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March 9—Ash Wednesday

10 The days of our life are seventy years, or perhaps eighty, if we are strong; even then their span is only toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. 11 Who  considers  the power  of your anger? Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due to you. 12 So  teach  us  to  count  our  days  that  we  may  gain  a  wise heart.
Psalm 90:10-12

A little boy was spending the night with his grandparents, when at the end of the evening granddad and grandson knelt by the boy’s bed to say his bedtime prayers. The little boy began with the familiar prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep…” But after a full evening of romping and playing the little guy was worn out and got his words turned around a bit as he prayed, “If I should wake before I die.”

The little guy started to correct himself when his grandfather said, “No that’s a very good prayer to pray…that we might awaken before we die.” From his senior years the grandfather knew only too well how easy it is for we mortals to sleep through life without really awakening to the things that really matter, the things that really count.  Lent is a choice time for awakening to life.

Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent, challenges us in a particularly good way as we set off on these critical 40 days.  The name Ash Wednesday comes from the ancient Christian practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of the worshipers and pronouncing the fateful words, “Remember mortal, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.”

With those biblical words we mortals are charged to wake from life’s sleepwalk, and reminded that time is rapidly passing us by. We have such a short time to live, to do the things that really matter, and prepare for the life to come. In today’s text, the psalmist reflects on life’s brevity, and prays that by counting our days we might “gain a wise heart.” When I was a hospice chaplain I saw every day the shortness of life, and learned the 5 things we need to say before we die:

  • Forgive me
  • I forgive you
  • I love you
  • Thank you
  • Good-bye

Often as I stood alongside a patient’s bedside, I wondered why people will wait until their dying moments to say these critical words. It occurred to me then that if these are 5 things we need to say before we die, then this is also a very good way to live life.  What better way to begin Lent, and to start clearing out the clutter, than to say the words that really matter?    Lent is the season for saying: forgive me, I forgive you, I love, thank you, and good-bye.  Try doing it for 40 days and see what happens.


Soaking in Scripture…
Today’s Andy Moments…

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