Daily Lenten Reflection

Upon my bed at night
    I sought him whom my soul loves;
I sought him, but found him not;
    I called him, but he gave no answer. 
“I will rise now and go about the city,
    in the streets and in the squares;
I will seek him whom my soul loves.”
–Song of Solomon 3:1-2, NRSV

To experience the absence of God is also to experience God’s presence. So did the sparseness and bare simplicity of the desert strip Jesus of all but the most essential truths of his life? Did the lack of water, did his thirst, did his hunger reveal to Jesus a deeper thirst and a more driving hunger? Did it show him the deepest desire of his heart, to live as God’s Beloved to the fullest potential of his divine humanity? Did he discover that it mattered more to him to encounter a Living God than to limit his experience of God to moments of comfortable and comforting emotions? Did Jesus experience God’s absence in the wilderness as another face of God’s presence? And did his experience of Absent Presence sustain him for what lay ahead?

During this season of Lent, I simply invite you to test these possibilities against the realities of your own life. When and where has the hidden presence of God been revealed in your wilderness times of desert barrenness? –Laurie Gordon, The God of Barren Landscapes

Reflect: 

  • When has absence revealed to you what really matters?
  • When and where has the hidden presence of God been revealed in your wilderness times of desert barrenness?
  • Prayerfully dwell with Song of Solomon 3:1-2. What is God’s invitation to you in this text?

Holy Curiosity

Lenten Practice: Holy Attention
Daily Act: See the mystery of God in another person. (Talk to that person!)
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“AWAKEN ME TO YOUR PRESENCE IN AND THROUGH ALL CREATION.”

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

One of my favorite mystic texts is from the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton. He describes an experience of being in the middle of a city, surrounded by people, and suddenly seeing- really seeing– the divine life within each one. “There is no way of telling people,” he writes, “that they are all walking around shining like the sun… The gate of heaven is everywhere.”

In spiritual direction training, I am learning that every person is the mystery of God before me. Essential to companioning someone else in the spiritual life is the cultivation of a holy curiosity toward others. This includes releasing a critical gaze and avoiding the temptation to fix. The role of a spiritual director is simply to notice, in love, God’s movement within another life.

Though I am learning this specific discipline (spiritual direction), this wisdom permeates every encounter with others, known and unknown. I am still a novice at noticing the God-life within other people, but the goodness that grows from this way of seeing is so heart-satisfying that I crave more. In the words of Thomas Merton, it is like “waking from a dream of separateness”.

The phrase holy curiosity stirs challenge and wonder within me. It does not imply a general gaze at others honoring them as sacred (though that is also a meaningful practice!). Holy curiosity implies investment in relationship. It is about seeing God in another life by discovering who they are in their particularities. Barbara Brown Taylor describes this type of encounter:

“What we have most in common is not religion, but humanity. I learned this from my religion, which also teaches me that encountering another human being is as close to God as I may ever get- in the eye-to-eye thing, the person-to-person thing- which is where God’s Beloved has promised to show up. Paradoxically, the point is not to see him. The point is to see the person standing right in front of me, who has no substitute, who can never be replaced, whose heart holds things for which there is no language, whose life is an unsolved mystery. The moment I turn that person into a character in my own story, the encounter is over. I have stopped being a human being and have become a fiction writer instead.” (p.102, An Altar In The World)

This practice is not always easy. It can take time to cultivate holy curiosity toward others, and great effort when it comes to people we struggle to love. It can be most challenging, and maybe most important, to be holy curious about those who are least like you.

In a world that often feels fractured by political and religious polarization, what healing could it bring if we really began to see the mystery of God within every person?

And perhaps it is healing also to realize this God-mystery resides within you as well.

There is no way of telling you that you are walking around shining like the sun.

Let’s awaken from this “dream of separateness” together and move toward one another in love.

“The wisdom of the Desert Fathers includes the wisdom that the hardest spiritual work in the world is to love the neighbor as the self… It may be the only real spiritual discipline there is.” (p.93, Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar In The World)

Did I Miss God Today?

Lenten Practice: Examen
Daily Act: Spend time with the prayer of examen and record in a journal/reflect on your responses to the questions for reflection below.

Questions for Reflection
1. Where have I been cooperative in God’s vision of shalom?
2. Where have I been complicit in a lack of peace in this world?
3. Looking back over my life, what are my priorities?
4. Where do my passions mirror the passion of Christ?

Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“SEARCH MY HEART AND MAKE IT ONE WITH YOURS.”

Today’s blog is by Dustin Davis, who wrote this while reflecting on his practice with the Prayer of Examen. Dustin lives in Los Angeles, California and is a member of the Community of Christ Spiritual Formation Team.

What has your experience with this practice been this week? How does the examen increase your awareness of God’s presence?

Did I Miss God today?
by Dustin Davis

I woke up today and immediately turned on the TV, filling my day with noise. Did I miss God when I didn’t take time to notice how after a night of sleep my chest was moving up and down, slowly and deeply, breathing in life-giving air? I jumped in the shower and began mapping out my day in my head instead of pausing to watch the sun rise, taking it for granted. Did I miss God then?

On my way into work the traffic was thick as usual, but I didn’t mind because the radio was keeping my ears full and my mind distracted. At a stop light a man was asking for money. Anything will help his sign said, and God bless. I managed a smile when he came to my car, but I kept my window rolled up. I quickly looked away in my own embarrassment and shame. The light turned green, and traffic moved forward. Did I miss God?

At work I’m hounded by questions all day. It’s the nature of my job, but it’s my choice how to respond. Sometimes people have problems that I can help with. Other times I feel like people are just pushing their responsibilities on me, because they don’t want to deal with them. Some questions I think are just flat out dumb. I wonder how some people have made it so far in life, and I might even exchange a mean-spirited joke with my boss once the person has left. Did I miss an opportunity to be humbled? To be compassionate? When I write people off, dismiss them, not take the time to hear them, do I miss God?

When the sacred becomes routine, do I miss God? I often take out the recycling in my office. I believe in recycling on two levels: one, as a way re-use and be less wasteful, two, as a statement about the importance of sacredness of creation. The act of recycling is influenced by my faith. It’s a sacred act. But what happens when I don’t pause to remember why it’s sacred in the first place?

I stopped at the grocery store on my way home to pick up some things for dinner. It wasn’t until I had already packed my grocery bag, swiped my card, signed the screen and finally said thank you that I even looked at the woman helping me. By then she was already helping the person behind me. Did I miss God in her?

It’s only from a position of looking back on my day that I can ask the question, Did I miss God today? After going through my day I can see that God certainly was there in every moment just as God is in this moment now. For that I am thankful. But a new question emerges. Why do I see God only in reflecting on the day instead of in the moment?

As I go to bed a prayer passes from my lips to settle in my heart- I will see God tomorrow.