Friday, March 03, 2017

ASHES TO ASHES




 I'm pretty amused at how 'churched-up' I have become in the past few years.
It occurs to me that the younger version of me would have groaned and moaned
at even talking about church on a mid-week day.


There's a really big difference between my understanding of God
and the role that God has in my life now vs a few years ago.
There's a tremendous difference in my understanding of my own heart.
I have managed to land in a church community that is 
varied, expansive, and allows me to lean into what I need.
Also...I'm somewhat compulsive.
When I get something wonderful
I generally want more of that something.
This year I went to TWO Ash Wednesday services.
Yes two.
One was apparently not enough.



The first was a drive through service offered by 
the Peak community within our church
where we've been attending services recently.
Yes...drive through.
Like a fast food restaurant.
Only without the saturated fat.
Here's a link to an article about the drive through service.



I am almost always excited and looking forward to Lent.
This year more than usual though...
I'm excited to get back to my God.
To deepen my connection to my Creator.
To remember that 

I am the thirsty beggar standing hunched 

in a deluge

and all I need to do is look up 

and open myself to the mystery

to have my thirst quenched.


That connection is all around me all the time.
I'm the one who is separated and withdrawn.
Lent is a focused time to reconnect to that LOVE.


When I arrived to receive my drive through ashes, 
I had music blaring
I was singing at the top of my lungs.
I felt incredible joy.
Several silly members of the congregation 
wearing orange vests and pretending to be traffic control 
directed me around the parking lot
I laughed out loud.
And turned off my radio.

I pulled into my 'station'
and was met by a lovely person.
She asked my name.
My name.
Let's just pause there and know that even in my car
on my busy Wednesday morning
filled with joy and coffee and Avett Brothers turned up loud
my sister paused to ask my name.
And then she gave me her name.
This sister who I just met shared her name.
And in those 60 seconds...I was reconnected.
Plugged back in.

She asked to impose ashes,
I said yes
she said the normal things that people say
on Ash Wednesday
and I went to drive on to my normal day.

Great big alligator tears
spilled onto my lap.
Overwhelmed with the spirit
I drove in silence to work.
Just like that....plugged in.
Just like that....back with my one and only Maker.
This is a LOVE story.
Just not the kind you think.
Force of nature Laura McKowen has a great message over on her media.


That evening, we also attended a service at the main campus of our church.
It was held in our traditional sanctuary.
The pastors wore formal robes.
The choir also wore formal robes.
They were hot in all that finery.
We were freezing in our spring attire.
We smiled and waved to friends we haven't seen in a few months
while we've been attending services at the Peak.
We settled in on a pew and opened our hearts to whatever message was coming our way.
The service included both pastors from our Spanish speaking congregation as well as pastors from the traditional services.
Most of the message was given in both English and Spanish.
We sang a contemporary Christian song in Spanish and in English.
We did a traditional call and response.
It was truly a beautiful service....
and it informed me in new ways about why it was so hard for me 
before to feel connected in the formal church.

Redemption.
Sacrifice.
Sin.

These words are thrown around a lot in traditional worship services.
They are part of the message of Lent.
I'm not disputing that they can be applicable.
It just strikes me as focusing on the blister you gave yourself
when you were creating that lovely flower bed.
Instead of focusing on the beauty and the glory.


It's like we are told to focus on the pain.
Feel the burn.
Do better.
Because we are inherently awful.

Again...I'm not saying that's not true.
We are pretty awful.
I'm saying that the focus of that message does not resonate with me.
I don't know anyone who CHANGED
because they told themselves how terrible they already are.
Whether it's
 losing 10 lbs 
or earning that new promotion
 or working on that relationship
if we come to that challenge with the perspective
that we are evil, broken or just plain worthless
then we may seem to be different
but we'll still be angry, hurt and broken.
Just hiding out inside-
AWAY FROM THE CONNECTION
which is kind of the opposite of what 
we're trying to do with Lent.

When I think of what changes me-
truly changes me
and sticks-
it always starts from a place of radical acceptance
and open-heartedness.

So here are my alternative words for the traditional perspective this Lenten season

Grace.Preparation.Renewal.




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