Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pancakes to Ashes

I ate my pancakes (2 big blueberry ones) yesterday for Fat Tuesday, the last day of Mardi Gras (which, according to tradition began with Epiphany). I am a fringe observer of the Church Liturgical Calendar, but over the last few years I have been trying to allow the Lectionary readings and the cycles of celebrations to lead me through the year with some order. Today is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of a 40-day liturgical period of prayer and fasting we call Lent and will culminate with the glorious celebration of Christ's resurrection on Easter morning.

There's always talk about what one is going to fast from or give up for Lent .... usually it is something like chocolate or alcohol or something that seems to have a grip on one's life. It is a good discipline and when paired with prayer and mindful submission to Christ can take us a step forward. I am grateful for the season of Lent and the focus that prayer and fasting encourages. But, I am most grateful that I know what comes next: Easter.

I cannot imagine fasting and praying without the knowledge the it will be for a time and that though the journey toward Jerusalem, following Christ through to the crucifixion, is completely devastating, nonetheless, that will not be the end. We know that He endured the cross, despised the shame, and was raised again to new life....the first born from the dead.

So, what will I give up today and for the next 40 days (not counting Sundays)? I may give up my precious red wine. That would be hard. But, I am contemplating that a fast from discouragement, even fear in the face of all forms of death might be a more true fast. I found myself caught up reading the book of Joel just recently and hyper focused on the absolutely complete devastation that the locusts caused. Yet, I was also reminded that death is the portal to new life.

I am going to get "my ashes" tonight and will begin my conscious journey through Lent. Hopefully my small effort to surrender my grip on my fear of death in all its shapes and forms will allow me to be freed to participate in the truest forms of fasting.

Isaiah 58

New International Version (NIV)

Isaiah 58

True Fasting
 1 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
   Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
   and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
2 For day after day they seek me out;
   they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
   and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
   and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
   ‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
   and you have not noticed?’    “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
   and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
   and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
   and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
   only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
   and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
   a day acceptable to the LORD?
 6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
   and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
   and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
   and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
   and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
   and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
   and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
   you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
   “If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
   with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
   and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
   and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you always;
   he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
   and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
   like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
   and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
   Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
 13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
   and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
   and the LORD’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
   and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
14 then you will find your joy in the LORD,
   and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
   and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
            For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.


  1. awesome ann! what a terrific writer you are, girl! thank you for this wonderful "sharing." it was delicious.

  2. A former pastor (our beloved David Kaeser) used to say that instead of giving up something for Lent, we should add on something, such as prayer or Bible study or volunteering in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.