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Posts Tagged ‘contrite heart’

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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Acts 7:51
You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!

It’s such a temptation to use a public forum like this to pontificate about the condition of the church or the condition of all the “others” who are not in God’s will or plan. But today I realize again how important it is for me to show my own heart. Oh sorrow, it is buried again beneath the layers of self-deception.

The heart is tricky because it regrows layers even after it’s been circumcised. These regrown layers may start out very thin and almost indiscernible at first, but eventually, layer upon layer forms and the heart is back to where it was before the Holy Spirit touched it. As the layers accumulate, the hardness begins to set in and although the mind and body can go through the motions of worship and service, the heart is no longer involved.

Some of the symptoms: a cavalier attitude toward corporate worship, missing times with God, a quick temper, a judgmental cattiness, overwhelming tiredness, forgetfulness, looking for change for the sake of change, putting others under the microscope, dropping responsibilities, indulging the body, resisting the Holy Spirit, just to name a few.

I don’t think I’m at the totally hardened stage yet … obviously, or I wouldn’t be writing today.

Psalm 51:17 says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” It’s really quite simple, acknowledge what is happening and be chastened by the truth of it. It goes right along with repent. It goes right along with choice.

God does not come in with a sledge hammer or a fancy butcher knife to do heart work. Instead, like a child who runs to a parent and shows the injury, God brings comfort and then gently removes the harmful effects. God cleans the layers of dirt and grime and if necessary, the scab that his holding in infection. God uses truth with love.

I don’t like being vulnerable. I don’t like placing myself in places where I might get hurt. I hide my fears with layers of humor and bravado and chameleon-esque behaviors. In this way, I can keep people out of the tender places, I can control the connections. I know how to hide.

Oh, “refiner’s fire,” come and burn away the dross. Give me courage to be transparent and authentic. Give me courage to accept my tender places.

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