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I Rise, Again, From Ashes...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"We rise again from ashes, from the good we've failed to do.
"We rise again from ashes, to create ourselves anew.
"If all our world is ashes, then must our lives be true,
"An offering of ashes, an offering to You.
"We offer you our failures, we offer you attempts,
"The gifts not fully given, the dreams not fully dreamt.
"Give out stumblings direction, give our visions wider view,
"An offering of ashes, an offering to You.
"Then rise again from ashes, let healing come to pain.
"Though spring has turned to winter, and sunshine turned to rain.
'The rain we'll use for growing, and create the world anew
'From an offering of ashes, an offering to You.
"Thanks be to the Father, who made us like himself.
"Thanks be to the Son, who saved us by his death.
"Thanks be to the Spirit who creates the world anew
"From an offering of ashes, an offering to You.

When we accept ashes, we are doing two things:

We express humility, acknowledging and confronting our limitations, our fallen nature and our mortality....

...But we also associate ourselves with soil and flesh, and therefore with Christ, who takes these things on in order to redeem us.

Ash Wednesday is about penance and repentance, yes.
Mostly, though, it is about heaven.

"The fast is our preparation for the feast. It is an interior preparation, a circumcision of the heart, through which we take up our cross and walk daily with our Beloved. He endured what he did to heal us of our sins. No doubt then, when we fast we share his cross so as to be purified and healed of any lesser loves that get in the way of our one true Love. We literally become emptied so as to be filled with the new wine of divine grace. The Bridegroom is being taken away, but he will return. Then, we will share in the victory feast, the nuptial feast, when our Beloved has conquered all threats and divisions, and brought us to the newness of life!"

My observance of Lent is an opportunity to turn away from that which would isolate me from perfect love, and to allow myself to be drawn home to a loving, merciful, deeply fulfilling relationship with my God.

Lent is God reaching out to me in the desert of my life with a personal letter of love...

My Precious Child…

I know everything about you… Psalm 139:1
I am familiar with all your ways… Psalm 139:3
Even the very hairs on your head are numbered… Matthew 10:29-31
For you were made in My image… Genesis 1:27

In Me you live and move and have your being… Acts 17:28

I knew you even before you were conceived… Jeremiah 1:4-5

I chose you when I planned creation… Ephesians 1:11-12

I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live… Acts 17:26

You are fearfully and wonderfully made… Psalm 139:14

I knit you together in your mother's womb… Psalm 139:13

And brought you forth on the day you were born… Psalm 71:6

It is My desire to lavish My love on you… 1 John 3:1

Simply because you are My child and I am your Father… 1 John 3:1

Every good gift that you receive comes from My hand… James 1:17

For I am your provider and I meet all your needs… Matthew 6:31-33

My plan for your future has always been filled with hope…
Jeremiah 29:11

Because I love you with an everlasting love… Jeremiah 31:3

My thoughts toward you are countless as the sand on the seashore... Psalm 139:17-18

I desire to establish you with all My heart and all My soul…
Jeremiah 32:41

And I want to show you great and marvelous things, which you do not know… Call to Me, and I will answer you... Jeremiah 33:3

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you... thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope... Call on Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you... Seek Me...
Jeremiah 29:11-12

If you seek Me with all your heart, you will find Me… Deuteronomy 4:29

Delight in Me and I will give you the desires of your heart… Psalm 37:4

For it is I who gave you those desires… Philippians 2:13

For I am your greatest Encourager… 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I am also the Father who comforts you in all your troubles…
2 Corinthians 1:3-4

As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to My heart… Isaiah 40:11

I am your Father, and I love you even as I love My Son, Jesus…
John 17:23

For in Jesus, My love for you is revealed… John 17:26

He is the exact representation of My being… Hebrews 1:3

He came to demonstrate that I am for you, not against you…
Romans 8:31

And to tell you that I am not counting your sins…
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled…
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

His death was the ultimate expression of My love for you…
1 John 4:10

I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love…
Romans 8:31-32

And nothing will ever separate you from My love again…
Romans 8:38-39

I have chosen you before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blame before Me in love... Ephesians 1:4

You have been predestined to adoption by My Son Jesus...You are my daughter Ephesians 1:5

I have always been Father, and will always be Father… Ephesians 3:14-15

I am waiting for you… Luke 15:11-32


Lent for me is a different than usual process this year....

