Lent 2018: An Overview of Our Program
Lent is a season of forty days. It commemorates Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness following his baptism. It also invites us to spend about 6 weeks nurturing and expanding our own spiritual awareness. It is an invitation to explore the depths of our own selves and discover the presence and the gifts of God within us. It has traditionally been a time of contemplation—a rather rare reality in the rush and flurry of contemporary life. We invite you to use a variety of experiences to discover what contemplation means for you and how your own spirituality may flourish with a little tender, loving nourishment.
We have picked The Door as the theme metaphor for the season. There are many examples of doors in the New Testament including references to Jesus as the door. We are providing a series of experiences on Wednesday evenings from February 14 (Ash Wednesday) through March 21. In addition to these meetings there will be a service on Maundy Thursday (March 29). We will begin at 6 pm with a light supper and complete the evening program by 8 pm. It is our intention to provide what might be called a spiritual buffet. Each session will feature a different spiritual practice. These are derived from a variety of traditions and are intended to offer you many ways of cultivating your own spiritual life. Some may be of more interest to you than others, but we believe that each and every one of them will stimulate your spiritual growth as you discover what practices (or modifications thereof) seem to work best at nurturing your sense of spirituality. We will have a variety of folks involved in the leadership to offer a variety of styles.
We have also obtained the loan of a wonderful abstract painting by Valerie Allen. This painting will be on display in the Orange Door room in the education hallway. You are invited to stop in, spend a few minutes and Behold the painting. Don’t try to analyze or even describe it. Let yourself Behold it and see what effect it has on you. There will be some more information about the process of Beholding on this blog and also in the Orange Door room. Weekly questions to inspire and assist your efforts to Behold will be available in the Orange Door room beginning the evening of Ash Wednesday, February 14th.
In addition to the weekly sessions, we are opening this blog. Each week following a session, the material from that session will be posted on the blog. This will enable anyone to follow us and for participants to review and reflect about their experiences. We are also inviting participants to share on the blog their own feelings, thoughts and reactions to each week’s undertaking.
At the end of each blog post users will notice three horizontal links: Comment, Share, and 'Like.' To leave a comment on the Lenten blog, simply click on Comment. Place your mouse cursor in the large text field that appears. Write out your thoughts, feelings, and reactions and click on the Post Comment button when you are satisfied with your comment. You also have the ability to preview your comment before submitting it. To preview your comment, write it out in the comment box and click on Preview located beside the Post Comment button. Once you click on Post Comment, a Squarespace box will appear on screen. Simply provide your name in the Name text field and click on the, Comment as Guest button. An email address and website URL are not required to comment, but you are welcome to provide that information if you choose. It is not advisable to click on the, Log in to Comment button. Users can also Share blog posts to their Facebook page and 'Like' them as well. Make sure to return to the blog often so you can read others' comments and continue the conversation!
From time to time additional material will be added to the blog to expand your awareness and enhance your own spiritual practices. In this special observance of Lent, we believe that there will be a mutual flourishing of spiritual practices among us which will fortify us for doing the work of Jesus in our world.
Schedule For the Lenten Program
Here's a preview of the 2018 Lenten Program
Wed, February 14
Wed, February 21
Wed, February 28
Wed, March 7
Wed, March 14
Wed, March 21
Thurs, March 29
Sun, April 1
Sun, April 8
Introduction to “Open the Door”
Pilgrimage to Reflection Spaces
Exploration of pain/suffering
Exploration of abandonment
Expressing Divine Love in the world
Post-Easter encounters with Jesus
Beholding Practice in Orange Door Room
COME ‘OPEN THE DOOR’ WITH US!
Lenten Fasting 2018: It Isn't What You Think It Is...
Since the earliest times in the church there has been preparation for Easter. By the end of the 4th century the 40-day period of Easter preparation known as Lent existed and prayer and fasting constituted its primary spiritual exercises. Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and Hindus also include fasting as part of their yearly observance. For Christians, the forty days of Lent commemorate Jesus’ fasting in the wilderness after his baptism.
The rules of fasting have varied over the centuries. Some areas of the Church abstained from all forms of meat and dairy products while others made exceptions for fish. Over the years, ‘giving up something for the Lord’ has come to involve certain foods, such as chocolate or sweets or alcohol, or abstinence from activities, such as gambling or a sedentary lifestyle.
