Saturday, February 16

Subtraction or Addition? Multiplication is better than Division.

So - the promised post about what I'm giving up for Lent:

No, I am not Catholic...but from my earliest memory of Lent, my family (spurred by church or by choice) has practiced the tradition of self-sacrifice for Lent. As a kid I remember my mother telling tales of her grandmother giving up movies for Lent - although she had never been to a movie in her life! In our family we were encouraged to actually give up something that we would miss. For me, it was often candy or desserts (though I didn't always make it to Easter) because giving up TV would have been too hard. I remember trying to give up Coke (the drink!) some year...I believe I made it to Ash Wednesday night before the cold sweats took over and I gave up something else.

This year I have chosen to give up McGriddles again...and meat. Beef, chicken, pork, bacon, goat...and although it hasn't been easy so far - I think that I can stick to it. I am allowing myself eggs and fish. And I'm still sticking to my Coke on one day a week that I've pretty much held to for 2 years. But some would ask - why? Why put yourself through this? One of my good friends is giving up digital media in the evenings - no longer on Facebook or emailing or texting at home. Another friend is giving up TV. Why sacrifice?

For me, it is simple - every time I'm confronted with the ham sandwich or meatball or delicious looking pork loin AND make the conscious decision to say serves as a reminder to me. A reminder of the sacrifice that God made for me when he sent his son - and the sacrifice that Jesus made for me when he allowed himself to be crucified. I need reminders. I find that it is easy to skate along through life and just think about my faith when it is convenient to me. If God had that same attitude I would still be needing to sacrifice a couple of pigeons or a lamb every time I wanted to communicate with him. (mmm....lamb...)

Other members of my family are using the opposite side of the equation for Lent - addition. Instead of giving up something, they are adding something positive to their lives (I guess they are giving up time...or energy...or laziness) like walking 30 minutes a day. I think it is just the other side of the same coin. In fact, today I went to the Lynchburg District UMC training and enjoyed a great sermon by the Virginia Annual Conference Bishop Cho. He challenged all of us as leaders in our churches to spend 1 hour each day in spiritual discipline. Not anything like whipping ourselves or running off to join monasteries. His intent is for us to each spend 1 hour of every day in prayer, study, meditation and reflection. That is a great idea. I am giving that great consideration.

So - subtraction or addition? As long as it leads to a deeper faith, I think it can be whichever works best for you. And since we're on the topic of math...

The breakout session that I attended this morning was about communications (led by one of my favorite humans on Earth - the Rev. Liz Ecklund). I went because I am chair of communications at Centenary United Methodist and am interested in how to communicate better. There was sharing of what participants are doing now (newsletters, bulletins, web pages) and ideas of things we could be doing (Facebook, Twitter, advertising...maybe even blogging?). During that session there was an exchange about how much good we can do by telling our stories...and how much damage we can do by telling our stories.

If we are sitting in a restaurant telling our friend about the exciting thing coming up at church (music, mission, worship, entertainment...) and someone overhears they can know that our fellowship is positive and there are things happening that are impacting the community around us. On the other hand...if we are sitting at the restaurant gossiping about who did what to who and how we "can't believe she/he would dare to show their face in church" or how we "may have to forgive but are darn sure not going to forget" - well, you can see what that kind of storytelling reflects.

We have to watch what story we are telling - whether it is through our actions (inside or outside the church) or our inaction. I think my favorite story of the session was this: Pastor Liz and Pastor Rick were visiting the new church that Rick had been assigned to (many years ago) and let themselves into the church on Saturday afternoon through the education building. Straight ahead was a bulletin board that was faded and missing letters in the headline. The picture that was the centerpiece of the bulletin board was a beautiful curly haired blonde boy lying on a rough altar. His father stood over him about to plunge a knife into his chest. (the scene of the near sacrifice of case you didn't recognize it) Wow. Welcome, guests!!

What story are you telling?

Look around and see what story your church is telling?

Is it communication to be proud of? If the answer is yes, share your ideas! If the answer is no, then let's work on that...ok?

Division - through gossip, unwelcoming attitudes, petty nit-picking - just reduces the potential. Multiplication expands potential. Which side of the equation do you want to be on?

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