Ash Wednesday Reflection 2013 – What I’m Hoping To Do and Not To Do

It’s hard to miss all the posts/tweets of what people are giving up for Lent.
Some people are giving up chocolate, alcohol and coffee. I’ve done these too. And they are fairly easy – even the coffee. (The coffee cravings were a good reminder for prayer though).
Some are giving up Facebook, Twitter and social media in general.
Some are giving up vices like anger, negativity, profanity. (This always throws me because part of the idea of Lent is reclaiming it on Easter. I can’t help but come up with the mental picture of a good soul journeying through Lent then on Easter throws a temper tantrum, rediscover their cynicism and when the pastor says to the congregation, “He is Risen!” this person responds with a “Hell Yeah!” But to each their own.)
Some people are giving up giving up stuff for Lent. I like this one.
Some are adding something. I like this one too.
And I am happy for all the sincere God-honoring sojourners that have put thought into this. May this be a wonderful season of reflection and spiritual preparation.

I’m writing from Florida as we are visiting my wife’s side of the family in FL. It was the first time I haven’t been in church on Ash in many years. In thinking about this, I remembered two Ash Wednesday moments: One was when I was serving communion and someone in the second row dropped the tray of grape juice. I can still hear the clang and remember thinking “The second row?? We may not have enough for everyone.” It was a good thing our grape-juice filler was optimistic of our attendance.

My second favorite memory was during Sr. High youth group at my previous church in New Jersey. Being not of the tradition that imposed ashes on their foreheads, I handed out washable markers before our worship set with the invitation of marking ourselves with the cross of Jesus with the thought “Where do we want Jesus to work in our lives?” During our worship, some marked their hands, some their feet, some handed someone next to them mark their forehead and one guy marked his chest. We talked about this later and some explained the significance of where they marked themselves like the “hand” people said, “I want Jesus to work in how I treat others.” A “foot” person said, “I want Jesus to be with me wherever I go.” You get the point.

It’s been my experience that regardless of what we do or don’t do, it’s very easy to miss the beauty and meaning of Lent. Sometimes even our piety blinds us from seeing the humble, sacrificial, and loving Jesus. That’s actually worse than dropping the tray of grape juice.

I may not have attended an Ash Wednesday service but as I sit up and think tonight, I’m asking where do I want Jesus to work in my life this Lent? Where and what would I apply the marker today?

Certainly I want the Lord to work in the life of my family, church, community, and so I find myself praying for two things tonight. One is that I will not fall into the trappings of false piety, especially the kind that works against my family, church and community.

Two, I enjoy so much journeying through Advent/Lent and I’m a bit of a nerdy extrovert where I enjoy sharing my readings in Lenten prayers, posts, and commentaries. While I am too relational to want actually live in a seminary library, I could get lost for a few days in one. So this year I am praying God would speak more to me through the voices of others than during my own personal readings/prayers. I am thinking it will move me to be more humble and be a better listener … to others and to the Lord.

I’m excited for Lent, how about you?

Other links:
Evan Curry’s “Why I Love Lent”
Thomas Turner’s posts and Lenten guide on Everyday Liturgy.
My post last year “To Share or Not Share Our Lenten Vows – I’m Sharing Mine”
“Why Ash Wednesday Matters” via Relevant Magazine
Tony Jone’s A Better Atonement: Beyond the Depraved Doctrine of Original Sin [Kindle Edition] – $3 towards a stronger theology. Amazon Prime Members can borrow it for free.


  1. Mark Anderson says:

    I found an NT Wright lenten devotional on Youversion. I’m stoked!

  2. Nice. I just found it and began it – thanks for pointing it out. Hope all is well with you Mark.

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