Grace and peace!
What does it mean to trust in the Holy Spirit? That was the focus of my continuing education at the beginning of this month. The Northern Great Lakes Synod provided an opportunity for pastors to gather and hear from Dr. Lois Malcolm about how she discerns the Spirit moving and to practice discerning together ourselves. For Dr. Malcolm, she keeps three questions in mind as she tries to discern the Holy Spirit. How is the Holy Spirit working in my life at this time? How is the Holy Spirit working in my congregation at this time? And how is the Holy Spirit working in my community, nation, and world at this time?
The season of Lent is a particularly appropriate time to ponder that first question. Lent has long been a more reflective and introspective season. The practice of giving something up can help to focus us on what the Holy Spirit is doing in our lives. Likewise, many of the practices people begin have roots in paying attention to discerning the Spirit among us. Last year, my Lenten discipline was to write in my planner one “God-sighting” each day. It was about keeping a record of what I saw God up to during one season.
So let’s spend the season discerning the Holy Spirit in our own lives for this season. God works through specific people, and as claimed and baptized children of God, we are called to be those specific people. But as empowering as that call is, it is also a humbling calling. When we trust God as the source of our lives, everything else (including our own egos) loses its grip on us. We are freed to truly love our neighbor. Dr. Malcolm points out that this baptismal calling is an embodied calling. In Hebrew, the word for “mercy,” and “compassion,” racham has the same root as “bowel” or “womb.” This mercy and compassion we are called to is an embodied mercy and compassion. We are called to love God’s children as God’s creations and as they are. We are not called to make others into what we want them to be, but to love them as they are. And difficult as it may be to believe, God has given us everything we need to do what God has called us to do.
This Lent, my discipline is going to be the Ignatian examen. It’s an ancient practice of going back through the day and looking for the Spirit. It’s a more intense version of my discipline from last year. Dr. Malcolm offered suggestions of writing a spiritual autobiography, journaling, meditating, and different types of contemplative prayer as disciplines that can help us discern the Holy Spirit in our lives. Giving something up can also create a trigger that helps us to keep this question in mind. So what are you going to do for Lent? What discipline will you take on? I hope that whatever you do, you hold this question close for this season: what is the Holy Spirit doing in your life at this time?