Be Still | Ps.46:10

Last weeks blog entry, Spiritual Formation and Extroverts by Mike McNichols, got me thinking.

Mike wrote:

“One thing that I’ve noticed is that much of what is being practiced (solitude, silence, Scripture meditation, journaling, prayer practices, etc.)—all good things, mind you—seem to be best suited for people who are introverts.”

Alright, I’m an introvert – so why am I having issues with these spiritual formation practices? Aren’t I suppose to revel in the silence and solitude?

In my case, it’s not so much about introvert or extrovert.  For me, it’s more about production. I have a need for immediate feedback and/or results.  I need to feel that what I am doing is having an affect. I don’t do well with idle time. Getting from point A to point B in the quickest, most efficient manner, brings about great satisfaction. I really don’t have the time – in my mind – to sit quietly and wait for the Lord to speak.

How then, have I attempted to resolve this dilemma?

First, I reminded myself of Pastor Todd’s words of encouragement – that spiritual formation is a process.  Then, I find a comfortable place to sit . . .  quietly . . . for 5 minutes.  I try not to think about anything, instead, I try to listen. The most difficult part of this, for me, is tuning out the world.  Even in the most quiet place there is some sound that competes for my attention. Over time I notice that the duration of times spent in quiet increase naturally. Now it’s no longer a chore but a welcomed time.  If I attempted 30 minutes right from the start I would have been frustrated or preoccupied with work, chores or even the birds chirping outside my window.

Whether introvert or extravert, challenge yourself to take small steps in your disciplines, I think you will find that these tiny morsels will increase your hunger.

One final thought that helps me.  Most of us will remember Ps. 46:10 as:

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

Now read it in The Message:

Step out of the traffic! Take a long,
    loving look at me, your High God,
    above politics, above everything.

Step out of life’s traffic, out of those things that cause noise whether to your ears, mind or soul – and then look at God, i.e. LISTEN.

What little steps can you make to challenge yourself in order to be with God (hear from God, stop and experience the peace of God, pray to God, etc)?

– Joe Randeen

The Mystery of God’s Plan (A reflection on the Resurrection)

Since this Easter season began, I’ve been struck in a new way with a particular mystery of the Resurrection: the beauty of a new kind of life that God brings about through death. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about the very genuine kind of death involved in surrendering our own will—our own personal “chooser”—to God. Though there is a sort of death involved in such surrender, there is also—and just as genuinely—a new kind of life birthed in the process. How amazingly beautiful and paradoxical!

There is a mysterious kind of goodness unlocked when we—without seeing the details we’d (really!) like to see—intentionally take God’s path, rather than our own. While we tend to settle for safe, we find such surrender to be good. We even find it to be best—unanticipated and unmatched by what we could’ve thought up on our own. And after some practice, we come to discovering that learning to walk in the goodness of God’s heartbeat for our lives and is actually the best thing we could ever decide to do.

This week, ask yourself this: is there something in my life that I am not allowing God to direct in a way that is not my first choice? If so, talk to God about it and I challenge you to take the step of faith in trusting that his path just may be better than what you could’ve thought up on your own.

– Erika Saladino

Good Friday

Good Friday

Am I a stone, and not a sheep,
That I can stand, O Christ, beneath Thy cross,
To number drop by drop Thy blood’s slow loss,
And yet not weep?

Not so those women loved
Who with exceeding grief lamented Thee;
Not so fallen Peter weeping bitterly;
Not so the thief was moved;

Not so the Sun and Moon
Which hid their faces in a starless sky,
A horror of great darkness at broad noon–
I, only I.

Yet give not o’er,
But seek Thy sheep, true Shepherd of the flock;
Greater than Moses, turn and look once more
And smite a rock.

 – Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894)

In her poem “Good Friday” Christina Rosetti imagines herself witnessing the crucifixion. Troubled by her hard-heartedness she asks God, and no doubt herself, ‘Am I a stone and not a sheep? Am I less than human, less even than the inanimate sun and moon?’ In my own contemplation of the cross I have often asked myself (and sometimes God) a similar question: Why don’t I feel worse about this than I do? What is wrong with me? Have I become desensitized by sixty-some years of hearing the gruesome details of Good Friday? Has my heart has been hardened by the violence, cruelty and suffering that seem to permeate the very atmosphere we breathe? Perhaps my own sin history does not seem quite as hefty as that of those I consider truly evil, making it easier for me to imagine myself a passive bystander at Calvary rather than an executioner. And finally, maybe I am a fraud. Maybe I do not really love Jesus to the degree I claim. After all, if I were recalling the torture of a loved one, a stranger, or even a pet, I would likely find myself “weeping bitterly” and overtaken by “exceeding grief.”  It seems Rosetti was mistaken when she claimed, “I, only I.”

To some degree these may be valid considerations for my seeming callousness. However, I would like us to consider one more: Though in and of itself time does nothing to diminish the horrors of the crucifixion, the subsequent centuries have distanced us to the degree that there is not a “Jesus Film” out there that can effectively span the years. Imaginative prayer may ‘transport us’ to the scene and awaken dormant feelings, but it is soon back to business as usual.  Though it was essential to the fulfillment of the scriptures and our redemption, perhaps Christ’s suffering alone does not hold the undiminished potency capable of rending our hearts.  Rather, when we consider that Jesus willingly “laid down his life for his friends” (John 15:13), that he “steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51), that it was “for the joy” that was set before him that he endured the shame and torture of the cross (Heb. 12:2), is it not the timeless experience of his love and grace that spans the centuries and is presently powerful enough to cause our pain and compassion to rise to the surface?  This is Love that stamps no expiration date on our hearts. This is Love the time-traveler, who was, and is, and is to come.  This is patient, invitational Love who has longed since the days of Eden to adopt all his estranged children.  This is Love whose momentum was behind the hammer that drove the nails at Calvary and is still behind the suffering that drives broken hearts to the cross. This is Augustine’s timeless “Beauty so ancient and so new.”

