Ash Wednesday: Returning Home to Peace and Grace

This weekend my 16 month old puppy, Jay, accidentally got out of the yard and was lost for over 36 hours. During this time my wife and daughter were emotionally upset and noticeably disturbed by his absence. After wandering off, Jay was picked up by a young man and kept overnight at his apartment. The next day he brought Jay outside and allowed him to lead the way back to our home (actually our neighbors house), which is how he was returned. In the immediate 24 – 36 hours after his return, Jay was not quite his “bounce-off-the-wall-with-energy” self…

…He walked and ate his food just a little bit slower and was generally less hi strung, even though still a 16 month old puppy. My wife commented how he did not pull/tug as normal on his walk and happily turned into the drive when returning from it. Initially I thought his lethargy was simply a response to his night away plus an unexpected four hour puppy play date he enjoyed with a neighbor’s dog on the day of his return, but on day two of his return as Jay returned to his normal self, I began to sense that it was not lethargy but something different.

I now believe what was initially thought to be lethargy was actually Jay’s way of slowly and gratefully relishing that peace of finding and returning home…

The deep peace found “in a return home” can be unexpected and surprising, especially if we have taken that peace for granted and left home anticipating greater joys by exercising our freedom abroad. Jay’s 36 hour excursion into the world probably tempered his urge to explore and run free as much as it also helped him appreciate the gifts already present here at home. Jay’s experience is not an isolated one; college students who return home and mature seniors returning to towns left decades ago are often surprised to experience that quiet joy and peace of “returning home.”

For some, this week’s distribution of Ashes and start of Lent will be a kind of “return home” to God, religion, church, faith, prayer, scripture, sacrifice and mortification, etc.. Unbeknownst to some returnees, they will find that it is also accompanied by an unexpected grace and deep peace in their hearts and souls. This gift of Divine peace and grace will often accompany the humble heart as repents and return home from its free willed (and often prodigal) wanderings abroad… For those now in this holy space, we at Strugglin’Catholic.com are inviting you to simply and prayerfully rest with and in this experience of peace and grace as long as you can…

…Try to remember, if ever, when and where you last felt God’s       presence, peace and grace…

… At meal times or at night, briefly examine how and what your mind dwelt on that day in this time of being showered with God’s grace and peace…

…Take note of the feelings that emerge from your heart and also the way that you engage your loved ones when God’s peace and grace is active and present to you.

…Knowing that this gift and experience has a message, receive it in prayer and experience God’s welcome, invitation and “thank you” for coming home to Love again.

 

May the Lord Bless, Keep & Guide us in our return home this Lent. Let us pray together for that day when we will always walk in the grace and peace of God with others.

                                                                                                                                    Amen.

What Lent is All About: Goin’ from Ashy to Classy!!!

Last week, at my good friend Ed’s new apartment, the guys had our first dart tournament. After the first four games, Ed found himself consistently in last place with Carl and myself splitting the first four victories with two apiece. Ed, recognizing the situation, paused at the end of the fourth game and took a few moments to regroup. Refocused, he turned around – looked both of us dead in the eyes and boldly declared, “I’m makin’ a change and goin’ from ashy to classy, winning the next game!!” His bold public proclamation was immediately verbally challenged and met with an unholy barrage of words and epithets that could only come from close friends having great fun…. The next game started with Carl and myself confidently talking as Ed quietly backed up his plan with the kind of steady and consistent play that resulted in a thorough butt whuppin’ for us and the first place finish as Ed had predicted. What does this story have to do with Ash Wednesday and our Lenten journey?

Ed’s honest assessment of and active response to the situation at hand – honestly evaluating his game play, reevaluating what changes needs to take place, making a plan and proclaiming it publicly, then quietly setting forth to complete and work that plan – models in the nutshell what Ash Wednesday and our Lenten journey is all about.

Ed’s honest assessment of his dart game was the important starting point for his transformation from ashy to classy. Ashy skin is an unhealthy condition where the tissue, because it lacks or is unable to retain moisture, flakes and scales. On our earthly journeys, we are each afflicted with a variety of physical, moral, social and spiritually unhealthy conditions that we sometimes just learn to accept and live with. Along the spiritual journey, we are invited to recognize and take responsibility for our part in staying ashy, acknowledging not only that we have fallen short and missed that mark set for us by God, but also that there is much we can still do to change in order to become classy, holy and more responsive to God’s call and grace.

Ash Wednesday calls us not only to honestly assess of our spiritual game but also to recognize our role and responsibility to actively grow in holiness and grace. Ed’s active response to his losing situation was initially boldly proclaimed, but then his plan was quietly implemented and carried out in the routine play of the dart game. I believe this is how our Lenten plans are also called to be: publically witnessed to and but quietly lived out in the community. Our Lenten plan will vary and change with age and context…  …but plan we must! Real (graced) plans coupled with (graced) hard work results in real, holy rewards and victories, both here in this life and for eternity!!! Don’t let the recognition of a common skin condition blind you to the real beauty that God beholds in you each day! See it and work to realize it! Don’t miss this year’s Lenten invitation to re-evaluate, change and jump start your spiritual life this year!!!