I usually post a short reflection each day through Lent; this year, however, I’ll be posting it on the Community of the Incarnation blog. So if you, or others you know, would like to have a gentle reminder each day, please pass on the URL: cotikc.wordpress.com. Thank you. You’re welcome to join and welcome to unsubscribe once Lent is over.
In his book, Blessings in Disguise, Alec Guinness told the story of standing in line on Ash Wednesday, waiting for ashes. A small boy stood in front of him with an old man in front of the boy. Behind Guinness stood a young woman. And as each received the ashes, he or she heard, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.”
While in our community we prefer to use “Turn from your darkness and move to the light,” I appreciate the thought behind “Ashes to ashes; dust to dust.”
We are all components of the earth; our very bodies are made of the same elements. Though we’re all different from each other, we share, in common, earth, air, water, fire. Lent reminds us that we have a common bond.
So in this first day of Lent, pray that you remember you are not alone in your struggles and hurts. Pray to remember we have a common bond with the Earth and with all the people, animals, plants that inhabit this earth.
When you receive your ashes, be aware of all those around you who are also being challenged to grow and change. We have that common bond: the bond that says we are one; the need for each of us to change.
This morning, reading the first reading, a passage from Hosea,
I was stopped by the “our god…” Yep. A small “g” god.
We shall no more say, “our god,” to the work of our hands.
Not an error of the Lectionary editors, the small g god had a meaning quite different from the one I normally think of. And I realized the worry I woke with this morning was that small g.
Yesterday, the day before, way too many of the days, are filled with unexpected or expected dashing. Expected or unexpected (and often unexpected) news of one sort or another. None of them are earth shattering for the most part, but taken together, it’s a lot.
And yet, as I sat with those words “our god” with the small g, picking apart the “oh, my gosh!” feelings I woke with, I realized that in actuality, things were pretty much okay. Yes, there’s a lot going on and yes, there are pieces that will need attention, but worrying about them rather than simply doing what I need to do makes them my “god” – that pesky god with a small g.
What god are you creating from the work of your hands? What are you putting foremost in your life? Is it time to give up that god?
With those questions to myself, I am called back to spiritual awareness, to the breath moving in and out of my body, to peace.
Not the courage of heroes, but the courage to just live each day with a modicum of kindness.
When I speak about kindness, I mean kindness to myself by not whining as well as kindness to others. My husband and my son, the two alpha males whom I love in this house, have both had bronchitis, one following the other, and I’ve been kind. And cooking chicken soup (literally) and making sure they take appropriate meds. They don’t like medications. And doing, at various times since they’ve both spent time in bed, the various chores that three people in a house usually do. I’m whining.
The Lenten reflections are a way to connect on a conscious level with my God-self. And of course the message is that this simple, repetitive and disciplined act of looking at the readings and writing about them teaches me the importance of the connection to that deeper place of spirit. Sometimes I struggle against the discipline and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes the courage to keep writing comes from knowing you are reading. You comment. You say the Lenten reflections are important for you. Thank you.
Courage to just keep going, whatever it is we’re doing or faced with, is worth having.
Be mindful of us, Holy One. Manifest yourself in the time of our distress and give me courage…. Esther 12
Queen Esther asked to keep going in order to save her people, and she was putting herself in a dangerous situation to do so. Rarely does our need for courage ask us to put ourselves in harm’s way.
Ask for the courage to keep going in these days of stress. It’s just stress – just keep going. To continue with what we have set in motion – because we all have things we’ve set in motion. Sometimes what we’ve set in motion is negativity. And we know we need courage to change that! And sometimes we need courage to accept and recognize what we have set in motion, through our thoughts, words, and deeds.
The courage to keep going is the same courage of daily practice is the same courage to look at our darknesses and, day after day, lift them from our minds.
I love the word courage. It always makes me think of the cowardly lion, holding his tail tightly, and saying to Dorothy, the Tin Man, and Scarecrow – “Courage!”
“Woe is me,” says Job. In fact, throughout 42 chapters, except for 12 verses at the beginning of chapter 1 and 6 verses at the end of chapter 42, Job woes loudly to anyone who will listen, including God, who finally thunders back and essentially says, who are you, anyway, to whine so much.
