Ashes to Ashes March 5, 2014
By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:19
David Bowie may have sung it, but today Catholics around the world are living it. Ash Wednesday. It’s today, but what is it and why? Whether you received your ashes and wonder why or whether you saw someone with ashes on their forehead and wonder why, this blog is for you!
It helps to understand that Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, which is 40 days of quiet and reflection leading up to Easter Sunday. We remember what lies ahead on Good Friday, the Passion of Christ, and what it means for us and to us. We try to slow down and listen to God. Jesus suffered more than any of us can ever imagine on that fateful day, so we take this time to “suffer” in the way of sacrifice and loss.
Yes, we “give up things” like sodas, coffee, alcohol, TV…whatever we choose, but we also focus on Jesus’ own words regarding the three main disciplines of Lent: giving alms (charity), praying, and fasting. Jesus also instructs us to do all of these without seeking recognition and we are reminded that we don’t wear the ashes to proclaim our holiness to others but to acknowledge that we are a community of sinners in need of repentance and renewal. We can give up things, but we should also do things…do good things.
During Lent we are also asked to devote more time to personal prayer and to apologize and ask for forgiveness form others and from God. We are not perfect and we confess our imperfections as we wait for the joy and cleansing of Easter Sunday.
The first clear evidence of Ash Wednesday was around the year 960 and there is also much biblical scripture supporting today’s practices. In fact, when receiving ashes a person is told “turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.” The gospel is scripture.
But why the ashes? Ashes are ancient symbols of repentance, ashes remind us of our mortality and the “ashes to ashes” bible verse, and lastly being marked with a cross symbol on our forehead reminds us that we belong to Christ and we ask Him to develop in us a spirit of humility and sacrifice, much like He did for us.
When we receive ashes on our foreheads, we remember who we are. We remember that we are creatures of the earth (“remember that you are dust”), we remember that we are mortal beings (“and to dust you will return”), and we remember that we are members of the body of Christ.
I have a Lenten book of daily meditations that I have had for years and really love. My bookmark in it reads:
Fast from judging others, feast on Christ dwelling in them
Fast from differences, feast on unity
Fast from thoughts of illness, feast on the healing power of God
Fast from words that pollute, feast on words that purify
Fast from discontent, feast on gratitude
Fast from anger, feast on patience
Fast form pessimism, feast on optimism
Fast from worry, feast on God’s promises
Fast from complaining, feast on appreciation
The prayer handed out today at our services also spoke to me. It reads:
Forty Days – A Prayer for Lent
Forty days alone, a wilderness of thought, tempting and inviting thoughts that could so easily have distracted you from your task, your mission, your vision. Yet you emerged stronger and more attuned to all that had to be done despite a time constraint that to our eyes would have seemed hopeless. We too live in stressful times. Demands are made of our time that leave so little for the important things of life. We are easily distracted in the wilderness of our lives by every call to go this way or that. We listen to the voices of the world and ignore the one who endured all this and so much more and emerged triumphant that we might not have to suffer so. Forgive us Father when we get distracted from our task. Forgive us those times when we try to be all things to all men and fail to be anything to anyone. Amen.
It’s that last line that really got me: trying to be all things to all yet ultimately failing to be really anything. Don’t we all do this sometimes? Many of us are people pleasers, workaholics, perfectionists, multi-taskers, whatever you want to call it. Maybe we all just need to slow down and look inward, not so much outward and remember that the only person you should try to impress is God.
Finally, I’ve seen the following list of things to give up floating around the internet during the past week and I really like it. I hope you do too.
20 Things to Give Up for Lent
- The need to please everyone
- Sense of entitlement
- Bitterness and Resentment
- Gossip and Negativity
- Fear of failure
- Feelings of unworthiness
Such great ideas for things to fast from during Lent, and every day.
Tuesday’s Tip: The Fattest of All Tuesdays March 4, 2014
Happy Mardi Gras everyone! Is everyone wearing their purple, green, and gold and celebrating today? What exactly are you celebrating though?!
In short, we celebrate Mardi Gras because tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, begins Lent. Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday” in French and came about from the ancient custom of parading a fat ox through Paris the day before Ash Wednesday. The ox was a reminder that eating meat is not allowed during Lent, which runs from Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday. People must have loved their meat because they reveled in a big way!
Major merriments are today still held as those Frenchmen brought the custom to the U.S. with them. Mardi Gras parades are taking place today throughout the world, but in the U.S. the modern incarnation of the holiday is said to have started in Mobile, Alabama in 1830. Today New Orleans is most traditionally known as the Mardi Gras capital of the world with its parades, parties, and other popular customs that often include the throwing of beads, the drinking of cocktails, and the eating of King Cakes.
