Posts Tagged With: Lent

Lent 2017: Learning to Live Loved

443 phone - set one 095Tomorrow Lent begins.  And so, I’m beginning a daily – or near daily – effort to write a few (or more) words here.  Although there is no one overarching theme that will be pursued, some patterns may emerge.  Perhaps “Learn to Live Loved” – in the title above – will be a worthy mantra, if the reader needs one  to connect the musings of this journeyer through the season.

The Shack will be hitting theaters this Friday, and in one scene in the book Mack is given just this important injunction for his way: learn to live loved.  Note that he is not told to earn God’s love like a badge or high mark or grade: he is not commanded to seek God’s love like a lost penny or a treasure on an impossibly high shelf.  No, it is not something he is to chase, though it is a discipline.  It is something he is to live.  And, I believe, learning so to live is a central discipline for the disciple.  As such, it takes work.  It does for me!

Learn to live loved – knowing you are loved, believing you are loved, setting your heart by the fact that you are loved, consulting constantly the fact that you are loved, be secure in the truth that you are loved.  Live from there.  What won’t be necessary?  Tons!  What does it reorder?  Tons!  And what about all the others who are loved?  Oh yeah.  And the ethics there?  Uh-huh.  But start at the beginning.

You are loved.livelovedwords

As Lent begins, I’m reminded of the fact that the Anglo-Saxon root of the word Lent connects with lengthening.  May our awareness be lengthened, as daylight expands in this hemisphere.  May the light of this love draw forth new tendrils of growth in us, not to achieve some abstract holiness, but because we will love to grow in the directions God calls forth in us. And whatever our Lenten plans may be, let us recall that – at heart – we hope to receive ever more deeply that which God would offer us – this amazing love – and learn to better live loved.

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Trinity Love – in Jesus – Beckons, Waits


O soul, return, for Jesus Christ is calling you with hands outstretched on the cross; return, for the whole abyss of the Trinity stands ready for your coming.

See how patiently He waited – oh how long He waited for you!….He was mercifully expecting your return!…
Return, O soul: Christ is waiting for you on the cross. His head is inclined for a kiss, His arms are spread out for an embrace, and His hands open in a gesture of giving. His body is stretched in a position of total offering; His feet are attached so that He will remain with you; His side is open to let you in.

[Bonaventure, “Soliloquy on the Four Spiritual Exercises”  I:4-38, 39. Engl. trans. Jose de Vinck, Works of Bonaventure, Vol. III – Patterson, NJ: St. Anthony Guild Press, 1966, 69.]

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The Uses of Sorrow, Darkness, Temptation: Mary Oliver and Lent D5*

The Uses of Sorrow

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

               (Mary Oliver, from Thirst, Beacon Press, Boston, 2006)


On a Sunday when the Gospel sends us to find Jesus in the desert, Oliver’s poem seems apt.  Coming across it reminded me of the line from Isaiah that reads “I will give you treasures out of the darkness”.  It takes years indeed, it seems to me, to discover the gifts in darkness, sorrow, temptation.

I like very much the view of a few who have reflected that part of the experience of Jesus’ temptation in the desert was discovering what being God’s Beloved (as he was named at the Baptism) was not.  It was not to always be fed and full.  It was not to have power and control.  It was not to be rescued.  For us as well.  We are Beloved – but we are sometimes/often empty and yearning.  We are Beloved – but our experience and fact is often of being poor in power to control events or people or even ourselves.  We are Beloved – but that does not mean we are rescued from every harm.  But we are God’s Beloved Ones, right along with Jesus, and these things do not make that Belovedness somehow less.

Who are we to measure love so meagerly, or not to unwrap the gifts we are given in deserts and darkness?

It’s in the desert that we are “allured” by God (Hosea 2) and where distractions are less and we might hear and respond.

It is in the darkness that we may discover where light (Light) comes from; where we may find ourselves too in solidarity with other dark-traveling journeyers, and offer and receive the support of pilgrim companions. There we are not over others, or under them – but we find ourselves side by side in need of way-walkers we link arms with and hope as we go step by step.  We may find, surprisingly, new strength from walking this way, and learn to differently see and value and love and relate.

