It isn’t for the moment you are struck that you need courage, but for that long uphill climb back to sanity and faith and security Anne Morrow Lindbergh
I am reflecting on loss for Lent. I am not good at loss, I tend to bury it rather than processing it and grieving properly. This quotation is a chapter heading in the book I am reading and resonates with me and reminds me of some of the struggles of friends at the moment too. Emotionally I need to go where I physically go in this picture – I climb the hill to the hermit’s chapel at Rame and I meet God there, it is one of my shelters, my thin places and there are losses that I need to bring to God and acknowledge and grieve.
A few days into Lent, an early Lent with trees still bare and snow still forecast. I took this picture on one of our walks at Kingsbury Water Park. It is very much a Lenten picture for me, light in the gathering darkness gives me hope in the wilderness thoughts and so many bare branches helps me see the structure and growth that gets covered up when summer comes. This Lent feels like a bit of a building season for me…
I was debating with friends if you give something up for Lent or take something up for Lent. As most years I am trying to make healthy eating choices it feels like I spend quite a bit of time thinking about what I can’t have and that isn’t always the place I want to be in my head. I more often than not take something up for Lent and this year have been inspired to do so through a reading Lizzie, a friend, sent me.
Rev Andrew Dotchin is doing a series of Lent readings based on the television programme Call the Midwife (Search Midwife Calling on Facebook). Helpfully the readings started on Shrove Tuesday and this was the reflection task:
Examine the Lenten devotions you have in mind to start on Ash Wednesday. Make sure that they will not ‘side-step love’ but instead be means by which you may become more loving and more in love’.
So that’s what I am going to try to do this year and I think it will be a lot more challenging for me than giving up beer such as the lovely bottle in the photo!
We are halfway through Lent 2015. Are you giving something up or taking something up? With what I have chosen for Lent this year it is not possible to have treats Sundays. I have given up thinking or being critical about certain situations. It is not appropriate to give details, but needless to say I have picked a significant issue in my life.
So how is your Lent going? I have been tempted partly because I have not been feeling very well for the past few weeks and when one is feeling weak, it is easy to be weak. So far I am doing ok, not being critical around others has been a good discipline. The challenge has been to take up the Biblical criteria and not think critically as well as not do it openly. No one knows how my Lent is going except me and my God. I expect that if this positive spirit shows through as a more positive attitude then the normal mentality of hidden sacrifice, should not apply. My fast should be seen!
I preached on the temptations on Sunday mentioning that the 40 days don’t include Sundays so we are then free to have some of what we have given up (if that is the way we are marking Lent). It is a sabbath for the lent fast which in my case is from biscuits which have suddenly become very attractive, particularly when I have a cup of tea! However, as a Curate Sunday is not my sabbath, it is not a day of rest, it is a day of work (although I don’t get paid for this aspect of my ministry I still describe it as work or labour in contrast to rest). I appreciate the opportunity to celebrate God’s grace and blessing on Sundays in Lent while also finding it helpful to have a season of focusing on a different type of spiritual discipline than I engage in for most of the year.
I am still getting nourishment from reading Brueggemann’s Sabbath as Resistance and am appreciating this at the moment:
Writing in reference to Exodus 20 where all are to rest – sons and daughters, slaves, oxen, donkeys, livestock, immigrants – Brueggemann argues that sabbath is “the great day of equality where all are equally at rest” and argues that
“On the Sabbath:
You do not have to do more
YOu do not have to sell more
You do not have to control more
You do not have to know more
You do not have to be younger or more beautiful
You do not have to score more
Because this one day breaks the pattern of coercion, all are like you, equal, equal worth, equal value, equal access, equal rest” (p40-1).
I came across the term “xerox syndrome” as part of my study on shame in the church. Berecz uses it in relation to the way that churches sometimes encourage people, particularly children, to promote Jesus as the perfect example to follow. He writes (referring to Genesis 3.4-8) “It is in attempting to be ‘like God’ that we generate the highest levels of shame” (1998:89) and this is a danger in certain approaches to discipleship, preaching or liturgy which focus on how we fall short of who God expects us to be if we do not have a healthy self-esteem that can hold this in tension. Experiencing shame is about feeling flawed and worthless and it is deeply saddening to think that the the gospel message is sometimes communicated in this way.
He then discusses how the verse translated “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5.48) is better translated as mature or complete as opposed to flawless. This is a much more liberating way to understand that verse as seeking to be mature is something which we can all work towards and even complete doesn’t have the same impossibility (to me anyway) as perfection.
So as we move through the rest of Lent I want to avoid promoting the xerox syndrome and encourage people to see how they can take the next steps on their journey.
Berecz, J. M. (1998). Beyond Shame and Pain. Lima Ohio: CSS Publishing.
As we all know, sometimes life does just not make sense. Things that happen, or have happened or not happened as we have expected or hoped for cause us to say “Why? What is going on? That does just not seem fair. It doesn’t make sense.”
I value the gifts of reason and logic. It’s helpful to try and work things out, to speculate and hypothesise what or why things happen. Sometime it is the right and responsible thing to. Humanity is gifted with a great deal of ability to resolve problems. But I also value faith and trust. This is in God and others. When it does not seem quite right or even very wrong or bad, my trust in that other person or God shapes the way I respond.
With Easter coming up, there is much to reflect upon during Lent that does not make a lot of sense – an appreciation of imminent suffering and death. It only makes God sense.
Sometimes I need the logic and faith, reason and logic of, and in, God sense.