Reconciliation

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Lenten Practice: Examen
Daily Act: Reflect on your life and consider relationships in need of reconciliation. Is there a reconciling action you are invited to make today?
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.”

Today’s reflection was written a while ago when I was struggling with a strained relationship. I believe it is important to be honest about these relationship fractures in our lives. The possibilities for peace we pray for are sometimes waiting to be realized in our own families and communities, where lasting peace begins. Pay attention this day to how the deep in you calls you toward reconciliation.

By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

I want to stay angry
To live in the feeling of being wronged
Until all is made right again
I want people to know that I take
What they say seriously
That words have power
And demand caution when being used
In destruction purposes

I want to stay hurt
Dwell in this river of self-pity
To satisfy my own self righteousness
To avoid the painstaking
Slow work of reconciliation

So of course I am resistant to the ways
The solitude moves me to love
To the Spirit promptings within
That gently urge me to get over myself
And move along
The compassion that comes
And sweeps away these sorrow crumbs
Cleaning me out
Restoration
To begin again and again

In one moment, I resist
In the next, I relent

Our yearnings are for unity
So this separation we’re in
Is a form of self-sabotage

I am reminded
In love
That angry words are attached
To bodies with faces and hearts
And minds and stories
Other humans
Imperfect like me
With their own muddled
Union yearnings

Sometimes to be a disciple
Is to swallow pride
However sharp as it goes down
And to demonstrate the
Radical Christ love
That is the point anyway

What is deepest within me sings
Forgiveness

Thick are our protective layers
But not impenetrable
All is redeemable

When people are bound
By this communal thread
A vulnerability
Even a meanness
Can be a pathway in
If one has courage and strength enough
To follow it
If one can pass through their own
Swells of self-righteousness
Like moving under the waves
To avoid drifting back to shallow shore
Sometimes we have to hold our breath
And be submerged to go further in

Could it be that our raw, aching sharing
Was actually a love feast
Placed on the table before us?
A taste of the sweetness beyond niceties
A craving for authenticity
A taste that may take time to acquire
And appreciate

Like God
Something we can’t just know all at once
We sip at the mystery

In this prayerful pause
I notice I am
Moving into the day with
A softening, opening heart

So it is in the peaceable kin-dom
Loving confrontation has a holy purpose
So that loving does not enable the defenses
But opens wide
The real

This is the hardest love task
To name the hurts
And journey together
In love
Into a deeper way of being

It is not avoidance
And it is not anger either
It is something deeper
Call it grace
Call it forgiveness
Call it reconciliation
Call it life in Christ

Be patient with one another, for creating sacred community is arduous and even painful. But it is to loving community such as this that each is called. Be courageous and visionary, believing in the power of just a few vibrant witnesses to transform the world. Be assured that love will overcome the voices of fear, division, and deceit.

-Doctrine & Covenants Section 161

Formed by Each Other

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Lenten Practice: Examen
Daily Act: Reflect on your life and consider the people who have helped you grow in your faith. Write a letter of gratitude to a person who has been formative to you.
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 soul is a pliable substance
We are formed by each other
Into holy shapes
Over time

If I were to begin to express
My abounding gratitude
For the many other souls
Who have participated
In shaping my own
It might go something like this:

Thank you for seeing me
Really seeing me
For taking a risk on the worth
And potential
You thought you saw
For investing yourself
So whole-heartedly
In the life of another
With no guarantee
Of anything in return

Thank you for awakening
Gifts lying dormant
And tending them
To fullest life in me

Thank you for the ways
You assured me
In each moment of doubt
Affirming my questions
As faithful
The questions themselves
Pathways into the future
I could not yet see
But could somehow still trust

Each word a shaping
Each moment a molding
Not into your likeness
But into the shape of the One
Shaping you
Shaping us

Thank you for what you never
Said out-loud
But lived
Which I noticed
Which I admired
Which I desired to live
Which spoke louder
Than anything
Anyone
Has
Ever
Said

“You hold precious lives in your hands. Be gentle and gracious with one another.”
Doctrine & Covenants Section 162

Where to Find God

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Lenten Practice: Examen
Daily Act: Seek God’s presence in each part of your day. At the end of every task, conversation, or experience, ask the question, “How was God present?”
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