It is in the temptations perhaps that we learn the art of listening for the homing signals that say ‘this is off target, this is on’, ‘beware’, ‘this is plastic, this is gold’.  It may be there we discover (again from Isaiah) that the Teacher is behind us saying “This is the way, walk in it, when you would go to the left and to the right”: and we know he’s right because we know what was the wrong way.

A friend today posted a line she heard at Mass on temptation:  “Our temptation is often that of forgetfulness… forgetfulness of how much God loves each of us. When we try to remember that amazing truth, we will be home again in the arms of Christ.”   I love it.  My only edit is with the last line: “we will know again that we are home in the arms of Christ”.  We’re already there, but as noted, we forget.  Our darkness, deserts and temptations make it hard to see.

But let’s practice what we believe – literally.  Practice by focusing on what we know to be true – such love – whether or not we have sand in all the wrong places, we can’t see well, or we’re off kilter with confusing messages or off-center longings or attachments.  If we just live and love from here, knowing we are in the arms of God in Christ…  whatever our circumstances…  we will find ourselves “coming out of the desert, leaning on [her] lover” (Song of Songs).  We will learn the uses of sorrow, darkness, desert, temptation – and perhaps be more clear on who and whose we are in our everyday.

Blessings on you as you receive whatever gift this day and Lenten season brings.

                                                                                                                             * Lent D5 – Day 5


Categories: Lent, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lenten Savings Time – Losing an Hour

Daylight Saving Time“The hour we are going to lose this weekend is the one I was planning on going to the gym.”  LOL, right?  I saw this today and thought it was pretty funny.  Attributing to the hour we are losing due to Daylight Savings Time something we weren’t all that committed to anyway — that’s art!  It’s like making the cosmos the responsible party for our cheating.  Great idea, right?

Well, after I laughed I started thinking about how this plays for Lent, but backwards.  Perhaps the hour we are losing might be put to good use, so to speak.  What if the hour we are going to lose is the hour this week that…

  • we were going to waste piddling around on social media so as not to face or encounter someone/something, or…
  • we were going to delay before calling that person we are uncomfortable with or estranged from, or…
  • we might have filled with judgments or gossip or negativity after being slighted by someone, or…
  • we were going overindulge in something not good for ourselves or others, or…
  • we were going to shop for something we don’t really need right now, or…
  • we were going to get through, but not devote the kind of energy our family or our work or our relationships deserve, or…
  • we were going to secure our priorities and financial good, with little consideration for those in need, or…
  • we were going to pray, go to church, read scripture… but not really be present, or…
  • we were going to feed resentments or bitternesses or angers, or…
  • we were going to waste before bed and not get sufficient sleep to give our best to the next day, or…

I wonder if you and I could determine that the hour we’re losing could be lost for our gain (and that of the world!).  What behavior or activity or attitude or character trait do we feed by engaging in or thinking about repeatedly?  Could we consider having one less hour of some specific thing this week, attributing it as “lost” due to Lenten Savings Time?  Just one hour less of something that has a hold on us…  setting the clock ahead on that behavior or attitude, claiming there’s just not time for it.  Can we do it?

So now I think that simple piece about the gym and Daylight Savings Time a bit of a gift.  In addition to losing an hour of something not so on-target in our lives, let’s do something else for Lenten Savings Time.  Let’s not make the gym excuse!  Will we, during this first full week of Lent, make sure that we don’t lose a positive we have opted to more include in our living?  Let’s not let go of the good we hope to nurture as habit, but stick with the discipline slowly, gently, hoping with God’s good grace it becomes part of our skin and our being.

Don’t forget to turn those clocks ahead tonight!


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What Will Mean Life for You? Lent D2

For a follower of Jesus – for one who seeks to be holy (one with God) – and to bring the rest of creation and all people/s along for the ride – what is fullness of life?  We might look to John 10:10 and see that Jesus’ words there tell us that he came that we might have full and abundant life. We might speak of our sacred responsibility to protect and value and serve human life in all its moments, with all its challenges and differing ‘incarnations’ in abilities and needs, from conception through natural death.  We might speak of enhancing the experience of life for those in need, living in violence, exposed to constant threat, suffering, alone.  We might speak of the Word who is Life (see John 1), the life in creation and of our world, or perhaps of eternal life.  All of these hold great importance.

