Today is Ash Wednesday when Lent begins. I love Ash Wednesday. I love talking about the reality of death. Death is happening, we can't run and we can't hide.
The book that we are using for our Lent series at Greenland Hills UMC is Gifts of the Dark Wood by Eric Elnes. Marcia McFee has created a Lenten worship series and one of the stories that she tells for Ash Wednesday is about our own John Thornburg. John was a pastor at Greenland Hills from 1984-1991. Marcia shares about an Ash Wednesday service that John wrote about years ago, "I remember an Ash Wednesday service early in my ministry in which one of the durable saints of the congregation graced me with an epiphany. When I came to her place at the altar rail, I imposed her forehead and said, 'Marjorie, remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.' She looked up at me with a tender and discerning glance from her 75 year old eyes, and said, 'THANK GOD.' I had never really thought of mortality as good news, but she did."
The Gifts of the Dark Wood series explores what it means to be in the Dark Wood moments of our lives. Marcia McFee says, "We are not going to talk about just how to get out of it, as if life is good only when we are not there. We are going to explore what it might mean for our lives to recognize the gifts of the Dark Wood. What if times of uncertainty, failure or emptiness are opportunities for spiritual awakening?"
Life can be good during those dark nights of the soul (as Saint John of the Cross called them). I remember a few years ago in September looking at my calendar and saying aloud, "If I can just make it to November then life will slow down." Life has not slowed down. It has just gotten busier. And yes, the busyness is overwhelming and exhausting and never-ending, but there is good in it. The image that has been coming to my mind lately of my life is of me treading water. Treading water and feeling like sometimes my head goes under and I have to struggle to get to the air and breathe. Taking a sabbath day has helped, but there is so much to do on Mondays. Laundry, dishes, cleaning, and this past Monday ... TAXES! So, this Lent I hope to reimagine myself from treading water to laying back and floating on the water. I know that the busyness of the kid activities are just for a season. In seven years our oldest child will be in college. So, how can I enjoy this time? How can I breathe in this time? How can I enjoy my spouse and grow in our own relationship? How can I grow closer to God amidst the busyness?
Randi Zuckerberg recently tweeted, "The entrepreneur's dilemma: Maintaining friendships. Building a great company. Spending time w/ family. Staying fit. Getting sleep. Pick 3." Sleep, work, family, fitness, friends -- which three would I pick? I definitely want to sleep, so that is number one. Then, my family, love them! And my work, love Greenland Hills UMC! And I try to fit in fitness and friends as much as I can. But where does faith fit in? Am I supposed to just pray without ceasing all the time (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18), and so faith doesn't count because it is always there?
I am going to commit to journaling this Lent, once a week on Wednesdays, on this blog that I had to dust off. And I hope to write about those times of uncertainty, failure or emptiness because they are opportunities for spiritual awakening.
I just went downstairs and said hello to some of our preschoolers. One of the little children asked, "What is that on your face?" I said, "it is the cross of Jesus." And she said, "Jesus!" and ran to kindermusik. Give me Jesus, give me Jesus. You can have all this world, but give me Jesus... In the morning when I rise, and when I am alone, and when I come to die. Give me Jesus.