“Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.” Recently delighting in a game of “Ring Around the Rosie” with my little two-year old granddaughter, Grace, the word, “ashes” remained in my mind. Anticipating Ash Wednesday as the traditional first day of Lent, I pondered the significance of ashes. I stumbled across an explanation enlightening my understanding: the vertical beam of the cross drawn first on the forehead symbolized “I”, all of my willfulness. The second, horizontal beam making the cross, symbolizes the humility necessary to bow before the Cross, accepting the grace poured out through Christ’s blood. Ash Wednesday then, portrays Lent as embracing Grace in the ashes.
The illustration of the drawing of the Cross fits well inside the understanding of the ashes of Ash Wednesday representing grief, repentance and humility. Repentance for our rebellious, sinful hearts choosing our own way apart from God.
Grief over our hopelessness apart from God’s intervention coupled with the realization of the price demanded as payment for sin.
Covered in the humility necesary for confession and awareness of our lives as a gift from God, which one day will return to the dust. All leading us to acceptance of the free gift of grace purchased by the blood of Christ.
Lent prepares us for grace
The word “lent” comes from an Old English word meaning, “lenthen” and often refers to the season of spring. The glorious time of the earth awakening from its winter slumber; the days growing longer as light lengthens.
Just as Advent calls us to prepare for the birth of the Messiah, Lent invites us to prepare for Easter Sunday’s celebration. For with the resurrection of Jesus, heaven’s floodgates poured out a torrent of divine grace upon God’s people.
But before the celebration of resurrection victory, we must visit Golgotha where an equal torrent of divine wrath for our sin poured down upon the Lamb of God in our stead.
Lent: embracing Grace in the ashes of sin, therefore moves us toward repentance, reflection and remembrance. And in so doing, God creates a personal Exodus for us from a life of bondage to sinful habits to the only true Promised Land of freedom in his Grace.
lent offers a spiritual health assessment
Whether your religious beliefs include a formal observance of Lent or like me, you choose redeeming the forty days of Lent as a way of growing closer to God, Lent offers a unique experience.
“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast loveJoel 2:12-13
At the very minimum, Lent offers a time for a spiritual health assessment. Faced with the truth of my failure in loving God with my whole heart, and others created in his image, the reality of sin pierces deep.
Sadly, my heart grows tolerant of sin, and indifferent to holiness through lack of diligence in spiritual disciplines, leading me back into the bondage of sin. Lent provides the perfect season for confronting casual attitudes toward sin and holiness, through introspection and dedicated prayer.
Confronting my wandering heart and neglectful attitude, move me from lingering on the fringe of relationship to the embrace of deeper intimacy.
lent: repentance, reflection, remembrance
There is no right or wrong way for observing Lent. From Incorporating extra time for mindful prayer, reflection, Bible reading and silence; to considering a fast from a meal, food for the day or from something else, Lent makes a way to God.
In a variety of ways, Lent moves us to honesty regarding our sin and poor spiritual habits. Inciting us to the revitalization of our spirits in the Lord, embracing the newness of life and hope in the resurrection promise.
My favorite lenten resources
Perhaps you, too, have a few favorite Lenten resources you use each year, or maybe the idea of Lent is new to you. Either way, consider a few of my favorite Lenten resources to add to your existing store, or try something new this year.
If this year finds you observing Lent for the first time or if you feel unsure about it, I suggest reading through my posts below, choosing one of the devotional resources below, and seeking a dedicated time for silent reflection weekly.
- Serenity in Suffering “A Mindfulness Approach to Prayer”
- Serenity in Suffering “Discovering the Sounds of Silence”
- Serenity in Suffering “Nurture Humility with Alternative Fasting”
- Sarah Geringer Creates “Preparing Your Heart For Lent”
Journey to the Cross: A 40 Day Lenten Devotional by Paul Tripp invites you into the Joy of Christ as you seek to know him more fully throughout Lent. Easy, yet thought provoking daily readings and reflective questions.
Preparing For Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings From C.S. Lewis shares curated readings and excerpts from the writings of C.S. Lewis on the Christian life and how you can have confident faith based on the Cross of Christ. Easy daily readings with accompanying scripture passages.
From the Grave: A 40 Day Lent Journey by A.W. Tozer provides a compilation of Tozer’s best insights on faith, repentance, suffering and redemption; taken from sermons, editorials and his books. Tozer hits the slovenly spiritual life hard, as only he can, but it feels so good.
Rich Wounds: The Countless Treasures of the Life, Death and Triumph of Jesus by David Mathis, moves you beyond familiarity of the Easter story to the subtle details of the wounds Christ suffered for our transgressions through His unfailing love and sacrifice. Daily readings and scripture.
A Way Other Than Our Own: Devotions For Lent by Walter Brueggemann brings a daily scripture reading, pointed reflection and serious prayer to the reader in a no nonsense, concise manner. Brueggemann forces the reader to wrestle with sin, death and the resurrection beyond the normal comfort zone, while at the same time skillfully guiding you into the way of grace.
On Temptation and the Mortification of Sin in Believers by John Owens, originally published in 1656, emphasizes the place of holiness in the life of a believer as only a Puritan preacher can. Owen challenges his readers not only to know the nature and power of sin, but to ruthlessly defeat temptation.
I designed these prayer cards to help you focus on specific themes throughout Lent, spending time in mindful prayer each week.
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—Ephesians 2:4-5
lent: embracing grace in the ashes
Finding Lent here as spring begins its awakening, invites us into new life, renewed life; a life of Joy journeying with Jesus. Our spiritual spring, Lent leads us into renewal of heart, soul and spirit as we draw near, walking with Him through the valley of death into the glorious light of the resurrection.
Grace rather than penance provides the aim for Lent. Yes, sin and slovenly spiritual habits need addressed, but all through the lens of God’s free gift of grace purchased for us by Christ. No matter where you are in your relationship with God, over the next forty days, journey closer, dare to embrace grace in the midst of the ashes.
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