yes . . .I know this is an odd photo below (but isn't it cool??). I took the photo of myself in the dark car on the way home (no, I was not driving . . .I was stopped at a stop sign!! . . .and this has nothing to do with this very important post . . .but my hair still looks pretty good - even after an 11 1/2 hour work day!!)
Sorry . . .on to the important stuff. Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. The Ash Wednesday worship service is one of my favorite services of the year. No, I don't think the service is depressing. No, I'm not offended because I'm told by a minister that I am a sinner. It is almost refreshing. Yes, I am a sinner. Everyone in the room is a sinner AND GOD STILL LOVES US . . . .HE STILL LOVES ME. Oh, goodness. Grace just washes over me even when thinking about it.
At Trinity UMC in Homewood, AL, we always have a large crowd at our Ash Wednesday evening service - probably about 700. (there was a come and go service from 7-8 a.m. and about 100 people attended that service). At the evening service, one of the preachers (Nathan this year) preaches a sermon and then we have communion and the imposition of ashes. I was blessed to once again help serve communion . . .one of my favorite "perks" of serving on a church staff. I was serving the bread last night . . .the body of Christ broken for each one of us. As I served, I tried to call as many names as possible (serving in the membership office for 10 years helps!) . . . Lisa, the body of Christ broken for you . . .Paige, the body of Christ broken for you . . . Sue, the body of Christ broken for you . . . Scott, the body of Christ broken for you . . .and I always try to make eye contact with the person on the other side of the altar rail. Sometimes it is as if an electric current passes from the person serving to the one being served. I had a minister friend tell me one time that is "the Jesus in me recognizing the Jesus in you." I think he was right.
When Drew placed the ashes on my forehead last night, I actually felt the ashes trickle down onto my face. . . onto my cheeks . . . and I truly felt that "from dust I came and from dust I will return." I truly felt "marked" by Christ - called - covered in grace - humbled - forgiven . . . . all because of that marvelous grace.
Now we are in that season called Lent - a time of introspection . . .a time of giving up stuff of the world and taking on more of Christ. We have 40 days (plus Sundays) until Easter . . .I need to wallow and roll around a little . . .I need to moan . . .I need to cry . . .I need to grieve . . .I need to ask for forgiveness again and again and again because I keep sinning over and over and over again . . .but all the while, every single day . . .I know that Easter is coming. I know that God wins. I know that grace is available. . . God's awesome amazing grace. Yes, I love Ash Wednesday. I am thankful that God loves me.