Monday, March 14, 2011

A Day to Rest

Sunday is the day that God set aside to rest and we are called to do the same. It's the day set aside to worship Him and rest from work. A time to spend with family and friends. A time to let go of the work waiting for you on your desk. A time to collect your thoughts. A time to be still and know that He is God.

When I was a child, Sundays were treated as a day of worship and rest by almost everyone. Stores were closed with the exception of a few gas stations and pharmacies. Families and friends visited in the afternoon. You didn't need an invitation to go visit. If you were out for a Sunday drive, you just stopped by. Some took a well deserved nap to prepare for the week ahead. It was a slower pace that allowed us to be still and know that He is God.

The world that we live in has gotten so busy that many people don't take time out for worship or rest on Sundays. Families are scattered across town or even across the country. Stores being open on Sunday is the norm these days and shopping has taken the place of visiting and resting. Just dropping by for a visit uninvited is a serious social faux pas. And your odds of finding someone at home are pretty low. People feel that there's just too much to do to "waste" Sunday by spending time with others and resting. There is no time to be still and know that He is God.

There are 5 Sundays left till Easter. I challenge you to use the days as God intended. Worship together as a family. When you get home, turn off the things that keep you from spending time together. We all have them - the TV, video games, cell phones, etc. When was the last time you really talked with your children and not at them. How long has it been since you spent any quality one on one time with your spouse? Dig out a board game that the whole family can play. Listen for the laughter that comes from a family having fun together at home.

Take time to be still and know that He is God.

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return

Thursday was a day full of emotions around here. It was a day of celebrating a new life coming into our family in June.  It was also a day of feeling the sadness of someone you love moving to their next home.

The day started out with a call from our youngest daughter who lives in Little Rock. She wanted to know if we had anything planned or could she come over and spend the night. We had nothing planned (and if we had, we would have changed those plans) so she came over. I decided not to tell her dad that she was coming and surprise him when we picked him up from work. It was a huge surprise and the look on his face was priceless when she walked in his office. We caught up on the news from Little Rock. She filled us in on what was going on in her life, how her brother was doing and about his son, our youngest grandchild. Then we talked about how she and our next grandchild to be born were doing. Mom and baby are healthy and happy and we feel blessed that is the case. She and I looked through the baby clothes patterns I have and the fabric I’ve accumulated and decided what she’d like me to make for him. It was a great day and we stayed up way to late visiting.

A spot on the afternoon news brought sadness to me and many others in the Memphis area. I was reminded of the nine words I had heard the day before when receiving our ashes. Thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return. Those nine words remind us that our lives here on earth are a short stay until it’s time for us to move on to our heavenly home. After a year and half battle with leukemia, Memphis radio personality John “Bad Dog” McCormack passed away. Bad Dog, as he was known to his faithful listeners, was a man with a heart as big as Texas. He was the guy who would give you the shirt off his back if he thought you needed it more. His friend and partner on the Bad Dog and Ric Show on Rock 103, Ric Chetter said in an interview yesterday that Danny Thomas built St. Jude but Bad Dog build the Ronald McDonald House. For 20 years, Bad Dog spearheaded the Ronald McDonald House radiothon raising millions of dollars for the kids. This year he was sick when it was time for the radiothon but he wouldn’t hear of doing anything for himself till after the telethon.

Thursday morning John went into a coma and Thursday afternoon he passed over from this life. Memphis will miss this man who meant so much too so many people. I know I will miss hearing his cheery voice when I wake up every morning. He left a note in the hands of a trusted friend to be released if he should die. His last words to us show the kind of man he was.

"I have gone to be with God and he is holding me tightly and I am surrounded by many of the Ronald McDonald House kids. Do not say you have lost a friend. One is only lost when you don't know where they are.. you know where I am.

I thank each and every one of you for your support and prayers. I love all of you and that will never go away. When you are having a bad day, think of my laugh or a Twilight Phone or the time we met. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow; make every day great, be the spiritual leader of your family. May peace be with you. Your friend, Bad Dog."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What's on your face? It's Ash Wednesday.

Today is Ash Wednesday. Bill and I started our day early this morning so that we could attend the 6:30 am service at our church. About 35 others joined us as we received an ash cross on our forehead. Before I retired I would go to work on Ash Wednesday with my cross on my forehead.  People would tell me I had a smudge on my face and I needed to go check it in the mirror.  Or they would ask why I had it and what Ash Wednesday was all about.  Both questions gave me a chance to explain the sybolism and what Jesus did for us.

The ash cross reminds us of the great sacrifice that Jesus made for you and me. I don't understand why some Christian denominations don't celebrate the days leading up to Easter.  It doesn't make sense to me to remember His death and reserection but not the 40 days leading up to that day.  In the years that I’ve been a member of the Episcopal Church, I’ve come to understand more and more how Jesus sacrificed for us. I’ve realized how little I sacrifice for Him in return. Ash Wednesday is a day of  penitence where we prepare our heart, body and soul for adoration, reflection and devotion during the 40 days of Lent that lead up to Easter Sunday. By observing the 40 days of Lent, Christians replicate Jesus Christ's sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days.

Lent is marked by fasting, both from food and festivities.  I am fasting from things like Facebook that eat up my time for no purpose.  I plan to put that "found" time to work by increasing my Bible study and prayer time.  I plan to attend church services each week and to remember that it truly is more blessed to give that to recive.

