In honor of Ash Wednesday, I'm re-posting the following story from my first book, Filled Up, Poured Out: How God's Spirit Can Revive Your Passion and Purpose.
Northern Wisconsin is Lutheran and Catholic territory, and this means two things: Lutefisk before Christmas, and Lent before Easter. I didn’t know much about either growing up. Until moving to Hayward, I had never heard of Lutefisk, and figured Lent was stuff you trap in the dryer.
Living in the Northwoods, I’ve discovered that Lutefisk is a piece of cod that passes all understanding. (Actually, it’s a rather unappetizing, gelatinous Nordic dish made from dried, salted whitefish and lye.) We’ll let the Lutherans keep it.
Lent, however, is something we’ve happily pilfered from our more liturgical brethren. We start with Ash Wednesday, forty days before Easter. I smudge ashes on the foreheads of willing parishioners, repeating, “From dust you’ve come, to dust you shall return.”
For a few years, I drove over to St. Joe’s a couple days before the Lenten season and borrowed ashes from my Catholic priest buddy, Father Bill. He pulled my leg when I asked him where he obtained the ashes. “From the funeral home, of course.” He said it with such a straight face that I believed him at first.
When Father Bill retired, I lost my ash stash. Before leaving town, he finally divulged that the ashes come from last year’s Palm Sunday branches. So now I hoard dead palm branches in my filing cabinet.
The first time I tried to burn palm branches, I nearly set the house on fire, and our smoke alarm shrieked. Cathy sent me and my pan of smoking palm fronds out the back door, and instructed me to never burn them in the oven again. So, I’ve had to take my cremation operation outdoors.
It’s fitting that the ashes are leftovers from Palm Sunday. We can’t depend on yesterday’s praises to get us through today’s problems. Former glory fades to ashes and dust.
A couple of years ago, while smudging foreheads, I decided what to sacrifice for Lent. Normally, people give up stuff like candy, coffee, television, and Facebook in order test their spiritual resolve.
I gave up doubt. I determined that for forty days I would respond to every situation with this question: What would great faith have me do?
This commitment was tested immediately. In fact, I still had the ash smudge on my forehead when our high school pastor, Loretta, came bursting into my office with an exciting but expensive idea. Her enthusiasm bubbled over. “So, what do you think?” she asked eagerly. Dollar signs rolled in my head. How on earth were we going to pay for that? But I needed to keep my vow. What would great faith have me do? I gulped, grinned through gritted teeth, and replied, “Sure, what a splendid opportunity. Let’s go for it.”
And that’s the way it went for the next forty days, responding to every situation with the greatest faith I could muster. Was I ever glad when Easter came, so I could go back to my old pattern of doubting and fretting!
I was ordained July 10, 1987, when General Superintendent, Dr. Earle Wilson, laid hands on me, shook my hand, and thundered, "Take thou authority to preach the Word!"
I was thinking about this a while back, and wondered how far back I could go with the succession of my ordination. So, I did a little research.
* I was ordained by Earle Wilson
* Earle Wilson was ordained by Pilgrim Holiness General Superintendent, William Neff.
* William Neff was ordained by the Pilgrim founder, Seth Rees * Seth Rees was ordained by Nazarene founder, Phineas Bresee (Note -- Rees was initally "recorded" as a Quaker, because they did not ordain their ministers. Later, he moved over to the newly formed Church of the Nazarene, and I am taking a leap by assuming that when he became a Nazarene, they ordained him. Rees was certainly worked beside Bresee as his contemporary.)
* Phineas Bresee was ordained by Methodist Bishop, Levi Scott
* Levi Scott was ordained by Elijah Hedding. …
Everyone deals with financial setbacks from time to time. Money doesn't buy happiness - -but the lack of it can sure bring a lot of stress. My father, talking about the lean years of the Great Depression, said they pinched pennies so tight, Abe Lincon hollered! George Washington has hollered in my hands a few times!
When facing hard times financially, it pays to remember these are the only times we have. We need to keep a proper perspective. Here are some important reminders as we face adversity:
1. God is far bigger than the problem. If a financial crisis looms like a mountain, remember -- God is the mountain mover! There's no challenge too great for the Almighty. There is not one situation beyond His ability. Instead of telling God how big your problem is, tell your problem how big God is!
2. Hard times teach us wisdom. Difficult days force us to stop and evaluate where we are, what we're doing, and why we're doing it. Nobody becomes wise with ease. It takes trouble t…