Daily Lenten Reflection

And, always remember, the way of suffering love that leads to the cross also leads to resurrection and everlasting life in Christ’s eternal community of oneness and peace. Trust in this promise. –Stephen M. Veazey, Words of Counsel 2013

We do not seek out suffering, but it happens. There is no neat theological explanation for the Good Friday moments of life that can satisfy my deepest questions. And yet, we can see how it is often through enduring what we would never choose that we find ourselves transformed into who we really are. When asked to draw a map of my spiritual life, the relationship between the lowest points and the most growth becomes abundantly clear. In our aching Gethsemane prayers we dare to utter what is most real in us. There is no time for fancy wording or even right theology. What was once abstract becomes sharp immediacy. And it is here, in this journey to the cross, right in the middle of what we’ve tried to avoid, that we discover the presence of the One who is truly in all things even in the places we’d rather not be.

And it is here, in our dying, that the seed of resurrection breaks open, shedding even its own seed-identity to become fullest life beyond what we can imagine or hope. This is the threshold we dare to cross. This is the promise we dare to hold. –Katie Harmon-McLaughlin, Holy Week: To Enter the Suffering 

Reflect: 

  • When have you discovered the presence of God even in a place you would rather not be?
  • What is the invitation of Holy Week in your life this year? What promise do you dare to hold?
  • Prayerfully dwell with the words of counsel. What is God’s invitation to you in this text?

Dark and Light: A Solstice Blessing

By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

“You are the one who knows, behind the rising, falling tide of shadow, the moon is always whole.” -Barbara Kingsolver, Another America

Dark and Light
Are not so separate
As we often imagine.

What of dusk and dawn?
What of starlight radiance
And glow of moon?
What of cloud-cover and rain
Obscuring sun at noon?
What of shadow and shade?
Glimmering, flickering flame of candle–
Circle aglow in surrounding night?
Sunlight streaming through trees,
Sideways beams in late afternoon–
Beauty in the balance
Of the luminous
And hidden?

And so it is in us.
The necessary pull of moon
And rise of sun
Sustaining life.
The inner shadows
Inviting healing,
The spaces of shade
From the too-brightness
Of what seems to sear.
The colors of dawn
Gleaming in the
New-day soul.
The descending dusk of
Letting go into the night
Where the Spirit
Works unseen within.
The edges of light
Greeting darkness–
Spaces of passage
Where what we
Try so hard to keep
Divided
Becomes
Indistinguishably
One.

And the longest night
Of my life is,
Across the globe,
The longest day
For another.
And my longest day
Is another’s longest night.
The light does not ever vanish,
Nor does the darkness.
What I seek and
What I resist
Always present somewhere
Even when they are not
Visible–
Always an invitation
And inevitability.

And so blessed are you
Who live in the intersecting places
Of darkness meeting light,
Who refuse to see as separate
The union needed for fullest life–
The balance needed for growth at all.
Blessed are you who enter
The longest night with a heart open
To the gifts the darkness brings.
And blessed are you who bask
In the longest day to soak in
The fullness of what is revealed.

Blessed are the dark
And the light
And the spaces
They gather
To meet
In every season,
In every heart.

Spiritual Practice: Where do you see the meeting of light and dark in your life? How do darkness and light contribute to the growth of your soul? In this Advent season, how does the encompassing darkness prepare us for the arrival of the great light?

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?