Blessing the Dust

Blessing the Dust
For Ash Wednesday

All those days
you felt like dust,
like dirt,
as if all you had to do
was turn your face
toward the wind
and be scattered
to the four corners
or swept away
by the smallest breath
as insubstantial—

did you not know
what the Holy One
can do with dust?

This is the day
we freely say
we are scorched.

This is the hour
we are marked
by what has made it
through the burning.

This is the moment
we ask for the blessing
that lives within
the ancient ashes,
that makes its home
inside the soil of
this sacred earth.

So let us be marked
not for sorrow.
And let us be marked
not for shame.
Let us be marked
not for false humility
or for thinking
we are less
than we are

but for claiming
what God can do
within the dust,
within the dirt,
within the stuff
of which the world
is made
and the stars that blaze
in our bones
and the galaxies that spiral
inside the smudge
we bear.


—Jan Richardson
“Blessing the Dust” appears in Circle of Grace: A Book of Blessings for the Seasons.

to be aware

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What nine months does for the embryo
Forty early mornings
Will do for your growing awareness
~ Jelaluddin Rumi

 

 

 

Contemplative Monk

Lent’s crooked path

winding-road-391287_1280“There are as many ways to pray as there are moments in life. Sometimes we seek out a quiet spot and want to be alone, sometimes we look for a friend and want to be together… Sometimes we want to say it with words, sometimes with a deep silence.

In all these moments, we gradually make our lives more of a prayer and we open our hands to be led by God even to places we would rather not go.” Henri Nouwen


The church calendar waits for no one. As I write this reflection, people have received bulletins and read newsletters announcing pancake suppers, new study series’ and additional holy services in preparation for the season of Lent. For years we have collected a variety of ways to journey through Lent — depending on your age, depending on the year, depending on your energy/time and most definitely depending on the current buoyancy of your faith. We give up, we take on — we pray in the early light or late at night.

Beginning with all good intentions it may not be long before a daily spiritual routine can be scrambled and frustrations rise. If a practice is not exercised as it was designed is it cancelled? Is a whole plan discarded because of missing a couple of days? There are wise voices both past and present offering encouragement with reminders that the most important part of a spiritual practice is the journey itself.

Our Sunday scripture readings during Lent speak directly to this journey. With readings from the first five books of the Old Testament will hear sacred storied about the blessing and tension between God and God’s people. Covenants will be made by God with Noah, Abraham and Moses. Covenants that will bind these relationships and bring the promise of protection, the growth of nations and God’s guidance as  the Hebrew people are led to a land of freedom. A land to call home. These stories will be filled with good news and fiery discourse (not uncommon when a covenant is made with God). In the New Testament the Gospel readings will tell of relationships formed and challenged. We will hear of Jesus baptism, public ministry and important conversation with his disciples. He nurtures these relationships and preaches the good news with a sense of urgency. There is little patience for misguided allegiance. He expresses frustration-tipping-to-anger as he sees corruption and injustice. These readings describe the work required to be in relationship with God. What better time than Lent to read about our faithful ancestors as they lived into their own commitment to God and God to them.

It is a good thing to consider during Lent. The sacrifices we make or practices we take on are ultimately intended to bind us closer to God and God to us. I began this reflection with a quote on prayer from Henri Nouwen. It simply describes the diversity of spiritual practices. His words are a welcome reminder. He makes no promise of an easier journey yet he offers little concern of failing a Lenten resolution.

Each one of these 40 days presents opportunities to learn and grow. The course taken is neither smooth nor straight. That is the way to Jerusalem. From deep within our faith story we know this road. May we meet its crooked path with curiosity and gratitude.

[edited from article written for the Center for Spiritual Resources Lenten Newsletter]

Lao Tzu

A Lenten Practice