Today, a selection from Deuteronomy 30 is the first reading of the liturgy.   Within it is the oft quoted, “I set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life then…”  Well and good, this is a rich passage for reflection and study.  But on the day after Lent has begun, I am interested in the lines that follow. They answer this question:  How are you and I to choose life?  We are given a trinity of instructions.  By…

— loving the Lord, your God —
— heeding God’s voice —
— holding fast to God —

for THAT will mean LIFE for you  (v.20)

Given Lent’s beginning, how do these three echo in you?  How about choosing today one above to reflect on further?  Select the one that attracts you the most or gets on your nerves the most – both are speaking to you!  Some kindling for reflection on each is provided below. Don’t overthink as you read (there’s more there than you need — WAY more), but notice what calls out to you simply and gently.  Create your own additional brainstorming, and follow the Spirit’s promptings to discern the invitation to you today for reflection and/or action!  




Loving the Lord, your God.  Who is your Lord, your God?  Is it the God?  Is it the one revealed by Jesus’ way among us?  Or an imposter? Would you and I rather hold onto our image of God than meet the living God?  What do we need in order to be open and vulnerable to such a meeting?  Is your God (like Aslan in CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia) good, but not quite safe and predictable?  Does God surprise you?  How do we love the One larger than the cosmos and tinier than our tiniest microcosm, for whom time and size and limits make no sense, but who became poor for us in Christ in the incarnation and the cross?  (See Pope Francis’ Lenten message, #1 for great insight here, link below — and Franciscan theology and spirituality).  What does love like God’s call you to?  Since God is Love, IS a pouring all of self out for us; how do we pour ourselves out in turn for our Trinitarian God?  Is this God your Lord?  What would that mean?  Are you to love God in the fasting that God wishes (per Isaiah): in releasing those bound unjustly, in serving, in freeing, in giving to especially God’s poorest ones?

Heeding God’s voice.  Implied is that God’s voice is heard.  How else could we heed?  So, how do you and I listen?  Do we listen?  Do we know that to have an ‘open ear’ is to be obedient? How does ‘obedience’ sound to you?  What disciplines do we need in order to better listen? What gets in our way and what helps us? Where and to what do you listen?  Would this call you scripture reading?  Reading some classics in spirituality?  Reading and learning from saints who have listened and loved as Jesus did?  How do you listen to bird song, construction work, keyboarding, baby’s crying, elders’ subtly expressed (or not so subtly expressed) needs, the cry of the hurting, the longings of the bound, waterfalls, the regrets of the sick or dying, planes landing, sharp voices, whispered words, vows exchanged, music and song, your own or another’s heartbeat, prayer and worship?  Do we have selective hearing and heeding — as we hear God or others?  What are we invited to open our ear to today?  Are we willing to consent to what that will do in us, and call us to?

Holding Fast to God.  I admit, this is the one I find myself most attracted to.  What would it mean to hold on, hold fast, to not let go?  What other things or time fillers or attitudes or perspectives might we have to release to put our arms around God?  Can we learn to hold fast from the way Jesus did with Abba, as he lived and worked and prayed?  What if we believe we are already held fast by God, and we have just to return the favor?  What would that do to our perpective?  What must be released from our hands, from our attention, and what must have more of us?  How do we hold fast to our call, to our sisters and brothers, to the Word, to the Church, to the process of growth and transformation?  How do we hold fast when what we experience is difficult or deadening?  How do we hold fast when we want to flit and fritter. or we’re bored?  Does God need us to hold on too?  What could such holding fast mean for God?

If we do these three things,  it will mean life for us.

I wish us each this kind of enriched life – the kind of full life God wishes us to have, the way of life and love embodied in Jesus.

Choose life then, friends and fellow disciples, in the small and larger ways you find an invitation to through Deuteronomy’s offerings this day.  Happy Lent, Day Two (D2)!

