Remembering the Dust

by | Feb 22, 2012 | Uncategorized

{Lenten rose in Shelly’s backyard}

Phone is on mute and pushed into my faded jeans pocket.  Blue leopard heels click on the brick floor down the center aisle. I slide into the end of the shiny wooden pew, smile at the unfamiliar woman with fuchsia lipstick and bleached bob seated next to me.  She leans over, whispers that she likes my shoes. I think about how loud they echo over the silence.

We share a kneeler to recite the Litany of Penitence

Words bounce off vaulted ceilings, organ pipes, chandeliers . . . Most holy and merciful Father. Suddenly she hangs her head, sighs exasperated next to me. Without a prayer book, she feels lost and exposed. I lean over, share mine. She clutches the other side of the book and we continue . . . we have sinned by our own fault, in thought, word and deed; by what we have done and by what we have left undone.

Strangers holding words to strip the soul naked in order to be clothed with Him. 

Shoulder to shoulder, we read Psalm 51, admit our sin, declare the faithfulness of God, ask for absolution and I am stuck on verse seven like a skipping record.

For behold, you look for truth deep within me, and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

Is this an illustration of repentance? Like a secret door in the hidden garden of the soul that leads to new perspective.

Because repentance, it is an invitation to change my mind, in order to change direction. To move away from nostalgia toward the city called truth.

Confession takes me to this place, where heads hang low, hearts crack open, eyes see new, and the mind unfolds accordian. We go together, the stranger and me on the same journey.

Confess unfaithfulness, pride and hypocrisy.

Impatience, self-indulgent appetites and ways.

Exploitation of other people, anger at my own frustration and envy of others more fortunate than myself.

Intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts.

Dishonesty in daily life and work.

Negligence in prayer and worship, failure to commend the faith that is in me, blindness to human need and suffering.

Indifference to injustice and cruelty, false judgment, uncharitable thoughts toward my neighbors.

Prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from me.

Waste and pollution of creation and lack of concern for those who come after me.

As I say the ugly words out loud, I wonder if this list fits me. Do I really do all these things? Maybe, just a few of them. Perhaps the lady sitting next to me, she can relate to all of them.

But as I read them again, the words become mirror and this is the doorway to Lent.  I’m not fully prepared for the journey and even if I had a suitcase full of the just-in-case, I still wouldn’t have a toothbrush. I’ll board the bus anyway.

So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life. (Galatians 3:11)

Suddenly, giving up a brownie after lunch for forty days seems trivial. I could give them up forever in exchange for the blood that sets me free.

I stand in line, take my turn shuffling knees onto the crimson cushion at the altar rail, think about how much He loves me, and loves you. The white robed priest, he leans over , smudges ash across my forehead with his finger while admonishing, Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

I look at the sooty smudge on the lady wearing fuchsia lipstick and smile. It looks beautiful on her.

It feels good to put things in their proper place and get heavenly perspective.

Have you ever attended at Ash Wednesday service?  Do you plan to celebrate Lent?


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  1. tara // pohlkotte press

    i love that we all share this journey…strangers, neighbors, friends. For we are all lost, with the hope of being found. all pursued. all promised. Lent put in beautiful words…glad to call you a friend.

    • Lisa

      I second what you said Tara! Thanks for the beautiful words so eloquently put together, Shelly!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Tara, I had an inspiring conversation with some family and friends this morning that echo your sentiments. No matter where we worship, He is with us, broken vessels hungry for love and forgiveness. So glad we found each other, it makes me smile to connect with you through our words.

  2. Nikki

    Heavenly perspective. Yes. that’s what I’m striving for.
    Beautiful. Thanks for speaking to my heart today, Shelly!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Me too Nikki! So glad we are finding it together.

  3. Ms. Kathleen

    What a beautiful post – 🙂 and yes I will celebrate Lent but this year I am not “giving up” I am going to do things – I guess that is still giving up the selfish me but I like the idea of doing. Be blest!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Last year, I added the discipline of encouraging words. Telling people the things I think about them in cards, emails, in person. It was a great experience for me and the recipients.

