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A Brief Look at Lent – in Ancient times February 10, 2013

Filed under: faith,Prayer — randommystic @ 12:12 PM
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HerodLampLitRtRegardless of what religious tradition you grew up with – there is good reason to understand Lent – especially if you are a practicing Christian – and most especially if you are interested in aligning your faith practices with those of Jesus’ disciples – those with the first-hand contact with Jesus that we’re so dreamily admiring of. The more I learn about Lent – the more I feel drawn into its practice – so in that spirit – here’s some basic information.


Lent – the idea of it – is first mentioned in a letter written by Iraneous of Lyons who lived from 130-202. Iraneous was a disciple of Polycarp’s – who was a disciple of the Apostle John – so there’s as short a distance between what Iraneous understood about the life of Jesus and His Apostles as anyone in the world at that time had. Iraneous wrote in his letter about the differences between Christendom in the East and the West. The letter is recorded by the historian Eusebius.


” “The dispute is not only about the day, but also about the actual character of the fast. Some think that they ought to fast for one day, some for two, others for still more; some make their ‘d
ay’ last 40 hours on end. Such variation in the observance did not originate in our own day, but very much earlier, in the time of our forefathers” (Eusebius, History of the Church, V, 24). When Rufinus translated this passage from Greek into Latin, the punctuation made between “40” and “hours” made the meaning to appear to be “40 days, twenty-four hours a day.” ”


The phrase “our forefathers” was an expression reserved exclusively to refer to the Apostles. So – it would seem that while Iraneous is conceding differences in calculating the date of Easter, and how long to fast for Easter – there was no question at all that this was the norm, or that this practice came from the Apostles, Jesus’ hand-picked rag-tag band of disciples, themselves. The number 40 – appears over and over again in the Bible – 40 days of rain in the flood, 40 days Moses fasted on Mount Sinai before the Lord, 40 days and nights Elijah walked to the Mountain of the Lord, 40 days that Jesus fasted in the wilderness – and – the traditional belief that Jesus was dead for 40 hours. Counting 40 days of Lent is a bit tricky – Sundays don’t count – as they’re already holy-days.


Early on – it seems that fasting in preparation for Lent was part education-season for new converts – who were preparing to be baptized Easter weekend.
Ash-WednesdayLent was also a season of penance and identification with the sufferings of Christ – to focus on humility and gratitude. This humility is captured with the association of ashes used on Ash Wednesday – ashes were used as a sign of repentance – like Job who sat in “ashes” (Job 2:8). So at various points in church history – Christians fasted during the day for 40 days – eating only after a certain hour in the afternoon/evening; or Christians essentially ate vegan for the time of Lent – and began their fasts by being symbolically covered with ashes. By the Council of Nicea in 325 AD observing Lent with a 40 day fast of some sort was the Christian norm. So – so sum up – it seems that Lent was observed with fasts and penance for the purpose of converting, repenting, and for renewing a humble and grateful demeanor towards God.


By the way – about the name “Lent” – originally in most languages was called something related to the number forty. For instance in Greek it was called “Quadragesima” which meant “fortieth”. It’s still called fortieth – or “Cuaresma” in Spanish. It became “Lent” in English as a reference to it taking place at a time of the year when the days “lente” or old English for “lengthened” I doubt any one can say for certain why in Germanic languages (like English and Dutch) the weeks running up to Easter are named for spring instead of 40 – as is the case in most of the romance languages.




modern martyrdom in the land of Mc D’s? February 5, 2013

Filed under: faith — randommystic @ 8:10 PM
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wheat10a-1So – even a sketchy glance at randommystic reveals I love all things ancient-meditative-Christian – and my last post raved all about this crazy band of people who just a couple of weeks ago I’d never even heard of – who also died for their faith over 1800 years ago. And to be sure there are people dying for their faith today – and I’m looking forward to talking about that more too …


But what about us burger buying, walmart shopping Americans in the land-O-plenty? We’re among the least likely people in the world to suffer in any profound way for our faith. We live highly convenient,automated, labor-saving lives where if you ever really are persecuted all you need to do is lawyer up! This is a recipe for exactly no spiritual depth – look it up.


That said though – God’s graciously surrounded each of us with people almost as imperfect as we are . But taking to heart passages like Romans 12:18 “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men”, Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” – not to mention everything in 1 Corinthians 13 – is a powerful guaranteed cure.  American martyrdom is dying to heartlessness, lovelessness, coldness, indifference, bitterness, judgment, contempt, vindictiveness – and the toothless sort of “Christian reconciliation” that’s more like a cold-war than Christians imitating Christ. It’s delusional to even think that the freezer-burn can do anything but weaken us even more for loving as Christ taught us to love. It’s delusional for me to wonder if I would die for Christ if I refuse to live for Him.


