(Not) Telling you what to do for Lent

What is Lent?

The word “Lent” comes from the Latin word for “Spring,” and it is all about new beginnings. Lent is a 40 day season between Ash Wednesday and Holy Week on the Christian calendar. Though Lent is not directly mentioned in the Bible, this period is related to Jesus’ 40 day fast in the wilderness. It is considered a time of solidarity with Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. For some it’s a time of rebirth, for others a test of willpower, or simply a reason to diet.

When is Lent?

Easter Sunday always falls on the 1st Sunday after the first full moon of Spring (April 1 in 2018). Ash Wednesday falls 6 weeks and 4 days prior to Easter. In reality, there are 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, not 40. There are different theories around the discrepancy in days. The older theory is that the 40 days are counted from Ash Wednesday, and end on Palm Sunday, when Christ made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. That 40-day fast was followed up by another week of more intense fasting during Holy Week leading up to the Resurrection celebration.

Others observe Lent by fasting on Mondays through Saturdays, and taking Sundays off. There are 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter when you don’t count the Sundays.

Others still choose to fast for the full 46 days. There are sincere Christians doing it all three ways and more, so I don’t think those historical details are as important as your heart’s intentions as you create and implement your fast.

What am I supposed to give up?

There are many ways Lent can be a powerful time of simplicity, discipline, and spiritual unity. Like most things, the more you put in, the more you will get out. It may sound noble to tell people you are giving up soda for Lent. But if you don’t really crave soda, or don’t enjoy it often or look forward to it to begin with, giving it up is not going to bring you much spiritual awareness and growth. However, if you drink it for breakfast and get headaches without it, attempting to abstain for 40-days will teach you a whole lot!

So when people ask me what they can give up for Lent, I turn it back on them: what do you want to give up the least? Social media? Meat? Coffee? Gambling? Credit Cards? Profanity? Deep down, you probably know what you need to do, maybe you just don’t want to admit it.

Personally, I feel like having an intense Lent this year. I want to pour a lot in, because I want to get a lot out—So (I think I’m going to) trade in some things that don’t particularly serve me, and exchange them for new heights of love, wisdom, courage, healings, miracles, signs, wonders, efficiency, and effectiveness.

Instead of giving up one thing, I’m setting up a personal regiment for these weeks. I like to write out my fast in advance, sort of like a prayer….


Thank you for this season of fasting and clarity. For Lent this year, I prayerfully seek your strength and guidance as I commit to the following:

  1. Diet and Intake-I will drink 1 gallon of water every day during Lent. I will abstain from beef, pork, drinking, smoking, and caffeine. I will limit processed sugar/sweetener intake to approximately 100 calories/day or less. I will consume all food and drink (except water) only between 11am-8pm.
  2. Smart Phone Fast-I will spend much less time on my phone by using it only for phone calls and texts. If there’s any task that can be accomplished on a computer (email, directions, banking, etc) I will use it instead of the phone. I will also wear a wristwatch to keep from checking the time on the phe several times a day.
  3. Exercise-I will complete “Dad Bod Challenge” everyday during Lent. That is, 80 pushups and 120 ab exercises every day. (I completed this successfully in November 2017, so I know it is within my reach.)

To help keep myself accountable, I create and follow a simple spreadsheet that I can check off at the end of each day. Here is a sample:

My Lenten Fast Feb. 14 (1) Feb. 15 (2) Feb. 16 (3) Feb. 17 (4) Feb. 18 (5)…..
1 Gallon Water X X X X X
No meat, drink, etc.   X X X X
Intermittent fasting (11a-8p) X X   X X
Smart phone fast   X X X X
Dad Bod Challenge X X X   X

No matter how basic or involved your fast is, it is extremely difficult for most of us to execute it perfectly across 40+ days. Having a list to check off daily helps to keep you accountable.

Sacrificing lotto, carbs, or anything for a while is great; but remember the words in Isaiah 58 on true fasting. We don’t grow closer to God just by giving up food, but by letting go of injustice, unforgiveness, and malice towards ourselves and one another, “then you will find your joy in the Lord!”

Happy Lent 🙂


Word of the day: cephalocaudal

Human growth can be described as occuring in a cephalocaudal pattern. That means that it starts in the head, and then spreads to lower extremeties.



The head is the starting place, and then the rest of the growth goes from there. The same thing is true for children. Physical growth is consistently measured as occurring from the head down. Makes sense that this top-down patter applies to the types of growth opportunities us adults face.

It’s always cephalocaudal.

