Archives for posts with tag: Ash Wednesday

The world is an interesting place. I am constantly surprised by strange sights and sounds. Let me share a few.

Marietta Tree Protest

Just last week the local news media ran a story about a woman camped out in a tree. Jenifer Firestone, a resident of Cross Creek Condos, used a ladder to climb a giant oak tree in an attempt to discourage Georgia Power from cutting it down. Residents were protesting the utility company’s plans to cut down some trees as a part of a large scale infrastructure project in Northwest Atlanta.

Brian McCann 1

Major League Baseball Spring Training is about to begin and the Atlanta Braves are a team I hardly recognize. There has been a wholesale dismantling of the team in the past few years. Although several major trades have been made, the one I still cannot quite comprehend occurred in December 2013 when Brian McCann was  sent to the New York Yankees. Seeing him in a Yankees uniform seems wrong.

Donald Trump

Candidates for President of the United States have been campaigning for what seems like an eternity. The rhetoric has been rather acrimonious. Some of the verbal exchanges have seemed like they came from 5th graders instead of candidates for the highest office in the land. But the strangest part of this crazy countdown to election day is the sight of billionaire entrepreneur Donald Trump as a serious contender.

rush limbaugh

I do not usually listen to talk radio but with the threat of ice or snow last week I turned my car radio on to catch the weather report. While I was waiting for Kirk Mellish’s latest predictions I heard Rush Limbaugh say, “Bill Clinton is the reason so many black men are in prison.” Strange sounds.

Duck Billed PlatypusHave you ever seen a Duck Billed Platypus. If you ever wondered if God has a sense of humor the sight of one of these unusual animals ought to give you a hunch.

Ash Wednesday 2
Last week I attended an Ash Wednesday service. With so much talk about the younger generation’s disdain for organized religion, I was surprised and pleased to see hundreds of young adults present for the imposition of ashes at the beginning of Lent.

Rice Fields 2

On a recent visit to southern Spain I was amazed to see rice fields. Just south of Valencia, between Suecca and Cullera, the countryside is covered with rice fields as far as the ey can see. That was a sight I did not expect.

Malaysia Houses of WorshipMy family spent a couple of weeks in Penang, Malaysia over the Christmas holidays in 2013. It was a fascinating experience but one of the most interesting things was to see Christian churches, Hindu and Buddhist Temples, and Moslem mosques side by side, sometimes even sharing a parking lot.

Diverging Diamond 1

Talk about a new idea. What about the new and rapidly expanding traffic control configuration called the Diverging Diamond. In the fall of 2000, Gilbert Chlewicki was a graduate student in transportation engineering when he decided he wanted to develop a new design and write a term paper on it. The result is a type of diamond interchange in which the two directions of traffic cross to the opposite side on both sides of a bridge at the freeway. It is unusual in that it requires traffic on the freeway overpass (or underpass) to briefly drive on the opposite side of the road from what is customary.

INDIA-SCIENCE-GEOLOGY-ACCIDENT

And did you hear  that for the first time in recorded history, a meteorite is reported to have killed a person? The incident happened February 6 when an object, thought to be a meteorite, hit a college campus in Tamil Nadu, a state in southern India. The news reported that the impact killed a man and injured three others.

Tornado

I don’t know much about climate change but tornadoes in Alabama and Mississippi at the same time as blizzards in the Mid West and Northeast!?

Is there any common thread to this, you ask. Is there a moral to these stories? Lessons for life? No! I just wanted to share some of the things that appeared to be out of the ordinary. Not all of the sights and sounds mentioned are “weird.” Some are just things I never thought I would see or hear. Some are simply curiosities. Others might be food for thought and conversation.

Jamie Jenkins

What strange sights and sounds have you seen or heard?

Ash Wednesday 4Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. This forty day period (not counting Sundays) ends on Easter Sunday. This year it is from February 10 (Ash Wednesday) to March 27 (Easter), 2016.Lent 1

Lent is practiced by most, but not all, Christian groups. The emphasis is on spiritual purification, meditation and penance. The focus is not supposed to be on one’s self, but one’s relationship with God. Although it is not required, people often give up something during Lent as a means of self-discipline and identifying with the sacrifices that Christ made. Many choose instead to take on something during Lent like reading more of the Bible, diligently observing daily devotional times, or completing some work of charity.

Mardi GrasI grew up in Mobile, Alabama where Mardi Gras was a big part of our culture. However, I did not make the connection of this time of revelry with spirituality. I did not know that Mardi Gras meant “Fat Tuesday.” Since Lent always starts on a Wednesday, the day before is always a Tuesday. And it’s called “Fat” or “Great” because it’s associated with great food and parties. I suspect that most people see Mardi Gras as a big party that has little to do with preparing for the Lenten season of repentance and simplicity.

Fat Tuesday

According to The Upper Room,* “In earlier times, people used Lent as a time of fasting and repentance. Since they didn’t want to be tempted by sweets, meat and other distractions in the house, they cleaned out their cabinets. They used up all the sugar and yeast in sweet breads before the Lent season started, and fixed meals with all the meat available. It was a great feast!”

“Why ashes? In Jewish and Christian history, ashes are a sign of mortality and repentance. Mortality, because when we die, our bodies eventually decompose and we become dust/dirt/ash/whatever. Repentance, because long ago, when people felt remorse for something they did, they would put ashes on their head and wear “sackcloth” (scratchy clothing) to remind them that sin is pretty uncomfortable and leads to a sort of death of the spirit. This was their way of confessing their sins and asking for forgiveness.” (The Upper Room)*

I gathered with others for Ash Wednesday service last night. At the beginning of the service we joined in saying,

O God of endless mercy, we gather on this day to acknowledge our mortality and our complete reliance on you for compassion and forgiveness. If there is any hope for us, O God, our hope rests completely in you. Have mercy, O God, have mercy. You are the source of our mortal life. You are the source of our spiritual life. You are the destiny to whom we return in the hope of Jesus Christ, our risen Lord and Savior. May the mark of mortality remind us of our dust-to-dust existence, and draw us nearer to you.

Ash Wednesday 2

Later we knelt at the altar and one of the ministers applied the sign of the cross on our foreheads and reminded us of our mortality and our need for repentance and forgiveness. Then we united in the Prayer of Confession:

Most Holy God, your Son came into the world to save sinners. We come to this season of repentance, confessing our unworthiness, asking for new and honest hearts, and seeking the healing power of your forgiveness. Almighty and Everlasting God, you hate nothing that you have made, and you forgive the sins of all who are repentant; create and make in us new and contrite hearts, so that we, lamenting our sins and acknowledging our separation from you, may obtain from you perfect remission and forgiveness. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen

Ash Wednesday 1

We have started the Lenten journey which will lead us to the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. During these days with God’s help, I hope to become a better person and follower of Christ. I pray that the days of Lent will do the same for you.

Jamie Jenkins

*The Upper Room is a global ministry dedicated to supporting the spiritual formation of Christians seeking to know and experience God more fully. From its beginning as devotional guide, The Upper Room has grown to include publications, programs, prayer support, and other resources to help believers of all ages and denominations move to a deeper level of faith and service. The Upper Room is a part of Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church.