Mardi Gras is always 47 days before Easter, but why the purple, green and gold? Purple is said to stand for justice, green represents faith, and gold stands for power. I’ve been to New Orleans many times but never during Mardi Gras and I don’t think I ever want. A wild and crazy city the other 364 days of the year, I can’t even imagine the madcap rowdiness of it all. I do love the beads though and I love a good parade. Party on my friends and save some cake for me!
Let me put this out there right away: Hollywood annoys me. But, allow me to admit that I look forward to watching the Academy Awards almost every year. There was a day when I loved going to the movies. Then, everything turned political and I turned away. The Oscars however, are a night to enjoy some fashion and some fun. Here then is my take on last night’s Academy Awards:
Olivia Wilde and Jason Sudeikis. Are they not so adorable? Loved her black dress (and baby bump) with the splash of white in the back and I loved his dark blue suit, although against her black dress I might have preferred traditional black.
Jennifer Lawrence in red Dior. She is an official movie star now and just so darn likable…falls and all. Her styled pixie hair was perfection and I loved her “party in the back” necklace. I even liked the “so last year” peplum accents on her hips.
Lupita NYong’o in custom “Nairobi Blue” Prada. I didn’t love the hairband but I love her class and grace. She is here to stay.
Matthew McConaughey and wife Camilla. In a word: perfection. I actually really, really liked his white jacketed tux and I loved the pale pink of her one-shoulder only caped gown. Her hair was also flawless. I wasn’t a fan of his beloved mom’s look though and strongly suggest she (and her son!) stay out of the tanning booth! What I loved most about him though was his mention of God in his acceptance speech. Rarely do you hear that from any actor and the fact that he did so winning the year’s biggest prize was so inspiring and impressive.
Others I liked:
Jared Leto. Pretty and handsome at the same time and he’s not too proud to admit he adores and loves his momma! His red satin tie was clever and his acceptance speech heart-warming.
Bette Midler looked and sounded fabulous! I loved both dresses she wore: the subtly striped illusion gown during her performance of the classic “Wind Beneath My Wings” and the Reem Akra red carpet dress that she admitted was done by Akra herself when “came to my house and made it in my size.” Gotta love a woman who isn’t a size 0.
Emma Watson. I loved her classic yet edgy black gown with subtle sparkle. She is one of very few attendees who can pull that look off and she did so impeccably. It stands right up there with her “pants in the back” Golden Globes dress. I love her ability to take fashion risks yet stay classy.
Kate Hudson knows how to wear a dress better than anyone and last night’s Atelier Versace number was no exception. I don’t know who does her make-up (Almay?) but it is always gorgeous. One question: was she in a movie last year?!
Sally Field looked radiant in her age-appropriate black sequined gown but what I love most about her is that her face matches her neck and her age! She. Looks. Great!
I thought 84-year-old June Squibb looked wonderful in emerald green. She is an inspiration to us all.
Pink not only nailed “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” but didn’t she look stunning in that red glittery ball gown that would so have matched Dorothy’s shoes? I love Pink and am so happy she came and she delivered. You go girl!
And last but certainly not least, what more can be said about Charlize Theron? She might be dating pinhead Sean Penn but her white Dior gown was to die for. I’m obsessed with the pleating on the bottom, the illusion overlay, the “no see” straps, and the necklace she chose to enhance it all. I also LOVE her short hair. My vote for “best dressed” goes to either her or Jennifer Lawrence.
I didn’t hate Amy Adams’ timeless blue Gucci but I hated her hair! She has such gorgeous and full, long locks and I just don’t understand why she (or her stylist) would choose to put them up so tightly! I love Amy and I was hoping she’d really bring it but she went a little too safe and a lot too boring.
I know it was a hit with many but I found Julia Roberts’ black lace number a miss. I thought it was a little to 70′s promish and the here but not there lace around the arms was distracting. I especially hated the décolletage lace inset.
Although Angelina Jolie always looks beautiful and is truly one of the most naturally gorgeous human beings, I found her beaded Elie Saab dress ill-fitting and a tad matronly.
I am not a big fan of nude dresses on the red carpet so I didn’t really care for those of Cate Blanchett or Jessica Biel. I can’t for the life of me figure out why I never think Biel looks gorgeous even though I think she should. Mystery of all mysteries.
The “Wolf of Wall Street’s” Margot Robbie wore one of my favorite award season gowns when she showed up in that amazing white Gucci at the Golden Globes, but I did not like her dark hair and black dress AT ALL at the Oscars.
