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Christ Presbyterian is a spiritual incubator, caring for members as we listen for the voice of the Spirit calling us to service.  We affirm that as a spiritual community we seek growth, not perfection, and welcome all in love.  We are hopeful that each of you will form a stronger bond with God and the community of Christ on your journey.

Thought for Contemplation

Lent Day 34

For Love
I beg you, Lord, let the glowing and honey-sweet force of your love draw my mind away from all things that are under heaven, that I may die for love of the love of you who thought it a worthy thing to die for love of the love of me.

St. Francis of Assisi
Source: The Tree of the Crucified Life of Jesus (Book 5) by Ubertino Da Casale (1305)

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Lent Day 33

verse of the day
Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.

- 1 John 4:8

voice of the day
Love is not a state, a feeling, a disposition, but an exchange, uneven, fraught with history, with ghosts, with longings that are more or less legible to those who try to see one another with their own faulty vision.

-Judith Butler
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Lent Day 32

Faith
Sometimes I wondered if
I had any faith.
I sat down and thought about it.
And when I had had enough
of that I got up
and went on my way.
And that—the getting up
and going—was faith.

Mary Jean Irion
Source: Yes World

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Lent Day 31

Trust Is Essential
What part does risk taking play on the road to mastery? Risk taking is essential on that road. The aliveness of aliveness is trust. The religious word is faith, but that means courageous trust, trust in life, cosmic courage. But that courage implies taking risks. To live is to take risks. It’s absolutely central.

Br. David Steindl-Rast
Source: Mastery–Interviews With Thirty Remarkable People by Joan Evelyn Ames
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Lent Day 30

Poverty of the Commonplace
There is a poverty of the average human’s life, who is unnoticed by the world. It is the poverty of the commonplace. There is nothing heroic about it; it is the poverty of the common lot, devoid of ecstasy. Jesus was poor in this way. He was no model figure for humanists, no great artist or statesman, no diffident genius. He was a frighteningly simple man, whose only talent was to do good. The one great passion in his life was “the Father.” Yet it was precisely in this way that he demonstrated “the wonder of empty hands” (Bernanos), the great potential of the person on the street, whose radical dependence on God is no different from anyone else’s. He has no talent but that of his own heart, no contribution to make except self-abandonment, no consolation save God alone.

Johannes Metz
Source: Poverty of Spirit
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Lent Day 29

Leave the World
Thomas Keating

When John says, ‘Leave the world,’ he does not mean the world with its desperate needs that cry out to be served. He means the self-centered projects, programs, demands–raitionalized, justified and even glorified–of security, pleasure, esteem and power, which hinder our growing up into full human personhood.

Source: Invitation to Love_____

Lent Day 28

Freed From Taking Ourselves Too Seriously
Conrad Hyers

Those who live in grace are freed from the necessity of taking themselves, their circumstances, their morality and opinions, their piety and beliefs, too seriously. They are free to laugh and play as children of God. As important as repentance is, we are not saved by our much weeping, any more than we are saved by acts of penitence. And the expression of salvation freely given and received is not weeping but laughter, or at least a weeping become laughter. Laughter and lightheartedness, at their fullest and freest, are the gift of divine grace.

Source: And God Created Laughter
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Lent Day 27

Claiming the Sacredness of Our Being
Are we friends with ourselves? Do we love who we are? These are important questions because we cannot develop good friendships with others unless we have befriended ourselves.
How then do we befriend ourselves? We have to start by acknowledging the truth of ourselves. We are beautiful but also limited, rich but also poor, generous but also worried about our security. Yet beyond all that we are people with souls, sparks of the divine. To acknowledge the truth of ourselves is to claim the sacredness of our being, without fully understanding it. Our deepest being escapes our own mental or emotional grasp. But when we trust that our souls are embraced by a loving God, we can befriend ourselves and reach out to others in loving relationships.
– Henri J. M. Nouwen
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Lent Day 26

Yes

It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen
Or sunshine, love, salvation.
It could, you know. That’s why we wake
and look out—no guarantees in this life.
But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now,
like noon,
like evening.

Wendell Berry
Source: Passwords
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Lent Day 25

Something Different
Kayla McClurg

How are you doing at this point in your Lenten journey?