I look forward to hearing what Ash Wednesday means to you.  Please post your comments here as I will not be reading Facebook for 40 days.

Since I found the information on the BBC  site easy to read, I returned there to find the explanation below of Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent for Western Christian churches. It's a day of penitence to clean the soul before the Lent fast.

Roman Catholic, Anglican, and some other churches hold special services at which worshippers are marked with ashes as a symbol of death and sorrow for sin.

Ash Wednesday services

The service draws on the ancient Biblical traditions of covering one's head with ashes, wearing sackcloth, and fasting.

The mark of ashes

In Ash Wednesday services churchgoers are marked on the forehead with a cross of ashes as a sign of penitence and mortality.

The use of ashes, made by burning palm crosses from the previous Palm Sunday, is very symbolic.

The minister or priest marks each worshipper on the forehead, and says remember you are dust and unto dust you shall return, or a similar phrase based on God's sentence on Adam in Genesis 3:19.

Keeping the mark

At some churches the worshippers leave with the mark still on their forehead so that they carry the sign of the cross out into the world.

At other churches the service ends with the ashes being washed off as a sign that the participants have been cleansed of their sins.

Symbolism of the ashes

The marking of their forehead with a cross made of ashes reminds each churchgoer that:

• Death comes to everyone

• They should be sad for their sins

• They must change themselves for the better

• God made the first human being by breathing life into dust, and without God, human beings are nothing more than dust and ashes.

The shape of the mark and the words used are symbolic in other ways:

• The cross is a reminder of the mark of the cross made at baptism

• The phrase often used when the ashes are administered reminds Christians of the doctrine of original sin

• The cross of ashes may symbolise the way Christ's sacrifice on the cross as atonement for sin replaces the Old Testament tradition of making burnt offerings to atone for sin.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

It's Shrove Tuesday. What does that mean to you?

Today is Shrove Tuesday. Having been raised as a Southern Baptist, Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday and Lent were new and strange observances when I was confirmed into the Episcopal Church. Now that I’ve been practicing the season of Lent for some time, I wonder why protestant denominations don’t. The meaning behind these observances are worthy of all Christians participating in them. To be sure I didn’t leave out anything important when explaining the celebration; I turned to Google and found the information I needed from the BBC.

Shrove Tuesday is the day before Lent starts: the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. It's a day of penitence, to clean the soul, and a day of celebration as the last chance to feast before Lent begins.

Shrove Tuesday is sometimes called Pancake Day after the fried batter recipe traditionally eaten on this day. (Now I know why our youth do a pancake supper at the church on Shrove Tuesday! I figured it was just an inexpensive meal that was easy to prepare.) But there's more to Shrove Tuesday than pigging out on pancakes or taking part in a public pancake race. The pancakes themselves are part of an ancient custom with deeply religious roots.

Shrove Tuesday gets its name from the ritual of shriving that Christians used to undergo in the past. In shriving, a person confesses their sins and receives absolution for them. When a person receives absolution for their sins, they are forgiven for them and released from the guilt and pain that they have caused them. In the Catholic or Orthodox context, the absolution is pronounced by a priest.

This tradition is very old. Over 1000 years ago a monk wrote in the Anglo-Saxon Ecclesiastical Institutes: “In the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him.”

Shrove Tuesday is a day of celebration as well as penitence, because it's the last day before Lent.

Lent is a time of abstinence, of giving things up. So Shrove Tuesday is the last chance to indulge yourself, and to use up the foods that aren't allowed in Lent. During Lent there are many foods that some Christians - historically and today - would not eat: foods such as meat and fish, fats, eggs, and milky foods. So that no food was wasted, families would have a feast on the shriving Tuesday, and eat up all the foods that wouldn't last the forty days of Lent without going off.

The need to eat up the fats gave rise to the French name Mardi Gras ('fat Tuesday'). Pancakes became associated with Shrove Tuesday as they were a dish that could use up all the eggs, fats and milk in the house with just the addition of flour.

Tonight we’ve had birthday cake and ice cream for our oldest goddaughter’s 16th birthday. I had an apple fritter for breakfast. Those are the last sweets that I will eat until Easter. Since I’m not big on eating sweets, giving them up is really not a challenge. I wanted a challenge that would really test my ability to sacrifice as Christ sacrificed for us.

As I was debating with myself on what to give up during the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, I was reading Facebook and saw where our youngest daughter had decided to give up Facebook. That was when it hit me that I needed to do the same thing. However, I’m not just giving up Facebook. I’m going to share with the two or three people who might read this what I accomplish each day when Facebook is not taking up way too much of my time. I believe I’ll have much more time for Bible study, for sewing and keeping the house clean and knowing what we are having for dinner every night. In order to share what I’ve accomplished, I’ll allow myself to be on Facebook long enough to post a link to this blog once a day. No games, no reading posts, none of the time stealing things that go with Facebook.

I challenge each of you to make a meaningful sacrifice for the next forty days. Please post in the comments here what you have given up for Lent. Then each day, post how you are succeeding or what is making it difficult for you. We will support each other as we work to lose a few pounds, send more time in Bible study, more time with family, whatever it is that you are trying to do.

Till tomorrow,