Faith, God, Living with Intention

Lent: An Out-Loud Faith

S Shock Shadow cross

+Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

I remember closing my eyes as a girl, and feeling the ashes scrape across my forehead. As I attended mass with classmates during my school day, we’d all be christened with a black cross of ashes on our foreheads. It made me stand out, at least in my own mind. That dark smudge set me apart, along with my parochial school classmates.

Gold cross

Funny how, as a girl, I never saw it as anything more than ritual. Even today, I catch myself thinking that people are wearing their faith on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday. But does it mean anything to them, really? Does it mean anything more than, “I went to church, and you can see it right here.”

As I was reading a post about the ashes, I was utterly convicted.

“People of the cross.” Ann Voskamp calls those who follow after Jesus.

Those who wear the ashes on the Wednesday that ushers in Lent . . . they are wearing their faith out loud.

Cross in the window

I tend to want to wear my faith a little more invisibly. I don’t want to stand out. Ashes on the forehead definitely make people glance longer at the wearer.

But as Christians, shouldn’t we stand out? Shouldn’t our lives reflect Jesus’ presence through our words, our actions?

Cross doors

Living an invisible faith can keep people from taking that second glance, but does it also make me blend in so much with the world that those around me can’t see Jesus?

Does every person who wears the ashes have that fervent relationship with Jesus? Probably not. But that’s not between me and them. It’s between them and Jesus.

Just like my desire to be inconspicuous is between Jesus and me.

Retreat Cross 2 copy

He knows my heart. He knows where I’m at faith-wise. And an invisible faith doesn’t speak of His love to the world around me.

I don’t need to wear an outward representation of my faith—a cross around my neck, or on my forehead. But if I am a person of the cross, this should be obvious in my words, my actions, and especially my attitudes.

I can live “the right way” in the eyes of people around me. But Jesus knows what’s in my heart. He knows the sinful attitudes that sometimes reside there.

White steeple

I want my faith to be authentic. Something that people see in my countenance, in my attitudes, words, actions.

As we move into the Lenten season, perhaps we can all examine our hearts and see what God is encouraging us to turn away from, encouraging us to give up to Him.


As a person of the cross, I want to love Him well, and to love others like He does. I can’t do this in and of myself.

May the cross we each wear reflect Jesus’ love to the world around us, and His vibrant presence within us.

What about you? How do you reflect Jesus to the world around you? How do you honor Lent?

Today I’m linking up with Holly Barrett and A Purposeful Faith blog (#RaRaLinkup).

28 thoughts on “Lent: An Out-Loud Faith”

    1. I love that mindset, Andrew. Now your Crucifix is worn/displayed in the form of the words of life and truth you offer others. You made me smile when I read your comment. 🙂


  1. Jeanne, I love this post. You’re talking about lent in a very different way than most people seem to, and I’m so appreciative. Wonderful things to be reflecting on today as I head into work among co-workers who don’t believe, but know I do. Thank you! Blessings!


  2. I love the idea that the ashen cross displays an outward representation of who we are. I didn’t grow up in a denomination that practiced that tradition, but your explanation here gives me a new appreciation for it, and also a renewed perspective on living an out-loud faith! Yes, I want people to sense something different about me. I want to show my love for Christ and others in my actions every day:) Lovely post!


  3. I grew up in a Catholic church too and found the receiving of ashes to be something that we were expected to do each year as well as giving something up for Lent. There was little meaning attached to this ritual and less understanding. Since then I have learned many things, but one is that God doesn’t call us to rituals. He calls us to Him. How are we drawing closer to Him in the things we are giving up or in the way we live our faith? I am still learning (and always will be) that God is calling us into a relationship with Him and living our faith means deepening that connection as well as sharing God with others. Great words to ponder today, Jeanne!


    1. I see we had similar mindsets about the ashes and giving things up. Giving things up as a girl was a sheer act of the will. I did it because it was expected, not as an act of worship.

      I love your thoughts about how God calls us closer to Him in the choices we make to give something up, and in the ways we live our lives. May we both be intentional about living our lives in a way that deepens our connection with Jesus.


  4. Jeanne, I’m like you … I’ve never really participated in Lent … grew up in a Southern Baptist church. I’ve participated in “giving something up” when friends have offered a challenge. But … I need to take a closer look … discover this more with my family …. It’s been on my heart a while now … thank you for that reminder. xoxo


    1. I need to study it more, and see how we can help our boys understand the gifts Lent can offer. May this be a season where we keep our minds set on Jesus as we prepare to celebrate His death and resurrection. 🙂


  5. Such a thought provoking post, Jeanne. Thank you for these words, especially: “As we move into the Lenten season, perhaps we can all examine our hearts and see what God is encouraging us to turn away from, encouraging us to give up to Him.” Definitely food for thought. I’ve started by giving up going on my phone (blogs, Facebook etc) in the evenings when I’m sitting on the couch with my husband: putting my phone away upstairs helps! Something he said tore at my heart and I was convicted of not showing him the Love of God because I was “too busy” sharing it elsewhere only. I’m also considering dropping my link-ups per week to just one to alleviate the stress I feel and allow me to be more present for my kids.

