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Posts Tagged ‘Ash Wednesday’

ashesThere is something to be said about the Church calendar. Or any calendar, I guess. There is a turning of the pages and steady pace to the days and weeks and months. Some people mark the time with Christmas or the first day of school (what used to be the day after Labor Day), but for me, it’s Ash Wednesday.

Usually, when this day comes along, I have been thinking and praying and pondering how I will engage my God more deeply. This year, the day descended like roller coaster. What? When did the year pass? How is it possible that this year hellish sorrows and losses and change could be done and I am back to Ash Wednesday again. I’m not ready. I don’t have a plan.

And yet, I made it to church and I worked through the little activities of introspection and I promised to look again, to search again, to confess again, and to write again about the journey.

The ashes remind us of our mortality. I have been reminded of that every day since Mike died. It could have been me instead of him. I could have had the heart attack. It could have been different. And it still could be.

But now is now and today is what is and it’s Ash Wednesday. Lent begins and God is calling me back into the bosom of the Spirit. “Indwell. Abide. Hang out with Me, for I, Yahweh, am faithful.” Hear the voice of God.

Come prodigal daughter, it’s time to confess the truth of your vacuumed soul. Empty now. Full later.

Let go of those things that crowd out the Presence. It’s time. Make room, one step at a time.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. [John 15:5]

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cross with notesYesterday at our Ash Wednesday services, the people were invited to write on a post-it note and stick it to the cross on their way up to communion and ashes. They could put whatever they wanted, but in general, the idea was to write something that might be hindering the way to the cross: a sin, a habit, an attitude.

At the end of the evening, we hadn’t really discussed how to handle the slips, but I felt they were important and so I gathered them up as gently as I could and carried them home. I wanted to pray over them, yes, but I confess, my analytical self was curious. What had people written to Christ. What had they asked about. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be drawing from these confessions for many mirrored my own: there is nothing new under the sun.

yokeIs not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke? [Isaiah 58:6]

We are all hoping to be set free from the yokes that bind us, the repetitive scripts in our heads, the damaging attitudes that habitually frame our responses.

Naturally, there were notes that rendered their sins of the flesh as getting in the way of their journey to the cross and there were individuals named specifically or by relationship: mother, father, mother-in-law, son, daughter, and so forth. But most of the words that were placed on that cross, that symbolic torture chamber, came from within.

Anger was repeated over and over and over again. Unforgiveness came next.

I can almost hear the cry of the heart saying, how do I find you Jesus when my mind and heart are filled with such rage, when I can only playback the injustice or the betrayal or the damage done to me.

anger-blocks-a-miracleLast week, I was in a workshop in which the facilitator reminded us that there are four primary emotions: Fear, Joy, Sadness and, of course, Anger. And really, I’m guessing that unforgiveness is rooted in anger.

The good news is that no anger is greater than God’s love. That sounds cliche and yet it’s true. People seem to think that their emotions are stronger than anything anyone else can handle. I remember being in a counseling session and telling the therapist that felt as though I would explode, literally. Of course, I didn’t and couldn’t. How often has a person said, “If I start crying, I’ll never stop.” Again, not true. And so it is with anger. It will not win. Love wins.

Lent begins in earnest today. Was I angry today? I was. Did I harbor a grudge or two or pull up an old exasperation about some behavior or another by this or that family member? I did. I see that. Now what?

Confess, accept, move on. Wash me Jesus in the water of grace.

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ash-wednesdayTonight our church entered Lent with two Ash Wednesday services. One of the themes was “keys” and how we can use those keys to unlock those places hidden away inside our hearts.

Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Rend your heartand not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. [Joel 2:12-13]

We mark the beginning of Lent with this day. It can become a mere ritual of ashes, bread, and wine, or it can be enriched with commitment and desire. Do I want more of God in my life? Do I want to surrender the secret places?

Lent is not just a time of “giving something up.” It’s a time of exchange. I will to exchange one time sucker, one habit, for something new, for devotion, for meditation, for prayer, for reading, for conversation with Spirit. I not taking away. I am adding. I am making a promise. That is the message of Ash Wednesday and Lent for me.

One of the stations we had was a cross where we could affix a simple post-it note with something (or someone) that is hindering our journey to the Cross. This roadblock we gave to Christ. As one of the organizers of the Ash Wednesday service, I feel compelled to treat these requests with respect. And so, as part of my devotion, I will be praying over and with these requests along with those who left them there. I will be their Aaron for these 40 days, as God reveals.

 

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“I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children….” Matthew 11:25

This is my first request, that God would draw me to Him like a little child, for it is only then, I believe, that I will be most open to seeing, believing, trusting, and knowing Him. I have two pictures of myself as a little girl, quite faded now, in black and white, sitting at my father’s desk. In one, I am diligently writing. But, in the second, I have lifted my pen and my face to the camera and I am so full of joy. It is an “aha” moment for the little girl. Discovery! Success! Connection!

Children are easy vessels. What is poured in is easily poured out. That is, until the world teaches them to dissemble. May this time “in Christ” be a time of transparency. Reveal yourself to me, O God, that I might reveal You within me to others.

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Fat Tuesday

OK… this is it. No more diet cokes (or sodas) after tonight. Does that sound like a little thing to you? Not me. If it’s true that we are to “add” a prayer for each time we “give up” something for Christ during the Lenten season… I will be quite prayed up.

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday… let us begin a short journey into the Word … may He anoint my writing for the sake of the Body…

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