ASH WEDNESDAY

February 28, 2017

Welcome to Even Now!
 
We are really excited that you have decided to join us on this journey through Lent.  Really...we are.  This is going to be awesome. 

Before you get started we wanted to give you quick overview of each day as well as provide a few tips if this is your first time trying to pray daily. THIS WILL BE THE LONGEST POST OF LENT, but it's worth it. 
 
Each day has four parts 
 
1. Prayerfully read the bible passage for the day
The bible is God speaking to us in human language. The goal is to listen. Try to find a space where you can focus. You may have to make that space. Make sure your posture reflects your intention, and is comfortable enough to allow you to focus, but not so crazy as to distract you (AKA sitting or kneeling. Probably not laying down. Don't stress about it). If it helps, put on some good Christian music in the background.  Or don't. Mabye you want mood lighting, maybe you like the blazing glow of halogen bulbs. You can look at a Crucifix or other Catholic image to help you concentrate, or you can look up at the ceiling. It doesn't really matter as long as you have created a space where your heart is open, reverent, and attentive to God's grace.  
Make the sign of the Cross and recognize that God is present. Ask the Holy Spirit to come and open your heart, and open up the meaning of the passage to you. Then simply read. Read once at normal speed, again a little more slowly, and even a third time. Pay attention to any words or phrases that catch your attention. 
 
2. Reflect.
The most simple definition of prayer is one word: conversation.  Conversation has one goal: to build relationships. Prayer is a kind of conversation meant to build a loving relationship with God, to ask things of Him, to thank Him, and to praise Him. Like any other relationship the first couple of conversations can be awkward. What do I say? What if I say the wrong thing?  Where do I put my hands? Am I doing this right?...CHILL.  Be yourself.  Prayer (and our relationship with God) is like grass. You can't see it grow, but after a week or two it's suddenly up to your ankles. The most important rule...the one thing never to forget, or underestimate...the one thing that determines if you have a "good" prayer life or a "bad" one: SHOW. UP. If you show up, you win. Set a time for prayer, and show up, God will work and you will be able to notice the change. 
What are some good ways to reflect? One way is to use your imagination and place yourself in the passage (what are the sights, smells, feelings of the moment).  Another way (which MANY people find helpful) is journaling, or writing out your thoughts.  You could also simply talk. Tell God what you are thinking, how you're feeling, or ask Him questions (just make sure you LISTEN too. Conversation is a two way street, and silence is the door of prayer). 
Some helpful questions to ask while reflecting: What is is this passage telling me about who God is, or what He is like? God, what are you trying to tell me about yourself? What are you trying to tell me about...me? Is there a habit, action, or attitude God is calling me to change through this passage?
 
3. Respond.
After you've taken some time to reflect and meditate on the passage, its time to respond.  In this case we are using the responsorial psalms. The Psalms are 100% biblical, which also means we believe they are inspired.  They are the perfect frameworks of prayer and an excellent way to praise and thank God. They are also beautiful expressions of the human heart. Sometimes you might even find that you get more out of the Psalm than the reading.
 
4. Resolve.
The final step is to decide what your going to take away from your prayer time.  If someone asked you to Tweet about your prayer what would you say?  Your resolution may be simple (this doesn't mean boring, some of the most simple realizations are the most intense) "I will trust God more", "I believe God loves me" etc.  Or more complex, "I need to make more time for my family", "God might be calling me to change careers", "I think God is asking me to fast more" etc.  A resolution is meant to help us take another step toward becoming like Jesus.  It's usually a change in a habit, attitude, belief, or thought process. This otherwise goes by the name of "conversion", or "repentance", or "spiritual growth".  One rule of thumb: Love is the point. The best prayer, the best resolutions, always bring about the biggest ACTUAL growth in our love.  Experiencing and feeling the Love of God is an important part of prayer, but is only spinning our wheels if we don't actually love God and others better (see 1 Corinthians 13).   Finally, don't be afraid to repeat resolutions, or get frustrated if it takes some time to come to you. This is a process called "discernment" and it is essential.
 
Recognize that God loves you. Ask for His help.  And if you get stuck or frustrated, reach out to someone you trust (and who actually knows what they are talking about) for help. 
 
READ: Joel 2:12-18

 

Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the LORD, your God.  For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.  Perhaps he will again relent and leave behind him a blessing, offerings and libations for the LORD, your God.

Blow the trumpet in Zion! Proclaim a fast, call an assembly; gather the people, notify the congregation; assemble the elders, gather the children and the infants at the breast; let the bridegroom quit his room and the bride her chamber.  Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep, and say, "Spare, O LORD, your people, and make not your heritage a reproach, with the nations ruling over them!"  Why should they say among the peoples, "Where is their God?'"

Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people.

 

REFLECT

Lent is about two things: Recognizing our sin, and seeking God's grace and love to help us overcome it.  THESE QUESTIONS ARE SIMPLY GUIDES.  If you find them helpful, please feel free to use them.  Answer all, or some, or none. This is a conversation between you and God.  

 

What stuck out to you in the passage? 

 

What does this passage tell us about God?  

 

How does the idea of "returning with your whole heart" apply to your life?  Why does it seem to allow God to be merciful? 

 

What do you think it means to "rend your heart"?

 

Do you recognize sin as a real problem?

 

What do you think the consequences of sin are? 

 

We can't earn God's love, or his forgiveness. How does God solve the problem of sin in our lives?

 

What is the most consistent or "biggest" sin you struggle with?    

 

How do prayer, fasting, and almsgiving help us grow in God's grace?  

 

 

RESPOND

 

R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
"Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight."
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

 

 

RESOLVE

What are you going to take away from your time of prayer today? 

 

 

 

 

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