there wasn't much talk of ashes in childhood. i remember feeling really big when i could scrape the ash into the bucket from my grandparents wood-burning heater, which heats the entire house. that's about all i knew of ashes, certainly not of any religious use of ashes or deep meaning attributed to wearing them. ash wednesday has become a very significant pause in the liturgical year. as i assisted in planning and then helped lead the service at my church, i was given the opportunity i love: to create meaningful spaces in worship. as i held my vessel, created during worship as a reflection, and watched the procession to receive their ashes, i honored those i presented with ashes last year, but who are not living this ash wednesday. i mark my grief for these special people now at peace. while a chaplain in 2008 working at an assisted living - nursing care - specialized dementia care facility, i walked the building an presented ashes after our service totaling around 300 folks (residents, staff, and family & visitors). so many people to mark & remind that we are dust and to dust we shall return. a holy moment. a treasured moment. and as barbara said in her sermon last night, lent is a time to give meaning to God and to create meaning in our daily moments -- in new ways. we already create and attribute meaning in our lives (we hope). during lent, beginning ash wednesday, we seek to structure some new addition to our existing spirituality or new form of devotion into our days so that we create a new way of being. some choose to give up certain foods--sweets, carbonation, meat, caffeine. whether you take on a new habit, give up an old habit, or a combination of both, may lent be a reflective time - a time of preparation - a time to pause.
my first year of seminary, lo those eight years ago, was marked on ash wednesday by a gift from a good friend & professor. i don't remember the reason for the gift, but i remember the moment. i remember the mark of that gift.
tonight our bereavement group gathers to reflect on the too real thought of ashes. tears, laughter, and a moment marked that forever changes one's life.
remember that you are a gift, dear reader. take a deep breath. mark each moment, some through goodness and sharing and a pause.