Thursday, June 13, 2013

Melinda's First Ash Wednesday






“Mommy, why do we have to go to church on Ash Wednesday?” six-year-old Melinda asked.

“Because it’s the first day of Lent,” her mother said.  “We’re going to receive ashes together.”

Melinda didn’t want the priest smearing ashes on her forehead.  She wasn’t allowed to wash them off.  She walked up the church isle in the past few years, but wouldn’t take part in the ritual.

“Mommy, why do we get ashes?” Melinda asked.

“I explained to you that, unlike Jesus, we sin and need to be forgiven.  The priest makes the sign of the cross on our foreheads with the ashes to show that we are ashamed and sorry.  In Jesus’ time, wearing ashes were proof that people were sad for the bad things they had done.  They wore sackcloth, too.”

“What’s sack cloth?” Melinda asked. 




“Oh, Melinda, I’m glad you asked these questions before we got to church."  Melinda’s mom taught faith formation classes, so she had answers. She smiled.

“Sackcloth was a scratchy cloth made from goat's or camel's hair.  It was a sign of shame for their sins.”

"I don’t have to wear sackcloth, do I?” Melinda asked.

Her mother laughed.  “No, just go put on your pink pants and a shirt.  It’s cold and snowy tonight.”

Melinda giggled and ran for her room.  She liked it when her mother explained things to her.  She didn’t always understand, but it made her feel better. 






When it was time to go up to the altar, Melinda gripped her mother’s hand.  They made their way through the crowd and she listened as the priest said, “Repent and hear the good news,” and made the sign of the cross on her mother’s forehead.

Melinda gulped.  It was her turn.  She stepped back. 

The priest leaned down and whispered, “First time?”

Melinda nodded.  He smiled, repeated the prayer, and made the sign of the cross.  Melinda’s heart jumped and she got goose bumps.  She walked away knowing she would leave the ashes on her forehead.  She wanted to let Jesus know that she was sorry. 





Saturday, June 8, 2013

Aiden's Worst Birthday





Aiden stretched and yawned lazily.  He was in a great mood this morning.  And why shouldn’t he be?  It was November third--his birthday!  But it wasn’t just any birthday.  Today, he was thirteen.  Today, he became a teenager!

When Aiden got to school, he put his things in his locker and grabbed his math book.  But it was too late to visit with any of his friends before class.

Although Dylan wasn’t one of his close friends, he usually said, “Hi” back when they passed in the hall on the way to class.  But when Aiden shouted, “Hi, Dylan,” the boy just nodded and ran on by without speaking.  Things went on like that all day.

In class, in the halls, and even at lunch, people ignored Aiden.  “What a great birthday this has been,” he said glumly.  “This has been the worst birthday of my life.  Maybe even the worst day of my life!  How can this be happening?”

Aiden’s shoulders slumped as he trudged slowly to fifth period science class.  “Dear Jesus,” he whispered, “I don’t understand why my friends are ignoring me.  Please help me make it through the rest of this awful day.”

Fortunately, all Aiden had to do in science class was take notes on a film about climate and weather.  When the bell rang, he sighed and told himself, “Five classes down and only one more to go.”  He hurried outside to the gym for PE--Physical Education, his favorite class.

Then he slowed his steps.  “Oh, no!” he muttered, remembering he would have to face someone he disliked—Jake Johnson.  Jake was quick to laugh and poke fun at him when he missed a shot with the basketball.  What if Jake found out that everyone was mad at him today, or at least, ignoring him!  That would really give Jake a laugh.

With his head down, Aiden strolled slowly to PE class.  He dressed out and barely made it to the field in time for roll call.  As he was standing in line, someone behind him tapped him on the back and said, “Hey, Aiden, happy birthday!”




Aiden turned to see Jake Johnson.  “Thanks, Jake,” Aiden said, with a surprised smile.

“Hope you’re having a good day,” Jake said, giving Aiden a friendly poke.

“It’s okay,” Aiden said, trying to keep the disappointment out of his voice.

“Aiden,” Jake said softly, “sometimes I say things I’m sorry for later on.  Could we just forget the past?”

Jake was being nice to him, while Aiden's other friends were acting like strangers.  He knew they didn’t care much for Jake either, but maybe he should try to be friends with him.

“Sure,” Aiden said.  “Everything’s all right.”

It turned out that PE was Aiden’s only fun class that day. Jake and he played side by side on the same volleyball team.  When it was time to serve, Jake socked the ball with his fist so hard, it sailed over the net and landed just inside the back of the court.  No one on the opposite side was prepared for such a swift serve, and Jake’s team gained a point.

“Way to go, Jake!” Aiden cried.  “Great serve!”

In a show of victory, the two boys slapped high-fives.

When the last bell rang to go home, everyone seemed to be in a hurry to get back to the gym, but Aiden took his time getting there.  He thought about the entire day, and how badly things had turned out—all except for PE class.

As he opened the door to the gym, a chorus of familiar voices yelled, “Surprise! Hey, happy birthday, Aiden!”

“Wow!” Aiden cried, too startled to say anything else.  His friends crowded around him patting him on the back and grinning.  Jake stood among them, laughing and shouting good wishes along with the others.

Aiden grinned.  Today wasn’t his worst birthday.  Actually, it was a great day!  And best of all, he’d made a friend—Jake Johnson.

Aiden felt a warm glow of happiness as he stood surrounded by all his smiling friends.  Things couldn’t have turned out better!  And deep down inside, he knew he’d received some extra help to make this a special day.

“Thank You, God,” he whispered, as the guys continued to shout and pat him on the back.  “Thank You for everything You did to make my birthday perfect.”