It is just over a week since Ash Wednesday and I am settling into my Lenten routine. I am reading two devotionals through Lent. My ‘Catholic One’ I read with my wife. Last night she went to bed while I was blogging so I’m now a day behind. The other devotional is Deeply Loved by Keri Wyatt Kent. I have agreed with Abingdon Press to post on this book and what I am learning from it each week. Normally I don’t really ‘do devotionals.’ I tend to read at a verocious pace and devotionals give you a small taste. And then tomorrow another. This daily measured pace is hard for me. It is like running. I like to run as fast and as far as I can, even if my body is stiff for several days afterwards. Devotionals force me to slow down and rest with an idea, practice or scripture. It has been a good Lenten discipline for me.
I am enjoying Deeply Loved. One of the things I’ve really appreciated is the tone. Each day has Keri’s reflections on a particular scripture and theme, followed by a ‘Presence Practice.’ These practices are an invitation to deepen your spiritual life. When I think about everything Keri is asking me to put into practice is is actually quite a lot, but it never feels like it. She has a gracious way of inviting me to deepen my spiritual practice without it feeling burdensome. On day one she asked me to consider how I think God sees me and then replace my ‘gut reaction’ with the reality that God sees me with love and delight. On day two she asked me to recall Jesus’ loving presence with me throughout the day. After that she asked me to ‘slow down’ and prune out over commitments, review my day (intentinally pray the examen each and every day), begin each day dedicating it to Jesus, pray fixed hour prayers, practice the prayer of adoration, seek a spiritual companion, and set aside an hour to spend with God in solitude. I am uncertain what she will ask of me tomorrow.
These practices have enriched my Lenten experience. I have not practiced all of them. I thought about the fixed hour prayer through out the day I read that one, but haven’t thought of it much since. I do not feel overcommitted at the moment (except at work but I can’t help that) so I didn’t prune anything out of my life. I haven’t yet found an hour to unplug and spend with God in solitude. However I have appreciated the challenge of these practices and feel the hunger for a deeper experience of God.
In the first couple days of reading this book I was reminded of a significant moment I had in Spiritual Direction just over a year ago. I was at a pastors conference, though thus far I have failed to find a position as a pastor in a church. While I was there I felt very small. Anytime someone asked me where I was serving, I smiled sheepishly and told them ‘nowhere at the moment.’ I was also taking a class at the conference where me and other participants reflected on the role of the pastor (Williomon’s excellent book Pastor gave broad outline to the course). I felt like a failure and every insecurity I had welled up in me. I began thinking about my lack of experience, how I was bad at evanglism, how I needed to hone my adminstrative skills.
My prayer times were different. When I prayed I felt like God was pleased with me. I remember reflecting in solitude on how timid I feel at evangelism. The verse from the gospels came to mind where Jesus says, “If you deny me before men, I will deny you before my Father.” In the past I’ve felt judged by that verse for everytime I failed to boldly proclaim the gospel for fear of sounding insensitive. But in my prayer time I felt something different. It was as though Jesus said to me, “You have not denyed me, you have staked your life on me!”
At this conference I got a moment to sit with a Spiritual Director and I told her this. She led me through a excercise where I listened to the voice of the ‘accuser in my life’ but then invited the voice of compassion. Through this excercise, her prayer and mine, and the Presence of the Spirit with us, I felt like God said to me, “You are loved and you are chosen.’
Now a year later I am doing a devotional and the very first practice invites me to reflect on the reality of Jesus’ love for me. I am Deeply Loved by God.