  4. Nancy

    I grew up in a tradition that didn’t observe the liturgical calendar, so for years I’ve sort of been feeling my way through Lent. I’ve given things up in the past. This year, the season seems to have snuck up on me. I didn’t realize until yesterday that it was Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras/whatever. So here I am in the Lenten season. I’ve decided to set aside my regular devotional reading and downloaded one to which some of my friends contributed.

    That prayer of confession, though. Man. I’m all over that.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Nancy, I am a spiritual mutt actually. Grew up Catholic, then Baptist, Church of God, Assemblies of God, Non-denominational and now Anglican. I can relate to almost anyone! Didn’t really start celebrating Lent until I found Anglicanism about 15 years ago. The litany of penitence breaks one open, that is for sure.

  5. Messy Marriage

    You’ve painted the beauty of a soul exposed and washed clean by Christ. Lovely post and important thoughts for all of us to live by, Shelly!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thank you. Love those words . . soul exposed and washed clean by Christ. Appreciate your taking the time to comment.

  6. charinabrooks

    Beatiful Shelley. Yes, we will have our Ash Wednesday Service at church tonight and our family will be going. For this Lent, I am going to give up rice, one staple in the Philippines that I just had to have. This will also be the first time that I am going to give up on something for Lent. Blessings!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      That sounds like a big thing for you to give up Charina. Whenever I am tempted to eat something I have given up, I think of what Christ did for me on the cross and that bite just seems trivial. We observe fasting during the week, except for Sunday. How about you?

      • charinabrooks

        Hi Shelley. Yes fasting during the week except for Sunday. Thank you 🙂

  7. toshowthemjesus

    I’m from a tradition that never celebrated Lent. But I like to take these days leading up to Easter looking deep into the inner crevices of my heart and admitting what’s really there. Then I bring it to the cross and marvel at the love that took all those sins upon Himself. This is a beautiful post reminding me of just how much we need Jesus. Thanks so much!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Well, I think that taking a heart inventory is the most important part of Lent and a great discipline. Thanks for leaving your thoughts here, they inspire.

  8. Denise

    Such a lovely post.

  9. kd sullivan

    I have been to service almost every Ash Wednesday, but since my Protestant background doesn’t celebrate Lent, I have never been to an Ash Wednesday service. Last year, I looked for one to attend in my neighborhood, but there were none in close proximity…I love your journey, and I recognize myself in it…Would you consider guest posting over at J to E for Painting Prose? I need something for March 7th…Let me know if you can!

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I grew up Catholic in my early years then Protestant in the middle years, now Anglican. I always say I am a spiritual mutt and can relate to almost any religious background! I would be honored to guest post at your place. Thanks for asking. You can email me at to let me know if you have something in mind.

  10. Trish @ A House Upon The Rock

    Beautiful post. Oh…the words..convict, encourage at the same time…
    So wonderful to have you join us as we Seek Him this season. Looking forward to reading more.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Trish, I am so glad I found you through a blogging friend. Happy to walk this journey through Lent with you.

  11. Jennifer@GDWJ

    Beautiful, Shelly.

    And I’m just so struck by how the Lord revealed truths to us using some of the same imagery and words. That, I think, is one of the beautiful things about liturgy — that we can be separated by miles and by oceans and by time zones (even by generations!) — but we are bound by words and hearts.

    And there’s something about you and that stranger, clutching the same book. That’s a powerful image, friend.

    What a fantastic piece.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Thank you Jennifer. I agree with your thoughts about the liturgy, it crosses all boundaries and borders and continues to speak to people through the ages. I was struck also by the commonality of our posts. God is good.

  12. amy

    wonderful post. i’m blogging to on house upon the rock and am just so blessed by reading others. i love your line (or rather it is convicting..).. Suddenly, giving up a brownie after lunch for forty days seems trivial. I could give them up forever in exchange for the blood that sets me free.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Amy, its nice to be blogging along with you at House Upon the Rock for Lent. So glad you stopped by.

  13. roseann elliott

    Confession takes me to this place, where heads hang low, hearts crack open, eyes see new, and the mind unfolds accordian. We go together, the stranger and me on the same journey. Oh I love this and know this in my life right now…blessings to you…

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I grew up Catholic, where confession was in a small wooden box where I couldn’t see the person behind the voice. Now, I confess standing next to the saints and there is freedom in that.

  14. george

    i like your blog very much! 🙂 thanks for sharing 🙂

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