The Only Thing You Have to do is Choose
February 26, 2009, 9:07 am
Filed under: family, spiritual formation

Many years ago – back when I was in college – I decided to start seeing a counselor.  I don’t remember how long I met with him, but I do know that it was an extremely helpful, formative time for me.  This counselor is Christian, and in the cognitive/cognitive-behavioral school of thought.  His spiritual orientation was highly cognitive, and I would say that his cognitive orientation was highly spiritual, if that makes sense.

He was big – like really, really big – on getting me to own my identity as a chooser.  He used to say things like, “There are no have-to’s.”  “You don’t have to do anything.”  “You get to do things, you don’t have to.”  While I found that mode of thought highly annoying and highly inconvenient at times, I eventually came to acknowledge the truth in it.  I am a chooser – I make choices all day, every day.  Some are mundane, some less so.  The vast majority of choices I make are subconscious – the choice of whether or not to brush my teeth, whether to drive to work or walk, whether to turn on the computer or not.  I just do these things.  But the truth is, if I slow myself down enough, I can see the choices hanging out back there in the recesses of my mind.

There are some things I don’t get to choose, though.  For an extreme example, I could get hit by a drunk driver today and “have to” live the rest of my life without the use of my legs.  I do choose my attitudes and responses to a circumstance like that, but I just don’t have the kind of control over my life to prevent all bad things from happening . . . or even cause all good things to happen.

I’m in a phase of life right now where I don’t have a ton of control over some things that are taking place.  I’m in a place where the choices I have are limited to how I’m going to respond, how I’m going to manage my attitudes.  It is not for me to decide whether or not the circumstances I’m in are fair or just – I just get to choose what I’m going to do with my heart, my words, my prayers.  Let me just say that I don’t like this.  I want control.  I want to change things.  I want more choice.  But I don’t get that.  I can only choose whether to act in love, grace, understanding, and peace.  To be clear, I don’t have to do that either.  I could (seemingly justifiably) act out of anger, vengeance, and self-protection.  But what will be gained in that?

The Kingdom of God is full of choices.  Choose ownership over yours today. I will do the same.

Peace friends.


Ash Wednesday – The Lenten Journey Begins
February 25, 2009, 6:44 am
Filed under: blogging, Lenten Synchroblog, spiritual formation

Today is the first day of Lent, the Christian journey toward Easter.  I am participating in a Lent Synchroblog, organized by Christine Sine.  A number of bloggers and communities will be posting regular reflections throughout the season.  Check in at Christine’s blog to explore these.  I will be using, and posting reflections on the excellent resource that Christine has prepared – A Journey Into Wholeness: Lenten Reflection Guide .  I would encourage you to do the same.

There are so many misconceptions about Lent out there.  Having been raised in a non-liturgical Christian tradition, I’m not even sure I knew that it existed until I was in my 20s.  In the past ten years, I’ve been much more aware, and have learned some of the value of observing.  Some of the misconceptions have to do with the question, “What are you giving up for Lent?”  Set aside chocolate, caffeine, television, meat, etc. – as though it’s just something you’re supposed to do.  Somehow the sacrifices are able to magically translate into brownie points with God (except we have a gnawing feeling inside that we might not quite be getting it right).  Fasting and sacrifice are good, but it’s critically important that we do so with the right motives, setting our hearts right.

David’s famous psalm of repentance (51), which begins with:

Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

later says,

For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

It’s not about what I do for God, in giving up something I love.  It’s about allowing the Spirit to train my senses more completely on Truth.

Lent isn’t always the most pleasant season – fasting and reflection on brokenness reminds of our insufficiency and need for God.  But it is important for so many reasons.  It sets us in line with God’s generosity toward us.  It sets us in right relationship with people around us.  It prepares us to celebrate the Resurrection, and the change in our world that results.  I am personally walking through a season in which I am acutely aware of my brokenness.  May Resurrection hope infuse me, even as I walk in the difficulty of repentance.

Peace to you this season.  Unite with God.  Unite with the suffering of others.

My shampoo has a carbon footprint
February 23, 2009, 4:01 pm
Filed under: uncategorized

O.k., completely random post here, but hey, it’s better than nothing . . . and it is, after all, my blog, so I get to do these things every once in a while.

I was musing this morning, wondering what the environmental impact of my shampoo is.  Beyond the plastics it takes to make the bottle, beyond the packaging the shampoo comes in, and beyond the fossil fuels it takes to deliver my shampoo from manufacturer to market to my shower, the shampoo I use has a carbon footprint.

I have a strange little scalp condition.  It’s not infectious or out of control.  But I do have to use a medicated shampoo once or twice per week.  The main ingredient of this shampoo?  Coal tar.  Mmmmm, lovely, eh?  No coconut, strawberry, or melon fragrances, either.  Just this thick sludge of coal tar – I mean, I wouldn’t want anything to interrupt the healing powers of a West Virginia mine, would I?  Therefore, it smells about like you’d think coal tar should.

