remember that you are dust…
The Lenten season is upon us yet again; a true paradox, a season marked with grief, sadness, and ultimately death, but joy, celebration and life are found waiting, patiently by the empty tomb at the end of it all.
Here are some [fun] facts to have stored in your brain if you want to ever rattle these off to your spouse or the person in front of you at the post office.
Facts You Didn’t Know About The Lenten Season
1. The great celebration of Mardi Gras (which I am sure everyone is familiar with) is actually French for ‘Fat Tuesday’, the preparation before Lent to consume all the “fatty” foods before fasting takes place.
2. The drawing of a cross in ashes is most popular in English speaking countries, elsewhere the ashes are usually sprinkled over the head.
3. Common Lent fasts include no soda, no fast food, no chocolate, and no sex (ew, gross) but the number one thing people tend to give up for Lent is social media now and days.
4. The ashes used during the Ash Wednesday service are the palm branches used on Palm Sunday, which are then burned on Shrove Tuesday the next year.
5. Sometimes I find it difficult to know how to greet people on the start of this season; “Happy Ash Wednesday” never seems appropriate and yet I did text one or two people that this year, again….oops.
Well there you are, now you can impress all your friends with these awesome [fun] facts. But I don’t want to stop there with the story of this season. It holds so much grace and beauty within it how can we not talk about it more often?!
During this years Ash Wednesday service my pastor talked about the season of Lent being a time to remember strict ancient disciplines, surrounded around the concept of Lent. The season is a total of 46 days. The six Sundays aren’t included (a hot topic for some Christians: “Honey, what are you doing eating Chocolate?! Lent isn’t over?” “Don’t worry darling, Sundays are my cheat days! The pastor said so.”) So for those Christians who are a little more liberal each Sunday within the season can be viewed as a ‘mini’ Easter. Side note: when I give something up for Lent I like to fully give it up. None of that ‘I can have Sundays off’ for me. If Jesus Christ freaking died on the cross for me personally I think I can have enough self-discipline for 46 days to not do ‘X’. However, the beauty in it all is that there is grace for those days we slip. You see, the idea behind giving something up for Lent isn’t about whether we can add something to our routine or take something away; it is about being more focused on Jesus. So to do that we take away the distracting things in our lives or add the things all in all to remind us of His sacrifice.
An odd thing this season of Lent is, when you think about it. We participate in a season surrounded around the idea of remembrance and self-reflection; a time in which we have the opportunity to follow in Jesus’ steps in the desert. It is almost like we want to do it all by ourselves, “this year I can give up TV and I will have so much more free time on my hands.” I think along the way Jesus is forgotten. And sometimes I think we use Lent as a time to get back on track with our New Year’s Resolution. It almost could be called Lent: the season of giving up all sugar. But don’t think I am pointing the finger. I do the same thing. I give something up and don’t think twice about how God is connected to it all. Maybe this Lenten season can be different.
This year I wanted to give up something but also add because that is how you get brownie points with God (but you can’t actually eat the brownies if you gave up sweets for Lent…)
Yet again I gave up smoothies for Lent. I work at good ol’ Smoothie King so I am constantly making, pouring and tasting smoothies. It is a good way to bring Jesus to the forefront because when I see a smoothie, say the Banana Boat with peanut butter added, I am instantly reminded I am not living by my own strength – I would have snapped so many times if I didn’t say “hey, Jesus, I really want to taste this delicious smoothie, but I love you more. Help me.” It sounds petty but not everyone can be a super Christian like the girls you see on Instagram. It took me a little longer to come to a decision for what I wanted to add. Do you want to know a secret? It is only the 4th day of Lent and I already messed up. Again, there is so much love and grace during this season, I just can’t handle it. I decided to read a chapter of Hebrews everyday until my 46 days were over; there are only thirteen chapters so that means I would be re-reading it and re-reading it and….
A prayer from Martin Luther:
Behold, Lord, an empty vessel that needs to be filled. My Lord, fill it.
I am weak in the faith; strengthen me.
I am cold in love; warm me and make me fervent, that my love may go out to my neighbor.
I do not have a strong and firm faith; at times I doubt and am unable to trust you altogether. O Lord, help me. Strengthen my faith and trust in you.
In you I have sealed the treasure of all I have.
I am poor; you are rich and came to be merciful to the poor.
I am a sinner; you are upright.
With me, there is an abundance of sin; in you is the fullness of righteousness.
Therefore I will will remain with you, of whom I can receive, but to whom I may not give.
…and to dust we shall return