Tag Archives: ash wednesday

Snow Days, Lent and Seeing Clearly

ice lentYesterday C and I went for a ride to go pick up our dogs from the groomer.  It was the second snowday in a row, and while the roads were clear, the remnants of the ice that had hampered traffic and business the day before were beautifully evident on the trees on the hillsides.

It may be March, but it’s not apparent on this road.  The grass is browned and the trees are bare from the long winter. But this day, the brown bare trees glistened from the ice as the sun tries to appear.

The landscape of Tennessee was stunning. You couldn’t help but want to soak in the simple beauty.

I started to see things I hadn’t noticed before. I wondered about a road that has been hidden by the leaves and made a note to find it one day, partially for the experience and noting that could be a great shortcut next time traffic backs up.

I got to admire beautiful homes that were now exposed without the covering of leaves.  Creeks and valleys unknown to me suddenly appeared between the road and the horizon. And while we have driven this road countless times, this was the first time I was able to take in the view with this sort of clarity.

We chatted about how C used to live on a mountain, and most of the year, the view from their home was just leaves. And more leaves. And more trees.  But in the winter, you could see homes, roads, hillsides, and their small town below.

Maybe that’s a way of looking at Lent. A few weeks focused on stripping away distractions and coverings to be able to see. Clearly. To be able to re-direct your path and get a better vision of the horizon.

And then when the promise of spring arrives, I know I can enjoy the beauty of green grass, budding flowers and leaves and warming air, while being grounded in my new understanding of the road to follow.


Ash Wednesday

“In many cultures there is an ancient custom of giving a tenth of each year’s income to some holy use. For Christians, to observe forty days of Lent is to do the same thing with roughly a tenth of each year’s days. After being baptized by John in the River Jordan, Jesus went off alone into the wilderness where he spent forty days asking himself the question what it meant to be Jesus. During Lent, Christians are supposed to ask one way or another what it means to be themselves.

If you had to bet everything you have on whether there is a God or whether there isn’t, which side would get your money and why?

When you look at your face in the mirror, what do you see in it that you most like and what do you see in it that you most deplore?

If you had only one last message to leave to the handful of people who are most important to you, what would it be in twenty-five words or less?

Of all the things you have done in your life, which is the one you would most like to undo? Which is the one that makes you happiest to remember?

Is there any person in the world, or any cause, that, if circumstances called for it, you would be willing to die for?

If this were your last day of your life, what would you do with it?

To hear yourself try to answer questions like these is to begin to hear something not only of who you are but of both what you are becoming and what you are failing to become. It can be a pretty depressing business all in all, but if sackcloth and ashes are at the start of it, something like Easter may be at the end.”

— Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark: An ABC Theologized

Ash Wednesday

Preface:  I am stealing this idea from my dad.   He forwarded me the article and told me that he was going to do his Ash Wednesday service on this concept.  I love it.  So great job to my dad for coming up with the concept…I wish I could hear his sermon tomorrow – but here’s the idea…

Last September, the island of Samoa – with its 180,000 inhabitants, decided to change from an American style of driving (cars on the right) to a British style (cars on the left.)  This was to make it easier for people in Australia and New Zealand to export cars into their country.  How does one completely change an entire country’s driving habits?


The country widened roads.  There were large media campaigns.  And the country declared a two day national holiday starting the day of the switch to reduce traffic.  No alcohol was sold in the country for the 3 days before, and the day prior (a Sunday) churches had organized prayers for driver’s safety.  Speed limits were temporarily reduced.  A few speed bumps were added.  People’s minds were changed, and thus, their habits were able to change as well.  This was a well thought out process.

At the appointed time, 6:00am on Monday morning, the police minister went on the radio and told all drivers to pull over wherever they were.  After a few minutes, he explained how to make the switch to the other side, step-by-step, inch-by-inch, and as scores of onlookers cheered, drivers moved to the other lane.

And the first day, not a single accident occurred.

Isn’t that a little of what Lent is?  As we were chatting about it, my dad said, “It’s not about changing your direction, it’s about changing your lane.”

Easter requires preparation.  I have to get my mind reset.  My heart.  I have to declare a holiday from things in my life that clutter up my path.  I’m still going in the same direction – but if changing lanes helps me better understand the miracle – the mystery – that is Easter, then I need to do whatever I can to be ready to receive.  And, still moving forward, still running the race set before me, I bet the road will look a little different, and hopefully a little clearer from the other side of the road.

“Create in me a pure heart oh God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me…” Psalm 51:10 (TNIV)

For more on Samoa’s driving change: