A Recommendation: Holy Experience

A few weeks ago I discovered a blog that has truly touched my heart. I have been wanting to share this blog with you all for a while, but I’m just now finding the time to do it because this blog is different – it deserves some time. I didn’t want to just through something up and say go check out this blog, I wanted to personally introduce you. I wanted to tell you about why “I love this lady!” (as I exclaimed to Bryan after reading one of her posts).

So, why do I love Ann at Holy Experience?

Because she writes with honesty. She opens her heart. She writes with pose and emotion in her words. She writes with beauty. She shares her struggles. She shares her triumphs. She invites us all to growth just as she is growing.

Here are some posts that have particularly touched me lately:

What to Do When You Want to Give Up and Stay in Bed – this post could not have been more timely for me. It conficted me to the core. But, it was a gentle conficting. A conficting that led me somewhere and said, “come, you don’t have to live this way.” Here is an excerpt from the post:

Why can’t I remember: the state of my space doesn’t reflect the state of my soul.

I ring the dinner bell for boys to tumble to the table. This morning, even the cast iron bell in the hand feels like a millstone around the neck.

I eat breakfast in silence and I don’t know how I am going to get dressed for church, rustle up a meal for 10 when we get home from church, make it through Latin and spelling and the early Renaissance and piano scales and fractions and the three meals a day for eight people this week and the 4 loads of laundry a day and all the prayers between now and church again next Sunday.

I do the next thing. Clean off the table.

“Thank you, Lord, for the food that filled these dishes, that I am well and here and I can clean off this table.”

It sounds mechanical. And a tad lame. It is. I am doing the next thing.

Wipe the counters. And I say it aloud,

“Thank you, Lord, for water to wash off counters and that the dust bunnies around here haven’t yet grown into monsters and that the jam stuck sticky all over everything really does just wash off, and for this husband that treats me tender when I’m stuck.”

Can I feel the stirrings… the lifting?

One foot in front of the other and one murmured thanks after another and underneath the everlasting arms will hold.

Wearing a One-Piece: on the road to Calvary – This post is writen from the parspective of Mary at the cross watching as Jesus dies and contemplating the seamless robe of Christ. Here is an excerpt:

How you were slashed that our lives could be seamless — all holy.

That the veil in the temple rents in two because of You, and there is no longer a divide between the common and the hallowed and the whole earth is full of your glory and You are the continuous, unending, divine thread that weaves through all of the world, holding all together… even when you, Son, are rent apart.

And hanging naked and blood smeared and dirt defiled, You nodded slow and You said yes — You gave us your one-piece robe of seamless holiness and You clothed us, the filthy ones, in all your white righteousness.

Has Anyone Seen the Signs of the Easter People? – Here she talks about Easter being more than just a weekend or a Sunday, but a season. Easter Sunday is just the beginning.
I highly encourage you to add this blog to your blog reader. The photos, thoughts, quotes and stores will challenge you, touch your heart, and call you to worship.

Rejoicing in the journey –

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Some Thoughts on Maundy Thursday

IMG_4733Today I started sprouting some whole un-ground spelt. But, before I got started I decided to sort through the grains because there were these strange little black balls mixed in with the grains. At first I thought they were pepper, but on closer inspection there were not. (Aside: anyone know what they are? And why there were in my spelt?) Anyway, sorting through a bag of un-ground grains was a new experience for me. It was tedious and monotonous, but somehow it seemed like an appropriate activity for Maundy Thursday.

As I sorted the grains it felt a little bit like I was engaged in a type of litany – A call and response between God’s heart and mine. Here are some of the thoughts that God brought up as I sorted the grains.

First, he reminded me that it is not my job to sort. It’s not my job to sort or judge anyone else’s life or heart, AND it’s not even my job to sort my own heart. I have a tendency to be very hard on myself. I want to be perfect and I want to be perfect NOW. I want to change how I act, and think, and feel. I want to change my heart and at times I WORK HARD at trying to do so. But, the truth of the Gospel is that I can’t change myself. I can’t purify my own heart. I can’t sort out all the “icky” stuff from my life. There is none holy, no not one. And I can’t fix myself.

