Change Me, Lord

Prayer doesn’t change God, prayer changes us. Kathleen Norris, the great spiritual writer was featured in the BustedHalo Fast, Pray, Give calendar today and she mentions that when we pray we ask to be changed as opposed to asking God to change something with no effort on our part, as a kind of magical being who performs at our beck and call.

Lent indeed is the stuff of this attitude. What is it that needs to die in order for us to move into a new way of being. To change for the better is what lent calls each one of us.

For myself, I have a tendency to jump to negative conclusions. I often move into the half-empty mode before gathering enough information or clarifying what others say to me.

When we begin to change attitudes, we start to see healthier options and options that lead us to more greatly respect ourselves as well as others. We begin to see how wasteful some of our energies are spent. The people we failed to forgive our of our own vainglory, the ideas we held onto too tightly that were inventions of our imagination, the times we misjudged or failed to give another the benefit of the doubt and the times we just failed to bother to care at all.

Prayer, listening to the quiet parts of our innermost being, where God resides in our hearts, closer to us than we could imagine, brings us into a place where we not only can hear what God is really trying to tell us, but where the truth can no longer hide from us.

Or rather, where we can no longer hide from the truth.

The truth about us is that God loves us more than we could imagine. And that truth is enough to change us. It can make the most hardened criminal become a proverbial good thief, asking only for Christ to remember him, even the bad stuff and trusting that God could look beyond that into forgiveness to see more than the evil that he has committed.

Can we see the same in ourselves, seeing beyond our darkness, our most vulnerable parts to see what God sees in us? In fact, can we see that God touches all of who we are, even our most vulnerable pieces of our darkness, changing it, but only with our cooperation.

Prayer invites us to change. To see what is true about who we are and who we most hope to be. Today, I tried to be most satisfied with the person that I am. To know that I am enough as I am. To not assume the worst about myself or that others assume the worst about me. Fasting from the negativity that I most often entertain.

I spent time in prayer hoping to see and hear others as they are. To hear their concerns and be able to be there for them, to be present in the way that Christ is present to me in prayer, revealing to me what I most need to see and hear.

And I was able to spend some time to help another see God a bit more clearly in their lives, hoping to see a glimpse of God in them myself.

And it was more than enough.

It always is.

Fast Pray Give: Day #1

Last night Phil Fox Rose inspired me and invited the 20s and 30s group at St Joe’s to take more seriously the tenets of Lent, namely: Fasting, Praying and Giving or Almsgiving.

So I thought I would take his words to heart. One line in particular struck me. Phil answered a question from Dawn, one of our PhD candidates in Geology at the University. She asked: “Is it OK if I just do one of the tenets really well and the other two a bit less?”

Phil’s response struck me: “I’d say we should try to whatever we can do thoughtfully as opposed to all three superficially.”

And so I thought that I’d try to keep up with the BustedHalo Fast, Pray, Give Calendar for Lent this year and to try to do each of these things as mindfully as I can.

I’ve embedded the calendar to the right so you can play along at home.

And so here is my first attempt:

I was asked to FAST from my biggest worldly vice today. I took this under the “Catholic” ideal of fasting which is to only have one full serving per day, but instead of food, I substituted WORK and began to fast from that. I’m clearly a workaholic at times and often my wife has to compete with my ministry. So I shut the computer off after a morning of answering some necessary emails and this is the first time I reopened it today. Today happened to be a day off for me—so that was a good day to try this and make it a true day off. My thoughts were still occupied with work thoughts but I also was able to put a nice Valentine’s Day gift for my wife together and send some early birthday cards and take the dog on a longer walk. I did a bit of exercise and watched a relaxing show on Netflix and read a bit for pleasure.

I was also asked to PRAY for humility and so I need to realize the the world will not fall apart if I just take a breath and not work so hard. If it were totally up to me, that would be unfortunate because there’s no way I could do it all. So I’d be trying to do the impossible.

And lastly I had to GIVE others the benefit of the doubt today. This morning I read a local news story and immediately jumped to certain conclusions about some involved who I’m familiar with. I caught myself early and was able to offer not judgement, but assistance to those involved. I was then able to pray that collaboration can continue for all those involved. It was really freeing to not jump to the horrible thoughts immediately and I’m hoping more fruit can be borne from this.

I’m off now to a Valentine’s Day dinner and a play at the Irish Theatre here in Buffalo with my bride. She’s great and I know sometimes I don’t give her the benefit of the doubt either, pre-judging her before giving her a chance to contribute to the conversation.

So day 1 is nearly done. How about you? What might you be doing for Lent?

I’ll be posting on this each day, probably towards the end of the day, along with of course news on the Pope and much more. Hope you can join in the fun—fun you say? Indeed! Lent needs not be an awful experience. We may very well need to fast or to pray or to give something away in order to be truly free.

How Will You Enter Holy Week?

At our staff meeting at St. Joseph’s yesterday we meditated on the Gospel that opens the Palm Sunday procession. Jesus enters into Jerusalem riding on a donkey and there is much rejoicing.

Our business manager, Ken Wells, provided the insightful comment that different age groups might view this passage differently. That younger people see him riding on an animal and that a great party is about to happen. Teens might see it slightly differently knowing what happens to Jesus in about a week and adults might foresee the inevitable crucifixion and death and see a lowly Jesus who will sink even lower into a shameful death as a criminal.

