Ash Wednesday Breaking Routines with a Lenten Reader

It’s already that time of year, Lent is here. Today is Ash Wednesday (see also history), marking the beginning of the season of Lent, which then takes us to the Passion and into Easter. There are many things our church does that I really like and producing a Lenten Reader for the past few years is one of them. It is such a great tool, especially how we use it in our particular church, where it ties each day of the week to the message being taught on Sunday.

If your church doesn’t put out a Lenten Reader there are plenty of other options, YouVersion has two great Lenten Reader plans, Lent For Everyone and 40 Days of Lent. A Lenten reader is more than just a daily devotional, it is intended to be a meditation, a call, to pull us out of our daily routine and refocus our lives back to Christ and His sacrifice. Lent is more than a time of self-denial, it is a time we can use to get back to the spiritual disciplines like worship, confession, meditation, fasting, study, and prayer.

In our culture of busyness to excess, these disciplines become the most expendable. When time is short, these are either the first to go, or denied their proper place at all, and a Lenten Reader is a great way to pull ourselves back into the fold. Our American culture seems to have no problem celebrating the over indulgence of Fat-Tuesday, (see a great post by Beeson titled, Fat Tuesday And We’re Running Out of Options) but there is rarely a mention of the ashes of repentance on Wednesday. Ultimately, even though the world may not take notice, we do, and we look through this season of Lent, and the next 47 days, to celebrating the greatest event even known to history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I AM Lenten Reader, Introduction :: Lent Day 1

Today is the first day of Lent, and as discussed in my previous post The “I AM” Lenten Reader During This Season of Lent, I will be going through our Lenten Reader here on my blog each day. You can click the image above for the full page as shown in the reader, and if you would like the full pdf download please go to my writing section and download the file from the bottom of the page (we also have them for sale at Cornerstone if you haven’t picked up the paper copy yet).

Today’s reading comes from the 1979 edition of “Ash WednesdayBook of Common Prayer, specifically from the section entitled “Proper Liturgies for Special Days” (not the entire book). The Book of Common Prayer isn’t something that I was all that familiar with growing up, or even now, but this is a liturgical guide for an Ash Wednesday service of prayer and reflection. The text, in part, look like this (full pdf is above):

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

and the liturgy is concluded by the following prayer

If ashes are to be imposed, the Celebrant says the following prayer

Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.

There is of course nothing that says this is THE way to observe Ash Wednesday. Doctorates have been written on the importance or legalistic manner of the liturgy. Today, I welcome words and appreciate their deeper meaning for God’s people.

Scripture Readings

Old Testament Joel 2:1-2, 12-17, or Isaiah 58:1-12 :: Psalm 103
Epistle 2 Corinthians 5:20-212 Corinthians 1-6:10 :: Gospel Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

A few verses above struck a chord with me as I read through them. Isaiah 58:6-7, all of Psalm 103 is always incredible, and Matthew 6:1-6.

Isaiah 58:6 “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Contemplation Over Day 1

I love these verse above, especially Psalm 103. Psalm 103 is one of those writings you can find comfort and peace with throughout life, but then they move to Matthew 6:1-6, especially Matthew 6:1.

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

This is something I try to guard my heart against every day. Ultimately we as people want to be patted on the back or given the approval by men, and that is something that not only Matthew speaks about here, but Jesus addresses throughout scripture. It is why he called out the Pharisees and others who were more interested in the praise of men than in the Glory of God. The existence of this blog itself is always a battle for me, as it was with my photography, seminary, and a host of other earthly endeavors. I know my purpose and reasons for writing, many are not that deep, but in the end, it is my hope that they will Glorify God, not for the praise of man, and not to become the legalistic “religious” person of our society today.

