Posts Tagged ‘Ash Wednesday’
Thursday the day after Ash Wednesday
Entering into the Ash and Dust…
It’s only day two and this is already seeming a different Lent for me. It will be interesting to see where the Spirit of God leads and what the Work of God does with me as I offer myself in this act of contrition and surrender.
I have outlined several disciplines I plan to engage in this next forty days (not counting Sundays), and making time to write and journal my thoughts more often is one of them. Another exercise I plan to engage is meditation and reflection on a series of self-examination questions, which I plan to share on the blog. The past couple years have been pretty lean with regard to my writing time and blogging efforts. I’ve wrestled with trying to push through my lack of desire and shortage of inspiration, but did not feel like forcing myself to write. There have been other challenges and more profitable ways to use my energy in the most recent season of my life. I have felt a bit more inspired lately and hope that I am able to find the energy, inspiration, and time to share the songs of my soul once again. We will see where this season takes us.
I begin this Lent 2016 blog with a prayer and an examination question.
Lord, may your Spirit guide me to seek your loving presence more and more. For it is there I find refreshment from the busy world.
Question: “How do I see God at this point or season of my life?”
I sat with this question for some time before actually engaging it and writing out my thoughts. Actually, I’ve been sitting with this question for the better part of a month now as it is one of the questions that I’ve offered to some of the discipleship groups I lead. It is interesting that the idea to blog through the list of questions came to me as I began to step into the Lenten Season. It’s interesting because of my response… Lent brings with it a sense of somberness. We are called to recognize our mortality; “Remember, it is from dust you came and it is to dust you shall return.” We are called to contrition and penance. We are called to reflect upon and share in the suffering of Christ as he journeys to and through his Passion. As I pondered my response to this question about “how I see God…” I was a bit surprised at the incongruity of my thoughts with expected feeling this season often brings.
From my journal…
I sense God is my always-present Counselor-Guide. I am not overwhelmed as often as I once was by the Divine, but I do not consider that a negative or irreverent thing. I don’t mean to convey that I am apathetic or without awe, because that is not true. I believe that God’s Presence with me has become familiar in a very good way. I am still swept away by His Glory at times and I am in awe at the grand mystery of a God who would dwell with and within me—but I am equally comforted and pleasantly “relaxed” in His Presence as I abide with him and he abides with me. I think this is how it is supposed to be and I am grateful and humbled that God has allowed me to experience this relationship with such joy and peace.
I think one of the more joyful and wonderful changes in my relationship with God and how I see Him in this season of my life is this:
I no longer drown in a sea of self-doubt, guilt, and shame. I do not worry about whether I “measure up” to God’s expectations (or what I believe are God’s expectations) of me. I do not feel mired or marred by sin. The Word of God teaches those who believe, receive, and follow, that he will wash away and separate us from our sin—His Word also promises that perfect love, who is Jesus, will cast away all fear. I am fearlessly loved and in love with my God, Jesus the Christ! This very real realization has changed everything about me and the way I see and perceive God. The yoke I carry as a bondservant to Christ is very light. The confidence I have and the knowledge of who I am has never been more powerful or clearer than at any other time in my life. This is all due to how I have come to know and see God in this season of my life.
So, I enter this season of penance and contrition feeling a bit lopsided. My heart sings and I want to continue my shouts of Alleluia, but I will honor the tradition of the Church and keep my alleluia quiet until Easter. I will offer the joy that God has given to me as an offering of sacrifice during this next forty days. I will share in his suffering and share in his Passion. This sacrifice will be part of my Lent.
One of my Scripture readings today came from the prophet Habakkuk. It was interesting to me as I read (Hab. 3:1-18), I found what I thought was a parallel of my own spiritual paradox of emotions with Habakkuk who writes the following:
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even when the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes me sure-footed as a deer, able to tread upon the heights. (Hab. 3:1-18 NLT)
I love this from Habakkuk. I’d love to say I really identify with his words, but seriously, I’ve not been where he was. I’ve had a pretty easy life compared to most of the inhabitants of this world…even on my worst days. Nonetheless, I can identify when I look at the big picture that includes the realm of spirit and eternity. This life cannot compare to what God has intended for us. We are His children! We are stardust! We are comprised of the Mystery of the Divine! Made in the Image of God!
I love my faith! It is wholly a gift from God, and fully rooted in Him. I love the narrative of the Holy Scriptures that God has provided for those who will believe Him and believe in Him. I love the wisdom of God’ word and O love how it awaken my soul and affirms that God is with me, with me, and eternally for me. Praise Him. Amen!
My Prayer excerpted and personally modified from Psalm 37:1-24
I will trust in the LORD and do good. I will live safely in the land and prosper. I will take delight in the LORD, and he will give my hearts all its desires. I will commit everything I do to the LORD. I will trust him and he will help me. God will make my innocence radiate like the dawn. I will be still in the presence of my LORD, and I will wait patiently for him to act. I will not worry or be angry about evil people or their wicked schemes. I am learning that it is far better to be godly and have little than to bee evil and rich. Day by day the LORD takes care of the innocent—they will receive an eternal inheritance. The LORD directs my steps and delights in every detail of my life; though I stumble, I will never fall, for the LORD holds me in His hand.
