Daily Lenten Reflection

 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. –Romans 7:15, NRSV

Many people in Jesus’ time hungered for a new day. They wanted Roman occupiers gone; they wanted a messiah to come who was up for that task. This Son of David would be part Jewish freedom-fighter, part emperor. He would smash Israel’s enemies, give them what they deserved, and judge the unrighteous. Everything would be made right. The glory days would return, only on steroids.

It’s funny how the hungry heart can play with the mind. Unanalyzed hunger creates mirages. The images seem real and plausible. And the next thing you know, you’re trying to create what you want. –Anthony Chvala-Smith, The Kingdoms in Our Heads

Reflection: 

  • When does “unanalyzed hunger” create a mirage in your life? When have you found yourself wanting what doesn’t really sustain?
  • Many in Jesus’ time created an image of what they wanted a messiah to be and do. When do you “create what you want” instead of being open to God’s Spirit emerging in ways you didn’t expect?
  • Prayerfully dwell in the text from Romans 7:15. When do you act contrary to your deepest desire? What is God’s invitation to you in this text today?

 

The Hope of Christmas at the Door

By David R. Brock

A young woman is talking with her family on the phone about how much she wishes they could be together at Christmas, how sorry she is that they will be apart. Her mother asks if she has received her gifts. She says, ‘not yet.’ Her mother asks her if she has looked outside. She goes to the door and opens it to find mom and dad and brothers and sisters all there warmly bundled against the cold and the snow, arms filled with gifts and her mom holding a cell phone. Together as family. A surprise at Christmas. What else could she hope for?

It’s a little too good to be true, I know, but a commercial like that gets us, doesn’t it? The prospect of being alone, distant from the ones who matter most, during the holidays, then totally unexpected, too good to be true, we open the door and all we have been longing for is there before our eyes—the gifts, the family, the fresh fallen snow. The house is too clean; too Martha Stewart. The girl too beautiful and thin. The family too Ozzie and Harriet. The weather too Christmas perfect, the cell phone too clear, and the music a little too bright, but it tugs at something, this sense of yearning and longing for connection, for community, for love, for Shalom. A little too Currier and Ives or Thomas Kincaid, but it feels good and right and it, as those cunning advertisers know, moves us. It is, I’ll risk saying, a secular expression of our longing for the sacred. The utter joy of the longed for, but unexpected gift. The pony in the barn. The shiny bicycle on the porch. The diamond. The doll that cries and the joy of the parent who sees their child’s eyes open wide and sparkle and shine with wonder. The totally unexpected, too good to be true is suddenly surprisingly reality and the joy and hope of Christmas is captured in the opening of a door.

Spiritual Practice: Imagine a door in your soul opening to reveal the “unexpected, too good to be true”, surprising reality of the sacred in your life, in the world. What would be revealed as you discover your deepest longings this Advent season?

A Sacred Yes: The Desire of the Heart

By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

What if this sacred yes you’ve dared to say is forming within you the deepest joy you’ve yearned to feel? What if it matters? What if it is about fullest life? What if it is the meaning you’ve been chasing, the vision you’ve been straining to see? What if you’ve said yes to what is most real, most alive, most true in your own soul?

Slowly, slowly, slowly I am learning that divine vocation is to discover and live the truest version of myself. God calls us all to be who we really are. This can be difficult to understand in a culture saturated with individualism. This is an invitation to the core of the soul, to the substance we seek. When we get to the center of our deepest being we discover the home of the Holy, which has been resident all along.

It is here in this sacred center that we recover the spark for life that can grow dim from all the insecurities and expectations we’ve layered upon it. The Advent journey toward the great light might be an interior one. In darkest times, this flame will not die. The world is aching for more souls to catch fire.

Especially at Christmas, I can quickly spout off a list of surface level wants. The advertisements sneaking their way into every part of life offer suggestions too. More layers on the divine flame within, distractions from the deepest desire seeking to claim me.

When we give ourselves over to the call of the Holy forming unseen within, we can trust that it is what we want, even if it doesn’t seem that way at first. This isn’t divine manipulation. God never calls us to be who we aren’t. What we carry within us is not another obligation waiting to consume more of our energy and time. The call of God is fullest life, always, even in death. It may take time, and courage, to let the layers of shallow desires fall away to discover the One thing for which we truly yearn. “The soul,” writes Mark Thibodeaux, “is the place where God’s desires and my desires intersect.” What is deepest in us is not in conflict with the dream of God for the world.

In moments, the reign of God couldn’t seem further away. It is clear, just from watching the evening news, that there is much to be done. How do you explain that even in the midst of devastation, the deepest call of the Holy in our lives springs forth from what brings us true joy? Frederick Buechner says it well, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

I have a hard time naming this deep desire, this deep gladness. It feels selfish at first, which may be an indication that I haven’t properly named it yet. I have to remind myself that this is more than something I want on a whim. It is the steadying orientation of my heart in God. What I also uncover slowly, slowly, slowly is that the heart of God within me is also the heart of all life. My welfare resides in the welfare of all. This is another sure way to determine the authenticity of the desire you seek. Does it bring you joy? Does it confront what is false in you? Does it lead toward the welfare of all?

This Advent, how does your sacred yes lead to fullest life? How is God inviting you to offer yourself from a place of deep joy rather than obligation?

What is it, really, that you hope for? Repeat this question in your soul more than once.

How does this deepest desire within you make brighter a darkened world?