*  Pope Francis’ Lenten Message 2014:


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Enter the Lenten Wilderness: Remain and Be Transformed

Wilderness, desert, place apart.  Lent invites us to embark on a journey that removes us from the multiplicity of distractions and involvements – even in brief snatches.  Through the practices of diving deep into prayer, committing to a fasting that removes the superfluous and reminds us of the central, and reaching out in love and alms without condition or counting to others, we willingly embark on the path.  We sign our consent to keep company with Jesus, to be transformed.

A couple of weeks ago, reflecting on the book of Hosea with a group, we looked together at the active words in a section of Hosea 2/3.  There God allures, leads, speaks, gives, removes idols, makes covenant, espouses-espouses-espouses, sows, has pity, names.  We respond and we call, and we respond again.  It is God who acts, who unerringly finds places and spaces in our life experiences where we can better hear and respond: often wild places, dry places, remote places.  These become, as in Hosea, doors of hope.

Lent is a calendar place and space, and one we collaborate with by entering.  We are allured, but we also compose and dispose ourselves to presence by the practices Ash Wednesday traces.  Like the early disciples, we show up.  Like those who companioned Jesus on the roads of Palestine, we are often clueless as to the curriculum, the transformation, the path we are on.  Still, our remaining with him matters.  And that is Lent.  We choose to come and to remain, as we are.  Wonders can then occur, beyond our reckoning, our recognizing, even our sight in this lifetime.

Though spring seems still far off in the mid-Atlantic of late,  hope does not disappoint, for there is an unerring pull toward life and growth that SAMSUNGis part and parcel of this world, this universe we inhabit.  The smallest seed holds potential for something amazing to emerge that is not evident in its small encasing.

God brings us, allures us, to wildernesses and deserts so that we can recover our first loves, our enthusiasms, our joy, as disciples and loved ones.  God invites us so that we can remember what is core and release our desperate grasping at what was never ours to hold onto to begin with.  God wakes us to our sisters and brothers – on the verge of war, on the streets we pass, in the house next door, sitting at our tables and workplaces – with needs we can and must attend to, if we truly believe we are all one, are all God’s, are all amazing stardust, are all beloved ones.  Resurrection impulse leads to life, and we are all to not just believe in, but practice resurrection, as poet Wendell Barry told us.

As Lent begins, we are well reminded today (Ash Wednesday) by Pope Francis that “in the face of so many wounds that hurt us and could lead to a hardness of heart, we are called to dive into the sea of prayer, which is the sea of the boundless love of God, in order to experience his tenderness.”  It is God’s tenderness which surrounds us and which is transformative.  Our job is to show up and to stay put in God’s presence, and to imitate the love and tenderness we meet there in our interactions with each other, most especially with those in need.  Our remaining matters.  So, what to do for Lent?

Enter, remain, collaborate.  Respond, call, respond.  Wake, remember, release.  Allow, be embraced, be open.  Imitate, give, serve.  Turn, repent, rethink.  Practice, quiet, pray.  We can trust the process we enter, the path we’re on, and the One who works our transformation – whether or not we understand, perhaps even better when we do not and cannot.  Let us come to Lent, stay put, encounter faithfulness (our God), learn to love, and be shaped further into love in the ways our Lord knows best.

Mayhap you’ve seen these words of Catherine of Siena recently on social media:  “We’ve been deceived by the thought that we would be more pleasing to God in our own way than in the way God has given us.”  They strike as true.  Trust your transformation and your path to our good God, the shape and pattern of your growth to Christ’s safekeeping, but keep collaborating and watching.  God guides all paths, and will guide these 40 days.  Celebrate the work of grace – the Spirit’s creativity – in you and in the world…  and pray, fast, give.


