Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lenten Discipline

I am trying something a little different this year as a Lenten discipline.  I've been reading Unbinding the Gospel by Martha Grace Reese.  There's a group reading it at church, but I can't make the group meetings. But I bought a copy of the book, and touch base with the group.  They try to post questions and insights to our church's online "chat room" at least occasionally, to include others in the conversation.   This book includes a 40 Day Prayer Journal discipline, and that's what I've undertaken for Lent.  I've asked one of the group participants if she'd be a prayer partner with me, but we haven't worked out the details yet.  As another way of helping me I've decided to use this space as a kind of prayer journal, at least occasionally.  I'd love to say that I'll post every day with my insights or questions, but I know that won't happen.  I think I've carved out time daily for directed prayer discipline, but I'm not sure where the posting time will come regularly.  I'm "blessed" today because I'm home sick (for the 2nd day in a row!).  I've got a wicked sore throat and for 3 days I've had a matching headache.  The headache seems to have finally dissipated, but now I have swollen glands.  A doctor's visit may be on the horizon later today.

Today I read Isaiah 40:10-17, 28-31.  This is passage is a hymn of praise to God and reminds the exiled Israelites that God is the Creator of everything, and that God is the source of strength for all who "wait on the Lord."   The verse that resonated the most with me is verse 11:

He will feed his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms,
and carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead the mother sheep.

I am not a keeper of sheep, but I am familiar with them (what knitter isn't?).  It's lambing season, and I know that those who have sheep spend long nights and days with their flocks, being ready to help if the ewes have trouble giving birth, keeping track of the lambs as they're born, and making sure that mother and lamb are faring well.  Most of the sheep farmers I'm familiar with have small fields, and during this season keep the pregnant ewes in a fairly small enclosed field with shelter so that they don't wander off and give birth in a well-hidden place.  But I know that in other parts of the world, and in other times, sheep were kept in unenclosed fields and in rocky terrains, and it was easy for them to wander away from the larger flock, and hide to give birth.    This image of God gathering the sheep, carrying them close, and leading the mother sheep is comforting to me, even as a non-shepherd.   God knows me, knows each and every one of us.  We are gathered into God's arms and cared for. A shepherd watches carefully over the flock, provides shelter and protection.  God is our shelter and God will not only watch for us, but will search for us if we are lost.   The question that I'm pondering right now is two-fold:   How is God searching for me, right now?   Why do I keep hiding from God?

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