Living Words

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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.

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

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A Radical Love

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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!

BE EXPECTANT IN UNEXPECTED PLACES: Advent Reflections

november-16-lilac-buds-2by Emily Rose
Re-blogged from: Community of Christ Spiritual Formation Center

The following is a reflection on entering the season of Advent excerpted from a sermon, Be Expectant in Unexpected Places, by Emily Rose, based on Mark 13:24-37.
Mark 13:24-37 (MSG)24-25 “Following those hard times,
Sun will fade out,
moon cloud over,
Stars fall out of the sky,
cosmic powers tremble.
28-31 “Take a lesson from the fig tree. From the moment you notice its buds form, the merest hint of green, you know summer’s just around the corner. And so it is with you. When you see all these things, you know he is at the door. Don’t take this lightly. I’m not just saying this for some future generation, but for this one, too—these things will happen. Sky and earth will wear out; my words won’t wear out.32-37 “But the exact day and hour? No one knows that, not even heaven’s angels, not even the Son. Only the Father. So keep a sharp lookout, for you don’t know the timetable. It’s like a man who takes a trip, leaving home and putting his servants in charge, each assigned a task, and commanding the gatekeeper to stand watch. So, stay at your post, watching. You have no idea when the homeowner is returning, whether evening, midnight, cockcrow, or morning. You don’t want him showing up unannounced, with you asleep on the job. I say it to you, and I’m saying it to all: Stay at your post. Keep watch.”
 “In our moments of unraveling, of feeling like our world is falling apart and on fire, God is close and at the very gates and edges of our hearts, waiting to be noticed.”-Emily Rose
At first glance, this is a peculiar text to choose for advent. This text is nestled between Jesus’ foretelling of the destruction of the temple and the passion narrative that we typically visit at Easter. It seems counterintuitive to begin our advent season here, at such an uneasy time in the Gospel story. There is fear and uncertainty, and soon Jesus will be betrayed and crucified. In the midst of all of that, we are asked to be hopeful today. Still, I’m convinced that if we look closely and let this passage take root in us, we can begin to see the small signs of hope being born into the world again this Advent season.
When I first read today’s passage, I was struck by the imagery of a world falling apart. “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” This is chaos of cosmic proportions. The first readers of Mark would have recognized this kind of chaos, given that their whole world seemed to be falling apart under the oppression of the Roman empire.
In our own world today, it is easy to relate to this feeling of unraveling. There are daily reports of violence and despair that come into our televisions and living rooms and computer screens. Images of tear gas clouding the light of the moon and the stars in the streets of Ferguson Missouri. There are more intimate experiences of unraveling in our lives, in hospital rooms and broken hearts, betrayed trust and disappointments. This is the world in which we are called to stay alert; to watch and be ready for hope to be born into the world.
When I was a student at Graceland University, I had my first true experience of winter. In fact, having grown up in Alabama I only had one childhood snow day, and we were let out of school because the snow stuck to the ground. Our city had absolutely no infrastructure to deal with the icy roads, so they sent us home so as not to put anyone in danger. Naturally, an Iowa winter was quite a shock for me! I remember feeling like the feeling of being cold would absolutely never end, and I would just be trapped in my dorm forever. At one point, my mom even sent me a solar light in a care package, just so I could remember what the sun looks like!
It was after that first brutal winter that I experienced another first – the overwhelmingly sweet smell of lilacs in the spring. One of my fondest memories of my English Literature class with Barbara Mesle was when she stopped everything we were doing, and refused to start class until everyone had walked outside and buried their face into a bundle of lilacs. It was as if it was a mandatory ritual that marked the beginning of spring. Barbara was inviting us to pay attention to the blessings around us, particularly after such harsh winter winds and snowfall.
After that first spring I began to notice how lilacs prepare to bloom. I would walk past the barren bushes in winter, snow crunching under my boots and I’d look closely at their branches. As soon as the first buds would appear I’d check on them every day, and whisper to those seeds of promise “You’re doing great! See you in a few months!” They were my symbols of hope in a cold and lifeless landscape, and it was in the noticing and the whispering that I encountered that hope.
In today’s scripture, the symbol of hope is the fig tree. We read, “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he[a] is near, at the very gates.” The fig tree unfurls the hope of summer in it’s tender leaves. The second part of that passage is even more important – “So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near.” The “these things” of that sentence is referring to all of the cosmic chaos from the passage before. In our moments of unraveling, of feeling like our world is falling apart and on fire, God is close and at the very gates and edges of our hearts, waiting to be noticed.
You see at the heart of this moment in advent is the call to pay attention. Keep awake! This requires taking on an internal stance of expectancy. Far different from marking off the days until Christmas on our calendars, this kind of expectancy is less about waiting and more about holy anticipation. From the moment we open our eyes in the morning to the moment we slip into sleep at night, we are called to pay attention. God is in the whispering and the unexpected places.
__________
Check out the website and read more inspiring posts from the Community of Christ Spiritual Formation Centre, led by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin

Mission is … Disruptive

disruptive

Reblogged from: Missional Conversations

Philip was walking down the road (Acts 8: 26 – 39). David was tending sheep (1 Samuel 16: 5 – 13). Mary, a young teenager, was minding her own business (Luke 1: 26 – 36). Peter and Andrew were fishing (Matthew 4: 18 – 22). In the midst of our lives, we are confronted with the call and invitation of the Holy Spirit. It intrudes upon our routines. It throws off our norms and unsettles our logic. Through the witness of scripture and the ongoing story of the church, we find one example after another, story after story, lives and backgrounds and skills as different as we can imagine, being disrupted by the missio Dei, the mission of God. Engaging in Christ’s mission means opening ourselves up to the probability of change, both within us, and on our plans and actions.

The other day I had raced home to gather some things, grab a bite to eat, and pause for a moment between meetings. As I pulled into the parking lot at my apartment complex, I noticed a guy anxiously looking under the open hood of his car. Since he was on the phone, I justified to myself that he had plenty of help available. I quickly grabbed my things and headed quickly inside. After all, I had important things to do. As the minutes passed, I couldn’t get the words of the Mission Prayer out of my head, the words I had offered to God that morning: “God, where will your Spirit lead today? Help me be fully awake and ready to respond.” Was I willing to respond? Was I willing to let God disrupt my life and agenda?

We often get caught up in worthy things. It is too easy for me to become consumed in my To-Do list and to convince myself that my list matter most. But as I read about Mary, as I immerse myself in the story of Andrew and Peter, as I walk the road with Philip, I find God calling me to leave behind my places of comfort and familiarity. I was allowing an adventure with Christ to disrupt me. We don’t plan for mission: we plan to be open to what God is already doing so we might change direction. The expectation of missional ministry is to discern every day, “God, where will your Spirit lead?” I am asked to let God stir up my life so something new can bubble up. The words of Isaiah have God say, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43: 19)

Did God want to do a new thing in my life, and perhaps I didn’t perceive it? The Spirit quickened me. I left my air conditioned apartment. I went down the stairs and into the 90-degree heat and asked if he needed help. Neither Jordan nor I knew much about cars and how to fix them. For 20 minutes, we tossed out some options, read through his manual and shared about his grandmother and our mutual love for working out and how he really didn’t mind the heat because the sun was out, happily assisting his efforts to tan. For 20 minutes, God was doing a new thing. Christ’s mission was disrupting our lives and we were being blessed by the stirring.

I saw Jordan the next morning, back out at his car which we hadn’t been able to fix. But this time, it was him, my neighbor on the second floor, who waved and asked how I was doing. “Help me be fully awake and ready to respond.”

May God disrupt your best-laid plans. May God stir the pot in your congregation to let something new bubble up. May God call you anew from your hillside and road and nets to nudge your heart into the holy adventure of mission. May we stop simply minding our own business to follow Christ out of the comfortable air-conditioning of our buildings to the “Jordans” of the world. May we be confident that in the midst of God’s disruption lies a deep and profound invitation to transformational mission. The eunuch was baptized. The Israelites got a new king. A Son was born. Seekers found One worth following. A neighbor was met. Mission was lived as lives were disrupted. And we have been forever changed.