Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lent and longing

This Lent at The Well, we are exploring the Lord's Prayer together.  Even though, we've just begun, I can tell this is going to be a meaningful season.  We are gathering for worship and service opportunities, and are also meeting in smaller discussion groups during the week.  As we sat around the dinner table this Tuesday night for our first group gathering, we began our discussion with this question:  As a community, we are on the journey toward Resurrection Sunday, but as individuals, what other journeys are we on right now?

As I listened to and later reflected on our conversation, I heard the collective sounds of people longing for a day ... a day when we will know what the future holds, a day when we will heal from disappointment and disillusionment, a day when we will have balance again and a rhythm to our routines.   There were no easy answers or simple solutions, but in there place were nods, "I know what you mean"s and questions.

As our discussion turned toward the practice of prayer, one question surfaced that has lingered on my mind throughout the week.  The question sounded something like this:

What does prayer look like when our unfulfilled longing looms like an elephant in the room?

(Ironically, this was the topic of a recent post)  A few brief words were offered in response, but otherwise we moved on.  I wish we had stayed with this question, because it is such a powerful one.

For most of my life, I thought of prayer as a prescriptive process.
You need something?  Pray for it.
You are sad?  Pray for comfort.
You know someone who is sick?  Pray for healing.

Even though I learned along the way that prayer often changes us more than our circumstances, little was ever said about the changing shape of the prayers themselves.  Wouldn't the prayers of unfulfilled longing sound quite different than those asking for comfort and healing?  Wouldn't prayer in seasons of doubt and despair sound different than prayer in times of growth and gratitude?

Just like we did in our conversation, we want to move on too quickly without voicing any of the whys, hows and what nows that express the weight of our longing.  As uncomfortable as it may seem, being willing to allow prayer to be space for honest questions, sincere doubts and unresolved tensions may be the only way to pray as we journey through our longings.

I pray Lent is a rich time of exploring and expressing our deepest longings as we look to One who knows and understands each one.

Friday, February 8, 2013


Life is full of transitions.  This truth confronts me more and more as I watch my own children learn and grow.  We once had two toddlers, and now our oldest daughter is in middle school.  That's craziness, and I hear it just keeps getting crazier.  

It also confronts me as I watch our faith community change and grow.  Ministry teams have formed, people are taking on leadership roles, and contributing creative ideas, gifts and resources.  It's a beautiful thing, but like watching my own children grow, it's also a scary thing.  We find ourselves in unfamiliar territory, facing difficult decisions, discerning the way together; and, it's not easy.

In Unexpected Gifts, Christopher Heurtz explores the challenges and gifts of being part of community.  His experience is that for each tension that a community faces, there is a subsequent gift on the other side.  He claims that transitions handled well lead to stability.  He writes,

Transitions have something addictive about them, something sexy.  There's something profoundly interesting about "what's next."  Transitions are an inevitable part of community, but how they are handled has as much power over the sustainability of a community as just about anything else.
Although he focuses on the transition experienced from members leaving a community, I think this same idea applies to any change in a community's life together.  In the midst of change, we can choose to become anxious and isolated from one another, or we can deal honestly with the challenges before us.  If we are  honest, we will acknowledge the fear, tension, and disappointment that can surface during times of change.  None of us handle things perfectly, we all make mistakes and we all have room for growth.  Transitions often land us where we've never been before; however, they can also provide us the opportunity for growth and a re-fining of our identity as a community of faith. 

What challenges have you faced during times of transition?  

And, what gifts have been waiting on the other side?