The hope of the Gospel is that Christ is powerful to cleanse us. He stoops down and cleanses the disciple’s feet, washing them clean, purifying them. And he does the same for me. He is the one who sorts through my heart and weeds out all the impurities – all the shaft, rocks, bugs, and little black things that I can’t even recognize any more. I don’t need to cleanse myself, I don’t need to judge myself. He is the One Judge and he is merciful. He is the one who cleanses me and his hand is gentle. IMG_4735

Another thing happened while I was sorting. As I sorted through the grains, I noticed that some of them were broken. For a second I actually thought about sorting out all the broken pieces while I was sorting out the other stuff – I know CRAZY, right? But, there was a little part of me that wanted everything to be perfect and look perfect and uniform. I know it was ridiculous. Those broken pieces were perfectly good pieces of grain even though they didn’t look as nice or perfect as the whole pieces.

Then I heard God whisper… “Bethany, I don’t sort out the brokenness either. The broken pieces stay.” It struck me that when God is cleaning and purifying and sanctifying my life he slowly picks away the rocks, the dirt, the bugs, but he leaves the broken pieces. He leaves the wounds, the hurts, the scars, the places of my life that aren’t neat and clean and whole and perfect. Sometimes I wish he didn’t leave the broken pieces, but there is something beautiful about the fact that he does. He’s not wasteful. He may refine me but every bit of me that is worth keeping will be kept even if it looks a little broken or misshapen.

Oh, and his work is slow. He doesn’t sort and purify quickly. He doesn’t use a machine and haphazardly throw me into a standard system. He slowly picks up and looks at each grain of my heart. He sorts by hand – strong, yet gentle hands.

Search me, Oh God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Rejoicing in the journey-

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

Lent and Easter are just Around the Corner

I’ve been wanting to repost the first blog I wrote about Lent sometime soon, but had forgotten about it with other things that have been going on (like another intensive yoga training this weekend). But, then this morning I had a little time and came across Christine Sine’s Invitation to join her in Getting Ready for Lent and Easter. She invited anyone who wants to participate to use her Lenten guide and also the guide she is doing for the Easter season this year. She also invited bloggers to join her in blogging about their experience with the Lenten guide and Easter guide and the ways in which they are entering into Lent and Easter. I LOVED this idea and of course was quick to jump on board – anyone else want to join me??

For those of you who don’t know much about Lent Christine has a great description here on her blog, or you can read my post on it from last year below (I changed a few things so that the dates would be accurate for this year):

Lent: An Introduction, a Little bit of History, and a Few Ideas

Ash Wednesday is on February 25th this year and will mark the beginning of Lent, so I thought I would share some thoughts I’ve had about Lent, some research and things I’ve learned about it and some ideas of ways to engage in Lent this year that I am contemplating putting into practice.

Lent has a long history. It began in the early church as a time for those who were going to be baptized (baptism happened only once a year on the day before Easter) to prepare themselves for baptism and full acceptance into the church. It was a time for fasting and prayer as well as a time for them to study and learn about Christ and the doctrines of the church. They were to prepare for the new life and new birth that would come with their baptism on Easter. Eventually the rest of the church joined in this practice (some say they did this as a way of showing fellowship with the new believers) and by the Council of Nicene it had become an official season of the church calendar and was established as a 40 day fast of repentance and preparation. It was a time to remember Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness, a time to remember the suffering Christ endured on the cross, and it was a time to remember the sin that put Christ on the cross and the sin in our own lives and world.

At its heart Lent is a journey to wholeness, a journey of joining God in his redemptive and redeeming work in the world. But, that journey begins with a journey through brokenness – we join God in his redemptive work of wholeness by first confronting the brokenness in our own lives and in the world around us. We confront the barriers that keep us from God, the barriers that keep us from each other and the barriers that keep us from God’s creation. This is not a onetime act. We do not overcome these barriers in a day or in 40 days, but the idea is that each year we go through this Lenten process and that at the end of it each time we find ourselves closer…closer to the goal of wholeness and of joining God in His loving work in the world.

Lent is not just about giving something up for a few weeks and it’s not just about focusing on our sin and repenting for a few weeks – it’s really about growth. The very word Lent means “Spring” or “springtime” and indeed just as spring is a time when we plant seeds and bury them in darkness it is a time when we plant ourselves in God and focus on and repent of the darkness in ourselves and in our world. It is a time when through repentance we grow and become a thing of beauty and restoration to the world around us. Lent is really about going through a process that should change us, that should bring us closer to being fully the people God has called us and created us to be.

