Glimpses of Grace & Truth...The best of intentions does not guarantee the best of outcomes. Leaders in church, non-profit and in corporate America have listened for decades to the wisdom of Guy Kawasaki who helped Steve Jobs in the early days of Apple. One of the nuggets of wisdom Guy shares often came not from the business world but from the ordinary life—interesting but ordinary—life of being a husband and father. When Guy and his wife had their first child, they were determined to be politically and environmentally correct. They were going to use cotton diapers and wash them themselves. Two weeks went by. Doing your own cotton diapers, they discovered, is quite difficult.

They didn't want to wash the diapers with their normal clothes, so they found that either their house smelled really bad or they felt guilty for doing lots of small loads. So they went to a cotton diaper service. They discovered this doesn't work well either. Sometimes they would forget to take the diapers out. And the house still had a very unpleasant aroma. So after four weeks, they gave up on cotton diapers. They finally said to themselves, "Let’s just use Pampers and give money to the Sierra Club." 

Guy’s story, and his regular life, is really a lot like our stories and our regular lives. We look toward important things, develop goals, start preparing and then take off on that journey ready to tackle what lies ahead. Then something doesn’t go as planned. We make an adjustment here or there and keep pressing on. But before long, something else happens, then something else, so forth and so on. Then we change our minds, consciously or unconsciously, about where we were going, how we would get there, and might even forget about why it mattered. That is why the Early Church became so serious about the Lenten season moving us toward Easter. 

Let’s use a few things that Will researched to help us relate. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent, which in the early church, was a time for preparing new converts for baptism (similar to our Confirmation students). Even today, Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by exploring spiritual disciplines—things like fasting, repentance, moderation, prayer, study, or service. This is a season in which each of us is encouraged to strive toward something through which God may form us. Because Ash Wednesday focuses on both our sinfulness before God and our human mortality, it is an important first step of many that move us toward Christ’s ultimate self-denial on the cross. 

Some of the things we do in Lent will not be easy. Some won’t be comfortable. Oh, they might not “smell” as bad as those cotton diapers that forced Guy and his wife to move to Pampers. But some of the things we plan to do might be difficult enough that we accidentally get off track. We as a Church are not too worried about whether you use cloth or you choose to use disposables and step up your other recycling efforts. But we do care a lot about how well you, and all of us, get to Easter. And we know the best way to do that well is to walk closely alongside Jesus, intentionally taking every step we can to align our lives closer and closer to the will of God, even if it means taking up our cross. May you begin this Lenten journey with the best of intentions but also be intentional about following it all the way through. 

Sincerely in Christ: Ed, Will and the First UMC Family