“Free your mind, and the rest will follow. Be colorblind, don’t be so shallow.” –En Vogue



Sermon Series: Perfect Peace

If you think you want to preach, feel free to work with any or all of these concepts at any time:


1. “How can we sing at a time like this?” Psalm 137:1-4. 1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. 2 There on the poplars we hung our harps, 3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” 4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?

2. “How can you eat at a time like this?” Ezekiel 2:7-8.  7 You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious. 8 But you, son of man, listen to what I say to you. Do not rebel like that rebellious people; open your mouth and eat what I give you.”

3. “How can you sleep at a time like this?” Matthew 8:23-27. Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 26 He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. 27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

4. Why aren’t you worried?” Acts 28:1-6. Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. 2 The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. 3 Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. 4 When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.” 5 But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. 6 The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.


Justice HAS been done….

Whoa, wait a minute there, black man, surely you can’t be talking about #Trayvon, can you? How can you call an unarmed minor getting gunned down and the perp going free “justice”?


Yes, #Trayvon. My heart goes out in anguish. I get it. I live it in the most existential way. 

Then I remember what my best lawyer friend told me: “the court system has nothing to do with justice.”

Zimmerman had top criminal defense minds working for him–he didn’t hire them to seek a blind, impartial ideal called Justice–he hired them to find a legal way to get him off. And they did. When I take the generations of abuses against black people off the table for just a second, I realize something: If Zimmerman was my son or my brother, I’d admittedly be dancing in the streets tonight. Not for Justice, but just because my loved one was not just taken away for 30 to life.

So whether or not Zimmerman does any time has nothing to do with the Universal arc of Justice, it’s still as real as it’s always been. Frankly, lusting to see Zimmerman rot in prison is so Old Testament. My integrity wouldn’t let me fight for reforms to a broken prison system with one hand and shout for Zimmerman to be destroyed at SuperMax with the other. Is there any quarter to forgive George Zimmerman, tough though it may be? Aren’t he and I distant cousins under the same sun?


The question is, what can I do about it anyway? The gavel has banged. I can cry #nojusticefortrayvon, make my status all black everything– I could even attend a community forum where we all talk about this very real national outrage and say things like “we need a game plan, we need to come together! Yeah!”

 I think about today, 7/13/13…Zimmerman was acquitted, William Gray was funeralized in Philly– students of black history find a notable historical coincidence there. It’s fascinating as we keep striving….

But in that Malachi 6 sense of doing justice, what am I going to do?

Closer to home, a 17 year old black kid stole something from the church this morning, we caught up to him this afternoon. My gut reaction is not to punish, but to pull him in even closer in a spirit of mentoring. Good kid, smart, handsome, shy-but-not-too-shy, in a stable two-parent home, part of the church community–and he’s simultaneously doing dumb ish. He is in fact doing the kinds of things that can get a young black man shot in the wrong subdivision of this great nation.

I know that from wisdom and experience, and I have to help him learn it before he learns the hard way, because one way or another, we all learn. In just the couple hours since this verdict, I literally see my community differently and my responsibility differently. If I (we) can take this feeling and really give all I have to heal the community, I guarantee justice has been done.

The More Things Change….

Today’s Google Doodle (2/19/13) is a model of our solar system, celebrating what would have been Copernicus‘ 540th birthday. He did a lot in his day, but perhaps what he’s best known for is leading the scientific charge to prove that the earth revolved around the sun, and not the other way around.

Copernicus was a devoted Christian–there technically were no scientists back then, but he did study math, the stars, economics, medicine, and more. In those days, everyone ascribed to geocentrism-the belief that the sun, moon, planets, and other stars all revolve around the earth. 


Makes sense on the surface if you’ve ever looked up at the sun or night sky. Plus, the Bible backs the idea up:

“The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved.” I Chronicles 16:30

“The Lord set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.” Psalm 104:5

“The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.” Ecclesiastes 1:5

The Bible, conventional wisdom, and plain old common sense taught people one “right” way of thinking about the issue for thousands of years.

But Copernicus (who was a devoted Christian) and many others weren’t satisfied with traditional explanations. What about the fact that Venus and Mars appear to revolve around the sun? If we assume the sun is at the center, all our other calculations make sense. Just for the sun to provide heat and light to the planet from a great distance, it has to be many times larger than the earth, and that would make it likely that the earth is subject to the sun, not the other way around–call it heliocentrism.

Maybe, just maybe, God made the earth revolve around the sun.

Whoa, that’s crazy talk in the 15th century! People were kicked out of the church, put on house arrest, and even killed for pressing this theory forward. “The Bible makes it plain, so why don’t you just leave it alone, Copernicus?”

He couldn’t leave it alone because the facts told a different story. It wasn’t good enough to accept what he had been taught by other people. He was on a quest to discover what revelations if any God had for the current time.