I don’t mean, have you successfully stayed away from candy or caffeine or cigarettes, or whatever you “gave up for Jesus” this year. I don’t mean, have you prayed, rested, or helped others more; or worried, complained, or bought stuff less. I just mean, I wonder how you’re doing, feeling, being as we turn the corner to the week that leads up to the week that leads up to Easter.

Is excitement or dread becoming more predominant? Are you feeling bold and proud to be among Jesus’ friends, eager to see what happens, or are you already shrinking away into the crowd a bit? Are you glad to be taken again on this adventure of faith or ready to have a different adventure? There are no right answers; I’m just wondering how it is for you.

At this point on the path that is inevitably winding its way to a cross, I find myself wishing that something different might (please, please, please) happen this year. I don’t want to watch him go through it all again. I don’t want to try to go through it with him.

I’m so bad at it, this part of the story. All these slow hours leading up to the hours that lead up to his death. Another execution, like that isn’t our answer for everything we don’t know what else to do with. And do any of us know what to do with Jesus, really?

What do we do with undeserved, lavish, scandalous love? Generally, we condemn it. We refuse it entry. Or we turn it into a revered treasure that gets hung on the walls of our inner and outer sanctuaries, but isn’t allowed to change our lives. In some immature way or another, we kill it.

The days now grow stumbly and slow … and yet go all too fast. Will my failures and disappointments and good-intentions-but-ultimately-refusals to love go to my grave with me? If I could really let them die this time, might they become catalysts of resurrection?

Will anything be different this year, Jesus? Will I?
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Lent Day 24

Coming Together in Poverty

There are many forms of poverty: economic poverty, physical poverty, emotional poverty, mental poverty, and spiritual poverty. As long as we relate primarily to each other’s wealth, health, stability, intelligence, and soul strength, we cannot develop true community. Community is not a talent show in which we dazzle the world with our combined gifts. Community is the place where our poverty is acknowledged and accepted, not as something we have to learn to cope with as best as we can but as a true source of new life.

Living community in whatever form – family, parish, twelve-step program, or intentional community – challenges us to come together at the place of our poverty, believing that there we can reveal our richness.

- Henri J. M. Nouwen
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Lent Day 23
Dumbfounded
What we have been learning in our time is that we really do not understand this place or how it works, and we comprehend our own selves least of all. And the more we learn, the more we are—or ought to be—dumbfounded. It is the greatest fun to be bewildered, but only when there lies ahead the sure certainty of having things straightened out, and soon.

Lewis Thomas
Source: Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler’s Ninth Symphony

Lent Day 22

Giving Up
Gerald May

In the early years of life, giving up usually takes the form of faith, a leaping forward into the belief that one is loved, accepted, forgiven and redeemed just as one is, with nothing special needing to be done. In later years, giving up more often comes from despair, from the wisdom that no amount of continuing effort, no amount of fixing, will enable one to ‘get it all together.’ Despair then is forever a doorway into life.

Source: Simply Sane
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Lent Day 21

A New Kind of Love

Because we have received a new kind of love from God–agape–we can love our neighbor in a new way. We can love our neighbor freely without “performance anxiety,” without worrying about results. We can now love, not for success or gratification or happiness or fulfillment, but from God’s love. We can love others not from need but from sheer bounty, just as we have been loved. We become channels of this new living water. We freely pass on this tremendous gift we have received. When we love for some desired end, we are slaves to anxiety and worry about attainment…. Jesus offers a radically different way: “Be anxious for nothing” (Mt 6:25-34). Not even for whether our love works or not.

Peter Kreeft
Source: The God Who Loves You
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Lent day 21

I Am
I am, you anxious one.

Don’t you sense me, ready to break
into being at your touch?
My murmurings surround you like shadowy wings.
Can’t you see me standing before you
cloaked in stillness?
Hasn’t my longing ripened in you
from the beginning
as fruit ripens on a branch?

I am the dream you are dreaming.
When you want to awaken, I am that wanting:
I grow strong in the beauty you behold.
And with the silence of stars I enfold
your cities made by time.

Rainer Maria Rilke
Source: Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God
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Lent Day 20

Persistence
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of those willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard word time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.

Source: Letter From Birmingham Jail (April 16, 1963)

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Let Day 19

God Utters Me
Thomas Merton

God utters me like a word containing a partial thought of himself.

