Saturday, February 25, 2012


I love to laugh.  This is just one of the simple truths of life.  Laughing is good.  I cannot begin to tell you how many bad days I have had that have been saved by watching something funny on TV.  Laughter just has a way of lifting one's spirit.  So much so, it is even mentioned in the Bible:

"A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken." -Proverbs 15:13

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones." -Proverbs 17:22

In that vein, my girlfriend and I are going on a triple date tonight (only our second one) to a comedy club.  The comedy club date has become a pretty regular one.  As much as we both enjoy laughing, we have found that laughing is so much better when you can share it with someone else.  This Lent, I encourage you all to find something that makes you laugh (so long as it is not to the detriment of others) and find some way to share that laughter with others.  Maybe you'll be like my sexton, who likes to tell jokes in the office on a regular basis.  Perhaps there are some funny cat videos online that you end up sharing with others.  You might even find yourself out at a comedy club with a group of friends.  Whatever you find, be sure to share it with as many people as possible.  If you have any ideas, please feel free to let me know.  I'm always looking for new things to make me laugh.  Until then, I leave you with this comic from Cuyler Black's "Inherit the Mirth" collection:

Friday, February 24, 2012

Reading Wars

One of the things I dreaded most in seminary was all of the reading.  This may be surprising to some of the people who know me because reading is one of my favorite things to do.  My mom likes to remind me from time to time that, when I was very little, I hated the fact that my older brother could read before I did.  Then, one night after our regular reading time with Mom, I stayed in my parents’ room after my brother left and said (in the set and determined voice that can only come from a two-year-old), “One of these days, I’m going to be the best reader in this family!”  From there, I was on a mission.  By the time I entered first grade, I had already gotten myself to a fifth grade reading level.  Reading was my thing.

Another reason why dreading the reading in seminary may be surprising is that my usual escape from all of the seminary reading was to read just about anything.  Novels, web comics, random articles on internet comedy sites, as long as it wasn’t related to my classes, I would find some time in my day to read it.  

I really think that part of the reason reading for seminary was so dreadful is that some of the topics we were reading for my classes were not interesting enough for me.  I’d read through pages and pages of text only to realize that I’d zoned out and started thinking of other topics in my head.  Then it became flip back twenty pages and read it all over again.  Another possibility (and this ties largely into me not wanting to read for my systematic theology class) is that my brain works really well with logic and concrete ideas.  The more ethereal and abstract nature of the topics in the theology books just didn’t work with my thought process.

The most interesting thing to me about all of this is that I eventually found out that a lot of what I was reading helped me get a more concrete grasp on the more abstract ideas we were discussing in class.  I’ll never forget the day in class when I suddenly understood what was going on in the systematic theology lecture.  I was so excited to understand what was being said, I forgot to write down any notes.  To this day, all I remember is that I was reading a book that had something to do with a person being able to see multiple possible futures.  Somehow, that tied in with whatever theological doctrine we were discussing in class.

The regularity with which I find myself reading something that, from the outside, has nothing to do with my life, yet it still speaks directly to something I’m working through is amazing.  I am convinced that this is God’s way of speaking to me indirectly.  In what way has God indirectly spoken to you?

Thursday, February 23, 2012


I don't know what the weather has been like where you live, but here in Ohio, we've sort of skipped over winter.  There have been a few days with cold weather and snow.  For the most part, though, it really feels like spring outside.  I'm certain that we are either going to get bombarded with snow for the entirety of March or discover that our world is a spherical oven that just got preheated. (I know that Earth is not technically a sphere, but who wants to use the adjectival form of oblate spheroid?)

Interestingly enough, the church season we are currently in is, for now, a direct correlation for the season we seem to be in temperature-wise. Admittedly, the seasons are based on the changes in sunlight and not by temperature, but the temperature we are experiencing in Ohio is very similar to what we would expect in spring.  What makes this so interesting is that the word "lent" means spring, or, lengthening of the daylight hours.  So, while we are experiencing spring-like weather where I live, we are also at the beginning of the spring of the church year.

While Lent is typically viewed as a season of darkness in the church (crosses veiled, more songs in minor keys, can't say allel***, etc.), I say we take some time to enjoy the light.  Find something fun to do and try to do it every day from now until Easter.  Maybe it will be a crossword or soduku puzzle.  Perhaps you'll try dancing while you cook.  Whatever you find, remember that this season is about preparing ourselves for the resurrection.  Allow time for penitence, but don't forget to find some way to celebrate the light.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Round 2

So, I may have forgotten for the past six months that I have a blog.  Turns out, maintaining this blog was much easier when I was updating everyday instead of once a week (which turned into once a month...then never).  For that reason I have decided to, once again, take up blogging for Lent.  My goal is to have a post published every day, except Sundays, from now until Easter.  Hopefully, this will turn into a habit and I will do a much better job of keeping up with the blog the rest of the year.  We'll see.

Tonight, I will be leading an Ash Wednesday service at St. Andrew's.  I always find myself pondering this interesting juxtaposition of a service wherein we hear a Gospel in which Jesus tells us, "Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven." (Matthew 6:1) and then have our foreheads marked with ashes.  How can we reconcile these two seemingly opposing messages?   

(If you are in the Dayton area, please stop reading now and come to St. Andrew's Episcopal Church on Salem Ave. for our Ash Wednesday service at 7:00pm to get the answer.  Yes...that was a plug.) 

I find an answer to that question in the prayer said immediately prior to the imposition of ashes:

Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. -Book of Common Prayer, p. 265

As with many things in the church, the ashes are to be for us an outward sign that means nothing on its own.  If we just come to church to have ashes put on our forehead, we are missing the point.  Instead, there must be something going on in our hearts that correlates with this sign.  Today, the ashes should be a sign, not of our piety, but of our penitence.  They remind us that we will eventually die, and there is nothing we can do to prevent that from happening.  They remind us that eternal life is a gift that we can only receive by acknowledging that everything we have done to "earn" it has been wrong simply because we cannot "earn" it.

With that, I invite you all to join me in the observance of another holy Lent.