Ash Wednesday 2014

Why have I posted an image of a surfer for Ash Wednesday? I hear you thinking - isn't today about feeling miserable and gloomy and having a cross traced in ashes on your forehead as a sign that 'you are dust and to dust you shall return'? So why post such a joyful exhilarating image? Read on and you may understand - or not - tell me.

During Lent I will attempt a response to each day's reflection in the book 'Barefoot Prayers' by Stephen Cherry. I may write a blog post each day - or not, but will read each day's poem and see what it sparks off. The poem for Ash Wednesday is called 'Repentance' and has powerful images of walking into the ocean, getting deeper until
"...each wave becomes a body blow, a 
thud on the belly 
a crash on the chest."
If the surfer took no risk in facing the sea, there would be no joy in riding the wave on the return. What is Lent for? I think the main point of Lent it is to reconnect with God. That usually means changing direction or attitude, including how to live and relate to others. That is what repentance means and it has to be an ongoing process. I don't mean wallowing in regret or sorrow for past mistakes and deliberate wrong doing. I mean facing reality honestly. That means the risky business of facing myself and facing God and that can be overwhelming, like being immersed in the power of the sea, a power that can destroy, create or propel. 

Stephen Cherry writes,
"This is what it is to face 
the One who was and is and is to come. 
This is what it is to face the Creator 
who comes in Spirit and storm."
He then wonders if he is facing wrongly and realizes that if he turns round then,
what seemed like infinite 
resistance, is now propelling power. 
Let me turn my back, 
not in disrespect, but in true alignment; 
and speed me along the new forward, 
my old backward.
What a wonderful picture of the action of a surfer! Or what happens when a person allows themselves to be propelled forward by the Spirit, even in a direction that is opposite to the way s/he set out. You can listen to the whole poem read by Jo Hurst here and also read the words if you wish.

If you want to think more about what Lent is for, I recommend the short introduction in Discovering the meaning of Lent, a post that also includes some useful links to other Lent resources and ideas.


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