20Mar
FLOURISHING IN LENT

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Slowly grace gathers around my soul and I begin to warm as God thaws the seasons of winters that have accumulated, one on another, in my heart. Drops of mercy melt away grief and anger; it always surprises me to find it still lurking in the coldest places within.

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No visible sign of Spring's arrival was apparent here, and so it is in our souls. We are changing under our own feet, shifting, melting, molding to the One who made us. We declare in Lent we will be aware, diligent, fasting, praying, giving, and yet the greatest movement is inward, the immeasurable leaning of our heart to the heart of God.

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 Deep within He woos me, calling me to come, by myself to a quiet place and get some rest. Mark 6:31 Here I can respond, here I can let Him touch the tips of my fragile heart and mend what may be broken, and from here, listen to His voice.

The call may be to arrange our affections and orient our hearts towards flourishing and blessing. 

Medicine from Sacred Writing:

 

"For the gain of winter is more especially manifested after the season has gone by. Then the flourishing corn, and the trees teeming with leaves and fruit, proclaim, by their appearance, the benefit that has accrued to them from winter. Let the same thing take place with us." 

 John Chrysostom   Fourth Century

 
19Mar
WIRING OF LENT

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A crew of construction guys are deconstructing our bathroom. The day before yesterday the electrician was here rewiring the house; it seems the bath shared circuits with other rooms and needed more power. Snaking the wires through the house in an intricate process, two men were yelling back and forth, "Got it?" "No?" "Okay, just a minute!"

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Lent exposes what's inside, like yesterday's realization that I want  to flounder up the stairs rather than ask for help and mercy. I need a little rewiring. God cuts through my resistance and self-reliance to show me that I am not always listening to Him, that my prayers are complaints rather than communication, that my fasting is still tied to outward behavior instead of ridding my soul of judgement.

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So the beautiful opportunity I have is to open myself to God, let Him have my wiring and wait for what He will build in me. This is the new switch, able to power the lights; it isn't pretty, but it is in process. As I am stripped in Lent of old habits and patterns may His light shine the brighter in me.

Any construction going on in your soul?

Medicine from Sacred Scriptures:

 

"Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:16

 
18Mar
STAIRS OF LENT

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My steps, my stairs, these have troubled me in the last few hours. I realize the very fact that I want to climb, to ascend, to make my way is the very reason Lent may be such a struggle for me. "Lent is not a struggle where we suffer and afflict ourselves, it is finding our true identity."

Here is the rub, I want to work and strive; familiar climbing and falling are more comfortable than the truth that at any time I can ask for mercy. Mercy restores, mercy lifts me up from bottom step of my longing and efforts and carries me in His arms. It would seem that rising would simply mean trusting God's mercy to carry me, but it takes humility to cease striving.

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The view He offers is stunning, the identity He holds is priceless: beloved child of God. He asks me to accept that I am His dear child and act accordingly. Choosing to remain a child when fully grown is challenging at best; I purposefully remain in Him and His love, trusting His care. I am loved and out of this love, action, even pious religious action, flows; identity does not flow backward. I humble myself before Him, sitting on the lowest step of the long stair crying and call out His Name.

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I become a little bird in His hands, He holds me gently and begins to tell me who I truly am. This is Lent, drawing close to God as things are stripped away and being carried by Him to His heart. His creation, the waves crashing, the snow pounding, the rain lashing, all these know their place in this world and I am only now discovering mine.

We are called children of God, that is what we really are.

 

Medicine from Sacred Scripture:

 

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known." 1 John 3:1- 2

 
17Mar
ELEVATORS OF LENT

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Yesterday I visited a friend staying in the hospital on the seventh floor. I'm terrible with directions and passed four elevators on my way, worrying if I should take a particular one; each would have taken me to her. I had come to take her home. In Lent the Church gives us three elevators that will assist us in rising, that will lift us from the world and self and set our souls closer to heaven, nearer to God, bringing us Home.

Fasting releases us from the stranglehold of have, consume, fill, and satiate. We find ourselves empty and thus we create a space for holiness, reflection and God. Almsgiving opens up new places of mercy and charity as we begin to imitate the kindness of God towards others. Prayer is beginning a conversation with God where we learn to listen for His voice of love.

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Slowly I realize I am on no, "fast track to heaven," as a matter of fact I find I am only on the bottom stair and falling more than I rise. I long to keep my Lenten commitments (I will write every day, I will be loving), but I miss a day of writing or lose my patience and become discouraged. The very stairs I am to climb are blurred by my tears.

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At any time I can cry, "Abba, Father," and God will come and pick me up from my failures and comfort me. He is watching me try to find my way, searching for the elevator, stumbling in the dark and He whispers, "My Child, you have Me; rest and remain in My love."