Source: Unknown
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Lent Day 18
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Transformative Dying

Anyone who wants to save his life, must lose it. Anyone who loses her life will find it. — Matthew 16:25

That’s a pretty strong, almost brutal, statement from Jesus. But it makes very clear that there is a necessary suffering that cannot be avoided, which Jesus calls “losing your very life,” or the False Self. Your False Self is your role, title, and personal image that is largely a creation of your own mind and attachments. It will and must die in exact correlation to how much you want the Real.

The Real is what all the world religions were pointing to when they spoke of heaven, nirvana, bliss, or enlightenment. Their only mistake was that they pushed it off into the next world. When you die before you die, you are choosing the Real—or union with God—over your imaginary separation from God. You are choosing “the kingdom of God” over your own smaller kingdoms. Heaven is the state of union both here and later. Only the True Self knows that.

The lasting question is: “How much False Self are you willing to shed to find your True Self?” Such necessary suffering will always feel like dying, which is what good spiritual teachers will tell you very honestly.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, pp. 85, 95-96, 100-101
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Lent Day 17

Assent to Dying
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Death is the prerequisite for the experience of resurrection and the new freedom it brings. At some level, in some way, perhaps far beyond our conscious awareness, we must first assent to dying. Resurrection—the emergence of new consciousness—is an awakening to the unknown, and just as with any other experience of life that is unknown, it can be frightening. We intuitively know that everything has changed, and if we are the kind of person who is attached to safety and comfort, we will feel overwhelmed.

Judy Cannato
Source: Field of Compassion

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Lent Day 16
To Give or Not to Give
Jacques Ellul
Remember that even giving all we possess will not pardon our sins or redeem us or draw God’s attention to us. All this gift can do is express the enthusiasm of our love and gratitude, and because of this it is an act of freedom and joy. If we feel too much sadness in giving, if we feel torn or irritated, it is better not to give.
Source: Money and Power
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Lent Day 15

Two Worlds
Richard Rohr

There are always two worlds. The world as it operates is power; the world as it should be is love. The secret of Kingdom life is how can you live in both–simultaneously. The world as it is will always be built on power, ego and success. Yet we also must keep our eyes intently on the world as it should be–what Jesus calls the Reign of God. Power apart from love leads to brutality; but love that does not engage with power is mere sentimentality.

Source: Jesus’ Plan for a New World
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Lent Day 14
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To Find Myself
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The mind that is the prisoner of conventional ideas, and the will that is the captive of its own desire, cannot accept the seeds of an unfamiliar truth and a supernatural desire…. I must learn therefore to let go of the familiar and the usual and consent to what is new and unknown to me. I must learn to ‘leave myself’ in order to find myself by yielding to the love of God.
Thomas Merton
Source: New Seeds of Contemplation
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Lent Day 13 (3-4-15)

Creating Space for God

Discipline is the other side of discipleship. Discipleship without discipline is like waiting to run in the marathon without ever practicing. Discipline without discipleship is like always practicing for the marathon but never participating. It is important, however, to realize that discipline in the spiritual life is not the same as discipline in sports. Discipline in sports is the concentrated effort to master the body so that it can obey the mind better. Discipline in the spiritual life is the concentrated effort to create the space and time where God can become our master and where we can respond freely to God’s guidance.

Thus, discipline is the creation of boundaries that keep time and space open for God. Solitude requires discipline, worship requires discipline, caring for others requires discipline. They all ask us to set apart a time and a place where God’s gracious presence can be acknowledged and responded to.

- Henri J. M. Nouwen
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Lent Day 12 (3-3-15)

Hidden Greatness

There is much emphasis on notoriety and fame in our society. Our newspapers and television keep giving us the message: What counts is to be known, praised, and admired, whether you are a writer, an actor, a musician, or a politician.

Still, real greatness is often hidden, humble, simple, and unobtrusive. It is not easy to trust ourselves and our actions without public affirmation. We must have strong self-confidence combined with deep humility. Some of the greatest works of art and the most important works of peace were created by people who had no need for the limelight. They knew that what they were doing was their call, and they did it with great patience, perseverance, and love.

