ashes, ashes

current tuneage: great lake swimmers, lost channels

currently reading: deuteronomy

just for the sake of clarification, this is what’s going on in my brain. no cancer, no tumor, no life-threatening condition (at the moment). the risk of something going wrong just increases 2% every year it goes untreated, so the likelihood of that happening would be much higher when i’m, say, 50, than it is right now. still, there’s no time like the present to get it taken care of. we’re visiting mayo clinic in rochester, minn., on tuesday. thank you all for your prayers and kind words. :)

okay! glad to get the serious part over with.

for those of you who keep track of the church calendar or are up on your trivia (or who are journalists and have internalized all sorts of information from force of habit), we’re in the second week of the season of lent. my church doesn’t celebrate it formally, like the roman catholic church, the orthodox churches, and some of the more formal protestant denominations do, but people are welcome to celebrate it individually if they want to.

last year was the first time i’d really ‘given up’ something for lent and stuck with it. i gave up chocolate, ice cream and lattes — three things i enjoy very much and in which i tend to overindulge. it was a good exercise in self-control and breaking part of the habit of emotional eating. plus i learned to drink black coffee, which now saves me money at coffee shops (thanks to the coworker who told me dark roast is the smoothest roast).

well, this year, about thirty pounds lighter than i was last lent (twenty more to go), i thought ‘why not give up sugar altogether?’ not just chocolate. not just ice cream. any sugar/sweetener other than fruit and the small amount in sandwich bread. fruits (and a surprising number of vegetables) are amazingly sweet naturally, anyway, and cutting out other sources of sweetness should help train my appetite to look there first when i want something sweet.

then i decided to give up bacon, because, as my eight-year-old cousin izze (and i’m sure many more people) says, ‘bacon is the candy of meat.’ throw sausage in there, too. oh heck, why not pork altogether?

i tried to give up red meat, too, but then realized this could make things seriously aggravating for my mom menu-wise, so i gave up the option of ordering red meat in a restaurant or choosing it at a pot luck. i’ll only eat it when served it (we had pot roast tonight and i ate beef with relish).

humans can never be perfect, as much as we’d prefer to be. ever since eve and adam rebelled against God in the garden of eden and told Him they thought they could be play god just fine for themselves, humans have by default been subject to sin nature (in essence the desire to be god unto themselves). as Christians we realize that no human attempt at good, however pure or noble it might seem, will measure up to God’s perfect goodness because everything we do is tainted by sin. even trying to ‘be good enough’ is a sin because we’re trying to put ourselves in the position of God, which is the ultimate sin.

so we’re stuck in this rut and there’s absolutely no hope because we’re constant failures, right?


‘for while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. for one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ — romans 5:6-8

i get shivers every time i read these verses (the message, by eugene peterson, has a great paraphrase, too). it’s hard enough to give up your own life for someone else, even if that person is someone ‘great’ like a president or mother theresa or someone you love, like your parent/spouse/child/best friend.

but can you imagine wanting to give your life so that a mass murderer-rapist-drug dealer-extortionist-kiddie porn maker-blackmailer-torturer-whatever else on death row could walk out of jail without a spot on his record?

that’s kind of what God does for us, only much, much more. He’s the most holy, perfect being in all creation, and has the absolute right to annihilate us for our audacity to defy Him. and yet, in His infinite love and from the measure of His undeserved kindness toward us, He poured all of that wholly righteous wrath on His Son, and let His Son be executed bodily and severed from His Father spiritually so that we would never have to undergo the torment and agony of being separated from God. and then He raised Jesus from the dead to show the world that He has power over life and over death and nothing is greater than Him.

i like lent because it reminds me of this. no good deed i might perform can i do in my own strength. no good motivation do i have without the Holy Spirit prompting me to actively choose God. heck, i can’t even breathe without God giving me the breath — isn’t it amazing that we all wake up every morning? i’ve been reading through the books of the law in the old testament, and the detail of what the israelites must do when, where, why and how or else break God’s law is mind-boggling.

that’s what sin does, really — since as sinners we declare we are going to be god, sin puts on us the responsibility of being absolutely, transparently perfect down to the most microscopic detail. if we’re going to be god, we have to fulfill God’s law down to the last tittle and jot — and it’s impossible for anyone but God to do that.

‘but God put His love on the line for us by offering His Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to Him.’

i hope that just totally blows your mind. i don’t think about that nearly enough, but it’s something i want to keep before me every day. lent, which is a season of sacrifice and contemplation and reverence, is an especially good time to dwell on this reality.