Ash Wednesdays Past & Lent 2010

There was an Ash Wednesday several years ago when much of Houston was overwhelmed with rain. No hurricane or even tropical storm, just a rain of over 8"and I was unlucky enough not only to be out in it all day, but also to have had an accident, then flooded the floorboard of the car I rented.

Thanks to the driver of a pickup who nudged and pushed my rented vehicle out of over-run bayou waters, the car's engine was not damaged. I finally made it home in time to exchange my wet shoes for dry ones, then on to church to lead a service of Holy Communion.

My first experiences of Ash Wednesday were as a child- observing parochial school children on their walk home, marked with the ashed cross. By the the time high school rolled around, many wore their ashes for the whole school day, in front of us all. But growing up Methodist, it was a foreign thing to me, the imposition of ashes for Ash Wednesday.

So I'm a latecomer today- not to Lent but Ash Wednesday. The most helpful thing I've heard about the forty days that follow is to discern one habitual pattern of sin to work on, and find someone you can report to regularly, like a spiritual director. It's about turning away from our obstacles toward God. It can also be a barrier in your relationships- or- whatever you're doing that's defacing God's image in you.

The discerning and self-honesty piece is the most important, because even if we take on new spiritual practices, it's way too easy to use them in a way that may contribute to self deceit instead of self awareness. But whatever you do, however you proceed, don't go it alone. Take advantage of trusted clergy peers or a trained director- or both- for support, accountability, and confidentiality.

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