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Lent 2010: Ash Wednesday

Today as I was wasting time on facebook, one of my friends had the following prayer posted:

We offer you our failures. We offer you attempts, the gifts not fully given the dreams not fully drempt, Give our stumblings direction, give our visions wider view. From an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

It is from the Book of Common Prayer, used in many liturgical churches. The simplicity of it really touched me. I have been out of the church loop for a while now. Not the best idea but I never found one here in Ohio that felt like home.

But something about this lenten season beckons me home. I am craving a liturgical experience. I want to pray the prayers saints have been using for centuries. I want go through the ritual of this season steeped in tradition that have drawn people to the cross for ages.

So I have found an online lenten devotional that I will be following for the next six weeks. I think as I transition into the next chapter of my life, back in CA, I need to be focused on the one who knows my days from beginning to end. I need to draw on supernatural strength to find my center again.

I want to be quiet. I want to be reflective. I want to hear what God has to say to me. I am also fully aware of my limitations, needs, sins, attitudes, judgments and other things that keep me from fully entering into Him.

The focus of today, this first day of Lent, is on drawing near to God through confession. As we ponder our own inadequacies we can be humbled to enter into His presence once again. I have much to confess. I am broken in new places. I need Him in new ways. Even praying the prayer of confession makes me feel so naked in a way I haven’t allowed myself to be for a while. I’ve felt I had to bundle back up and protect myself, not allowing even God in to see and comfort.

Yet I know he will meet me there in my fear and trembling. But asking him in close is scary and vulnerable. The psalm for this weeks is Psalm 51 – search and know me to create in me a clean heart. The searching and knowing God does is not to bring guilt or shame, but is to let us know that we are not alone and that he loves us enough to press in and clean it out. It’s not about breaking rules its figuring out what hinders the communication between us.

For Lent I have decided to give up soda, something I have been drinking a lot of lately. I am also committed to being in bed by midnight, instead of 4 a.m., so I can be back on a regular schedule. I am also committed to these devotionals everyday.

I’m excited. This has all happened quite by accident but I know it is a divine appointment for me. I don’t know if I’m going to blog the time or not. I wonder if this isn’t a season when I need to go into the closet and do my worshiping in private. I will perhaps post updates or something, no idea.

Another great place for prayers is – Sacred Space.

Guilt and Confession with Joan of Arcadia

Thank goodness Joan is back. I was going through serious withdrawl. Since I have an aversion to church where else am I supposed to be challenged theologically? *hee, hee* just kidding dad, ok not totally kidding 😛

The topic of the day is confession.

“It’s not about feeling bad, confession is a sacrament used to celebrate God’s limitless capacity to forgive. He knew we’d feel guilty all the time, so he gave us a way to deal with it.” Lily to Helen about the “sacrament of confession, which is outward sign of inward grace.”

As protestants we don’t put too much emphasis on confession. We like to quietly go before God lest other people find out how broken we really are. As a child I was taugh 1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. But somehow in my head that got tied to conversion, you do that at the beginning of your walk with God. Then the rest of the time you just try to be good and not sin.

I never even thought to share with others where I was struggling. I couldn’t image admitting to another person where I was failing in my walk with God. It was instead a very solitary existance, most of the time I think I shut out God too. Knowing full well that he was all-knowing and ever-present I chose to live in denial.

“Guilt is the spiritual equivalent of physical pain. Like pain, things go horribly wrong when we ignore it. It’s not enough to just confess. It only works when its accompanied by change.” Priest to Helen about not wanting to lose her friend Lily if she and Kevin break up.

I am the queen of guilt. But instead of confessing to receive grace, understanding and mercy I like to keep the pain to myself and spiral down into my own private hell. Why I chose to live with perpetual pain instead of seeking forgiveness and freedom, I have no idea. It seems so simple when I put it like that. But yet in the moment I am so ashamed, or I just don’t think its that big a deal, so why does anyone need to know. Yet deep in my soul I crave to return to innocence. I want to be pure. I want my character to change, I want to be more like God.

Innocence is more than absence of guilt, its about having faith that there’s goodness in the face of cruelty and pain. Someplace you still feel that way. that’s me, and I’ll always be there.” God to Joan about pain.

Life is full of pain, mistakes, failure, rejection along with the beautiful, redemptive, amazing, fun and crazy. You have to experience the highs and lows. yet the joy of that is that we are not alone. Just as we need people to make the highs highers we need people to be with us in the depths of our loneliness, fear, and pain. When we can be open with each other about everything then life is richer and more abundant.

That is so much easier said than done. I still struggle with hiding and wearing a mask that everything is ok. I am so grateful to have friends that know me and can call me out on my crap. That is a gift. But I had to take the risk and let them into who I really am so they could recognize it when they see it.

Confession is good for the soul. It’s not about proving how awful you are. It’s about being on the journey to being whole.

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday.

My extended families are Catholic and I often went with my grandmother to mass but I never went forward to have ashes put on my forehead. It didn’t really mean anything to me, just more tradition.

As I get older and search for the meaning behind the tradition it becomes more enriching an experience to participate in. I found the following explanation that sums it up better than I could.

“Putting ashes on our heads as a form of penitence is a practice inherited from Jewish tradition. In Old Testament times, fast days expressed sorrow for sins and the desire to make atonement to the Father. Ashes, for Jews and Christians alike, are a sign of repentance, sorrow, and mourning.

The King of Nineveh believed the prophecy of Jonah and fasted forty days wearing sackcloth and sitting in ashes to save the city, and ordered the people to do so, too [Jonah 3:4-10]. Jeremiah calls Israel to “wallow in ashes” of repentance [Jeremiah 6:26]. Abraham speaks of being unworthy to speak with God because he is “but dust and ashes” [Gen 2:7] — being man, he is created from dust. Jesus also refers to this symbol in Matthew 11:21, “Alas for you, Chorazin! Alas for you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”

I have lots to repent for, be sorry about and mourn. Life is hard. There are so many times when I lack the ability and strength to do what I really want to do. So much to think and pray about.

Here’s a good prayer as we begin this holy season.

Lord,
protect us in our struggle against evil.
As we begin the discipline of Lent,
make this day holy by our self-denial.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. +Amen