Ashes, Devotion and Lent
Can I just right in?! Remember last year, on the Sunday before Easter, Palm Sunday, where we read the passage of Scripture where the large crowd worshipped Jesus as he came riding into Jerusalem and waved palm branches at him? Remember how we had the children wave those branches during our worship services? And then remember how on the Friday before Easter we read how Jesus died, on a cross, abandoned and betrayed by almost all of his followers? The juxtaposition of those two events is so striking. In one moment Jesus is worshipped, and in the next, abandoned.
Did you know that church tradition holds that we save those palm branches from one Palm Sunday and keep them all year until the next Lenten season. We can dry them and burn them and turn them into ash. And then with the former symbol of our love and devotion burned and gone, we mark the cross on our heads… declaring essentially that we must return to our love… that it is time to renew our devotion for Jesus.
So sometimes we take stalk in the Lenten Season of the things that have crept in and taken God’s place as our priority… family, a relationship, career, education, exercise, looks, entertainment, social media, friendships, status, addiction, beauty and so on… Even very good things, are not to be worshipped. They are gifts to be given thanks for. And so we confess where we have missed the mark. And we start anew, full of grace and good intentions.
Traditionally, Lent is a time to fast, hopefully from the things that have stolen your focus from the LORD. But for me, I’ve found I’m my very best when I concentrate on what I should be doing, rather than on what I shouldn’t be doing. So with Lent, it’s okay to ‘give up’ something. But the real goal is to take up… devotion for Jesus.
So practically what have I done over the years?
- My most favorite practice is to use those 40+ days to make a list, because I love lists, and because the rest of the year I’m not much of a journaler. I make a list of as many things as possible that I am grateful for. And I declarer each time that every good gift is from God and I say thanks! My goal is 500 because I don’t just want to do a few each night before bed… I want to spend my days, like I’m on an Easter egg hunt, search for God’s blessings. (You can see a blog post about this practice that I did earlier.)
- I’ve read the gospels, but new, in a different version, so I will notice new things… This has been life giving for me with both the Message and with my kids’ children’s Bible, The Jesus Story Book Bible. Sometimes the simple way to put it is the most beautiful!
- I’ve spent more time intentionally with both friends and authors whose words help me love Jesus more.
- I’ve done the prayer of Examen each night where I have contemplated my life, both the times that I was in step with the LORD and the times when I wasn’t… and I’ve prayed for wisdom to lean more into the life-giving best that God has for me. I’ve gotten the most benefit out of this practice when I have written down each night a sentence or two of what God has spoken to me, either positively or negatively and then looked back over this, during the week of Easter.
- I haven’t done this one, but if I was a huge music listener, I would try to fill my little world with worship music in a more organized way then I had done before. The same might be said for other forms of art, both creating and displaying them, so that your faith might be encouraged.
Or perhaps during your prayer and confessional time with the LORD you find that God is urging you to fast from, to give up, to sacrifice something that has caused you to not fix your eyes on Jesus. Then, by all means, do it! (For example, perhaps you feel it’s time to fast from social media. Or perhaps, within social media God is calling you figure out how to bring more of Jesus into that sphere with prayers for specific people, Scriptures, and encouraging posts. Either would be lovely, if they brought you to Jesus.)
Whatever you do, luvs, do it because you think it will increase your devotion to Jesus. That’s the goal. Make it about worship and you’ll be right close to the heart of God.
Sending you love,
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Tagged: ashes, devotion, lent