Saturday, February 12, 2005

A New Discipline

During this season of Lent, a lot of folks will be attempting to give up things. The usual cast of 'characters' includes smoking, chocolate, sugared drinks. Other people will be attempting to do something new, to focus on a spiritual discipline they have not tried before, or perhaps let slip out of their lives of faith.

Perhaps you are attempting to read scripture in a very intentional way which allows you to be open to what God's Word says to you. The ancient practice of lectio divina is useful as one reads a brief passage slowly and thoughtfully, taking note of a particular word or phrase that speaks to your spirit, and then spending time reflecting on it, praying it, and living it out.

Others are seeking to practice the ancient discipline of hospitality. While this certainly means opening one's home to strangers, it can also mean opening one's heart to family and friends with whom you have become estranged; opening your frazzled spirit to God's serenity; opening your eyes to the beauty of God's creation and the opportunity you have to embrace it and welcome it as a precious gift, not a usable commodity.

Perhaps you are willing to practice the difficult discipline of fasting. While one must always be careful in trying this, many people have found it to be a way to cleanse one's body, one's soul, one's emotions of all the toxins which fill us to overflowing. Some will fast from a favorite food, some will fast one meal a day, some will fast one day a week (and perhaps give the money they would have spent on food to a food bank). I like to fast on Maundy Thursday and break that fast with the Lord's Supper that night.

According to the letter to Titus (3:1-15) in the New Testament, there might be a practice we could all adopt during this season, and beyond. While not an ancient spiritual discipline, perhaps it could become a modern one. And that is to show every courtesy to everyone (vs. 2). Imagine what a wonderful gift this might be to our world that is beset by rudeness, road rage, and bitter talk about each other.

Think how it might change someone if you were courteous toward them, rather than challenging them because their politics, or beliefs, are different from yours. Think how it might improve another's life, if you smile and say 'hello' when they glare at you in a store. Think about all the stupid controversies, dissensions, and quarrels that fill our lives in our churches, our families, our communities, our world when we could do so much better by being gentle towards one another, by refusing to engage in demonizing those who disagree with us, by being ready to do good things for others.

And think about how the simple act of being more courteous to everyone might change you. And isn't that what discipline is all about?

(c) 2005 Thom M. Shuman

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