Category Archives: Lent

Listening During Lent

Praying

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

~ Mary Oliver ~



It’s lent and I’m focused on prayer a bit more intensely than usual.  I want my time during this season to be transforming and so I am more conscious of my spiritual life….

There is nothing wrong with that, and, yet I find that my “striving” can get in the way of what I desire.

I was thinking about this as I tried to sit in silence before God today when this poem, Praying by Mary Oliver, came to my mind …

And I was reminded that prayer is not a test that I am trying to pass or a contest that I am trying to win.  It doesn’t have to be perfect or eloquent or a particular length.

A few simple words strung together, a grateful heart and some silence make a good doorway to enter through … into a place where I might hear another voice speak.

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Beauty In The Wilderness

“the wilderness is still one of the most reality-based, spirit-filled, life-changing places a person can be.” Barbara Brown Taylor

I grew up hearing sermons and bible lessons that talked about God leading us into the wilderness in order to teach us something – about Him, about ourselves, about the world we live in. The “wilderness” was another word for suffering and the reason (they said) God led us into suffering was because in the midst of suffering he was able to get our attention, to cause us to trust him and to make us teachable and transformable.

I believed it and it made me very afraid of God.

Whether it was a relationship problem or an illness or unemployment I didn’t just have the anxiety of the problem at hand to deal with – I also had the emotional and spiritual agony of believing that God was making me suffer in order to get my attention so I could be transformed.

I don’t believe that way anymore.

Now don’t get me wrong – I believe there are things I can learn in the wilderness and I believe my wilderness experiences do change me.  I even believe God can bring good out of wilderness situations – I just don’t believe God is causing or orchestrating my suffering. Of course I still battle those beliefs that set God up as my adversary but after I talk myself into remembering God isn’t causing my suffering I can more easily trust God in the midst of my wilderness.  And for as much as I dislike wilderness experiences and spend a fair amount of time and energy avoiding wilderness experiences it is in the wilderness where I have found out the most about who I really am and what my life is really about.  Not so much because of the suffering that takes place in the wilderness but because of the self awareness and self examination it causes, because of the focus it produces, because of the questions it births, because of the humility it generates.  And that is why I am willing to create a sort of prototype wilderness for myself during the season of Lent.

By eliminating some distraction, creating a situation that forces me to focus, giving up a habit or convenience that typically acts as a painkiller and keeps me from entering the wilderness of the present moment where I can know what it is really like to be living the life I am presently living … and, if I am willing to push myself to stay with it for 40 days (because it takes a while to transition from being in a deep sleep to being fully awake) while remembering to connect with God through prayer and contemplation… it is there, in my prototype wilderness, where I just might discover (or rediscover) how to get free of something keeping me from being who I was meant to be, of living the life I was created to live, of realizing my place in the world I am living in.

It was during one of these prototype wildernesses when I discovered God wasn’t the perpetrator of my suffering – that I didn’t need to be punished for who I was and it was okay and good for me to be me.

Not long after that particular experience I ran across the poem Wild Geese by Mary Oliver and fell in love with it … not just because it is a beautifully crafted message but because it reminded me of the beautiful truth I had just discovered while wandering in my prototype wilderness with God.

I leave you with Oliver’s poem in hopes that you too will discover something beautiful about yourself, about God, about the world you live in during this season of Lent.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Mary Oliver, Dream Work, 1986

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This post is part of the March Synchroblog “Experiences In The Wilderness” (in the spirit of Lent).

Here is a list of other stories from the wilderness:

Patrick (at Dual Ravens) was prolific with a four part series called “Musings” and they can be found here:
Part OnePart TwoPart Three and Part Four

Katherine Gunn at A Voice in the Desert writes What is Wilderness?

Wendy McCaig giving us a View from the Bridge brings A Voice Calling in the Wilderness

EmmaNadine who describes Life By List wonders about Life in the Wilderness

Tammy Carter of Blessing the Beloved is taking a rest as she Puts down the axe

Jeremy Myers writing at Til He Comes ponders The Gaping Chasm of Suicide

kathy escobar shares the carnival in my head and writes about belonging

Steve Hayes of Methodius describes Anatomy of exile

Marta Layton at Marta’s Mathoms writes On Sabbaths, Mountain-Tops… and Brothers’ Keepers

Liz Dyer at Grace Rules discovers Beauty In The Wilderness

Christen Hansel of Greener Grass offers up Snapshots of the Desert

Lent and Everyday Life

It’s the second day of following the Fast, Pray, Give Busted Halo Lent Calendar and I’m loving the way it is connecting with my everyday life.

Yesterday focused on being aware of beauty in my everyday life.  I was to fast from rushing and take time to notice the beauty around me, I was to pray that God would show me something beautiful that I hadn’t noticed before.  My day wasn’t particularly busy so it wasn’t that hard for me not to rush but I did have to make a conscious effort to notice my surroundings and look for the present beauty.  What beauty did I notice?  A clear blue sky, a friend encouraging a coworker who had lost his job, two dogs playing together, a husband and wife sharing chores – she cooked and he cleaned up, horses grazing in a large field, and some amazing feats performed by some amazing athletes in the 2010 Winter Olympics.