- Henri J. M. Nouwen
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Lent Day 11

Tell Your Story

No matter who you are, no matter how eloquent or otherwise, if you tell your own story with sufficient candor and concreteness, it will be an interesting story and in some sense a universal story…. We are so used to hearing what we want to hear and remaining deaf to what it would be well for us to hear that it is hard to break the habit. But if we keep our hearts and minds open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize, beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear God, God is indeed speaking to us.

Frederick Buechner
Source: Now and Then
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Lent Day 10 (remember we don’t count tomorrow, Sundays)

Letting Go of Our Fear of God

We are afraid of emptiness. Spinoza speaks about our “horror vacui,” our horrendous fear of vacancy. We like to occupy-fill up-every empty time and space. We want to be occupied. And if we are not occupied we easily become preoccupied; that is, we fill the empty spaces before we have even reached them. We fill them with our worries, saying, “But what if …”

It is very hard to allow emptiness to exist in our lives. Emptiness requires a willingness not to be in control, a willingness to let something new and unexpected happen. It requires trust, surrender, and openness to guidance. God wants to dwell in our emptiness. But as long as we are afraid of God and God’s actions in our lives, it is unlikely that we will offer our emptiness to God. Let’s pray that we can let go of our fear of God and embrace God as the source of all love.

- Henri J. M. Nouwen
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Lent Day 8

Secret
No. It is not enough to despise the world.
It is not enough to live one’s life as though
Riches and power were nothings. They are not,
But to grasp the world, to grasp and feel it grow
Great in one’s grasp is likewise not enough.
The secret is to grasp it, and let it go.

Wang Wei (translated by Graeme Wilson)

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Unlearning
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“We need to unlearn a lot, it seems, to get back to that foundational life which is ‘hidden in God’ (Colossians 3:3). Yes, transformation is often more about unlearning than learning, which is why the religious traditions call it ‘repentance.'”

Richard Rohr, 21st century, in Falling Upward

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What Is Most Personal Is Most Universal

We like to make a distinction between our private and public lives and say, “Whatever I do in my private life is nobody else’s business.” But anyone trying to live a spiritual life will soon discover that the most personal is the most universal, the most hidden is the most public, and the most solitary is the most communal. What we live in the most intimate places of our beings is not just for us but for all people. That is why our inner lives are lives for others. That is why our solitude is a gift to our community, and that is why our most secret thoughts affect our common life.

Jesus says, “No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:14-15). The most inner light is a light for the world. Let’s not have “double lives”; let us allow what we live in private to be known in public.

- Henri J. M. Nouwen
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Lent day 4
Like the Atmosphere
The presence of God is like the atmosphere we breathe. You can have all you want of it as long as you do not try to take possession of it and hang on to it. Nothing is more delightful than the divine presence. For that very reason we want to carve out a piece of it and hide it in the closet for safekeeping. But that is like trying to grasp a handful of air. As soon as your fingers close over it, it is gone. The presence of God does not respond to greed. It has a different dynamism. It is totally available, but on condition that we freely accept it and do not try to possess it.

Thomas Keating
Source: Finding Grace at the Center
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Lent day 3
The Nonpossessive Life
To be able to enjoy fully the many good things the world has to offer, we must be detached from them. To be detached does not mean to be indifferent or uninterested. It means to be nonpossessive. Life is a gift to be grateful for and not a property to cling to.
A nonpossessive life is a free life. But such freedom is only possible when we have a deep sense of belonging. To whom then do we belong? We belong to God, and the God to whom we belong has sent us into the world to proclaim in his Name that all of creation is created in and by love and calls us to gratitude and joy. That is what the “detached” life is all about. It is a life in which we are free to offer praise and thanksgiving.
– Henri J. M. Nouwen
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Lent: day 2
Becoming What We Worship
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A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshiping we are becoming.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
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An Invitation to Presence for Lent

Welcoming the Presence

Welcome, welcome, welcome.

I welcome everything
that comes to me in these moments
because I know it is for my healing.

I welcome all thoughts, emotions,
persons, situations and conditions.

I let go of my demands for security.

I let go of my hunger for approval.

I let go of my insistence on control.

I let go of my blind desire to change any situation, condition, person or myself.

I open to the love and presence of God and the healing action and grace within.

by Mary Mrozowski