Tag Archives: Lent

To Ashes, To Ashes

My first Ash Wednesday service started off Lent with a proper spirit: a reminder of just how far we are from perfection.

All of us in attendance ensured that the service would not be perfect.

First, our priest had us stand and, stumbling through the liturgy, asked the choir, “Are we going to sing this one?” The congregation and the priest himself chuckled when he realized the choir had just finished a beautiful rendition of the song. We promptly knelt.

We knelt to recite the litany of penitence, which confesses our sins to God and begs for His mercy. The child’s voice behind me could not find the proper rhythm to read with the congregation. The people in front of me spoke the first syllables of the words reserved for the officiant before quickly silencing themselves. I smiled at these reminders of our imperfection as we spoke to God of our sins.

Naturally, it was then my turn. I falteringly tried to keep the rhythm of “Humbly I Adore Thee,” and gave up for a line or two, completely lost. The next corporate prayer was familiar enough that I thought I knew what I was doing, but had enough strange language that I totally flubbed the words. Ha!

What a wonderful reminder of our imperfection! These instances captured for me the unique words of the Ash Wednesday service: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Everyone who attended that service, myself especially included, was sentenced to death for our sins against God. During Lent, we remember how much we need God to save us from our just punishment.
Thankfully, Lent is also a time to prepare for the reconciliation He provided at Easter. Oh, praise the Lord for Easter!

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Sundays have always been a little bit special.
Growing up, Sunday meant church. It meant some one-on-one time with my Dad, wiping doughnut crumbs off eachother’s faces and sitting in the sound booth during service. (I got to give the preacher his microphone battery, and I always got a hug.) Sunday was playing with my brother in the empty dance studio. Sunday was going to Sam’s Club and getting free food. Sunday nights were sitting in the kitchen, parents doing laundry or bills, brother running about, all of us eating cheese and turkey out of the fridge and just catching up on life. Sunday was reading my Bible and getting tucked in by both of my parents.
So Sundays have always been a bit special.

With increased responsibilities and sheer force of time, some of my wonder at the day has faded. It seems difficult for me to remember each Sunday that this was the day Jesus conquered death(!) (especially since His holy Sabbath often contains a lot of homework).

This is one reason Lent is good.
I have observed Lent in some way most of the years since I was a child, but this year I feel like I am learning so much more. I finally got a definite answer on whether Lenten observations continue on Sundays: they do not, because each and every Sunday is a mini Easter! So, the last two Sundays have been celebratory days: I’ve sipped wonderful Highland coffee before church and sat with a delicious Coca-Cola as I read the incredible number of blog entries that have built up over the previous week.
The last four days were really hard to keep my Lenten resolution. I traveled to visit a graduate school, where they got us up early in the morning and proceeded to pelt us with information and activities until the late evening. It was exhilarating but exhausting. By the third day, I was subconsciously (and consciously) searching for a Starbucks at every lab. (You laugh, but we saw one on the first floor of one of the lab buildings.) However, I kept to my resolution.
So today was quite a celebration. I know it sounds ridiculous to celebrate Sunday for caffeine and blogs (and let’s face it, it is pretty ridiculous). But, the beauty of focusing on God during Lent (in addition to giving a good thing up) is that He uses the mundane to teach heavenly lessons. God is using my small celebration of caffeine and blogs to turn me towards the rightful, glorious celebration that is each and every Sunday.

How was today just a little bit special?
I got to go to my wonderful church. I had some delicious coffee. I was given the courage to ask someone to sit with us. I heard God’s words in my pastor’s message. God used me to make someone who had taken the huge step of returning to church feel welcome in His Church. I got to read about my friend’s adventures with furry men and unicorns while sipping a Coca-Cola, and then talk with her about said adventures. (Praise the Lord for Skype!) The sun shone warmly. I got to sit and be with Greg. I had a Sunday night dinner worthy of my upbringing. 🙂 I got to sit in a Leadership Community meeting where Godly men and women expressed thoughts, stimulated my thinking, and worked out how to better help college students follow Jesus. I got to laugh and talk and pray with friends, new and old.
Most of all, today I celebrated that Jesus Christ is risen, making possible every good and wonderful thing.
Sundays are just a little bit special.

That’s what I love about Sunday:
Sing along as the choir sways;
Every verse of Amazin’ Grace,
An’ then we shake the Preacher’s hand.
Go home, into your blue jeans;
Have some chicken an’ some baked beans.
Pick a back yard football team,
Not do much of anything:
That’s what I love about Sunday.

Ooh, new believers gettin’ baptized,
Momma’s hands raised up high,
Havin’ a Hallelujah good time
A smile on everybody’s face.
That’s what I love about Sunday,
Oh, yeah.

-Craig Morgan, That’s What I Love About Sunday (full lyrics)

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In Which I Argue with the Logic of My Dreams

In my dream last night, things had apparently gotten pretty bad. Worldwide depression, some famines, bad weather, etc. The Church (there’s only one) decided that since things were so bad, the world needed to celebrate, so they moved Easter up by two weeks.
In the dream, it wasn’t to remember the glorious Joy that is the resurrection of Christ on Easter morning (praise the Lord!); it was rather a decision to say, “Hey! Let’s all put out happy decorations and light candles and sing songs and eat candy and everything will all be alright again.”
I voiced my disagreement with whoever I was having coffee in the dream. Lent is a time of fasting, prayer, and devotion to remember the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness and His ultimate sacrifice. Cutting Lent short in the midst of hard times seemed counterintuitive; this dream Church was cutting away the time intended for us to better understand our suffering through Christ’s suffering and a time intended for more intense fasting and prayer, all for a surface level happiness.

And I woke up from this strange dream about the philosophy of the Church calendar and decided to write a blog entry.

So, embrace the lessons of Lent.

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