Lent: God’s Great Come as You Are Party

by Melannie Svoboda SND on February 16, 2015

Someone has said, “God always throws a better party.” I like that. To me it means when things don’t turn out the way I plan or I want them to, then I should hang on! God might be getting ready to throw a different kind of party, and a better one than I could ever come up with!

lent ashes

Pray as you can, not as you can’t.

I think this concept is a timely one. Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent—that time of of the year devoted to special prayer, fasting, and alms giving. One way of looking at Lent is to see it as God’s great Come as You Are Party. Let me explain.

During Lent we renew ourselves in prayer. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got on prayer was this: pray as you can, not as you can’t. In other words, start where you are. In order to do this we can take a few moments at the beginning of our prayer to reflect on where we are today. I sometimes ask myself, “So, Melannie, where are you today?” Then I pause and try to put into words where I am. Here are a few ways we might answer that question:

I’m exhausted…I’m worried about ___…I’m feeling great today…I’ve got too many things to do…I feel far from you, God…I feel close to you, Jesus…I’m lonely…I’m scared…I’m mad…I’m bored…I feel greatly blessed…I wish I were a better human being (a better nun, spouse, parent, friend)…I wish my faith was stronger…I feel restless…I feel young…I feel old…I feel blah…I don’t know where I am right now.

lent fast give praypg

My answer to the question is where I start my prayer. If I’m worried about something, for example, I begin to talk to God about that. Chances are, it is something or someone I’ve been worried about before. Then I ask God to let me know if I can do anything about this particular worry. If I can’t, then I simply entrust that worry anew to God and I move on. If I’m mad, I reflect on what is causing my anger. Sometimes anger is the Spirit urging us to do something we are reluctant to do. (It’s often easier to stay mad than to take action—especially an action that is hard like forgiving someone, or letting go of something, or having a difficult conversation with someone.) If I feel greatly blessed, I sit with that for a few moments, thanking God for whatever those blessings might be.

It makes sense to come as you are to prayer. Why? Because prayer demands honesty. And if I can’t be honest with God, then with whom can I be? The problem is that sometimes, when it comes to praying, we feel inadequate. We think or say silly things like this: I’ll really start praying when I have more time…when I get my degree…when the kids are grown…when I’m holier…when I finally get my life in order. But God is calling us to prayer now.  Every day. That’s what Lent reminds us. Come as you are—not as you wish you were.

lent woman in church

If I can’t be honest with God, then with whom can I be?

Lent also reminds us that God speaks to us not only during our prayer time, but throughout our day in the people, events, news, and chance happenings that comprise our life. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to our life. In fact a good Lenten practice might be this: I will pay more attention to my life! I like what writer Frederick Buechner says about this: “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the holy excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy hidden heart of it because, in the last analysis, all moments are key moments and life itself is a grace.”

Here is a song by David Crowder, who’s been described as a Christian musician, a bluegrass musician, and a folktonic musician. The song is called “Come as You Are.” I think this song is very appropriate for Lent. It says: “lay down your burdens, your shame, your hurt…wanderer, come home, you’re not too far…fall in his arms…come as you are” and the repeated line I like so much: “earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal.” I don’t know where you are today, but I hope you find something in this reflection and song that touches your heart for Lent.

 

Where are you today?

Does anything in this reflection or song speak to you?

Is there anything you’re doing for Lent that you’d be willing to share with us?

PS: Last week I enjoyed my time with the Sisters of the diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida. What a great group of women they are, doing marvelous things for God’s people in that beautiful part of God’s vineyard! Afterwards my sister, Mary Ann, and I spent a few days in Clearwater together. We went to the Tampa Zoo where we were delighted to meet two manatees (mother and child). We also had the privilege of petting some sting rays. We both marveled at how soft the sting rays were—as soft as a beagle puppy’s ears!

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathleen Magiera February 16, 2015 at 5:52 am

Great song Sr. Melannie!

Come as you are. . . Listen to your life. Those are great themes for Lent for me. I need to see God in the every day. I lose track of God during the regular events of my day. I forget to attend to God’s presence in my work and my busyness.

Thanks for the reminder.

