This morning as I was scrolling through Facebook, my friend Terri posted beautiful pictures of her with some folks from her congregation ceremoniously burning ashes for Lent. I asked her to share her liturgy and she did. As I read through the beautiful and poignant liturgy my heart swelled with excitement and joy. I realized that it is completely within the realm of possibility that next Lenten season I could be ceremoniously burning ashes with my congregation using her liturgy!
My first Lent as a full-time pastor in the UMC, I knew I wanted to burn my own ashes. I took the palms from the year before (thankfully the previous pastor had kept a stash), took them outside of the church with a bucket of water (safety first!) and big metal bowl to burn them in. I sat down crossed legged with the bowl in front of me, said a prayer, put the palms in the bowl and lit them on fire. They smoked....they smoked a lot. I started coughing and fanning the smoke away as I worked to stand up. Once I had stood up, the Sheriff pulled into the parking lot. Thankfully, he was one of my congregants and was curious about what I was doing. I explained to him and we joked about it being quite a site to see. The smell didn't help matters either.
He shared a story with me about a previous pastor who had burned their own ashes but whatever liquid they mix it with ended up stinging and burning those who received the ashes. I made sure to research how to properly mix the ashes. I wish I would have researched how to properly burn the ashes! Each Lent I remember this little tale and it makes me smile, it brings a dose of joy to my heart.
This Lenten season there is a lot wrong with the world (imho); perhaps no more than previous years but it is especially difficult for me at this time. My only response, my only good thought is that in order not to be brought down by despair I must actively seeks out hope and beauty. I must intentionally act in kindness towards others and myself. It does my rebellious soul good.
I hope to post pictures of the beauty I find. My intention is that I will do this often, they may be pictures with or without words.
This is the beauty I was struck by yesterday on my way to work. I had to stop and pull over so I could get a picture. It doesn't do justice to what my actual eyes witnessed but it comes close enough. I am truly lucky to live in the midst of such grand beauty.
May your day be lifted up by hope, surrounded in beauty, and your actions be rooted in kindness.