On the Journey with Jesus
We are in the early spring and in the middle of Lent. Even now we see hints of spring coming. Things are changing. This season of Lent calls us to be disciplined, patient, and do some inner work. Like a flower in spring, the benefits of our work begins to show forth and we look for new growth in the cleared energy spaces. These new spaces ask to be planted with new seeds. The garden of our soul begins with tiny and vulnerable seedlings. This week’s lesson is to learn what we are looking for. What signs indicate that we are moving closer to God? Perhaps creativity? A greater capacity to love? Willingness to be surprised? To not have to know? How are you expressing care for others?
Every day this week spend time in quiet solitude. Encourage your children to do the same. You can spend time teaching them simple things like how to breath deeply and sit still for 5 minutes. Turn all computers and phones off! Begin with a prayer or family prayer. Then go to a place in your house to be in solitude so that distractions don’t bombard you.
Breathe deeply and relax. Identify your thoughts. Notice fears and worries or anything overwhelming. Are you tired? Experiencing anxiety? Do you have pain anywhere in your body? Do you feel empty inside? Wilderness is in all these situations. And we spend a lot of energy fighting them. Instead, invite them in for tea. Befriend your emotions. Settle them down with your breath to clear internal space.
Don’t worry if you can’t clear these emotions just yet. There is plenty of time. For now just notice how crowded your internal self is with these emotions and don’t judge yourself and write down in a journal where you might feel out of control, overwhelmed, or blocked. This is a way to map your inner journey during Lent.
Each day this week, write down a few accomplishments that have emerged from your Lenten practice. Record evidence of growth for which you are grateful, even if it was painful. No matter how small, your accomplishments are significant. If your only evidence is some scripture verse that helped, then be grateful and write it in your log. If you feel a greater sense of peace, write it down. This log is just for you. Keep it and express gratitude for the spiritual buds that are beginning now. At the end of the week, review this list when you need encouragement.
“Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing: now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” -Isaiah 43:18-19
Signs of new growth leans into the light of creativity. The more we open ourselves by clearing space, creative energy flows more easily. Isaiah gives us guidance about holy creativity. Being creative is allowing God to work through you as you clear the energy path. We are vehicles of God’s creativity and when we open ourselves, God can flow through us. In appreciative inquiry, creativity is listening, seeing, paying attention and expressing what we see, hear, and notice. It is in the stories that we tell one another. New growth may manifest in a creative desire. God energy flows through you as you continue to practice clearing. The sign of new growth is a growing capacity to LOVE. In loving well, we give of ourselves to assist another’s growth and well-being. And we know from our heart, not our head, that abundance and resources are plentiful. We stop living in scarcity thinking and worry. We are also open to surprise. We can live life not having to ‘know’ it all. And finally, we find strength in vulnerability. Paul’s thorn in the flesh was met with God’s response: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” Whenever I write, I have to get out of the way so that the words can come. Sometimes I only get a few words…maybe sentences. They are the beginnings of something new.
- What creativity is coming to you now? Even if it’s very small, try to nurture it.
- In what ways have you noticed yourself expressing care for others since Lent began?
- Have you experienced any surprises during Lent? What was that like?
- How have you benefited by showing your vulnerability to another?
- Read Psalm 92:12-15. What would it mean for you to be planted in the house of the Lord and flourish in the courts of our God? How does being rooted change your life?
Week 5 Stuff Happens
Setbacks in life always happen. And sometimes when we least expect it, but they are healthy, normal and can cause us to grow even closer to God. Sometimes we feel like growth is never going to get us anywhere if we keep getting setbacks, but in fact they can cause us to grow and expand even more.
Scripture Meditation Psalm 16
Keep me safe, my God,
for in you I take refuge.
2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.”
3 I say of the holy people who are in the land,
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
4 Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
or take up their names on my lips.
5 Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.
6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.
7 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
8 I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful[b] one see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Sometimes we think that the goal of Lent is to make changes. However, the real goal is to make a change that draws us deeply into life and helps us make a change that draws us closer to God, self and others. Our society doesn’t teach us about how to handle setbacks and losses, yet they can be our greatest teachers. Lent beckons us to make a change of a deeper heart commitment. When we have setbacks, our daily practice may be interrupted and we become disillusioned. We may fall back into old comfortable patterns called ‘comfort zones’ that protect us and we feel safe. Yet if we look more deeply into our commitment to our spiritual practice, we may find that we need to make room for new growth during setbacks. This is called expanding our comfort zones. Have you ever tried to blow up a balloon and then took a few more breaths to expand it as far as it can stretch before it pops? That’s what we can do when we expand our comfort zones. It is giving more breath to allow something new to emerge, even when it feels a little uncomfortable.
