I had this post written about Lent and Ash Wednesday. Not anything negative or controversial, but because I don’t observe these traditions, writing my own spiritual history, I realized I might sound less than PC, and then I highlighted my whole post and hit backspace.
Because it’s not that I don’t ‘get’ it. I do. It’s not that I disagree with practicing traditions from the Catholic Church. I don’t. It’s because lately, I feel that everything I want to write is going to offend someone. I certainly do not want to offend my Catholic friends. I don’t want to offend my Protestant friends who have recently, in the past 4 or 5 years started observing many traditions, that although certainly not harmful, and not AGAINST scripture, are at the very least, added to scripture.
And, it’s not just Lent and Ash Wednesday that I shy away from voicing my opinion on (which, by the way, is not a negative opinion). I feel like there is so much controversy in our culture today, in this new age of tolerance and love and acceptance, I feel that everything I believe and think and feel would actually NOT be tolerated well, were I to express myself. I was even bracing myself last week in preparation for an onslaught of opinions about wanting to go to the zoo for my birthday.
And so, I hold back. I quietly watch and listen and read everyone else’s opinions, and then I stay silent. I hate to ruffle feathers, you see, and so I sometimes don’t even speak out on my own blog. I love and respect and hold close friendship with many people who are very different than I, who believe differently than I do and who vote differently than I do, who hold values different from mine, and out of respect for these dear friends I choose not to spout out my (very strong) opinions. There are not many things that I find worth risking a relationship for. But my heavy heart has been begging to be voiced, and I think the time is coming that I may start writing about some beliefs and thoughts that are infiltrating the church that scare me. More on that another time.
Back to Lent and Ash Wednesday:
In the midst of thinking about Lent this week (because many of my friends are talking about it on Facebook) my Dad wrote this article on Facebook last night and I copied it to share here. I love everything my Dad writes and this was no different:
“Today started out early. Before getting out of bed I received a phone call from a longtime friend telling me that a mutual friend (lady) had died last night. As we discussed her passing we found out that both of us were taking our wives to Bend for doctor appointments and we agreed to meet for lunch afterward.
We met at IHop in Bend and enjoyed catching up on news from each of our families that unfortunately revolves around health issues, especially for us older ones! I noticed a rather large man coming from the restroom back to his table. He had a dark smudge right in the middle of his forehead that resembled a poorly drawn “plus” sign that could have been a swastika or something. Not that it really looked like a swastika, but that is what went through my mind. And then I thought, “maybe he is a member of a gang” (for 70+ year olds). As I stared at the smudge I thought it would be dangerous for him if a “sniper” were looking for someone to shoot! He would aim for the center of that guys forehead. It was a natural target.
We spent two hours over lunch, the smudge left with the forehead, and I reminded our friends that we were going to church tonight for a “soup supper” and then a meeting following. When asked what was the occasion, I told them “I think is has to do with the start of Lent. We arrived home in time to rest for 45 minutes and drove to church. (We attend a Lutheran Church and are not really up on all the customs and all). The soup was “super” and then went in to the sanctuary for the service. It was Ash Wednesday service. Pastor Peter, holding a small bowl of dark material, commented on Ash Wednesday and said about applying the sign of a cross on the forehead of anyone who would like…..I never heard the rest of what he was saying. ….The forehead at the restaurant…..It was the sign of a cross! It was not a swastika! That 70 year old was a member of an Eternal Gang. Without thinking I leaned over to Donna and told her we were going forward to be marked with an ashen cross… right in the middle of our forehead!
If there were a sniper around, he would have had no trouble finding a target! The entire congregation had a smudge shaped like a cross in the middle of the forehead.
The foregoing seems quite “shallow” and I apologize for that. What is important to me is that our friend Norma Ball was called home last night. The forehead in the restaurant followed by my enlightenment this evening make Ash Wednesday, 2011, a memorable occasion that shall be a reminder for me of the first day of Lent for the rest of my life.
” Ash Wednesday
At Masses and services of worshipon this day, ashes are imposed on the foreheads of the faithful (or on the tonsure spots, in the case of some clergy). The priest, minister, or in some cases officiating layperson, marks the forehead of each participant with black ashes in the shape of a cross, which the worshipper traditionally retains until it wears off. The act echoes the ancient Near Eastern tradition of throwing ashes over one’s head to signify repentance before God (as related in the Bible). The priest or minister says one of the following when applying the ashes:
Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return.
Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel.
(First of all, do you see why I love my Dad’s writing? He is gifted and articulate. He is also a gifted and articulate public speaker. And smart. And funny…)
My Dad is 76 years old and this was his first ever Ash Wednesday service. He’s never observed Lent. But he and Mom are going to a new church where they are learning and growing and God is moving in their hearts, and He is using things like Lent, and Luther’s Catechism, and Ash Wednesday to deepen their faith in and their love for the Savior. When Dad shares something new he’s learning with me, and asks my opinion, asks what I think, what I believe, during this process he is going through, he is, in a way passing that growth on to me. My faith is encouraged and MY love for the Savior is renewed.
I just love God stuff.