Before Ash Wednesday rings in at midnight tonight, Mardi Gras in New Orleans culminates with a blowout celebration.
French for Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras originally referred to the practice of one last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual 40-day fasting of the Lenten season.
Our culture has turned Mardi Gras into week-long festivals. From parades and balls to masks and elaborate costumes, it's the cue for many to overindulge in all sorts of ways.
At 11:59 p.m. on Fat Tuesday, the streets of New Orleans sit ankle deep in discarded masks, broken beads, trampled doubloons, and used food and drink containers.
Fat Tuesday creates a lot of trash.
As we enter our churches tomorrow to begin the 40-days of Lent, we drag our trash in with us. You know, the junk in our lives that we've accumulated and hung onto since last year's Lent.
Yet God lovingly invites us.
We are aware of our junk, so we approach Him with eyes downcast -- stumbling on the trash that chokes our freedom. And He welcomes us. He invites us to discard our masks and elaborate disguises that conceal feelings, hide behaviors, and keep Him at arms length.
God sees us drowning -- so He picks us out of the pile, cleanses us, and sets us on a new path.
"Who can compare with God, our God, so majestically enthroned, surveying His magnificent heavens and earth? He picks up the poor from out of the dirt, rescues the wretched who've been thrown out with the trash, and seats them among the honored guests, a place of honor among the brightest and best." Psalm 113:5-8 (MSG)
God invites us to leave the used food and drink containers at the altar in exchange for His bread of life. His communion of forgiveness.
To heal our hearts. And redeem us from our sin.
As I prepare to walk into church tomorrow night for our Ash Wednesday service, I'm painfully aware of the rotting trash curling around my feet. The rancid yards of it trailing behind me. The putrid bags of it I carry in my heart.
Self-centeredness. Entitlement. Pride.
I'm so thankful for a loving God who still welcomes. Still invites. Endlessly loves. Continues to initiate that relationship with me that means everything.
He excels at redeeming us from our trash.
What are you doing to prepare for this Lenten season?.
*This is a blog archive re-post from 2012*