Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Happy Ash Wednesday

The ugly smudges looked like dirt. "What's that on your forehead?" I asked a friend. We lived in Cambridge, UK, and were learning many religious traditions left behind by low church Protestants.

"It's Ash Wednesday," said Terrie. She explained that her family and she had gone to an early Mass where the priest had crossed their foreheads with ashes after burning last year's palm fronds. They'd wear the cross all day, at work or at rest. The ritual fascinated me.

Though Terrie's family did not evidence faith in Christ by holy living, they celebrated Christianity in a continuous round of traditional calendar events. How many of us will thoughtlessly do the same in the coming season of Lent that leads to Easter?

Most of us will barely reflect on Christ's sacrifice. We'll go to church or skip a Sunday when it's inconvenient to meet. We'll walk through the foyer to settle into a pew, clap along with worship while watching a band on stage, half-listen to a talk by a pastor, and walk out again without any life change. My heart's cry is, "Oh Lord, please don't let that be me this year! Let me remember your life of meekness and your endurance on the cross."

During these seven Lenten weeks, I'm asking God for the ability to surrender to him. While I could stay on my knees forever, repenting for things done and undone, I hear his call to focus on all the wonders of following Christ. How good God has been to humanity - and to me! His love encompasses us and his mercies never fail.

Today, I'm happy, utterly thankful for God's patience as I've muddled my way toward him. How has his grace and longsuffering kept you from harm?

Read more:
* You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. Psalm 116:8

*The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

*Joel 2:1-2,12-17; Psalm 51:1-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6,16-21

*Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him. Matthew 14:29-31

Moravian Prayer: Creator of the universe, only you can deliver our souls from death. When we become overwhelmed with the activities of the world, let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

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