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Saturday, May 18, 2024

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Ash Wednesday: Upward Thoughts

Rev. Jennifer Bolton

By Rev. Jennifer Bolton

Have you ever had such a big problem that you felt like you couldn’t get much lower in life? You are at rock bottom, down in the dirt.
These are all expressions we have heard and, perhaps, have felt. Maybe, at the least, we have known someone close to us that has felt this way. Once we reach a low point in life, it is hard to think there will be a time when we will stand up again and see the light, so to speak.
It is so discouraging knowing we can only think at that moment there is no hope of life getting better. Maybe, as you read this, you are struggling with addiction or recovery, or maybe, you are struggling with a relationship gone south. You may be out of a job or dealing with a health issue, perhaps.
Whatever it may be, you are at the lowest point in your life, down in the dirt. Even though you are in the dirt and dust of this low point, there is hope. Every year, we are reminded of this dirt or dust that creeps into our lives every so often.
On Ash Wednesday, we celebrate ashes, dust or even dirt. It seems odd to celebrate something as insignificant and silly like dust and dirty ashes, yet we do. We smear them on our heads and think about our ultimate fate of ending up as dust or dirt when we die.
Honestly, I never liked to think about my death, and I don’t think many of us do. I was reminded of it as I studied Jonah’s story, in the Bible. Yes, you may know Jonah as the one who was swallowed by the whale, but there is more to the story.
Jonah, a prophet, was sent to Nineveh to tell them they must repent and ask God to forgive their sins, so God could have mercy on them.  At first, he did not want to go, but finally, after being at the lowest point in his life, the belly of a whale, he decided to follow what God asked for and talked to the people of Nineveh.
Jonah convinced them to repent, and the king told the people to take off their clothes, put on scratchy burlap-like sackcloth and sit in ashes. Why would the people of Nineveh intentionally sit in the dirt?
They are showing God that they are at the lowest point in their lives, at rock bottom, down in the dirt, with no hope of standing again or seeing the light.
The hope was that at their lowest state, there was nowhere to go but up, and God was part of that story. God picked up the people of Nineveh and took them out of the ashes, dusted them off and gave them mercy (Jonah 3:5-10).
God can do the same for you, even if you are at the lowest point in your life, in the dirt, God can pick you up out of the ashes, dust you off, and show you mercy. Remember, when you are in the dirt, there is nowhere to go but up. Repent, and let God take you there.
ED. NOTE: The author is reverend at Dias Creek United Methodist Church. To contact Rev. Bolton, email jennybolton73@gmail.com.

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