Sacred Restraint

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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!

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.”

katie-harmon

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?