Beauty in the Ashes

Beauty in the Ashes

I went to the hospital to see someone today.  As I was going into the elevator, a guy was facing me that had a cross drawn on his forehead.  The cross was drawn using ash.  It then, of course, dawned on me that today was Ash Wednesday. 

As I understand it, in the eighth century the practice of Ash Wednesday started and two centuries later the addition of the cross drawn with ashes was added.Ash Wednesday starts a time of lent.  Lent is when people give up something for 40 days leading up to Easter.  It began as a fast from food (the only kind of fasting we read about in the Bible) to imitate Jesus’ fast of 40 days before being tempted by Satan in the wilderness.  Initially, it was 42 days or six weeks before Easter but was reduced to 40 days because of Jesus’ 40-day fast.This is more of a thing that the Catholic church practices, but it has also been picked up by several other denominations. 

Because I wasn’t raised in the Catholic church, Ash Wednesday has never been on my radar as something to participate in or emphasize in our church. However, it wouldn’t be the worst thing to do.  Taking time to emphasize prayer for 40 days is never a bad thing.  Fasting and praying are never bad things.  Giving up something that will be difficult for you to live without for 40 days isn’t a bad thing.  I read on Facebook that my predecessor is giving up Facebook for Lent. 

I wouldn’t mind unplugging entirely for Lent. The simple question or questions are:  What would you give up for 40 days to focus on Jesus and what He did for you on the cross?  Could you fast, as in not eat, for 40 days?  Would giving something up for 40 days cause you to focus on Jesus more?  In other words, are there obstacles in your life that keep you from seeing Jesus more clearly?I heard two different things about the ashes.  In one place it says they burned palm branches, because of the Triumphal Entry, and used the ashes from the burned branches to put on people’s heads.  Another place I read that the ashes signified that from dust you came and to dust you shall return, which is in Genesis chapter three.  I guess I would add a third.  What needs to be “burned” up in your life and the ashes used from it to put a cross on your forehead? 

Jesus said in Mark chapter eight.  “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his very soul?”Jesus shared these words after rebuking Peter for rebuking Him about predicting his death.  Jesus knew his path.  He knew the plan.  He called Peter Satan because Satan is trying to trip up or stop the plan.  You and I have a plan laid out for us by the Father.  It starts with giving Him your very soul.  If there is something hindering you from surrendering your whole heart to Him, maybe it’s time to start a fire.