February 21st, 2007

"ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est"

I was reading a post by a friend last night, and she mentioned the (now familiar to me) concept that the commandment to "Love your neighbor as yourself" requires that you do in fact love yourself, and how this self-love continues to be a challenge for her.  [Edit: Er, I seem to have neglected to actually write up the bit about my reaction to that.  I had intended to say that self-love I really don't have much difficulty with, which would then lead into the following thought.]  Later I was thinking about how the next day was Ash Wednesday and wondering whether I wanted to go to an evening service and get ashed, and I was thinking how it would be appropriate to confess my brokenness before God, in keeping with the theme of Lent of desert days and how as Tiffany mentioned it used to be a period of preparation for catechumens before baptism, and I was struck by just how resistant to that idea I am -- how I want to have it all under control on my own.

In another friend's post, mrs_redboots commented, "I was once told that having the ashes imposed is a sign of humility - but failing to wipe them off before you leave the church can be a sign of spiritual pride!"  I definitely understand this idea, but my perspective was very much one tied in with Coming Out.  I was hugely hesitant to be visibly ashed because it's a very public declaration and as someone who is very hesitant to claim an identity of Christian believer, this is an anxious thing (there are also other identity/honesty issues tied up in that because I think of getting ashed as such a Catholic thing and I am so not Catholic).  So for me, going out ashed would be a brave and frightening thing, though admittedly there are issues of pride in there.  Having moved from a Catholic town to heavily secular environments, I'm far more inclined to viewing going out ashed as a brave thing, though I can certainly see how it could be a pride thing for some people.

I did end up going to Ash Wednesday service at CAUMC tonight.  My first ever.

We sang "Sunday's Palms Are Wednesday's Ashes" (The Faith We Sing 2138) which I liked a lot and could really get into as a statement about Lent.  Sadly, the words do not seem to exist online.  Will have to steal a copy from the church.

Gary and Tiffany talked about how Lent shouldn't be about beating ourselves up but about working toward wholeness, and about the catechumens and learning/teaching how to be a Christian/follows Jesus.

Tallessyn and Dan and their wee girls were in front of me, and Gary said, "This is a reminder that Jesus loves you very much," as he ashed the wee ones.  ♥  (He did the traditional "ashes to ashes" bit with all us big people -- though earlier one of them had said that yes we are dirt but we are dirt formed in the very image of God.)

There was also Communion.  Tiffany held the bread and started her statement to me with my name, which I always find powerful, and said something about, "May you rejoice in God always," which I interpreted as connected to our conversation last night about my faith struggle.  Andrew held the cup and said, "The cup of love, given for you."  I'm used to hearing "Cup of Life," which I like fine, but I really liked this new way, especially because it made me think of the idea of replacing "blood" with "love" in hymns [blood is powerful, so I'm not endorsing this as an entire thing, but an overemphasis on suffering can be detrimental, and it's also just really interesting how easily "love" can replace "blood" in so much hymnology].

Interestingly, I passed various people on my home from service and almost never actually thought about the fact that I was ashed.

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Beth Moore's Believing God is currently sitting in my bathroom.  Huh.

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In other news, I stopped by Staples after work to get a new keyboard, and I was totally failing at gauging what felt right, so I ended up just picking one and as I was setting it up at home I was thinking, "Wait, this resembles the new one my parents got -- which I hated."  Yup, sure enough, I keep messing up using the Home/End/Delete/PgUp/PgDn keys, and occasionally some of the regular keys as well.  ::smites::  I love staples.com, though, for having a thing you can print out and leave for the driver to tell them to leave the package without a signature.  (Having ordered things and found out after the fact that the delivery would require someone to sign for it, this is rather a big deal for me.)