This year I did something I haven’t tried before – I gave up both Facebook and blogging for Lent, and most of my blog reading too – kept only Reed Fleming‘s and Philip Yancey‘s blogs. This was far and away the most beneficial Lent discipline I have ever tried. It’s hard to adequately describe the sense of quiet and of focus that I experienced through Lent this year. I realised that Facebook has become the constant background chatter to my life, and I realised afresh just how addicted to it I am. I also realised how much of an exercise of egotism blogging is for me – how often I check back to see what the statistics are, for instance, or to see if anyone has left me comments (even though I know with my head that WordPress would have sent me an email if they had!). So it was a relief to lay all that aside and just enter into the quiet of Lent.
One benefit of all this was the amount of reading I was able to do. My ‘Books read’ sidebar tells the tale. Our church Lent book study was on John Bowen’s ‘The Spirituality of Narnia‘, and Marci and I have been enjoying reading the Narnia stories together – we read five of them during Lent. I read and enjoyed Eugene Peterson’s memoir, ‘The Pastor‘, and especially enjoyed John Stott’s little book ‘The Radical Disciple‘, along with the recent biography of John by Roger Steer, ‘Basic Christian: The Inside Story of John Stott‘. As I mentioned earlier in the year, I’ve decided to read through the entire King James Bible this year in honour of the 400th anniversary of this classic translation; I’m now in Nehemiah (as well as being almost through the psalms) and am still thoroughly enjoying it.
Speaking of reading, I bought myself a Kindle a few weeks ago. One of the attractions of doing so was the availability of so many public domain classics as free downloads (the Amazon store alone has over 5,000 of them, and many more are available from other sources). I’ve read two George MacDonald novels, ‘Thomas Wingfold, Curate‘ and ‘Paul Faber, Surgeon‘ since I got the Kindle, and am now reading a biography of Fletcher of Madeley before moving on to an Elizabeth Gaskell novel.
Another purchase during Lent was the new update of the NIV Bible (popularly but unofficially known as the ‘NIV 2011‘). I quite liked the TNIV and was sad to see that Zondervan and Biblica were pulling the plug on it, but so far I’ve been mostly quite impressed with the NIV 2011 which I’ve been using for my morning devotional readings.
Oh yes, something else I gave up for Lent was the Daily Office. It was getting very dry and stale for me, so I decided to go back to the simple old ‘quiet time‘ of my early days as a Christian. I use the Bible Reading Fellowship’s ‘New Daylight‘ Bible reading notes, so I read the chapter that the daily passage is taken from in my NIV 2011, think about it and write down some thoughts and meditations, read the New Daylight comment, and then respond in prayer in the old ‘ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication)’ pattern. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying this; in fact, it’s been a breath of fresh air for my prayer life, giving me a new sense of immediacy in my daily time with God.
The weather in Edmonton has truly been atrocious, with constant snowfall all through Lent and even up to the week of Palm Sunday. This has really cut down on opportunities for outdoor exercise, and I’ve felt the lack of this, but am now enjoying getting out and walking again. I haven’t done any bird watching for a long time, but hope to get back to it as spring progresses.
I’ve continued to work slowly on the recording process for my new CD. I’m using a friend’s home recording studio, and my good friend Alex Boudreau is doing the actual engineering for me. So far we have recorded fourteen guitar and voice tracks, and we plan to do three or four more. We will then listen to what we’ve got and make some decisions about adding other instruments, although I want to keep to a fairly stripped-down sound as I like the simplicity of it. Tracks we’ve recorded so far include some traditional tunes like ‘Johnny Cope’, ‘Pretty Saro’, ‘Over the Hills and Far Away’, and ‘Lord Franklin’, along with some of my own, including ‘The Ballad of Jake and Rachel’, ‘Watching this Town Growing Old’, and ‘I Know You Will Be There’. I’m very happy with the recordings we’ve made so far. I do plan to send this recording away to be professionally manufactured, unlike my previous efforts which were all home-burned.
There’s much else that could be said – how many different ways are there to say that I love being a grandpa? – but I think I’ll stop here, and end by saying that my experience of freedom and peace during Lent has me thinking very seriously about the role that the blogosphere and Facebook play in my life. I do not seem to be able to ‘do’ them moderately as some people can. Giving the whole thing up for six weeks was tremendously enjoyable, and I’m really questioning whether or not it’s something I should do permanently. I know I’ve tried before, and failed, but I may well give it another try, ‘The Lord being my helper’.