Why fast? Here are some thoughts:
Fasts are like vacations from the pursuit of pleasure. Sometimes the appetites and desires of the physical body become our master, rather than our servant. We find parts of our life having a grip or hold on us, such as our fascination with social media. Letting go of some part of our life that has a grip on us permits us to become open to new possibilities for living differently and greatly. When we discover that instead of having ‘things’ that ‘things’ have us, then we open the door to rearrange our priorities in closer conformance to those of Jesus, who stands at the door and knocks. Fasting may be a way of letting the Love Master in.
Releasing is a practice common to every life. Like opening a door, releasing invites space for the entry of new possibilities. Small releases or openings provide practice for the Big Ones…. launching our children, letting go of an abusive relationship, forgiving our best friend, or releasing our parents or a loved one into eternity. Fasting reminds us we have the power to give up and the power to forgo.
Fasting means deliberately putting ourselves in a state of need, a state of dependence. A spiritual practice that reminds us of our dependence can help dislodge us from thinking we are at the center of our world. When we think we are the center, it is nearly impossible to find connection with others and with God. Society would convince us that every ‘want’ is a ‘need’ and that if our needs aren’t being met then we are personally lacking. Our culture imposes many ideas about what we ‘need’ (fancy cars, pills for every condition, exotic trips) but that does not reflect any real lack. What we need and want we want are different. The culture’s emphasis is on consuming and feeling vulnerable or lacking if we do not satisfy all our wants. Fasting can help us reorder life.
Fasting is an opportunity to slow the momentum of living and become satisfied just to be here and now. It also invites us to develop a certain tolerance for discomfort. Resisting temptations to break our fast calls for constant awareness and determination. Fasting can show us the power of detaching from the ordinary and the clutter of ‘things’. Fasting reframes the true priorities of a Christian life: not consumption, but generosity; not satisfaction but hunger for justice; not greed but gratitude.
Let us consider some new ways of fasting in this season of Lent:
We know that carbon dioxide is the primary driver of global warming. Reducing carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions is a matter of great urgency. A Carbon Fast addresses our caring for Creation and our concern for the people of the planet who have the fewest resources to cope with the fallout of climate change. Go to the website: www.miipl.org/carbon-fast/ and click on the Carbon Calendar from Michigan. There you will find activities for each day in Lent. If doing one each day seems overwhelming, you might choose one activity each week and repeat it each day. We will have printed copies of the calendar on the Activities Desk in the stem hallway as well.
Jesus’ commandments can be stated simply as “Listen and Love”. Listening requires attention, presence, and interest. It happens best when are present enough to read body language as well as hear the words. We can’t listen and love well if we are connected constantly to social media. Most smartphone users check their phone every six-and-a-half minutes and spend additional hours on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, and other social media platforms. Is social media a tool we control, or does it control us? Consider a Social Media Fast and think about ways you can limit your access for a week or more. Perhaps we can limit the number of times we check social media, or restrict our engagement to an hour at the end of day, or release ourselves fully for one week or more. Use that time to listen well, love well, and nurture your relationships face-to-face.
Our in-home entertainment, including TV and internet movies or shows occupy more space and time than we might realize. A recent survey suggests that people older than 65 watch 48 hours a week, which is a lot of life in front of a television or computer. We use these devices as loneliness-inhibitors, babysitters, and distractions from problems. While TV can be a source of relaxation, the murders, car chases, shootings, crime scenes, political news, and love triangles that dominate much screen fare can siphon energy away from living and deprive us of much-needed rest and restoration of our spirits. Consider a TV and Internet Entertainment Fast. During your fast, do other things. Read a new book, visit or call a friend, clean out a closet, plant some flowers, take a walk in your neighborhood, enjoy a nap, write in a journal, invite a friend to lunch, write a letter, volunteer to help out, pray and talk to God. Do what brings you joy and what fills you up.
Sometimes, to understand the value of words, we need to take a break from talking so much and lean into listening. The average person speaks sixteen thousand words a day. Are those trivial and mundane words that fill space or words that matter? Do we use words to soothe and comfort or to stir up turmoil and display our cynicism? Sometimes presence matters more than words. When you are present with someone, you set aside your own needs and open up to the needs of the other. When we are present we are a gift that opens the door to God’s love to another. Silence is also good for enhancing creativity, focus, and inner peace, as members of monastic societies testify to. When the scope of your listening increases, the world may come alive in a new way. Consider a Talking Fast. Prepare your friends and family by letting them know you are fasting from the spoken word, except for the most important exchanges. Try to find silence for one week, but if that doesn’t work for you, go at least one day without talking.
If you choose to fast as part of your Lenten journey this year, we encourage you to share your experiences or make comments on our blog site. As fellow seekers, we learn from each other and welcome stories of experiences at the Door.