A Trio to move through Lent

So we begin the season of Lent. A time to become intentional about how we walk with God and how we walk with one another. This week’s trio of links offers some possible helps on this journey. And they don’t come to us from traditionally religious sources. I actually like that.

A Caveat: Just because I link to a particular resource does not mean I completely agree with everything the author or the website says and stands for. Some links are meant to invite us to different perspectives on what it means to live.

Act 1: Let’s Begin with Prayer

 Prayer for Perfectionists from Therese Borchard

We all have something that we become perfectionists about. One aspect of the spiritual journey is freedom from those bonds. The problem is that we can’t force that disconnection from our inner critic. We must find in the living presence of grace that key to live into God’s freedom.

Therese brings us a prayer from St. Theresa that lead us into that place of healing.

Act 2: Another view of Where We are going

Open, Generous, and Connected by Seth Godin

If you’ve read my blog for a while you will recognize my Core trio of themes: open, connected, and whole. It was very interesting to see Seth Godin write this post just yesterday that comes very close to my core issues.

Seth Godin is a marketing guru. His blog posts are always short and right to the point and always make me think.

I hope his perspective makes you think, too. And if this is what he suggests for corporations, how much more can our communities of faith benefit from this perspective.

Act 3: We have All we Need

Everything Already from nakedpastor

I’ve used a couple of David Hayward’s cartoons before as illustrations for other posts. This one is important enough that I just want you to go and look at it on his site.

His story is interesting and at times heart-breaking, especially for those of who are still leading communities of faith. I know his pain, yet have chosen a different response. I respect that about him.

Oh, about the cartoon? I loved one of the comments: “This!”

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A Lenten Cup of T.E.A.

As I was preparing for Ash Wednesday last night, I was trying to come up with some practical ideas for what Lent invites us to do. I wanted something more than “find something you enjoy doing and give it up.” That seemed to miss the whole point of the Lent: to be intentional for a season of our life in nurturing our love relationship with God.

So, what to do?

I settled on focusing on tea. Well, not hot tea, though I enjoy a nice cup of green tea, or a chai latte from time to time, but T.E.A.

Time, Energy, and Attention.

By looking at these three areas and some new choices, we can go far in growing in our love for God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Time

Isn’t that a common complaint we have about wanting to spend more time in prayer, scripture, caring, and serving? We don’t have enough time. So we might say we need more hours in the day.

Won’t work.

Think about what happens when we expand our storage and living space: we don’t have more space, we just accumulate more stuff. We add more space, we add more stuff. Same thing with time. We might have more time available to us, but if we aren’t intentional about how we use our time, we fill it with stuff to do, and we still complain about not having enough time.

So the first thing we must do with Time is look at the time stealers. Don’t look at what other people do that use up our time, look at your own distractions and activities. The things that you do that use up your time. A couple times I have tried to chart my real schedule. Take a day or a week to really track what you do with your time. It is humbling to see the things I do that take 15 minutes there, or half an hour there. And some of that time, I can’t even remember what I was doing, the distraction was that complete.

So, take a look at something that you just do without intention and without benefit. Instead choose each day to use it for God. Don’t have enough time to pray, close your browser or Facebook for 15 minutes and rest in God’s presence with your heart open to share your concerns and to listen to God’s concerns. Instead of watching 2 hours of television tonight, watch one hour and read the Bible or reach out in care to someone you know and love.

Lent invites us to make time to grow holy.

Energy

All three of these ideas are interrelated. Our energy fluctuates during the day. Our energy ebbs and flows throughout the day. Maybe our best energy is in the morning, maybe the afternoons are notoriously low energy.

What do we use our best energy doing?

Do we use our high energy moments for fun yet self-centered tasks? Do we usually wait for our low energy phases for thinking about prayer and devotions? I’m afraid that is usually what I do. When I am feeling good, I do something I like for myself, but then leave the leftovers for God and my other relationships.

How can I notice my best energy times and use them for enriching love: for God, my family, and my neighbor?

The other aspect of energy that is good to consider is how we can increase our energy level. This is where I meddle in body health.

Over the last year as I have lost 40 pounds and sought to keep it off, I have recognized that there are lots of ways we fill our bodies with unhealthy energy sources. And I don’t always do the things that increase that healthy energy.

Do I depend on sugary foods and caffeinated beverages to give me energy? They might help for a short while, but as we grow dependent upon them for our energy we have to keep increasing the intake to maintain the energy flow. I have been learning the value of healthy foods and good old water as ways to be filled with healthy energy that doesn’t leave me to crash and burn.

The other energy question I have to face is sleep. I’m very glad that God created the nap. Yet, I have been learning (still needing to relearn) that working toward a good night’s sleep definitely decreases the need for a nap (though I still one on Sunday afternoons) but also ensures that I have more healthy energy available during the day. For Lent I’m going to bed earlier to have that good energy available to all my relationships.

Attention

We are self-absorbed people. Always have been, always will be.

The humility of Lent shows me how much of my actions all come back to having my attention be on me. I hate this list, because it is very humbling (and I am exaggerating, but only barely).

Procrastination: I want to do what I want to do right now. Later I might get to it if I can’t think of anything more pleasurable for me to do at the time.