Social networking was basically born of this purpose and has thrived throughout the world today for the very “look at me” functionality of the technology. There are of course all kinds or fantastic uses for Facebook, Twitter, and all the others, but those too can find their way into our heart to become a narcissistic compulsion. I struggle with this continually, but I also know some of the unbelievable relationships that God has developed for me through (mainly Twitter) social networking. For now, if I were to abandon those healthy relationships for the sake of the technology, I would miss out on many blessings from fellow brothers. I pray my use of these technologies never becomes the answer to Matthew 6:1.

For another look or view at this season don’t forget to check out Lee Cadden and Brian Johnson’s blogs.

The "I AM" Lenten Reader During This Season of Lent

My last blog post, What is Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent?, I wrote an explanation of what Ash Wednesday and the Lent season is all about, so this post I’m giving a more concrete action step of what some do to observe the season of Lent, but more specifically what our church is doing this year. We decided as a church to put together the Lenten Reader pictured above that includes a short daily reading and reflection or journal writing, which walks through the “I AM” statements in the Gospel of John.

I AM the Bread of Life.
I AM the Gate.
I AM the Light of the World.
I AM the Way, the Truth, & the Life.
I AM the Good Shepherd.
I AM the True Vine.

Each day I am going to attempt (time willing) to post the text from each day’s reading, and the response as I contemplate the message. I am not going to post every single day but will be actively posting from this Lenten Reader as the season moves ahead. I will probably include the entire Lenten Reader PDF here for download shortly but for now you can read the introduction pages, page 1 and page 2, the text is also written below.

The I AM Lenten Reader Introduction

Each week is anchored in the “I AM” statement taught on Sunday, and every week there will be challenges for confession, repentance, and worship. Some days you will be led to a blog post and asked to read and reflect upon it. Other days you will be challenged to meditate on scripture or celebrate what God has done in your own life.

Throughout this reader, you will also be challenged to journal consistently. There will be questions on some days, and other days there won’t be. We intentionally left space for you to write your own thoughts and seek what God is teaching you on a personal spiritual level.

Lent is more than a season of self-denial; it is a wake up call from our day-to-day lives to the life we have in Christ. Lent breaks us from the every day pattern and refocuses us on Christ and His sacrifice. Our hope is that the reader will break you from your patterns and draw you into a journey with Christ. Dig deep into these scriptures. Be actively present in the practices of worship, confession, meditation, fasting, and journaling.

Seek to know Christ and the power of His sacrifice.

I Can’t Afford a Kindle, iPad, or eBook Reader?

I love this excuse for not having a Kindle or some type of eBook reader at this point. A better excuse would be that “I don’t want an eBook reader”, that would at least make a more intelligent argument, at least for those of us who live in the United States. The price of a Kindle is now down to $114 (with coupon). I have found that a majority of Kindle books, whether you read them on the iPad, iPhone, Android, Kindle, or on your free desktop app, are often 50-75% cheaper than paper.

That means if you read… books… at all… any particular device you choose will pay for itself within time. Take the percentage savings on current books. If you buy 10 books at regular paperback price, say $14.99 to $19.99 (I am talking about new releases here), they often will have a Kindle book on sale for $4.99 to $6.99, especially if you pre-order. That is a savings of $10 per book or $100. So if you read more than 10 books a year (I understand many people at this point don’t) you will have your Kindle paid for by the time you hit the 11th book?

It’s simple math. The more you read, the more you will save in the price of books. Perhaps if you only read 1 or 2 books a year buying a Kindle or iPad won’t save you any money, but don’t tell me you “can’t afford” to buy a Kindle or iPad like all those “rich” people. If you live in this country that’s like saying you can’t afford a washing machine or a dish washer. It’s simple economics. If you read, you will spend more money on paper books than the price of the eBook reader itself. Just tell me you don’t want one, or you have moral issues with the digital consumerism, or you don’t want to partake in the evil of Apple, or something, but don’t tell me you can’t afford to buy one if you are an avid book reader, that’s just an excuse.

