to be aware

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What nine months does for the embryo
Forty early mornings
Will do for your growing awareness
~ Jelaluddin Rumi

 

 

 

Contemplative Monk

Lent’s crooked path

winding-road-391287_1280“There are as many ways to pray as there are moments in life. Sometimes we seek out a quiet spot and want to be alone, sometimes we look for a friend and want to be together… Sometimes we want to say it with words, sometimes with a deep silence.

In all these moments, we gradually make our lives more of a prayer and we open our hands to be led by God even to places we would rather not go.” Henri Nouwen


The church calendar waits for no one. As I write this reflection, people have received bulletins and read newsletters announcing pancake suppers, new study series’ and additional holy services in preparation for the season of Lent. For years we have collected a variety of ways to journey through Lent — depending on your age, depending on the year, depending on your energy/time and most definitely depending on the current buoyancy of your faith. We give up, we take on — we pray in the early light or late at night.

Beginning with all good intentions it may not be long before a daily spiritual routine can be scrambled and frustrations rise. If a practice is not exercised as it was designed is it cancelled? Is a whole plan discarded because of missing a couple of days? There are wise voices both past and present offering encouragement with reminders that the most important part of a spiritual practice is the journey itself.

Our Sunday scripture readings during Lent speak directly to this journey. With readings from the first five books of the Old Testament will hear sacred storied about the blessing and tension between God and God’s people. Covenants will be made by God with Noah, Abraham and Moses. Covenants that will bind these relationships and bring the promise of protection, the growth of nations and God’s guidance as  the Hebrew people are led to a land of freedom. A land to call home. These stories will be filled with good news and fiery discourse (not uncommon when a covenant is made with God). In the New Testament the Gospel readings will tell of relationships formed and challenged. We will hear of Jesus baptism, public ministry and important conversation with his disciples. He nurtures these relationships and preaches the good news with a sense of urgency. There is little patience for misguided allegiance. He expresses frustration-tipping-to-anger as he sees corruption and injustice. These readings describe the work required to be in relationship with God. What better time than Lent to read about our faithful ancestors as they lived into their own commitment to God and God to them.

It is a good thing to consider during Lent. The sacrifices we make or practices we take on are ultimately intended to bind us closer to God and God to us. I began this reflection with a quote on prayer from Henri Nouwen. It simply describes the diversity of spiritual practices. His words are a welcome reminder. He makes no promise of an easier journey yet he offers little concern of failing a Lenten resolution.

Each one of these 40 days presents opportunities to learn and grow. The course taken is neither smooth nor straight. That is the way to Jerusalem. From deep within our faith story we know this road. May we meet its crooked path with curiosity and gratitude.

[edited from article written for the Center for Spiritual Resources Lenten Newsletter]

Lao Tzu

A Lenten Practice

Choose to dance…

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There is no life without storms. Woven in the fabric of our stories the storm often helps us realize our priorities. Exposed to these elements of nature, we are given time. Time for the waters and wind to wash, to clear our clutter and distraction. Without this wash, our spirits are burdened leaving us with heavy, slow steps as we try to move forward.

The rain is important, puddles are essential. They wash and lighten our load with playful, dancing steps. This is a good reflection as we live into the days of Lent. The act of cleansing is liken to the purge experienced while wandering in the wilderness.

Either way these opportunities bring clarity and can encourage stronger connections to one’s faith and direction. May Lent, these 40 days offer moments enriched by the wash of water and pure cleansing by time in the wilderness.

 

To dream of angels

Each year our church calendar offers differing perspectives of our faith story during the Lenten season. Feast days – major or minor – stay in place (their dates are set) as the 40 days of Lent and Easter move along with the spring equinox.20120325-015257.jpg

Throughout our Lenten observance we are in preparation for the tense and traumatic days when Jesus, the provider of hope and wholeness, was abused and killed. These days and this part of our story are important but none-the-less horrific. Yet as we round the corner to Holy Week, we hear readings that tell of angels and dreams.

Within this week, one Sunday to the next, we are invited to another time. A time when the news of Jesus’ arrival was only offered to those entrusted to care for him as a baby and nurture him in his growing years. Like bookends – the week begins with Joseph’s feast day and concludes with the celebration of Mary’s hearing of her role in bringing the Good News into our world.

Both were visited by angels. Joseph was awakened in a dream to the importance of his life and commitment to Mary and Jesus. Mary was awakened in the middle of the day, when sleep was not a part of the schedule. Before her stood an angel, an archangel, to proclaim news too remarkable to comprehend. Her eyes were open, yet what greeted her must have felt like a dream.

These “visits” are filled with the mystery of God’s movement among us. There is little logic, for we just like Mary and Joseph, are asked to use our intuition – to step forward in faith. At once we are faced with all the wonder of new life even in the midst of apparent death.

Both of these visitations filled their beholders with brilliant awareness. Joseph was left with a resolve to care for his beloved and be present to his son as mentor and role model. Mary was left knowing that she had accepted an invitation she could only experience with the strength and courage that comes through faith.

Neither knew the story’s end and maybe this is the point. Lest we sit too comfortably in the midst of these next few weeks – may we remember that the story is alive. God continues to move among us and we are best to be prepared – for angels continue to appear, in the most unlikely places.

A moment of thanksgiving

After weeks of packing and several days of moving, unpacking and beginning the process to become familiar with my new home, I sit tonight happy to take a deep breath surrounded by mountains, warm blankets and Lilly (make no mistake – she has worked hard to herd, comfort and stay alert throughout this transition).

My friends are still working to set up my apartment as much as they can before leaving. They have been so dedicated and willing. We have laughed a lot and shared some tears. It will be difficult to say goodbye.

As evening closes – I am reminded that we are in the days of Lent. with so many distractions I have only been able to live these days grateful for the prayerful devotion shared by others. Tonight I hear this hymn and remember that the sharing of inspired devotion has been passed through many generations.

For a moment I am immersed in our spiritual journey… In thanksgiving.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMNMKxOyGq8&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Glory to thee my God this night
For all the blessings of the light
Keep me, O keep me, King of Kings
Beneath thine own almighty wings

Forgive me, Lord, for thy dear son
The I’ll that I this day have done
That with the world, myself and thee
I e’er I sleep at peace may be

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above angelic host
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost