Tag Archives: Spirituality

Lent in the Fields of Eden (Ash Wednesday)

Lent in the Fields of Eden
Ash Wednesday, 2013

Lent has been a sacred season for me since high school, but I think the tradition roots back into forgotten elementary-year experiences at Trinity Lutheran Church in Eden, Idaho.

High School was when I started to take interest in the changing of the seasons – and there’s no change more desired than the warmth of spring outgrowing the frosts of winter. Lent is rooted right in the heart of this annual experience and I remember connecting the silence and prayer of Lent with the warmth of Spring.

I would celebrate this connection by spending warm (briskly so) evenings watching the passing sunlight give way to the Evening Star. I enjoyed the silence and the space for reflection, especially from the asphalt shingled floor of my mother’s rooftop. From up there, I would look west through the leafless, empty trees and watch the bare field dirt gobble up the sun’s warmth. The orange beauty (which is beyond the capacity to paint) I would savor for minutes, maybe an hour, as the constellations took their positions.

Each Wednesday in this springtime routine, I would drive with my mother and younger brothers south of our small town (Eden, Idaho; 400 people) down the familiar, hilly three miles to Trinity Lutheran Church; there we would sit down for a soup supper and then head to prayer.

The subdued feel of fewer people in church (the same people who naturally became my “favorites”) mixed with the subdued light in the western windows to create the perfect ambiance for prayer and meditation. The faith of others in the sanctuary was palpable on these nights – the people’s postures and strong singing of memorized Lenten hymns drew me into imitation.

…I had often wished we could stay there in the sanctuary after the singing had stopped just to be there to think, to pray. But: I followed the group and we all eventually went home.

Stargazing and worship would build up to the most cherished part of Lent. It wasn’t Good Friday, or Lent’s demise – Easter – but the dark vigil we would keep from the end of Good Friday services till sunrise on Easter. This was my favorite. I would sign up for my hour and secretly hope no one else would sign up behind me, making me feel like I got a two for one.

Pale white light shown behind the cross against the wall in the middle of the most beautiful and simple stained glass window. An “eternal light” flickered it’s red electric candle bulb above the lectern. This was it. The pale light and me. No: the presence of God and me.

All the sunset vigils and prayer-wrestling culminated in this sanctuary solitude. This is where God would have the last word and I would sit there pouring over a Gospel or Epistle, soaking it in.

Behold the Spirit by Alan Watts [Book Reaction]

Behold the Spirit: The Necessity of Mystical Religion
by Alan Watts

Book Reaction

Initial Question(s):
Can I discover what has my father found so influential about this book that he keeps coming back to it? What might I relate to as I read?

Behold the Spirit was an invigorating, thought provoking read about taking the incarnation of Jesus seriously. Taking the incarnation seriously means, as I paraphrase Watts, to see that union with God has already been established in creation – God has taken this first and permanent step in love. Humanity’s goal or life purpose then is to become awakened to this already-present grace of God’s presence and love. Continue reading

A Christmas Anticipation

It’s December 21.

I remember as an elementary kid – December 20 through 23 were the dog days of Christmas. Time inched by as I anticipated the day I actually wanted to have inch by: Christmas Eve. I wanted all of Christmastime to be like a perpetual Christmas Eve; all the glow, all the excitement, and all of the wait finally coming to fruition by one night’s sleep.

I remember the emotion of waiting and anticipating – an emotion I wanted to hold on to and, once past, nostalgically missed on December 26.

Now, I can’t truthfully say that any similar kind of longing emotion is within me when I think of the Coming of King Jesus. I wish there was something more there, but…

…then I imagine. What if I shifted my mindset, my longing.

There is a beauty of the Christmas season in the church year and that is that the Christmas season begins on Christmas instead of ends. This is a symbol that allows us to retain the anticipation of the Coming King but helps us realize that the King is here with us, right here, right now.

…and I imagine again…

…what if all the emotion and anticipation poured into Christmas Eve was also channeled into each and every moment of life? We couldn’t retain the emotion and excitement of every day – all days would blend into one likeness and none would be special or anticipated. But, I pause to wonder how I might anticipate the person of Christ with me (and with you) in the most ordinary of days, days like December 26.

 

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Solitude, Community, & Mission | The Christian Life

The Christian walk has an important, necessary rhythm: Solitude, Community, Mission. (Influenced by Henri Nouwen)

Solitude, from Nouwen, is not loneliness but rather a solidarity of identity – it is the capacity to be at peace with God and ourselves as ones who are beloved children of God in Jesus. Solitude is not isolation either, but rather the desire to be present to God and to dwell in God’s presence that is already with us. Solitude often takes the rhythm of being alone somewhere to pay attention, but is also possible in a crowded place with many people.

Solitude, that is, knowing and dwelling securely in our identity as a forgiven, redeemed child of God in Jesus, pours us into the community of believers – the group of people with the same title as us: Beloved of the Father. The community builds and encourages one another and provides an environment of permission for love – loving God and one another and neighbor.

Strong community will always pour out into self-less love and mission. That is the imitation of Christ in outward fashion. Such an outpouring is dependent on the nurture it receives (and actual pours out) that comes from solitude and community.

This, I think, is a comforting message and a guiding thought. Contemplating this idea from Nouwen grants peace and causes anxiety in the spiritual life to fade.

Here is a quote from Making All Things New that I want to share (p.68). I believe this sums up the inner working of the text and sets our imaginations participating with God, looking to discover and create particular disciplines of attentiveness and action:

“A spiritual discipline, therefore, is the concentrated effort to create some inner and outer space in our lives, where this obedience can be practiced. Through a spiritual discipline we prevent the world from filling our lives to such an extent that there is no place left to listen. A spiritual discipline sets us free to pray or, to say it better, allows the Spirit of God to pray in us.”

 

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