“… listen …”

“Then a cloud appeared and covered them with its shadow, and a voice came from the cloud,

‘This is my own dear Son—listen to him!’” (Mark 9:7)

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Season of Lent for Christians.  The day signals a time for Christians to prepare for the holiest of days, Easter.  Most of you probably recall that each year shortly before Ash Wednesday I celebrate another tradition by taking the palm branches from last year’s Palm Sunday observances and reducing them to ashes for the Ash Wednesday celebration.  My process is simple.  I place the branches in a big metal bucket, add some charcoal lighter fluid, then add more lighter fluid, and toss a match into the bucket.  This year I stood back and took about 150 photos as the flames shot into the air.  After I loaded the photos onto my computer I realized I’d been visited …  First, the Yorkshire terrier above, then the giraffe or seahorse below,

and finally, a mysterious woman who seemed fixated on something she saw in the bucket.

What we see in the flames has a lot to do with our experiences, perspective, etc.  One way to think about Lent is that it’s a time when we’re called to re-examine our experiences and perspectives.  The call to repentance in Lent is more than simply an urging for us to say we’re sorry for something and pledge to never do it again.  The call to repent is an invitation to turn and experience life from a new perspective – to see with eyes of love instead of hate, to see with eyes of hope instead of fear, and to see with eyes of compassion instead of judgement.  In order to hear the call to repent we must first listen.  That’s why this year last week’s Gospel lesson from the common lectionary spoke to me so strongly.  When God spoke the words, “This is my own dear Son—listen to him!” I heard my theme for this Lent – listening.  Without listening, there can be no repentance.  Listening is part of the foundation in every relationship.  Without listening there can be no drawing closer.  Listening gives us the opportunity to change our perspective so we see our selves and one another in new ways. Normally the ashes are imposed with the words, “Repent, and believe the gospel.”  This Ash Wednesday I think I’ll make a slight modification and say, “Listen, repent, and believe the gospel.”  I pray that God will help me make more time for listening.  How about you?

Blessings and Peace,


Pastor, Cross Lanes United Methodist Church

Cross Lanes, West Virginia

Help save lives! For more information on my book, “A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression,” visit

My new book, “Wednesday Wonderings: Spiritual Journaling Through a Lens” is available at and

Check out my video, “Teens Surviving the Storm”


~ by revgenelson on February 18, 2015.

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