So am I environmentally irresponsible?

25 Random Things Meme
February 21, 2009, 9:54 am
Filed under: blogging, family, friends, social networking

I usually avoid doing these things, but I did give in to peer pressure this time around.  I’ve cross-posted this from my Facebook page.

25 Random Things About Me

1. My resume includes these jobs: pastor, barista, cook, parking attendant, music journalist, and puppeteer.
2. I have been to 44 states in the U.S.  I do not remember all of them.  I have been to either Vermont or New Hampshire, but not both . . . and I can’t remember which.
3. In college, I was accused by my conservative friends of being liberal, even though we all knew it wasn’t really true.  I am now actually liberal in many ways I was only accused of being.
4. If I could choose contestants in a celebrity death match, I would put Ben Affleck in a cage with Matthew McConaughey.  I would cheer for them to both lose.  I have liked both in certain roles in certain movies, but seeing their names on a movie poster makes me automatically less likely to see the film.
5. Rock music was considered evil in my home growing up, therefore I am mostly ignorant of “classic rock” between about 1970 to about 1982.  I feel an alternating mixture of relief and sadness about this fact.
6. I secretly hope to write and rehearse material, and do stand up comedy at a comedy club open mic night.  Once.
7. I have enjoyed watching American Chopper and Project Runway . . . for the exact same reason.
8. I have a brain disorder which causes me to get songs stuck in my head – whether I know lyrics or not, whether I have even heard the whole songs or not.  This happens to me no less than 10 times per week.  Usually with songs I dislike.
9. I can be obsessive about ink pens.  I hate losing or breaking them.  I like to buy a new pen and write with it until it is completely out of ink.  It feels like I’ve accomplished something.  I clearly have low standards of accomplishment in life.
10. I am deeply embarrassed to admit that I have never seen U2 live.  Some day I’m going to hear they’re playing a show in Cleveland or Tucson or San Antonio, buy a plane tickets, go there, and pay way too much for scalped tickets to see the concert.
11. On beautiful weather days, when I have an hour of down time, I enjoy going outside to smoke my pipe.  Because it requires down time and beautiful weather at the same time, I do not often smoke my pipe . . . I live in Seattle.
12. I have a low-grade allergy to avocados.  This does not affect my love for guacamole.  My mouth and throat get itchy, but it is so totally worth it.
13. I am a people pleaser.  It is not o.k. (for me) for people to dislike me.
14. I am not a patriotic USAmerican.  I have respect and gratitude for those who have served this country in sacrificial ways. I happily pay my taxes and receive the benefits of living here.  I think our system of government is imperfect, but a really good idea. . . . but . . .
15. I think USAmerica is arrogant in many ways, and has used greed as much as guns to assert power in the world.  We have some disturbing double standards when it comes to “justice.”
16. I spend as much time reading news reports from Al Jazeera and BBC as I do from any USAmerican news source.
17. Despite the previous three items, I am not cranky about politics (am I?).
18. I am a complete cheapskate when it comes to clothing.  If it’s not on the clearance rack, it’s probably not coming home with me.
19. I have seen the championship game in an MLB World Series.
20. I have spent time in two King County jails.
21. I used to wear an eyebrow ring.
22. I used to think it was very strange that my grandparents grew up without television.  The college students I work with now likely think it is strange that I grew up without computers and the internet. It is now so much a part of life, that I also think it is strange.
23. I like hats of many kinds.  Sadly, I do not look good in hats of many kinds.  Baseball caps and some cowboy hats are the only kind I look good in.  But I am not a cowboy, so I do not wear cowboy hats.
24. I am a California driver.  This often presents problems in Washington and Oregon.
25. I am very close to completing a doctoral degree, but cannot imagine a scenario in which I will feel comfortable being called Dr. Lewis.  Even typing and reading that looks weird and wrong to me.

Reading again
February 13, 2009, 8:45 am
Filed under: books, school

I’m either proud or ashamed to say that I completed reading my first book of 2009 earlier this week.  Proud, given that it’s the fist book I’ve finished in the past three or four months.  Ashamed, because at this point in the year for the past three or four or five years, I would have completed five or six books.  I guess I could be even more embarrassed to say that even the book I finished was a piece of popular fiction.  But there’s no shame in that for me.

After a long slog of research and writing, which took me out of the reading-entire-books-at-a-time game, I’m looking forward to some more normal approaches to books.  I’ve just begun my reading list for the year (which you can check out here, if you care).  There only only a few there, and I’ll certainly add to the list.  Truthfully, I haven’t even tried – those books are just off the top of my head.  I’m also planning to do a lot of reading of unpublished material – over the past few years, I’ve had the pleasure of studying with some school mates, who have worked very hard to produce their dissertations, as I have, and I’m eager to dig in and see their work.  First up on the reading list will be N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God.  It’s a book that has been patiently waiting on my shelf for three years.  I’m really looking forward to this during the season of Lent.

If you have any suggestions for books, hit me with a comment.