Amazon Kindle 2 Review After Damaged Screen Replaced

Scott's iPhone 2 and Kindle 2

Scott's Kindle 2

Scott's Kindle and MacBook Pro

Being the technology type, I had been looking at the Kindle 2 since it was announced and found it very intriguing.  Most everyone that looks at the Kindle, 1st or 2nd generation, balks at the price of the device but being a photographer and traditionally having to spend $1,000’s on one single lens, spending $360 on a device that will save me money on the price of books didn’t seem like that much to try it out.

Not that $360 isn’t a lot to spend on the Kindle 2, but I just sold a few lenses out of my camera bag that weren’t used to much and a few days later the Kindle 2 arrived.  After using the Kindle 2 for a while I felt like a review of this new piece of technology would be appropriate, but it didn’t end the way I had anticipated.

I will say right off, it is the best, most sophisticated ebook reader (that displays eink as it’s called) and theoretically it can digitize your book collection or library much like the iPod has done for music.  If you just want the conclusion, scan down to that section and I will sum it all up for you.  Some of you may know that I have a Kindle Screen that was damaged (see Damaged or Defective Kindle 2 Screen) so this was after the replacement had been sent by Amazon.

The Kindle 2 Graded

If you want the short of it, here are my grades for the Kindle 2 on different variables in no particular order.

  • Price – [B]
  • Size, Weight, Shape – [B]
  • Screen – [C-]
  • Keyboard – [D]
  • Software – [C-]
  • Ease of Reading [A-]
  • Ease of Searching books [D]
  • Availability of Books for the Kindle [B+]
  • Price of Books [B-]
  • Price of Periodicals [C-]
  • Durability [C-]
  • Customer Support [A]
  • Portability [A]
  • Practicality [C]
  • Internet Browser / Browsing [F]
  • Multi-use Portable Technology Device, i.e. it is a reader, only [D-]
  • Highlighting and Taking Notes [C-]
  • Compared to Other eBook Devices [A]
  • Saving Trees [A+]
  • Creating a Digital Library [A]
  • Ability to Mimic Reading a Paper Book [D-]

All the point above are not weighted equally of course, but overall, I give the Kindle 2 (not having ever used the Kindle 1 but having used most modern portable decives on the market) a total grade of a “C”.

1. Price at $359 – About Right to Me

This is one of the biggest complaints of the Kindle 2.  It costs $359 and since it is only sold by Amazon you can’t really find it for less than that anywhere.  You can find a few used on eBay, but none of the Kindle 2 and Amazon only has a few Kindle 1 in the new/used category.

To me, the price is about right for what it does and the competition it has right now.  When the iPod first came out it was (and still is) about that price and people couldn’t buy them fast enough.  Of course the difference is the Kindle 2 requires that you actually read something.  The iPod since it deals with music has a much larger appeal to the 18-28 age range, and they will usually plunk down $350 for just about anything if they want it bad enough.

I would not or do not expect Amazon to lower the price any time soon until the Kindle 3 comes out, and why should they.  Amazon is probably making bundles on these Kindles with them priced at $359, and I think the price is about right.

2. Overall Size & Weight – OK, But Could be Bigger

The new Kindle 2 is light years ahead of the Kindle 1 in size and weight.  It is about the size in total of a paper back book (not the screen size, the entire device).  It is light and thin, but if I was wanting to ready a long book I could have used the Kindle 2 even larger than it is.  The thickness is about right but I would love to see one about the size of a piece of paper.

3. The Screen – Can You Say, Touch, Color, and Backlit?

The screen is a 16 color grayscale, matte screen.  To me, this was one of the bigger disappointments of the Kindle 2.  The screen was to small, it was not in color, it was not a touch screen, and the biggest for me, the screen is not backlit.

Although the font size can be changed, the screen was too small to really be able to read a full page (on paper) on the Kindle 2.  I would like to see one page on the Kindle equal one page on the corresponding paper book.  Maybe I am jaded by using an iPhone for more than a year now.  I want to be able to touch the screen and have it do what I want, not move some cursor around like I’m in DOS and in the same respect, a color screen is pretty much standard on everything today and it just looked old school.  The last biggie on the screen was the fact that it wasn’t backlit.  I would have preferred to be able to sit in a dark room and read without the need for a reading light.

