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

Sacred Restraint

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

A Radical Love

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

hands holding the sun at dawn

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!

A Moment’s Meditation: Yearning for More

by Matt Frizzell, Graceland University Campus Minister
Re-blogged from: mattfrizzell.com

deep-to-deep

Since finishing my formal studies in 2010, I’ve been on a journey.   First, I moved from Chicago to Graceland University, Lamoni, IA, to be the Director of Religious Life and campus minister in 2011.  I’ve spent the last three years settling into this position: learning Graceland’s current institutional culture, getting to know the students who come to GU, developing the courses I’m teaching, and finding my alchemical vision for Christ’s mission and Community of Christ’s mission on campus.   These responsibilities, and other denominational activities, have thoroughly absorbed the last three years of my life.

Beginning my fourth year, I can’t say “I’ve arrived.” I’m still navigating these areas and learning things.   But, I’ve come to a place where I have my bearings and some sense of direction.  I’ve identified areas that I think need long-term attention and collaboration.  I better know my circle of influence verses my circle of control.  I find meaning in daily life among students and colleagues at Graceland.  I also have more opportunities to be present with Margo and my two daughters at home.  Katy, my oldest, is a teenager this year.  She’ll be a freshmen in high school a year from now.  Kenzlee, my younger daughter, began middle-school this year.  Both are in sports and playing two instruments.  My best friend and wife, Margo, loves her faculty position in the Gleazer School of Education at Graceland, and has been working on an Ed.D. year-round for three years from Drake University.   Currently, she is writing on her dissertation.  Journeying to this point has been exhausting, but meaningful.   Yet, as I consider the future and try to navigate work and family, I have a dull nagging feeling within me, like a still small voice trying to speak or the distracting feeling of cool drips of water landing on the back of my neck.

I think living a whole spiritual life means we respond to the s/Spirit within us that yearns to give birth to something.   I call it “s/Spirit” because it is a fountain of life-giving and life-bearing energy in which God’s Life and Creativity entwine indistinguishably with our own lives and creativity. There is a summons to live a life of freedom and creativity.  That s/Spirit is that creative energy or vision, impulsive inspiration, and quietude of potential that haunts our working mind and resting moments.

However, I’m not being prescriptive.  We’ve heard enough from the spiritual marketplace and self-help culture about how much we need to express ourselves freely, connect with our inner-child, play and live creatively.  We’re too busy, paying attention to the wrong things.  Blah, blah, blah…..

OK. Fine.  Maybe.

Spirituality becomes another thing to do. <sigh>

And, when I stop and pay attention to that “dull nagging” desire in me, I don’t miss the obvious.  I don’t miss the fact that my family and daughters are, quite literally, part of this “birthing” in my life.  They are part of my life’s work.  They draw on and call forth my disciplined and creative energies.   Miraculously, Katy and Kenzlee are fordrop-of-waterming into generous, crazy, obstinate, and surprising young persons right before me every day.

I also don’t mean that my work at Graceland isn’t creative.  It, too, takes creative energies and inspiration.  It, too, gives life.

But, apparently, there is something more or missing.  The dull nagging or spiritual drip that’s thudding on my neck as I hunch over focused on “today’s tasks” keeps coming.  It doesn’t frustrate me or give me angst.  I think I just need to listen to that small voice and pay attention to that refreshing drip pool on me.   To disregard this nagging anxiously in the name of busyness, or to appease some insatiable need for productivity, only keeps my life locked in a cycle of deadlines and want for mindless entertainment.   So draining.  Still, “deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls,” Psalm 42: 7 says, “all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.”

Maybe that’s what I’m yearning for.

Article Reflection: Why I’m Not Quite Done With Church Yet

Questions

Article by: Hannah Heinzekehr, The Femonite blog

Do you ever have those moments where you really start to question … everything? Your faith. Your purpose. Your reasoning for the things you do? What am I even doing here? Why do I even associate with a religion that sometimes doesn’t seem to align with what I believe or how I think we should act (or how I want us to anyways)? I question my faith from time to time. I think most of us (I hope) do. I get frustrated with fundamentalism, old rules and processes. Sometimes when I face resistance to my beliefs or people who don’t see my vision as clearly, I feel irritated and impatient. I wonder: why do I even bother? I could just as easily… move on. Walk away.

