Wednesday, February 10, 2016


A Guest Column
By Rev. F. Richard Garland
I have a love/hate relationship with Lent. At its best it can foster a healthy self examination that leads to insight and new possibilities. At its worst it is a long, dark, weary slog through the ‘oughts and the shall nots’ of religion. I seldom go willingly into Lent.
Not long ago, I walked into a sanctuary and, there in the center aisle, I was greeted by a basin of water, behind which was a large mirror, upon which was written, “You are beloved.” It was the beginning of the season of Epiphany. In the bulletin there was offered an invitation for people to pause, touch the water, to remember their Baptism and be thankful. We were reminded that, as was Jesus at his Baptism, we are beloved of God. It is a stark contrast to the beginning of Lent when we are also reminded, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Both are true, and it got me to wondering if Epiphany has something to teach us in Lent. 

What if we spent the necessary time of Lenten introspection listening for the deeper, wiser voice that reminds us that we are beloved of God - a season of light teaching us how to cope with the dark.
In the creation story God says: “Let there be light.” The first voice of creation is the voice of life, overcoming the dark, formless void.

In John’s gospel the Word becomes flesh - a light that shines in the darkness. In Luke’s gospel at the baptism of Jesus there is a voice, “You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.” In the Book of Revelation there is a voice from the throne: “The home of God is with mortals.” “I am making all things new.” These are the voices of life, of hope, of Love, of vision - the deeper, wiser voices that bring health and wholeness, physically and spiritually.
In our journey through Lent we are called to listen to these voices - voices that heal, nurture and build up. Otherwise, as Christine Valters Paintner warns: “When we continue to follow the judge or the inner critic, or any of the especially loud and vocal voices inside us, without recourse to the whole range of who we are, we can become depleted by self doubt and insecurity.”
So, where does one start? Where does one go to hear this deeper wiser voice? 

For people of faith there is no better place than the Book of Psalms. The Book of Psalms was Jesus’ prayer book. The Psalms have been the staple of worshiping people for millennia. The Psalms have been a source book for life from the very beginning. There is no dimension of life that the Psalms do not touch. Throughout the Psalms you will encounter the voice of God, in all of its depth and all of its wisdom. How does one start? By reading them of course! Preferably out loud. Why out loud? Because it slows one down. 
By the way, I found a wonderful website - - where you can set up your own reading plan and receive a daily email that includes the bible text for the day. Try it out - go to the site - click on Psalms - set the time frame [I would suggest 90 days] - and check the box for ‘send a daily email’ and voila! You have a reading plan!
The process of listening for the deeper wiser, voice is really quite simple:
+++ Read the Psalms out loud - make note and be open to the voice and words you hear.
+++ Pray: “O God, what are you trying to teach me through these words?”
+++ Reflect on where this deeper wisdom will lead you in your walk of faith. 

In his wonderful little book “Praying the Psalms,” Thomas Merton observes: “The Psalms establish us in God, they unite us to Him in Christ.” “The function of the Psalms is to reveal to us God as the ‘treasure’ whom we love because He has first loved us.” You are beloved!

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