Contributed by Board Member, The Rev. Dr. Richard Bardusch
Lent is an old Anglo-Saxon word that means spring. While Lent overlaps spring in time, there is a deeper connection between the church season of Lent and the planting season of spring. Lent is about tilling the ground of our spiritual lives so that we can experience the new life of the Resurrection of Jesus. Lent is the time when we prepare our hearts to be sown with God’s love and Jesus’ new life.
Like the ground after winter, our hearts become hard over time and each year we need to break up that hardness so that like the ground they are prepared to receive the seeds of new life. Just as the plants thrive in tilled soil so to the seeds of God’s love thrive in a spirit that is broken and tilled.
As Americans we don’t like to have our world dug up. We like our patterns to be the same and predictable, but as Christians we are called to disciplines in Lent of preparation. Some of us give up bad habits, while others of us take on good ones. Whether we give up or take on is not the question. They are both acts of preparation designed to till our hearts for the planting of God’s word and mighty deeds in the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
How is God calling you to till your spirits? What do you need to give up or take on to prepare to receive God’s seeds of love? To till our hearts is the call of Lent.
Contributed by the Rev. Dr. Richard Bardusch
It is during the month of December that we have the shortest days in the year. December also brings about the end of the calendar year, the hibernation of much of life, and the end of our holiday season. In many ways December can be thought of as an ending month. It is as if the light is going out, and in a literal way, it is. That can be sad.
But for Christians December also brings beginnings. It is the beginning of the new liturgical year, it brings the beginning of the calendar year, and the beginning of days getting longer, and literally the increase of light. It brings many fresh starts. That can be joyous.
There is no ending without a beginning and no beginning without an ending. Which decides for you who you will be: the endings or the beginnings? It is as simple as that. We get to choose.
The choice is not about choosing one set of facts over another. The light does decrease and the light does increase in the month of December. Both statements are true. Our choice is about with which one we will align ourselves. Will we be people of increasing light or decreasing light?
In many ways it is like the Native American story about the two wolves inside each person. One is a wolf of anger and the other is a wolf of peace. Which one will we feed? The one that we decide to feed is the one that we will become. As December unfolds I invite you to make a choice. Choose to be people of light instead of darkness.
Christ was born in the darkest month that the light might shine even more brightly. He asks us to choose. Which side will we be on? I choose light and new beginnings.
Contributed by board member, The Rev. Dr. Richard Bardusch
We are now entering what many people refer to as “the dog days of Summer.” If you ask people what that phrase means, generally they say it means it is really hot, or “it’s so hot dogs just lie around” or something similar. While it is usually true it is hot in the Summer, that is not the original meaning for the phrase. In the picture you can see an outline of the constellation Canis Major “chasing” the constellation Lepus (the hare).In the night sky somewhere in mid-July to early August depending on your location, the star Sirius rises from the horizon in the Northern Hemisphere. This year Sirius rises on the night of August 11. Sirius is part of the constellation Canis Major (big dog). If you connect the stars in the constellation Canis Major, Sirius becomes the nose of a big dog (see picture). As a result in ancient literature and among sailors even today, Sirius is often called the Dog Star.
Among the ancients, the dog days of Summer refer to an astronomical event, not the temperature. Overtime, people paid less attention to astronomy or navigation by stars and lost the phrases’ original meaning. The phrase continued, however, to be part of many languages, and still is today. Like other phrases, which are still part of our language, but whose meaning is not well known, most people just make up a meaning for the phrase.
That is the gift. Human beings have to ability to create meaning. God has built it into our brains for us to find meaning where there is none, or where we have forgotten. A piece of what Christians call the Imago Dei, or Image of God is our ability to make meaning. In the sense that God is the source of all meaning, human beings are co-creators with God in meaning, our own and the world’s.
Of course, with ability comes responsibility. The meaning we create can build up or tear down. It can be for the common good or not. The kind of meaning we create whether it is a phrase, goal, or way of life is also a reflection of who we are and whose we are. What meaning do you give to the phrase of your life?
Dog Days of Summer Blessings.
Contributed by board member, The Rev. Dr. Richard Bardusch
I have been struggling with how it is that prayer changes who we are. I have found that Centering Prayer makes me not only calmer, but more contented as well. But why is this so? Why does simply sitting and listening to God bread down my walls and make me more compassionate? I am not sure I am going to be able to offer an explanation—I will leave that to those more knowledgeable than I about these things—but I will offer a testimony.
Unlike the type of prayer where we tell God things he already knows, or ask for things we want, simply sitting and listening has a cumulative, long term effect that is decidedly virtuous. By virtuous I mean it doesn’t just make me a higher functioning person, but rather it leads me to actual Christian goals like compassion, patience, and kindness.
Interestingly, I have also discovered that Centering Prayer reveals truth in a manner that is unique to itself. It provides its own revelation. When I read Scripture I find the practice of Centering Prayer has put me in a place of greater openness and a greater expansiveness to possibility and reality. When I read Scripture new meanings are there that I have not seen in the past without this practice of prayer.
Because Centering Prayer strengthens my relationship to Jesus, I find Jesus literally enlightening my relationship to reality. It is as though by connecting to the divine in prayer, the divine reveals more fully my connection to everything else. I guess that makes sense as everything is created by the divine, and the divine undergirds the existence of everything. It kind of blows my mind sometimes.
I encourage you to stop and listen. It is a very simple practice that enables us to see and hear.
Submitted by board member, the Rev. Dr. Richard Bardusch
Time is an issue with which we all struggle. In liturgical churches, i.e. churches with a formal order of worship, there is a period in our calendar called Ordinary Time. This part of the church year usually begins in late spring and lasts until late fall. It is the largest single season of the church year and has few of the bigger holy days. It is the regular time when life is grounded out and we move from one week to the next without a lot of interruption.
As a community we use this season as the time to recharge our batteries. It is not that we stop doing things so we can save our energy; rather, it is that we shift our focus, which brings a different type of energy. We focus less on the big holy days—because there are few of them—and more on the gentle connection of shared life. In other words, we walk together in regular life and connect in ways that some say might say are mundane or not very special.
There is an ebb and flow to life. Part of recharging our batteries is the practice of living into that shifting of focus. If we try to be constant with the type of energy we expend, we burn out. When we shift our energies to match the ebb and flow of life, we find ourselves continuously recharging.
The ordinary times of our lives are for shifting of focus, not shutting down. It is an important distinction. One is positive and the other is defeatist. Which do you want in your life?