Tag Archives: spiritual practice

Colorful Vegetables for the Spiritual Life

Whats more colorful or spiritual than VeggieTales?

Every week I receive an e-mail from Mayo Clinic on how to live a healthier life.  Recently it recommended that my dinner plate become more “colorful” with a variety of vegetables and fruit.   Yesterday when I visited my mom, she and the other residents were served a plate bright with red pepper, yellow squash, green beans and orange carrots.  Mom was eating healthy.

Afterwards I made the connection to yesterday’s post and my disparaging comments about zucchini.  As I thought more, zucchini grows into what God created it to be: zucchini.    It adds color and nutrition,  if not taste, to many meals.   It can be part of a healthy diet.

So I want to stretch the vegetable analogy.  Perhaps, as Christians, we need variety in our spiritual disciplines to live healthy lives with God.  We need to add color or spice (even zucchini?) to the ways we open our lives to God.  

Certainly, if one has no discipline, no method of reading scripture, saying prayers, or attending worship, then the simple acts of reading Matthew or John, saying the Lord’s Prayer and participating in Sunday worship are a great beginning.  But if such a pattern is already established, then variety may be needed.  Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Instead of praying a list of prayers,  light a candle and sit in silence, listening for God
  • Instead of reading a Bible chapter, do research on a favorite word in the Bible: love, joy
  • Instead of praying at your desk or table, go for a walk outside and converse with God.
  • Instead of attending your normal church, worship in a church of a different tradition: charismatic, Quaker, Roman Catholic (this is very hard to write as a pastor, but I do it when I am on vacation, so why shouldn’t you?)

In other words, change your pattern of spiritual discipline, with the intention of opening your life in a new way to God’s presence.   You may discover that the old ways are still the best, but you may return with a fresh perspective.  Or you may discover a new spiritual practice that you can embrace fully.

Lent starts tomorrow; what new spiritual disciplines might you embrace for the journey?

The Slow Lent Movement

Slow Lent Movement

This morning I attended a ministerium meeting for Lutheran pastors from the Saint Paul and Minneapolis Area Synods.  After worship, our presenter, Bishop Margaret G. Payne of the New England Synod, spoke on her passion for a Slow Lent Movement.  

Inspired by the Slow Food movement which calls us to step away from fast food and re-learn the values of thoughtful shopping, local foods, time spent in preparation and even more time spent in sharing food slowly with family and friends. The Slow Lent Movement has similar goal. Some of her questions are

  • How does our culture’s addiction to hurry stand in the way of spiritual growth?
  • Do we have too much ‘fast worship?’
  • How could this Lenten season provide an antidote to the weariness of too much to do at the same time that it offers strategies for recovery?

She spoke on how pastors have bought into the seduction of our culture’s three A’s: Accomplishment, Adrenalin, and Affirmation.   As pastors we think our worth is based on how much we accomplish in our congregations and we enjoy the adrenalin rush that comes from having much to do and being needed by many people.   And we relish the public affirmation that often comes from having our hands in many programs and ministries.   I found myself nodding my head several time, recognizing my own self-delusions being exposed by her words. 

But I don’t think her words are limited to pastors.  In spite our  professed trust in God’s grace, so many of us who are Christians still  seek our self-worth based on our accomplishments.  We rush about trying to fulfill the many “shoulds” we carry inside our heads.   We seek public affirmation even as we feign humility.   We have bought into the prevailing culture without seeing our need for a new way of life.

How have you been seduced by the Three A’s: Accomplishment, Adrenalin  and Affirmation?

Tomorrow, I will post on Bishop Payne’s Five Slow Disciplines for Lent.

Clerical Collars

Clerical Collars

Last night during my class on “What’s a Lutheran?”, someone asked me why I wear a clerical collar on Sunday morning.  For them the clerical collar seemed to be Catholic.   I briefly explained that clerical collars are not necessary for me, but they help me to lead worship on Sunday morning.   I then explained the Lutheran concept of “adiaphora,” which means, “does not matter.”  Things that are adiaphora are not crucial or necessary elements of faith but rather decisions, conduct, habits that one can choose if helpful. 

An example for Lutherans would be whether or not to make the “sign of the cross,” touching their forehead, sternum and shoulders so as to remember Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Some Lutherans find it helpful in worship, others find it awkward or distracting.  I have always preached that if it helps you to focus on Christ, then do it. 

Wearing a clerical collar is adiaphora for me.  It is not essential for worship, but it helps me be mindful of my role as a pastor in the congregation.  I have been called by Resurrection Lutheran to bring the people the ministry of Word and Sacrament.   I also think it makes it very clear to any visitor what my role is.  They can quickly identify who the pastor is.  I do not see it as a status symbol, but rather my service uniform.  The clerical collar is worn by Lutherans, Episcopalian, Methodist and other clergy as well as Roman Catholic priests.

I also know that context makes a big difference.  During my internship in suburban Philadelphia I remember the tremendous respect I received when I wore my clerical collar to the hospital.  The community was predominately Roman Catholic and many assumed that I was a Catholic priest.  Nearly everyone called me “Father” and deferred to me.   But once, after making hospital calls, I went shopping with my wife at the local mall.  I remember the severe looks of disapproval from the sales clerks as I waited for my wife to try on bathing suits.  In their eyes, a priest should not be doing such things!

How do you look upon those who wear clerical collars?   Are there spiritual habits, actions or practices that you wonder if they are adiaphora or not?