Thursday, February 20, 2020

Ash Wednesday ~ A Moveable Feast . . .

“Certain pieces of our journey are moveable feasts.” (Fran Dorff)

There was a time, long, long ago – in fact, in the past century - ( or should I say, "in a galaxy far, far away) . . .that I recall an Ash Wednesday liturgy, when the presider at the beginning of his homily asked: “What things in your life have turned into ashes?”  At that moment, I thought I was the only one in the assembly and that he was speaking directly to me. You see, I had just finished three months of a sabbatical time and was struggling with what was to happen next in my life? I asked myself often: Who am I now?

However, before I stepped into that Sabbath time, I experienced a “dying” – a drastic letting go ~ for so much of my life had turned into ashes. I can’t begin to name all the pieces that collided together to create this tectonic shift in my life.
But each held a challenge, a gift, grace and wisdom!

It seemed that so many things to which I had held tightly for purpose and passion had “turned into ashes” and that I was experiencing my own desert. And yet, “cathartically,” there was the phone call from my superior  (at just the right time) who told me to take things easy and don’t rush into getting a new ministry. Ah, she didn’t forget me! She gave me her own intimate psychological hug - that is, time, attention, and understanding!! 
Then there were openings that came as volunteer opportunities which led to other possibilities for my potential to unfold in such a way that I had no idea of the transformative grace that was now being heaped upon my very spirit. Ah, God had not forgotten me and was loving me into a “holy newness.”

Then, during the liturgy, I remembered coming back to consciousness; (I  believe I missed hearing the homily in total). However, at the end of his reflection, I recall the presider’s final question. It was this: “What in your life is God asking you to turn into ashes?” With that question, I became aware that I was now marked with a cross of ashes, and invited to move out from there with renewed courage, trust, inspiration, hope, creativity, and the grace to honor the ashes that marked my path to Easter joy!

So what is the good news for us on this Ash Wednesday?

Let us ponder:
• What things have turned into ashes in your life?
• What things now is God asking you to turn into ashes?
• May we all have a blessed Lent of Holy Newness!

“But is there a transformation-truth
in this experience of ashes?
Yes, for in the ashes is a story of resurrection.
Yes, for in the ashes is strength about rising.
For remember, you are dust
and to dust you shall return.
For Ash Wednesday is a moveable feast.
A day to celebrate ashes and Easter!
For remember, you are loved,
And to Love you shall return.
For Easter is a moveable feast!”
Sjh 1995

A Prayer for Mardi Gras . . .

Mardi Gras Prayer

Blessed are you, God of all creation,
for it is from your goodness that we have this day
to celebrate on the threshold of the Season of Lent.
Tomorrow we will fast and abstain from meat.

Today we feast.
We thank you for the abundance of gifts you shower upon us.
We thank you especially for one another.
As we give you thanks,
we are mindful of those who have so much less than we do.

As we share these wonderful gifts together,
we commit ourselves to greater generosity toward those
who need our support.
Prepare us for tomorrow.
Tasting the fullness of what we have today,
let us experience some hunger tomorrow.

May our fasting make us more alert
and may it heighten our consciousness
so that we might be ready to hear your Word
and respond to your call.

As our feasting fills us with gratitude
so may our fasting and abstinence hollow out in us
a place for deeper desires
and an attentiveness to hear the cry of the poor.
May our self-denial turn our hearts to you
and give us a new freedom for
generous service to others.

We ask you these graces
with our hearts full of delight
and stirring with readiness for the journey ahead.
We ask them with confidence
in the name of Jesus the Lord. 

(Creighton University)

For Ash Wednesday . . .

Will You Meet Us?

Will you meet us
In the ashes,
Will you meet us
In the ache
And show your face
Within our sorrow
And offer us
Your word of grace:
That you are life
Within the dying,
That you abide
Within the dust,
That you are what
Survives the burning,
That you arise
To make us new.
And in our aching,
You are breathing;
And in our weeping,
You are here,
Within the hands
That bear your blessing,
Enfolding us
Within your love.
From: Circle of Grace by Jan Richardson

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Karon VanAntwerp Latham Preaches for Ash Wednesday

Heartful Listening . . .

There once was a farmer who discovered that he had lost his watch in the barn. It was no ordinary watch because it had sentimental value for him.

After searching high and low among the hay for a long while; he gave up and enlisted the help of a group of children playing outside the barn.

He promised them that the person who found it would be rewarded.

Hearing this, the children hurried inside the barn, went through and around the entire stack of hay but still could not find the watch. Just when the farmer was about to give up looking for his watch, a little boy went up to him and asked to be given another chance.

The farmer looked at him and thought, “Why not? After all, this kid looks sincere enough.”

So the farmer sent the little boy back in the barn. After a while the little boy came out with the watch in his hand! The farmer was both happy and surprised and so he asked the boy how he succeeded where the rest had failed.

The boy replied, “I did nothing but sit on the ground and listen. In the silence, I heard the ticking of the watch and just looked for it in that direction.”
(Author Stephen, 2013, source unknown)

Living Lent . . .

A reporter was covering that tragic conflict in the middle of Sarajevo, and he saw a little girl shot by a sniper. The reporter threw down his pad and pencil, and stopped being a reporter for a few minutes. He rushed to the man who was holding the child, and helped them both into his car.

As the reporter stepped on the accelerator, racing to the hospital, the man holding the bleeding child said, "Hurry, my friend, my child is still alive."

A moment or two later, "Hurry, my friend, my child is still breathing."

A moment later, "Hurry, my friend, my child is still warm."

Finally, "Hurry. Oh my God, my child is getting cold."

When they got to the hospital, the little girl had died. As the two men were in the lavatory, washing the blood off their hands and their clothes, the man turned to the reporter and said, "This is a terrible task for me. I must go tell her father that his child is dead. He will be heartbroken."

The reporter was amazed. He looked at the grieving man and said, "I thought she was your child."

The man looked back and said, "No, but aren't they all our children?"
(Source/author unknown)

Lenting . . .

Lenten Litany on Fasting and Feasting

Fast from judging others;
Feast on the Christ indwelling them.
Fast from emphasis on differences;
Feast on the unity of all life.

Fast from apparent darkness;
Feast on the reality of light.
Fast from thoughts of illness;
Feast on the healing power of God.

Fast from words that pollute;
Feast on phrases that purify.
Fast from discontent;
Feast on gratitude.

Fast from anger;
Feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism;
Feast on optimism.

Fast from worry;
Feast on divine order.
Fast from complaining;
Feast on appreciation.

Fast from negatives;
Feast on affirmatives.
Fast from unrelenting pressures;
Feast on unceasing prayer.

Fast from hostility;
Feast on non-resistance.
Fast from bitterness;
Feast on forgiveness.

Fast from self-concern;
Feast on compassion for others.
Fast from personal anxiety;
Feast on eternal Truth.

Fast from discouragement;
Feast on hope.
Fast from facts that depress;
Feast on truths that uplift.

Fast from lethargy;
Feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from suspicion;
Feast on truth.

Fast from thoughts that weaken;
Feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from shadows of sorrow;
Feast on the sunlight of serenity.

Fast from idle gossip;
Feast on purposeful silence.
Fast from problems that overwhelm;
Feast on prayer that undergirds.

- William Arthur Ward
(American author, teacher and pastor, 1921-1994)
Original Source Unknown