I've encountered a life-changing read this Lent in the book, A Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns, president of World Vision. It is a compelling, challenging book for Christians. It is a compelling, challenging book for me.
I have been processing the book at the same time that our pastor has begun a sermon series on our thought lives. The basis of his sermon series is this passage from Romans 12 "I beseech ye, brethren, by the mercies of God that ye prepare your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (pardon -- I have the KJV memorized and it never sounds right to me unless in this version).
As our pastor has pointed out, scripture is clear here that disciplining our thoughts brings us into alignment with the will of God. He talked about how important it is to choose to expose our minds and, thus, our spirits to things that build us up and encourage us to be holy. And, of course, I thought about tv shows and songs and other media (like the internet *ahem*). I thought about what a huge difference it makes in my life to filter the things which influence me. And I thought about how, a year ago or so, I decided to listen to sacred music most of the time and how much that has changed what goes through my head throughout the day. I love the snippets of scripture that appear with melodies at odd moments. The echoes are just lovely.
But while processing my reaction to the earthquake in Haiti, especially through the lens of "the hole" in my gospel, I've realized that while God wants me to guard my thoughts when it comes to those things I seek out to entertain me, that God wants me to unguard my thoughts when it comes to the suffering of others. I am finding that to participate in the grandeur of self-focused thought refinement without applying the exercise to the world beyond is so...hollow. It is "the hole," I guess. And I have realized that the desire to live an insular existence is not a holy desire. I've thought about how many of us will gladly watch CSI or, heck, MYSTERY on PBS or will expose ourselves to all manner of crazy, violent thoughts and dissonant behavior, but won't watch the news or look at pictures of a disaster or read statistics of suffering or even discuss the presence of evil in the world. Being careful not to see the news does not mean that the news doesn't happen.
So, while being called to set my mind on things above, I've been being reminded to open my eyes and see -- really see-- this world God loves.
Thus, my prayer this Lent has been two-fold. First --"May the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Reedemer." And, I've been praying the prayer of Bob Pierce, World Vision's founder, "Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God."