Saturday, March 07, 2009

Practicing Our Faith

It's Lent.  For me, Lent is always a time to try to re-program my life.  Similar to the start of a New Year, I try to spend the days before Ash Wednesday thinking about what in my life needs to be fixed - restarted - reformatted.  Most of the time, I begin Lent very aware of how out of balance my life is.  It seems as though this season of intentionally moving closer to God has a way of uncovering just how many layers in my life there are - layers that need to be pulled away, one after another, until I find myself in perfect balance with God once again.

In an effort to move closer to this balance, I dug out a book that I first purchased in seminary, "Practicing our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People."  In this book, Dorothy Bass edits a powerful collection of chapters on different spiritual practices: honoring the body, hospitality, household economics, saying yes and saying no, keeping Sabbath, testimony, discernment, shaping communities, forgiveness, healing, dying well and singing our lives.  At times, my mouth starts to water just thinking about these practices - about a life in which these practices intentionally shape and form every waking hour.

Bass starts the book by sharing an account of perfect balance.  She tells the story of a retreat center high in the mountains where her family journeys each year.  At this center, each family member gets to do what they love most from fishing to hiking to reading.  More importantly, the family discovers the balance for which they were intended.  Bass writes, "When we are there, we slip into a way of life that comes pretty close to our vision of how things are supposed to be.  As staff members, we work; we consume appropriately, eating lower on the food chain and doing without the goods and gadgets that usually clutter our lives; we worship daily.  In other words, we enter a community shaped by shared practices that make sense, and as we adjust to them, we feel ourselves becoming a little different, a little better" (Practicing our Faith, ed. Dorothy Bass, ix).

Journeying with a small group at Mount Vernon Place, we are trying to discover this way of life once more - this community "shaped by shared practices that make sense."  Many of us are gathering for a 40 minute time of worship on Wednesday mornings at 7:00.   We are working to put God and God's ways first in our lives once again.  It is a journey - one that I long to stay on - one with a clear end goal in mind.

What are the practices that shape you?  What is it that you need to shed in your life and what is it that you need to take on?

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