A passage from Job was the first reading from the Sunday Lectionary this week; in the second reading, a passage from Mark, Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law. The readings from this time of year usually have to do with healings.
I’ve always liked the idea of Job even if 42 chapters of woe gets a little tedious. We’ve all taken turns of being Job, I expect, as we whine and complain why me, why isn’t my life moving forward, why does my boss treat me so badly, etc etc. We don’t often end up with our bodies covered in boils, as Job did, but sometimes it feels that way.
We’re two and a half weeks from Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent and the questions posed in this post-Lenten period deserve reflection: how do I heal? who am I and how do I fit into my environment? what am I supposed to be doing in my life? how do I live in order to have meaning in my life? how do I live the realities of pain and suffering?
I’d had two days of mental exhaustion and suffering by Sunday morning: the email address I consider my professional address and which has been with me through all of AT&Ts many changes from dial-up to dsl to absorbing sbcglobal to u-verse wireless disappeared. The loss occupied many hours and several technicians. By late Friday night, after being told twice that a tech person had come to the end of his/her second tier competence and couldn’t retrieve the address even though they could see it, and not only that but there was no one above them to refer to, I went to bed feeling dislocated–friends and colleagues across the various countries where I’d lived had that address. I was adrift with no electronic identity and no connection to web site/blog/ social media/or the world. A very odd feeling.
Thankfully, Saturday, after more calls and more tech people, I finally found a young man who considered his job an adventure and dug through the bowels of cyber language to pull the address forward again. I was once more connected. I was not alone. I was brought back into community and healed.
And of course, I wasn’t alone, ever, but helplessness in the face of trial often feels very alone. I could physically survive losing an email address, even an address that I’d had for some fifteen years, but still, the helplessness and loss felt real.
Life is about loss. Loss is the way of the world. Why me is a valid question but in truth, questions are not essential to living. The courage and faith to live a meaningful life is what’s essential, and “faith” whatever else it is, is an adventure.
What’s essential is the way we live with one another. Meaning comes through relationships and community. Not through stuff, we all know meaning doesn’t come through stuff, and yet that’s often what we accumulate. The people Jesus heals return to participation in a community: Peter’s mother-in-law gets up and serves food; the lepers return to the temple; the broken return to the family; the demons banished. How many demons are you carrying around in your head?
Perhaps this Lenten season, instead of “giving up” something that you will only take back, you might want to consider what you need to “give up” in order to heal. Anger? Judgment? Financial fears? Self-pity? Resentment?
I tell you solemnly, one of you will betray me. John 13
Each year, the journey of Holy Week begins anew, no matter how many times we’ve traveled it in the past. And each year, we have examples of human life in a condensed time frame.
On Sunday, we had wild celebrations, Monday’s gospel gave an example of human jealousy over the acclamations Jesus received, and today we have betrayal.
I’ve read or heard many theories of who Judas was, why he did what he did. There’s no sure answer to that except to note that the story of Judas appears in the synoptic gospels as well as the Gospel of John. And so, from that, we must surmise that the experience with Judas happened regardless of why.
But betrayal comes in many ways to Jesus just as it comes to us. Peter betrays – Peter the Rock who is strong and confident. Martha and Mary, the sisters who love Jesus, each betray when they doesn’t trust Jesus’ actions. The people Jesus heals betray when they don’t thank him or when they return to their previous lives and ways.
Betrayal. It comes to each of us in all ways and in many situations. When we use anger that hurts someone else, we betray the Christ Consciousness. When we get frustrated and fearful at work or the lack of work, we betray our Christ Consciousness. When we refuse to help someone, we betray our Christ Consciousness. In little ways and big, we betray the injunction to love one another, to be at peace. We betray the Christ Consciousness when we worry or retreat from conscious behavior. We betray our Christ Consciousness when we judge another’s actions.
Observe your journey this week. How do you, how do I, how do all of us betray in large ways and small? How do we reconcile ourselves to our self? How do we learn to trust the journey? Psalm 71 for today reads, “In you I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; incline your ear to me and save me.” Are we “saved” from our fears when we live consciously in the Christ Consciousness?
This week, become conscious of all your actions and reactions, your emotions and your experiences.
Lent and Holy Week give us a concentrated period of time to examine our lives, to release that which causes our darkness, to prepare once more for a rebirth into a new way of thinking, breathing, and living.