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Are your ashes still showing?

March 14, 2014

Just one week ago many of us were hurrying to meet an unrequired personally pressured obligation to have our pastor smash dirt on our foreheads, and than many proudly wore those markings throughout their entire day. 




Why do we feel the need to display our faith with ashes on our forehead, fish on our cars, crosses around our necks, or framed art on our walls of an amazingly good looking man with well kept locks and facial hair?


Does it make us better people?




Last week I missed the first service I wanted to attend and was tempted to just continue on with my workday blowing off the self-instilled obligation to have never missed an Ash Wednesday Service.  However, I attended the next service at one of the “other” Catholic churches in Lemont (one could attend a service practically every half hour between the four churches!).  I was glad I did not cave to my personal misdirected frustrations and issues:  wanting to be a non-conformist to the masses.  What I would’ve missed is a reminder for the real reason of the markings that I would temporarily bear.  What I would miss is the challenge to launch into a time set aside by our churches to push myself to grow emotionally and spiritually.  What I failed to grasp is that sometimes we need to be smacked on the head to focus. 




When I arrived home I turned on the TV and tuned into a basketball game I wanted to catch and saw the coach bearing this HUGE mess of ashes on his forehead.  I couldn’t help but feel frustrated with the message he was sending to the national audience.   Doesn’t it say in the Bible:


“Be sure you do not do good things in front of others just to be seen by them. If you do, you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” ~ Matthew 6:1




But then a exactly one chapter later I was reminded:


“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” ~ Matthew 7:1




How hypocritical we must appear to those who do not crowd their church to gather ashes.  And what about those “sacrifices” we make for 40 days?  Giving up chocolate, soda, or Facebook (yikes!!).  How does that help us become better Christians if we go right back to what we have deemed as an unnecessary and dispensable distractive habit after the 40 day fast? 




After I wiped off my ashes I spent some time thinking about what keeps me from growing in my faith and what I could do different that would challenge me in spirit and help me to grow.   The list I came up with could easily fill a book, yet would be so easy to say “I’m doing the best I can why push myself?  God loves me as is.”    Yet this didn’t sit well because I was reminded: It is not about wearing our beliefs it is truly about acting out our beliefs and faith. 


“Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” ~ James 2:17




That has made me think this past week about how easy it is to show our faith by the wearing of the symbols but how much more of a challenge it is to show our faith in deed and action.  I ask myself if I didn’t have the ashes, if I didn’t wear the cross, or have the fish would people know I was a Christian?  Would people know that I am a follower of Christ?  Can I say nothing and have my actions speak volumes?  What can I do to challenge myself internally and not show it externally?  What can I do that will truly only be between God and me, and not to show the world that I am a person of faith?  I have some ideas and though I am as lazy as I have ever been in my life I have found excitement in the challenge that the days are waning and I need to prove to myself that me being here in this time, place and space is not coincidence but by purpose.  I want to commit to acts passionately and purposefully and high five God at the end of the day for the opportunity to have done so.   




Easter is April 20th and I have work to do on me, so I’m going to end this and get busy committing to communicating my desire to be a conduit of God’s grace, mercy and love without bumper sticker or a smattering of dirt as a precursor to those actions.  


And on April 21st I hope to still be raising the bar for myself, and not sitting back on my laurels with a clean forehead and chocolate in hand.   Life is just going through the motions if we don’t raise the bar and attempt to better our corner of the world adding more peace and love to every separate ripple we send out every single day.  When we stop challenging ourselves the waters (aka. the difference we can make) will become stagnant.  


We live in a town with a canal.  You know what stagnant water smells like! 


Join me in challenging yourself to make some ripples- quiet, private, between you and God ripples that reach all of those He is hoping you will help Him reach. 


Share this personal challenge, this time of growth with no one yet share with everyone. 


Just thinking about the potential of this is exciting.  I look forward to seeing this amazingly quiet yet impactive force that will meet more needs than have ever been met before but hopefully will not stop post Lent yet continue onward just like ripples do. 







From → Uncategorized

  1. Reblogged this on Hope and Friendship Foundation and commented:

    As we enter another Lent and pass through another Ash Wednesday I revisited this post I wrote last year on Ash Wednesday 2014. Wishing you much peace, serenity and growth through the next 40 days.

  2. aescam21 permalink

    This reminds me of the book “Not a Fan” many of us will proudly put the fish on our car and wear the ashes but actions speak otherwise.

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