Spiritual Exercises for the 40 Days (Part III)

Day Twenty Six: Remember your baptism. Remember the promises you made in baptism, or the promises made on your behalf. Write them down. Carry them in your pocket. Figure out which ones you struggle with and which ones give you life. Remember who you are.

Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?

I will, with God’s help.

Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?

I will, with God’s help.

Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?

I will, with God’s help.

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

I will, with God’s help.

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

I will, with God’s help.

Day Twenty-Seven: Write a prayer. One relatively easy was is to write a collect, which follows pretty simple formula: 1. Address to God with an attribute (Blessed are you, all Holy God, source of Life and giver of good thing). 2. Name your need or thanksgiving (Grant to your people peace in a time of war, joy in a time of sorrow, comfort in the midst of struggle) 3. A statement of intention or result of the need or thanksgiving (that we might show forth your glory in all the world) 4. Closing (All this we ask through your Son Jesus Christ, the light of the world and the hope of our salvation Amen).

N.B.: I write this having spent a good part of the day crafting a liturgy and adapting post-communion prayer from the St.Basil (which now looks remarkably un-like St. Basil’s original intent!). Anyway…this exercise, at least for me, helps me get in touch with my own deeper needs.

Day Twenty-Eight: Watch a movie in your PJs. Or something like this. The point is Sabbath. It’s a huge part of the Jewish tradition and theoretically of the Christian faith as well, but somehow we seem to miss the mark. So take make dinner the night before in the crock pot, turn off your cell phone, pour a glass of wine and snuggle up with your honey. Rest and be restored.

Day Twenty-Nine: Read. I’m reading Brian McClaren’s Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices.  It’s all about returning to the ancient practices that have been part of our faith since the time of Abraham and discovering how they can still shape and form us.

Day Thirty: Light a candle. Watch the flame. For those of us who move a lot and find it hard to meditate, focusing on the flame is a wonderful way to slow down and be still.

Day Thirty-One: Give. Stewardship is one of the most basic parts of the Christian life but the church has lost sight of the transformative power of true stewardship. What do you give? Why do you give? How has your giving changed you and the way you look at the world? Do you live in the fear of scarcity or the joy of abundance? More from me on stewardship later, because it’s a topic near and dear to my heart, but for now, from the 26th chapter of Deuteronomy: The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O LORD, have given me.

Oh, and this: TENS, the Episcopal Network for Stewardship. Their conference changed my life and the way I see giving.

Day Thirty-Two:  Engage in body prayer–yoga or swimming or simply walking. Create sacred space in yourself.

Day Thirty-Three: Read the psalms. They contain so much of the human experience, from rejoicing to lamenting. Ever wonder if it’s okay to get mad with God? Look no further than the psalms. I love the first part of psalm 139. I’m working towards memorizing it by Easter. What psalm speaks to your heart?

Day Thirty-Four: Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Or, plan for the future and get your affairs in order. I was sitting in a hospital room with a woman on life support. They expected her to be dead by 10:00 AM. At 4:00 in the afternoon, she was still alive, but only because her daughter had no idea what to do. She was a vegetable, for all intensive purposes, breathing only by machine, growing more bloated by the minute as her organs shut down. I’ve seen it now more times than I’d like.

This week, my father sent me a request to be listed as one of the people who will make decisions about his health care if he or his beloved are unable to do so. He gave me about 25 ways to say “no I don’t want to do this.” And the truth is, I don’t want to do it, but I am grateful that I have the option to oversee his care, to ensure that, if that time comes, he will be treated compassionately and in accordance to his wishes, which are clearly spelled out.

Likewise, I laugh at my mom every time she comes to visit. She brings addendums to this HUGE notebook. But in that notebook, which sits nicely on my bookshelf, is every last thing I could ever need to know about how to care for her, should she be unable to care for herself, and what kind of burial she wants. Codes to the safe, keys to the safety deposit box, health records for the dogs and hymns to be sung–all are listed.

I say all this because it’s helpful to know not only what you want, but to make sure those who love you know what you want. Because we are dust and to dust we shall return.

Day Thirty Five: Find the sacred in the secular. It’s all around us. Anyone who knows me or has heard me preach knows that I think Buffy has some of the best theology as well as imagery of the divine in our ordinary lives. But there are a million other places too. At the risk of sounding like a religious nut, there are times when I’ve turned on the radio and I could swear it was the voice of God singing to me (usually through Michael Stipe). Music, books, television, movies. Find the places where God hides in our world and recognize those places for who they really are.

Day Thirty Six: Tell stories. We are a people of the Book, which is to say, we are a people of stories. Long before The Bible was tucked away in cheap motels as a gift from the Gideons, long before St. Jerome translated the Bible into Latin, long before it was written down, it was told. Stories passed from generation to generation. Tell stories. Stories of who you are. Listen to stories, stories of where you came from.

Day Thirty-Seven: Blessed are those whose strength is in You. They have set their hearts on pilgrimage (Psalm 84:5). Make a pilgrimage.  More than a trip, a pilgrimage is a journey, one with significance, one that informs our faith. There are pilgrimages that are about exploring the destination, like Jerusalem or Rome. And there are pilgrimages that are more about the journey itself, like the Camino de Santiago. Pilgrimage is both internal and external and somewhere in that mix, God steps in and moves us in a unexpected ways.

Day Thirty-Eight: Find Jesus at the Wal-Greens. Or at Starbucks. Or sitting alone on the steps of the church. All these people, created in the image of God, walking past us, noticed and unnoticed, day in, day out. Can you see the light of Christ radiating from them?

Day Thirty- Nine: Recycle. Save water. Carpool. Walk to work. Take care of God’s creation and remember those who will live come after us.

Day Forty: Look for resurrection. We are a resurrection people. All that we do, especially in this season of Lent, can really only be understood through the lens of resurrection. So look for it. And dance with joy when it is found.

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