Sin: Hold the Mayo

I am not sure how it started.  I think there was a picture frame hanging on the wall that I thought was too small.  In an attempt to fix it, I moved every single piece of furniture in my living room and adjacent dining room.  Even though I feign weakness when there is something to lift that weighs more than three pounds, if there is furniture I want to move and no one is around to help, I become the unknown twin sister of the Incredible Hulk.  Of course, it’s not pretty to turn the color of the jolly green giant but to be able to move ginormous slabs of wood around the room, one has to sacrifice vanity for vein-popping strength.

I know you aren’t sure where this is going because that’s how it is when you move furniture from wall to wall trying to see what looks best.  You try one thing, decide it’s meh, flex the muscles, and drag it in a different direction.  It’s really a lot like life.   One little crooked sin that we tell ourselves is just a small defect becomes a catalyst for chaos.  We ignore it and focus on all the righteous things about ourselves – we don’t beat our children, we call our mothers, and we return the shopping cart to that little island that is nowhere near our parked cars (most of the time).  There are a lot of things we do right – that makes us good people.  Since we figure sin is inevitable, we minimize our particular habit of hurting God.  What’s one measly sin – usually the one we make over and over again – really going to hurt?

After purging the china cabinet, armoire, and buffet of their contents so that nothing would break when huffing and puffing furniture to different walls, the house looked like a hoarder’s delight and a husband’s horror.  But, I knew it could be made tidy again and began the tedious work of putting tchotchkes in their place. That’s when I noticed a giant scratch traversing the floor from my living room to my dining room.  It read like a road map of a wayward wife who watched too much HGTV.    So smitten with all that I had done right in the room – the balance, scale, and symmetry I created – I ignored the scratch.

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Ash Wednesday and Opposites Attract

a couple in love I love that Valentine’s Day falls on Ash Wednesday this year.   It has a certain yin and yang to it.  The commercial hawking of one compared to the saving grace of the other, proving once again that opposites attract.

The black ash symbolizing death countered with the puffy red heart celebrating love adds an element of realism.  And when you have a holiday as syrupy as Valentine’s Day, a-la doilies, hyped up expectations, and besotted poetry, that darkness is rather refreshing.

I know I sound terribly unromantic, but I have loved long enough to know that true love has little to do with those trappings and more to do with the ashen cross on the forehead.   (My poor husband is probably not feeling too wooed right now.)

Ash Wednesday is a day of penitential prayer and fasting.  It marks a season that is purposefully non-celebratory, while Valentine’s Day is about bubbly champagne, decadent desserts, and red roses.

I like the juxtaposition of it.  But there is also a commonality that exists between the two.  At the core of each is love and there is no greater example of that than God sacrificing his only son for our salvation.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NRSV).

On Ash Wednesday, we are reminded of God’s mercy, which has the power to take away the stain of our sins.  Our hearts, blackened by the wounds of the world, grudges, indifference, neglect, and injustice can be wiped clean.  We are called to seek mercy during the Lenten season.  It is this mercy that allows for everything:  forgiveness, second chances, redemption, and the glory of new life.  The days leading up to the victory of the cross are a sacred time to examine ourselves, our relationship with God, and our neighbor.

That might seem dull next to shiny, red, heart-shaped balloons bobbing and boasting like a frog bellowing for a princess’s kiss. Yet it’s anything but.  Everyone knows helium balloons eventually sink, chocolates are consumed, and flowers die.  But what God promises is eternal and real.  It has the power to heal the dark wounded places we hide from the world.  It forgives our failings and delights in our efforts to know, love, and serve him.   It carries us in our loneliness, desperation, and grief.  It doesn’t inflict pain like the thorny rose of the world but offers the bloom of eternal life.

Anyone who has moved past infatuation knows that love is messy.  It’s trying again, like Jesus when he fell carrying his cross.  It’s forgiving like Jesus did before he drew his last breath. It’s beautiful and redemptive like Jesus rising from the dead.

It’s fitting then that Valentine’s Day falls on as significant a day as Ash Wednesday.

It’s the perfect preface to the greatest love story ever told.

While obviously, Ash Wednesday takes precedence of Valentine’s day, love and Lent aren’t mutually exclusive ♥ what are you doing to honor both today? Please comment! Want more related to Lent http://mercymatters.net/2018/02/06/stillness-the-action-of-finding-god/ and http://mercymatters.net/2014/03/05/shine-this-lenten-season/

XO