This week’s Lenten Practice: Holy Attention

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

Formed by Each Other

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

z_pxii-Sri-Lanka’s01

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

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

dsc_0022ew

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)

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!

Blessed to be a Blessing – Emily & Andrew’s Peace Corps Adventures

handsby Emily Allen Nilsen
Re-blogged from: May We Suggest

Blessing.

This word has meant different things to me over the course of my  life thus far. It once brought to mind the image of an all-powerful God who was moving pieces of my life around like a life-sized game of muggle-chess (yes, that is a Harry Potter reference). I used to believe blessings came from God and you were lucky if He chose to bless you.  I no longer see it that way.

As I got older, theological questions began to cloud my once clear picture and understanding of God. Why would God choose to bless me and NOT bless others? If God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all loving, how can extremely terrible things like natural disasters or genocide happen? Was God too busy “blessing” little ole me to do anything about those BIG issues. These questions and more plagued my heart and soul as I struggled to make sense of it all.

For a while, I wondered if I didn’t even believe in God, as least not in the same “God” I had before. I knew I believed in something; some collective, creative, connective power, but was that God if God meant all the images I had been taught for so long? I never felt comfortable saying I didn’t believe, because that wasn’t completely true, but I also couldn’t claim the concepts I once knew and stood by. I remember thinking that old saying “ignorance is bliss,” has so much truth in it. I wanted, on some level, to go back to my old ways of thinking. It was so much easier to just believe that God was in control, that God had a plan for my life.  If only I could take away the questions I wrestled with, the doubts that drowned me in darkness.

But I couldn’t go back.

I had been changed – by untimely deaths of friends and loved ones, by injustice that existed and still exists, by pain, by the cruelty in the world. I’d been forced to think – by hard academics/religious classes at Graceland (my alma mater), by friends going through similar faith crisis, by the questions that wouldn’t go away and shattered my pretty-ordered-God-in-a-box-world.

Even today, I’m not sure where exactly things changed. There was never a moment of clarity or insight, just a slow steady crawl to new understanding. There are truths I feel and recognize in my deepest soul; there is something more, there is some connecting spirit, we are many but we are one. Slowly, I began to claim God again. Not the same God as before, but I choose to still use the word “God” because I have no other word for “it.”

I believe in hope.  I believe in love.  I believe in the power we have to love and affect those around us.  I believe our thoughts and intentions are far more powerful than we have any idea about.  I believe the universe is a connected web of intentions, and relationships, and feelings rather like the neurons in our brains.  I believe that connective force that can transcend time and distance is what we have poorly understood as God, so we thought God should be more like us – human, white, male, and petty, choosing to bless some and not others.

The word blessing now means something very different to me as well.  Blessing is an active tapping into that loving, wise energy.  Blessing is about rooting oneself into that force and allowing one’s heart to expand.  It can be felt by individuals or groups, in times of sorrow, in times of joy.  Being blessed isn’t a passive state where God plays games with your life.  Blessing is listening to the callings and promptings, listening to the wisdom that exists in the lives all around us.  Blessings invoke ancient power within our own lives and souls, connecting us to each other and the Earth.

I now believe that blessings are far more about love.

This past Sunday was the last time Andrew and I would be with our local congregation for a few years.  On that day, we gathered with our friends and family to receive a blessing for our Peace Corps service.  It was an opportunity and invitation to accept love and support from our community.  It was an invitation to go deeper and to prepare emotionally to embrace the challenges and blessings our Peace Corps service has to offer.  It was incredible to feel such hope and such love.  Not many young adults participate in organized religion in the Portland area, but we feel the intergenerational relationships we have made the past 4 years, sharing with that community, have changed our lives for the better. We have their stories, their lessons, their support.

Regardless if you are Christian or not, or participate in any religion at all, it is my sincere hope that at some point in your life you feel the level of support Andrew and I felt last Sunday for transitioning to this new stage of life.  While it is difficult to say goodbye to people who have become our friends and extended family, we will carry their blessings forward.  Thank you, Tuality Community of Christ for being companions on our journey.

May we be open to the blessings today that our loved ones helped us find and feel.  May we listen with open hearts to the callings and promptings around us.  May we feel the love and support from this past Sunday so strongly that it can help sustain us and support us through our Peace Corps service.  May we be blessed.

An Invasion of the Spirit

10347080_10152609914469626_2762262453570255050_nby Wayne Allen

Recently the town where I work, Portsmouth, Ohio was invaded. The word invasion can take on different meanings, in this case the town was invaded by the Spirit of God, through an event called City Invasion.

The event was held at Spartan Municipal Stadium. For months prior to the event, volunteers and organizers canvassed the area with promotional material. The event was held with a great deal of anticipation about the amount of people that may attend. Before the event, one city official said organizers were anticipating as many as 20,000 people to be in attendance! Invasion filled Spartan Municipal Stadium with various performers booths and activities for participants to take part in. I have to admit I showed up to the event a couple hours into it, by the time I got there the group, We As Human, were taking the stage. Although they are not the type of band I listen to all of the time, I was impressed with the amount of people that were there for the show. After a while there was some BMX riders and pro-skateboarders that gave demonstrations.

Right after the artist Thi’sl’s performance, event organizer Amy Lambert took the stage to address the thousands of people in attendance. Lambert told the crowd about her life experience when it came to drugs and being an addict. She said it was because of a message she received from God in 2009 that she changed her life around and began working on what would become City Invasion.

After her testimony, Lambert extended an invitation for those that might have been moved by her testimony to be prayed for by a team of ministers that were standing by. Out of the thousands of people in attendance I would guess several hundred went to the tent to be prayed for. At this point I was sitting at the top of the home bleachers in the stadium to get a perspective on the amount of people in attendance. After those that wanted to be prayed for arrived at the tent, the remainder of the crowd was invited to join them in support. Several more people went to the tent in support. The invitation was also afforded to those in attendance to get baptized that night by local ministers. Several accepted the invitation and were baptized.

Seeing this take place from a ‘birds eye view’ it brought a tear to my eye. To me, it was evident the Spirit of God had a hand in this event . It also reminded me that we live in a community that can sometimes be divided on a lot of issues and topics, but during that time and experience we were not a divided community, but a community celebrating and rejoicing with those making the choice to follow a God that brought us all together in the first place. Was this area ready for City Invasion? I would venture to say we were more than ready. And for those that chose to be prayed for or baptized that night, their life was invaded and hopefully changed as a result.

IMG_1687