Today is Ash Wednesday. At a lot of churches, like ours, we will gather tonight and have a Shrove Tuesday mean of Pancakes which will be followed by our Ash Wednesday service. Ash Wednesday services aren't usually joyful services. This is a service of penitence. In Old Testament times, ashes were used as a symbol of grief and sorrow. In the Ash Wednesday service, we receive ashes on our foreheads to show that we are sorry for the sin in our lives. One of the things that some folks might not know that I like the most about the ashes for Ash Wednesday is what the ashes are made from. The ashes are the remains of the palm branches from the previous years Palm Sunday Service.
You know the one, right? The one where the kids walk the aisles and wave their palm branches saying "Hosanna! Hosanna! Jesus is coming! Jesus is coming!". And the lay all the palm branches on the alter. After the service, the pastor (my husband at my church) collects all of the palm branches and saves them for the following years Ash Wednesday. Why do we do that, you might ask?
Well, because Palm Sunday is the celebration of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem before He was crucified for our sin. The ashes, while reminding us of our sorrow, also remind us of our hope because Jesus rode into Jerusalem and was subsequently crucified for our sins. Therefore, our sin has no hold over us! Praise The Lord! Right?
Ash Wednesday is also the first day of Lent. Lent is the 40 day period on the Christian calendar before Easter. Lent is a time of fasting. Fasting from something that is keeping you from being WHO God is calling you to be. It is more than just giving up a food or a bad habit for a time. It is about a time of conversion. Of actually becoming more like the Christ we claim to follow. Sometimes that fasting might be from a food - something that is unhealthy for you because God does expect us to keep ourselves healthy.
However, the fasting could be from other things, too. Things like sins that we need to wipe out of our lives. Or maybe it isn't a sin at all - just a "bad habit" -- but one that still needs to be gotten rid of. Or maybe it is something that is ok for everyone else, but that God is calling you or me specifically not to do anymore.
Lent can also be a time of "putting something on" that makes us more like Christ. Picking up a trait or discipline that would make us more like Him.
So, then, what am I doing for Lent this year?
Well, I will be giving up a food item this year. Potato chips. Why? Because I LOVE them. I eat way too many of them. And I don't mean the baked kind that are "quasi" good for you. NOPE -- I eat the full fat, fried kind and it gets out of hand if I allow it, too. In the last three days, I've almost single handedly (single mouthedly) eaten a whole bag of Dorito's. Gluttony might be a word that comes to mind. And that is a sin - therefore, I'm giving up Potato Chips.
I'm also putting something on. I have an incredibly difficult time when I pray with the sitting quietly and listening for God part of prayer. During Lent, I will go to bed early enough to read my bible, pray and LISTEN for God to speak to me also.
I also have to share with you all that last night at suppertime, hubs and I were discussing what we were doing for Lent and the girls were interested in knowing what we were talking about. So, hubs explained all of this to them and we asked if it was something that they would like to do. All three girls said yes, they wanted to participate. So, they have all decided to give up video games for Lent. ALL video games-- whether on the computer, the Wii, or even the DS.
They also decided that they want to put something on. They decided that they will get ready for bed early enough to have a bible story each and every night.
I'm so proud of my girls that they want to do this. M even prayed that God would help her remember what she had decided and help her do it. =)
SO, I hope everyone has a meaningful Ash Wednesday. I can't say good because being reminded of our sin is never fun. However, it will be beneficial.
in HIM -