Ashes, Ashes

This Wednesday is the day known as Ash Wednesday.  It’s the day that begins the 40 day period of Lent, a time of fasting and prayer, leading up to Good Friday and Easter.  Often people who participate in Ash Wednesday and Lent decide to give up something like Facebook, candy, coffee or some other luxury as a form of penitence or fast as a way of cleansing themselves.  Ash Wednesday is participated in by attending a religious service and having ashes placed on your forehead as a reminder and celebration of human mortality, and as a sign of mourning and repentance to God.

The question I frequently hear is “who participates?”  The truth is we should all participate.  These two events in the Church recognize several things that are important for all our lives regardless of which Church tradition you follow.

Let’s start with Ash Wednesday.  Personally I love the idea of people gathering together on a day that we don’t usually attend Church and remembering that we’re all human.  So many churches ignore the fact that those that attend aren’t perfect.  In fact the basis that Jesus presents in the Bible is that He loves those who are imperfect that come to Him and want to start a new life.  Under that premise, churches should recognize that the people in their pews aren’t all saints.  But that’s an aside for another week.  It’s good to have the ashes as a physical sign of imperfection and our willingness to repent and recognize that we’re imperfect people.

Lent’s 40 day period recognizes something that many people won’t acknowledge: change takes time.  You won’t and can’t make a dramatic life change in 2 days.  It takes time.  And chances are good that you may struggle with the change and back step several times before really getting it right.  God knows this which is why He gives us a whole lifetime of forgiveness and getting to know Him before bringing us to heaven.  Saints aren’t made in a day.

This Lent season, I encourage you to devote extra time in prayer and consideration of your life.  What areas do you need to work on changing?  What will God lay on your heart as important things He wants you to do with your life?  Make a list and spend the rest of 2013 making those changes that you’ll be proud of in your life.

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