Thursday, February 23, 2012
Lent 2012 Begins In Hollywood
Lent Season- 40 Days And Counting...
Another Serving Of Breakfast:
I began the day listening to a talk about the Cub Scouts followed by more Broadway show tunes with Don Snyder and a guest vocalist at The L.A. Breakfast Club (for more on LABC see previous post). I strolled for a bit at the park afterwards as it was a bright and beautiful morning but yet still cool and crisp (almost like an East coast Fall but with lots more sun).
Ash Wednesday Noon Observance:
The temp heated up to 80 by noon as I headed to Ecclesia church for a noon day observance of Ash Wednesday and the giving of ashes. The church would be offering ashes and prayer for anyone who wanted to receive them along Hollywood Blvd.
Years ago, I never thought the day would come that I would actually see such an open acknowledgement of faith on H-wood Blvd like how Ecclesia lives it, so I was going to be there to support the cause of Jesus. It's really such a blessing to see God at work in such a spiritually dark and weird place that at times the experience can be over-whelming. So I obviously needed to be at church at noon to focus myself on Jesus and my own lenten devotions.
I dressed in my black t-shirt with Hollywood emblazoned in hot pink across it and I grabbed my pink scarf with the rabbit fur trim. I had no car for the day so I would first have to survive the crazy bus ride there. Things began badly when the normally red rapid bus which makes fewer stops was orange today which is the color of the regular line.
As you can expect, people got on the bus innocently only to found out that they had to walk 3 blocks back to their true stop. As we passed stop after stop, more people were arguing loudly with the bus driver, sometimes in 2-3 different languages at a time (one Russian lady looked ballistic). The constant clammer was ruining my Lent prep buzz but as most of those complaining were old people with joint complaints, I could really sympathize.
Then an older flushed-faced man, snuck in the back door without paying. He had a grocery bag with liquor bottles in it and he pulls out one bottle and starts chugging large gulps of 100 proof hooch openly from the bottle. Man, he looked like his very life depended on each swig. Everyone tried to ignore him and I tried to think sympathetic about him because he was obviously deep in an alcohol addiction. I know that the man needed prayer so I tried to be mindful of that and pray accordingly.
Not surprisingly, the man's bottle was near empty within 2 stops but then he starts spitting on the floor of the bus. I let it pass and tried to pray for him even harder. I tried to avert my eyes, too but the man was directly in front of me. He let another large lugey one out and I stopped praying because I was just so plainly grossed out. I tried to turn my entire body 180 degrees away but I was cramped in between a metal chair rail and a beefy guy(talk about being caught between the proverbial "rock and a hard place").
The inebriated man lets a 3rd very large lugey fly and my stomach just rolls. I just had to say something! So I very politely say “Sir, You can't keep spitting in the bus like that”. The man sassed me back with a lot of lip and drunk-ittude but he did stop. I was tempted to give him some attitude back after he said he didn't need "no momma" to tell him what to do but I controlled myself. I did tell him, "No, you need Jesus". Now that I think of it though, I didn't say it in the nicest or most Christian of ways... God, please forgive me.
When I finally exited the bus a few people told me that I was right to have spoken up on the bus but my spirit felt so antsy. You can imagine the 2 or so blocks up the street to church seemed endless. It was already 12:45pm and my mind was racing with worry. “I can't miss the ashes today”, I thought, "cause I so need prayer and repentance after that bus ride".
Well good Christian faith and counsel came to the rescue, both of which I got in good measure as I arrived to the capable ministering of the pastor, deacons and prayer team of Ecclesia church.
Prayer team member, M.S. was especially helpful as she joked about her horrifying experience of riding the NYC subway and buses with riders like the Riker island prison guards. Her anecdotes made my L.A. bus experiences pale in comparison and made me laugh. She prayed with me again about pouring God's love into people and not letting them pour their negative into me (a must have faith skill to keep you resilient here in LA) and after a few minutes of prayer and reflection, I was back to my old happy self.
Pastor Joseph came over and prayed for me and gave me my ashes. His solemnly spoken words especially "and from ashes you shall return" nearly made me cry. Then he discussed Psalm 103 with me and encouraged me to read it especially verses 8-18 which I did. Of course I was struck by God's great love and compassion for us even though we are filthy in sin.
I did some more self-reflection then I stood with the team for a while as they offered coffee, tea, water and of course prayer and the ashes to any and all passer-bys who walked by. Some normal looking people looked at us as if we were freaks, Some freaky looking people looked at us as if we were freaks.
One lady asked if we were Catholic, when she was told that we were evangelical Christian she made a sick face. She walked away quickly (fearfully?) and as an after thought I thought that I should have probably referred her to the Catholic church on Sunset with the beautiful blue candle-lit interiors and large organ. I had visited there by my lonesome self on my first Christmas in L.A. and they had had the most beautiful Nativity program with a real 10 pound baby Jesus who the little girl Mary could baerly lift. They also had a live choir and a brass band that fine night and they played all my favorite Christmas hymns and praised the Lord 'til way past midnight. (I had literally crawled in this church another time when my back completely gave out but that's a whole other story).