Or – as Paul put it “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.” Rom 6:8



Diary of a Martyr February 2, 2013

Filed under: faith,Prayer — randommystic @ 9:44 PM

perpetuaandfelicityIn 181AD Perpetua was born into a noble family in ancient Carthage, in north Africa. 22 years later – after Perpetua had married and given birth to her first-born, a son – she was arrested and imprisoned along with a few others for converting to Christianity. The small band of criminal converts included two freemen, Saturus, and Seculdulus; two slaves Revocatus and 8-month expectant Felicity and Perpetua herself.


The diary was Perpetua’s – and starts with her arguing with her father over her recent conversion. He wants her to recant and deny her faith – but Perpetua refuses and is quickly baptized on her way to prison. The guards are bribed and Perpetua moves to a better part of the prison and is allowed to keep her son with her – which leads her to declare that she’d rather be in prison with her son than anywhere else in the world.


Most heart-rending of Perpetua’s diary are her father’s and the Roman governor’s pleas that she renounce her faith. “Daughter, have pity on my grey head – have pity on me your father, if I deserve to be called your father … Do not abandon me to be the reproach of men. Think of your brothers, your mother and your aunt, think of your child!” Hilarianus, the governor presiding over the case states – “Have pity on your father’s grey head; have pity on your infant son. Offer the sacrifice for the welfare of the emperors” Hilarianus even has Perpetua’s father beat in an attempt to force her re-conversion.

Perpetua’s response – as well as that of her fellow inmates – is “I will not”


On March 7th, 203 Perpetua and her friends paid the highest price for their faith. That this happened 1810 years ago – seems  impossible – but I am in awe of their courage.




because God’s not in school … December 15, 2012

Filed under: random stuff — randommystic @ 4:05 PM
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gty_ct_outside_church_newtown_vigil_thg_121215_mnWithout question – the shooting in New Town, Connecticut yesterday is a profound tragedy – and casts a grim shadow over the season. The senseless end of so many young lives should provoke us all to pause and consider – again – why does this keep happening? What enrages some so much about life that they conclude to rebel against misery with misery?


There are today – all over the internet – comment after comment about “this happened because God’s not allowed in school.” While I would personally like more of God in school – as well as work, downtown, the park, my neighborhood etc. – I’m not sure that we’re all talking about the same thing.


newtownAt the risk of landing in a heap of trouble – I’m doubtful that the successful alteration of educational legislation to allow class-wide prayer, the 10 commandments, nativity scenes etc. would diminish this phenomena of violence. These things are the trappings of faith-filled lives – not the substance of them. I believe we need more of God-likeness everywhere in our lives – not more symbols. For instance – grieving with the families and members of Newtown – before knee-jerk grasping at a one-dimensional solution to a very complicated and serious problem – one that warrants prayer, fasting, earnest dialog – not platitudes.


Relying on legislation to force symbols of Christianity into classrooms – seems a futile fight against symptoms. The most powerful manifestations of Jesus we encounter are bound up in the faith-filled actions of those so moved by love for Him that they choose to model His teachings as much as they can in their actions. Against this inspirational witness no legislation can be written – and I’m saddened every time discussion of spiritual growth, or how to impact our communities for Christ turn towards discussions of how to legislate this or that Christian symbol into the public sphere. These battles – whether won or lost – seem to do more to increase resistance than increase the Kingdom.


In light of yesterday’s events I turn to my faith for comfort and I usually enjoy seeing crosses, the 10 commandments, nativity scenes and such in my community. When I look for ways to expand the reach of God’s Kingdom where I live – I look to Galatians 5:16-26 – and hope and pray that the choices I make, and the priorities around which I structure my life, and the conversations I engage in with others will lead those God’s put in my life to trust Him more.  I fear a battle cry to fight to stuff symbols of God into schools where the rather the substance of God is needed will harm the Kingdom it’s intended to strengthen.


what’s the point of pain? October 3, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — randommystic @ 10:47 AM

whoops! I mean – how can we think about the painful part(s) of our lives with hope? I have to change the question from the title of this post to this form because the philosophical question of the point of pain is way, way waaaaayyyy beyond the rope that marks the boundary of my swimming skills in the pool of philosophical questions. Brilliant people continue to struggle to provide a solid answer to that question.


What follows is my simple (K.I.S.S.) – “don’t know if it will help you – but it sure helps me” personal opinion.


I forget it pretty frequently – that the most (seemingly) painful works God accomplishes in my life are precisely the ones that I rely on most – taught me the most about God, taught me the most about accepting Him, others, me … but when I remember that the very things in my life right now that kind of drive me crazy … my lack of wealth, failed relationships, crazy family, etc. … that these are all the tools currently in God’s hands to remove the dross from my soul and make me more like Christ – in fact – I really believe – that ironically God uses these little pains in my life to remove the bigger Pains … the ones that really cause me problems.


