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Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday

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The season of Lent is  here, it begins today, which is Ash Wednesday.

Interestingly enough, the huge celebrations of Fat Tuesday sprang up as a reaction to the imposition of religious ritual concerning the observance of Lent…a season in the church year whose focus is on repentance and realignment with God.

In and of itself, having a time of spiritual realignment is good for everyone…however, when the grip of religion laces its fingers around anything, it tends to strangle out the beauty and grace, and in their place are born rules, regulations and legalism.

Fat Tuesday, then, became the last opportunity before the 40 days of Lent to go and sin wildly. As I ruminate on this, isn’t that always what happens in our lives when rules replace relationship? When we live by a check-list of dos and don’ts, we begin to think and respond in contractual terms instead of relational exchanges. When this happens, we experience Fat Tuesday’s surrounding every area of our life.

For instance, when a marriage becomes contractual exchange, then love is something that is earned in light of certain actions having been done well. And, contractually, if certain actions are not done, or are not done to the expectation of the other person, then love is contractually withheld until those things are accomplished.

This is not a marriage though, it is a contract based on rules. A relationship that is based on an unconditional covenant understands that sometimes things don’t always happen or get done the way we want, desire, or expect, but since the marriage is based upon covenant love, love is always infused regardless of contractual performance.

You might also see the Fat Tuesday effect in marriage happen when a spouse is bound by duty to “do something” “be something” or “go somewhere he/she doesn’t want to go.”  Since he/she did their contractual duty they feel justified to over indulge some area as a “reward” for their work. Maybe a husband finds justification in going on an extended hunting trip because he just got word that his In-laws are coming to stay for an extended period, so he needs to get out-of-town for a while before that happens and his In-laws rules cramp his style…or perhaps a wife limits out the credit card on a spa day because her husband’s college buddies are due the next day, and since she is being the “good wife” and allowing it, she’s gonna splurge!

Do you see how contractually we live? Do you realize contractual living, or religious living results in the creation of Fat Tuesday’s? When genuine love and relationship fills our world, we can enjoy life, have fun and not feel guilty about it! Isn’t that a novel concept. Religion creates Fat Tuesday’s…Fat Tuesday’s create guilt and shame…Guilt and shame turn a powerful season of grace and alignment like Lent into a ritualistic experience of dos and don’t devoid of their real meaning.

When we approach God contractually, we turn something that is holy, cool, and cosmically awesome like Ash Wednesday or Lent, into a check list of contractual duties to appease God into liking us again…This is so far away from the God revealed through Christ.

If we would live in a sense of daily alignment, in other words, simply realizing that God is for us, not against us, and that as we make mistakes, or perhaps over-indulge in something that isn’t good for us, we stop, and have a relational conversation of confession, repentance and forgiveness. God isn’t standing by with the lightning bolt of contractual misuse ready to smite us, but rather is simply waiting for us to say…“man, I blew that one, I’m sorry, please forgive me..”

In that moment, the spirit of religion is thrown out the window, and a relationship is born. Religion focuses on rules to keep you in line. God invites you into a relationship, where the interactions are based upon a mutuality of love.

Because I am so grateful that God loves me on my best days as well as my most abysmal days, I look forward to a season like Lent not in such a way that compels me to go out and get bombed out of my skull because I won’t be able to drink for the next 40 days, but instead, I long to have a season offered to me where I can realign my thinking process with God’s…Where I can experience grace in the midst of economic trials…Where I can be reminded that God doesn’t care about how well I perform for Him, only that I love Him, and He is thrilled that I simply showed up!

Maybe what I am saying is that an excessive emphasis on rules naturally finds its outlet in sin or doing things that we normally wouldn’t do if we lived relationally. Perhaps Fat Tuesday’s exist because the religious rules push people where they don’t need to be pushed. Maybe, just maybe, some of the dumb choices that are made in the Fat Tuesday’s of life wouldn’t happen if we understood God relationally and religiously…hmmm, I think I’m right.

What would be even more powerful is if we all realized that God intends our lives to fully experience fun..joy..laughter…and good times. Sure there are some incredibly hard valley’s we will go through, but the religionists among us seem to think that that is all that God wants us to experience…”Stay in the lines, only use these colors, don’t have fun if at all possible, chin up, gut in…etc.”

As I think of Jesus, and all his human interactions, I think of how often He was at parties, amongst friends, enjoying the things of life…not just sitting in Temple or Synagogue assailing Himself religiously. Jesus had an incredible sense of humor that is lost in translation from the Aramaic and Greek into English. He enjoyed living, had fun, and avoided the mistakes of the Fat Tuesday’s of life while enjoying all the celebrations of this life.