One last bit on the screen.  All of the images are all converted to gray, which in itself is fine, but it lost detail and did not show what I am use to in a high res screen that shows great detail in black and white.

I understand all those things go to battery life, but I would sacrifice a 2 week battery for one that lasts a few days for the above changes on the screen.

4. Keyboard – Needs Some Help

I know I keep going back to the iPhone, but that I the current device I am use to using.  The keyboard on the Kindle 2 is a full keyboard, but it works like the crackberry qwerty keyboard’s of old.  This is because the keys are very small.  I would have liked to see them closer together and much much larger than the small round dots.  They were hard for me to use, but it was a full-ish keyboard.  All special characters were like a comma, or punctuation, were all on the shift end, which was a pain.

I did like the fact that you could type out comments and notes, but they were hard to get right and easy to mess up.

5. Software Interface – Good, But Not Very Sophisticated

The interface where you actually read the books is good for what it is intended for, but it lacks much of the functionality of today’s handheld devices.  It has wireless through Sprint’s 3G network, and I seemed to get a signal everywhere, even where I don’t on my iPhone (which isn’t really saying much).  Books downloaded quickly and the newspaper subscriptions were always on the Kindle 2 the next morning when I went to read them (I did the trial for the USA Today).

Reading on the eyes is good, probably because of the grayscale I didn’t like, and you can change the font size so it suits your needs.  Taking notes and highlighting on the Kindle 2 is ok, but no where close to perfect.  It saves all the notes into one .txt file and to extract the information you have to parse through all the different notes from the other books.  It doesn’t separate out notes for specific books but puts everything all in one file.  I would have much preferred the file attach to the actual piece I was reading.

Flipping from book to book is a little slow but works well.  If you are trying to get back to a specific place in a book it is a little hard to do unless you bookmark the spot.  Moving around in the books from place to place is much harder than flipping through the book.


In the title I said the “not-so-normal” review, because in the end, I returned my Kindle to Amazon, twice. I have never been accused of being old school.  I will embrace technology and new developments before they are even released, but I still buy all my music on physical CD’s (to burn to my iPhone, iTunes, iPod etc) because there is something you can’t get from a download, the art the artist put into the album.  The design of the artwork, the stories they still include in the booklet, silk screening on the CD itself, back cover artwork, and of course the ability to burn without digital rights management crap.

After using the Kindle 2 for about a week, I took it on a trip to South Carolina and while I was on the trip, the screen became damaged or something, but it wasn’t working correctly (see Damaged or Defective Kindle 2 Screen // Photos).  After receiving a new one from Amazon, I continued to use the Kindle for a while and finally came to the conclusion that I did not like the Kindle 2 enough to actually keep it.

In the end, it came down to something I totally didn’t expect.  I found out that you can not (at least not easily) replicate the actual reading of a book on paper.  You smell the pages, you can flip through pages, write in the margins, underline passages and as you do so, you become part of the book.  Each book is different.  The covers are different, the font size changes, the thickness of the paper, all which is very hard to duplicate in the electronic world and you end up reading all these different books and they all look and feel the same.

As a friend would tell me, it’s not art.  The art of reading, and a lot of the time, it is the art of reading in the way the author intended.  This says nothing about the Kindle 2 device because it can’t replicate the actual flipping of the pages like you can when you physically hold that book.

If you want to read a book straight through from beginning to end, page after page, the Kindle may be right for you.  I want to get lost in time, lost in the pages of paper, ink, and verse, and at least for now, I will stick with the printed book.