Whoopi Goldberg. Hmmmm. I can’t decide if she was mocking Julia Robert’s gown of a similar style from the Golden Globes or if she just wanted to look bad and why is she so grumpy and why was she even there? Of all the stars who could have introduced the “Wizard of Oz” and Judy Garland tribute, why in the world did they pick her?
Goldie Hawn and Liza Minnelli: please stop with the nips, tucks, fillers and whatever you are doing. You’re old and we all know it. Embrace it!
Will someone please tell E! hostess with the mostest Giuliana Rancic to please eat?!
The Vote is Still Out
I didn’t love but I didn’t hate Jennifer Garner’s silver “flapper” dress or Sandra Bullock’s blue Alexander McQueen but I really, really like both actresses a lot so I can’t put them in the “losers” column either!
I found Ann Hathaway’s Gucci black halter dress with crystal embroidery a bit much for a non-nominee but I did kinda like it!
The red clutch that Kelly Ripa, Bette Midler and Anna Kendrick all carried!
I thought Ellen DeGeneres was fabulous! She kept the show moving, kept it light, and was so darn funny! I absolutely loved the pizza delivery and the selfie of all selfies. I thought it was both brave and spot on when she mentioned most of the actors in attendance had never been to college and that Jared Leto was the “prettiest” one there.
I was thrilled that “20 Feet from Stardom” won the documentary award as it was such a fabulous film.
As for the rest of the movies, eh, I really didn’t care what won. It just seemed like nearly every nominated “big” movie was so dog-gone depressing! Lighten up Hollywood and thank goodness for Ellen…and the fashion!
See you next year.
Sunday Scripture March 2, 2014
What, me worry?!
“Don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow. Live one day at a time.” Matthew 6:34
Today’s Gospel reading in mass was Matthew 6:24-34, which basically instructs us not to worry about tomorrow or earthly things. In other words, just chill.
I am not good at doing that. I am very nostalgic so I hold on to memories from yesterday, last month, years past. I can also hold on way too tightly to past hurts and feelings of resentment. I can be slow to forgive and quick to shut down. On the flipside, I’m also a major planner of tomorrow and all the tomorrows that follow. I don’t like to just “let things happen.” I’ve always joked that, other than perhaps writing, the other thing I’m really good at is worrying. Hi, my name is Carla and I’m a worry wart. I worry about everything. I even worry about how much I worry.
I’m also not big on the whole “let go and let God” thing. Yes, I totally believe our lives are in God’s hands and that we are to release them to Him, but I also strongly believe we are to be the hands of God and do His work. Waiting for Him to take care of everything is a bit too “la la living” to me. God helps those who help themselves, right?
So, when I hear the likes of “let it go” or “live in the moment,” I have a hard time doing so. Alcoholics Anonymous is as famous for its “one day at a time” mantra as it is for its use of the Serenity Prayer but that is so hard for me to do. How can I just focus on today when so much happened last Thursday and next Tuesday is going to be crazy?!
This morning Deacon Pete had the answer as he read and spoke about not worrying about so much and instead live today as if it were your last. Make it memorable. You don’t have to forget about yesterday or tomorrow, but take the time to enjoy today. Do something special. Do nothing. Do what makes you happy and whole.
Oh, okay, I get it now! I can continue to plan next week while still living for today. Yippee and Amen!
But what about not worrying about my clothes and what to wear? Okay, I’m still working on that one!
“Lord, help me to realize how brief my time on earth will be. My whole lifetime is but a moment to you and all my busy rushing ends in nothing.” Ps. 39
No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or be attached to the first and despise the second. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.
That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and what you are to wear. Surely life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.
Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they are?
Can any of you, however much you worry, add one single cubit to your span of life?
And why worry about clothing? Think of the flowers growing in the fields; they never have to work or spin yet I assure you that not even Solomon in all his royal robes was clothed like one of these.
Now if that is how God clothes the wild flowers growing in the field which are there today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, will he not much more look after you, you who have so little faith?
So do not worry; do not say, “What are we to eat? What are we to drink? What are we to wear?”
It is the Gentiles who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all.
Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on God’s saving justice, and all these other things will be given you as well.
So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself.
Wednesday’s Words of Wit & Wisdom February 27, 2014
When you respect others, others will respect you.
When you make time for others, others will make time for you.
When you neglect someone, you too will be neglected.
When you are rude to someone, they will probably be rude to you.
If you are kind to others, others will probably be kind to you.
When you try to understand others, they will try to understand you.
If you apologize earnestly, you will be forgiven.
If you listen, others will listen to you.
If you appreciate others, you will be appreciated.
Always remember you reap what you sow and you get what you give.
To be loved, be lovable.