As a child, I loved going to church on Ash Wednesday. I walked in to my small Presbyterian church (St. James United Presbyterian Church in La Porte, TX) with old palms burning on the bbq grill to greet me. There was always something mysterious and interesting about having the ashes put on my forehead. Still to this day, I love this strange, quirky start to Lent. Maybe it is the morbid reality of embracing the cold hard fact that sooner or later I will die and return to the earth. My wife thinks, I’m too comfortable with death, but I remind her we are all going to die and then I smile. As a teenager, I once had a minister give me a chemical burn in the shape of a cross thanks to a bad ash recipe. But, somehow that did not deter my love for this special night. Today, a stranger asked me to put ashes on their head in the hospital and I lovingly obliged this young Lutheran lady. Then I got to give ashes to a member in the hospital and another at home who has limited mobility. It was beautiful and intimate! Then my office administrator gave me this great cross never having placed ashes on someone’s head before. Such wonderful experiences happen on this odd day.
This year I am inviting my congregation of Woodhaven Presbyterian Church (and you too) to observe the 40 days of Lent (excluding Sundays because they are mini-Easter celebrations so go ahead and eat your chocolate on the Sunday fun-days) by either fasting, praying or loving. To put that another way, they can
1) fast: take something out of their lives during the 40 days like the standard giving up of sweets, meats or Facebook
2) pray: add something to their life to enhance their spiritual journey like doing a weekly or daily devotional, Bible study or extra prayer time or
3) love: build new relationships, improve existing relationships, do some kind of loving service in the community, or do random acts of kindness throughout the 40 days.
I’m especially encouraging this third option because I think fewer people practice it and we could definitely use more love these days. How will your mark the 40 days of Lent? Please, share if you are planning to do something for Lent or not and what you will be doing. My plan is to try the third option, but I’m also reading a PC USA devotional and weekly video devotional from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary because let’s face it…I’m a Bible nerd. Good luck with your spiritual practice. Peace, y’all!