Usually I feel a very strong call to some particular task, or focus. I fast from something specific (TV, gossip (entertainment magazines), selfish pursuits (reading simply for pleasure, lazing around, sleeping in), etc.) and I feast on something for which, as a result of 'fasting', I now have time, and which forms me further in my faith, draws me closer to the Gospel, builds my character, and/or allows me to be God's hands/feet in the world (faith sharing group, scripture reading, structured prayer time, church project, etc).

This year I am at a bit of a loss. Nothing in particular calls my name. I have no burning questions of faith playing on my mind, heart, or soul... in fact, I feel that through the trials and tribulations of the last two years, I've come to live my daily life as an exercise of faith in the desert. I feel more authentic, and more at peace. I walk daily with an abiding sense of God's love in my life. My blessings tumble about me in happy profusion, and I gratefully count every one.... And perhaps, that's the key for me this year... deeper and deeper gratitude in the midst of the ordinary, while realizing that no matter how content, fulfilled, and blessed I feel, my life is still a desert unless my eyes and my heart's desire remain focussed on the One who makes it all possible.

"What brings fulfillment is gratefulness, the simple response of our heart to this life in all its fullness." DAVID STEINDL-RAST

Truth is, my daily life has become overwhelming in the details... continual crises (as the last two years have been) can make one a bit lazy and dismissive of the mundane in daily living... and I have become so... lazy and dismissive when it comes to laundry, cleaning, paperwork... if it's not 'on fire' it is easily (and happily, and wrongfully) ignored by me. My self-discipline muscles in this regard have become exceedingly flabby.

For this reason, I'm applying my Lenten journey to the 'drudgery' (which I've learned to habitually ignore for loftier purposes) and the 'minutiae' of my daily life (which has fallen by the wayside in the wake of greater concerns).

I am fasting from avoidance and laziness, and feasting upon gratitude for the ordinary rhythms of my life. I am going to treat my chores and obligations as gifts to my spirit and my well-being... grateful instead of grudging over the ordinary and uninspiring (ironic that when everything WAS 'on fire' I begged God for the mercy in ordinary). I'm going to journey less as Mary (I'm a great 'Mary' sitting rapturously at the feet of Jesus), and more as Martha (without the pouting)... pondering as I apply myself to the ordinary and mundane of my life (trusting in God to join me here and create the excitment and extraordinary)... asking God to open me and show me where he wants me to go. Truth is, if God were to stand before me today and ask me to follow Him on any adventure (as He did two years ago) those 'on fire' moments would multiply before my eyes because, as things stand, I'm not free to do so. My life is too cumbersome right now to make any further room for adventures, or growing, or even being the breadth and width of all I'm called to be.

I want ot be THIS woman:
"Live your life in such a way, that when your feet hit the floor in the morning, Satan shudders and says, "OH NO... she's awake!"
...right now I have a ways to go... and I dedicate this Lent to getting closer!

In the letter above, there are 40 lines of scripture pertaining to that breadth and width, and I will meditiate on one each day as I go about my chores. I'm going to try keep a record of my journey here, but because as 'Mary' I'd rather be here, this will be my last task, if there is time, at the end of my day (I'm also committing to a regular bedtime so I can't claim 'tired' as an excuse for avoidance). My hope is that by end of these 40 days, I will rise from the ashes of my home with a restored sense of freedom, joy and gratitude for the drudgery and minutiae of my life, and FILLED with the blessings of God with me through it all.

Regardless of how we journey these next 40 days we will, each of us, meet...

...at the foot of the cross...
...outside the tomb praying with hope and a faith that will never left us orphaned to grief...
...in the Upper Room trembling with unspeakable fear...
...on the road to Emmaus feeling lost...
...perhaps even returning to the desert again and again to retrace our steps...

And, whatever is coming our way, I believe we will make it to the other side, together.

"My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will but as Thou will." Luke 22:40-53

All of you will be in my prayers (so many of you are also struggling with challenges only prayer and faith can overcome)... and I pray your Via Dolorosa is blessed... that you arise to new life in whatever way you need it this next Easter Sunday morning! Throughout this Lenten season may the joy and victory of the risen Lord be yours, moment by moment, in a very personal way... may you always be overwhelmed by the grace of God, rather than by the cares of life!