Because our society doesn’t prepare us for losses in our lives, it can be said that we are supported to STAY in our comfort zone. However, loss can push us out of our comfort zones. This is the major reason why losses make us so UNCOMFORTABLE. What do you chose to be in the situation you are in? How can you chose differently?
And we don’t have to do this alone. Ask for help from our neighbors, friends and family. Setbacks remind us of our need for others to support us. And setbacks can cause us to completely depend on God. Parker Palmer describes a lesson he received about humility through depression. “Depression, was indeed, the hand of a friend trying to press me down to ground on which it was safe to stand—the ground of my own truth, my own nature, with its complex mix of limits and gifts, liabilities and assets, darkness and light.” Palmer had overextended himself and was doing work that was not his to do, work that did not match his natural inclinations and gifts. His work failures along with depression, felt like setbacks, yet they were actually friends, drawing him back to himself so that he could experience life with authenticity and joy.
- When has your Lenten practice faltered? How did you feel when it happened?
- When have you fallen back into your comfort zone because of setbacks?
- How have setbacks renewed your commitment to a discipline? How have they made you more aware of your need for others and your dependence on God?
- When have you been able to forgive yourself for making a mistake or slipping in your practice? What made self-forgiveness possible?
- Read again Psalm 16 and imagine yourself protected and rescued by God as the psalmist describes. How might such rescue restore your energy after a setback? How are you shown the path of life (v. 11)?
Week 6 Consecration
Remove the sandals from your feet for the place you are standing on is holy ground. –Exodus 3:5
Holy week is the time of consecration. What does that mean? It means we look for the ways in which God blesses the work we have done, filling it with the holy and dedicating its coming fruits to the building of the kingdom. So remove your shoes. You are on holy ground. And by removing your shoes, you expose the tender soles of your feet. In God’s presence you become vulnerable and self-revealing.
Near the beginning of Holy Week, create a sacred space in your home. Make it comfortable for yourself. Bring in objects you regard as sacred—books, photos, candles, nature objects, icons or other symbols. Display them in such a way that you feel surrounded by them. Enter this space each day this week and allow yourself to rest in it. As you relax, imagine yourself and the space filled with holiness. Pray, using words if you like or pray without words by sitting quietly in God’s presence.
The last supper is the time that Jesus chose to share himself—his very body and blood—with his dearest friends. He shares the bread and the wine and gives them a way to remember him. He knew that they needed this ritual as something to hold on to and keep close to him. We can give of ourselves too, but need to examine if we are giving out of pressure or from a deep place within. Giving from a heart that overflows with love, joy and gratitude means that we will never run out of resources.
Then we find Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane…a place of holy fear. It is that place of letting go and saying “thy will be done”. This experience is scary. We may miss our old ways of doing things. We may find that we need to let God expand us so we can grow.
Crucifixion is the holy sacrifice. It is a critical turning point in Holy Week. It is Jesus moment of self-surrendering love as he relinquishes his physical existence. All of Lent is a lesson in giving up pieces of ourselves. Here’s the thing: the closer we wish to come to God, the more of our carefully constructed selves we must let go of.
Holy Saturday is the holy shadow. Jung believed that each person has a shadow side or a side of darkness. It is our Lord’s descent into hell and in the shadows that mark this day. He carried his great love there in the places of torment. The shadow side is distasteful, but remember they are made holy by Christ’s presence. He knows about the hell in our lives. When we clear space, we will come against our fears. We feel vulnerable and weak. But Christ’s presence with our shadow shows us that the shadow has no purpose and no power. This Holy Saturday may be the day that the shadow parts of yourself become swallowed up in victory where Christ redeems them.
The final consecration is Easter Vigil, where we sit and wait. We are in a painful place now and feel alone. It is a place of alert, dedicated presence. Vigil is holy, intimate and says ‘we are with you’. A conscious walk in the woods is a good place to do a walking vigil. Simply clear your mind and begin walking. Buddhists call this mindfulness and is very healing to the soul.
- How have you encountered the holy this week?
- When have you felt in awe or humbled?
- How does God sanctify your self- giving and sacrifice? How does God reach out to bless your fear and your shadow?
- Have you had an opportunity to keep vigil this week? What did you observe through your watchfulness?
- Read about Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives in Luke 22:39-44. Imagine this holy place and all the surroundings. What prayer will you offer here?