A man on his death bed. A group of precious pre-schoolers. A website. A mass of Middle-School Students. Ashes.

That is a rough outline of my yesterday.

Being the Pastor of Family Faith at a large suburban church allows me the opportunity to interact with a wide range of people (within the narrow confines of my context). I visited a man who is literally drawing his last breaths. I met with our Children, Youth, and Family Team to discuss a redesign on our website. I got to show preschoolers the magic of animation. I taught 100 middle schoolers what Lent is and why we smear ashes on our foreheads and recite, “remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

I walked the full spectrum of life…and death.

Ash Wednesday is a moment when we force ourselves to look our own mortality in the face.

Each one of us will die.

We begin as a precious preschooler, full of wonder. We pass through Middle School and pick up our ego-shaping messages. We struggle and toil as adults to do something in the world. Then we die.

This sounds morbid and sad, but I reminded the students that it isn’t meant to be. It is simply the truth.

We have one life. It is a gift from God. How will we use this life well?

“How do you know if you have used your life well?” one person asked.

Good question.

This morning, in my contemplative darkness, a verse came to mind that offers a simple response.

Micah 6:8 (NRSV)

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

I made this image a long time ago (based on the NIV translation “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”). It resurfaces periodically in my life. Thank you for the reminder. 

As we approach Lent, may it be a time to look at our life, to look at our death, and seek to live a life of mercy, justice, and humility in between.

To end on a lighter note. Get your ash in church next Wednesday! 🙂

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