I very very firmly believe in the reality of Heaven. I believe that this life is a rash, a whole season of my existence (and all Christians’) which compared to heaven is nothing but mentally ill, spiritually perverse, cancer-ridden, poverty-stricken … This is our hell-hole. And – the big prize at the bottom of our box of Christian Cracker-Jack is that God refuses to let this sin ridden world’s 125-ish +/- years of horror be meaningless to us. That’s His gift of Love to us – He recycles it – and uses our suffering to reveal Himself – something poets, philosophers, sages and mystics through the ages have longed for – so we can enter our Real Lives – our Next Lives – equipped, informed, and in His presence – and finally – for His sake, for our sakes – experience the Lives He’d have given us in absence of Sin.
So – I don’t care as much that this life isn’t gold-dipped unicorns and rainbows … I’ll love poverty, my family and all the rest – because they reveal the Divine to me. In the next Life – the one that will last – the one that matters – all of those things will be revealed in their perfected form. I joke that in Heaven God will set me to the task of telling Bible stories to the polar bears living in the mandarin orange groves of Denali Alaska – the joke is – that I’d even have 0.00000001% of my heavenly existence figured out. But I’m dead serious … my role before my King in the next Life will be a thing of beauty and awe to behold – and will probably be something of a private irony/joke between God and I – that only my life of obedient submission to the trials of this life will make sense of.
I think there’s a hesitation among western Christians to talk about eternity in this way – because it seems like copping out – like the old mental-tricks that some in the distant past used to disenfranchise the poor … but all prior abuses aside – the purpose of this life IS to be God’s hands-and-feet as long as we’re here – and allowing that service to perfect us for His, our and the world’s sakes. Focusing on this aspect of our suffering makes it all so much more glorious, meaningful and hopeful.

the problem with “safe” September 27, 2012

Filed under: Christian mysticism,faith,random stuff — randommystic @ 1:32 PM
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So – there’s an obsession – it seems – in our culture with finding “safe” people with whom we can have “safe” conversations and we desperately want to keep our tender underbellies safe from the slings and arrows of misfortune. And really – is that such a bad thing? I mean – really – don’t we have a word for it – when someone recklessly courts self-harm – called masochism?


The problem is – as the prophet Jeremiah via inspiration reveals in 17:9 – is that “the heart is deceitful above all else and is desperately sick” and the rest of scripture would imply that only God actually understands the drives and whims that govern our heart. The lack of accurate understanding of what’s actually raging in our chests – makes it highly unlikely that we can always determine what’s really relationally safe. I’m not speaking here to the profound tragedy that is abusive relationships nearly as much as I’m speaking to the plethora of little decisions we make – the promises we make to ourselves in the wake of an injury, insult or season of hardship about how “I’ll never again be vulnerable to …” fill in the blank. These decisions anchor our souls to a pain in the past – and by morphing the injury into a boundary-marker – we cement it into the fabric of our lives. This action – at least for me – makes it significantly less likely that God can actually move in my life – via forgiveness, gaining of new wisdom, greater comprehension of His eternal truths about me – and ultimately heal me from the injury. In effect – my determination to learn “forever” from the incident – assures that it will in fact be with me forever. And my “safety” device – has … presto! … become a permanent gaping wound – invulnerable to God’s loving and healing touch.

More and more – I slow (so slowly sometimes) learn that the safety I long for – and surely God does not want languish in pain from relationships – is only found in more love for Him, more love for His truth and His truth alone about the value of who and what I am, more forgiveness and healing from the wounds of the past – most of which were suffered primarily from an incomplete understanding of His Truth and Love than anything else. The insults, judgments and hurts suffered from those I “let in” only carry weight in so far as I believe their truth (little t) over God’s Truth (very very big T).


In the last few weeks as I strive to work with God’s efforts to minister to and pour love on those He’s put around me – the damage caused by the false hope of “safety” keeps coming to the fore – and so I’ve been taking it as a hint to examine myself and see what compromises I’ve made to God’s efforts to heal me with the cheap allure of false safety – and clean my spiritual house again and make more room for more of His Love and Truth. I hope this encourages you too.


Dick Eastman September 20, 2012

Filed under: Prayer — randommystic @ 5:55 PM

If you have ever wondered how you could possibly spend an hour in prayer – please let me introduce you to Dick Eastman. My discipler put me onto this guy in college – but he has a 12 part prayer method – which looks at 12 different kinds of prayers seen in Scritpure and has you spending 5 minutes in each style of prayer to make up an hour of prayer. The whole idea of an hour comes from Jesus statement to His disciples in the garden – “Could you not pray with me one hour?” (Mark 14:37).


The part about this way of praying for longer periods of time – is the way it incorporates listening and watching into prayer … it immediately points the new prayer-er towards the reality that prayer is far far more than reciting to God a laundry list of needs and wants – but rather it is the front-line in the war of our transformation. Prayer is also where God breathes life into our Spirits – and illuminate for us how He has made us to work with Him in His Kingdom on Earth.  


Actually – the little book that Dick Eastman wrote to teach this prayer method is available for nada mucho these days – and I encourage anyone who’s looking for more ways to spend time in prayer to pick up a copy. It’s as easy to pray a few minutes as it is a few hours with this method – and if you’ve never spent much time focused on listening, watching or meditating – you might find the discussion on how to engage in these practices invigorating.