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Ash Wednesday is an Invitation to Wake Up

Ash Wednesday is a day to wake up but if you stay asleep, you will be robbed of a spiritual benefit for your soul. I find that I anticipate the Lenten Season like a child anticipates Christmas morning. Every day, I try to draw closer to God, but something stirs inside of me when the season of lent comes around each year. As Ash Wednesday approaches I begin to pray and ask God about how to fast.

The last Sunday before Lent is Transfiguration Sunday. The description of Jesus’ journey to the mountain with His inner three circle of Peter, James and John where He is transfigured into His glorious body while talking to Moses and Elijah on Mount Tabor is read in this passage Peter, James and John were sleepy. Luke 9:32:  “Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.” At least at this spiritual experience they did become fully awake—another time these same three were brought to the Garden of Gethsemane they could not wake up. Luke 22:32: “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

The season of lent that takes us from winter to spring in the western world is a time for bringing in the light of God’s love for us. It is a way to honor His most sacrificial act of love—paying for our sins on the cross. The church fathers suggested this fast for notorious sinners in preparation for their baptism on Easter Sunday but soon brought it to the whole church finding the same spiritual power of this season transforms us all as we come to see that we are ourselves notorious sinners and that the cross is the only way to change the world.

Giving alms (giving to the poor), fasting, and prayer are the spiritual disciplines of Lent. Every year I ask God for a suggestion about fasting. I have fasted from television, chocolate, watched every sunrise and sunset, prayed certain prayers, all in an attempt to draw closer to God and prepare my heart for Easter Sunday.  This year I am thrilled once again to receive a great fast from our Lord. I will pray  the Lord’s prayer before I open my phone to check my email and social media.  Like so many, I have fallen into the trap of filling my empty moments with a quick check of my phone. Now I can use my often and pointless habit as a call to prayer-what a beautiful thought.

You will miss out on lent and its bountiful spiritual blessings is you do not wake up to God’s call to participate.  Sleeping through lent and missing the blessing is one thing. There is another danger to sleeping in lent.  Mark13:35-37 describes it: “Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” Staying asleep will rob you of the purpose of your life—preparing for the Master to return.

As I anticipate lent’s rich spiritual blessings in my life, I am never ready to stop meditating on the cross and its transforming power. I wrote an expanded Lenten Guide that includes daily devotions all the way to Pentecost. You can check out A Lenten Guide—Spiritual Transformation from Lent through Eastertide here I wish you a Holy Lenten journey.

Dr. Deborah Newman

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