Believe it or not some people like tests. These would be the people who are competitive, or people who are good at what they will be tested. If I know that I am going to do well at my race, my math test, my dance solo, or debate, I am all in. Bring it! However, when I am tested unexpectedly, or I do not know the material, my demeanor changes to worry, fear and maybe even stubbornness. Children test their parents all the time; it is healthy for kids to test boundaries, to strengthen ego, and grow healthy self-determination. Parents, on the other hand can become frustrated or even weary of such tests, understandably, some might get angry and, believe it or not, others encourage their children to test boundaries.

God is described as parent many times throughout the scriptures; God the father, the mother bear, a hen protecting her chicks. The strongest metaphor is God the Father, both disciplinarian, and the loving parent, the one who encourages, and the one who teaches, specifically through testing. It seems that God's favorite tests come in increments of forty. The forty day flood, or even harder the forty year trek to find the promised land, or how about the forty day fast, of Moses, when he and God camped out on the mountain before he was handed the ten commandments. Jesus was sent to the wilderness to be tempted by the devil for forty days, plus no eating or drinking. The number forty shows up many times throughout the scriptures and has a unique sacred feeling to it. Often times the testing that happened through the number forty, whether it be forty days or forty years, led a person, or a nation to understand life anew. In fact it is very reminiscent of the theme of life, death and resurrection.

Next Wednesday, March 1, is known as Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of the 40 days of Lent. For forty days Christians around the world prepare their hearts, confess sins, and begin a journey with Jesus to the cross. The season is filled with stories that lead up to the time when Jesus had gathered his disciples teaching them the new way to live. He taught them how to love people, how to heal, and how to be a neighbor. Eventually, the Pharisees and the government saw Jesus as a threat and had him executed. We know the rest of the story includes Easter morning, and the resurrection of new life, which includes the promises for all people that God will never leave them.

My hope for all of us, is that we take these forty days and reflect on our lives, and find ways to be better humans. Find ways to forgive others. Find ways to treat your body with food that heal. Find ways to be more grateful for the blessings that seem so trivial and the ones that are larger than life. Find ways to love more fully, random acts of kindness. Perhaps you will give something up for lent that becomes a habit of living a fuller life. Maybe you will give up TV, or sugar, or alcohol, perhaps you will write a letter of thanks each day. But only when we see these things as an act of prayer will it mean anything. Choose to look at these forty days as a time to develop a spiritual practice that will strengthen your relationship with our Creator. By the end of the forty days of Lent and the empty tomb, my hope is that you have a sense of how much God loves you!

Wednesday morning, Pastor Patrick Propst, from Faith Community Church, and I will be offering "Ashes to Go," at Panera Bread in Noblesville, from 6:30 a.m.-9:00a.m. Come, receive a blessing, and a prayer, and be reminded that from dust you came and dust you will return. It will be a sacred way to start your forty-day journey to the cross. If you cannot make it to Panera, many area churches will be having Ash Wednesday services. Faith Community's Service is at 7:00 and Roots of Life has a Prayer vigil from 5:00 p.m.-8:00 with short service at 7:30.

Noblesville's Teri Ditslear is a pastor whose column appears Saturdays in The Times. Contact her at, on Facebook or at