Daily Lenten Reflection

Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for? –Matthew 16:26, MSG

I don’t get to the vulnerability of Lent’s invitation without a fight; without strong resistance. Give up something for Lent. Give up an addiction: coffee, CNN, this month’s top 40 countdown, Facebook, impatience. “Oh, yes,” I say, “I’m not going to trivialize Lent by just giving up chocolate. It means so much more.” Well, yes it does, Dave, but don’t use your non-trivialization to sophisticatedly rationalize your way around giving up a habit bordering on addiction! Lent does nudge, push, even drive us to give something up! –David Brock, Driven Into Lent

Reflection:

  • What habits “bordering on addiction” are calling for your attention this Lenten season?
  • Where do you notice resistance in the giving up nudges of Lent? Is there something you are invited to release that you are still making justifications for clinging to?
  • Prayerfully dwell in Matthew 16:26. What is God’s invitation for you in this text today?

Lenten Formation Daily Reflection 4

Therefore, I will now allure her,
    and bring her into the wilderness,
    and speak tenderly to her. –Hosea 2:14, NRSV

Exploring the deep places of our soul is not an “ordinary time” practice. Wilderness explorations are extraordinary. They cause us to look authentically at our deepest soul places and our tendencies toward resistance. Practices of sacred restraint help us focus on what matters most; to what and whom we offer our sacred “no,” as well as our sacred and joyful “Yes!” Lenten disciplines reinforce our need for life-rhythms that reflect the joy, love, peace, sorrow, and stubborn hope embodied in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus. –Janné Grover, Lenten Formation 

Reflection: 

  • How are you invited into the wilderness to tend your “deepest soul places?”
  • What tendencies toward resistance do you become aware of when you enter desert places within?
  • Prayerfully dwell in the text from Hosea 2:14. What does God desire to say to you in the wilderness? Take some time this week to draw apart and listen deeply.

I Cannot Go to Bethlehem

By Susan Oxley

I cannot go to Bethlehem.
Life moves too quickly.
The press of people blocks my way.
In the noise and confusion, the clutching of hands, I feel no angel wings.
You who are caught in the maddening whirl of activity, trapped in a crowded inn,
Peace. Be still. God comes to you quietly, in a stable, singing in you his new song.
Let your heart be a listening hillside, and the brush of angel wings will follow.

I cannot go to Bethlehem.
There’s too much sorrow and despair.
Grown people turn away, unfeeling, uncaring. Death reigns supreme.
How can I believe in a Baby? I hear no announcement of good news.
You who brood in sadness, by the echoing chasm of grief,
Remember the one who comes and abides. God With Us, Emmanuel.
Touch Him in your winter loneliness, hear him as a shout against despair,
Until, transformed by grace, your griefs become your joy.

I cannot go to Bethlehem.
Doubts and questions bar my way.
Fear whispers from all sides.
Journeys require faith—don’t ask me to go. I hear no songs of faith.
You who search and doubt and journey,
The Word has been shaped by love, spoken in fire, captured in flesh.
Traveler, have faith in beginnings and believe in preparation beyond knowing.
Kneel in the whispers of the mind, in the doubts of the night, and hear faith being born.

I cannot go to Bethlehem.
Inside, there is darkness, cold silence, empty echoes.
The voice I hear is only your darkness speaking to my darkness.
Without light, I can’t find the way. I see no stars to guide me in the night.
You who live in darkness, prisoner of the winter that knows no spring,
The people of echoes and silence have seen a great light!
Believe in a brightness that is beyond you, surrounding, invading, within you.
This Advent, let us all go to Bethlehem, and find our kneeling places.

Spiritual Practice: Spend a few moments in silence, breathing deep and listening within. Where do you find yourself reluctant? Where do you find yourself hopeful? What are the strongest movements within you at the beginning of this Advent Journey? What is the state of your heart as you make this journey?

Click the image above for a free Advent Spiritual Retreat resource.
Click the image above for a free Advent Spiritual Retreat resource.