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.

Justice and the Wilderness Way

Lenten Practice: Examen
Daily Act: Stand for justice. Is there an issue in your community or in the world that is calling you to engage in a deeper way? (For example: Write a letter to a political leader or give money to a sustainable cause to align your life with God’s vision of shalom.)
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“SEARCH MY HEART AND MAKE IT ONE WITH YOURS.”

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

The desert way of Lent does not waste time removing us from the comfortable status quo where our lives can sometimes settle. There is no hierarchy in the desert… just an ancient, holy, evolutionary pattern making life possible in seemingly desolate conditions. There is adaptation and endurance. There is resourcefulness and stewardship of bodily (and spiritual) reserves in dry times. There is surprising grace in the rare rain that pours out unrestricted on all life in equal measure.

In The Wisdom of The Desert, Thomas Merton describes the profound social and spiritual implications of the 4th century desert fathers and mothers. When Christianity became the religion of the empire, a trickle of concerned Christians made their way into the harshness of the wilderness to seek and preserve what they believed mattered most in the Christian life. Knowing how vulnerable we are to comfort, convenience, and status, they made every effort at great personal sacrifice to rid themselves of anything that kept them from being free in God’s Spirit to keep the mission of Christ alive in their time.

Merton suggests:

We cannot do exactly what they did. But we must be as thorough and as ruthless in our determination to break all spiritual chains, and cast off the domination of alien compulsions, to find our true selves, to discover and develop our inalienable spiritual liberty and use it to build, on earth, the Kingdom of God… Let it suffice for me to say that we need to learn from these men of the fourth century how to ignore prejudice, defy compulsion and strike out fearlessly into the unknown. (P.24, The Wisdom of The Desert)

Lent is about justice. Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days of spiritual resistance before he came back to unroll the scroll of Isaiah and provocatively proclaim his mission. (Luke 4:18-19) Sometimes it takes that long… sometimes longer… for us to shed our compulsions and addictions to the systems of exploitation we have come to rely on. It can take that long to realize how we have become too comfortable, how the allure of settling in to the culture around us is too easy, how our prophetic vision grows dull when we are drenched in the shallow benefits of the same world we are called to question and transform.

Like Jesus, and the desert abbas and ammas, we learn that the journey into the wilderness is not just a solitary way. It is a strengthening journey of transformation to sharpen again our prophetic lens and return to our cultures with God’s Spirit on fire within us- seeking shalom potential and resisting everything that is not.

For those who attend summer camps and reunions, you may get a taste of this wilderness effect on your way of seeing. Many describe those first few days home when things don’t feel quite right. There is a struggle to articulate what you have experienced to the ones you enter back into the normal rhythms of everyday life with. Imagine if it were not just a week, but forty days! The same thing can happen to those who travel to other countries and return to their own with a slightly different perspective. Having stepped outside the norms, stepping back in can feel disjunctive.

This is what Lent is. The wilderness way leads to justice and peace.

That disjunctive feeling? Hold onto it. Dare to stay in it just for a while. Return to it, in love, as often as you can. Let the dissonance form your response. It is a holy discomfort. It is a sacred way of seeing. It is the kingdom of God within you rubbing its sharp edges against the oppression and injustice we become blinded to otherwise. The Christian life is a constant practice in adjusting our prophetic vision.

What do you see? How does the wilderness way of Lent form your response?

What Is In Your Heart?

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

“Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments.” –Deuteronomy 8:2

This is the time for taking the time to enter into your own depths, to know what is in your heart.

Parker Palmer describes the soul as a wild animal, which is a helpful metaphor in a wilderness season. “Let us remember that if we go crashing through the woods, screaming and yelling for the soul to come out, it will evade us night and day… But if you are willing to go into the woods, and sit quietly at the base of a tree, that wild animal will, after a few hours, reveal itself to you. And out of the corner of your eye, you will glimpse something of the wild preciousness [you are] looking for.”

I realize that while Lent is a wilderness time; most of us are still consumed with the tasks and demands of daily life. Who has hours to sit at the base of a tree waiting for the soul to emerge, whether in your living room or in the actual woods?

It is up to you to determine what you are willing to give. Ultimately, we make the time for what we want to make time for. There may be no more important act right now (for ourselves and the world) than finding a tree to sit under or a warm room to sit in to just pay attention to what is yearning to be noticed within. This is where the reserves are strengthened for living the justice we seek. It is where the most tangled questions knotted up in our minds find gradual release and even response.

But there is also this: being in the season of Lent means the wilderness is not only with us in our set-aside moments of prayer. We are in the wilderness at work, in meetings, driving to the store, and having dinner with our families. The radical way of humility and trust enfolds us as a constant possibility throughout the day. At any moment, we can use whatever is before us as an opportunity to glimpse something of the “wild preciousness” of the soul and then to live from that place.

Perhaps, living in this way, we might see something of the “wild preciousness” of all the other souls we encounter too.

This day take the time to discern what is in your heart. Spend time simply being present, waiting for the wildness of your own soul to emerge and reveal itself to you. Throughout the day return often to this inward wilderness space. Allow it to bring you perspective and patience and humility and grace.

God is searching your depths, in love, seeking out what is in your heart and inviting you to join. The wild preciousness within is longing to be discovered- to be lived.