Tag Archives: Ash Wednesday

Lent in the everyday

In a cemetery in Paris, France.  Photo by Evan Schneider.
In a cemetery in Paris, France. Photo by Evan Schneider.

Our pastor’s message at the contemplative Ash Wednesday service last night was simple, yet profound: what might we do during this season of Lent to follow God wholeheartedly in the everyday of our life?  Instead of giving up one sinful practice, one favorite food, or even adding one daily activity, she challenged us to let Jesus dwell in our every step, our every breath, our every word.

In Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, he describes meditation much the same way.  Meditation is not a specific time set apart from our daily lives, but a way of life, a way of praying without ceasing, a way of bringing the spiritual into communion with the profane, so that the two intermix powerfully and prayerfully.  Additionally, Foster points out that the difference between Eastern and Western meditation is that while Eastern meditation seeks removal from the world and emptiness, Western meditation seeks communion with God that ultimately leads into service to others (this is not to say, of course, that Eastern meditation can’t lead to service as well!).

I’ve talked incessantly on this blog about my love affair with centering prayer, but these are the tenants that so challenge and convict me about the practice.  We may just be beginning this journey of Lent, but I am reminded this morning that we are headed not to a holy place but to a holy transformation.  We are becoming Easter people, through this process of reflection and action, and while God effects those changes in our lives and our hearts, we do the walking.  

We put one foot in front of another.  We follow.  We accept our sins and repent.  We resolve to let God into the everyday, and it is in the everyday that we truly encounter our deep depravity and God’s transformative love for us.

May we seek God everyday in this journey of Lent, leaning on one another for encouragement, and trusting God’s transformative love.  Amen.

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Deeply Needy, Deeply Grateful

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Sun setting over university campus. Photo by Evan Schneider.

At our church’s Ash Wednesday service last night, we were encouraged to meditate on our need for God and the journey of Lent by passing through five interactive stations in which received ashes, remembered our baptism, were anointed with oil, burned away oppression, and lit candles to represent God’s light along the way.  Often when I close my eyes and practice meditation, I’m sensitive to the sounds around me or other voices.  I have trouble accepting rather than getting frustrated by my own thoughts, because I forget that meditation isn’t about perfection or getting it right, but simply being with God.

But last night as the music filtered through the air and voices trickled in, it felt good and right to be in a community of great need and vulnerability.  I sat in awe of a moment so sacred from the rest of our busy lives because people were faithfully voicing their needs for prayer, healing, and connection aloud and laying their needs bare.

Over the past few weeks my attention has been drawn simply but persistently to my own need for God.  And yet, when I start to feel afraid or insecure, I think I need competence, credentials, and success.  What I really need, of course, like the Israelites wandering around in the desert, the disciples and other believers facing uncertainty in the form of the cross, and this broken world, is God.  I don’t actually need all my plans, lofty goals, or even productivity, but I very much need God.

Red Sea
My husband and I on the banks of the Red Sea. Photo by Benjamin Robinson.

Last night I knew this impetus to focus on my great need from Lent was a word from God, because I felt so deeply grateful.  I felt grateful to hear those needs voiced aloud, and to see us offering prayer and healing for one another, because our needs have the power to draw us together.  When we cover them up and try to be gods ourselves, we find we have no companions for this very human journey, and we lead one another away rather than to God.

I feel grateful to serve a God that supplies my need.  I can, and I hope I will, especially during Lent, let the tasks and the doubts and the playing god fall to God, so that my need for God will be what marks this holy season in the wilderness.