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A Good Friday Prayer

We coSAMSUNGme to be with you, Lord.
We will remain,
inviting Spirit to hold us here and with.
Whatever we feel or think matters little.
We know what suffering and dying is,
and we honor yours with attending-tending-listening
as witnesses and companions.
We do not understand, grasp, capture.
We breathe with you.
And would hold you tenderly, stroke your forehead,
tell you our heart, look deeply into your eyes,
protect you from every harm.
And yet, as happens, we cannot protect you (or anyone).
As Risen One,
teach us/transform us SAMSUNG
with Trinity love as we remain here,
by your side, with your dying.
It is not easy.
May the beauty of creation and spring
hearten us with hope that dances, even today,
joy that is birthed deeper than death,
and love that embraces your ‘givenness’
and finds courage to commit
to being entirely given ourselves.
We remember.  We celebrate. We believe.
Categories: Easter, Lent | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

While We Know Joy, God Discovers Tears: WITH-ness this Lent

In a stable Mary holds her infant son, and wonders at his crying.  The story tells of shepherds, of wise men/kings, of angels and Glorias, the Star, and of celebrating on the part of all the human witnesses.  And Jesus cries, as all babes do – and Mary must have listened – aware of her son, aware of this son – and pondered the mystery.  God takes on human flesh.   “Mary… is stunned at what the exchange is meaning: while [man] is getting to know joy, God is discovering tears.” *

What has this to do with Lent?  It’s the Christmas story.  But we know that incarnation and self-donation and presence and cross and resurrection are all of a piece.  As one Advent hymn lyrically captures 2 Corinthians 8:  “He became poor, that we might be rich: Flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone”.  God’s great desire to be one with us creates the salvation we so long for, and the way home.  God’s desire for us and this salvation are quite literally way and truth and life to us in the here and now.  God, willing to enter tears and joy and all humanity, redefines love.  With Gospel eyes, we can’t miss this love in Jesus.  If only we take off our too-familiar-with-the-stories presuppositions and perspectives.  This is where seeing like children (as Jesus often encourages), with fresh wonder, is essential. 

What if we ask to have the scales fall from our older eyes so that we might truly see the following? 

Faith means literally to set one’s heart by (as has been explored in pre-Lent posts): and we are not the only or the first ones to set our hearts.  God is faithfulness, God doesn’t do faithfulness.  God’s heart is always being set.  In Trinity, we know the Father, Son and Spirit set their hearts on one another and pour out all unceasingly.  This Trinitarian God desires the same kind of communion with us.  It is God, therefore, who “faiths” first: God sets God’s heart on us!  God believes in us.  Why?  That question makes no sense to love, which needs no reason – it is in essence always free. 

God enters all of our reality to save us from the inside out.  WITH is then not only Emmanuel’s translation (God is with us), but our greatest peace.  We are never ever alone, whatever our circumstances and the feelings and thoughts that connect with them.  We can, in trust, cast all our cares on God who cares for us (1 Peter 5).  Why?  Again, because our very identity is found in being God’s Beloved Ones who have God WITH, always:  a loving, humble God who finds it delightful to accompany us at every moment of our journey. 

This Lent, perhaps what bears reflection is this WITH-ness of God, who always sets his heart first on us.  All we do is response and grace.  In response, you and I who know ourselves as desired disciples can follow the One – Jesus.  He showed us what love really is in his WITH-ness with us.  This Lent, we can practice and claim more as our own the disciple’s discipline of WITH-ness too.  God’s WITH-ness, born of love, is witness to us!  🙂 

When you and I practice WITH, we have come in church documents to call it solidarity  – a presence with another or others that is acting according to our connection one with each other.  It is a living in response to the fact that we are all one community, one body, one communion.  There is a special quality of God’s presence to us, as seen in the life of Jesus, that we might practice most deliberately in our own circumstances this Lent. 

Let me describe it with an image.  If my arm hurts, as it has the last few days, the rest of me is compensating.  I make adjustments, reach and twist and sleep and even walk differently.  Something has been pulled and needs perhaps rest, perhaps good stretching.  I am mindful of it. 

In the Gospels we see that Jesus walked among hills, near the sea, in villages and through crowds.  And his attention was often drawn to the “hurting limb”:  the paralytic lifted through the ceiling, the blind man on the side of the road, the woman with a long debilitating hemmorhage, the lepers who knew no home, the bent over woman living on the edges of the temple, the widow who had lost her son, the Samaritan, the Canaanite, the sinner, the poor.  As naturally as my attention goes to my arm due to its soreness, Jesus was drawn to be especially WITH individuals most in need.   

