Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I've Been Awakened

I guess everyone knows that I come from a Pentecostal background. While the church I grew up in was a rather staid version of Pentecost, nevertheless we were free from ritual and the trappings of formalities. We were not like those Catholics or even Lutherans. We were free.

Over the last few years, I have developed an appreciation for all those things that I was told were wrong when I was a child. No, I’m not talking about how I can go to the movies or play cards. One of the biggest disappointments in my early life was my parent’s decision to not allow me to see Sleeping Beauty.

I was eight years old when Disney released Sleeping Beauty. I had never been to the movies since in the views of my parents this was a worldly (sinful) activity. My best friend Barbara was going. I can remember lying in bed hearing my parents discuss the invitation I had from Barbara’s Aunt Eleanor to go with them to see the movie. The decision for the sake of my soul was that I couldn’t go.

I was so disappointed. This also presented a social problem for me. Everyone else had seen it. Every one of my friends at school talked about it. It was a big deal in Brooklyn that year. I had the coloring book for Sleeping Beauty. I thought that might help me navigate these endless conversations about the movie.

The coloring book turned out to be a bad idea. I was coloring one day with some friends, I was coloring the fairies. Girls will make anything a social activity. Remember those three plump fairies? I colored them the wrong color. Everyone laughed at me. I was exposed as the only girl in at PS 94 who wasn’t allowed to see Sleeping Beauty.

I remember having anguish in my soul at times because I would play cards in the basement with another friend. Every time I went to Nancy’s house, her father had his TV tray in front of him playing a game of Solitaire. We would go to the basement with another deck of “demon cards” and play such things as Go Fish, War and occasionally the most worldly of all, GIN. That game even sounded worldly to me.

To make matters worse, I remember being asked if I were playing cards with Nancy. I lied to my mother and said no, I wasn’t. I was a good Christian girl and wouldn’t do such things. At night, I was sure Jesus was going to come and I’d be left behind. Terrible burdens for an 8 year old.

To some extent, these stories are laughable. Just like the stories of not being allowed to do folk dancing in PE class. Or finally getting a blessing from my father to go to the movies. Somehow, movies and cards were both sanctified by the time I was thirteen.

Today I am thinking of something else that was spurned when I was a child. Today is the first day of Lent. As a child I was both glad I didn’t have to have dirt on my forehead, and jealous. It seemed to me at times like this must be like the “mark of the beast” that terrified me. In my child’s mind, having been told that these liturgical Christians were not really believers like we were – after all, they drank and smoked and went to movies and dances – not to mention card playing and Bingo. Now they were marked with this dirt on their forehead.

Some of my teachers, actually most of them, also had ashes. They seemed like nice people even though they wore lipstick and makeup. Nevertheless, there were those ashes.

I’ve gone through lots of changes. I now understand that many of these rituals of my brothers and sisters in Christ have deep and wondrous meanings. Several years ago, I too was marked for the first time with these ashes.

I was going to a very small Nazarene church for a short period. I didn’t know that Nazarene’s did such a thing. That Wednesday night on Ash Wednesday we went through a time of repentance and then we received Ashes. I learned that these ashes were made from palm branches left over from last year’s Palm Sunday. Wow! What symbolism.

I went home that night sinning. I wasn’t sinning because I received the ashes. It was because I was proud of my ashes. As soon as I got home, I lifted my bangs and showed my husband. I said LOOK! I have ashes.

I don’t think that was the proper attitude. However, I was just glad to understand this ritual of the Church and participate in it.

Today I am wishing I could receive ashes. Today I actually wish I were in South Dakota because the Seminary is participating in Ash Wednesday. I now understand the power of ritual. Maybe it is a bit like Sleeping Beauty. I was sleeping and didn't understand. Now I have been awakened to a new way of understand.

I supposed I should prayerfully consider what I should fast for Lent? 


  1. Joyce, thank you for this, as someone who grew up in the Lutheran church then came to the Pentecostal side, the Lord had some of His biggest work in teaching me that I was raised with was not dead ritual but now the hardest thing for many around me to understand is the deep layers of meaning underneath these things and how needed it is.

    I even heard a teaching last week about how the Jewish rituals so reflect spiritual truths and it touched me. I think the body does it self a great disservice when we reject each other the way you described from your childhood. We are all the body and all possess different parts for a reason. The reverance and respect that was the orginal intention in those areas is something that is so vital.

    Like you described when you understand some of these meanings, like Lenten Ashes of repentance from last years Palm branches of Celbration of Jesus triumphal entry it just brings you to such a deeper understanding and level in your walk. It is what I miss sometimes terribly. That yearly 40 days to reflect.