Kathleen

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Melannie Svoboda SND February 19, 2015 at 7:28 am

Dear Kathleen, Yes, the busyness can consume us completely–unless we take “mini breaks” and recall God’s loving presence in our midst. Thank you for your response…And have a good Lent! Sr. Melannie

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Michelle Authier February 16, 2015 at 7:11 am

Thanks for this deeply loving version of “Come as you are”. We will be listening and singing this at our liturhies,and prayer. Namaste ♥

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Melannie Svoboda SND February 19, 2015 at 7:26 am

I’m glad you like the song, Michelle…Many blessings on your Lent. Thank you for writing! Namaste…Sr. Melannie

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Joanne Bennardo February 16, 2015 at 10:10 am

Good morning, Sister Melannie,

This is a great theme for Lent, and it especially resonated with me this morning. Yesterday, our family celebrated a baptism, and on Thursday, we will celebrate a funeral mass. Caught directly between the joys and sorrows of life, God’s ever-merciful presence sustains us.

Happy Lent. God bless you. Joanne

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Melannie Svoboda SND February 19, 2015 at 7:25 am

Dear Joanne, My congratulations on the birth of your new family member…and my sympathy to you on the loss of a loved one. What a stark contrast in one way. But in another way, aren’t both events births?…Birth and Death…what reminders of what “it’s” all about…May God’s presence sustain you during these days…Sr. Melannie

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Mary Schneider February 16, 2015 at 10:42 am

Sr. Melannie: Thank you for sharing this beautiful song, and especially for the ideas planted in me in preparation for Lent. I will “come as I am” and place everything in God’s loving care.

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Melannie Svoboda SND February 19, 2015 at 7:22 am

Dear Mary, “Placing everything in God’s loving care…” You can’t get much wiser than that! Thanks for sharing! Sr. Melannie

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Stephanie February 16, 2015 at 10:49 am

Thank you, Sr Melannie.
As I do each morning, I sat down at my computer and was about to go to my usual website where the daily scripture and Mass readings are to read and pray, but I couldn’t. I wondered why I do this every morning and can still feel this bad. I know my fears and anxiety are not rational, but they are very visceral, and after a day or two of thinking that I am starting to feel better, something happens (something minor, my husband will tell me) and there is that anxiety and fear again. So this morning, as I sat down to pray, I thanked God for this new day, thanked him for my wonderful husband and our new life (after 30 years we moved across the country for our retirement) and prayed, “God, please help me!” because I don’t feel grateful, I feel fearful and anxious…and then I decided to put off my usual prayer “routine” to look at my email because I didn’t feel like praying….And there was your email…and those encouraging words…and that beautiful song, which brought me to tears.

The one thing of which I am always certain is that God always listens to me and always answers my prayers. I just have to listen more to hear what he is telling me.

As for Lent, I am going to attend Mass more than once a week…to start.

Thanks again.

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Melannie Svoboda SND February 19, 2015 at 7:21 am

Dear Stephanie, Thank you for your beautiful and touching response to today’s blog. I think sometimes my best prayer is simply HELP! God knows what I need even more than I do. Yes, we must trust that God hears every prayer we utter–even the wordless ones! Many blessings on your Lent–and your new life of retirement! Sr. Melannie

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Kathy February 16, 2015 at 11:44 am

Thank you, Sr. Melannie, once again.

This topic is very appropriate for me, it is my birthday today! Not only are we beginning Lent, but it is for me, my annual take stock, try to get in touch with how God is guiding me, what’s in store for me this year. I feel blessed to be celebrating another year on this earth, and I’m praying for wisdom and discernment for “what’s next?”

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Melannie Svoboda SND February 19, 2015 at 7:18 am

Dear Kathy,
A HAPPY belated birthday to you! I hope you celebrated your precious gift of life in a special and fun way! I’ll say a little prayer for you as you begin a new chapter in your book of life! Sr. Melannie

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Karen February 16, 2015 at 1:01 pm

“Sometimes anger is the Spirit urging us to do something we are reluctant to do. (It’s often easier to stay mad than to take action—especially an action that is hard like forgiving someone, or letting go of something, or having a difficult conversation with someone.)” I feel like you are speaking to me. Praying for strength.

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Melannie Svoboda SND February 19, 2015 at 7:17 am

Dear Karen, Yes, I will pray for strength for you…And one of these days I’m going to devote a blog to anger. It’s important to see it in a positive way so we can “deal” with it wholesomely. Thank you for letting us know what words touched your heart today. Sr. Melannie

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Mary Ann February 16, 2015 at 1:13 pm

Hi Sister Melanie,
I agree with all you wrote. I talk to God all the time. Sometimes while just going about my job or whatever. God does listen and if you are very tuned in, you can even be aware of when he answers your prayer.
Blessings from Florida,

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Melannie Svoboda SND February 19, 2015 at 7:15 am

Hi, Mary Ann! Talking to God throughout the day is a beautiful habit to get into! Thanks for reminding us! It’s -5 as I type this…but I hear even Florida is having cold weather…Stay warm! Sr. Melannie

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Terri February 16, 2015 at 4:08 pm

I remember a priest used to say in his homilies at Mass very often: this is a come as you are, but not a stay as you are gathering. Come to God as you are, but when you are here, be open to the change that God can bring about in you. Your reflection reminded me of this. Thanks.

