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Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. I didn’t grow up in a liturgical church and the church I attend now most certainly isn’t liturgical but there is something about the traditions of Christianity that appeals to me. The Church calendar is a way of keeping before us the story of Jesus, the story of the Church throughout the ages and the need for repentance and sorrow as well as for joy and celebration. I don’t always observe Lent but this year I would like to.

I like Wikipedia’s explanation of the day because it doesn’t assume the reader knows anything about it and it includes a variety of perspectives and ways of observing the day. In Bible times, fasting, sackcloth and ashes were an integral part of grieving (Wikipedia references Job 42:3-6, Numbers 19:9, 19:17, Jonah 3:6, Matthew 11:21, and Hebrews 9:13), so it’s no surprise that early Christian leaders chose ashes as a way to symbolise our grief and sorrow at the ways we have turned from God.

In some traditions, palm branches from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are burned to provide the needed ashes which are then mixed with oil or water. The priest, pastor or designated layperson applies it to the foreheads of those willing in the shape of a cross as an outward expression of inner sorrow and repentance. The ashes are not washed off until after sunset.

Ash Wednesday is about repentance and though, admittedly, repentance should not be confined to one day a year, it is good to have this reminder of our need to repent. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God but in the busyness of our lives, it is easy to forget just how short of God’s glory we fall. It is useful to have a day to sit and take inventory of our lives—in both thoughts and deeds.

God, I want to live a life of repentance, a life of continually turning to you. It seems I perpetually turn away from you, God, and I don’t like it. Thank you for a day specifically set aside to ponder these turnings and to once again affirm that I choose to turn to you.


Di said…
Thanks! I grew up Catholic and couldn't remember the symbolism of Ash Wednesday and what it meant. You answered my question.

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About the Author


I'm married (35 years in December 2008) with four grown sons. I love my city (Winnipeg) and my country (Canada) and promote them both to whoever will listen. God (through Jesus Christ) is the biggest part of my life. I am learning to let him take control of all areas--though I do better at this some times more than others.

I have written a book that's recently been published about part of my journey with God. In it I tell how God confronted me with the same-sex attraction issues I've struggled with all my adult life and how he led me through them to a deeper and more meaningful relationship with him. God is amazing—his forgiveness, his love, his movement in our lives when we allow him and so much more. I suspect God will never run out of things to teach me or ways to make me grow and that’s a good thing (though often very painful).

I suppose I can say that what gives me the greatest pleasure in life is telling others about…

Memories of Mikael Vincent Tien Doe Chan

Reviews of Searching for Love

If you have read the book, I would love to hear your thoughts on it. You may e-mail me at or post them in the comments section below.

A Real Testimony
I finished your book. A real testimony to what God does for us.
Leona March 3, 2009
I Had Tears Coming

I sat down to read it about a week later and ended up finishing it the same night. At first I admit I was a little bored and thought that the whole book was about a battle all in your mind, but as I continued reading this creeping thought came over me of a different...struggle in my own life, that I would never in my right mind have shared with anyone accept maybe God. I've mentioned your book to a few people because it stirs up age-old controversies that I have myself argued and wondered about, namely about whether or not homosexuality can be cured or just managed like alcoholism--you just have to stay away from temptation. I noticed at the end of your book that your struggle story …