Silent Before the Mystery

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silence-stillness

Lenten Practice: Silence
Daily Act: Practice Silence.
Weekly Prayer Phrase: Repeat this phrase slowly as you breathe deeply. You may choose to memorize this phrase and repeat it throughout your day.

“HOLY MYSTERY, I AM SPEECHLESS IN YOUR PRESENCE.”

From the Community of Christ Guide for Lent: 

Practicing silence reminds us that relationship with God is a mutual, reciprocal act. In silence, we take the time to listen intently and be present with God without words. Often, our most profound spiritual experiences cannot be fully described. We know that in times of distress (Romans 8) the Spirit prays for us hearing the groans of our hearts that are too deep for words.

Intentional time in silence allows us to be fully present with God without the confines of language. As we enter Holy Week, the full implication of life as a disciple brings with it a weighted hush. There are moments when words are inadequate and our most faithful response is to stand humbly before the mystery.

Practicing silence may be difficult at first. The mind may run wild, and centering in God’s presence could take some spiritual effort! Allow yourself grace in this practice and the ability to slowly ease into longer periods of silent reflection.

Perhaps you begin in silence for 5–10 minutes and then write in a journal or pray about your experience. Breathe deeply. Focusing on each breath in and out can help quiet the mind and center you in God’s Spirit.

Become aware of your surroundings; notice how the air feels on your skin; trust that you are in the presence of the holy—fully surrounding and embracing you. Don’t expect that God will speak to you in a certain way. Just open yourself to what is.

Allow your inner conversations to stop for a while, being fully present with the one who is fully present with you.

After being silent for a while, offer a prayer of gratitude for God’s constant presence whether you are fully aware of it or not. Pray that you may continue to draw closer to God and discover what God is saying and doing within you.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 

Romans 8:26, NRSV

A Still Center

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Still_Water_At_Dusk

This Week’s Lenten Practice: Centering Prayer
Daily Act: Practice Centering Prayer
Weekly Prayer Phrase:

I DWELL IN YOU AS THE SOURCE OF ALL LIFE. 

By Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

The blessing is this:
That you may rest into God’s presence
That a still center will open within you
As a reservoir in movement times
As the source of movement when it calls

That the center will be
Deep
Vast
Unceasing
Sturdy
Accessible
Reliable

That when you feel clumsy
Or awkward
Or unsteady
Or uncertain

It will hold fast within you
As courage
As strength

That it will be the word you speak
That you didn’t know you had to share

That it will be a surprise reserve
The “more” sometimes required
When everything else feels emptied

That it will be the constant flow beneath your surface
A well that never runs dry

That it will beckon you inward
To discover how you are called to live

That it will be the place
Where you find
The One
Who is the source
Of your life

Centering Prayer
(From the Community of Christ Guide for Lent)

Centering prayer simply uses breath and a prayer word to stay focused on God’s presence. The intent of this prayer is to spend time with God, seeking no answers but merely connection to the Divine. It is called centering prayer because one’s attention is gathered in and centered on being open to and receiving God. During Lent, centering prayer helps us dwell more deeply in the mystery of God.

Sit in relaxed, comfortable, but erect posture with feet on the floor, eyes closed, hands open in your lap. Gently enter a time of prayer with the expectation and permission to be guided by the Holy Spirit in this practice of opening and receiving.

Use your breath to create a sense of peace and letting go into God. Breathe deeply, slowly, calmly, allowing the deep breaths to release you of tension throughout your body.

Focus on breathing God in, breathing all else out until you feel calm and centered. Be aware that God is present and that you are in this space intending to love and be loved by God.

Listen for a word or phrase that comes to you, expressing the desire of your heart. Repeat it silently to yourself in rhythm with your breathing.

As you become distracted—and you will—bring yourself back to that centered place by using your breath and your prayer word. Let go of the thoughts that pull you away. Merely note them and let them go.

Continue in this pattern of focus and breathe for about 20 minutes, though you may want to begin with 5–10 minutes and increase your time with practice. Set a timer so you will not have to check the time.

When the time of prayer has elapsed, offer a prayer of thanks to God, take several more breaths, and gently return your awareness to your surroundings. Trust the time spent with God will continue to bless you deep within as you move through your day.

This week’s Lenten Practice: Holy Attention

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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)

Sacred Restraint

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The Significance of Christ in Religious Relativism

wa-o-g-2I have been doing some thinking the past few weeks, trying to wrap my head around something very important in the realm of Christianity:

Why is Christ important?

I’ve been wrestling with this question in the midst of trying to be fair and open minded to the existence and claims of other world religions. This is not meant to be a statement against those world religions as much as it is for Christianity, or, perhaps more accurately, for Christ. I suppose the basic question that really started my “Christ kick” is: “why is it that Christ should hold significance among all the world religions?”

This blog post is an attempt to not only address the significance of Christ among the world’s religions, but also an attempt to put forth that Christ has the most significance among the world religions.

To begin, I’d like to offer a few words about Religious Relativism.

The world is smaller now than ever before. Our abilities to communicate and travel long distances in such a short amount of time have considerably reduced the size of our world. As such, we encounter new ways of thinking, new cultures, thought-provoking religions, and unique people. The importance of religious tolerance and especially religious dialogue has never been so great. People experience the world in many different ways and those ways are, almost without exception, completely valid ways to do so. Much of the same can be said about the Divine. Here in lies the dilemma. With so many different ways to frame our experiences with the world and with the Divine–most of which have great validity–are there some that are better than others? Is there a best way to encounter the world and the divine?

A former professor of mine described what he called “Selective Relativism.” How he described it in class is basically that there are lots of different foods that we have to choose from, but it is undeniable that some foods are better than others. If I want to maintain good health, I should probably choose to add more fruits and veggies to my diet as opposed to ice cream and double-stack cheese burgers. I feel that, essentially, the same can be applied to religions. Yes, most world religions are capable of providing truth and facilitating encounters with the Divine. But there is one figure in religion that provides not simply truths or encounters but the true character and nature of humanity, while simultaneously putting humanity in direct relationship with God. Christianity claims that this person is Jesus Christ.

The significance of this is astounding. In the person of Jesus Christ we see the character of God and the purpose of humanity. We see that God’s concern for the world is compassion, love, and justice for the poor and oppressed because that is the life that Christ lives. We see that our concern should be compassion, love, and justice for the poor and the oppressed because that is the life that Christ lives. Christ’s mission is our mission. There is a line from a David Crowder Band song that says, “Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss.”  I think this is a simple understanding of what God has done in Christ.  The Divine has chosen to encounter creation in Christ; and Christ is fully God and truly human.  Think about that for a second. Christ is simultaneously God with and for us while being us living with and for God. The implication of such an idea is unsurpassable. When you think you may have grasped its depth, you find it just goes deeper.

I used to take issue with “The Great Commission” found in Matthew. The notion of making everybody convert to Christianity just rubbed me the wrong way. I’m really trying to understand it now as not converting everyone to Christianity, but to demonstrate and show the way God has always intended for this whole humanity thing to work. To take care of one another, to empty ourselves for one another and make our greatest concern the well-being of our fellow humans precisely because that is what God has done in Jesus Christ.

As I stated at the beginning of this post, I am not trying to make other religions irrelevant.  The only thing I can do as a Christian is approach my understanding of the Divine and the world through my Christian lens.  I am not Buddhist. I am not Jewish. I am a practicing Christian.  I can only do my very best to follow God through my experience and hope that I continue to go deeper with the Divine as I understand It through the living Christ.

 

Cory Upson