Ash Wednesday is my favorite Christian day after Easter. I love the act of repentance and centering your whole being for a 40-day journey toward Jerusalem. For my spirit to thrive on this day I have learned that I must be out in the community offering Ashes to all of God’s creation. This Wednesday was no different. 194 people drove up or walked up to receive ashes. Kat and Karen both helped me, and I am sure they have reflections of their own they would love to share with you. I could go on and on about the people I met and the stories they shared but that would be a book instead of a page. So here are just of few of the encounters.
During the first hour as the sun was trying to break through the clouds an Arlens employee came across the street. She wanted to start her day with the cross on her forehead. She then asked if I could come over to the store and give ashes to her coworkers. Later that morning I went and gave five employees their ashes. They were thankful for me coming to them. In the late afternoon a lady drove up and after Karen gave her the ashes she started to cry. She had just left the doctor’s office and they had scheduled her for gall bladder surgery and a liver biopsy. She is scared. Karen and I both reassured her we would be praying for her.
A lady drove up, just her, and after she received her cross she asked how long I would be there. I told her till 7 and she said she would be back with her son who had stayed home from school due to being sick. She came back with him on one trip, then 3 more times she came back with a car full of people to receive ashes. She said she was an Uber driver for God today! Another woman came back twice with her elderly tia’s (Spanish for Aunt) who couldn’t walk without assistance. They hadn’t received ashes in several years due to not being able to get up the stairs to church.
My adopted “mom” who lives in San Antonio saw my post on facebook and drove up to receive ashes from me on her way to Austin for a meeting. It was a beautiful surprise. Social media played a role in other encounters. A couple was on their way from Boerne to Austin for a meeting and she realized they wouldn’t be back in time to receive Ashes at their church. She Googled day ashes nearby and due to Kat and I publishing our drive thru, we were the first hit on Google. They were grateful for the opportunity to wear their cross at their business meeting.
Our day school moms came to pick up kids and asked for ashes. Little brother or sister saw their siblings had a cross on their head or hand and wanted one also. I had so many moments of talking to children about how much Jesus loves and will always love them no matter what. Later in the day, I had grandma come to pick up her grandchild and I asked if she wanted ashes. She didn’t know what it was about, so I explained Lent and Ashes to her and told her what I told her granddaughter earlier in the day when all day school kids received ashes. I told her how much Jesus loved her. She had tears in her eyes and hugged me. I don’t know if she had ever been told about Jesus before. We hugged a little while longer and I prayer for her.
I had several nurses come by. One nurse parked and got out of her car. Waited for me to finish giving ashes to a van load of kids. She looked beat. As I gave her the ashes I wondered what she had seen, who she cared for this day. After the ashes were given, she said it was a hard shift. She then asked if I would pray for her. I said yes, let’s do it now. She said there were people in line. I told her it would be ok, they will wait. We prayed and hugged. She went on her way and I turned around and the other cars had waited, and more were in line. The world slowed down for us all for a moment.
A young couple came with a baby and grandma. The mom didn’t know what the ashes were, so I explained it all to her and after, she wanted them and she asked for me to give them to her new baby. The whole family received ashes and then asked me to take a picture of them in front of the church. I found out they just moved here and were out seeing what churches were around. They didn’t come for ashes they came for a church home. I gave them information and invited them back.
My last car was a visitor to our church. He has been coming for a while. He sings with our band. He brought his wife and son. He said he had been driving up and down San Antonio Street all day and kept seeing me. After I gave him and his family ashes, he kept hugging and thanking me. As I reflect on the day now, his hugs and thankfulness summed up a beautiful day filled with the Holy Spirit. Church happened outside of the walls.
Grace and peace and much love,