Happy Lent

Last night, the anchor on our local news said that many Christians around the world were celebrating Ash Wednesday. It struck me as an odd choice of words. Do we really “celebrate” Ash Wednesday? It’s a day of repentance – a day to remember that we were created from dust and to dust we will return – a day to be humble. Ash Wednesday kicks off the liturgical season of Lent, which is 40 days (plus Sundays) that Christians observe to prepare for Easter through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial.

Sounds like a party to me!

“Don’t need nothin’ – but Contrition”
(sung to the tune of the Poison song, Nothin’ but a Good Time.)

Many Christians traditionally give something up for Lent; like carbonated beverages, chocolate, or desserts. Others add something to their routine; like an additional bible study, devotional, or prayer. Some attend special Ash Wednesday services where they may participate in a ritual of receiving the mark of ashes on their foreheads as a sign of repentance and mourning. All of this is an effort to get their hearts and minds focused on the upcoming Holy Day of Easter, or the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. (THAT I can understand referring to as a celebration!)

Here’s the thing though: All of this is great, as long as you remember that it’s a human device – a ritual designed and perpetuated by imperfect people. In the end, God isn’t going to ask if you observed Lent properly, or call you out on eating a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup after giving up chocolate for 40 days. That isn’t what’s important to Him.

What He ultimately wants from us is exactly what He has always wanted: for us to love Him with all of our hearts, minds, and souls – and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

And if observing Lent or Ash Wednesday in whatever way we think is necessary helps us to do that – then that’s exactly what we should do.

I went to Ash Wednesday service last night, received the mark of ashes, and prayed a little extra. I am doing a couple of extra devotionals for the time being. I will be reading and writing more intentionally for spiritual reasons. I might even deny myself something that I really like. And I encourage you to do those kinds of things too. But I mostly encourage you to (as they say around Christmas) remember the reason for the season.

Prayer for the beginning of Lent:

Lord, help us to use whatever rituals and devices that we choose to do nothing more than strengthen our commitment to you, our families, our churches, our communities, and our world. Help us to love you more, and to learn how to love your people.

Amen.

Dona Nobis Pacem

Blogging For Peace

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Click my peace globe to read Mimi's fantastic BlogBlast post as well as links to hundreds more from around the world

 

In a world that is ravaged by chaos, war, tragedy, conflict and hatred, it is difficult to look around and be optimistic.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, ever since I listened to a podcast episode of NPR’s RadioLab called “New Normal”. It opened with a short piece in which a reporter followed around a guy, John Horgan, through the streets of Hoboken conducting an informal, one question survey. “Will humans ever stop fighting wars?

It’s a question he has been asking people ever since the United Stated invaded Iraq in 2003.

Its one of life’s unanswerable questions. And as John explains, it’s not just a question about war. It’s a question about whether or not humans possess the ability to change who and what we are.

An overwhelming majority, 9 out of 10, answered quickly and adamantly, “NO”. Many of the explanations involved the term “Human Nature”.

Can we change?

Is peace possible?

As a Christian, I try to live my life in a way that embraces hope and love. I have to believe that peace on earth is a worthwhile and attainable goal. It is still hard to be optimistic, but I have to believe that it’s possible.

However, as a human, the best I can do is to change me.

Which is why, like Mother Theresa, I want the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi to be my prayer every day. Because it’s not about assigning blame or responsibility; it’s about taking it.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;

and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;

to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Amen.

It’s also why I am participating in today’s BlogBlast for Peace; a day when bloggers around the world unite in a moment of solidarity, regardless of our differences, to embrace the hope of Peace on Earth.

Dona Nobis Pacem

A Prayer for Today

I know I have used this prayer on this blog before, but with the inauguration yesterday and the peril that we find our country in, it seemed like a very appropriate time to recall it. Let this prayer be for us as a country, a people united & strengthened by our diversity and working toward a common goal, as well as for the new administration.

The Prayer of St. Francis

san_francesco_cimabue2Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Amen.

Selfish Prayer

Is it wrong to pray for some decent weather on Friday?

We have a big day planned with family, food, games & a Southern Illinois Miners‘ baseball game… but they just keep calling for rain & t’storms!

Maybe the Catholics have a saint specifically designated for weather related issues. Like Stephen Colbert says, the Saints are like God’s customer service reps. That way you don’t have to bother the Big Guy with the small stuff, like finding your keys or not raining on your festivities! Surely there is one – there are over 10,000!