The church has traditionally made this journey through an emphasis on fasting, almsgiving and prayer.

Fasting has a way of making us more aware of what’s really important in life, when we give up that which is not important we realize what is important. Traditionally in the church there was a lot of discrepancy as to how people should Fast and practice avoidance during Lent. Eventually the Western church declared lent to be 40 days long not counting Sundays. It was to include two days of fasting (ash Wednesday and good Friday) which meant that people were only able to eat one meal on those days (usually in the evening) though they were allowed 2 small snacks during the day to keep up their strength but these snacks could not add up to another full meal. For the Western church Lent also included days of “abstinence” on each Friday during Lent, this meant that ever Friday during lent the church community was not suppose to eat meat at all or drink alcohol, fish was an allowed exception to the no meat rule. In the Eastern Church Lent was also 40 days long but included Sundays and they held to much stricter observance of lent. For the Eastern Church all 40 days were days to abstain from all meat and from all dairy and eggs, basically they all became vegans for 40 days. They also abstained from alcohol during this time. In more modern days many protestants who do observe lent practice fasting in a very different way than either the traditional Western or Eastern church – they simply allowed their congregation to choose what they wanted to give up for the 40 days. But, indifferent to what type of fast is practiced the purpose is the same – to join in Christ’s suffering and in the suffering of the world.

But, fasting was never just for the sack of denial and self-discipline (though those things were part of it). There was a broader purpose to the fasting, a purpose to the denial that went beyond the spiritual development that this practice created and touched on a very practical purpose. The money saved during the fast was to be spent in almsgiving – in giving to the poor. This fast was a way to join with the suffering of the world and to play a part in diminishing that suffering. There was an emphasis during lent on giving to and suffering on behalf of the poor and needy in the world. This was the part of lent that I had known nothing of before and this is the part of lent that struck me most.

The third practice of lent is that of prayer. Christ came. He joined us in our suffering – so much so that he joined us in our death. And so at lent when we remember and dwell on the suffering of our Christ it seems only right that we would in thankful penitence turn our hearts and lives back to Him through prayer. It seems right that during this time of remembrance we would talk with him about our own sin remembering that he came and died not just for some distant purpose or person, He came and died for us each as unique individuals that he wanted to be near and connected to. It seems right that during this time of remembrance we would talk with him about the brokenness in our lives and in the world around us. It seems right that during this time of remembrance we would talk to him about the wrong being done in our world and cry out on behalf of ourselves, our neighbors, our nation and society and on behalf of all those around the world. Through Lenten prayer we confess our failure, confess the ways we fall short, confess and recognize our need for a savior. Through Lenten prayer we recommit ourselves to Christ, the His church and to the redeeming work He is doing and desires to do in the world around us. Through Lenten prayer we silence ourselves and listen to Christ’s heart for us and for the world.

I think as I have learned more about Lent I have learned most of all that Lent is not a means and end in itself… it is a beginning. During Lent we dwell on the suffering and hardships of Christ, the suffering and sin in our own life and the suffering and brokenness in our world and we do this in ways that change us. So that when Easter comes we have a real sense of the great glory that is found in Christ’s resurrection – yes our world is broken, yes our own lives are broken but Christ didn’t just suffer he rose and with his resurrection he brought new life for all of us. So after a time of penitence and brokenness we can come to Easter knowing fully the importance and necessity of Christ’s resurrection and rejoicing fully in the complete and eternal fullness of life that He brings. And we can move on from there hopefully further along in our journey, more fully in tune with Christ, with ourselves and with the world around us.

There is a lot of variety in how the church has practiced fasting, almsgiving and prayer during lent and I think as we enter lent it is important for each of us to search our hearts and figure out how best we can practice these Lenten themes in ways that according to God’s unique calling and work in our lives connects us more closely with the Man of Sorrows and the sorrow-filled world around us.