So I stumble on through Lent, hoping you are finding the elevators.

Medicine from Sacred Scriptures:

 

"I lift my eyes up to the hills- where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip- He who watches over you will not slumber or sleep."  Psalm 121:1-3

 
14Mar
PURE PLEASURE OF LENT

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I wonder if we could take delight and pot it, strategically placing all that gives us pleasure into a garden container. I think this is the way of the gardener, when they aren't in the garden making a new bed of flowers they are pouring over catalogs, planning the additions to their flower beds, anxiously waiting for spring.

We have this opportunity to find our true selves, to uncover from the riches and rubble of the past year and begin arranging our hearts and minds to live abundantly. The world sells a kind of riches that brings us poverty of spirit: more and more technology, entertainment, food and drink that leaves our spirits emaciated. We struggle to breathe the life of God, for commerce of the culture can literally choke the true life out of us.

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Pruning our loves and lives in the course of Lent does much to restore authentic beauty to our souls. Less grasping, less rush, less accumulation and we find what has been lost: peace, love and joy.

How are the fruits of the spirit growing in you this season?


Medicine from Sacred Writings:


"For there is nothing whatever that will be able to afflict one who is well ordered in mind, and careful about his own soul.; but he will enjoy a pure and continued pleasure."

John Chrysostom   Fourth Century

 
13Mar
BLOOMING IN LENT

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I'm basking in sunshine, flowers and fountains. It is't fair, I know, at home we have mountains of snow, freezing rain and icy roads. Wintry mix, our nightmare in New England, where snow and rain take turns wrecking havoc on trees and roads.

I think my Lent might be about exposing my wintry mix, what it is that causes me to crash and burn in my spiritual life. The way ahead seems fine and then all of a sudden anger or lack of charity send me spinning out of control.

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Snow drops come through the storm, they brave their way finding warmth and sun to sustain them, as will we. In the fasting and praying of Lent what hinders our soul from blooming is slowly overcome: the false self, the neediness, the selfishness, the greed and gluttony, the anger and resentment and pride.

Are you making room for anything new to grow in you?

Medicine from Sacred Writings:


"When the fast makes its appearance, like a kind of spiritual summer, let us as soldiers burnish our weapons; as husbandmen let us sharpen our sickle; and as sailors let us order our thoughts against the waves of extravagant desires; and as travelers let us set out on the journey towards heaven."

John Chrysostom          Fourth Century

 
11Mar
LENT'S MELTING

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Dust on crust is the phrase skiers use for fresh powder on layers of old ice. And so another picture arises of my soul as I see the trees dusted with the day's snow; as I give up attitudes that are unkind and God orders my heart, I see all that is underneath that keeps me from loving.

You certainly don't need my litany, but you can create your own, carefully looking at 1 Corinthians 13 and how you relate to others. Are you patient, kind, not envious, not proud, not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered, not keeping a record of what others do wrong?

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This is the rugged path of love, the high call, the narrow way; we need only take baby steps to walk towards home. If we become aware that we are keeping a record of wrongs, we forgive, let go and a little ice melts off the caverns of our heart; we begin to love.

God is love and He is tender and merciful.

Medicine from Sacred Writings:


"Fasting is a medicine...now if when the body needs healing exactness is required on our part, much more ought we, when our care is about the soul, and we seek to heal the distempers of the mind, to look, and to search into every particular with the utmost accuracy." 

John Chrysostom   Fourth Century

 
 
 
10Mar
LETTING GO OF LENT

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I nearly lost my footing this morning as freshly fallen snow covered the thin ice layering black pavement. Twice my feet almost went out from under me; it is a perfect picture of my Lent so far. Twice in a week I have heard, "This season isn't about suffering, pain, and sacrifice, it is about finding our true self."

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Look carefully and you will see the reflection of tree branches in this little pool of water; I, too, am to reflect Someone and something. I am a lavishly loved child of God 1 John 3:1, made in His image Genesis 1:26, but when my heart is frozen, God's love is not seen in my soul.

So, not even a week into Lent I am letting go of Lent; the sacrifices, the struggle, the pain of it all and I am going to simply try to love. I'm reduced to one little plant instead of three, another kind of pruning. "His command is that we walk in love." 2 John 1:6

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 I am back to my fountain. "For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light." Psalm 36:9  In Him we live and move and have our being and He asks that we remain in His love. I can ask for grace to walk in love, to remember I am lavishly loved and live from this fountain of life, light and love.

Are you walking in love this Lent?

Medicine from Sacred Writings:


"Lay hold of the pathway which leads towards heaven; rugged and narrow as it is, lay hold of it, and journey on."


