A Radical Love

Lenten Practice: Fasting
Daily Act: Engage in an act of generosity today. Buy someone a cup of coffee, send a note or gift to someone you think could use it, or make time in your day to spend with someone who could use your gift of time and presence. Dwell in the experience of self-emptying for the sake of another.
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“OPEN ME TO RECEIVE MORE OF YOU.”

By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

The closer I grow to Christ
The more I feel
A radical love
On fire within me
Aching for release

How do I explain?
It is wholeness
It is salvation
It is justice

It is fulfillment
And emptying

What might happen
If I let this radical love
Loose on the world?

Where might it lead?
What might it ask of me?
How might it change me?

The more I get to know
The One I claim to follow
The more I see how
My wholeness is linked
With the well-being of all
The more I see how
The deepest dream within me
Is Shalom

Maybe this is what Lent is for
Attention to this radical love
Which is
Christ alive deep within you
With a heart on fire for
Something new

I am beginning to understand
In that space beyond words
What it means
That I must lose my life
To find it

REMINDER: March 1, 2015 is the registration deadline for our upcoming Lenten Retreat with Presiding Evangelist, David Brock. The theme is INTO THE WILDERNESS (March 13-15). If you are seeking a deeper exploration of the season of Lent in your life and yearn to grow closer with God, we would love to share this experience with you! Email khmclaughlin@cofchrist.org if you have any questions.

Lenten Spiritual Retreat with Presiding Evangelist David Brock.  March 13-15, 2015 Click here to register!
Lenten Spiritual Retreat with Presiding Evangelist David Brock.
March 13-15, 2015
Click here to register!

Entering Lent

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

I cringe when words deep with meaning get cast aside as cliché. I hope this one doesn’t feel too worn for you: intention. If it does feel worn, commit to repeating it again and again in your soul until it breathes fresh life in you. It is a reminder we always need. It is a word that so clearly gets to the heart of what it means to be a practicing person of faith. Why do we do what we do?

We all travel through Lent with slightly varied responses to that question. For some, it is a time to grow in relationship with Christ. For others, it is a time for deepening commitment. For others, there is painful release that needs to occur. Maybe you don’t know why yet, but you long to know why. That might be the most faithful response of all.

As the ashes were smudged upon me last night, I took a deep breath and felt like a threshold had been crossed. I woke this morning inside of Lent. From this point on, everything that I do, say, feel, and think will take place in this sacred context. There will certainly be mundane moments within these forty days; moments when I am not my best self and do not freely cooperate with the Spirit’s movement in my life. There will be days of white-knuckled holding on even as I move through a season of letting go. I can hardly bear admitting that there may be days when I fudge in my fasting- pun intended!

The gift of this season, and every season in the Christian calendar, is that something holy beckons beneath the surface of all things in everyday life urging us to pay attention. There is significance here. There is something I am called to remember. There is someone I am becoming. The practice of fasting focuses our attention toward the constant presence of this holy invitation. In feeling what I’ve given up, I am reminded of the reason for giving it up in the first place.

It is important to say now, at the beginning of the journey, that it is not about perfection. It is about relationship. Relationship is the primary intention of Lent. If you are trying to do Lent “right” you may very well miss the point. If you desire to grow closer with God and be shaped in the likeness of Christ, even if you are clumsy in the process, you will discover, with the prophet Isaiah, the new thing God is doing springing forth like rivers in the desert!

How we enter this time matters for what this time will mean in our lives. How do you begin?

Blessings to you in all your living, moving, breathing, speaking, resisting, loving, acting IN the Lenten season!

THE PRACTICE OF FASTING
From “A Guide for Lent”

Week 1: Fasting
Daily prayer phrase for the week: Open me to receive more of you.

To fast is to empty oneself intentionally in a way that makes space for God. During the season of Lent, we fast for 40 days remembering Christ’s own fast in the wilderness. It is a time to focus on what matters most amid alluring distractions. This practice empties us and prepares us to go deeper through each consecutive practice on the Lenten path. Fasting is about making space for God.

Choose something from everyday life you will noticeably miss. This could be a food item, a meal itself, an activity you enjoy, or something you buy daily or weekly that may be excess in your life. It could also be intentionally reorienting your daily routine or inner conversation.

A Lenten fast typically lasts from Ash Wednesday to Easter morning except for Sundays. Choose an intentional act that will replace what you are fasting from. What will you do in place of what you have given up? Is there something specific for which you are praying?

Spend time during your fast to pay attention to what is going on within you. Intentionally reflect through writing in a journal or solitude. Notice the time frame you have set. Is your craving from what you have given up increasing or decreasing? What is the depth of your prayer life during this time? Are you feeling more focused? What does God invite you to discover in this intentional letting go?

BREATHING LIFE IN THE DIRT: Reflections for Ash Wednesday

By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

Preparing for our Ash Wednesday service in Kirtland, I create a simple worship center using elements that evoke desert imagery. Rocks clank into a tall vase while sticks, moss, and sand fill other vessels. Last, I place a small glass bowl of ashes on the table.1920270_1558605997729894_2345018205482038198_n

I pause for a moment and realize this obvious connection that I almost overlooked. The ashes too are an element of earth. Everything I laid on the table has come from the earth, including my own hands that arrange and rearrange the settings, including the table itself. I am reminded of a quote by Annie Dillard, “All day long I feel created.  I can see the blown dust on the skin on the back of my hand, the tiny trapezoids of chipped clay, moistened and breathed alive.”

In one of the creation stories (Genesis 2), God breathes life into the dirt to give it form. What does it mean to consider our identity as holy dirt creatures moving around this earth, created mysteriously in the image of the Creator?

There is a weighted awareness in Ash Wednesday. The poetic and haunting phrase sings through my heart- ashes to ashes, dust to dust. It reveals what we so often resist. We are mortal, fragile creatures. We are made of matter and will one day be unmade. We are part of creation unfolding… one small part in an intricately connected universe. What we are made of we also depend on, literally, for each blessed breath. Incarnation takes seriously these physical realities and dares to name them sacred.

Lately, I’ve felt an ancient longing for awakened human senses. The asceticism of Lent is less about punishment than awakening! It is a desire to really feel and to trust that God is in whatever is most real whether pain or fear or delight or wonder. I spend so much of my life in sterile conditions- work to car to home, cell phone screen to computer screen to television screen.

The relational strain I feel this Lenten season is with my own humanness as a member of the community of creation. I can blame it on unceasing snow, but the truer reasons are busyness and numbness. Sometimes I feel too heart-tired to feel, which may be when I need to feel the most. The quickest path to humility can be out the front door into a world I did not make and cannot control in all its mystery, complexity, and stunning intricacy. “You ARE this,” the God-voice beckons within.

This is a day of humility, and willingness to gaze wide-eyed into the mystery. It is a day for confessing the ways that we have thought we were gods instead of fellow creatures still, always in process of being created with all other life. It is a day for repenting the ways we try to live separate from what is the source of our life- physically and spiritually. (I am having a harder time distinguishing a difference.)

Lent is this elemental vulnerability that practices seeing God in every condition; even death, even life. We hold out our hands and pray, “Breathe life in this dirt, O God. Become alive in the substance of me.” We mark ourselves with ashes to remember who we are. We await the breath of life that continues to create us.

(Starting on Sunday, February 22, we will be posting the daily practices found in the 2015 Lent Guide created by Community of Christ. You can follow along on this blog or with the PDF.)

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Click here for the PDF of the 2015 Guide for Lent