The prayer of Christina Rosetti’s “Good Friday” is met by Love’s invitation in this stanza from her poem “Despised and Rejected.”

But all night long that voice spake urgently:
‘Open to Me.’
Still harping in mine ears:
‘Rise, let Me in.’
Pleading with tears:
‘Open to Me that I may come to thee.’
While the dew dropped, while the dark hours were cold:
‘My Feet bleed, see My Face,
See My Hands bleed that bring thee grace,
My Heart doth bleed for thee,
Open to Me.’

 

– Pat Conneen

Holy Week: Seasonal Reflections 2014

— Click here for Times and Locations for Holy Week —

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Descending with Jesus into the remembrance of his passion past, I look ahead to the shadow hope of resurrection cresting near, beneath any crosses I bear.

Explanations and justifications all pale to the color of pain I see among humankind. Strangely, I am comforted seeing that Christ’s resurrection light also contains all the hues of the human condition, including the color of our tears, violence, and suffering.

–       Peter Traben Haas

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Palm Sunday, April 13

Readings: Matthew 21:1-11; Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 27:1-54

Begin with the above centering prayer, by Peter Traben Haas, as you reflectively read today’s Scriptures.

As pilgrims swelled the population of Jerusalem, anticipating the annual Festival of Unleavened Bread that began with Passover, Jesus rode into the city of his ancestor King David. But instead of a general’s war horse, he rode in on a donkey—the symbol of humility and peace (Zechariah 9:9). The pilgrims who were singing Psalms (such as 118:25-26) began laying down their cloaks in his path (symbolizing submission to a king) and waving the palm branches of peace as they cried “Hosanna”—“Help! Save!” Some in this same crowd will shout “Crucify him!” by the end of the week. And so, we begin our Palm Sunday celebration praising this King of Peace, while being aware that in some ways we too are like the fickle crowd.

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Maundy Thursday, April 17

Reading:  John 13:1-17, 31-35

Begin with the above centering prayer, by Peter Traben Haas, as you reflectively read today’s Scriptures.

The word maundy comes from the Latin mandautum or “commandment,” referring to the new commandment Jesus gave his disciples in the upper room—to love one another as he had loved them (John 13:34). When he knew that he had all authority he washed their feet (John 13:3-5). Then Jesus celebrated the Jewish Passover in a way that made the bread and wine our Christian Passover, the sign of the new covenant established through his death and resurrection. As we recall the “night when he was betrayed” (1 Cor. 11:23) the liturgy asks us to see our own sin as the betrayal of Christ—to come to the table no better than Judas with whom Jesus shared bread. When we eat the bread and take the cup we are saying: Jesus’ death was for me. I accept the fact that I am now reconciled through the sacrifice of Jesus. On this night we come face to face with the fact that our peace with God does not come through our moral goodness, but only through Jesus’ death. At the end of the service the altar is stripped, symbolizing the stripping of Jesus’ garments for his crucifixion. All signs of life and color are taken away.

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Good Friday, April 18

Readings:  Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12; Psalm 22:1-11; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9; John 19:1-37

Begin with the above centering prayer, by Peter Traben Haas, as you reflectively read today’s Scriptures.

On this day we are witnesses of the crucifixion of Jesus. It is “Good Friday” because on this day the powers of evil were dethroned by the one whose life could not be taken, but who gave his life that we might have life. It is a day of mixed emotions: sorrow because we identify with his suffering; joy because we know that his death is our salvation. As we contemplate the Way of the Cross—Jesus being condemned to death, nailed to the cross, and placed in the grave, we experience our sins being placed upon him, nailed to his cross, and buried with him in the grave.

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Holy Saturday, April 19

Readings:  John 19:38-42; Galatians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 6:11-13; Matthew  16:18

Begin with the above centering prayer, by Peter Traben Haas, as you reflectively read today’s Scriptures.

Most have an awareness of Good Friday and everyone knows about Easter. But what happened between those two days? How does the church celebrate that? What is holy about Holy Saturday? Holy Saturday is the day that spiritually unifies and stitches together the cross and resurrection. Christians have always set aside this day for prayer and meditation. The public service of the church is very simple and stripped-down to a few readings and prayers. We contemplate both the Passion of Christ and the reaction of his first friends. How might they have felt to see their dreams crushed by his brutal death on the cross? As you imaginatively enter into this scene of dark despair, bring to God any remaining darkness you discovered in Lent. As you do, receive the awareness that, like Jesus in the dark tomb, you too are held in the Father’s love—our Father who is already always there.

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Easter Sunday, April 20

Readings:  Acts 10:34-43; Matthew 28:1-10

Christ is risen! Christ is risen, indeed!

Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song. ― Pope John Paul II

Easter changes everything! Why? Christians are in Christ. What is true of him will be true of us. On Easter we affirm not merely, Christ is risen, but I shall rise. This is the confidence that fuels martyrs. It is the poise that allows an exhausted mom to get the last child in bed with kindness and love. Easter provides the certainty that allows those who find life challenging to keep walking in faith while they wait for a spouse to marry, a new job, to finish that last class before graduation, or to anticipate a friendship to be reconciled. Easter-faith is both backbone and joy for the journey—it changes everything!