Lenten Devotional: Wednesday, March 14

by Julie Dotterweich Gunby

Hosea 14:5-7 (ESV):

I will be like the dew to Israel;
he shall blossom like the lily;
he shall take root like the trees of Lebanon;
his shoots shall spread out;
his beauty shall be like the olive,
and his fragrance like Lebanon.
They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow;
they shall flourish like the grain;
they shall blossom like the vine;
their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

Screen Shot 2018-03-14 at 7.32.26 AMBeauty like the olive, life, roots, shade, blossoming, flourishing … 

Of course this is what I want for my life.

I want to have real, genuine goods.

I want the patient humility of Father Jimmy Boyle, who with his missing fingers and mild manner celebrated mass for 35 years in not only the L’arche community, but also in the penal-like state institution for adults with developmental disabilities.  

I want the radical faithfulness of my coworker who now patiently tends the daily needs of her husband with early onset Alzheimer’s- the very husband who, when he was well, was cruel, distant, and emotionally manipulative.

I want the frightful courage of families who willingly adopt children from orphanages, knowing full well what the ravages that reactive attachment disorder will bring, and that love cannot heal their children’s wounds.

But, of course, that’s not true.

I don’t want those things.

I *want* to want those goods.

Patient humility, radical faithfulness, frightful courage — these have a beauty that is like the ancient olive tree, a gnarled, wisened beauty that matures over time, and still puts forth fruit after hundreds, even thousands of years. A tree that makes fruit both bitter and sweet, that is nourishing for food and for oil for anointing.

These kinds of deep, other-worldly goods are not what I actually want.

These are not what I rush through my work to get to.

No, what I want, at the end of the day, is another glass of red wine, a chance to binge watch some Netflix, a gushing word of praise about my own virtue, a clever thrift store find, a donut, a nap, a flash of self-righteous indignation.

The goods that I actually want are the moral equivalents of candy corn. Easy on the tongue, vapid and depleting in the end.

What would it take to cross this chasm, to want the goods I might, on my best days, almost want?

A hint comes a few verses earlier in this prophecy — in that day “we will say no more, ‘our God’ to the work of our hands.” (Hosea 14:3)

In these weeks of Lent, we have a brief chance to deny ourselves some of the trinket goods and vapid pleasures we make for our own enjoyment.

In so doing, we ask that God might give us a taste for olive oil, whole grain, and the fruit of the vine.

Real goods are an acquired taste.

We cannot force ourselves to enjoy them as good any more than a child can come from the womb craving spicy paneer bhurji.

We cannot cultivate a taste for mature beatitude any more than an orphan can force herself to form attachments after years of abandonment.

But here Hosea is right too– the promise of goodness is possible because Israel is known and loved by “the One in whom the orphan finds mercy.” (14:3)

Perhaps I must begin not by imagining myself as the adoptive mother who holds radical space to bring new life, but as the broken child tied to the bed, with knowledge of nothing but her own desire.

Prayer:
Oh God, we ask that you continue to tirelessly mother us,
   to set before us a table rich with Your food.
Bear with us when we can do no more than choke down tiny bites
   and reach for desserts of our own making.
Love us with patient, radical, frightful courage,
   forgive us when we fight you off and spit it back.
May we, in the end, return and “dwell beneath your shadow,
   flourish like the grain, and blossom like the vine.”

Lenten Devotional: Monday, March 17

Every day during Lent, members of Oconee Street UMC will write a Lenten devotional and share with the congregation.

by George Miller
March 17. 2014

Hosea 6:3:
Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge Him.
                       As surely as the sun rises, He will appear; 
                  He will come to us like the winter rains,
                       like the spring rains that water the earth.
                                                                             
HOLY THOUGHTS, HOLY AND CLEAN BODY, HOLY VOICE
I sing because I’m Happy, I sing because I’m free
His eye is on the sparrow, I know he cares for me.

FAITH without works is dead (James 2:17) and WILLINGNESS without action is fantasy.

Having grown up in a very rigid religious family, characterized by fear based shame and guilt, I developed a mistaken belief system that it was SELFISH to take care of myself.  Now I know that God wants me to do just that; by taking care of my body, I will have a place to live and the Holy Spirit will have a temple.

Several years ago I had a physical emotional, mental and spiritual life crisis and suddenly reached a life changing “turning point” which was characterized by repentance, and death to the old and welcome to the new.  At that time my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual counselors recommended that I develop daily spiritual practices (Holy Habits)in order to become WHOLE, and then I would have the opportunity with God’s guidance to become HOLY.

HOLY THOUGHTS
Spending time in meditation and prayer lets us become better acquainted with God in the same way that we become acquainted with someone we would like to know, that is, by spending our time with them.  Meditation can be difficult in the beginning.  We are used to being very active and may feel uncomfortable with sitting still and calming our busy thoughts.  We may feel we are wasting time, instead of doing something more productive.  Actually, for us as Christians, nothing could be more productive.

Meditation is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God as we go aside into calm communion with Him.  In other words meditation quiets the mind to nourish our spirit.  Another aspect of meditation is SILENCE, since too often we speak simply to fill space with sound, because we feel so uncomfortable with lack of sound. So silence can be golden for us to hear God speak to us, with a touch of heaven.

HOLY AND CLEAN BODY 
Matthew 4:1-2 

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And when He had fasted for forty days and forty nights, He was hungry.

Fasting can be an experience of not just giving up food, but rather an opportunity for increased spiritual attunement and connection.  After about three days of fasting from food, the body has an abundance of increased spiritual energy, because it no longer needs the great amount of energy necessary to digest food.  And when fasting is combined with SILENCE, meditation and prayer, there is an increased awareness of the voice, unconditional love, and support of God. The abundance of increased calm  spiritual energy results not only in closer communion with God, but can also be used for higher levels of passion with creativity, healing and in our levels of relationship with one another.

Fasting generally applies to eating, but we can fast from any habitual activity, and in doing so may feel a sense of lack of fulfillment which can be a wonderful reminder of our sacred, most holy incompleteness.

Native American spirituality has a similar “going aside” with fasting, meditation and silence which is described as a Vision Quest.  Personally I have found that a highly structured and safe spiritual space, experienced on a regular basis (such as the change of seasons) is quite helpful and holy. In my experience, a two day personal retreat at the guest house of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers is a deeply moving spiritual connection.

The first day of Spring will be Thursday, March 20th.  Since God will be cleansing the Earth with Spring showers, it’s also a Holy time to consider fasting and internal body housecleaning as well.

HOLY VOICE

SINGING can also be another Holy Habit of a closer connection with God.  Many years ago I was having a Swedish massage and as the therapist was relaxing my upper chest and lower neck, she said, “have you ever sung”?  To which I replied, “only in the car or shower” and she then suggested that I see a voice coach.  After weekly voice lesions singing only scales for nine months, I auditioned as a bass with “Old Man River” and joined a Men’s Choral group for twelve years, claiming a voice I had never acknowledge and shared.  The act of singing requires

Even though I have been on a spiritual path for twenty five years, I have been away from organized religion.  So it is with a grateful heart and abundant love that I am returning as a slightly more mature Prodigal Son.  The fellowship and unconditional love of this congregation, especially at this time of Lent,  and sermons such as “Turning Point”, “Pass the Salt”, “From the Inside Out” and “Moving on to Perfection” were crucial to my reconnection, for which I am deeply grateful.

Prayer for Today:   Then sings my soul,  my Savior God to Thee:
                                 How great Thou art!  How great Thou art!
                                 Then sings my soul,  my Savior God to Thee:
                                 How great Thou art!   How great Thou art!

George Miller