ANY BIT OF SPACE

Lenten Practice: Centering Prayer
Daily Act: Consider those who need to experience the peace of God’s presence. Schedule a time to visit someone who may be lonely or isolated. Repeat this week’s prayer phrase throughout your day.
Weekly Prayer Phrase:

I DWELL IN YOU AS THE SOURCE OF ALL LIFE.

Today’s post is a reflection on the practice of Centering Prayer written by Dustin Davis, a member of the Community of Christ Spiritual Formation Team. What are your reflections from this week’s practice?

by Dustin Davis

“God faithfully comes into any bit of space we create for [God].” – Ruth Barton

My time of centering prayer begins in the morning after I’ve eaten breakfast, showered and gotten dressed and packed my bag for work. (I find that I’m too distracted if I try to do this before I’m ready for the day.) I sit in my chair near a window and light a small candle. I get comfortable, feet on the floor, hands resting on the arms of the chair. I offer a two-sentence prayer before I begin. “God, thank you for this time of prayer into which I am about to enter. May I rest in your presence.” I set the timer on my phone for 18 minutes and set it aside. I close my eyes, breathe deeply and do my best to focus on my prayer words Be Still as my attention to God starts to drift or as other thoughts float past. Sometimes it takes longer on some days than on others, but what happens next, as I fall into the company of God and simply be, is a mystery.

When I go running in the mornings it changes the way I feel for the rest of the day. I’m more alert, have a better attitude and just generally feel better. I have noticed that Centering Prayer has largely the same effects. Our lives are so busy, so packed full of stimulation that we rarely take the time to just be. This is certainly not a new observation in the spiritual life, but how refreshing – and culturally subversive – to go against the norm and purposefully pause.

A favorite author of mine, Ruth Barton, talks about the importance of creating sacred space and sacred rhythms in our lives as part of Christian discipleship. One of the themes in her writings that I particularly like is this idea that God uses any time and space we create for God, no matter how big, no matter how small. What a freeing thought! For me I find release in this promise from my false expectations of many spiritual practices and even the larger picture of spiritual transformation. In the light of this promise I am free to let God work as long I make the space.

The Centering Prayer is a humble practice, and this, I think, is what makes it so rejuvenating and so different from other prayers. The fact that it doesn’t rely on my words is liberating and freeing for me. Words are powerful and important to me, and I have a tendency to get hung up on them. (I won’t tell you how many times I’ve re-written this paragraph!) Prayers with words can easily become literary exercises, carefully designed to impress or sound sophisticated even if that is not our intention. In sharp contrast, the Centering Prayer requires only my willingness to be still and instead relies most heavily on God. This is a humble stance to take, one we don’t often assume when we are sponsoring an event at the church or preaching or simply offering the invocation. Spiritual transformation isn’t something we can do by ourselves, despite our best efforts. We foster atmospheres and cultures where we are open to God, but at the end of the day spiritual transformation is the work of God. It is a mystery and a miracle.

As we journey through Lent to the promise of new life I am encouraged by the fact that it is God who creates the new life. Don’t misunderstand me in this. It takes work from me, too, hard work and discipline and often times courage to risk something new. But to surrender to the mysterious work of God is to surrender to the reality that something good is stirring within me. Just as a caterpillar enters into the chrysalis we, too, enter into a time of serious spiritual reflection, and if we simply rest in God’s presence and let God work, we will emerge transformed and as beautiful as the butterfly.

SLASH OF LIGHTNING GOD

Lenten Practice: Centering Prayer
Daily Act: Extend grace to yourself and others throughout the day. When distracted or unaware, feel God’s assuring presence with you. When others are not their best selves, surprise them with a response of grace and love.
Weekly Prayer Phrase:

I DWELL IN YOU AS THE SOURCE OF ALL LIFE.

Today’s post is written by Dave Brock, Community of Christ Presiding Evangelist. Who is this God in whom we dwell? How do you approach the divine mystery?

