How quiet contemplation revealed a hidden need?

purple paramentsWith the start of the season of Lent, a sharp-eyed churchgoer will spot changes in the Sanctuary. Ask your family members what they notice.

First up, the colors have switched! The purple paraments are back. (Paraments are the hangings that adorn the pulpit, or the stoles the clergy wear. Did you know that each season of the Church Year has a different color?)

Wonder with your family: why purple for Lent?

cross in the sanctuary on Ash WednesdayAnd secondly, the empty, “old rugged cross” is back… watch it progress slowly – week to week – on it’s Lenten journey from the back of the church all the way to the front.

Do you wonder if you will find it blocking “your spot” in church?

Discuss with your family what the recurrence of this on-the-move cross says to you.

Both of these alterations are relatively innocuous.

Or are they signals of something bigger? Something like…

Hey, it’s Lent! It’s time to intentionally put God at the center of your life.

But how is that suppose to happen?

Going into Lent I was conflicted. I knew that I needed/wanted to “do” something specific to mark my travel through Lent, to turn my thoughts toward the reason why Easter is important… but I wasn’t sure what to do. Give something up? Take something on? Then I got my answer at last night’s Ash Wednesday worship service.

It was a Taizé style service, consisting of meditative, repeated songs and scripture interspersed with periods of silent contemplation.

And in that quiet… I found peace.

Ah ha! I needed an injection of sacred time.

I needed to pull back from my day-to-day stuff and experience the divine.

imparting ashes on Ash WednesdayAt this service there were the sacred rituals of the sharing of bread and juice in Holy Communion, and the imposition of ashes – the part where dust gets etched onto our foreheads with the words, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. Repent and believe.”

Lent begins with this sign – ashes. The ashes are symbolic of death. I need to let my old ways die. I need to try something new.

So I went home and created an “altar.” On an old board I placed a few “special” rocks, a sprig of fake flowers, a pinch pot made by my son when he was 5 years old… It is a place for me to linger, to allow my soul to be in quiet contemplation.

I plan to add and subtract from my holy space as I feel the whim. I plan to “visit” every day.

Lenten altar

How will you create your sacred Lenten space?

a blue line


Photo credits:
Photos are from my archives.

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Messy ashes mark a messy life

Ash Wednesday is one week away. Put this on your calendar: Feb. 13, 7 PM, Ash Wednesday service at the downtown FUMC church. Mark this as a family event. Your kids need the experience.

I don’t mean that they need experience in worship.

They need to experience the marking process.

Ash Wednesday is an invitation for us to confess the messes we’ve made in our lives. That is what the marking of ashes on our foreheads means: Yes God, we admit it. We need your forgiveness. And thankfully forgiveness is possible!

Why would it be important for children to attend and participate in an Ash Wednesday service where ashes are applied to foreheads?

  • To see all of those big people whom they look up to, getting marked with a cross of ash. Picture this thought process: Hmmm, making mistakes and messing up is something that everyone does! I too can be forgiven!
  • To feel the marking of simple strokes of a pastor’s thumb in the shape of a cross on their forehead — the cross reminding them of what Christ did for them.
  • To hear the words spoken by the pastor, which may be something about how the old has died; words that can be scary but not when tied to the gift of Resurrection. I can let go of what has happened in the past.
  • To experience the sense of belonging; they too are marked. I am part of the family of God!

See you in church?

Click here to print out a free, one-page questions/answers sheet on Ash Wednesday and Lent. Use it to discuss these topics prior to the Ash Wednesday service.


Photo credits:
Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
Receiving ashes aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, by Benjamin T. Liston. This image is in the public domain.

Why is it called Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday is approaching

Your family is invited to the Ash Wednesday service at 7 PM at FUMC at the downtown location…

Yes, your children are invited to attend.

Which means they would get something out of it.

Are you squeamish – for your kids – about the part with the ashes? (You know, the part of the Ash Wednesday service where the pastor using ashes, marks a cross on your forehead.) Okay, I’ll admit that back in the day – I was.

The sign of the cross in ashes on a forehead

Time Out. Talk about…A speech bubble

What is it with the ashes?

What is that all about?

Here are some details to share with your children. Print out a copy of this discussion guide here. (Why not a cheat sheet to have with you when you talk about Ash Wednesday/Lent?)

Even if you don’t plan to attend the service, this is still important to share. And don’t feel bad if it doesn’t happen until Thursday or even Saturday next week! (Or whenever!)

  • What is Ash Wednesday? It is the first day of Lent.
  • What is Lent? Lent is the 40 days before Easter. (For the fact-checker, Sundays are not counted.) It marks the time period when we “prepare” ourselves for Easter. This preparation can be a deeply personal event. (Though it is okay to share your thoughts with others if you feel like doing so.)
  • What are we preparing for? It is not about stockpiling lots of chocolate bunnies! It’s about asking ourselves tough questions like how much do we invite God into our daily lives? What are ways to foster a closer relationship with God? (Because God would really love to be your best friend!) It’s about putting our hearts and minds in order, so that when Easter finally arrives, we are ready to celebrate, to shout Alleluia!
  • Why do we celebrate Easter? It’s an important holiday because of what Jesus did for us as a part of the first Easter. Jesus died for us so that our sins could be forgiven. And the happiest news: Three days later he rose from the dead! Jesus showed us that God’s love and forgiveness is more powerful even than death.
  • What is the significance of Ash Wednesday? Since it starts off Lent, it specifically reminds us of our need for the whole point of Easter: we all make mistakes. We all sin. (Sins are anything we do that separates us from God; that pushes God and/or other people, away.) We all need forgiveness, over and over again! At the Ash Wednesday church service we hear that it is okay for us to admit we aren’t perfect; we can let go of what has happened in the past.
  • Why ashes? Ashes are produced when something is burned. It means that something has “died.” In Bible times when people were very sad or sorry, they put ashes on their heads and dressed in “sackcloth” – very scratchy clothes. (Read about such an instance in Esther 4:1.) It was a symbol of how bad they were feeling. When the ashes are placed on your forehead the pastor will say, “The old has died.” Your response can be to say, “The new has come.”
  • Why ashes in the sign of a cross? It is a symbol of your need for God’s love and forgiveness. Because the ashes are marked in a cross this says: “There is hope. Though I have messed up, I am marked as a child of God. I will try, during Lent, to live closer to God.”

Even if your family doesn’t attend the Ash Wednesday service or if your child balks at getting marked with ashes, how about following this routine during bedtime prep that night:
As your child washes their face, place your hand on their shoulder and say… God washes away all of your sin. God loves you and promises to help you live as a child of God.

By following this simple step…

You have just blessed your child!

See you in church?

Click on a box if you would like to…
A check-box Satisfy your curiosity about why you should bless your child.
A check-box View other suggested blessings.

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Photo credit:
Forehead with ashes by mtsofan, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Wednesday’s Weekly Blessing on Ash Wednesday

ashes on foreheadAshes on the forehead… in a way it’s like being marked.

But in a good way.

It says: “I am Christ’s daughter (or son).”

 
Say a blessing on your child. Say their name and…

On your journey towards Easter, may you remember whose you are.

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Click on a box if you would like to…
A check-box Satisfy your curiosity about why you should bless your child.
A check-box View other suggested blessings.


Photo credits:
Photo is from my archives.

Are you seeing ads? They are not from me! They are placed by WordPress, who otherwise offers a free platform from which to share lots of good-ness. If you see an inappropriate ad, please report it to support@wordpress.com. Include the URL, the date/time the ad appeared, and a screenshot of the ad.