GPS for the Soul Week 1
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make
straight in the desert a path for God.”
I humbly offer now a 6-week Lenten blog series called, GPS for the Soul. Every Monday I will deliver into your inbox “spiritual coordinates” to help guide you through Lent. We will rely on Jesus, his words and actions, as our map. Expect scripture where Jesus offers practical advice for how to live deeper and more meaningful lives. I will respond with a short reflection and offer tools to dig deeper. Leo Tolstoy said, “the spiritual life is not merely something to be known and studied, it is to be lived.”
My hope is that over the next six weeks we will journey together, maybe face some demons, renew our curiosity about God, feel angels hovering, and open ourselves to experiencing that peace our souls crave. Easter morning will arrive with a renewed confidence and trust in God.
Week 1 Reflection:
This week begins the Christian season of Lent, the 40-day spiritual journey that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter morning. Following Jewish custom, the year following Jesus’ death, his family, friends, and devoted followers would have gathered together to commemorate his death, and more profoundly his resurrection. The “hope” tradition of celebrating Jesus’ resurrection grew and spread. In 325 AD, the Council of Nicea (which established formally many of the tenets of the Christian faith) made Easter an annual holiday the first Sunday after the spring Equinox. The Council also proclaimed Lent as a period of “spiritual preparation” where Christians committed to self-examination, reflection, prayer, and penitence to ready their hearts for a deeper experience of the holy day.
Lent mirrors the 40-days Moses and Jesus spent in the wilderness. It was a time of great personal trial, terrific loneliness, and doubt, but also moments of true, extraordinary revelation of God. We are told (Mark 1:3) that Jesus faced many demons but he was also watched over by heavenly angels.
This time last year, our lives were upended by the world-wide Covid pandemic. We entered a biblical “wilderness,” tested in body and spirit, suffering dark nights of the soul, and grieving devastating losses. We have wondered where God is and what is true and trustworthy? But we experienced silver linings too. In the darkness and uncertainty the light shined through.
In “the wilderness” Jesus wrestled with the hard questions of who he was truly? What was he here to do? Can we answer these questions in the morass now? Where do I hope to be going next? Do I live a life of goodness and consequence? Will I like Jesus come out of the 2021 wilderness changed?
The spiritual practice of Lent has endured for more than two millennia because we need help making our way and remembering what truly matters. These pre-Easter weeks offer an invitation to find lasting peace, to feel God near, to surrender our will—and simply trust God. We try again to connect to the still, small voice of divinity waiting patiently for us.
This isn’t the year to strive for spiritual acrobatics and sainthood. What we all need is gentleness, a respite from our very jarring earthly reality. Maybe we can experience some of that same assurance Jesus found in the wilderness. He discovered an inner courage and confidence to brave the unknown and accept his destiny on earth. Returning from the 40 days, Jesus wasn’t inoculated from heartbreak, doubt, and despair, but he traveled the path set before him with God’s holy peace. At some point in the wilderness, Jesus accepted deeply and confidently the Truth: His Father was with him and perfectly loved him. God had a plan that could be trusted where ultimately love would prevail.
Week 1 Scripture:
I have chosen Mark 1:11 as this week’s scripture. It is God’s send-off to Jesus before he enters the wilderness. The heavens part as Jesus rises baptized from the River Jordan. God speaks: You are my beloved, with whom I am well pleased. This is the greatest profound truth of our existence: We are first and always loved by God. Begin every day with these words!
Week 1 Prayer:
I invite you to read my very favorite scripture and the silver lining of my faith: Psalm 139. God is with us always and will take each step beside us. When our earthly journey ends, God will be standing there beside us. This psalm is a love letter from God—read it every day! The poet reminds us that there is no intimate detail, no fear or insecurity that God does not share with us. Nor is there a place where we can hide (not to heaven or Sheol, not to the farthest limits of the Sea or the darkest night of our soul) that God will not find us. Take this knowledge into your deep. Step forward curiously and confidently.
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all of my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from your Presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
And your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as day,
darkness is light to you.
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
In your book were written all the days that
were formed for me,
when none of them as yet existed.
How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
I come to the end-I am still with you.
For a deeper dive, take a look at Richard Rohr’s, Immortal Diamond, and listen to Hillsong United’s, Oceans. I’ll meet you at the trailhead next Monday!