It’s Monday, February 8

A portion of this reflection is from a piece about Lent I wrote for Renovare’ a few years ago.

The season of Lent is one of those recurring rhythms in the church year that ritualizes the beauty of God’s life-giving, redemptive work in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Though the concept of Lent, a season of preparation for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, was being articulated as early as the second century, the liturgical season of Lent seems to have taken form in the 4th century. The Council of Nicea (325) called for two gatherings of the synods, one of which was to be held before the forty days of preparation for Easter. By the end of the 4th century, the forty days of Lent had become integrated into the yearly rhythm of the Christian community as they prepared, primarily through the spiritual disciplines of fasting and prayer, for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.

The number forty has both biblical and spiritual significance. We recall the forty years of wandering in the wilderness for the people of Israel. Moses communed with God on the top of Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights, eating no bread nor drinking water, as he inscribed the words of the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone (Exodus 34:28). Elijah journeyed to Mount Horeb for forty days and forty nights without food nor drink (I Kings 19:8). We also remember Jesus being led by the Spirit, following his baptism, into the wilderness where he fasted for forty days and forty nights (Matthew 4:1-2). In each case, whether forty years or forty days, the number forty spoke not only to a span of time but also a span of God’s ongoing presence experienced in trial and temptation, through accumulated wisdom and insight, and by God’s sustaining grace and love.

At Peace our theme for the season is Practice Makes Possible. Each week we will introduce a simple practice that will awaken you to the beauty and freedom of a life lived in God’s grace. This week we practice confession. On a daily basis, pray this prayer

Lord, thank you for the ways you were/are present in my day

Forgive me for ____________________________________.

Release me from the burden of guilt and regret.

Let me know the freedom of your love and grace. Amen.

The point of each practice is not its completion. You are not checking off spiritual lists to impress God. You are making yourselves available for the movements of God’s renewing Spirit.

Welcome to Lent. It is a forty day journey marked in days, but lived in grace.

It’s the Monday before Lent. Find a place to worship on Ash Wednesday. Enter the journey of grace. Peace. Kai

It’s Monday February 1

We’ve spent the first few weeks of this year reflecting on and living with Essential Life Questions, questions that create the lens through which we see the world and imagine our faithful response. “What is my image of God?” “How does my image of God affect how I see the world, others, myself?” “What hopes give shape and meaning to my life?” And this past weekend, “What life resources give me the strength and courage to act?”

As we anticipate this next season, the season of Lent that begins with Ash Wednesday, February 10, we will add another layer. Each week, to deepen your conversation and reflection, we are adding a life practice that will move your reflection to action.

Life practices, or holy habits as they have been called throughout history, take the reflections of the mind and make them tangible through the interactions of our inner and outer worlds—the space where the prompting of the Spirit meets the potentialities of the body. Contemplation becomes action.

These life practices are simple practices designed to wed and then further embed God’s character and ours. We practice wonder to better experience the wonder of God. We practice generosity with the hopes of becoming generous people. We practice listening to deepen our relationships and become more attentive to the desires of God and others.

Like any other kind of practice, we don’t wait until the skill is needed to start practicing. Swimmers visualize each stroke and imagine each turn to prepare for the race. Pianists begin by learning each note, each scale, each chord, each progression so that the music becomes part of them, not simply something they learn.

We practice to build our capacity. We practice so that we are ready when the time comes. We practice to become more than is possible to become without our intentional effort.

That’s why, whether we feel like it or not, we show up at the gym, plant ourselves on the piano bench, and participate in Christian community. In the words of Brian McLaren, “The ancient way (the way of practice) is about building up those reserves when they’re not needed so they’re available when they are. It’s about practicing things by heart so they’ll be accessible when your heart is broken.”

It’s Monday. What are you intentionally practicing in your lives? How does it help you reflect the goodness and graciousness of God? Peace. Kai