Ash to ash, dust to dust

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I remember the first time I saw someone with ash on their forehead in observance of Ash Wednesday.

It was in college (that’s how denominationally aloof I was). It was a professor of mine, Dr. Dillon–great American History professor. [If you read this, Dr. Dillon, I fully regret not caring more about your courses…aging often speaks its own rebuke.]

I thought it strange, though, the ash. Messy and unnecessary. Uncivilized perhaps.

I thought myself as somehow beyond such ancient practices.

I also grew up a little during college, and a bit more since.

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

I need that reminder.

The psalmist captures it in a hauntingly beautiful fashion: Psalm 39:5 “Lord, let me know my end and the number of my days, so that I may know how short my life is.”

Microscopic organisms and Mack Trucks and malignant tumors are no respecters of persons.

It’s going to end.

Life, that is.

When is the variable, not if.

Ash to ash, dust to dust…

For what or whom are you living? Spiritual or not, everyone has to answer.

Do you live for what you get more of when you die? If so, you could say, like St. Paul, “to live is Christ; to die is gain.”

 

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Passe or Priceless: Psalm 119 and the Worth of the Word

I have been reading through Psalm 119 again in an effort to rekindle a hunger and desire for the Scriptures in a life giving manner. I tend toward an academic kind of reading of the Word, which has its place–though I would provide numerous cautions in that endeavor. But the kind of reading I was taught doesn’t line up with the message of Psalm 119.

The psalmist speaks of the unsurpassed joy of keeping the laws of the Lord, of walking in his commandments, of meditating on his precepts. The more we read his words, the more faithful to them we should be. And the more faithful we are to him in that way, the more our appetite for the Scriptures increases. Our spiritual metabolism, so to speak, ramps up as we apply what we read and are faithful in the things we know for certain (rather than getting bogged down in the uknown).

In Psalm 119 I read Spirit-inspired words like:

  • I will fix my eyes on all your commandments (6)
  • I will delight in your statutes (16)
  • My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times (20)
  • Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors (24)
  • I will run in the way of your commandments (32)
  • Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain (36)
  • My hope is in your rules (43)
  • At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules (62)
  • It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes (71)
  • The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces (72)

Okay, that last one…seriously? What would that be in dollars? The last I saw, a $20 gold piece was worth roughly $1400. So, carry the 1, divide the remainder into the square root…3,000 of those coins would be $4.2 million. Is the law of God’s mouth, in practice and lived out, better to me than $4,200,000? “Oh yes, absolutely! No doubt!” he exclaimed without flinching.

Then why do I not hesitate to push that law aside in order to justify my lack of action to care for the least of these? It takes me about $40 to sell out…let alone $4.2 million.

I’m pleading with the Lord to let me read his Word anew, with fresh eyes and an undivided mind. “Incline my heart to your testimonies, Lord.”

I want to desire the Word and long for it, more than a latte or new shoes. The video below is a reminder that what has become passe for us in America is still priceless to some:

So Much to Be, So little Time Be It

That doesn’t sound right does it? It’s supposed to go “So much to do, so little time to do it.” Why the re-phrasing? I think the ‘do’ version is distinctly western, and at that, American. Now before you go Born on the Fourth of July on me, there has to be room to critique and challenge. And I’m doing so from a distinctly Christian perspective. America is ‘do’ centered. We have to-do lists and plans about how to get done what we need to do and meetings about the plans about how to get done what we need to do. My contention is that Christianity has been sucked into a similar ‘do’ vacuum.

Jesus certainly ‘did’ many things. He was a busy God-man. But he also modeled the importance of ‘being.’ He retreated to desolate places, places of solitude. There he prayed. Did he speak the whole time? Doubtful. I sense he likely listened more than he spoke. He centered himself in the Father. Jesus knew his psalms.

– Psalm 37:7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.

– Psalm 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God.

– Psalm 62.1 My soul finds rest in God alone.

There is unquestionably a command for disciples of Christ to ‘do’ godly things. However, apart from ‘being,’ burnout is guaranteed. The yoke of Christ will no longer feel light. You will become a slave to your list, a slave to the expectations of others. But you’ll have lost your center.

Are you creating margin in your life, daily, in which you refuse to ‘do’? Some will argue, “Aren’t you in essence ‘doing’ by choosing to ‘be’?” Can God create a rock so heavy he can’t lift it? Same question in my mind.

Do you have margin for ‘being’? If so, what works for you?