                     John Chrysostom   Fourth Century

 
09Mar
FRUIT OF LENT

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Strawberries are ripe in Florida and they have found their way north. Bright, fragrant berries fill our grocery now, and our kitchen as well. I wonder what is filling your life?

What season might it be deep in your spirit? Is it a time for resting, fertilizing, cultivating, pruning, or harvesting? I'm in a painful pruning process and trying hard not to flinch under God's shears. Words, attitudes, some actions, much is being cut away that I might be fruitful.

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I shouldn't be surprised; the grapes are trimmed hard against the vine as they wait for spring to bring life again to their seemingly shriveled up trunks. So am I as well. I long for sun and warmth and growth and instead receive harsh pruning and seemingly ruthless treatment from the Vine-dresser as He shows me more and more of my heart this Lent. He has given me three little plants to care for in my soul: kindness, gentleness and love.

What is God growing in you?

Medicine from Sacred Writings: 


"Cultivate your soul. Cut away the thorns. Sow the word of godliness. Propagate and nurse with care the fair plants of divine wisdom, and you have become a farmer. Paul will say to you, "The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops." 2 Timothy 2:6  Sharpen your sickle, which you have blunted through gluttony- sharpen it by fasting... We shall have the fast for a groundwork and instructor in all these things"

                John Chrysostom       Fourth Century

 
08Mar
WORDS OF LENT

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I am always choosing a path, are you? The call of Moses keeps ringing in my ears, "choose this day, blessings or curses, life or death." Our words, our actions our very lives live this reality; we bless others or curse them each time we open our mouths. I am becoming painfully aware that not only what I say, but how I say it matters.

 My words. Maybe I'll fast from talking this Lent. "I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do, this I keep on doing." Romans 7:18-19. My words betray my heart.

I guess it comes back to living from love and asking God to make me and remake me every day beginning again and praying that I can be gentle and kind, patient and not easily angered. Why is it that the commands are never about someone else, they are always about our own need and brokenness.

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How beautiful, even on this unwelcome journey of self-awareness there is hope. I can know and rely on the love God has for me, trusting Him to help me. I am His child, unruly and stubborn as I am, and He will teach me to be kind.

Medicine from Sacred Scripture:

 

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with 

hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" Romans 15:13

 
07Mar
WEATHERING LENT

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The day spread before me gloriously: blue skies, warm temperatures, a mountain full of powder and time on my hands. I spent the day at the top of the trees and then down again, always gazing at the Presidentials.

 

People say Mount Washington has its own weather pattern; severe conditions arise because several storm tracks converge there. I wonder if it is the same in our souls? We are surprised by our emotional reactions, but they may simply be our expectation colliding with reality, physical depletion and inner conflict. We sin when the wounds of our souls can't manage the world's demands, and when we demand from another what their wounds cannot give.

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Something must tether us in our storms, in our weakness, in our sin. We are anchored by love. When winds are raging at 231 miles per hour  we are held fast by an immovable chain. We cannot look to another to secure us, it is God alone who is our rock and strength, I can trust Him to help me. Psalm 28:7

 

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This Lent I have a choice to make: I can choose to weather the storms relying on God, anchoring myself in God's love and trusting the One who calms the winds and the waves, or I can keep trying to find security in another's actions, responses and expectations.

 

Medicine from Sacred Scripture:

 

 "I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live. and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice and 

hold fast to Him." 

Deuteronomy 30:19-20

 
 
 
06Mar
EMPTINESS OF LENT
 

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We are always building a house. It sounds strange, but if you really think about it, our lives are interior and exterior all at once. We lay a foundation, solid or weak as it is, and then we spend our lives constructing and deconstructing walls, doors, windows, and places of refuge inside and out; this is living, coping and sometimes thriving.

Lent may be about stripping away the candy on our gingerbread houses. We live from deep places, formed by the age of seven some say, and learn early how to decorate who we are to survive or please others or get by. How can we connect our spirituality with the person we have become? It might begin simply and small, by examining the external to give clues to our inner life. I must empty my linen closets and let my dirty laundry out to dry.

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Perhaps your spiritual life is less messy than mine, thank God for that. For me, though, these forty days of fasting prove to expose all that is hidden under the light of emptiness. I can see what the closet is made of when I empty it's contents; likewise, God illumines who I truly am as I give up my comforts, distractions and hiding places.

As I cleared out my closet I was angry and frustrated that I had left it to the last minute, and here is my internal world colliding with the external. I can fast from purchasing and clutter and food, but more necessary may be the fast from wrath. Let us keep a holy Lent; holiness begs to be inward.

