Contemporary Scripture Reflections for Spiritual Seekers
Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart, BCC, PCC
Sunday, March 1st, 2020

" No man is an island , entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee."
John Donne, 1572-1631


You thumbed grit
into my furrowed brow,
marking me
with the sign of mortality,
the dust of last year's palms.
The cross you traced
seared, smudged skin,
and I recalled
other ashes
into my heart
by those who loved too little
or not at all.

Elizabeth-Anne Stewart
Leaning into Light


Ways of Sacred Listening
Tele-course, Institute for Life Coach Training (ILCT)
Wednesdays, March 4-April 22nd. 6:00-7:30 p.m. EST

Teaching College Reading and Writing in the Anthropocene
Faculty Workshop, Roosevelt University, Chicago, IL
Friday, April 3rd, 2020.

Sacred Union through Lectio Divina
Infinity Foundation, Highland Park, IL
Saturday, April 25th,
9:00 a.m.-noon

Beyond God
The Well Spirituality Center , LaGrange Park, IL
Summer Institute,
June 26-27, 2020

Out of Your Comfort Zone
Infinity Foundation, Highland Park, IL
Sunday, August 2nd,
1:00-4:00 p.m.

Mind-Shifting Imagery
ICF (International Coach Federation) Midwest Regional Conference, Madison WI
October 1-3, 2020.

  1. Have you ever experienced temptations of The Desert, The Temple Parapet and the High Mountain? If so, how did you respond?
  2. What outcomes are you hoping for this Lent?
  3. Why is the desert such a terrifying place and what can make it more like home?

Greetings, Readers!

"Life is fragile; handle it with prayer!"

Decades ago -- perhaps as long ago as the 1970's-- these inspirational words graced posters, framed photos and greeting cards. Even today, if you search for these words
on the internet, similar products surface, along with a book bearing the same title. Life has always been fragile, that is, we can only be certain of the present moment, there is no guarantee of another moment, let alone a tomorrow. The problem is that many of us live as though we are entitled to tomorrow. We assume that we can carry on with our way of life -- eating, drinking, making merry, climbing the career ladder, acquiring credentials, accomplishing impressive goals, buying, selling, investing, making ourselves look good, finding a few bargains here and there, being "liked" on social media .... But for what?

The cliché, "You can't take it with you," reminds us
that life is fragile and that, to use another cliché, we should live every day as though it is our last. The poor, of course, have no illusions about the fragility of life; nor do those living in war zones, nor the countless displaced people seeking refuge in other countries. The corona virus, however, strikes at rich and poor alike. While the Black Death (1347-1351) was spread by fleas on rat-infested merchant ships, and while the deadly Spanish Flu of 1918 was spread partially by the movement of troops in combat zones, the corona virus is making its way around the world via train, plane and cruise ship!

Pandemics bring out the best and the worst in us. From China to Italy, from Iran to Japan, from South Korea to the United States, medical teams are doing their best to save lives, even at the risk of being exposed to the virus themselves. Scientists are working tirelessly to find a vaccine while government agencies are scrambling to find ways of curtailing the virus. On the other hand, fear has led to scapegoating and racially-based violence, especially towards those of Chinese origin or those who may look Chinese, even if they have never visited China in their lives. Here in the U.S. Chinese restaurants are feeling the impact, along with commercial areas with high Chinese density -- Chicago's China Town, for example.

Lent is a time for self-assessment and transformation. Fear has no place in the spiritual life. Rather, we are called to recognize that kindness, compassion and generosity --along with prayer-- are the tools for spiritual survival. We can live like the living dead, locking ourselves behind closed doors, or we can reach out to our neighbors, knowing that all are precious in God's eyes.

Lenten Blessings!

PS Try my spiritual self-assessment tool! I hope you find it useful!
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Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain,
and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence,
and he said to him, "All these I shall give to you,
if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”
At this, Jesus said to him,
“Get away, Satan!
It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship
and him alone shall you serve.”
Then the devil left him and, behold,
angels came and ministered to him.
MT 4:1-11

There are three locations in the Gospel for the First Sunday in Lent: the desert, the parapet of the Temple, and the summit of a high mountain. Each location is the site of one of three temptations that Jesus has to face before embarking on his public ministry; his response to each temptation defines his self-identity, his relationship with God, and his vision and mission.

The desert is the place of solitude, aridity, deprivation, discomfort and sometimes fear. When we enter into the desert, whether because of life's circumstances or intentionally, it is easy to feel that we are all alone, or that God has abandoned us. If we are fasting from multi-tasking, social media addiction, over-eating or other negative behaviors, then we have to face ourselves. Instead of reaching for a comfort snack or the mind-numbing presence of our mobile phones, we allow ourselves to experience that radical emptiness, that aching hunger, that restless seeking that only God can satisfy. By refusing to turn stones to bread, Jesus rejects the "quick fix," the "magical solution," and the reliance on his own power over that of fidelity to his mission.

The parapet of the Temple is not just a "high place," but it represents institutionalized religion -- the pinnacle of spiritual achievement, hierarchical status, and self-deification. When we live as though we are in control of our destinies, answerable to no one but ourselves, and when we pray, "My will be done," rather than seeking God's will for us, then we are standing on the edge of the Temple parapet. Jesus refuses to put God to the test. His relationship with God is not based on whether or not he experiences angelic intervention but on his love for God and God's love for him. He does not need a "sign" to know that God is with him.

While mountains often lead us to a sense of awe over the grandeur of creation, this mountain experience presents the temptation of power -- the desire to rule over others to enhance our own status and prosperity. On top of the mountain, we can dominate our inferiors, impose our will over lesser mortals, crush opposition, ignore other's greater wisdom, and demand allegiance. Jesus cannot be "bought." For him, all the kingdoms of this world are nothing in comparison to the Kingdom of God. He will not bow down to Satan at any price, and so Temptation flees.

Each of the three temptations tricks us into imagining that we are the center of the universe and that if we do what is convenient (turning stones to bread), or what proves our superiority (jumping from the Temple parapet) or what makes us powerful (bending to Satan to acquire the kingdoms of this world), we will be like God. Happily, as long as we remember that we are made in the image and likeness of God and that we breathe the Divine Breath, we are safe from such egotistical illusions.
This video explains my approach to this ministry, while my website provides further details as well. I work "in person" as well as remotely by phone, Zoom or Skype; I am also available to facilitate retreats for groups and individuals.

Dr. Elizabeth-Anne Stewart |

C. All Photos by Elizabeth-Anne Stewart,