Why I’m Not Giving Up Beer for Lent

My Twitter and Facebook feeds are filled with updates from friends and acquaintances announcing what they are doing for Lent. Some are using it as a time of sacrifice, while others are being moved to action. 

Curiously, I meet more and more folks who are drawn to the season of Lent; some aren’t even Christian. Maybe it’s the appeal of a designated time for self-reflection. Christian or not, it is appropriate to enter the next few weeks with an awareness of Lent’s significance to the Christian faith.

The season observes the roughly forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted by the “evil one” and immersed in self-examination. We have limited testimony to Jesus’s words and thoughts. But his was a journey that helped refine his identify and purpose for this world.

Jesus emerged from his wilderness wandering transformed; he was ready to challenge oppressive paradigms, reach out to the the poor, and offer grace and forgiveness to those labeled “unclean” by others. He taught people how to pray and what people should really be praying for: daily food, justice, and forgiveness. He refused to take part in violence. He refused to give in to conventional forms of power and greed- and he had sharp words for those who did. He radicalized what it meant to be a neighbor. His embrace of the “other” was wide and his love for the unloveable deep. He ate meals with the unwanted. He didn’t even put up a fight when he was falsely accused, convicted and given the death penalty. This was the life he modeled.

Lent, particularly for Christians, is a spiritual journey to the foot of the cross. It begins with the acknowledgement of our mortality: our limited time. The hope is that the journey is a transformative one: that we each come out on the other side changed, renewed, and ready to respond to the one who beacons, “Follow me.”

Whatever your reason for choosing to observe Lent, I hope you made a commitment that will challenge and transform your inner being. May that transformation result in a greater self- awareness and a deeper sense of compassion and justice.

Oh, right, you started reading this because you wanted to know why I’m not giving up beer for Lent. That’s easy: St. Patrick’s Day. I’m parting with red meat instead.  There are a couple of other commitments but those are between me and God.


Christmastide Day 1: Humble beginnings

The way we like to interpret the birth of Jesus is that Mary and Joseph were poor.   All we really know is there just wasn’t enough room in the inn.  They tried to get a room so they obviously had enough for a night in a first century hotel in Bethlehem.  It’s a detail that doesn’t really matter.  There are weightier matters at work in this story.

The ancient prophet Micah once wrote the beloved words, “walk humbly with your God.”  What could be more humbling than for two parents, penniless or not, to have no other option than to lay their newborn child in a feeding trough? These humble beginnings are woven in the words and deeds of Jesus to the very end.  Through his humble nature some are lifted up, while others are brought down alongside the rest of humanity (and rightly so).

Once again God works through an unlikely scenario- in this case an unlikely child.

So, for those of us who celebrate the birth of Jesus today and claim to be his followers,  it would serve us well to, once again, be reminded it isn’t about the one we see in the mirror.  This child will spend the rest of his earthly life trying to get those who will listen to see “others” and teach people to embrace those “others” with dignity, respect, and mercy, particularly those without the means and voice to advocate for themselves.

So, in the spirit of how it began, walk humbly my friends.  Prepare for the unexpected.  Embrace the other.

“The Name Cuts Deep”, by Saffen

The Name Cuts Deep

Here’s another one.
A boy, eight days old.
It’s time: time to cut away
Unneeded flesh, to sign the scar
Of God in manchild’s private place.
No one else will know but him and his.

The rite calls for a name.
Have you a name yet, son?
What shall we call you, little giant?
Call his name “Jesus”? Why?
Because he’ll save his people?
What a huge load for such little shoulders.
What dreams parents have, what expectancies,
Poor little child, to have God’s work
Assigned so soon.

Cut the name in deep. Tattoo it indelibly on tortured Hebrew flesh.
Scare it with raw wounds to acquaint you early
With cross and barbs and nail.
You’ll be Jew soon enough to know

The Name cuts deep in certain flesh.
Now you belong to God.
There’s no escaping that.
His name for eternity. Get used to it now.
“Jesus” is the handle you’ll get used by.
You’ll wish you could change your name
Into incognito, when the whole world
Calls it out in curse and prayer.

Go home for now, lacerated boy,
Don’t grow up too soon. 

by Wayne Saffen

Quoting Jesus: An Apologia from Richard Rohr

I’ve been coming back to Richard Rohr’s gem of a book, “Falling Upward,” for the past year. Rohr speaks to spiritual matters, particularly the male journey, in ways that few have been able, or dared, to do in our time. I I find his personal defense for quoting Jesus poignant.

So I offer this personal apologia for those of you who perhaps are wondering why I quote Jesus so much. You might be saying, ‘Does it really matter?’ or ‘Does it have to be in the Bible to be true?’ Well, I quote Jesus because I still consider him to be the [emphasis Rohr’s] spiritual authority of the Western world, whether we follow him or not. He is always spot-on at the deeper levels and when we understand him in his own explosive context. One does not even need to believe in his divinity to realize that Jesus is seeing at a much higher level than most of us.

For some of you , my quoting Jesus is the only way you will trust me; for others, it gives you more reason to mistrust me, but I have to take both risks. If I dared to present all of these ideas simply as my ideas, or because they match modern psychology or old mythology, I would be dishonest. Jesus for me always clinches the deal, and I sometimes wonder why I did not listen to him in the first place.



The Spectacular Now- See it!

There are reasons why I’m not a movie critic but the “The Spectacular Now,” based on the novel by Tim Tharp, really surprised me.  The main characters, Sutter (Miles Teller) and Aimee (Shailene Woodley) will gain all of your affection in 95 minutes.  Well written, well delivered.  Their relationship through their senior year will take you  back to that moment in life when you had your entire future ahead of you.  Robert Ebert wrote one his last reviews about this film and gave it four out of four stars.  It deserves all four.    

We fight because it’s profitable

President Obama announced today that he supported military action against Syria. This should come as no surprise.   However, he will seek permission from the US Congress.  Despite the fact the UK Parliament, no doubt our strongest ally, rejected military intervention, I suspect the US will proceed as usual.   Why? The late Chalmers Johnson summed it up best in the 2005, yet relevant, film “Why We Fight:”

The ‘defense’ budget is three quarters of a trillion dollars. Profits went up last year well over 25%. I guarantee you: when war becomes that profitable, we’re going to see more of it. ~ Chalmers Johnson in “Why We Fight”