We learn from Jesus’ living that God delights in being WITH all of us, but particularly chooses to be WITH those of us, and those parts of us, most hurting – whether that hurt is seen by others or not.  Since such vulnerability merits God’s special presence and nurturing, healing attention; it merits ours.  Is this the preferential option for whoever is poor?  Perhaps.  And why wouldn’t we want to be WITH in love in the same way the One who saves us shows us?  The way the One who loves us has and is WITH us. 

Therese of Lisieux said at the end of her life that she would spend heaven doing good upon the earth.  She had great desire for other souls’ good during her life, and she wished to keep up this work after her death.  In this, she was very interested in the same things that interest her Love, the One who desired and saved her and was WITH her.  But this was a way she grew into.  She, more than many, told us through her autobiography of her struggles to look beyond herself to be servant and companion to those she found difficult.  Her ‘little sacrifices’ were nothing other than disciplines that helped her get out from her own thinking about her and into the ability to be WITH the other.  She did not assume she knew the heart of another, nor did she need to.  She simply served and chose the discipline to see the other and act in gentleness and compassion, with much prayer, and in small ways, as she could.  These small disciplines, her “little way”, changed her, shaping her desires.  We call her saint.  More importantly, they were expressions of love in the same pattern as Jesus’ love, and so they were life-giving to the other.     

The being present to the part of the body that hurts, to the person who annoys, to the challenge that discomforts us – these are not easy things.  In each of our lives these movements may be expressed differently (and different days offer different opportunities – even different hours or moments!).  But what if you and I attempted to do this to be united with a loving, desiring God who wants all to know joy?  What if we practiced choosing in moments a union with a God who chooses to discover tears in entering humanity — and will choose so much more of our limits and struggles too? 

This is not an invitation to beat ourselves up over our own struggles to love.  Practicing makes perfect.  It’s about bringing a willingness and a hope to be WITH, and trusting grace to help us see and act bit by bit.  It is an invitation to plant small seeds, to follow little ways (like Therese), to see with Gospel fresh eyes, and to count on God’s mercy to help us as we depend on others to support our growing too.

What of acting for the hurting this Lent in some way?  Political action on behalf of the vulnerable?  Looking out for children without sufficient adult support in your circle?  Serving the homeless, or the out of work neighbor, with kindness and respect as well as physical support?  Volunteering at a hotline?  Training with your pet to visit the elderly?  Planting flowers for an elderly relative or neighbor?  Being mindful of those in your circle with decreased mobility who may need driving to appointments or shopping?  Looking into the eyes with an intention of good of those we don’t know how to serve who ask for money?  Carrying granola or fruit bars in our car to give out instead of money at city street corners?  Contributing our unique skills for someone else’s good?  The HOW of this is limited only by our imaginations, let’s broaden them and brainstorm possibilities – perhaps with each other here, or with friends or family, or in small faith communities!

What we choose may not be large or take much time.  But it is a choosing to act in accord with the FACT that we are WITH others with needs in the communion of love that God establishes because we are family in him.  It may be a hospitality too to some hurting part of ourselves, and seeking the care and mercy and support and forgiveness and gentleness we need on our own journeys. 

Whatever you and I do, it is good to remember that it is not to earn or achieve some illusion of ‘now we’re being good people’.  It is as simple as my attention to my overworked arm.  It is appropriate care to a need in our family/in our communion, and we are inspired to it by the life of Jesus which expresses the love and desire of God for us. 

Let us again learn to set our hearts.  And perhaps we can pray and consider our call to be faithful as God is faithful.  In this is a living in our true identity, not a spiritual fix-it project to be a better person this Lent. 

Let our eyes see your willing entering of our tears, O Lord.   Comfort us.  And train us as we choose to practice loving as you love, in being WITH.  Care for those most in need, O God, and make us partners in this presence that is healing and saving and life.    

