Lent and The River of Life

During Lent, we are using a process called the River of Life to reflect on our lives, with a view of drawing closer to God. We include two sermons here, from Lent II and Lent III, where you will hear more about this exploration. Below the sermons, also, are the directions for using the River of Life process. This review process is adapted from the work of Rabbi Rachel Cowan and Dr. Linda Thal. If you are interested in reading more about this, please see the book: Wise Aging: Living with Joy, Resilience, and Spirit, pp. 43-55.

Feb. 21: Lent II
Feb. 28: Lent III

Lent is a season when we deliberately set aside time to take a loving look at our lives, to see what is real for us, to take stock, all with a view to renewing our intimacy with God. Often, this season provokes us to a life review. This morning you have been given a large piece of paper called The River of Life. It is a tool to use throughout Lent for a personal life review, should you wish to explore it. I will be using the River of Life as a theme throughout the six weeks of Lent. This process is being used in other congregations on the North Shore and I’ve adapted it for our use here with a view to supporting the deep self-reflection that goes on in Lent.

Here are general directions for you to use to fill it out.

As you can see, this model divides our lives into 7 year-spans,with a drawing of a river running through it. The river is a metaphor for our lives, reaching back into the past, and flowing into the future. There is plenty of room to write—some people like to use colored markers, or highlighters for emphasis.

It’s important to do this kind of life review with “eyes of mercy,” seeing yourself with as much compassion as you can. Give yourself about 40 minutes for the first time through, noting major events and people across the span of your life. Remember that you will have all of Lent to return to it, reflect on it, and add more, should you wish.

Find a quiet place. As you prepare to write on this page, take a few minutes to breathe, center, and relax first, as you begin to think about your river of life.

Now, write on your river the major events and people of your life. If you don’t have a 40 minute period for a first go through, write it as you can during the day or week.

When you finish, take some time to read over each section. You may wish to highlight significant events and people. Even small happenings can be significant for us–what qualities or elements made those events significant? What resources did you draw on in the challenging times?

Were there spiritually significant times? Times when you felt accompanied by God, times when you knew God was part of your river? Times you felt farther away from God?

Looking over your life, do you see any patterns? Is there a flow between the events? How does your river connect with past generations? With the future?

What events might need revisiting? Do you see places, people, memories, that invite prayer or healing? Do you see people you might wish to be closer to? People you might want to let know how much you love or appreciate them? Are there times, events, or people that might need forgiveness?

As always, this is an invitation, with a view to assisting the self-reflection and deepening process of Lent.

If you should wish to reflect with others on this process, there are two Sundays during Lent that we will offer group reflection. You may sign up for one or both, or just come. Mary Meader, D. Min., a member of our congregation, and a gifted spiritual director and retreat leader, will join Pastor Anne on Feb. 28th and on March 13th from 11:45 a.m.—12:45 p.m. in the Library to guide group reflection. Your Rivers are for you—they are private documents—you may wish to bring them, but there is no need to share them. We hope to reflect on the experience. We will have guidelines for the reflection time.

During Night Church in Lent, we will also be reflecting on this process using biblical passages evoking the River of Life, and other writings to guide our reflections. If you have any questions at all about the River of Life review, please ask Pastor Anne. The 7-year intervals are based on the biblical use of 7 year periods.

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