A mentor of mine identified a cynic as being “a broken-hearted idealist”. That hit home for me in that moment.

I think many of my cynical thoughts come from hurt feelings or disappointments. There are times I question. I re-consider. I get upset. My heart breaks. My vision crushed. But, still, I am here. Sometimes I wonder what it is that keeps me here.

I resonated with parts of this post on The Femonite blog shared with me by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin.

For me, Hannah puts it quite well.

Basically, it’s hope.

It’s the opportunity to be a part of changing the story. When I’m able to put my sometimes cynical, pessimistic attitudes aside; I believe in our potential to be what we dream of.

What if, instead of giving up on church and writing posts about how we’re disillusioned or done, we instead worked from the inside out, giving encouragement where we saw progress, naming injustice and corruption when we see it, and helping to transform congregations into the real, messy communities we long for them to be?

– Hannah Heinzekehr, The Femonite, “Why I’m Not Quite Done With Church Yet

Photo from: http://allthingsd.com/20120717/ten-questions-for-new-yahoo-ceo-marissa-mayer-this-wont-hurt-a-bit-okay-just-a-little/questions/

Lenten Journey: A Radical Emptying: Lent

sign-for-lent-with-integrated-crossBy Katie Harmon-McLaughlin, Spiritual Formation Ministries
Re-blogged from: Connect – Engage – Inspire

As we cycle through our Christian story, what will the season of Lent mean in your life this year? Lent is a journey of Christian simplicity. It is the time in the liturgical year that prepares us for Holy Week and Easter.

Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun and author, describes Lent as a time that “calls each of us to renew our ongoing commitment to the implications of the Resurrection in our own lives, here and now.” The journey through Lent is the purging of “what is superfluous in our lives and the heightening, the intensifying, of what is meaningful.”

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Katie Harmon-McLaughlin,
Spiritual Formation Specialist

In a world that often measures worth by accumulation of wealth, success, and prestige, we are reminded during Lent that we follow the One who denied all of those things to demonstrate God’s kingdom vision. Lent offers us a yearly necessary pause to examine our lives in the light of the cross.

As we journey once again toward the cross, we strip ourselves of the distractions and distances we have placed between ourselves, God, others, and creation. Lent is a time of fasting, of radical emptying, so we can draw ever closer to the One we seek. We practice repentance and experience reconciliation. On Ash Wednesday, Christians come face-to-face with their own mortality—from dust we come, and to dust we will return. This has the power to cut to the heart of things as we consider this enduring question: What matters most?

This part of the story may be the hardest to understand and one of the most important. It evokes diverse theological perspectives and many lingering questions. It continues to be a reorientation of everything we thought we knew about power and success.

This Christ pattern of death and new life leads us through what we dread to what we love. It reminds us that things most worth our lives are not usually easy. At some point each of us who claims to follow Christ must stand before the cross. We respond to the call, “Come follow me,” remembering that resurrection hope sustains along the way.

Fasting: A Spiritual Practice

There are tremendous spiritual and social implications to living Lent. The practice of fasting confronts a culture that continually tries to get us to accumulate more than we need. I can hardly think of a more culturally subversive act than this: to utter aloud the word “enough.”

Our own rest from the race toward excess allows creation a rest, too. For a brief moment, we are not asking for anything other than what already is. We may see more clearly the beauty or injustice that surrounds us when we step outside ourselves and really notice what is there.

Fasting also connects us with those around the world who do not have regular opportunity to participate in what we have given up for this intentional time. If fasting from a meal, how do your own hunger pangs help you remember those who do not know where their next meal will come from?

To fast is to empty ourselves of that which distracts or separates us from relationship with God. Because we encounter God within ourselves and the world around us, relationship with God contains both of these dimensions. Fasting is an opportunity for deeper and more intentional connection. Giving something up simply for the sake of giving it up misses the point. It is what we do in the place of what we have given up that matters.

During this Lenten season, there will be practices and opportunities in the Herald and online for you to be intentional in your journey of emptying out and reconnecting with God. We invite you to journey with us in sacred community, practicing together, and anticipating the new thing God is doing within us!