 * Iaian Matthew on John of the Cross, Ballad seven in The Impact of God: Soundings from St. John of the Cross

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You Have To Be There. You Have To.

If you have not yet heard Susan Boyle’s rendition of the song with the blog post’s title, PLEASE invest the time for a very reflective listening through (or two or three).  Quite fitting for Lent, and perhaps Good Friday especially, it speaks strongly to those in the midst of questions or trembling or wonder or grief.  The lyrics approach life’s moments of darkness or drowning confusion with passion, honesty and a firm insistence to God:  YOU HAVE TO BE THERE. 

Though I love the often quoted Rilke lines of advice about being patient about what is unresolved in our hearts and the need to “learn to live the questions” of life with expectation and hope, this pray-er might not be as well served by those words yet.  She/he is clearly thrust in the midst of need, all a-tremble.  Patience is drowned out by the insistence borne of need.  Susan Boyle’s voice quality so well captures this need, this calling out in truth-pain-hope, and the nakedness of a faith-filled cry.  It brings to mind some of what would be in Jesus’ calling out to the Father in Gethsemane and on the cross.  You HAVE to be there, God.  Who else would be there, if not you?

So, listen and watch the YouTube video link provided below.  Perhaps you too will be driven to prayer, as Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the desert.  With the singer, and with Jesus, we might find ourselves saying, “You HAVE to be there. You have to.  My life I have placed in your keep. .. I  reach for your hand.”   Perhaps you may find comfort simply because it indicates that others have been or are in this very stark place, and there is beauty and majesty in the honest prayer and reaching as there is in Susan’s passionate performance.

If this type of life moment and need of faith is not the season you are in, listen and pray the words and passion for those who are there this day, and let your heart cry out in faith for and with them. 

So, pause.  Click below.  Listen.  View.  Notice what the song touches in you, as I do in me.  And let us choose to be vulnerable and available to whatever in it that might be God’s invitation to us.  I wish you peace in the reaching for God’s hand:  I’ll meet you there.

Categories: General, Lent | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Repent: Change Our Minds This Time

“Change our minds this time.”  I’m still humming this line from a Rory Cooney song we sang at the Ash Wednesday liturgy I attended.  Did you know that to REPENT is literally to change our thoughts, our minds?  The Greek word metanoia (μετάνοια) is a compound word that combines the concepts of time and change; literally after/with (meta) and to perceive/think (noeo).  It says that we think differently after.  After what?  Hold that thought for a moment!  I perceive a three part invitation in the words we hear when ashes are traced on foreheads this day:  Repent and Believe the Good News! 

First, meet and experience the Good News in a person, Jesus of Nazareth.  (After what?  This is the ‘what’ that the rest of the phrase is ‘after’.  First comes meeting and experiencing the Good News!)  Do you think this is too obvious?  Can we presume this basic experience of evangelization is a given in every case?  I mean, those of us standing in line to receive ashes have already heard and experienced this Good News, right?  We are baptized believers, after all.  We are disciples of Christ and members of the community which is formed by the mission of sharing this Good News forward.  But sometimes there may be those among us who have not  tasted this Good News personally – or who have not lately.  Virginia Finn in a little book titled Pilgrim in the Parish noted that ministry done about God but without God was perhaps more frequent than we’d like to hope.  Our ministries sometimes discuss if we have catechized before we have evangelized, which is why we speak of a need for an evangelizing catechesis.  Our learning must always be in the context of encounter with the person of Jesus. 

Perhaps as you and I begin Lent we need first to experience or recall how the Good News feels and tastes.  What is Good about this news?  Where is the joy, the hope, the peace, the companionship, the adventure, the energy, the life, the abundance?  How does it speak to our fears, our deaths, our suffering, our failures?  How does it energize our gifts, our passions, our core values, our life commitments? 

Do our hearts need to hear a retelling of the Gospel stories, of God’s interactions over history with God’s people?   We are fallible and forgetful, and we lose track of how much we have been freed and cared for.  Perhaps the first invitation to you and to me is the re-encounter the Gospel, to reconnect with God in Christ, and to let our hearts and lives be touched. 

