Walking the Ancient Way

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

Last night I had the privilege of attending a candle light labyrinth walk in the heart of Grace Cathedral. Two women tended our walking with taizé songs. As I walked into this ancient symbol, I strained to make meaning of it. I wanted to experience the path so badly, that I was missing what the path itself had to say. I wanted to package it up and turn it into the perfect metaphor. I wanted to be able to tell stories for years to come about what happened to me while I walked the ancient way.

Then, a wisdom arose from the walking, gently urging me to release my agenda of making meaning. “You are turning this into an object in your story,” said the voice within, “Meaning comes as grace. You discover meaning. It is revealed. It is revealed by being fully present along the way.”

I took a deep breath and let go of my expectations. For once, I set aside my need to control an outcome. I just paid attention to each curve of the path and to the way my bare feet felt on the cool stone. I paid attention to the lofty architecture that inspires the imagination with the expansiveness of the divine. I paid attention to my fellow travelers- joyful, reverent, seeking. I noticed, and loved, how they walked the way. I walked my way to release, to grace, to longing, to wholeness. Meaning began unfolding all around me unmanufactured, abundant in accessibility.

As I considered the Lenten journey we are on together, and the insight I received in the Labyrinth last night, this blessing by Jan Richardson was on repeat in my heart. I want to share it with you as you consider how you walk this ancient way.

Walking Blessing by Jan Richardson
That each step may be a shedding,
That you will let yourself become lost.
That when it looks like you’re going backwards,
You may be making progress.
That progress is not the goal anyway,
But presence
To the feel of the path on your skin,
To the way it reshapes you
In each place it makes contact
To the way you cannot see it
Until the moment you have stepped out.

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?

Preparations for Fasting

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

This day is for joy.

It is for delight.

It is for savoring.

It is for saying-

What tastes and feels good

Can also be holy.

This feast day is sacrament.

It is open table and good food.

This day is preparation

For the long days of fasting ahead.

It is for breathing deep and making ready.

It is the last bite for now…

It is the sacred willingness

To give up the things we think we love

To discover more fully the One we love.

This day is the edge of the desert place.

We enter by choice,

Led by the Spirit.

But that comes tomorrow.

This is the day for gazing at what lies ahead

With full hearts and stomachs

Grateful for this abundant life

And the journey that leads

Through emptiness

To an even deeper abundance.