Here are some Ideas of ways to practice and engage more in the Lenten season this year:

          $2  Mutunga  Challenge

          Carry  a pocket size cross with you continually throughout lent as a reminder of the season

          Pray through the daily offices throughout lent

          Participate in the stations of the cross

          Fast and/or abstain from something

          Work through Christine Sine’s Lenten guide

          Volunteer somewhere

          Read some of the original church fathers as a way to learn more about the life, death and resurrection of Christ and the work of His church

          Spend some time memorizing scripture during lent

          Set aside time to pray

          Spend some time confessing your brokenness and sin to God and to another person

          Commit to praying for the poor, the brokenhearted, the prisoners, the hungry, and the sick around the world and in your own city/neighborhood

          Wear simple cloths and no jewelry during lent as a symbol of mourning the death and brokenness of our lives and the world

          If you find that you are really busy and don’t have time maybe make your discipline for Lent that you make time, that you say no to added activities and commitments and instead say yes to rest and spending time with God

          Find a charity that you believe in and donate to it financially during lent as a small way to mend brokenness in the world

          Take time to restore a broken relationship in your life

          Make a commitment to have a minimal impact on the environment during Lent in an effort to restore the brokenness of God’s planet – recycle more, walk more, take public transportation, re-use things in an effort to create less garbage, don’t buy a lot of “stuff”, etc.

          Go through the Lectionary as a way to read the Bible more during lent 

          Make a commitment to attend church services more often or at least gather with other believers more regularly during lent

          If you are married spend some quality date night time with your spouse during lent as a way to restore and refresh any brokenness in your marriage relationship

          Take time to clean out your house/closet and donate those things you don’t need to those who may need them as a way to restore (in some small way) some of the brokenness in the world

          Take time to educate yourself more about the human rights violations in the world, the injustice in the world, and in general the brokenness in the world and what you can do to participate in restoring wholeness and health to people

          Keep a journal during lent as a means for self examination and prayer

          Spent time meditating on Christ Crucified

           Place a cross somewhere where you will see it regularly during Lent and remember Christ’s sacrifice and his desire for us to sacrifice on behalf of others as well

          Pick a meditative phrase to repeat to yourself throughout the day during lent as a reminder of the meaning of the season – for example “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.”  Or “Lord, in my hand no price I bring; simply to the cross I cling.” Or some other phrase that helps you to focus on the Lenten season

–    Watch Christine Sine’s Reflections for Lent video

–    Participate in the assignment from spirituality2go site

–    Participate in the 40 day Jesus Creed Challenge 

          Set an extra place at your dinner table each night during Lent as a reminder to “pray that God would fill up the emptiness of those in need.” And as a reminder “that all (no matter their station in life) are invited to come as guests…as family.”Be creative and find ways in your life to remember the brokenness in the world and join God in restoring wholeness and health to all. I’d love to hear any other ideas you may have for practicing the season of Lent and partaking in the sacrifice of Christ. I personally have been really challenged by Lent this year and I look forward to engaging more in this sacred season of the church.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Beth Stedman

More thoughts on entering into Lent and Easter this year (2009) to come soon! Stay tuned.

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

The Story-Formed Calendar

My friend Tara has been an incredible encouragement and inspiration to me over the years and she has now created something that I think will be an encouragement and inspiration to me and others for years to come.

Tara has always loved stories and over the past few years she has entered into the story of Christ and his church by observing and engaging in the seasons of the church year. Now she has created a tool to help others to engage in God’s redemptive story throughout the year. She’s calling it the “Story-Formed Calendar.” It’s a calendar that is centered on the church seasons and the story of Jesus and his church. You can see the first few pages HERE. I think it’s beautiful and I’m excited to use it over the coming year.

Tara has also created a web site where ideas and activities for each season can be shared. It’s a place where people can share the ways in which they and their family are entering into each specific church season and experiencing the life of Christ through it. You can check out the web site HERE. It’s still getting started, but already she has some great thoughts and ideas up.

So, go check it out and … Enjoy 🙂

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.

He is Risen!

img_5886.jpgFrom the Anglican Book of Common Prayer:

Almight God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ out Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirity, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

May this Easter be a season of resurrection and new life for each of us – the old has past the new has come.

He is Risen!

Rejoicing in the journey –
Beth Stedman

Photograph by Beth Stedman

If you'd like to help with medical bills or the other expenses related to Bryan's cancer or Sage's special needs click here. Thank you! We are forever so grateful to so many who have gotten us this far and continue to carry us forward. Grace and peace.