I would add that perhaps people of different economic status would also look at this scene via a different lens. The poor see a man who can’t even afford a horse, riding in on a mule who may have been stubborn and caused the ride into Jerusalem to take longer than usual and perhaps be a rocky entry into the Holy City and to Jesus’ eventual demise. The rich, especially those with political power, might be apt to see a man who is making a statement. The people rejoice at the lowliness of this entry as opposed to Pilate who enters with Chariots and horses on the other side of town virtually unnoticed. Is Jesus “making an ass” out of Pilate? The religious authorities also miss the point when they ask Jesus to rebuke his disciples. Perhaps Jesus is chiding them a bit as well?

What kind of entry to we make when we choose to follow Jesus? Is it “all about us” when we make a grand entrance in a large procession filled with pomp and circumstance? Are we more subtle in how we “make an entrance” into someone’s life who needs us to be Christ for them? Needless to say, Jesus does make a spectacle of himself in front of so-called “elegant” people. Are we willing to be “a fool for Christ” as well, risking embarrassment and shame for the sake of Jesus and the Kingdom of God?

How will we enter Holy Week? Do we enter overly haughty because we are overly proud of our Lenten observance? Or have we truly died to our old selves, grown a bit more humble throughout these 40 days and realized that we indeed deserve no more than an ass to sit on? Have we gotten in touch with the poor and seen our part in depriving them of even the basics? Moreover, have we prayed enough? Have we taken time away from our busy lives to get back in touch with God? Has that Lenten experience changed us and served as a reminder of who we must become?

Today let us be mindful of our own tendencies to forget who we need to be and how we must set aside our own horse and chariot (or Mercedes-Benz perhaps?) and take the simple ride on a not so comfortable donkey. For it is in that discomfort that we come to discover all we must become for each other and how we find who God is for us.

Ash Wednesday: Something Must Die

Today is never an easy day. For some, they “come out” as Catholics by having ashes drawn in the shape of a cross on their skull. Others think they are practicing a silly superstition. And still others, shudder at the following:

They realize they are going to die.

Indeed that is the stark message of Ash Wednesday. None of us live forever; we are all going to die.

But the deeper message of Ash Wednesday is that we all have a part of us that needs to die so that we might live a better life. We don’t just give up something like candy for Lent for the sake of giving it up. We think deeply about that part of us that needs to die. What do we need to get rid of so that we might live in a better way? Might we want to shed a few pounds if sluggishness has been an issue for us of late? Is there something that has power over us like food or sex or something else–something that prohibits us from realizing that all we really need is God. What has an unhealthy power over us?

The idea of Lent is not to stop eating chocolate and then do gorge on bunnies the day Easter Sunday arrives. The purpose of our Lenten fast is to rid ourselves of something that holds us back from being all that we can be. And if we can do that for 40 days then we can keep it up beyond that as well.

For me, it’s lazyness this year. I find myself over-sleeping and wasting a lot of time lately, time that I could use more productively. Part of the problem is that my weight is high, I don’t control my diet and I don’t exercise. That leads me into becoming a slug. So this lent I’m participating in a weight loss contest and I’m exercising in some way every day, some yoga in the early morning and than various workouts at the gym four times a week. I’m also eating better. My thought is that I may be able to “give up” one pound a day or 40 lbs for Lent.

So pray for my lenten practice. Check out BustedHalo’s Pray, Fast, Give Calendar and then let that guide you through a series of fasting, praying and almsgiving for Lent. Pray for yourself as well that you might die a bit this lent. And give something of yourself to others. I find when I fast from something I get a bit more time to be with others–the time I would have been doing that unhealthy practice. The idea is not to substitute one unhealthy practice for another but to give that time to something that is life giving to one’s self and to others.

What will you die do this Lent?

With God’s help, we all just might grow this Lent.

Reasons Lent is Easier Than Easter

Or so says an Anglican Priest Blogger

Well here we are only in the second week of the Season of Easter – in fact only the 13th day of Easter and I’m willing to bet an Easter egg or two that for most the enthusiasm for this season is already waning. It was much easier being penitential and reflective and all-round “preparing” than it is celebrating what we have been preparing for!

I bet (more Easter eggs) that you will be hard pressed to find services this coming Sunday (only the 15th day of Easter) still booming as their opening greeting:

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

And if your church does – how resounding is the congregational response? Those with daily services often find such enthusiasm even harder to maintain. I notice it in visits to this site. During Lent there were regularly two to three thousand or more individuals visiting this site daily. During Easter that drops to about a thousand a day. As humans, as Christians, are we better at preparing for something than actually celebrating what we prepare for?

As I’ve said before…If we REALLY believed in the resurrection we’d live our lives in a much better way than we actually do. I would also say our rituals would be done with much more enthusiasm and reverence (can reverence be enthusiastic? That’s a whole other post!)

Lent: Slip Station

For those of you having difficulty with your lenten promises…check out Busted Halo’s Slip Support Station on Facebook.

It’s a way to share your struggle but more importantly it gives you support to start over the next day. You can’t flunk lent. So simply begin the Lenten practice again knowing that you gave up the things that were hard for you to give up–and that this is not always easy for us. Lent helps us purge ourselves from bad practices and that takes time–hopefully by the end of 40 days we will have gotten somewhere.

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