I just feel like a selfish heel praying for something as silly as that while there are people dying in wars & starving to death all over the world.

Maybe I’m just worrying about it too much.

Lenten Prayer – Good Friday

Almight God,

we ask you to look with mercy on your family

for whom our Savior Jesus Christ was willing

to be betrayed,

to be given over to the hands of sinners,

and to suffer death on the cross;

who now lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

Amen.

(Reprinted from the UCC Book of Worship.)

 

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Thank you for allowing me to share with you these prayers throughout this season of Lent. Honestly, it was mostly for my benefit during my own Lenten journey. I feel like it helped me reconnect spiritually which I guess was the whole point of this exercise as I have been waning in that area of my life lately. So, for whatever its worth, Thanks!

Have a wonderful Easter and may God bless you and your families!

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Lenten Prayer – Maundy Thursday

lastsupper_.jpgThis is a wonderfully appropriate yet dark prayer for Maundy Thursday posted by Reverend Mommy in 2005, titled Tonight is a Night of Darkness. But Maundy or Holy Thursday really is a dark and melancholy day when put into the perspective of the Passion. And tomorrow is even darker. But it always gets darker before the dawn, doesn’t it?

Tonight is a night of darkness.
We gather it together like gauze and wrap our souls in it.
Tonight is a night of final things.
We gather together in the darkness and hold hands for one last meal.
Tonight is a night of water.
We gather together to cleanse and prepare.
Tonight is a night of tears.
We gather together and pray that the tears can wash away the betrayal yet
tonight is a night of betrayal.
We gather together to support one another, but one of us will destroy.

The cup comes to me at the table – the cup of the last meal
I will drink of it deeply and
remember all the good times; the teachings, the laughter, the love.
The cup comes to me at the table – the cup of new beginnings
I will drink of it deeply and
Hope that the new covenant will not hurt too much as it is carved on my heart.
The cup comes to me in the garden – the cup of my Father’s will
I will drink of it deeply after
I ask that it pass from me.
The cup comes to me as He is on the cross – the cup of bitterness
I will drink of it deeply even
If it comes in a form that is alien to me.
The cup comes to me tonight and I will drink.
I will drink deeply and enter into
Atonement with Him.

This is the dark night of the cup.
Dark is the wine, dark are the shadows, dark is my soul.
Together we enter into this night; we will leave separately in silence.
Can I be at one with Him? Will I stand watch with Him tonight?
Or will I too sleep at the gate?
Will I embrace and kiss only to betray?

Lenten Prayer – Week 6

Reading the BibleBack when I studied Lectio Divina, a monastic practice of literally praying the scriptures, I learned that there really are no limits to the variety of ways that God can speak to us. My pastor at the time, who led the group, said that his most basic definition of spirituality is simply “paying attention”. If we open our minds to the possibility of God’s voice & pay close attention to Him – basically shut up & listen – then He could penetrate those obstacles & boundaries that we have erected and speak to our very being.

I don’t necessarily practice Lectio anymore, but I do still try to apply many of the principles to my prayer life & study; listening intently for God’s word. And there’s not a more appropriate time to do just that than Lent.

Here is the scripture passage I am “praying” today:

Psalm 130 (the Message)

 Help, God—the bottom has fallen out of my life! Master, hear my cry for help!
Listen hard! Open your ears!
Listen to my cries for mercy.

If you, God, kept records on wrongdoings,
who would stand a chance?
As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit,
and that’s why you’re worshiped.

I pray to God—my life a prayer—
and wait for what he’ll say and do.
My life’s on the line before God, my Lord,
waiting and watching till morning,
waiting and watching till morning.

O Israel, wait and watch for God—
with God’s arrival comes love,
with God’s arrival comes generous redemption.
No doubt about it—he’ll redeem Israel,
buy back Israel from captivity to sin.

I want nothing more than my life to be a prayer.

Amen.

Prayer Request

Please continue to pray for Devan (sorry I had it misspelled earlier). His outlook has worsened. He was put back into isolation over the weekend for Pneumonia & has now developed RSV (an infection in his lungs & breathing passages) and is coughing up blood. I fear that his little immune system is just shot right now.

I am not the kind of person that normally asks for prayers, even from my friends & family, but I feel a sense of urgency with Devan that’s just breaking my heart.

Thanks.