Tag Archives: the meaning of Lent

What We Can Learn From Harry Chapin About Making Room For God

In 1973, Sandy Chapin wrote a poem about the disconnect in the relationship between her ex-husband James Cashmore, and his father, a New York City politician. A year later, after initially discounting it, her husband Harry Chapin witnessed the birth of his son. Inspired by the experience and in light of his wife’s poem, he wrote the now-famous song “Cat’s In The Cradle.”

After writing the ballad, he commented, “Frankly, this song scares me to death.”

Cat’s In The Cradle is written from a son’s perspective about his father who is too busy to spend time with him. Despite his many requests to join him in different childhood activities, his father continues to respond with little more than vague promises of spending time together in the future. Nevertheless, the son continues to admire him, promising that someday “I’m gonna be like you, Dad.”

At the end of the song, the roles are reversed. The father asks his grown-up son to visit, but the son responds that he is now too busy to make time. The father then reflects that they are both alike, saying “my boy was just like me.” The song’s chorus utilizes imagery related to childhood (hence the title, “Cat’s in the cradle”). You can read the lyrics by clicking here.

While other songs like Eve Of Destruction generate more consideration about its worthiness for the title of the Hippie Movement anthem, Cat’s In The Cradle at least deserves honorable mention. That song embodies the life trajectory of far too many Baby Boomers (and their kids!).

Every time I read the lyrics or listen to the song, my heart physically hurts. Perhaps it hits too close to home on a number of different levels. I see myself in the song as a son and a father. But I also relate to this song as a child of God. Fortunately, God always, always, always makes time for us.

Ironically, Chapin was either an agnostic or an atheist. In my walk with God, I so easily live as a functional agnostic, behaving as if God doesn’t exist. Even as a pastor and Christian writer.

The Purpose Of Lent Is To Make Room For God

Last Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent. The purpose of Lent isn’t to punish ourselves for our sins over the previous 12 months. The purpose of Lent is to reflect on how we live as functional agnostics, and then make room for God.

To a great extent, observing Lent is the attempt to avoid the pitfalls of this song. How often do we give God the leftovers of our hearts and priorities? Then at the end of our lives, we look back with great regret over the many missed opportunities.

Last month, I realized that I was giving God my leftovers. Despite my many “spiritual” activities, my soul was overwhelmed with a hunger  far deeper than the richest food could ever satisfy. I was becoming the anti-hero of Cat’s In The Cradle. So, I decided to begin my Lenten fast five weeks early. My focus isn’t mortifying my flesh–it’s creating room for God.

So I invite you to join me on this journey.

How do you make room for God? Please share it with us!

If you’d like to see a brief, interesting video about Lent, click on the video below.

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. He’s making room for God by turning off the sports talk and classic rock when he drives. Instead, he’s driving in silence or listening to worship music.

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Looking Into The Eyes Of Eternity

by Deirdre Byerly

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, for what is seen, is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 2:18

This is the verse that Jesus dropped in my lap nine years ago at Lent. It seemed very mystical to me, after all, how does one see the unseen? I asked a godly friend, Lori, how she thought this could be accomplished and she suggested prayer and meditating on scripture. I thought, yeah, yeah but I’m doing that and I still don’t get it.

The old Bruce Cockburn song came to mind, “looking for eternity, some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me.” Well, while I was trying to wrap my brain around eternity, something else had a hold on me and it wasn’t ecstasy. What my eyes were fixed on, what filled my view like a big screen TV, was my dad. He had Alzheimer’s and had been doing a slow disappearing act for six years. Watching him lose his very good mind bit by bit was excruciating. The gently sloping hill Dad had been descending was now transformed into a black diamond run he was careening down out of control. Eating, breathing, walking, sitting were all becoming challenging.

Once or twice a week I’d give my mom a break and have Dad spend the day with me. I’d always assumed I was up to whatever the disease dished out but as Dad’s needs increased I wasn’t so sure. When, during this time, my father-in-law who was also in failing health came to spend a week, my prayer was: are you kidding me? Fortunately, I had friends who were praying for me.

One bleak morning as I sat at my kitchen table praying, hoping for a vision of the eternal, I heard, “It’s the suffering, Stupid.” Okay, I know that when God speaks it’s supposed to be lofty — James Earl Jones speaking King James English. However, on that day it wasn’t Shakespearean or ethereal. Jesus needed to remind me that as long as I was on this planet there’d be suffering. With all the comforts of 21st century American life, in between the heartaches, it was easy to forget. For the early church, it was a given. Follow Jesus – go to jail; follow Jesus – get thrown to the lions; follow Jesus – get crucified.

Towards the end of Lent, Dad had a massive stroke. Sitting at his bedside as he died was painful. Each time I entered the hospital, I thought, I can’t do this. I could muster only the shortest prayer: help. Fortunately, God kept showing up, too. His response to me was what it was to St. Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Sometimes it was in a hymn we’d sing as a family or a passage of scripture or a chapter from my favorite book, “Peace Like a River.” At times the Spirit of God was so thick in the room it was almost visible. There was nearly a hue, a texture to it.

The few times my dad’s eyes would open, he didn’t seem to see us. He’d reach his left hand out as though he was trying to grab onto something above the bed. One of us would take his hand and tell him how much we loved him. It didn’t take long for us to realize he wasn’t reaching for us at all — he was reaching for his savior. His vision was no longer clouded by all the temporary clutter, but fixed on eternity. The ecstasy of eternity had a hold of my dad.

When my dad drew his last breath, shrugged off his useless body and slipped out of this world and into the next, I saw eternity as closely as you can from this side of it.

Funny, I’d begun Lent looking for eternity in a philosophical way. I’d wanted to share in Christ’s sufferings in theory. But God had a better, if harder, plan. My human effort at reaching out to God was small and yet, he mercifully drew me close and allowed me to glimpse eternity.

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Deirdre Byerly attends The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado. For Lent, various people from their community are contributing to a daily Lenton e-devotional. On Mondays for the rest of Lent, we’re going to share with you some of their thoughts and insights.

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