Today we celebrate Ash Wednesday as the sign of the cross is marked on our foreheads. A sign that reminds each and every one of us of our own mortality; a sign that God is with us in the midst of life's joys and sorrows. God takes our brokenness and turns it into something beautiful. God is always always playing in the mud!
Last night a friend tweeted "As we are reminded that we shall return to dust, fill us with the promise that you never quit playing the the mud." Ever since I cannot get that image out of my head. I picture a child or anyone of us playing in the mud. When I worked at a Bible camp for many many summers, we had a mud pit. The youth always begged to play in that mud pit. Once they got in that mud pit, the girly girls no longer cared about their beauty. They simply had a blast playing in the mud.
I love the image of God playing in the mud with each of us...getting down and dirty and not caring about what anyone else thinks but Godself. God is in the business of continually offering us grace; of continually shaping each and everyone of us into the "fearfully and wonderfully made being" that God created each of us to be.
Today, all over the world, Christians will gather to remember that we are dust. Gray-haired men and women, infants, teenagers, individuals living with disabilities, etc...all of us will gather as the pastor, rostered leader or lay leader in the church takes their finger, dips it into the ashes, and carefully marks the sign of the cross on each person's forehead; a visual reminder that we are to "walk dusty";a visual reminder that connects us back to our Baptism where a simple cross was marked on our foreheads too.
Five years ago, as I was reflecting on Ash Wednesday following an Ash Wednesday service, I wrote the following poem. I hope that my words today bless you as you remember your own mortality and remember that God is not giving up on any one of us. God is always willing to play in the mud with us. In fact, God often will get the muddiest of us all as God walks this journey of life with each of us!
Ash Wednesday Poem
By Tara L. Ulrich
(Copyright Tara L. Ulrich)
My hands mark the sign of the cross
on the foreheads of those near and dear to me,
tears begin to trickle down my face
as I look into each of their eyes and say the words,
“Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust.”
And as the ashes trace
the sign of the cross on their foreheads,
I am reminded of the mortality of each of them,
Reminded that death does and will come
But also reminded of the love and mercy
Of the One who promises he will
Never leave us or forsake us.
Christ hung on the cross as he too
was faced with his own mortality;
Giving the ultimate sacrifice;
Dying on the cross for each of us;
Again reminding us that
God will never leave us or forsake us.
And so as we leave with the
signs of the cross traced on our foreheads,
We again are reminded of our mortality;
“Ashes to Ashes
Dust to Dust”
“From Dust you came,
To Dust you shall return.”
I am linking up with Holly Barrett and Testimony Tuesday; Kelly Balarie and the RaRa linkup, Jennifer Dukes Lee and Tell His Story, and Holley Gerth and Coffee for your Heart!