May God abundantly bless you, and those you love, in every way that you require. May he hold you gently in the palm of his hand in a very personal way, and may you rest in the fullness of his love, his grace, his strength, his wisdom, his rescue, his redemption, his healing, his inspiration, his restoration and his mercy as you require it! May you carry in your heart always an extra special awareness of God's great love for you; and as you rise to new life with our Lord and Savior, may you feel his sweet and gentle touch upon your life, and may you see his miracles all around you. I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen!


Lent 2012: Pope Benedict's Homily at Santa Sabina

The Word Exposed - Ashes (Catechism)

Ash Wednesday


At The Foot of the Cross - Ashes To Beauty - Kathryn Scott

Praying Lent Home

The Bridge - Between now and forever... John 3:16

My new profile pic is 'The Ladder of Divine Ascent', an icon based on 'The Scala' written by John Climacus in 600 AD. Divided into thirty parts, or "steps", in memory of the thirty years of the life of Christ. This particular icon was paintd in the 12th century and the original is found at St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt.

The Scala consists of 30 chapters or "rungs"...

Renouncement of the world and obedience to a spiritual father:

1. On renunciation of the world or ascetism
2. On detachment
3. On exile or pilgrimage; concerning dreams that beginners have
4. On blessed and ever-memorable obedience
Penitence and affliction as paths to true joy:
5. On painstaking and true repentance which constitutes the life of the holy convicts; and about the Prison
6. On remembrance of death
7. On joy-making mourning
Defeat of vices and acquisition of virtue:
8. On freedom from anger and on meekness
9. On remembrance of wrongs
10. On slander or calumny
11. On talkativeness and silence
12. On lying
13. On despondency
14. On that clamorous mistress, the stomach
15. On incorruptible purity and chastity, which the corruptible attain by toil and sweat
16. On love of money, or avarice
17. On non-possessiveness (that hastens one Heavenwards)
Avoidance of the traps of asceticism (laziness, pride, mental stagnation):
18. On insensibility, that is, deadening of the soul and the death of the mind before the death of the body
19. On sleep, prayer, and psalmody with the brotherhood
20. On bodily vigil and how to use it to attain spiritual vigil, and how to practice it
21. On unmanly and puerile cowardice
22. On the many forms of vainglory
23. On mad pride and on unclean (unmentionable) blasphemous thoughts
24. On meekness, simplicity, and guilelessness which come not from nature but from conscious effort, and about guile
25. On the destroyer of the passions, most sublime humility, which is rooted in spiritual perception
26. On discernment of thoughts, passions and virtues; on expert discernment
Acquisition of peace of the soul, of prayer, and of apatheia (dispassion or equanimity with respect to afflictions or suffering):
27. On holy stillness of body and soul; different aspects of stillness and how to distinguish them
28. On holy and blessed prayer, the mother of virtues, and on the attitude of mind and body in prayer
29. Concerning Heaven on earth, or Godlike dispassion and perfection, and the resurrection of the soul before the general resurrection
30. Concerning the linking together of the supreme trinity among the virtues


And thus begins my Lenten journey... note rung #14 above... :)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

"I know everything about you… I am familiar with all your ways…"
Psalm 139:1, 3

The Butterfly

40: The Assembly

My greatest fear is isolation/abandonment... especially with respect to the potential loss of my husband and daughter (the only safe place I have ever known). I had a 'crazy' half hour last summer at the local fair when a HUGE (unusually BAD and violent) storm blew in and I was separated from them... they did the sane thing and stayed put in the closest shelter, and I ran around in the storm frantically looking for them... I *could.not.rest* until I could once again see/touch them. Honestly, I was okay with dying, if that was in the cards, but it had to be together. The thing is, if we had been together at the onset, I would have laughed and huddled with the best of them, no panic involved. HOW crazy is THAT?! And I know God knows this about me and he's familiar with all my ways (Psalm139:1, 3), so I really don't understand WHY he insists on challenging me this way, LOL. Yet, SLOWLY, I'm coming to understand that my comfort and refuge isn't ever to be found externally. The older I get, the more I realize that I am alone, isolated in my experience, and I can't look to others, or to outside-of-myself pursuits, to fill the void.

It occurs to me suddenly, "the only safe place I have ever known" isn't my husband and daughter... no matter what has happened or been done to me, I've always been 'safe'... haven't I? How else would I come to be HERE... as I AM... vibrant and whole, still? The pondering begins...