This is where I will meet you
Says Divine Love:

In the wonder you feel
As you watch the icicles
Melting outside your window

In the gentle touch of another
When you are in need
And the comfort it brings

In the sunlight that
Turns to gold
Everything in its path
Which catches your breath
And awakens delight in you

In the conversation
That moves you closer to connection
With another person
In whom I also reside

In each moment you slow down
To notice the beauty around you
And let it fill your Spirit
In a strengthening way

In the hope that rises up in you
In the midst of encompassing despair

In the injustice anger that
Finally prompts your trembling voice
To speak out for what is right

In the darkness
In the light
In the sorrow
And in depth of joy

In the details
Seemingly insignificant
Which are the composition
Of the whole of your life

If you yearn to see me
Be prepared to meet me anywhere

It may not be
The earthquake you expect
Or the fire

It may be the silence
It may be the least expected place
It may be every place

When you ask
Where are you?
Wherever you are
I will answer
Here

(1 Kings 10:11-13)

God In All Things: Examen

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Lenten Practice: Examen
Daily Act: Engage in the practice of Examen. Use the prayer phrase as a way to enter a time of prayer.
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.” 

Below is the description of the Examen found in the Community of Christ Guide for Lent. There is no specific formula or method that needs to be used. The important thing with this practice is to place your whole life before God in prayer. Nothing is too mundane or insignificant! Search for God’s presence and invitation in every part of your life. The examen reflects what its founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola, proclaimed: That God is in all things!

The prayer of examen is a daily spiritual practice that encourages us to review the day with God, remember our connection with the Holy, and recommit ourselves to encounter the Divine once again. Many Christians have used this practice since the 1500s, and while it is often practiced at the end of a day, it may be done any time. The examen can be used during Lent as we seek to realign our lives with the life of Christ.

The Practice: Find a comfortable and quiet place in which you are able to reflect on your day. Read scripture passages, such as Psalm 139:1–3, 7 or Psalm 51:10–12, 15–17. You may want to write your thoughts on these passages in a journal, or during the examen, write as you notice the Spirit stirring within you.

Begin by recognizing God’s presence and give thanks for this awareness. Gently enter seeking the Spirit’s guidance. Express gratitude as you recognize the many and diverse ways you have sensed God’s presence throughout the day. You may want to record your thanks in writing.

Look back over your day objectively, without judgment or justification. Notice when you recognized God’s presence and where you were most Christ-like. When did you
cooperate with God’s Spirit of healing and shalom? Also notice where you were not as cooperative, and perhaps even resistant to the invitation to linger and follow.

Pay attention to your feelings as you review and reflect, and notice patterns and choices. Are you being invited to release certain attitudes or behaviors and embrace others? Ask the Holy Spirit for insight, and pray for forgiveness, healing, reconciliation, or release as needed.

Offer God the next day, asking God to be present in your thoughts, feelings, and actions. Ask yourself, “Beginning tomorrow (or today), how will I live my life differently?” Close your practice with a brief benediction. Receive God’s grace and rest.

Sacred Restraint

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A Radical Love

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Lenten Practice: Fasting
Daily Act: Engage in an act of generosity today. Buy someone a cup of coffee, send a note or gift to someone you think could use it, or make time in your day to spend with someone who could use your gift of time and presence. Dwell in the experience of self-emptying for the sake of another.
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

The closer I grow to Christ
The more I feel
A radical love
On fire within me
Aching for release

How do I explain?
It is wholeness
It is salvation
It is justice

It is fulfillment
And emptying

What might happen
If I let this radical love
Lose on the world?

Where might it lead?
What might if ask of me?
How might it change me?

The more I get to know
The One I claim to follow
The more I see how
My wholeness is linked
With the well-being of all
The more I see how
The deepest dream within me
Is Shalom

Maybe this is what Lent is for
Attention to this radical love
Which is
Christ alive deep within you
With a heart on fire for
Something new

I am beginning to understand
In that space beyond words
What it means
That I must lose my life
To find it

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!

Becoming Free

Subscribe to the Spiritual Formation Center blog to share your Lenten Journey experience.

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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!