Day 9 of Lent: LAND

Presumably our Lenten journey is our own chance, like Jesus, to spend 40 days in the wilderness, getting lost, being challenged, doing ‘without’ in order to become more self-aware and draw closer to Godself. Today’s word is LAND, which invites us to think about the place where we find ourselves making this spiritual pilgrimage, or to consider the physical reality in which we work, play, study and live day-to-day.

land

Some of the text dwells on the land as the time and place where we live right now. To be sure, we are beings connected to history, geography, society and other influences.

Some passages consider how the land was stressed by overuse by its inhabitants. Later God says the land is being given into Israel’s care. Both of these passages imply an ethical need for care and conservation for creation; humans are profoundly responsible for our way of living on this earth.

Finally, Paul talks about letting go of everything else, and discovering his ‘place’ within Christ, or of finding Christ within himself. He seeks to become an inhabitant of God’s kingdom, and also finds God’s kingdom within himself.

Isn’t it interesting to consider that the site of our spiritual pilgrimage isn’t just the time and geography in which we live right now, but the mortal flesh, the human bodies, that we inhabit? We have the same ethical connection to our own bodies, as we do to the rest of creation. We’re invited to pause and realize that we’re called to care and conserve our bodies, as we do for the land.

Excerpts from today’s lectionary texts:

  • Psalm 27:13 —  I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
  • Genesis 13:5-6 — Now Lot, who went with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents, so that the land could not support both of them living together; for their possessions were so great that they could not live together.
  • Genesis 13:14-15 — The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Raise your eyes now, and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward; 15 for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring[a]
  • Genesis 13:17 –Rise up, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”
  • Phillippians 3:12 — Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
  • Phillippians 3:8 — More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him …

Day 5 of Lent: BRING

Today’s excerpts from scripture can cause us to ponder, what do we bring into this season? What do we carry with us, in our minds, bodies, and hearts? Are these things we bring gifts or burdens?

The challenge, ultimately, is to bring all aspects of ourselves into relationship with our community, our creation, and our Creator. All of ourselves … the parts of which we’re really proud and the parts we hide out of hurt, fear or shame.

Part of the opportunity today is to consider that sometimes the things we bring into a relationship with ourselves, our community, our larger world, and our God may serve as both blessing and burden. In this way, we may be able to re-frame how we understand and engage certain concerns or celebrations.

We can consider bringing our whole selves in different ways:

  • Part of what we bring into this season is a gift of ourselves to others … stretching or offering more of ourselves as a gift … so let’s name these blessings we’re making available. We make this offering to be more present (in some way) to ourselves, to each other, to creation, and to God, following Jesus commandmant to love God, and our neighbors as ourselves (notice the three entities named in this commandment: God, others, self).
    For example, I aspire to offer time set apart just for my family, being emotionally available to people with whom I have intimate relationships by making time to talk and be together, committing to personal wellbeing through practices such as better eating and walking daily, or being aware and ethical about the environment by using renewable resources such as  a washable cup vs a disposable to-go cup.
  • Part of bringing our whole selves means sharing our burdens or brokenness. And who isn’t burdened or broken somehow? So we can take this chance, during Lent, to bring these concerns and vulnerabilities to our community and God also.
    I confess, in my own life, a few of these tendencies and ask for support around them. I acknowledge my preference to be anxious and controlling when I need to relax and collaborate. I admit that I get quiet and withdraw, faltering in consistent communication where it’s most needed, in stressful times. I say right here that sometimes my body’s softness and roundness (all euphemisms for harsher internal critical words I use about myself, like flab and obesity) embarrasses me. I inhale and confess that I avoid being honest and direct when I sense conflict or tension surrounding an issue.
  • Can we share our whole selves, whether we understand these parts of ourselves as gifts or burdens? It’s easier, sometimes, to bring and share our gifts to help and support someone else than to bring and entrust our vulnerabilities to someone else’s care.

Allow this season to be a chance to put down burdens, let them go, and give them over to God. feb14_lent5c_bring_steam_trunkThis doesn’t mean we get to set aside accountability. We remain responsible partners in our relationships. Yet we can share the burdens, as well as the gifts.

Let us trust that those gifts we bring will be put to use, and their purpose revealed. And also trust that if we relinquish some of our burdens and concerns, God will hold them with us.

Later we may look backward, and reflect about what committing ourselves fully,  bringing our whole and broken selves into these relationships, renews in us at Lent’s ending. What will we bring away from this season? What insights, personal growth, experiences, healings, or renewals come to us, as we enter into the spirit of exploring and acknowledging our own mortal brokenness? Of trusting and believing we are in the presence of One who loves us enough to bring our lives into God’s own keeping?

Excerpts from today’s lectionary:

  • Deuternonomy 26:10 — “So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.”
  • Romans 10: 15 — And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
  • Luke 4: 1 — Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness.
  • Luke 4: 8b — “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only God.’”

 

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.

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.