Tag Archives: prayer for lent

Leaning into Lent and Dancing All the Way

Photo by Sheila Creighton Imagery of Lighthttp://imageryoflight.wordpress.com/

Photo by Sheila Creighton
Imagery of Light

Epiphany has drawn to a close and now we are leaning into lent, a word, which originally meant spring and referred to lengthening days. Most of us are weary of this harsh winter. Before we turn to lent, here is a final word from Epiphany, not unlike the long goodbye we are getting from winter this year.

One of the reasons I love Epiphany is because the word, epiphany, is euphonious, which means pleasant to the ear and fun to say aloud. Epiphany sounds like a soft whisper or a rabbit sneezing. There are qualities of this waning liturgical season, which offer good preparation for Ash Wednesday and the journey to the cross.

Blessed Are the Pure in Heart for They Shall See God

Epiphany
generous span in midwinter,
the season of showings,
promises to the swift and clear-eyed
no less than a glimpse of Divinity
high tailing round the corners of our lives.

Now that the trees and earth are bare,
the God we hunger for will dance naked
for those bold enough to believe
in incarnation.

God will dance wild
and free over the frozen land,
while we shiver in our veils
longing to see with faces
bare of illusion
bare of pretense
bare of guile
aching to see
with hearts stripped and clean,
as the maple whose slim limbs slice space
in great chaste swaths,
ordering emptiness,
chalking off a place on the floor of heaven
for God to trip the light fantastic
and leave us all blinded
by a graceful shimmy
rubbing our eyes, amazed.

Oh dancing God
create in us clean hearts
pure hearts
hearts scoured
slick and smooth
as a copper pot
that we may not miss one grande jeté
that we may see
Thee.

Twenty five ago I published the first issue of Holy Ground – A Quarterly Reflection on the Contemplative Life. Back then we called it Making Haqqodesh (Hebrew for the holy ground), I had just established The Sanctuary and thought a newsletter would be helpful as a way to stay in touch with the group of people supporting this new venture in ministry. I wrote the poem above for the front page of that issue. During this year, as we celebrate our 25th Anniversary, I will post excerpts from some of those early issues of Holy Ground from time to time

Here is a bit more from the first issue:

Our deep hunger for God calls out, hollows out, spaces in our hearts, in our lives, and in creation for a sacred meeting with the One who made us and is making us. Our willingness to go down into the emptiness and the out of the way places on the far side of the wilderness thrusts us and our need before burning bushes, where we behold our God and receive our mission.

One of our board members, Catherine Jantsch Butel offered this definition of holy ground:

Holy ground is that burning reality which can only be apprehended – which breaks into really – the present moment (mine or another’s) and which, surprisingly, disorders, reorders, rearranges, resynthesizes all my previous arrangement of Reality.

In twenty five years I have never come across a better definition.

In those early years before the resurgence of interest in spirituality, before the establishment of hundreds of training programs and curriculum in spiritual formation and spiritual guidance, and before the internet I had few models for the kind of ministry I wanted to do and faced many doubts. Yet I always found encouragement and support. Here are a few memories:

Riding across the Kansas prairie with a friend who was also a minister, who after listening to me hem and haw for sixty miles, blurted out, “Loretta, what is it going to take for you to decide that God is calling you to do this?”
Then she handed me a check for fifty dollars.

Preparing for the first gathering of Evening Prayers held in our dining room in my home, I nervously asked my friend, Cathy, “Do you think I am just being crazy?” Cathy looked me in the eyes and said, “No. Loretta, you are not being crazy. You are just being obedient.”

I also encountered warning. A priest asked, “How do you handle failure? These places always fail you know.” I was reminded that to be faithful to the gospel, the Sanctuary must stand in opposition to the world and that holy ground is conceived through the cross of suffering and surrendered love.

Murray Rogers, Episcopal priest and founder of contemplative communities in India and Hong Kong told me, “I am very suspicious of spiritual manipulation. These things take time, you know. You can’t hurry holiness.” He counseled trusting the Spirit, simplicity, and waiting for doors to open.

As you prepare your hearts for lent, what do you need for the journey ahead? The words of counsel I was given twenty five years ago offer me a useful guide for what to carry with me this lent. These are my prayer for your journey:

• An honest friend who will help you discern God’s will for you and offer tangible support.

• Obedience to God regardless of what others might think of you.

• Acceptance of failure and suffering as part of the journey of transformation.

• Simplicity and patient trust in God.

• And a pure heart, a heart scoured slick and smooth as a copper pot, that you may follow your dancing Lord all the way to Easter morning!

May this season offer you richness, astonishment, and a few graceful shimmies, as Christ transforms you from one degree of glory to another.

 

ballet slippers2

Help us celebrate Twenty Five years! Check out our new website, The Sanctuary Foundation for Prayer Let us know what you think. What would help you in deepening your faith and peace? How we can improve and best serve you for the next twenty five years?

Well,  maybe not twenty five, but so far I have had no signs from God to stop this foolishness.

A Pure Heart and the Maple Tree

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matthew 5: 3, 8
The slender branch of the maple tree outside my window extends itself in a graceful arc. Along its slim fingers it sports rust colored jewels, intricately cut opening buds, bursting with light. When did this happen? Last time I looked, barren twigs jutted stiffly into the cold air.
Here in Kansas, held captive for weeks under heavy overcast skies, we have plodded through our days with only basketball to get our blood pumping. Meanwhile, spring is quietly sneaking up on us.
Dare I say this? I am not ready. With only a few weeks of lent remaining, I have fallen off my wagon of simple living and over indulged in complexity, excess, and that ancient tempter, anxiety.
I need a little austerity, some ordered calm, and spaciousness, not a riotous burst of color luring me into getting anxious about gardening and yard work. I am looking for a paring down of tasks, and to tethering my heart to what is most important, not pecking mindlessly after every crumb I see.
I need a spare, bare mind, swept clear of clutter and fuss, rather  than the cramped, narrow, over stuffed rat’s nest I have created. These gray days are revealing to me more clearly the contours of my addiction to my agenda. How will I ever be ready for Easter splendor and the enchanting dance of spring with so much of me running the show, asserting itself and its way?
I am Peter, pulling Jesus’ coattails, saying, “No Lord, no cross! No death! We can win this on our own!”  My spirit has not been poor, aware of its total dependence on the mercy of God. My heart has not been pure, willing only one thing, but rather, adulterated with conflicting desires.
My fetching maple beckons with her pretty fingers. “Come, you fool,” she whispers. “Let go. Dwell with me in the pure driven snow of grace.”

Prayer for Lent

Make me lean, Lord.
Teach me the quiet asceticism of winter trees
whose bare branches articulate space
in spare
thrusting
syllables
of praise.
Set me down before the bowl of emptiness
where you swirl, swell, steam,
brimming at the brink of nothing.
Feast me from the platter of want,
where need of anything but you is indigestible.
Cut away the obesity of pride,
the folds of selfishness.
Make me meager,
a mere thin thing flapping its limbs
composing snow angels
across the pristine sweep of your celestial substance,
an anonymous indentation pressed in desolation
telling your glory.
My sustenance: your Word.
And my life: glad graffiti splashed
across some time’s wall:
God goes here.
For a good time,
call.
Read more about prayer at  www.fromholyground.org
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Contact Loretta at  lross@fromholyground.org, www.fbook.me/sanctuary
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