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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Perfect and improving"

Yes, yes. I know.

It's Ash Wednesday.

We're supposed to be somber. Reflective. Contemplative. Penitent.

Right. Nice work if you can get it.

There are three services today. 7 AM. 12 noon. 7 PM. A few pastoral calls in between. Confessions to hear. Parochial Report to get done (due March 1). Draft wedding liturgy to complete and email off to the prospective bride and groom. Two Letters of Agreement to update.

God knows what else the day will have in store.

God knows. It will be a whirl.

So, you'll excuse me if I tickle my own funny bone about the whole business of sack cloth and ashes and poke a little fun at my own penchant for perfection.

I strive for it but I rarely achieve it. Indeed, I don't think I ever have. Oh, once I came really close. I made a great vat of West African Peanut Soup that was positively divine. I think that was as close to perfect as I've ever gotten.

I know I'll strive to make a perfect smudge on every single forehead that comes before me at the altar rail. Why? Beats the heck out of me. But, I know myself well enough to know that I'll do it.

Oh, I won't go to the extreme of the cartoon, but you know, when I first looked at the cartoon, I laughed out loud. And then, I confess, I thought, "Hmmm . . . an interesting idea . . . I wonder if you could make the stencil just a wee more discrete. . . ."

And then, I laughed again. Out loud. At myself, this time.

So, I've decided that my Lenten Disciple this year is to lighten up. To laugh at myself more. Especially when I catch myself striving for perfection.

I met a friend, a woman in her 80s, in the grocery store the other day. I said, "Good morning. How are you?"

"Perfect and improving," she said.

Isn't that simply marvelous?

I've decided that this will be my new Lenten mantra: Perfect and improving.

And this will be my daily morning prayer during Lent
This life therefore is not righteous
but growth in righteousness,
not health but healing,
not being but becoming,
not rest but exercise.
We are not yet what we shall be
but we are growing towards it,
the process is not yet finished
but it is going on,
this is not the end but it is the road.
All does not yet gleam in glory
but all is being purified.
--Martin Luther
I do remember that I am mortal. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

And then, when I return to ashes and dust, I shall be absolutely perfect.

Voltaire once wrote: "God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh."

My Lenten Discipline: To laugh more at God's jokes. Especially the one that was created in me.

So, here's one last giggle for the day - well, for right now, anyway:
Off I go then. Going to spread some ashes. And, hopefully, a bit of a giggle.

It's Ash Wednesday. G'won. Get your ashes to church!


Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Right you are!

David |Dah • veed| said...

Being the more observant Anglican in my family, I have always been comfortable borrowing the services of the local Roman parish on Ash Wednesday if it was convenient. (Going to church is a big deal when you have to use an armed escort whenever you leave home.)

I appreciate the priests who impose a tiny cross (.5" x .5"). It makes it easy to wear it most of the day. (Hey, it is a Mexican thing.) Except folks are always wanting to clean the smudge off your face. But I hate the occasional clown who thinks it funny to brand folks with a ginormous 2" x 2" (or larger!) sucker!

Joie said...

Thanks for helping me smile!

it's margaret said...

Elizabeth --if you want to laugh, remember to hear the pun when you say, "Remember you are but dust!"

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

"But dust" - You know, I've been saying those words as a priest for 24 years and hearing them once a year for most of my life. Of course, it would take YOU to point out the pun.

I mean, I want to lighten up during Lent, but the challenge now will be not to giggle during the Imposition of Ashes.

Thanks a bunch, Margaret. ;~)