Anyway, others passer-bys knew about Ash Wednesday, too and they asked for prayer and the ashes and were thankful to receive them. Sadly, countless others had never heard about it but they seemed interested and asked for more info. The team told them about Lent and provided them a card with more info about Lent and invited them to the 7:30 pm services. Other team members talked deeper about Psalm 103 to those interested.
Many first timers thought it amazing that 20-30 somethings Christians (some with piercings etc.) were on H-Blvd reflecting on such godly things. We discusses our lives with Christ a little and also discussed what we may give up for Lent. Some said TV of Facebook which was big at church last year. One passer-by mid-20s or so and goth-looking with multiple tattoos said that he think that he should gave up alcohol. One team member told the guy gently, "God will let you know” then I told him of my epic 40 Day Fasting Battle of 2011 where I resisted potato chips and Cheetos last year. Everyone laughed and a few others admitted they were giving up chocolate or sweets this Lent, too.
After church, I was off to my doctor's at Cedars so I got on another bus. And surprise, surprise! With all my Lent preparation and soul searching I had forgotten that The Oscars/Academy Awards are this weekend so all the Oscar craziness was up the street at Hollywood and Highland at the former Kodak Theater.
By crazy I meant to include road blocks, diverted traffic, traffic snarls, tons more tourists, sight-seers and fans and tons more people who are in obvious need of attention or mental help. For example, one goofy-smiling youngish shirtless dude standing on the corner with a hand-written cardboard sign with vulgar references to a woman and her body parts. The guy looked so sad and awkward when no one even blinked at his sign("Hey, this is Hollywood, dude! We've seen it all!").
I finally made it to the doctor's office and the staff and I had a long conversation about Lent. Eventually we got to what we would give up. One guy said Lent was new to him so he had done online search and he's considering it. We told him it's not just food and others were giving up swearing, TV shows, shopping etc.
I told him that from my experience whatever you give up, big or small, that thing that seemed so important won't feel so at the end of the fast and how I always feel more focused on God after. For example, thanks to my potato chips fast last year (which actually lasted about 55 days), I can now take or leave chips at the grocery and they're not a must have for me every week. So as I constantly "chip" away some of my earthly and fleshly yearnings during Lent I build a new and deeper relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Ash Wednesday 7:30 PM Service:
I rode the bus again and an older man came on in a mini skirt, halter top with his back out and a fur coat slung over his broad football shoulders. The man wore a blond weave/wig that was askew and his lip stick was badly smeared. He clutched his purse and seemed to be talking to himself a lot so I think he may have mental issues or he could have just been complaining about his sore feet in his stacked heel(seriously). The bus was filled so the man had to stand in the packed aisle as many in the bus looked away from him in disgust or to hide their laughter. I tried to keep prayerful again so I prayed for the man and I prayed for a good dependable car for myself.
I arrived back at church at 7:15 pm and my back was acting badly. I had had a full day up and about but I just had to be back to church. The church was full but more drifted in as people came after work. We started praise and reflection in the lobby with just John playing on the guitar. Then Psalm 103 was read to us followed by more singing and reflection as ashes were given out by Pastor Scott and other deacons to those who wanted. We filed slowly inside and had more praise and worship with the full praise band on stage. We sang one of my favorite songs called Hungry" by Kathryn Scott as well as many other praise songs.
Then we did corporal confession lead by Pastor Joseph. He told us he took the words from an atonement confession for Yom Kippur that he got from our messianic Jewish pastor, Pastor Scott. Pastor Joseph said the Hebrew name for the confession but I can't recall it. It has really been a blessing to have Pastor Scott in residence because he helps bring so much of the Old Testament scriptures to life and he helps us understand how the Jewish traditions relate to us as Christians. Hearing a full congregation of people confessing sin as one to God is so mind blowing! The confessions were very deep. Here's a list of those that were especially deep for me:
I sinned against you with a glance...
I sinned against you unknowingly...
I sinned against you in wrong confessions...
Then Pastor Joseph invited us all to come forward for prayer. I was in so much pain but I resisted. I had been offered prayer for my back by a church elder at the noon Ash Wednesday but I had refused because I didn't feel I should keep going to get prayer for my back every week. I thought, "I have faith and I believe God can heal me but I may have to just wait for my healing".
Then Bang! The pain increased as I stood in church and I was conflicted about getting prayed for, until I remembered the scripture, "God's word does not come back void" so I know the prayers for my healing are not wasted even if I have to wait. And it does not show lack of faith instead it shows more faith as the Book of James says, "if there are any sick among you have the elders pray for you". So I went and got prayed for and felt immediately better. I also got a ride home so I missed all that bus drama. Thank you, Jesus!
After an amazing session on learning "How To Hear From God" at the Artists' Listening Group and a strong prayer from Melissa Smith and the group, my right hip and leg were miraculously healed today! It has been nearly 16 years of difficulty and pain for this leg related to herniated discs and spinal stenosis so bad that it was causing paralysis in the leg. I had had surgery in 2000 but many symptoms including painful leg cramps and tight hip flexors, foot numbness, leg weakness and poor gait) had still remained in the 12 years prior to this healing. Thank you, God! Now just 3 other quadrants to go!