Recently, I was invited to be part of a Lenten devotional writer’s group. Naturally, I consented. Any call to sit with scripture, reflect, and write about it seems worth answering to me. After all, in various ways, I do this anyway in my own practice. In this particular project, however, we had a certain process to follow that I found really liberating, both as a writer and, personally, in my own spiritual journey. In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I have incorporated the format into my own spiritual practice. More, it gave me an idea.
I have decided to begin putting together a devotional resource out of this material. And, my transgender siblings, I have decided to incorporate you into the process.
By way of invitation, I am sharing with you the piece I wrote for the Lenten project at our church and I’m offering you the guidelines for the format. If you would like to participate, I would be thrilled to see what you develop and consider it for the resource. At the very least, my hope is that, if you engage the practice, it will bear for you some fruit for deeper reflection—spiritual fruit that can be freed from the somewhat choking vines of archaic traditional readings, the dogma of others, and the drought of faithful imagination.
The invitation for reflection is this:
Identify the common lectionary readings for a given week. Give them a first reading and choose the one that seems to catch your attention. Then, read it again and again. Put it down. Come back to it. Sit with it. Don’t think about it too much. Just read it at different times. Listen for a word or phrase that seems to call your attention. Let that word or phrase sit with you. Identify the word or phrase for us. Then, in your first paragraph, offer a few sentences about what comes up for you—emotionally, in memory, in your body, perhaps, even another story—as you consider the text through your word or phrase. In the second paragraph, share what invitation to faith, relationship, connection, maybe even, action you receive in your reflection on the passage.
Here is what came up for me, using this process, to consider the Hebrew text from Isaiah for the day before Maundy Thursday.
Devotional Reading: Isaiah 50: 4 – 9
“I have not turned away”
These words settle, silt-like, into the fleshy, deep-in-my-bones memory of all the ways I, too, have not turned away…even, as recently as yesterday. Sometimes by necessity, sometimes by choice, and often in spite of myself, I keep showing up. Refusing to turn away from the people who mock me. The circumstances that beat me. The things that pull out my beard. More, refusing to turn away, refusing to hide in quiet nothingness, means resisting the easier inclination to respond in kind.
Perhaps oddly, more and more, this not turning away is a conscious choice. Creator wakens me, morning by morning, and I choose to keep showing up. In that, Holy pillow-nudging wakens my ear to listening.
As uncomfortable as it almost always is, when I’m willing to keep being nudged, I receive a little ear-full of Sacred instruction about our shared common lot—a not-so-cozy Holy whisper that, in my frailty, in the sting that sometimes comes with not hiding my face, I too can fall into some beard-pulling. Usually, it arises in reaction to an underlying, subterranean emotion tilled up by the encounters with others inherently bound in not turning away. In that tilling up of inner-soil, I find the artifacts of the human condition. There, I find the Holy One speaking in ways I otherwise would not. It’s easier, for sure, to seek God speaking when everything is hunky dory. Holy teaching seems abundant when everything is sunshine and flowers, reinforcing what I think I already know about God. About creation. About myself. But, there’s not much stress on my spiritual tensile strength. Refusing to turn away is mostly unpredictable, often messy, and more uncomfortable than not.
Yet, perhaps, if I keep showing up, the Sovereign One will keep waking my ears and will keep helping me receive some new sustaining word about God. About others. Maybe—though weary—even, myself.
Liam invites you to share your stories, wisdom, and experience with him directly: Please email him at liam