    For that reason I have made Lent a part of my personal prayer journey with the Lord every year (as I do advent) for the last four years. Lent is such a special time to me now, the Lord uses it so powerfully as I wait on Him and remember my own sinfullness and His sacrifice. One thing that really has touche me for the last two years has been watching the Passon of the Christ at some point during my Lenten journey as the H.S directs me.

    So if you would like to fast for Lent I will gladly encourage you and parter with you. I will be attending the Catholic Mass tonight instead of my regualar church Diamond Willow.

    Thank you!
    Love and peace in Jesus
    your sister in the Lord

  2. I'm a Nazarene associate pastor in SW Ohio - dad was a pastor, grandpa was a pastor and District Superintendent. This morning I had to go to the local Catholic church to receive ashes - the local church I serve just isn't ready for Ash Wed but I hope someday soon will be. It is invigorating to me to see how my dad has gravitated toward this practice - tonight he will do imposition of ashes for the 3rd year in a row! I'm 30; he's 56; I'm proud of him, of his openness to the richness of the Tradition that extends back so much farther than the 100 year history of the Nazarene Church. I'm proud of him for following the leading of the Holy Spirit and deepening the spiritual and liturgical lives of his flock by this rich symbolic practice. I don't know about everyone else, but I absolutely need to be reminded - probably more often than once a year - that I am dust and to dust I shall return; to turn from sins and cling to Christ.

  3. It's funny how each person views a situation. As a little girl, I attended a Catholic school and each day before classes, we went church. On Ash Wednesday, I hated when the ashes were applied to my forehead. The priest would lay those ashes on thick, resting on my eyelashes and falling down the bridge of my nose. I dare not wipe the residual from my lashes and nose - that was a sure ticked to hell. Apparently I wasn't the only kid who felt that way; most all of us were jutting out our lower lip in an upward direction as we blew puffs of air in our attempts to remove the dust.

    The girls without bangs and the boys had a perfect cross centered on their foreheads. The priest waited as the girls with long bangs lifted them, the ashes were applied and with a little finger adjustment of the bangs, the cross was invisible. Its was the girls with short bangs that looked the goofiest. I was one of those girls. The cross' post began below the bangs and usually ended on the bridge of the nose. The cross bar was more or less even with the brows. I thought we all looked silly, except for the girls with the long bangs - I envied long bangs.

    Once I went to public school, I seldom participated in Lent. Now, as an adult and one who places her trust in Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I do not observe Lent - but it has nothing to do with my childhood vanity.

    However, belonging to the Facebook community, I have been reading numerous comments regarding what folks are considering giving up for the Lenten season. While pondering the subject, the Lord placed on my heart Isaiah 58:5-11. I read the scripture and wow, this gives a
    freshness and a deeper meaning to Lent. Instead of giving up something...give of yourself to someone. I can just imagine it - for at least 40 day, faces would be expressing joy for having helped someone in Jesus' name in stead of grumbling for having to give something up. It's worth a thought.

    Be blessed,

  4. Growing up in a Catholic church and school at an early age, I never really thought much about it. Just a ritual I thought.

    In a way most people of faith have some predetermined ritual in their demominations from customs that began eons ago.

    The most powerful rituals that I hold sacred and worhty in worth is the Baptism by water and the Baptism by the Holy Spirit. You can't see it but you sure can feel it. All other rituals are just that. A custom handed down from generation to generation.

  5. I read this blog early Wednesday - by reminding me of Ash Wednesday, you helped make my day a joyful one. As a Pentecostal Christian, I miss Lent, and I would have missed Ash Wednesday without you. Growing up in a tiny community Presbyterian church, I don't remember meeting on Ash Wednesday (we didn't have midweek services), but we did observe Lent as a time of introspection and repentance. In recent years, I've attended the 'Stations of the Cross' with a Catholic Christian friend, and I look forward to that again this year as an observance during Easter Week that is very meaningful to me.

    In the small town where I went to high school, Pastor Anne (who also pastors the church where I grew up) has led a wonderful Good Friday observance that just melts me whenever I think of it. The Episcopalians join together to take up the cross and carry it several blocks to the corner where the Presbyterian church stands. The Presbyterians join them and carry the cross to the end of Main Street where they are joined by the Catholics. The Catholics lead the procession, carrying the cross, to the Catholic Church (also the largest church in town). There, the two priests and pastor serve Communion, each to their own congregation. To me, this is such a sweet way to honor our Lord by honoring one another as Christians, in our differences.


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