The 7 Experiment – Reflections on Stress

The 7 Experiment if finally over.  If it wasn’t Lent, I’d be shouting all sorts of “All—ias,” but a loud “Thanks be to God” will have to suffice.  From food to clothing to possessions and media; through waste, spending, and finally stress, the last seven weeks have been a real opportunity for growth and theological reflection.   The over arching question that 7 has invited me to ask is “why?”

Why is it, that every time I fix the girls a snack, I have to grab a handful of whatever they’re having?
Why do I need seven long sleeved polo shirts, when I might wear two a year?Why am I convinced I need the next great gadget?
Why am I posting this on Facebook?
Why am I throwing away the last great gadget?
Why do my spending habits not reflect my stated goal of being a part of bring God’s Kingdom to earth?

And perhaps the most important question for me, Why did I go on blood pressure medication at age 33?

Jen has a very practical means for the releasing of stress – prayer.  What I appreciated about her model was that it wasn’t about rehearsing the list of crap that is weighing me down, that is to say, another opportunity to be stressed about it all, but rather she prayed the hours.  She engaged in the ancient prayers of the Church and allowed the words that have been used for generation upon generation to express the deeper concerns in heart.

Many Christians, even a lot of Episcopalians don’t know anything about the Daily Office or the Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families that are in the Book of Common Prayer.  They are a treasure trove of material that, when done with regularity and intentionality (and not as an added source of stress) can do wonders for the hurried and harried among us.  There are many resource out there to make the Daily Office accessible to the average lay person.  Phyllis Tickle’s three volume series “The Divine Hours” is a great place to start.  As is, the website of the Mission Saint Clare that offers a full service of Morning and Evening Prayer every day of the year.  They even have an app for Android, iOS, and eReaders.

All in all, I would highly recommend The 7 Experiment to anyone.  It is more than a self-help book.  It is a chance to think theologically about my place in the economic engine that is 21st century America.  If you engage the experiment, your life will be changed, and you might even come out the other side feeling closer to the Kingdom of God.

I might like Lent this year

Over the past few years, I’ve grown increasingly annoyed with the penitential seasons of the Church.  I just don’t get Advent and last year, I gave up Lent for Lent.  With Ash Wednesday just around the corner, I’ve spent some time over the past week or so thinking about Lent this year.  Ever since The 7 Experiment’s week of fasting from media, I’ve found myself, more often than not, riding in the car without the radio on.  Naturally, then I’ve been thinking about the season in which traditionally, we give things up that take our attention away from God’s saving work in our lives.  As I drove to a VTS alumni lunch over in Pensacola last Thursday, I gave the first real thought on my Lent 1 sermon this year, and these words came to mind, “I love Lent.”

I love Lent!?!

This can’t be true.  My subconscious mind is playing tricks on me in the silence of a hour long car ride.  The more I pressed myself, however, the more I realized that I might, in fact, like Lent this year.  Maybe it is because by the time Lent rolls around, the hardest parts of The 7 Experiment will be over.  Maybe I won’t feel guilty about not giving anything up this year because my life has already been dramatically rearranged by this crazy book.  Maybe I’m already more in tune with God’s calling me toward Kingdom living than I have been in years past.  Or Maybe Lent is starting late enough and coupled with Daylight Savings Time, so the season of penitence won’t be couple with miserable weather and 6pm darkness.  Whatever it is, I find myself with the strange feeling of looking forward to Lent this year.

Maybe you are too.  Or perhaps you haven’t given it any thought yet.  With parades running almost non-stop today and tomorrow, I can understand that, but by the time you’ve gobbled down your pancakes and buried your alleluias tomorrow night, I hope you will have taken a minute to think about what Lent will be for you this year.

The 7 Experiment – Reflections on Possessions

I failed the possessions experiment.  Part of the reason I didn’t do much this week is that I don’t really care about possessions.  As I mentioned last week, I’m cheap, so when I do actually buy something for myself, I use it and abuse it until it is worn out.  Whether it is our 2003 Honda CR-V, a clergy shirt, or a laptop computer, replacing it is not an option until it cannot be salvaged.  I had plans for this week, of course.

I had hoped to follow up on the clothing week by taking stock of all that I do have and eliminating the excess, the tattered, the stained, the should no longer be worn even in the comfort of my own home.  I still plan to do that, but (here comes excuse number 2) life is just too hectic to be sorting through my drawers.  I had planned on taking stock of the copious amount of books in my office.  I wanted to actually think about what books I will continue to use in my ministry, what books I’ve purchased or received that I will never actually read, and what books could be used by someone else.  I still plan to do that, but refer back to excuse number 2.

The truth of the matter is that I didn’t care much about the week on possession and so I didn’t take the time or put forth the effort to engage it much.  Maybe I’ve been so brainwashed by Madison Avenue that my excess of stuff doesn’t bother me, except when we moved last year and I was actually embarrassed by the amount of stuff we have as a family.  Maybe even in my nickle-nosery, I’m just as tied into the game as everybody else.  That is surely possible, but what struck me this week more than anything else is how priorities affect decision making.  Possessions are not a priority for me and so rifling through them went to the bottom of the list.  I think I’m OK with that, even if it means I failed possessions week in The 7 Experiment.

Back to tough stuff this week, Media.  Facebook and Twitter notifications are turned off, so if you want to comment on a post this week, do it here so I can see it.