Week 4: Trusting the Promise

By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

“For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.” Habakkuk 2:2-3, NRSV

This is the time for realizing
That this deep hope is
For something real.

Impossible
Say the voices around us
Firmly fixed in cynicism, despair.

Impossible
Says the evening news
With its montage of tragedy.

Impossible
Say the politicians
Inciting suspicion, fear.

Impossible
Says the hurting heart
Daring to dream no more.

Impossible
Says the “rational” mind
Trading wonder for logic.

Impossible
Say the statistics
And the violence
And the hatred
And planetary ruin
And hungry bodies
And broken lives…
And…

Yet…

A bright star emerges
In our longest, darkest night
And those wisest among us
Choose to chase it.

What they hear it saying
Through the shining
Is worth the vision
They journey to find.

POSSIBLE
It says of:
Equality
Justice
Kindness
Forgiveness
Redemption

POSSIBLE
It says of:
An end to poverty
A nonviolent way
Radical compassion
Peace on earth
The kingdom of God

POSSIBLE
It says of:
A table of welcome
With a feast spread wide
For all people–
Even those we fear
Even those who fear us–
To come and be nourished
And reconciled
And healed
And blessed.

POSSIBLE
It says of:
Our deepest need
The deepest dream
Of the Holy
Birthed in us
Through us
With us
For us.

This is the time for realizing
That this deep hope is
For something real.

Spiritual Practice: What possibility are you invited to follow this Advent season? What does it mean to trust the promise of the incarnation in the world today?

STORIES WORTH LIVING

Lenten Practice: Lectio Divina
Daily Act: We find peace and hope in returning to ancient memory and story. Consider your family and faith heritage. Spend time in gratitude for those who have gone before you. Find time to share a memory of your heritage with someone, and listen to a memory of their heritage.
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“LIVING WORD, LIVE THROUGH ME.”

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

We are shaped by where we have been.

We are being called in unmooring times to return to the stories that have made us who we are. This is not to glorify the past, but to see how our lives take place in a broader context than just the complex urgencies of this moment. We are part of an expansive, unfolding story of humanity, of creation, of the cosmos, of the holy still creating in our lives and world.

Each of us is called to reclaim the ancient vocation of storyteller.
There are stories we need to remember, stories we need to hear, stories we are called to live, stories we are living now that will impact what is told beyond us.

What stories are shaping you?

In the desert times of life, I find a strange comfort in my wandering Israelite ancestors who wavered between resisting and rejoicing, hungering and hoping, for 40 years in the wilderness. The dream of milk and honey keeps us moving. Something is worth it just beyond the horizon. The way back is bondage. The way forward is freedom.

During Lent, I contemplate the meaning of the Christian story of death and resurrection as metaphor, as cycle. This pattern of renewal revealed throughout the earth, a daily occurrence. I am shaped by the perennial hope of life made new.

The story of my Community of Christ ancestors began with a God-seeking heart surrounded by creation’s beauty. There are days when I wonder if this is somehow an origin of the perpetual seeker within me, pursuing the divine presence in all things. I am not afraid to come before the holy with a question. Can you think of a more faithful way to approach the mystery?

In seventh grade, I witnessed my parents struggle over one of the biggest decisions of their lives- to leave a successful job and comfortable life and move us across the country in response to a sense of call. They would take long walks, prayerfully pondering. The radical choice they made was to leave the allure of financial stability to respond to God’s call, which felt more compelling than anything else. No one said the word “discernment” to me at the time, but this is where I learned it. As a seventh grader I could not comprehend the meaning of this move, but today I see how my own approach to decision-making always involves a preference for the holy.

Our heritage does not always positively impact us. Sometimes our ways of being are a rejection of what has occurred, a reclaiming or redefining of what feels distorted or unjust from the past. My feminism, for instance, is in response to a long, oppressive patriarchy still very much alive where I live and across the globe. The unfolding story I live is the laboring of justice in each generation to be born anew.

There is peace though, in our ancestor’s failings. In imperfection, whining, wandering, we are slowly learning about forgiveness and grace. Each faltering step embedded somewhere deep in our spiritual DNA- a lesson living in us, a hope for the future.

Tell me again of how my ancestors kept faith when it all felt impossible.

Tell me again of how the disciples walked for miles with Jesus and never knew he was beside them all along.

Tell me every story my heart yearns to hear so I can hold on to hope when it feels like all hope is lost.

What stories are shaping you? What stories are you called to tell? What stories are you called to live?

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?