Glory be to God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Ash Wed: Repentance, Recalibrating Re-Beginnings
Readings: Psalm 103 ◊ Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 ◊ 2 Cor 5:20—6:10 ◊ Matt. 6:1-6, 16-21
Repentance. Refocus. Recalibration. Reset. Renewal. Resurrection.
Everything re-begins with repentance.
“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” -Joel 2:12
I meet each Wednesday with a group of men from my church. We were reflecting on some of the Ash Wed. readings today and the words from the prophet Joel were especially poignant for me.
“Return to the Lord your God…” -Joel 2:13
How easy it is for us to lose focus on the primacy of God in our lives. Not intentionally, not through complacency… drift just happens, even when we are living with degrees of devotion and intentionality.
“Gather the people, consecrate the assembly…” -Joel 2:16
I made the comment that my experience has shown me that even in seasons when I feel my life is dedicated to devotional living and missional practice unto the Lord, I experience “drift.” I’m not aware of it until I answer the call to “declare a fast; and return to me [the Lord] with all your heart!” I find that my attitude and sense of self is good…or so I think. I feel that I’m totally devoted to the things of God… or so I think. It’s when I stop and recalibrate; when I return to the Lord my God with all my heart—in a season and act of fasting, repentance, weeping, and mourning—this is when I realize I have unknowingly fallen into drift. No, I’m not referring to “backsliding” or known issues of sin. I’m acknowledging that my focus is slightly blurred. Things aren’t as sharp, my attenuation to the things of God might not be as heightened and sensitive as I thought they were.
“We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” -2 Cor. 5:20
I remember twelve or so years ago…maybe a bit longer, I wasn’t even aware that I needed glasses. I had been experiencing an unusually longer amount of time to “clear my vision” in the mornings. It seemed my sleepy-eyed blur was taking longer and longer to wear off. My wife suggested that I try reading glasses; I remember scoffing and laughing pridefully at that suggestion. I had always had better than perfect vision and there was no way I needed readers… until I tried them for the sake of humoring her. Incredibly, the world came into sharper focus than I had seen it in a long, long time. I was in shock at the clarity and detail I had been missing… even more, I was stunned by the fact that I was completely unaware that this “vision drift” had occurred until I experienced a recalibrated and re-clarified vision.
I think spiritual drift can occur too. We can think our hearts are pure and they might be. We can think all is right with God and it might be. But, things might not be as clear and crisp as they could be. I think, no, I know, God knows we are but dust. He knows that we can experience drift because he lived in our flesh. I believe this is why he gives to us these seasons of recall, reset, refocus, and repentance. It is here we remember our first love and get our Heart “readers” so our spiritual vision and our God-tuned ears and hearts are as perfectly tuned as can be. It’s a good season to fast. It’s a good season to remember.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust. -Psalm 103:11-14
Ash Wednesday: Entering the Desert–A Time to Reset
Readings: Psalm 95 ◊ Genesis 3:19 ◊ Deuteronomy 5:1—8:20 ◊ Mark 1:15
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Today marks the beginning of the Lenten Season, Ash Wednesday, an acknowledgement of our individual and collective brokenness—a time to realize and to confess how far we have veered from the radiant image of the God who created us.
While Lent is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, there are multiple illustrations and seasons where the call to repentance, both individual and corporate, went out to people. The actual practice of Lent has origins dating back as early as 200AD with mentions of corporate fasting by the church father St. Irenaeus. The Fast of Lent was later formalized between the years of 313 – 325 in the disciplinary canons of the Nicean Council. This call beckoned people to turn from their selfish desires and return to the path of righteousness, which is God. Lent is about turning…repentance, and transformation. I like that Lent can serve as a reset point for me. I also like that I am not alone, and this on several levels. As corporate observance, I know the Church universal (at least many, though not all) will be observing this season and I find support in the fact that I am not alone in this period of reset, turning, and transformation. I also find support in knowing that during this season of Lent, these 40-days, I enter into the desert wilderness of my soul following Jesus and the example he left us in the gospels when he was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested and tempted by Satan.
Lent is traditionally the season of focused, concentrated transformation of self, from old man to new. Lent is the time when new patterns of living are forged to last a year and when new attitudes of heart are developed… I have been made brand new in Christ, but there is lots of change to make. 40 days of transformation. Neil Robbie
I enter into the wilderness with Jesus…facing my weaknesses, to learn what He learned and to be taught by the same Spirit that taught Him. I like how Emilie Griffith points out that Lent is “a time when we deepen our faith in a journey not of grand gestures but of small surrenders.” These small surrenders are the baby steps that lead to total surrender and whole-life transformation into the image and reflection of Christ Jesus. Henri Nouwen says these little surrenders are choices we make along our way. He writes; “The choice for your way has to be made every moment of our life.” I am learning there are no times or places where there are not choices… everyday is full of choices always before me to choose my way or the way of Jesus. Lord, I pray, help me always to choose you.