Damaged or Defective Kindle 2 Screen Failure :: Photos

Damaged Kindle 2 Screen

Damaged Kindle 2 Screen

Damaged Kindle 2 Screen

Damaged Kindle 2 Screen

Screen Shot of Damaged Kindle 2 Screen

Working Kindle Screen

Last week I traded in a few pieces of camera equipment for the new Kindle to really see if I could just whip through books at lightning speed and to my surprise, after about 2 days of use, I managed to mess up the screen.  I am in the middle of doing an in depth review of the Kindle 2 that I will post at a later date, but after having the Kindle 2 for about 2 days, I seems that the screen on the Kindle 2 was damaged beyond a simple fix.  The reason for this post was really to show what the customer service representative at Amazon did to fix the problem.

For those who don’t know, I really missed my calling in life to be a product tester.  No matter what the product, I can an uncanny way of being able to break the unbreakable and find problems or issues that manufactures somehow seem to miss.  I was told that the Kindle 2 was tested for durability and could withstand a drop from a two story building, but 2 days in my backpack managed to screw up the top of the screen.

Once I went through the normal troubleshooting that I knew how to do, I called the customer service number for the Kindle.  She walked me through a few other tests, had me “reboot” the system (you can hold the power slider over for 20 seconds and that will initiate a reboot on the Kindle 2).  After that (all of which took about 2 minutes total) Amazon told me they would just ship me a new one overnight.  No questions asked, they just shipped me a new one.  They paid for the shipping to return the old one, and I transferred all my book from the old kindle to the new kindle.  It was easy as it possibly could have been.

As for what I did to the Kindle, I have no idea.  I did put it in my backpack (in its own case) and perhaps to much pressure what applied to the top of the screen somewhere.  I am not sure about the 2 story drop, didn’t try that, but I will be a little more careful with it in the future regardless.  I was totally and completely thrilled with Amazon’s customer service on the kindle.

That doesn’t really have anything to do with the practicalities of the Kindle, that will come later, but as far as their customer service goes, it was great.  Having also sold on Amazon for years, I can say that all of Amazon’s customers service is geared towards their buying customers (as opposed to their sellers) and they will bend over backwards to provide the best service they can.

You can see the screen issue on the photos below.  It covers about an inch from the top with a blank line of gray going across the screen with a slash in the upper left corner.  The last two shots are what the screen shot from the damaged kindle looks like (so it is seeing everything correctly under the screen issue) and what the new one looked like when it arrived.

Update May 21, 2010

I thought I would update this post with a few comments since it is still one of the most read posts on my blog. As some have suggested, my Kindle was NOT dropped.  I simply put it in my backpack, which also wasn’t dropped, and took it out an hour later and it showed up with the damaged screen.

I did get a free replacement from Amazon, but I returned the replacement within a week for a refund (see my review A Not-So-Normal Kindle 2 Review for my reasons), but one major reason was I knew the “free screen replacement” was only going to last a short time, and it was a one time shot.  Amazon did replace the damaged screen, but they said they weren’t going to do it again.  Looking back now, more than a year later, it was the best decision and I am not super happy with my iPad.

Update February 12, 2011

As this post still gets heavy traffic and questions, I will say after using and testing the Apple iPad since it came out, I have never had a better ebook reader than the iPad and I am looking forward to seeing the new iPad 2 some time around April. The Kindle App for the iPad is one of the ebook reader apps I use, and although not my favorite, I do use it frequently.

The problem I still have with the Kindle is you basically can’t do anything else with it other than read a book. I can type out notes and highlights in my Kindle app on the iPad and it works great. The one great thing Amazon has done for the Kindle is continue to lower it’s price, but if you have an iPad I’m not sure what use one would have for the Kindle.

Is Your Favorite Faith Based Blog on This List?

What are your favorite faith based blogs you read?  I have a few different categories in my mind of blogs I read.  I have a total list, which includes some of my friends blogs and some of my favorite faith based blogs, and more I just flip through on a daily or weekly basis.  I have a few blogs I read (this would be across all categories) that are really bad, but for some reason I have some fascination with what they will post next because the blog is so bad (poor design, format, sentence or grammar structure and so on).  I call these train wreck blogs because I can’t help but read them for some reason.