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Melannie Svoboda SND February 19, 2015 at 7:13 am

Dear Terri, I really appreciate your addition! Yes, “come as you are” is not meant to promote complacency. We come as we are, but we must always be open to the promptings of the Spirit calling us to growth and change. Thanks for writing! Sr. Melannie

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Suzanne Sayer February 16, 2015 at 6:03 pm

Beautiful reflection and song! Thank you!

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Melannie Svoboda SND February 19, 2015 at 7:12 am

You’re welcome, Suzanne! My pleasure! Sr. Melannie

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Ann February 16, 2015 at 8:34 pm

Thank you for listening to God about your blog so as to speak to me. mother living with us just fell and broke two ribs along with her other health issues. At work and waking up at night my mind races with what ifs. So many bombbarding thoughts. But then a walk at lunch in clear weather…good for a Rain Forest at this time of year, and the phrase “the race is not mine it is the Lord’s” and your blog on prayer. And a husband able to be at home, children learning about aging but enjoying their youth! One day at a time! Thank you!

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Melannie Svoboda SND February 19, 2015 at 7:11 am

Dear Ann, Your response is filled with much wisdom…Do you live on the west coast? Your use of the phrase “rain forest” caught my attention…Thank you for responding to this blog! Sr. Melannie

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Loraine February 17, 2015 at 2:10 pm

Praying for a dear friend who is very ill and praying that his wife can lay down her burdens

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Melannie Svoboda SND February 19, 2015 at 7:09 am

And, Loraine, I will pray for your dear friend too. And I’m sure many of my readers will also! God bless you! Sr. Melannie

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Pat Sylvester February 17, 2015 at 3:08 pm

Melannie,
I love your blog. And I especially liked this reflection for Lent and the song. The one phrase that really touched me – and they all did – is “Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal.” God bless you Melannie for accepting people as they are . . . I am most grateful!
Pat

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Melannie Svoboda SND February 19, 2015 at 7:09 am

Dear Pat, It seems we both resonated with that line in a special way…Thank you for reading my blog so faithfully! Melannie

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Odelia February 17, 2015 at 10:05 pm

Sr Melanie,
What a beautiful reflection for the beginning of Lent.
I love the songs you choose. This one was what I needed. Thank you.

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Melannie Svoboda SND February 19, 2015 at 7:08 am

Dear Odelia, I’m so glad you liked the song–and through the song, the Spirit gave you something you needed! Thanks for writing! Sr. Melannie

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Maggie February 19, 2015 at 11:16 am

From someone who used to be always striving , I finally learned there was a “real” me. I laid aside all of my masks and pleasing costumes. Then came the joy in life and I truly felt God’s love and grace.
Sooooo, I would love to attend the “come as you are party”!!!!!

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Melannie Svoboda SND February 19, 2015 at 11:27 am

Dear Maggie, How nice that you got in touch with the “real” you. Your words reminded me of a poem by Mary Oliver called “The Journey.” She talks about listening to all the voices shouting at you throughout your life journey–until one day you hear a “new voice which you slowly recognize as your own.” It’s a great poem. It’s in “Mary Oliver: New and Selected Poems,” vol. 1, pp. 114-5. Thank you for writing! Sr. Melannie

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Karen February 20, 2015 at 3:08 pm

Sr.Melonie,
Thank you for your inspiring messages. I try to follow your blog as often as I can. This song “Come as you are” gives so much food for thought and a new light on prayer..thank you!
Karen

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Melannie Svoboda SND February 20, 2015 at 3:33 pm

Thank you for writing, Karen. I’m glad the song provided so much food for thought for you. I like it too! Sr. Melannie

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don evans February 20, 2015 at 5:32 pm

Hi Sister, been reading your inspirational messages in Living Faith for quite a few years . You are a genuine messenger of God. I believe you write more with your heart than with your mind. You serve HIM well.

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Melannie Svoboda SND February 22, 2015 at 11:10 am

Dear Don,
Yes, I have been writing for “Living Faith” for many, many years. Thank you for your positive words about my writing! God bless you! Sr. Melannie

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