Take care you do not forget the LORD… (Deut. 6:12)
My Bible reading this morning reminded me of the dilemma faced by us all. It can be so easy to have our eyes and hearts distracted from the Way of our Lord. The world we live in is noisy and paced it seems at light speed. Survival takes effort and energy…hazards of all types exist around every corner and in every shadow. We get tired, sick, disheartened…distracted. We look for escape and begin to daydream about anything and everything except the present moment. Many people begin the path of self-medication, fulfilling those daydream fantasies, choosing alcohol, prescription drugs, and a myriad of other escape vehicles. All of this makes it easy to be distracted from the focus on our God even to the point that we forget the LORD.
I think this can be the case even for many of us who remain in groups that attend church services, even those of us who “do stuff” that Christians do like serving other people and reading our Bibles or other devotional material. We still “forget the LORD.” We can end up going through the motions, dried up, burnt out, worn to just a shell of a person from the hectic, noisy, distracted lives we lead. This is why Lent and participation in these 40-days is good for us. We are provided an earnest time of focus and dedication to our Lord… returning to the roots of our faith, if you will.
We are not converted only once in our lives but many times, and this endless series of large and small conversion, inner revolutions, leads to our transformation in Christ. –Thomas Merton
Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Gen. 3:19)
“The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” (Mark 1:15)
And so, we enter the desert, to a time of fasting, repentance, and remembrance of our frailty. We answer the call of our Lord to be converted and be reconciled. We turn to Him with hopeful anticipation of the work He will wrought in us as we surrender ourselves to His molding and shaping. Make me, O Lord, like unto You. Have Your way in me…always today and forever. Amen
♦ Psalm 51:1-5, 103
♦ Readings – Isaiah 58:12-14 ♦ 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10
♦ Gospel – Matt. 6:1-6, 16-21
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
The season of Lent is not about “giving up something for God,” it is about desiring God over and above all things that have distracted and divided our worship and adoration of Him. Weak and frail as we are, we succumb to the siren calls of so many things that draw us from the One who loves us so deeply. We may not intentionally take His love for granted, but we invariably do when we fail in putting Him first in every area of our lives. Lent calls us to take notice of our frailty and begs our repentance for the moments of our days when we put our loving and faithful God on the “back burner” of our lives. His call to us is this: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength.”
You are invited to focus the next forty-plus days on renewing our hearts and minds with full surrender to will, worship, and way of our Lord Jesus. If you’d like to receive the blog updates in your email, use the subscription form at the right of this post or the form at the bottom of this post.
Today is the start of Lent, the season that leads to our commemoration of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. He said, “Take up your cross” (Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). It is not something you go looking for in faraway places. Sooner or later the Lord hands us a cross, and our job is to recognize it. For each of us there are events that make a difference. The sorrowful mysteries are different for each of us. Maybe it is a meeting with a friend, a lover, or an enemy. Maybe it is a sickness, or a triumph. We try to see our life through the eyes of faith, with a confidence that God in his providence can draw good out of the most awful and unwelcome happenings. (Excerpted from Sacred Space; A Prayer book of the Irish Jesuits)
Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer)
Breaking a Fast to Enter Another
return to coincide with the season of Lent and plan to blog daily with devotional thoughts and readings through Easter. I feel rested in every way, and it feels good to be back.
Wednesday (Feb. 22, 2012) begins Lent for the 2012 calendar year. Lent is a season of the Christian year when people are invited to simplify their lives to focus on their relationship with God in Christ. I was inspired by my friend, Christine Sine, to focus my meditation on what my heart truly hungers and thirsts for. After giving it some deep reflection during the past few weeks, I determined me deepest hunger is to be in unbroken unity with the Godhead as Jesus describes in John 17. I know this seems somewhat ethereal, but I can’t escape the idea that Jesus meant what he prayed for us.
During the next days leading up to Easter, this will be my focus and my fast. I will seek silence, solitude, study, and meditation to determine what areas of my life need changed and what real challenges need overcome, so I might grow in unity…holy communion with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I’m not entirely sure where this journey will lead and what changes might be introduced during these coming days, but I enter the season with desire and surrender. I pray: “Have your way completely in my life and make your home in my heart, Lord Jesus.” Amen.
Ash Wednesday and 40 Days
My journey “living the liturgical year” continues with our arrival on Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the season of Lent. This will be my second full immersion into this tradition of the church; last year was my first time to fully embrace this season of reflection, remembrance, fasting, prayer, and drawing nearer to the heart and purpose of our God. With utmost sincerity I can say it was a season that ushered in considerable change and spiritual growth in my life. I expect that this year’s observation and engagement will be no less gratifying (James 4:8)
My blogging has been somewhat sporadic over the past few weeks; living, observing, and reflecting during the season of Epiphany. I have spent this time preparing for and looking forward to this next season of the great traditions of the Church. My intentions are to offer meditations, reflective thoughts, and my own experience through these next 40 + days as we journey together to Resurrection Sunday. Beginning today, I will post some of these devotional thoughts. Additionally, I will include links to resources and other helpful sites that I am being inspired, encouraged, and challenged by. I hope you will join me and interact here on the blog.
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God’s grace and peace be yours as you draw near to Him. Amen.