It’s Monday February 27

Last week I read that practicing Jews recite the Shema three times a day as a reminder both of their relationship to the one God of Abraham and their ethical responsibility to love. The Shema begins in Deuteronomy 6:4. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”

I decided that one of my Lenten practices was to make an appointment with the Great Shema three times a day. When my calendar reminder pops up on my phone I pause and recite the words of the Shema, adding a second command from Jesus in Matthew 22, to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Then I ask myself, “How can I extend God’s love today? To whom? How?”

I am not in the habit of exalting my spiritual practices. Pastor Doug reminded us of the potential pitfalls of making a spectacle of your spiritual journey. I offer this only as an example of how we can embed the practices into our daily lives. I also know the power of focused activities that start as a mechanical activity but, over time, become part of who we are–the way we think, the guide of our action, the center of our being.

Brian Mclaren speaks of the resiliency that builds in our spirits through these simple, repeated actions. “The ancient way is about building up those reserves when they’re not needed so they’re available when they are needed. It’s about practicing things by heart so they’ll be accessible when your heart is broken.”

It’s Monday. What will you build into the rhythm of your day that reminds you of who you are and what you are called to do? Peace Kai

FYI: If you want a specific guide to practices that open your life to God’s spirit, pick up a “Way of Peace” booklet at the welcome centers or access the information on our webpage

For consistent encouragement for your journey, connect with me on Facebook or on Twitter @kainilsen

It’s Monday February 6

I violated one of my preaching principals this weekend. Very rarely will I tell people what they need to do. First of all, I assume they know what they need more than I do. Beyond that, a demand isn’t very life-giving and, though it may have a short-term effect, in the long run it restricts the soul more than enlarging it. In this case, though, I thought it necessary.

I was preaching on the rhythm of Jesus’ life pictured in Mark 1:29-39—the rhythm of radical engagement and intentional disengagement. Responding to the crushing demand of a whole city’s need for healing, for release from demons, for renewal, Jesus slips out the back door under the cover of night and heads to a quiet place to pray. Jesus longed for the renewing power of solitude, for an intimate connection with God. What was true for Jesus, is true for us. Author Henri Nouwen went so far as to say, “It is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life without solitude.”

The pressing need of the day will never be done. We can continue to extend ourselves beyond our capacity at great peril. Getting in touch with a rhythm of radical engagement and intentional disengagement allows us to sense when we need to refuel. Exhaustion causes anger and frustration in the human spirit, and busyness in life can strain relationships. Where is your mountain, your deserted place, your space to refuel?

It’s Monday. We have work to do-the work of the day and the work of intentional renewal. Peace. Kai