It must be pointed out that even though he went against what the majority of Bible believing folks believed, and even though he was more right than they were, he didn’t have it completely correct either. The most notable hole in his theory is the concept that the entire universe revolves around our sun. Astronomers building on his work later discovered that our sun is one star out of billions in our galaxy, and our galaxy is one of billions of known galaxies in the universe.

Copernicus’ work didn’t set out to “prove the Bible wrong,” nor could it. The people who wrote the Bible were inspired. Copernicus was also inspired, and he had the benefit of more knowledge. The Bible says “the earth can’t be moved,” but in fact it’s moving around the sun at about 67,000 miles per hour and spinning on its axis at 1000 miles per hour. Whether those facts go against your biblical interpretation or not–you’re along for the ride.


How I Prepare A Sermon

About 150 sermons into the game, here are some humble insights into this mysterious process.

1. Decide on a scripture. Every Sunday morning message is rooted in the Bible. A specific passage, rarely more than 5 verses, serves as the anchoring concept. I know I’m going to be able to preach a particular text because I hear the ring of truth in it. It really is like a little psychic bell or clicking that goes off in my head. Sam Proctor (among the best of the old dead black preachers) called it “the certain sound of the trumpet.” Hearing it takes away the butterflies of public speaking because it reassures you that God is on the throne.

2. Explore the meaning of the text to discover its significance and relevance. This is also referred to as exegesis. I put pen to paper to answer some or all of the following questions and more: Why are these verses ringing bells in my head?  Have I ever heard this scripture before? What does it make me think of? What does it say in a nutshell? How do people feel about this one? Just writing all I can consulting only myself and the biblical passage.

3. Dictionary.com. I was advised to find the dictionary definition for every word in the passage. Not always feasible, but we don’t know some words as well as we think we do. Getting into the dictionary just helps you understand what you’re going to be talking about better–and that’s good.

4. Check commentaries. More exegesis, but I think up as many insights as possible myself first, then read what everyone else has to say. I like the Interpreter’s Bible. I also check out preceptaustin.org, the The Urantia Book Paramony, and anything else I can find in my study that relates to the chosen verses. When, where, why and by whom was it written? Got to check the passage in Hebrew or Greek at scripture4all.org, a complete interlinear translation you’ll get something out of whether or not you read Hebrew or Greek. I write down everything that seems interesting, knowing that I won’t use it all in the sermon. There are many definitions for what a sermon is. One calls it “the fruit of exegesis.”

5. Figure out what I’m preaching about. Not the same thing as deciding on a scripture. You’re not preaching about John 3:16–you’re preaching about how much God loves the world or about how we never really die. What are you preaching about? Sometimes you know in the first 30 seconds, sometimes you have to patiently pray your way into it. What are you preaching about? Scary question, but you must be able to answer it elevator pitch style.

6. Look for examples in nature and media. Facebook friends’ status updates, a mall food court, a walk around the block, a dog’s reaction to meeting other dog’s, the pain of dieting, your last argument, an eerie coincidence, good performance art, childhood memories, your last plane ride. When you know what you’re preaching about and keep it at the top of mind, ideas come a-flooding from all angles.

7.Talk to people about it. Work the truths and stories into regular conversation. Find people who appreciate preaching and bounce sermon ideas off ofthem–when you start talking to people who appreciate preaching about your ideas, they usually end up giving you more good ideas to preach. Write them down no matter where you are because you won’t remember them all.

8. Compile all notes. I know for myself that 2 pages of single-spaced notes is enough. More is OK, less than a page and a half of notes is not enough for me, repeat steps 2 through 7 until you’ve done sufficient exploration of a given text.


That’s about right.

9. Number 9 should have been number 1 to me: pray and meditate. Prayer is the way to see and know the text, the community, yourself, and God ever more authentically. How else can you hope to speak the truth? Meditation does a lot of things as well. One benefit of meditation is that it allows me to intensify the intention behind the preaching. If I aim to be inspirational, I can be more inspirational by meditating on it. If I need to provide healing to listeners, my words become more healing through healing meditation. The more prayer and meditation, the better the sermon–it’s at the beginning, middle and end of the process.

10.Type out a final draft. Whether you work from a manuscript, extemporaneously, off an outline, or without notes, I think it’s good to have the key points of the sermon typed and saved/emailed to myself for easy reference later.

11. Rehearse I’m eternally grateful I was exposed to Linklater’s freeing the natural voice techniques. The more rehearsal, the better. Also important to be acquainted with the ideas you are preparing to espouse. The more I rehearse, the more excited I get about the preaching moment.

You actually read that to the bottom? You probably need to be preaching. Let me know how I can help.