"I asked for strength......... And God gave me difficulties to make me strong.
I asked for wisdom......... And God gave me problems to solve.
I asked for prosperity......... And God gave me a brain and brawn to work.
I asked for courage......... And God gave me danger to overcome.
I asked for love......... And God gave me troubled people to help.
I asked for favors......... And God gave me opportunities.
I received nothing I wanted......... I received everything I needed."

Friday, February 24, 2012

"Even the very hairs on your head are numbered…" Matthew 10:29-31

Daniel's Gloves

This struck me deeply... I'd never thought of Lent in these terms before:
"The season of Lent is an ark, a great storm-tossed ship carrying us above the waters, transporting us to new life."
The vastness of life (this boat) boggles my mind... the things that frighten me, the things which puzzle and confound me, the mysteries, the compexities... God knows the completeness of it ALL right down to the number of hairs on my head (Matthew 10:29-31)... you'd think that would make me feel safe, and yet my trust issues trip me up continuously. Initially, I'd likely be the woman who refuses to enter the building wih the others... and perhaps I would 'drown' as the 'waters rose'... though overall I'm a more hopeful, faithful person than all of that.
My life experiences have left me overly cautious and suspicious... I trust God, but I realize I don't really ever trust people (yet, if I don't trust people or my circumstances do I really trust God?)... and when things have been truly bad for me, I haven't had to worry. I KNOW I'm being called to a greater trust on every level... but it's SO hard... how would having no choice in the matter change me? I'm honestly not sure.
It's sort of like this adventure to health (which I likely wouldn't have undertaken had I had any choice)... some truly miraculous things have happend of late... yet I still fight the process. SIGH. I know I'm now not as 'lost' as I was when I started out... I want to know the freedom Daniel has... a complete trust in God and the world he created... no fear, just peace with whatever is... but I've a ways to go. The pondering continues...

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!! Thank you for writing this, Ramona! I do believe this is one of the best blogs I've ever read. It's all a huge journey, isn't it? But why does it take us so long to finally get to the wisdom part of it all....and still only be there in part? I dunno...but I trust it's for a reason. Maybe some day we'll have all the answers, or at least I hope so. But I'm relatively certain it won't be in this plane! LOL Thank you for sharing your Lenten wisdoms with the rest of us.
    2187 days ago
    Thank you so much. Hugs.
    2187 days ago
    2188 days ago
  • KNH771
    So funny. I started humming that hymn before I started reading your post. Thanks for the bit on the rungs. I think I'll be coming back to that.
    2189 days ago
    This was such a beautiful walk through Faith and Understanding, Enlightenment, and the importance of Obedience to one's God. Thank you for imparting this to each of us.
    2189 days ago
    Thank you for sharing these lovely words -- great truths, well said. They are very encouraging to me, and I will read them several more times during the days ahead.
    I have been groping my way through a spell of inconsistent, unfocused & undisciplined behaviors re: eating & activity/ exercise (and yes, equally sloppy house-cleaning!) for over a month now. On the weekend, I finally chose a different direction/ different plan.... and ... began anew, again. Though my non-liturgical background has not ever included a "give up for Lent" approach to the Easter season, I have determined that I will use this time -- dedicate these 40 Lenten days -- to health/ eating/ exercise/ activity behaviors that reflect the living sacrifice we are called to be. And yes, it will definitely be a stretch for me.
    And I will gratefully reread your inspiring words throughout this time.
    Thank you!
    Maryjean Gregory
    2189 days ago
    Thank you!

    2189 days ago
  • IAM_HIS2
    What a beautiful blog! I am going to read it over several times, there is so much to think about plus apply to one's own Lenten journey. God bless you for this. May I become smaller so our Lord can become my all.

    2189 days ago
  • BERRY4
    Focusing (reading & meditating) on the TRUTH of Scripture and walking obediently is what we are called to do in this life. But oh the joy to realize the love He has for us and how it is better than anything life has to offer.

    May this season of heart and soul and "being" bless you abundantly--even in those mundane chores that pile up around us.
    * In Me you live and move and have your being… Acts 17:28

    Wishing you more of Him, who is our "completeness".

    2189 days ago
    I know you will come out of it more balanced and focused!
    2189 days ago
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