Whoever decided that Ash Wednesday would occur around this time of the year, they were brilliant.

You see, I went hiking yesterday and the weather was warm for February (for a North Carolina February, at least) and the sun was out—shining like shattered glass on the river below. Even so, the woods felt empty without their shroud of greenery. Things felt open. Vulnerable. There was a stillness in the air, as if the gray-crunched leaves were holding their breath for the wind to come and shake things up. Still, like the bones in Ezekiel 37.

I admit that I was thinking about this blog, but the world felt ready for Lent. The empty forest felt ready and prayerful; fasting from the flashy self-indulgence of Autumn yet yearning for Spring and resurrection and Easter… In the meantime, there’s nothing like winter to make us think about our dependence on God.

From dust we came and to dust we will return.

This sense of mortality burst into clarity when I stumbled upon the ruins of an old stone building. There, upon a ridge, sat the tumbled remains of  that used to be somebody’s home. There were mud-speckled pillars that used to be walls. An open space which used to be someone’s floor.

Used to be. Past tense.

I couldn’t even find a plaque to tell me anything about the person or people or partners who used to live there. The only thing still in tact was the fireplace and the hearth.

Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.

It’s funny how time and mortality and humbleness tend to even things out.

…And when I think about it, (when I think about the smudgy crosses that so many will be wearing on their foreheads today) there are no divisions or sharp lines in ashes. Just the cross—where the ground is even.

Maywe turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.

Almighty God, giver of life, help us (help your church) to remember that we are dust and to dust we will return, but let us not forget that you will one day return and call ALL dust back to you—to be reclaimed and reformed in Your Image. From this season of Lent and repentance, may we grow into hope for new life in you. Amen.

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