.

Remember, Lent is not the same as our regular liturgical year. Whatever you take away you replace with extra time spent in prayer and reflection.

As an example, for some people Lent will mean not logging onto Facebook; this is great, but it only becomes a spiritual discipline if you replace that Facebook time with something reflective such as prayer, devotional reading, meditation on God’s words, or another spiritual activity of your choice.

creat in me a clean heart Psalm 51:

QUESTION:

What is something that you can focus on during Lent? e.g. Praying every day for the poor in your community; praying for political candidates in your area; commitment to learning about a justice issue that you are not familiar with or comfortable with; reading and learning about an area in your life where you need personal growth.

The following are some self-reflective questions for Creighton, “But this year we might reflect and ask the deeper question: What is God inviting me to change this Lent? How do I know what God might be stirring in me? I begin by listening to the movements in my heart. Where am I feeling uncomfortable with the choices I am making? With the things I have done? With the habitual ways I respond? The Lord will be speaking to me in those small nagging moments of discomfort in my heart. We can ask: What would it cost me to change this behavior. …What if I did decide to “give up” something really destructive in my life, ….?  As I reflect, I might realize that changing a particular way I live is coming to me as a call from God and I don’t have to do it alone. God is moving my heart to reflect on these changes and God will remain faithful and help me to stay open to the grace being offered to me for change.”

 ACTION:

There are many options to choose from. If you find yourself overwhelmed or unsure what to focus on, pray, meditate, ask God to reveal to you what sacrifices or changes would are needed in your life at this time.

Resources for Lent:

http://www.loyolapress.com/8-ways-to-pray-during-lent.htm

http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen/from-ashes-to-glory

http://www.episcopalchurch.org/library/glossary/lent

http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/holydays/lent_1.shtml

http://www.saintmatthewsanglicanchurch.com/worship-teaching/seasons-holy-days/lent-holy-week/

http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Lent/BeyondChocolate.html

 

Lent and Winter: Feels the same sometimes

Winter scene
If only Lent and Winter were this smooth and beautiful. 😀

 

Yeah, it’s finally March! Time to celebrate!

Lent arrives at a time when we are sick of  winter and eagerly anticipate Spring weather. For many years Spring time was difficult for me, it was usually the end of the semester and the school year. I was usually broke, exhausted from being a working student and stressed from studying and completing assignments. Having to throw Lent into the mix was never something I looked forward to. The Lenten season always felt like a time of punishment and it never brought me closer to God. Instead, this period of the liturgical season often left me feeling as if I couldn’t do anything right.

40 days of giving up something that I enjoyed gave me the false belief that I could never please since I wasn’t even able to do something as simple as ceasing from things that put a smile on my face or brought me joy. Following my first degree, I put a stop to practicing Lent for many years; I no longer wanted this season to represent personal misery. Eventually I developed a better understanding and practice of Lent.

God never calls us to be miserable for the sake of misery. God wants our hearts to break over the things that break his heart. What breaks God’s heart? Well… according to the bible things like violence, injustice, abuse, stealing, anything listed in the 10 commandments, poverty, and too many others for me to type at this time.

Yes, let's give up snow for Lent, sounds like a good idea!
Yes, let’s give up snow for Lent, sounds like a good idea!

The misery of Lent is not meant for us to weep over the luxuries that we’ve chosen to give up. Whatever you’ve given up for Lent is meant for you to bless God for being able to have something to give up, and to identify with those in the world who go without the things we can easily put on hold for a mere 40 days. The things we give up are intended to remind us that we need to turn to and depend on God instead of things like Starbucks coffee in order to make us wake up and be happy. Giving up chocolate for the season might be difficult for someone who consumes this item every day, but you know what would be more of a sacrifice for God; buying ethical trade, direct trade, or fair trade chocolate. Not shopping during Lent might be serious for someone who is an habitual shopper, but you know what might make it more meaningful; not purchasing clothing that were made in a sweat shop somewhere over in Asia. Lent is an opportune time to evaluate the deeper meaning of the luxuries we have become attached to.

