Reflections

Life in the Aftermath: A Post Lenten Reflection

Easter has come and gone. The 40 days of Lent are behind us. Our Lenten devotions and fasts have come to an end. So now what do we do?

In my experience, the Lenten season, like the Christmas season, is a time of consistent spiritual devotion. The 40 days that mark the season of Lent on the Christian calendar are when I tend to be on my “A-game.” The significance of the mighty cross, and the celebration of Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday, all contribute to the anticipation of the season. For ministers and laity alike, Lent is a time of great devotion and sacrifice, all with the intention of drawing nearer to Christ. It is a beautiful time.

The Monday after Easter, the mundane routine of “normal” life returns. Ministers take a sigh of relief from the countless hours spent preparing for the various services, and church goers rejoice (secretly of course) at the fact that practices for the cantatas are finished and church is once again at most a two-day weekly commitment. Unfortunately, the significance of the Lenten season is lost in the ebb and flow of the ordinary. The impact of the season may last for a few days or even a week after Resurrection Sunday, but inevitably it is forgotten as life whisks away its tenets once again. Like a student who has gone to camp and returned, the “camp high” (or in this case, “Lenten High”) rapidly disseminates. For me, this has been the case every year in which I have embraced the significance of the Lenten season. This year, however, I find myself yearning for a change. Why must I allow the yearly routine to habituate itself any longer? 

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Failure, Doubt, and Perfectionism: A Lenten Reflection

History certainly does repeat itself. 

Every semester, the vicious cycle of sleep deprivation kicks in around week eight. During this time, the “normal” daily routine is as follows: wake up, go to class, do homework, stay up late, sleep for a few hours, and repeat the next day. In the typically ironic fashion, the hopeful student begins the semester promising themselves that papers will be started earlier, bed times will be strictly enforced, and socialization and personal fitness time will be a part of the daily routine. As all hopeful students (and I included) know, this lofty promise almost always seems to be abandoned. We start out strong but inevitably stress surmounts us. No matter how many years we have been in higher education, we are almost never prepared for what is to ensue in the final two months of classes. When coupled with the stress of schoolwork, sleep deprivation becomes a thorn in our flesh. Those papers we attempted to start early somehow got pushed back, our bed times become later and later, we interact less and less with those around us (for those of us who are married, this also unfortunately means our spouses), and our fitness aspirations become a figment of our imagination. At the end of each day, we find ourselves slipping further and further into that vicious cycle with which we are all well acquainted.

On the one hand, I know there are those blessed ones who are able to conquer this cycle. Stress is not an object of fear, and somehow everything always seems to end up okay for these people. When the busy time of the semester is over, these people walk away feeling slightly worn out. On the other hand, there are those who get to the end of the semester (or perhaps the one month point) and feel like they have been ran over by freight train. It is in this camp where I find myself at the end of each semester.

Come December and May, I am always bruised and broken. In these months, I find myself filled with frustration and doubt. As one who aspires to continue to move on in the world of academia and pursue a PhD in Religion, the doubt in me screams, “You cannot do this. You are not cut out for this type of work.” In response, I often retort to my doubt, “Maybe you are right. Maybe I am not meant for this. Maybe I need to reevaluate my ‘call’.” This semester my doubt almost got the best of me. I highly considered changing my directions in my academic path.

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Why Did I Choose Seminary?

Today, the Gardner-Webb University (GWU) School of Divinity hosted its Spring Preview Day. I was asked by our wonderful Director of Admissions if I would be willing to join the prospective students for lunch; delighted to have another opportunity to share my passion for this program, I accepted the opportunity. While eating lunch with some prospective students, I blatantly asked them why they were considering seminary. To no surprise, they replied, “God has called me into ministry.” Each student had the same undeniable call to go to seminary and pursue the path in which God has called them. Although not all of them will end up at GWU, I know that they are on a path that will lead them on a new and exciting journey. CPE Emphasis Chapel (March 18, 2014)

After lunch, the question I asked the prospective students continued to resonate within me, and I found myself wrestling with it all afternoon: Why did I choose seminary? 

The Journey to Seminary:

The answer to this is rather lengthy, so I will do my best to practice “lucid brevity,” as I am frequently encouraged to do by Dr. McConnell. My journey to seminary started my sophomore year in undergrad when I became a Young Life (YL) leader at a local high school in Shelby, NC. This was my first experience in the world of ministry. I quickly learned that ministry was messy, tough, and draining, yet beautiful and rewarding. YL became the avenue through which God would begin to reroute my life. However, as a young Christian, I was completely naïve to the complexities of this call.

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New Beginnings and a Lenten Fast.

The age-old cliché states, “Third time’s the charm.” For my blogging endeavors, I hope the cliché holds true.

Lately, I have been thinking about how scattered my mind is. I am a naturally inquisitive person. I am a critical thinker. I love to know the way things work and why people think a certain way. I love to dialogue with others about faith, life, and current issues. When I read or hear things, I subconsciously have to question something. It isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I do find myself losing track of time or the ideas I once was questioning. So, in an attempt to organize my thoughts, be more productive with my mind, and to enter into ongoing conversations about any and everything, I have decided to venture back into the blogging world. This time, however, there is a new motivation.

This past Wednesday marked the beginning of the Lenten season. Unfortunately, the “busyness” of my life enabled Lent to sneak up on me. In the Baptist world we generally don’t make much of a deal of Lent. Fasting for 40 days is rarely discussed. However, I think fasting is an integral part of our Christian faith. Fasting occurs many times throughout the Bible and for numerous reasons. For every reason there is one primary purpose; that is to draw us into a place of weakness so that we may turn our focus to God. I would like to propose, however, that fasting does not necessarily have to mean removing something from one’s life. Last year, one of my professors, Dr. Allen, spoke on fasting in our Christian Ethics class. She suggested that fasting is not always the giving up of something; fasting is something that draws one closer to God. So, as the days since Ash Wednesday have passed, I have been thinking…questioning…praying. I have since determined that this year, I will not give anything up. Instead, I will only be adding something to my life. My Lenten fast will be to write, journal, and blog more. Why? Simply because I feel it is necessary to channel my thoughts more productively so that I may glorify the Lord. As a part of my Lenten fast, I ask you as my readers to keep me accountable. My prayer is that this will not just be a “40-day thing,” but that it will be a new spiritual discipline added to my life. If you live near me or have my number, text me if I fall behind in writing. Fortunately for you all, you won’t have to read all of my thoughts (that’s why I will be keeping a journal), but I do hope that for the thoughts you do read, you join in on the conversation with me.

So, here’s to hoping that the third time truly is the charm! Thanks for being a part of this journey.

“All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.” – Eccl 3:20

χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη (Grace and peace to you) – Michael