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In light of Lent, let us contemplate perhaps the lowliest of substances, dust. Ash Wednesday was yesterday; it is a day on which we are reminded that we are all dust and that we will return to dust one day. But is that really so bad? I am reminded of a glorious poem by Carl Sandburg called “Grass.” In a similar vein (and with apologies), I present the following.

Stir up a commotion,
Watch me rise and fall.
I am dust; I persist.

And when the woman is caught in adultery
I will be Christ’s pregnant pause, his ledger.
And when blind men plead for a cure,
I will be made mud — and then, a miracle.
And when apostles shake me from their feet,
I will be a pronouncement against the inhospitable.
I can be swept, but never contained. I always return.
I am dust.
Let me settle.

When we enter Lent, we tear our hearts wide open and invite Christ inside.  Last night was Ash Wednesday.  Part of our annual service is tearing cloth as we contemplate how to celebrate this liturgical season.

Will we give something up?  It doesn’t have to be chocolate or coffee.  It could be harsh words, uncharitable thoughts or judgment.

Or will we add something to our Christian practice?  A friend plans to read scripture whenever someone gets under her skin.  I’m going to try to see the Child of God in those around me.  That spark of His Light.

So far so good but I’m working from home today.  So far I’ve encountered a total of two people.  And, in truth, I think this will be my day-long total.

Fingers crossed that tomorrow I can remember to take a deep breath and look closer for the spark of His Light and Love.


I did a very human thing today: I overslept. That is, I allowed myself to oversleep. As a freelance writer and editor, my days are very much mine. Still, I like to keep to a schedule, knowing that each day there are things to be done. This morning, however, I didn’t much care. Sleep felt good.

It got me thinking about what silly, frail things we humans are and why God made us this way. That thought, along with yesterday’s (Ash Wednesday) reminder that “Thou art dust, and into dust thou shall return,” brought the following poem into being.

Mostly hairless we emerge,
without camouflage, no defense for weather,
readily succumbing to the vagaries of air,
mold, wee beasties. The odds are stacked against us.
Frequently too moist or too parched, we wend our way
on just two legs — imagine! We give in to fatigue,
illness, our own primal fears.
We need love or we will turn out badly.

What divine fingers forged such clumsy forms!
And yet we take to the skies,
wonder readily,
solve the seemingly insoluble.
And for what? A prize? Prizes too are made of dust.
Whatever is eternal has left its mark on us.
Yes, we are clay, both ash and angel,
the ultimate cosmic conundrum.

All the possibilities dust ever faced —
to wreak and wreck and be swept away
or to transform:
We carry them in our pockets,
along with our insecurities, our moments of transcendence.
Will we face our Maker with dirty hands
or new wheat? It is madness to let dust decide.
And yet it does.


This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Most of us think about Lent as a period of self denial. Deprive yourself of something you love. Somehow mirror the sacrifice that Christ made for us all.

Just a few years ago, my friend Becky told me about a new Lenten practice started by her priest. He encourages his congregation to focus on developing a good habit instead.

Think about it.

What if everyone who gave up chocolate or coffee or pizza, did something good in the name of Christ? Times are hard and you probably don’t have the money it would take to make a daily donation but consider the possibilities.

Pray for someone.
Each day of Lent, pick someone you know who is going through difficult times. Pray for them. Whether or not you let them know is up to you but imagine how many days you would brighten with a quick e-mail. “Today, I am celebrating Lent and honoring Christ by praying for you. May God Bless you this day.”

Look someone in the eye, actually see them and speak to them.
That’s what Ruth did the other day when she had to have her car inspected. She could have driven off in a huff but she paid enough attention to the staffer to see his side of things and she acknowledged him. Really acknowledged him. Call a checker by name when you thank them for helping you. Use the waiter’s name when you hand him your credit card. Let someone who is often publicly invisible while doing their job know that you SEE them.

Pass on good news.
So often, the news we watch and read is bad. When someone says, “Did you hear about Jane?” you can be fairly certain that the scoop is not going to be positive. Instead of joining the negative throng, make a point of passing on one good news story every day. It can be something you read online or simply pointing out the good job that someone else has done.

Any one of these actions done on a daily basis throughout Lent would add up. No, you wouldn’t be breaking a bad habit and none of these things need be a great sacrifice.

But Christ told us to do good to the least among us. This often includes the sick, the overlooked, and those other people speak badly about. Do something good in His Name.

What better way to celebrate the sacrifice of Christ?



Have a Mary Little Christmas

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