Friday, February 26, 2021

"Why are you striving these days?"

It's difficult (but obviously not impossible) to write when I don't feel like I have anything to say. I am reminded of the line from that (now) old movie Throw Mama from the Train: "Writers write." The only trouble with this is I am not really a writer. More appropriate, perhaps, as well as more familiar to those who have read this blog for a while, is Samuel Beckett's "I can't go on, I'll go on." Since it's Lent, a Kyrie eleison seems appropriate.

How is Lent going for you? I hope well. By "well," I mean hope you've hit the point of giving up on your plans for self-improvement. Lent is not about self-improvement. Actually, it would be difficult to think of anything more antithetical to his holy season than self-improvement. What is Lent about? It's about preparing for Easter by practicing more the fundamental spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. By "more" I mean more intensively and more intensively. Basically, it is a time to clear space in our lives for God by means of practicing these disciplines.

One of the four things that constitutes my morning prayertime is listening to 24/7 Prayer's Lectio 365. Last Monday, the passage at the heart of the daily Lectio 365 was from Mark 14, the section about his prayer in Gethsemane (see Mark 14:32-36a). After listening to passage for the second time, as is common in the practice of lectio divina, the listener is asked to find a word or phrase from the text that speaks to her/him.

The phrase that I felt spoke directly to me was Jesus's words to Peter, James, and John as he was about to pray in the Garden "Sit here while I pray" (Mark 14:32). Jesus didn't want me to labor, strive, to feel as though I had to do something, prove something, demonstrate some correct behavior. It was a moment of liberation, one that gave me an insight I have had before but one I seem to lose hold of.

On that very same day, I received a package. In the package was a book. I didn't order the book. It was sent as a gift by a friend. What was the book? In Praise of the Useless Life: A Monk's Memoir. This did nothing but reinforce the sentence from lectio that spoke to me.

Once again, I hope your Lent is going well.

Our traditio for this First Friday of Lent is the Tenth Avenue North song "By Your Side" off their still remarkable 2008 album Over and Underneath.

Zero apologies for letting my charismatic proclivities shine through.

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