Day 4 of Lent: TIME

Today’s scripture readings lend themselves to an awareness of TIME.

For people in a society always on the go, perhaps this 40 days of focus also allows us to be present right now. Mostly, our days are framed by business to do, plans to implement, goals to achieve. This season offers us a chance to be more present to ourselves, others, and God.

As the writer says, there is “A time for every season and purpose under heaven.” This doesn’t mean we should dismiss our capacity to remember and to anticipate. Culturally, we’re often good at these skills. And we need these competencies. We need the long view, the big dream, as well as the short-term to-do list. And we need to remember our history. We can plan and prepare. We can remember and learn.

Too often, though, by planning and preparing, by recalling and reminiscing, we may miss the chance to savor our current surroundings, relationships, and experiences. Being present to the more immediate moment is a feb13-lent4C_timedifferent experience, and also essential to our wellbeing. What does it mean to be aware of and present to ourselves, other people, our world and our God, right now? Part of the value of time set apart, such as Lent, is to be aware of this hour and this day.

For instance, you can follow your breath in and out, in and out. Use your five senses to ground yourself in here and now (this is particularly helpful if you are distressed, anxious or distracted and need to calm and center yourself). Count backwards using your senses, as below:

  • 5 Things I See: “What can I see all around me?” Study your surroundings, and name five things you see. Consider their colors, textures, and details.
  • 4 Things I Hear: “What can I hear?” Name four things you hear. How close or distant are the sounds? From what direction do they come? Loud or soft? Familiar or unidentified?
  • 3 Things I Feel: “What am I feeling?” Name three things you feel bodily, by paying attention to inward and outward sensations, such as the touch of something on your skin, or the relaxation or pull of your body’s muscles.
  • 2 Things I Smell: “What can I smell?” Name two things you can smell (or whose odors you like). Scents trigger our minds with memory and evoke moods. Name four odors.
  • 1 Thing I Taste (Breathe): “What do I taste?” Name one residual flavor in your mouth. Breathe across your tongue and activate that sense. Then draw in a long, slow, deep breath. And exhale. Repeat the breath.

Excerpts from today’s lectionary:

  • Psalm 91:15-16 When they call to me, I will answer them;  I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them. 16 With long life I will satisfy them, and show them my salvation.
  • Ecclesiatses 3: 1 —  For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
  • John 12:27 — “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.
  • John 12: 36 —  While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you may become children of light.”
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Day 3 of Lent C: SPEAK

feb12_lent3C_speakNotice the conversation? Speaking is a reciprocal relationship. People are invited to ask questions, shout out their needs, offer thanks, sing out praise, and generally share their emotions and thoughts with God. And God replies.

How? We may not hear God’s answer. And it may not be the answer we expected. Only looking backwards, sometimes, do we realize how God has responded to a prayer or request. Yet I am convinced that God listens and God answers all prayers.

Also, these scriptures aren’t the final … the only … word. Our own experiences and lives, along with prophets from more recent ages, and other wisdom literature, have much to share with us.

As we say in the UCC (United Church of Christ), God is ‘still speaking.’

Excerpts from today’s lectionary:

  • Psalm 91:2 — Say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.”
  • Exodus 6:2,10a,12a —  God also spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am the Lord.”  Then the Lord spoke to Moses…  Moses spoke to the Lord … Thus the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, and gave them orders regarding the Israelites and Pharaoh king of Egypt, charging them to free the Israelites from the land of Egypt.
  • Acts 7:38 He is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living oracles to give to us.
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Day 2 of Lent: LOOK

feb11_lentc_look2These texts gaze backward into the past. They take up the act of remembering, which is at the heart of many of our sacraments. To know ourselves, it helps to look at those places and people from which we are descended, and to acknowledge those privileges and problems we inherit. Looking backward, knowing and reconciling ourselves to the generations that preceded us and set the foundations upon which we stand and grow, allows us to live in the current time and reach for the future.

And then these texts notice and name the un-seeable and un-mentionable. These readings ask us to look again. To bear witness. To look more closely when we’d rather look away. To live as ethical beings, by seeing what is in front of us, or noticing what might otherwise be hidden or rendered invisible. To pay attention.

These texts also challenge us to pause and drink in the sheer glory of God’s creation. Maybe it’s the way the light breaks through the branches, or how the ocean rolls onto the shore. Or some other moment that brings God’s handiwork into focus.

So perhaps when we look, we perceive the face of God. Maybe we see God in a stunning landscape or beautiful view that rivets the gaze, due to its magnificence. Or maybe we see God in the horrific details of ugly, raw, complicated sights we’d rather forget, but from which we shouldn’t turn away.

Excerpts from today’s lectionary:

  • Exodus 5:13 — “Look how your servants are beaten! You are unjust to your own people.”
  • Exodus 5:21a — “The Lord look upon you and judge!”
  • Acts 7:30-34 — When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight; and as he approached to look, there came the voice of the Lord:  ‘I am the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Moses began to tremble and did not dare to look.
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Ash Wednesday, Lent Day 1: HEART

feb10_lent1_ash_heartMeditation

Today we receive the hopes and passions of last year’s palms, burned now to a carbon dust. One thumbprint’s measure, worn like a tattoo, but without the conviction of ink on skin.

From ashes we once arose, and to dust our bodies shall someday return. In between … might we be stirred to life once more by the Breath of God?

Selections from today’s scriptures call out to the heart. Yet not just any heart … a heart broken open. A heart rent by weeping and mourning. A world-weary, beaten-up, endured-too-much heart. A contrite heart. A clean heart. A treasured heart. A returning heart.

Excerpts from today’s lectionary:

  • Joel 2: 12-13a — Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing.
  • Psalm 51: 10a, 17b — Create in me a clean heart, O God. A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
  • 2 Corinthians 6:4-7 — but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God …
  • Matthew 6:21 — For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
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Lenten Meditations: One Word, One Day

Ashes-Heart-01As a Lenten spiritual practice, I’ll post one word drawn from the daily scriptures. It’s an up-close visit with  sacred texts; a chance to meditate on a few syllables.

This isn’t a new practice. It’s a common spiritual exercise.

You can do it for yourself, if you want to spend time sinking down into the layers of sound and shape of the day’s readings. What word calls to you? Here’s a link to explore the daily lectionary selections, if you want to find out.

Or you can start with just this singular, bite-sized, roll-it-around-on-your-tongue word. Let it slip into the excited, electric current of your brain. Spit it back out. Trace it with your fingers. Write it on the back of someone else’s hand. Whisper it. Shout it. Pray it. Listen to it.

Let your body spend time with this word. Own it. Claim it. Change it, as it might change you.

We are flesh and bone beings, with souls intertwined into the messy, mortal bodies that mediate our experience and understanding of the times and places in which we live. We carry ancient history in our genetics, and more recent events marked into the folds and creases of our own skins.

We are living, breathing stories. Yet we are connected to an ongoing, unfolding narrative. To the Word spoken over the void, that created world and life. To the living One that walked among us and shaped our tales. To the Wind that inspires and moves us even now.

For this sacred season, I’m visiting ancient texts, one word at a time. Feel free to partake of the journey with me.

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