    I also wanted to let you know that it is perfectly okay not to visit my blog when I comment here. You have SO many commenting and if you do this for everyone then I can imagine it could easily become overwhelming. I’m already so blessed just by reading what you write each week. So you have my “permission” (lol…I know that can help at times!) to give that one thing up!


    1. Anna, you are always such an encouragement. It’s funny, and a little sad how technology has wormed its way into our affections. I have to be purposeful about setting my phone aside when I’m with my husband and the boys too. Screens lure us to them, don’t they? Good for you about setting your phone upstairs where it’s out of the way. Good for you for seeing what your husband needs and offering him the gift of your time and attention. You inspire me, friend.


  6. This is certainly a turn-around in the way I think of those ashes. Looking on the good side, it’s a way to wear faith out-loud. My church does not have an Ash Wednesday service, but I like the idea of looking for ways to live our faith out loud. With a smile, a helping hand, a good attitude even when others are unkind or hard to deal with.


    1. I like your suggestions of how we can live our faith out loud, Betsy. Sometimes it’s those small gestures of kindness that open doors for us to share about the Lord, right? 🙂


  7. Such a balance, right? I don’t do Ash Wednesday (never had time between work and kids – maybe one day…) but have started observing Lent in the recent years. I’ll share if asked, but usually keep the practices to myself. Kinda like my faith – I share if asked, but wait for a safe moment. Mostly for others – if Christianity isn’t “safe” for them, I want to earn their trust first…


    1. I completely understand keeping your practices for Lent to yourself. 🙂 I so appreciate your sensitivity to others in waiting for the safe moments to share about your faith in Jesus. I think sometimes, when we live our faith, and don’t just talk about it, we make people thirsty to know what we’ve got that makes us different. We’re salt for them, in the best of ways.


  8. I’d never heard of Lent until I noticed a student had a smudge on her forehead and I quietly told her that she needed to go check in the mirror and clean her face a little. I’m not sure who was more embarassed when she said, “Teacher, it’s ash!” and I said, “Don’t you want to clean it off?” She tried explaining in her broken English that the priest had put it there. I still don’t ‘do’ anything for Lent, but I certainly feel called to live my faith out loud (by my actions and my kind words–I don’t stand on a soapbox and preach ;)).


    1. Thanks for sharing your introduction to the meaning of Ash Wednesday, Anita. 🙂 I think all believers are called to live our faith out loud the way you described. Oh, that we may consistently do this. 🙂 I hope your Thursday will be a good one, Anita!


  9. Life long tradition. From ash we come to ash we shall return. Well maybe not quite, LOL. Jesus love shining through us will draw in the unbeliever. Watch for divine appointments and be ready. An out loud faith shouts joy! Feel it?


    1. I agree, Mom. When Jesus’ love shines through us, others will be drawn to us because of what they see in us. And yes, let’s have our eyes open so we can spot the moments God us to share Him with those who haven’t yet met Him.


  10. Acknowledging Ash Wednesday and celebrating Lent are new things for me. But I am seeing how living in the light of the cross is meant to be a daily practice. Never mind our foreheads, our hearts are already and always smudged with sin, and yet Jesus chose to embrace dust with us so that we could sense grace and dance with the Divine. That’s worth celebrating any time of year. Thank you for the food for thought you provide here, Jeanne.


    1. Joy, I whole-heartedly agree with you. Living in the light of the cross should be an everyday thing. And what you said about the smudge of sin on each of our hearts . . . when I stop to think about the gift Jesus gave us when He came to earth, I’m left in speechless awe. Thanks so much for adding your words to this conversation!


  11. A lot to think about here Jeanne. I was raised Catholic but paid little attention to Lent. My friends and I would rub ashes from our cigarettes on our foreheads so our parents would think we went to church. People often display symbols with no commitment to what they symbolize. Makes me wonder what symbols I project today, do they reflect Christ or just what I want people to see.


    1. Oh, Gene. I can imagine you were a handful for your parents at times. 🙂 I’ve been praying that God would show me if there are symbols in my life that project what I want people to see rather than the real me. It’s a good question to ask ourselves . . . and to ask God to reveal to us.

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  12. Presbyterian and Reformed Baptist here — and I love the symbolism of the ashes on our foreheads. Both my churches have had a voluntary service that about a third of the congregation attends. But that’s okay — in fact, isn’t that better than requiring it? And these 40 days — so symbolic…
    An interesting thing that I discovered purely by accident — people who don’t know me — checkout people, tellers, etc. treat me differently depending on if I’m wearing my cross necklace. Yes. The cross is offensive to many people. He told us it would be.


    1. You’re so right. It shouldn’t be mandatory to wear ashes. When a person has the choice, it means more to them, and it may even make people stop and wonder. I find it very interesting that people treat you differently because you wear a cross. When we make a choice to live our faith out loud, not everyone is going to approve. And that’s okay. Thanks so much for adding to the conversation!


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