For those of you who ate out for supper tonight and were perplexed by the "dirt" on the forehead of the guy one booth over, or if you ran into someone in the grocery store with a black mark on their head this post is for you! Today is Ash Wednesday and after a few interesting conversations today, I thought it would be nice to share what this particular day means to me.
Tonight at church, our santuary was filled with middle school students currently in the confirmation class. In his message tonight, I felt like our pastor did a good job of stepping them (and me) through the details of this particular observance. So here's my recap...
What is Ash Wednesday?
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lent, the 40 days before Easter.
What is Lent?
The period time (40 days before Easter) during which Christians prepare their hearts for Easter. It's a time of prayer, a time of rememberance, a time of moderation. To me, a time to spend time thinking about the sacrifice that Jesus made for each one of us on the cross.
Why all this talk about giving something up?
It took me a long time to truly grasp this aspect of Lent...until today. One of my former pastors, who is a friend on Facebook, posted a link from this website with a blog title "40 Ideas for Lent"...two questions on this list had a profound affect on me...
Is there a habit or sin in my life that repeatedly gets in the way of loving God with my whole heart or loving my neighbor as myself? How do I address that habit over the next 40 days?
How does giving it up draw me closer to God and prepare me for Easter?
To me giving something up for lent is a way of freeing yourself from a perceived "need" or "want" that distracts you from giving your time and energy to God. To me it had to be something I would do everyday that would remind me EVERYTIME of the sacrificce that Jesus made for me.
The ironic thing about this is that I totally confessed to my small group last Sunday that I see my greatest weakness as a Christian is spending time in prayer. I fall short EVERY. DAY. I leave it for the end of the day and often fall asleep praying. I struggle to find time during the day to spend focused, quiet time in prayer. Well, that's a cop out. I do have time. I just spend it doing other things like keeping up with Facebook, or surfing the internet reading articles and blogs or shopping ...Or I watch televison, or I talk on the phone in the car....the list goes on and on.
On the way to church tonight, Lee and I were talking about what we were going to give up for Lent. I jokingly said Lee should give up alcohol...of course, with me begin pregnant I found this particulary funny. Without skipping a beat, he said, "Ok. I'll give up alcohol if you give up Facebook. Take down your page and take it off your phone." WOW. Obviously, my best friend in the whole world sees me being distracted. He helped me find a habit that repeatedly gets in the way of me loving God with my whole heart. So. I thought about it during church. I came back to that list of questions and thought some more.
So long Facebook.
Why the mark on the forhead with ashes?
The mark shows others that "I belong to Jesus"...it's a symbol of mourning, a sign of our repentance, a humbling of ourselves before the cross. To me, it reminds me that death is not the end for me.
Why do all this?
Psalm 139 says it all for me...He knows everything there is to know about me. I need to spend sometime getting to know Him better.
1 You have searched me, LORD,
and you know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.
5 You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.