These are only a few examples of what someone could do to take Lent to a deeper level. Everyone has a different sacrifice that they need to make and it’s not going to look the same for each of us.

I realised the other day that if we can make it through the freezing cold, dark filled, icy days of Winter for 8 months out of the year, then we can make it through a mere 40 days of giving up a luxury so that we can be more aware of the things that break God’s heart. It’s 40 days of asking ourselves, “What material things do I rely on too much to make me happy?”, “What does Christ want me to remember about the things that made him angry, weep, or frustrated?”, “What messages and lessons from the bible am I missing that are causing any distance between myself and God’s will for my life and the world?”.

Let’s not allow Lent to be a time where we spend our energy focusing on the material goods that we are abstaining from for 40 days. Instead, let’s focus on what part of the Gospel and God’s message is missing from our world, our personal life, and our heart.

QUESTION: Do you think there are parts of God’s message that are missing from being an active part of your life?

ACTION: During the rest of Lent take time to read and review the Gospel and get reacquainted with the message that God via Christ has given to us. Prayerfully consider which aspects of the Gospel you are struggling with the most or neglect the most. Ask God to help you with these areas, He is always available and willing to help us on our walk of faith.

 

 

Lent and Fitness

Lent Fitness 2015

Yes, it’s that season again, the one where Christians have chosen something to eliminate from their lives starting on Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday in order to make themselves miserable. Then there are those who partake in the season of Lent. Lent, in English simply means Spring, it’s a word which derived from German origins. In Latin it means “fortieth” and derives from the word Quadragesima.

During Lent we engage in more intensified and focused acts of prayer (God), fasting (Self), and Almsgiving (Others).

Lent was never intended to be a time of emotional self-flagellation. Over the span of Lent we are called to intentionally and consciously draw closer to Christ in the desert, remembering his battle against temptation and rejoice with him in the victory when Easter Sunday arrives. It is a period of actively  remembering that we can win any spiritual battle that is brought before us. There is no need for self-hatred during Lent because we know that Jesus’ time in the desert was in obedience to our Father God and for our benefit. Jesus won the battle in that desert knowing that God was with him and that his calling was to save us from ourselves. Today we do the same thing. We join millions of other believers across the world in defeating the stronghold that luxuries can and sometimes do have over our lives. Dear brothers and sisters, don’t let anything in the mundane cause separation between you and the holy trinity.

In the desert Jesus said “no” to the temptations of the enemy and “yes” to the calling the LORD had placed on his life. I have had to join Jesus many times in that desert as I learn what to say ‘yes’ to and what to say ‘no’ to in accordance with God’s teachings.

defeat fast food 1

 

Health and Fitness is my year round struggle of temptation. I’m still on that journey of learning that in order to be healthy I must say ‘no’ to things that are good, but not good for me. I have had to learn the discipline of getting my butt out of bed and doing some form of cardio exercise in order to prevent myself from gaining any more weight. I’ve had to learn that God must be included in my journey into the desert or else I will not defeat the never ending temptations that are thrown my way each day. The sweat and trembling that comes from strength training reminds me not to give up because dedication and commitment to doing what is difficult but necessary is what leads to increased strength.

In the moment, in the midst of my frustrations, I want that plate of poutine, an entire pizza, or a creamy bowl of pasta, but I know that immediate gratification is never a good reward. It’s the slower results of prayers, mindfulness, and working through temptations that allow us to have victory over the cross.

God does nothing in a hurry, He never has, and I believe He never will.

So… my goal in writing this post today is to encourage you to join Jesus in the desert, and alongside our Saviour meet with God in this intensified season of prayer (God), fasting (Self), and almsgiving (Others). There is victory of the cross, but in order to do so we must be willing to do the work. May this period of Lent be one of drawing closer to God, walking with Jesus to the cross, and rejoicing with him over the defeated cross and empty tomb on Easter Sunday. God Bless!