Slash of Lightning God
By David Brock

Slash of Lightning God,
sparking flame in aged Pine.
Shaft of Sunshine God,
flaring dust motes
afloat in lonely rooms.
Beam of Harvest Moon God,
bobbing for ripples in a mountain stream.

God in laser’s precision cut
burning to heal.
Quickened Insight God
crossing exhausted mind.
God Light through all things,
giving life to all things.
God Light now shining,
enlightening our eyes.
Presence proceeding, filling
immensity of expanding space.

Some days we savor You,
slowly. The couple on a porch swing
at the farm, memorizing every change
in sunset’s color; turning away
only as last light grays, fades,
and slips horizon’s grasp.

Some nights we are the criminal,
or the coward, hiding in shadows,
holding still, holding our breath.
Freeze framed in black,
we pray to escape
the steady, unwavering probe;
the searchlight
of Your pursuing love.

Maybe tomorrow we will seek You,
like the night watchman
on a tall tower,
eyes straining,
heart longing there in the dark
for the first sign of dawn.

THE CAPACITY FOR LOVE IN DISAGREEMENT TIMES

Lenten Practice: Centering Prayer
Daily Act: God’s Spirit is a place of unity drawing us together in oneness. Today, intentionally extend love to someone with whom you disagree.
Weekly Prayer Phrase:

I DWELL IN YOU AS THE SOURCE OF ALL LIFE.

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

One of the blessings and challenges of community in Christ is that you are very likely to encounter someone else with whom you disagree. If everyone you know thinks like you, it might be wise to consider expanding wider the boundaries of your community. The body of Christ is made of many members.

The reality is this: we can hurt each other.

We can wound with words or lack of words, action or lack of action. It can be intentional or unintentional. Resentments build up within us overtime. Trust decays. Whole communities can be diminished because of a single marring moment never fully tended.

This is where our spiritual lives can develop a strength in us that is not hard or uncaring. We can choose to not be personally punctured by every potentially offensive remark (politically or otherwise). I have noticed that sometimes the people with the “thickest skin” also have the softest hearts- wide open to receive the other even when they are not received in return. What capacity for love! I marvel.

I have witnessed some of our own leaders in Community of Christ stand in love as they received a barrage of angry disagreement from a fellow member. I have witnessed the grace they extended, by choosing not to react to those words born of anger and instead to ask questions that would get both parties closer to the heart of the matter.

I believe these are people who have rich prayer lives. From where does the capacity to love so unconditionally come? It comes from the source of love itself, which can be found within each one of us, if we choose to access that deepest space within where God resides. It takes a kind of strength that comes from life in the Spirit to see past whatever disagreement one is in the midst of, to the presence of the divine in the one with whom they disagree.

I want to be clear that I am not talking about being passive or submissive. There are so many complexities to human conflict that I could write all day long and you would probably get tired of reading! I am talking about an honest love that refuses to give in to the sensationalism of the moment and seeks always a deeper understanding of one another where oneness in Christ becomes possible.

The spiritual life is for these times precisely. It is about developing those inner resources that can sustain and guide us in the moments that feel awkward, tense, strained, or where we are tempted to act as not our best selves. These are the moments when we rely on the One we claim to follow. This is the very point of being formed in the pattern of Christ. Who am I called to be when anger flares up within me, when it would be easier to cast aside the person before me as unworthy rather than put forth the effort to see Christ in them too?

There is a space within yourself where all the patience, forgiveness, and love you need for Christ-like relationship is waiting to be discovered. I pray you will dwell there and this is why: on the days when I am not my best self, I yearn for you to see past my angry, clumsy words to the Christ-life also within me.

I think the whole world is yearning for this seeing.

Lent is the season for reconciliation. Consider the wounding you’ve received, the wounding you’ve caused. What is God’s invitation to you in this time of repentance and forgiveness?