How can that happen for you or me?  Reading scripture?  Going to a talk?  You have to discern this.  What will help you remember the fire that already burns, the grace already given, the love you already live within?  Sometimes I’ll dwell with certain well loved encounters of Jesus with individuals in the Gospels and reflect on what was happening in that moment for that person or persons.  I may re-read part of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, especially Aslan’s encounters with Lucy or Eustace or Edmund along the way.  I might listen to certain music that teaches and tutors me – Sarah Hart or Eden’s Bridge, or many others.  Or perhaps watch a clip from a movie, take a walk in nature, pray in a chapel or beneath the stars – look  to connect with the freshness and challenge those at the time of Jesus encountered.  I could well read a favorite (or new to me) companion-saint’s words and description of God or the Christian journey.  But what I might do is of little consequence.  What do you need in order to meet and experience the Good News?  And what better gift can you give to God this season than the willingness and courage to simply meet?  Like the Prodigal Father of Luke 15, God waits to embrace with generous grace.  Perhaps this (unstated in the invocation for today) movement is the absolute essential for our Lenten journeys – for our Christian journeys.

Second, change our minds after re-meeting the Good News in Christ.  The lyrics of that Rory Cooney song continue, “Change our minds this time, your life could make us free.”  To repent is to change our minds, upon encountering the Good News.  The life of Jesus can free us from other ways of perceiving life, lesser priorities, inaccurate judgements of ourselves or others or the world or history or the cosmos!  And our minds, when they are “made up”, tend to dictate our actions. 

Richard Rohr has mused that it’s interesting that the ashes are placed on our foreheads, wondering about the need for conversion and turning located there – in our thoughts and minds.  Such changing after (metanoia) can only happen after.  And so this step presumes needing to go back to the first – the meeting the Good News – over and over and over again.  (Call it ongoing conversion, turning, evangelization… whatever the term, we need to go to it!)  The action of memory, of anamnesis, is particularly important for we humans with short attention and life spans.  Who is the God we met and meet?  Who am I in that meeting?  Who are we?  What is this all about?

If it is our thinking and perceiving that needs changing, it may be that we need devices to help us remember.  Symbols and images, sacraments and one line scripture verses, prayer cards and quotes, song lyrics and art pieces, reminders in nature or in our pockets – all of these may be helpful.  Eucharist, our thanksgiving and our remembering, particularly can wake us up to what we already hold and have encountered in the reality of now.  God knows our need to encounter over and over again the sacred mystery, and provides Real Presence to and with us, as we are taught with the Word. 

Our minds can also be changed through practices we take up and try on and, perhaps in time, make part of our living.  This has had some play in previous blog entries, and more options for planting practices will come in the next few days.  Stay tuned.

Third, believe – which means to set your heart by – the Good NewsAs has been explored previously to believe means to literally set our hearts by (see Feb. 11th blog on Setting Our Hearts… For Lent, For Life).  If we change our minds according to the encounter with the Good News, then this must not only be a change of perspective.  It must be the truth we set our hearts, our priorities, our actions, our life choices, by.  If it’s true, it’s everything.  No part of our lives can be immune to or set apart from the Good News.  This makes havoc of dichotomies and boundary making that isolate faith and life – in any aspect of our lives – work, relationships, money, commitments, political involvement, worldview, our bodies, our emotions, our behaviors.  If we are told to not only REPENT (change our minds) but BELIEVE (set our hearts by) THE GOOD NEWS, this means nothing can be left untouched by this news.  God embraces all, and we can set our lives by the truth that is God’s presence and action in us and with us. 

So, if you find yourself at Lent’s beginning wondering how to begin, consider these three invitations outlined above.  Go, meet and experience the Good News.  Let that encounter impact and change your mind – and work at that!  And determine to set your heart by the Good News you believe.  What that means in terms of some aspect of your life you choose to focus on today – a relationship, a habit, a perspective, work, family, time – I do not know.  But I know someone who wants to travel it with you.  Jesus is the companion of the Lenten journey for us all.  And may God’s Spirit provide light, gentleness and wisdom for each step.

Categories: General, Lent | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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