SACRED INVITATION

Lenten Practice: Centering Prayer
Daily Act: Focusing on the source of all life awakens us to our connectedness with all life. Reach out to someone today who needs a sense of belonging. Invite someone to your home for a meal, or to your church.
Weekly Prayer Phrase:

I DWELL IN YOU AS THE SOURCE OF ALL LIFE.

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

“You who are first and the last, the living and the dead and the risen again; you who gather into your exuberant unity every mode of existence; it is you to whom my being cries out with a desire as vast as the universe; ‘In truth you are my Lord and my God.’” -Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

The whole spiritual life is a pull toward unity: unity with our true selves, others, God, and creation. Through spiritual practices like centering prayer, we dwell in that space that awakens the oneness impulse within us. We begin to see our connection with all other life as more than theory. It is the way we live God’s vision for our world. The peaceable kingdom we are called to co-create resides in each oneness impulse lived.

This is why invitation is such a holy act. In western church culture, invitation carries a lot of baggage from religious proselytizing that has felt diminishing and dehumanizing at times. We wonder: what is the motive here? What is the agenda?

It is a shame that this is the case. In a society that can be so lonely and isolating, invitation is a powerful way to live God’s oneness vision together. It is sacred because it is about belonging. Rather than dehumanizing because of a hidden agenda, authentic invitation always honors the full worth of others in a truly mutual way. Despite how resistant we have become to anything that feels too much like proselytizing, we all deeply crave real invitation to what is most meaningful about this life we share.

This is at the core of the purpose of Lent. It is a season for stripping false distances and getting closer to the heart of things, which leads closer to your heart… and his… and hers… and every other heart that beats wild desire for deeper connection so often subdued because of the risk of being real. What if I’m not accepted for who I truly am? is the fear that drives so many false-self actions. Life in God’s Spirit reveals another way- where all belong in love to God and one another. This is the invitation we yearn to receive.

Let this spirit of invitation emerge naturally within you. As you dwell in God as the source of all life notice who you feel drawn toward. How is the pull toward unity coming to life in you? Who do you yearn to belong with? When you pay attention to these inner movements, you may be surprised. You may feel drawn to someone you don’t know or hardly know or wish you didn’t know. You may feel drawn to someone you think you know really well but realize how you have become casual or clumsy in a relationship in need of renewal.

Pay attention to this inward union pull.
Allow it come to life through you anywhere, everywhere.
Dare to release a sacred invitation and see where it may lead.

It is about deepest life in God’s Spirit coming to expression in the world. It is about wholeness. It is about restoring worth. It is about paying attention to how we are called to belong to one another. It is about the world as it could be.

Becoming Free

Lenten Practice: Fasting
Daily Act: Find a possession that you value or enjoy and choose to give it away to someone else. What does it feel like to let go? How is God present in your generous giving?
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

I love books. Our home office has stacks of books highlighted and underlined, with messages of meaning and question etched in the margins. If you ask to borrow one of my books, I will feel my heart rate quicken. Several times I have had good friends come to visit who decided to borrow books as they were packing up to leave. I let them go begrudgingly. In fact, I am ashamed to say that I was so focused on losing one of my books that I missed the last several moments with ones I love. I was blinded to the person in front of me because they were taking what was “mine.”

It is ok to love books. The concern comes when I refuse to let them go, when I place them in priority above people or use them to try to be something other than my most authentic self. Why this feeling of resistance? Why this holding on? Are my books part of an identity that I want to portray? Do stacks of books make me feel wise or educated? Do I feel like what I have gained from reading will be lost if I don’t have the pages to hold in my hands? Does the sight of all these books make up for the deeper sense of inadequacy that always threatens to emerge right beneath the surface?

Lent is about honestly confronting everything that keeps us at a distance from the connecting and reconciling impulse of the Holy Spirit. Everything means my attitudes, behaviors, and possessions. It is not exactly the thing that matters the most. It is about locating the feeling of attachment to the thing. It is about realizing, sometimes slowly, that I am not as free as I thought I was. It is about then locating that feeling in relation to all the other things, attitudes, behaviors, relationships I am attached to that keep me from being free in God’s Spirit.

This isn’t an exercise in meaningless, or even mean, testing. It reaches to the roots of a consumer culture that assigns value based on what we have and do not have. It triggers our impulses toward accumulation, sometimes at the expense of others, sometimes at the expense of ourselves. The health of our souls, and the earth, at this moment in history may very well be linked to our willingness or reluctance to let go of the things that have claimed us. This is a justice issue. This is a spiritual issue. This is a human issue.

If God’s desire for our lives is oneness and equality in Christ, then what is getting in the way of that ultimate vision? What are you willing to give to make it real?

Below is a prayer by St. Ignatius of Loyola. Some call it a radical prayer! May these words bless and challenge you as you continue to EMPTY during this season of Lent!

“Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O Lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and Thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.” –St. Ignatius of Loyola

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!