Cynicism: I can’t see how this gives me anything I want. If it doesn’t help me I don’t see why anyone should have it.

Criticism: I don’t like it, so it is wrong. My style and taste is the only way things should be. Everyone must do it my way.

Frustration: Why can’t others make my life easier? Why can’t the universe just cooperate with me?

I could go on, and I’m sure you could add some ideas of your own. But I hope you get the point, a lot of our attitudes are self-focused and those attitudes spawn actions that move us away from loving others, loving God, and really from loving ourselves.

God’ presence offers us the grace of truly caring. When we turn our attentions away from ourselves and what we want exclusively we will find that our neighbors are people with similar hopes and dreams, concerns and pains. We find that through God we are able to actually be freed from frustration, complaining, worry, and distrust.

With our attention on our true Center, everything begins to fall into place and we find God’s abundant life flowing through us.

Your Turn:

What will you put in your Lenten cup of T.E.A. this year?

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Lectionary Reflections for February 17, 2013, First Sunday of Lent

Sorry for being away for a couple weeks, but I’m pleased to be back with my reflections for the lectionary passages for The First Sunday in the Season of Lent, February 17 are now available on the 3D Lectio site.

The Gospel lesson invites us to face not only the Temptation of Jesus, but ways we are tempted today.

Access these passages by following the link to Lent 1 C.

Blessings,
David

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Out of the Corner Living

Usually this balance pointed toward acting in moderation and avoiding certain extreme behaviors that threatened the holiness of my journey.

I tried really hard to walk this tightrope path, but I was always afraid of going astray and backsliding. Both of those dangers were unthinkable, and as I learned, unavoidable.

I couldn’t stay on the path, no matter what I did. What was wrong with me? Why was my life such a failure?

I still find myself far afield from living the very words I preach, no matter how hard I try to be holy. Thankfully, I am not tabloid worthy unholy, but I feel I slide off the path more than I remain on it.

Why is it so hard?

While we are on this journey of holiness we will fall off the path. There are so many distractions and temptations to follow. And we do. The Bible is full of stories of women and men who loved God and were beloved by God yet who did the same things that make tabloid headlines today. History and contemporary experience show me that we are no different. Tragically, when that happens we look past the log in our eyes and dismiss all the good they have said or done.

What if our image of balance is the problem?

We try so hard to balance on a tightrope or on the edge of a razor or a cliff which makes our fall inevitable. With this kind of understanding, any kind of wobble in faith or practice becomes a fall from grace. It isn’t a very secure view of the journey of the Spirit.

Another, probably greater, problem with this view of balance is that we become focused on control. We have to stay righteous. We can’t doubt. We have to do all the work for our salvation. It becomes all about us.

There has to be a better way.

The Bible offers a different point of view. The promise of forgiveness and grace affirms a view of holiness that is solid and not fragile. It portrays a Spirit that holds us secure no matter how far afield we stray or how much we slide back. Grace is there to catch us and to bring us back to the arms of God.

What do you think? If someone had one hundred sheep and one of them wandered off, wouldn’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillsides and go in search for the one that wandered off? If he finds it, I assure you that he is happier about having that one sheep than about the ninety-nine who didn’t wander off. (Matthew 18:11-13 CEB)

We still need a life of balance, but not the kind that is afraid of slipping off the edge of the cliff. This balance leads us toward wholeness, holiness, and abundant life: A life lived in the center of God’s presence and will.

The Lord is my shepherd.
I lack nothing.
He lets me rest in grassy meadows;
he leads me to restful waters;
he keeps me alive.
He guides me in proper paths
for the sake of his good name. (Psalm 23 CEB)

The image that I now use for balance is of a field or pasture.

Picture a field where all the sheep and cattle graze in only one corner. What happens? The field becomes damaged from being overgrazed and the livestock become ill.

What happens when the herd is allowed to explore and roam and enjoy the fullness of the field prepared for them? Here they are always led by the herder to find the best food so they are stronger and more alive than when they stayed in their safe corner. As long as they follow the herder and trust that they are guided to the good places they are able to enjoy all the wonders of the full field.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:11 CEB)

When we go astray, the good herder finds us! When we fall behind, Grace carries us.

This view of balance is reflected in the word “Shalom.” We often translate it as peace, and it is that. But this is a peace that is all about being whole: Living as the integrated human beings God makes us to be. It is a peace that comes from being held in Essence, which holds us and heals us from every danger and stumble.

Jesus said in John 14:27 and John 16:33 that he came to bring us God’s version of peace. This peace is shalom: being fully in the One who makes us one. We are not partial beings, but able to live balanced and fully dimensional lives.

Your Turn:

Where are you trying too hard? What fears and anxieties fuel your drive to not fail?

How can you rest in the arms of the Shepherd of Peace today?

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Aspiration and being Incomplete

One artist that I’ve enjoyed listening to, especially as she grows and transforms herself is Alanis Morissette. When she first appeared on the Pop Music scene she connected with a lot of the anger many people experienced with life betrayed.

Some of her fans wanted her to stay angry and cutting edge, but I’m glad she didn’t stay stuck in that part of her human experience.

This video is of a song from about 4 years ago that I find captures the hope and aspiration of this fully dimensional life God gives us.

It can even be a prayer.

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