“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return. Genesis 3:19”
― The Holy Bible
I had trouble putting my story together yesterday so today it’s all coming together with the help of my friends, Judi and Glynis. They may be just as surprised as I was!
For the first time in many years, I went to a Catholic Ash Wednesday service. I, like many of my fellow Catholics, am very frustrated and unhappy with many of the things The Church has ignored. Every time I start to lean into the thought of going back, some new bit of dirt is uncovered. I mentioned this to Judi–a Catholic who regularly attends church services. After a few moments of thought, she shared her thoughts–
She, too, had and has issues with The Church. BUT, she told me, she attends church not for the church, but for herself. She goes for the feeling of peace it gives her.
I believe that God, Spirit, The Universe–whatever terminology you want use–is everywhere. A Church is simply a building–do I really need that?
Today Michael and I decided to check out St. Paul the Apostle, our local Catholic Church. The noon service was a short service for the distribution of ashes only. It was the perfect opportunity for us to visit. Situated at the top of a high hill in the hill country of Texas, the building and setting were spectacular. We sat in the back row, taking in the unobstructed view of Lake LBJ and surrounding waterfront.
As I sat and prayed, an overwhelming feeling of connection passed through me. From my hilltop seat I felt incredibly close to my departed family members. It was difficult for me to listen as the Priest read the passages and shared his Lenten messages. Is there more power in prayer when two or more are gathered in His name? Maybe Judi has a valid point–maybe I DO need to go back to church–for ME. Was this the feeling of peace she talked about–was this the “grace” I’d learned about as a child?
Glynis attends New Hope Baptist Church and shared her pastor’s Lenten message with me earlier today. I was impressed with the words her pastor chose in this teaching. The advice seemed so much healthier–mentally and physically–in ways to observe the Lenten season. Let me share some of the highlights:
- …”What is Lent? Lent is the 40 day period in which many believers in Jesus reflect, repent and pray as a way of preparing their hearts for Easter.
- …The choice to observe Lent is a personal one–the whole point is to focus your heart and mind on Jesus during the journey to Easter.
- If you are planning to participate in Lent this year, we encourage you to begin your journey not with the question of ‘what should I give up for Jesus?’ but instead ‘what is Jesus’ invitation to me right now?’ How does He want to renovate my character, my marriage, my work, my life? If you can answer that question, Lent will take on a deeper meaning for you.”
Thanks to Judi and Glynis, my Lenten season has taken a much different course than it has at any other time in my life. May the following prayer serve to guide as well.
Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ dwelling in 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 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 trust.
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 nonviolence.
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.
Gentle God, during this season of fasting and feasting, gift us with your presence, so we can be a gift to others in carrying out your work. Amen.
– Attributed to William Arthur