Fasting with Intention

What will the season of Lent mean for you? Here are a few ideas for a meaningful Lenten fast:

  • Inventory your time. How much do you spend browsing the web or watching television? What if you gave up 30–60 minutes a day and instead spent the time in practice and prayer?
  • Fast in a way that makes a difference to the global community. Fast from an abundance of water usage, fuel consumption, or eating out. Fast from your daily latte at a coffee shop and instead donate the money to Abolish Poverty, End Suffering.
  • Fast from consumerism. What if during the season of Lent you chose to not buy anything that wasn’t a need?
  • Fast from certain food items (meat, sugar, processed foods, etc.) to live in harmony with creation and your own body.
  • Fast from energy usage. What if one night a week during Lent you turn off as much power as possible and live by candlelight, doing things that require minimal or no energy?
  • Fast from negativity or judgment of others. What thoughts of peace could fill their place?

Changing the Story

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What if we could change the story about Christianity? Change the story about Community of Christ?

Currently, the story I hear around congregations is one of death and concern for the future. One that talks about times gone by where there were lots of people in the pews, there were three services on a Sunday, and when our youth groups had 50 kids in them. Those times were good times. We talk about them with fondness and consider it the pinnacle of what we looked like when we were successful as a church body. We regularly mention the names of great patriarchs passed and recall testimony of their visionary contributions. In comparison, we look at the state of our congregations today. A small amount of youth scattered around areas, buildings closing their doors, and reunions getting smaller and smaller.

This is one story. But what about the others?

Like the story of a woman who has battled depression her whole life, raising her children in a home where even she struggles to get out of bed. This woman, carrying her black dog beside her, with what seemed like a last gasp of dignity, asked for help. Help that came in the simple form of a food basket and a cup of tea. Welcomed, dog and all into the community, this woman found a place she felt comfortable and accepted, a place where she could give of her time, and found a friend.

This is our story.

Or the story of a young adult who lost his way in life, walking the fine line between jail and death. This man, through the simple act of a caring question was moved to tell his story and change his life in a way so drastic that even his family couldn’t believe what was happening. A change that enabled him to have a stable job, a roof to live under and a caring community.

This is our story.

We hear a story about how Christianity is withering like a fig tree, where no one goes to church and Christians are seen in society as conservatives and by some as exclusivists. We are seen as people who exclude, rather than include. As organisations that abuse power and tax law rather than generous and compassionate givers. What if we have become that story? What if we have lived into that story without even knowing it?

What if we were to write a new story?

Jesus re-wrote the story for his people. He created a new life that threw tables, saved a single sheep and hugged an erratic runaway. He changed the story of religion, moving it from a place of exclusivity and power to a place of refuge for the poor and the mistreated. A place where people now conversed with the God within, rather than the God on high. A place where religion was not about sacrificing goats but sacrificing the pursuit for short-lived glory.

What if we changed the story?

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What if at our meetings we talked about how we were making a difference in the lives of people rather than losing people? What if we were to talk about how to include people rather than mandate against certain life choices? What if we were to harness our power for love and compassion by stopping to have a conversation with someone about their spirit rather than the weather? What if we were to dismantle patriarchal legacy and embrace the simple, profound vision that God calls us to actualise? What if you, nay, what if I chose the path to transformation by simply choosing to think about what I have rather than what I am lacking? What if instead of telling the story of how one congregation has closed due to lack of numbers and instead chose to tell of the amazing generosity they continue to give to the community and beyond? You’re not too old, too young, too shy or too busy. You can ask someone how they are. I can respond by telling the truth when someone asks me how I am.

Tell a new story.

“Here in this place a new light is streaming. Not in the dark of buildings confining, not in some heaven light years away, but here in this place the new light is shining; now is the kingdom and now is the day.”
– “Gather Us In” – Community of Christ Sings #72

 
GATHER US IN
Words and Music: Marty Haugen, 1950–
Words and Music © 1982 GIA Publications, Inc.
License number:  74431
A Community of Christ Sings resource
http://www.CofChrist.org/hymnal

Photo of books from: http://venturegalleries.com/blog/why-do-we-love-books/