Throwback Lent: Ashes and Boomboxes

In 1995, the only technology we needed was an Indiglo watch!
In 1995, the only technology we needed was an Indiglo watch! Reidsville Middle School photo, 8th grade

For each Sunday in Lent, Fred and I are giving up all technology that was not invented and/or available in 1995. This means no iPhones, no email, no Internet, no social media, no texting, no iTunes. We’re traveling with Jesus old school style, and you can read more about the rules here.

Our first “Doing Church Like It’s 1995” Lenten Sunday was bliss. Hours nearly stood still as we traveled back in time two decades, tossing our iPhones and wireless connection. We woke up at 5:30 a.m., as per usual, but I read a book instead of checking my email. As I finished devotionals and the book, 24-6, Fred delved through complex organizational development articles for grad school. I read and wrote, and read some more, and was shocked when the clock only read 8:00 a.m.

I got ready for church in record time, and we were actually punctual for worship for the first time in weeks, a feat I never accomplish without Fred’s stern “we’re gonna be late” look.

Our Baptist Church, Binkley, celebrated “Ash Sunday,” a new holy day on the liturgical calendar, courtesy of last week’s bout with winter weather. I was honored to be asked to read scripture and impose ashes on this sacred day, the one in which death feels close, and the wilderness journey awaits us.

After church, Fred and I took my mother lunch, where the heaviness of ashes was replaced with baked potatoes and salads, sacred time at the table with our precious aging parent.

Time moved slowly and deliberately, which makes community and connection all the more sweet.

“You are God’s beloved dust, and to beloved dust you shall return.” —Ecclesiastes 3:20, paraphrased

Even our pre-sabbath Saturday night preparations had been intentional. We found ourselves bustling about like busy bees preparing the hive: grocery shopping, errand-running, laundry washing. Exhausted, we fell into bed at 9:00 p.m. a full day of work behind us, the sabbath before us.

The only snafu we had on Sunday was directional. We had a dear friend over Sunday evening for a long dinner and conversation—the glorious kind you read about in European literature—and I realized I hadn’t sent her a refresher on our apartment building number. Apartment complex configurations are always confusing—even for those who reside in their midst.

“I’ll call her!” I reported to Fred, and left our friend a voicemail with directions, 1995-style. When she arrived, we had a boombox tuned to 89.7, our local classical station.

“I don’t even think I own a boombox,” she said.

Peek-a-boo! The 90s called ... they want their boom box back!
Peek-a-boo! The 90s called … they want their boombox back!

“Ash Sunday” at Binkley, meals shared with my mother and our friend, were punctuated with a long call to Fred’s mother. No emails, no texts, no dings, no tweets, no whistles beckoning us to our phones. It was just people, voices, conversations, eating, reading, and ashes.

I fully expected to catch Fred checking his work email, something IT professionals don’t and can’t ignore. I even hoped he would, so that I’d have something to hold over his head when he gets showoff-y in his monastic discipline. I was out of luck, because he was right by my side the entire 24 hours, attentive and in solidarity, sharing in this Christian season of re-aligning ourselves with Jesus, just as I’d journeyed with him for so many Hindu seasons.

“You are God’s beloved dust, and to beloved dust you shall return.”

Fred and I didn’t kill each other last Sunday. Sure, we exchanged terse words over cooking, but that is always the norm in our house, as Fred is the master chef, and I’m the one who burns water.

I’m already yearning for this coming Sunday. Like snow days and Christmas in the South, it seems to be the only time any of us actually stop.

It was life in slow lane, the kind of day when you can actually see the frames of your story as they unfold.

I have a feeling Jesus is going to teach me a lot in this Lenten desert.

“You are God’s beloved dust, and to beloved dust you shall return.”

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