For the giving part I was instructed to give some time to enjoy a piece of art or a nature scene.  I chose to give that time to some photos that a friend of mine took during our recent Tx. Snowpocalypse.  As I took time to enjoy her photos I prayed for her, thought about what is beautiful about her and gave thanks for her and what she had a hand in creating.

It was a good first day of Lent.

Here’s one of her photos:

For today, the second day of Lent, the calendar says to fast from self-pity and complaining, to pray for God to help in dealing with a difficult situation and offer a kind word to someone who lacks confidence.  Wow, that’s so practical! I love the way these entries are connecting with my everyday life!

It reminds me of Romans 12:1 from The Message:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Lent 2010 – Fast, Pray, Give

I am participating in Lent 2010 by following the Fast, Pray, Give Lent Calendar from Busted Halo. Each day they offer examples of how you can fast from something, a guided way of praying for something specifically and a way to give that is connected to your fasting and praying.

Here are some links if you are interested:

Busted Halo’s Lent 2010 Fast, Pray, Give plan.

Busted Halo on Facebook

Busted Halo on Twitter

Lent Is For Life

 

 

Lent is a time of self-denial, spiritual reflection, renewed commitment, self- examination, sacrifice and a time of intentional consideration of the things Jesus taught.  During lent we are invited to assess our desires, examine our motives, and adjust our priorities. Lent is for life – the life that Jesus came to give – life that is full of mercy and love and justice and compassion.  Lent is a spiritual exercise that can assist us in learning to practice the kind of life that Jesus came to model and teach – the kind of life that will allow the coming of the Kingdom of God to earth.

Here are some creative ideas for observing Lent that I found around the net:

The following ideas about giving up something for a greater good came from http://www.austindiocese.org/newsletter_article_view.php?id=1224

Let’s give up looking for a pat on the back. This Lent, let’s do at least one thing each day for someone who will never be able to repay us. When we get good at that, we can try doing something each day for someone who will never even be able to thank us.

Let’s give up trying to one-up others. There’s a Hindu proverb that goes like this: “There is nothing noble in being superior to some other person. True nobility comes from being superior to your previous self.” Let’s find something we can improve about us.

Let’s give up taking care of No. 1. Instead of thinking about how everything and anything impacts us, let’s worry first about how others are going to be affected by proposed new laws, by policies, by trends, by economic shifts  and by our own actions and behavior.

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Some thoughts on fasting, feasting and almsgiving during lent came from this site http://www.venturacountystar.com/news/2008/feb/09/a-time-of-special-focus/

Kay Murdy of Hacienda Heights, who has a master’s degree in religious studies and writes and teaches about spirituality and prayer, suggests that people fast from certain behaviors and “feast” on others during Lent.

A prayer she uses in one of her workshops about Lent asks people to fast from judging others, bitterness, pessimism, suspicion, idle gossip and unrelenting pressures; and feast on gratitude, patience, forgiveness, optimism, truth and purposeful silence.

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The alms-giving part of Lent doesn’t mean merely tossing an extra dollar into the Sunday collection.

Catholic theologian and teacher Gabe Huck, former director of Liturgy Training Publications, said alms giving is “the deeds we can do to restore the world to Christ. It is about the wholeness of things and people. It aims to right the wrong distribution caused by greed or power or whatever else. It ignores neither the world nor what is in front of one’s face.”

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Some things you might not think of to give up during lent came from http://www.mooreschapel.org/pastor/koo-sermons/sermon-give-up-and-take-up.html

“Give up grumbling! Instead, “In everything give thanks.” Constructive criticism is OK, but “moaning, groaning, and complaining” are not Christian disciplines.

Give up 10 to 15 minutes in bed! Instead, use that time in prayer, Bible study, and personal devotion.

Give up looking at other people’s worst points. Instead concentrate on their best points.

Give up speaking unkindly. Instead, let your speech be generous and understanding. It costs so little to say something kind and uplifting. Why not check that sharp tongue at the door?

Give up your hatred of anyone or anything! Instead, learn the discipline of love.

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And finally a daily meditation for lent from http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art17607.asp

Begin by sitting with a straight back on a cushion on the floor, your bed or a chair. If you wish, light a candle, burn some incense. 

Close your eyes or let them half shut and rest. Clasp your hands in your lap or lay them palms up on your legs.

Begin even and regular breathing such as this: Breathe in for 2 counts; breathe out for 2 counts; breathe in for 2 counts; continue this pattern.

Following a few rounds of even breathing, spend at least 5 minutes thinking what the message of Lent means to you. What can you do for self-improvement these weeks before Easter? What ways can you show more kindness and care?

After a few minutes turn your attention back to even, gentle breathing. Listen to the sound of your breaths. Think about the strength and renewal the ‘unseen’ oxygen gives your body; reflect on the ‘unseen’ spirit of caring love underlying your life.

To conclude your meditation, think of at least one person with appreciation and kindness. Take a deep breath, stretch out – relaxed, renewed.

Daily Prayer for Lent
Lord, may I always remember
To be kind and care.
And ever watchful
For opportunities to share.
Reflecting good with all my might
Inspired by Your holy light!