I won’t mention any of my personal favorite train wreck blogs but there is one blog I have been reading quite a bit called which has a lot of fresh, well written content, plus his job listings are interestingg reading to me.  I have to give my blogroll award to Brody Harper who has one of the best blogrolls on the side of his blog and he always has something interesting going on over there (see his latest Positive Post Tuesday-Outdoor Encounter).  Below you will find my current faith based blogroll for today, Tuesday, September 2, 2008.  This list below is static, but my list changes daily.  For the most current and up to date list, see Faith Blogroll.  Is your blog on this list?  No?  Well post it in the comments so we can all take a look and add it to our feed readers.

The list above is obviously in alphabetical order, but it is a list of blogs I frequent.  There are so many that I have not come across yet, but to those above, thanks so much for putting so much effort into your blogs, I really enjoy reading them.  Keep in mind, even if you never receive a single comment, there are people who read your blog, so write your posts with that in mind.

Updates and Changes to Google Reader

Google finally made some improvements to their rss feed reader, Google Reader yesterday, but, now my feeds are all messed up. Most of the changes pertain to the iPhone and the interface it uses to show the rss reader functions.

Having an iPhone, I have been waiting for this for a long time, and the new interface is great. I can’t wait to use it when I am traveling next week. You can read the updates here at Brand new Google Reader for iPhone and also Google interface for the iPhone at Macworld and there is more than just the look and feel that has changed.

Changes to Web Version of Reader

I didn’t read to much about changes made to the web version of Google reader, but now, all my “read” items are not showing in my feeds. The only way to get these read items back, that I can tell, is to unsubscribe to each feed one at a time (and I have over 600 feeds) and then add it right back.

When you do this, it pulls in all the feeds from previous posts, plus all the rest you hadn’t seen in a while. If you keep scrolling down, it will keep downloading new feeds. Without doing this step though, once you read the current feed in a subscription, the window shows nothing at all.

I hope that Google fixes this soon, I reference different feeds all the time, and most are feeds I have already read. Anyone else having this problem with this update?

Cool New Feature

One thing they did add was a link in the upper right corner that says show details. This is great, you can click on this link and it will now show you the average number of posts per week for this feed, and also how many subscribers.

Of course, I checked out some of my own blogs and they all said 2 subscribers and 0.0 posts per week. Now I don’t have many subscribers, but I have more than two. I also have several blogs I update on a daily basis, so it is a cool feature, but not quite working yet, perhaps.

Has anyone else seen any other updates to Google Reader over the last few days?

May 1st is RSS Feed Awareness Day Get Your RSS Reader Ready

So, today seems to be deemed RSS Feed awareness day (or RSS Day) and I had been contacted several times about trying to do a quick post on rss (Really Simple Syndication) feeds. It seems that many people are unaware of the importance, or usefulness of an rss feed, so now is your chance to see what it is all about.

As far as a blog goes, it is probably the single most important feature of your blog, and as a reader, it saves time and effort. Each time a favorite blog of yours updates their content, it sends out a rss feed, which can be read through a free program like Google Reader.

Almost all blogs utilize an rss feed, and now you can generally pull a feed from just about anywhere. There are feeds for news sites, blogs, hobbies, just about anything with active content. This is probably the best video out there on RSS Feeds, so give it quick look, it can explain a feed better than I can. Don’t forget to sign up for my rss feeds, located at the top right corner of the menu at the top. As you look at the drop down, you will have a link to each blog I author, each with its own separate rss feed. In order to read the content of each post, you will need to subscribe to each blog individually.

Merry Christmas to Everyone on the Top 15 List

I am replacing my normal Monday morning top 15 list with a holiday greeting for everyone this week.  I hope everyone is having a wonderful Christmas and holiday season.  I have taken some time off writing, as many of the bloggers have, and I am getting ready to gear up for next year. There have been some really interesting articles written over the last and I am going to include those in my normal weekly post on Monday when everything gets ramped back up again. Until then, I hope everyone has a wonderful and restful time this week.