So on Wednesday this week (Ash Wednesday) take some time to remember that you are human, a creation of God’s, made of earth, and that one day you will return to the elements of this planetary creation. In light of that truth, ask God to help you realign your heart and soul to His, not because you are doing all the right things, but because He is such a great God who loves you and will never leave you in the hard moments of life.

Prayer of an Anonymous Abbess

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There are prayers that, when you hear them, lift the corners of your eyes and the corners of your mouth into a knowing smile. The following is one such prayer. It seems to let a little of your inside voice out, if you know what I mean. May you be freed from prayers that are too sanitized.

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“Prayer of an Anonymous Abbess:

Lord, thou knowest better than myself that I am growing older and will soon be old. Keep me from becoming too talkative, and especially from the unfortunate habit of thinking that I must say something on every subject and at every opportunity.

Release me from the idea that I must straighten out other peoples’ affairs. With my immense treasure of experience and wisdom, it seems a pity not to let everybody partake of it. But thou knowest, Lord, that in the end I will need a few friends.

Keep me from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point.

Grant me the patience to listen to the complaints of others; help me to endure them with charity. But seal my lips on my own aches and pains — they increase with the increasing years and my inclination to recount them is also increasing.

I will not ask thee for improved memory, only for a little more humility and less self-assurance when my own memory doesn’t agree with that of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be wrong.

Keep me reasonably gentle. I do not have the ambition to become a saint — it is so hard to live with some of them — but a harsh old person is one of the devil’s masterpieces.

Make me sympathetic without being sentimental, helpful but not bossy. Let me discover merits where I had not expected them, and talents in people whom I had not thought to possess any. And, Lord, give me the grace to tell them so.

Amen”

~Margot Benary-Isbert

To Pray or Not To Pray

Need some inspiration to keep praying? Here are a few great nuggets to inspire and encourage you to keep the divine-conversation going!

“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” 

― Søren Kierkegaard

“Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.” 

― Mother Teresa

“I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.” 

― Abraham Lincoln

“You pray in your distress and in your need; would that you might pray also in the fullness of your joy and in your days of abundance.” 

― Kahlil Gibran

“In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart. ” 

― John Bunyan

“Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble.” 

― Andrew Murray

“He who kneels the most, stands the best.” 

― D.L. Moody

3-30 Prayer Challenge

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I am excited about the response received about engaging my 3-30 prayer challenge!

Just as a reminder, here is the plan:

To pray three types of prayers three times a day for the next thirty days!

Here is the prayer breakdown:

1. morning prayer: Start your day with a morning breath prayer like “Abba, I belong to you.” Breath in fully while you pray the name “Abba” for about 2 counts, and then breath out for 5 counts on “I belong to you” Abba is the word Jesus used to acknowledge God the Father. It is a very person word that means “Daddy” Isn’t that powerful that Jesus helps us relate at a far more intimate level with God as we embrace Him as Daddy.

I tend to pray this in a Trinitartian format of “Abba” (which speaks of God the Father as Daddy) “Yeshua” which is the Hebrew name which Jesus translates from. And “Ruach” Which is the Hebrew term for the Holy Spirit. So it goes like this:

Abba…I belong to you
Yeshua…I belong to you
Ruach…I belong to you…

The ancient church, going back to the first century practiced this kind of prayer which they called “The Prayer of the Heart” The most tradition prayer was” Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” That is still a prayer that i meditate on through the day as well. I also enhace the aforementioned prayer in this way:

Abba…I love you (please forgive me) (thank you)
Yeshua…I love you (please forgive me) (thank you)
Ruach…I love you (please forgive me) (thank you)

Feel free to select words that help you focus on who God is and align your heart through confessiona nd repentence…there is no wrong way to pray this!

2. mid-day prayer: Sometime around mid-day, pause and slowly pray through the Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,

The power, and the glory,
For ever and ever.
Amen.

Here is The Message translation of the same prayer. Reading this translation helps you see the original thoughts in a more cureent way:

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best—
    as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
    Yes. Yes. Yes.

3. Afternoon or later: Redemptive prayer:

What I mean by a redemptive prayer, is to simply pray God’s blessing on someone, escpecially someone with whom you might currently be struglling with, for example:

* pray for someone you are currently angry, bitter or struggling with.
* pray for your enemy, as jesus asked us to…who is your enemy?
* pray for the people you disagree with, politically, philosophically, theologicalley etc.
* pray for those you know who struugle with God or are anti-God 

So each day pick one person and pray the God would simply bless them, eve if you disagree with them!

I am excited for what God will be doing in you as you pray this way the next 30 days with me! I have already been receiving emails telling me that God started working on day 1!

Grace and Peace

Monty