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I want to be a pure, welcoming, loving home fit for a dwelling place for God as well as a comfort for  others.

Medicine from Sacred Writings:


"Make some change, and let the beginning of it be visible from this day. For if we spend the whole of the present fast with such zeal, having in this week attained the practice of not swearing at all; and in the following having extinguished wrath... having then pulled up evil-speaking by the roots; and after that, amended what yet remains, we shall come little by little to virtue."

John Chrysostom              Fourth Century

 
05Mar
A WELL-ORDERED LENT

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So many shoes, so many places they travel, in the recesses my mind Dr Seuss is muttering, "Oh the places they'll go." I wonder if God looks at His children and says the same, whether in joy or sorrow, "Oh, the places they'll go." Maybe Lent is calling us back to the sacred table of the Lord where He offers us life and life abundant.

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Walking in the light of Lent towards the Father's heart is such a challenge for me; I'd rather give up wine, chocolate and dessert (I couldn't add Irish tea to the list), than just open my heart and accept the love and grace of God's mercy poured over me. I want to work and God says, "receive." I want to strive and He says, "rest." I want to sacrifice and He wants to transform me.

Ah, if I told you what was in my soul you'd be frightened, but we might as well have at it, since it is openness God is after. Two strangers in the pew in front of me showed me my heart on Sunday; I can be unkind in my thoughts and judgments. A conversation over the weekend with a family member was less than charitable. Can I stop now and find refuge in fasting from sweets?

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Mounds of muffins would be less damaging to my heart than all this internal violence. And so, I must gather my courage and journey this Lent towards love, light and hope, letting God touch the deepest parts of me that still yearn to hide, protect myself and defend my lack. He can order my soul; I cannot do it, but with God all things are possible.

 

Medicine from Sacred Writings:


"When the fast has arrived, we do not take pains that the concerns of the soul may be well ordered, but we limit the fast solely to the abstinence from food. Since, were we to reap the full benefit of it in reformation of conduct, we should wish the fast to come round every day."

John Chrysostom Fourth Century

 
04Mar
SPACE FOR A SACRED FEAST

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There is really no place to have a meal here in our dining room. My books, my calendars, notes, reference books, reading lists, it all crowds my table and my soul. What takes up space in your heart?

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 My life isn't wired. I can't seem to keep my phone charged or on me, and if I do have it, there is no guarantee that I can find it or will answer when you call or text. Technology isn't something I need to "give up" because I've never embraced it. There's the clue: what we cherish and can't live without may be crowding out Life in us. The challenge of Lent is to uncover what clutters our souls. It can be so innocent.

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King Arthur Flour isn't a sin I need to give up, but my hard-wired overachieving identity that my stashes reveal might point to something that needs to go this Lenten season. I am not the number of muffins I make (nor are we the number we eat), but I am in danger of wanting to bake more and do more. When I travel I need a suitcase for my books and one for my clothes, even on a two day trip! It may be time for a fast from perfectionism.

 

Is there space in your soul for God's gifts of love, joy and peace?

 

Medicine from Sacred Writings:


"This is what is to be sought after and for which all things are done, that we may correct our defects; and that we may not quit the fast the same persons as we entered upon it, but in a cleansed state; and that having laid aside all that belongs to evil habits we may thus keep the sacred feast."

                          John Chrysostom     Fourth Century

 
03Mar
SPACE FOR LENT

Lent is coming and I am not sure how my doughnuts fit into this season of penitence and fasting. Will giving up doghnuts help with feeling or expressing humble sorrow for my sins and offenses? Baking fills my heart with profound joy and I experience a form of holiness as I create gifts for others. I have been set apart by God for this unique role as a mother and gorgeous food is part of my call to a holy life, it isn't everyone's,  but is is mine.

Of course, to fast: abstain from food, eat sparingly or abstain from some food, this is another matter entirely. And yet I wonder. Will not eating my patries help make me more penetient? What if I fasted from what really wrecks my heart? If I struggle with gluttony or my eating and drinking is driven by avoiding emotions, stuffing them away with a dozen cookies, maybe a fast of desserts is in order.

But what if the fast I am called to is avoiding sin not chocolate? What if I need to give up inner vices like anger, pride, selfishness, self-pity, envy or jealousy instead of wine or ice cream? What if Lent were an invitation to a table of grace filled with good things:  light, mercy, hope, joy, peace and holiness.

Could Lent create room in our souls for God?

Medicine from Sacred Writings:

"If we practice a mere abstinence from meats, when the forty days are past, the fast is over too. But if we abstain from sins, this still remains, even when the fast has gone by, and will be from this time a continual advantage to us."

John Chrysostom Fourth Century

 
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