kindom musings

Thoughts and musings from a pastor in the peace tradition. Perspectives come from a progressive, justice-minded, feminist position. Responses are welcome.

Location: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, United States

I am a Church of the Brethren pastor in my thirties. While I love what I do, I started out with plans to be a veterinarian. God has a great sense of humor, and I wound up in ministry instead. However, my sojourn into veterinary science did make me a vegetarian with a love of animals. (We have two cats and a dog at home -- only a small petting zoo!) My husband is also ordained, and we have a son (LB) and a daughter (KB). My husband keeps me up to date on baseball trivia, and my children keep me giggling. All in all, it makes for a well-rounded life. I was born in Pennsylvania, moved several times for school and work, and have recently returned to my home state. On the Myers-Briggs scale, I'm an INFP.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Ash Wednesday

I've had a lot on my mind, lately. There have been significant happenings in my life and to those with whom I am close. Few of those things feel appropriate to post on a blog. And so I have largely kept them to myself, or at least kept them from an unknown audience.

However, today gives me pause to reflect. At the beginning of Lent, I'm drawn once again into this strange season I both despise and need. I long to settle into a deeply spiritual examination of self in these next six weeks, to not cheat and simply mark time until Easter. Another part of me resists taking on additional disciplines or making additional sacrifices in this season. For my Anabaptist leanings, it feels strange that I long for ashes on this day, not to say that I am worthless, but as a reminder that faith in Jesus lifts me when I feel like what is leftover after a brightly burning flame.

I have cried too many tears in the last few weeks, for broken relationships, for a friend's grief, for awareness of my own limitations. The other day, I ran across one of Jan Richardson's writings in In Wisdom's Path. I had the opportunity to be with her at a women's retreat several years ago and am moved by her words and artistic images. In this writing, she spoke of a tear jar and referred to tears as the "sweating of the soul." That image feels particularly powerful today.

We don't have an Ash Wednesday service here at the church, and I doubt I'll be able to slip into another service. In lieu of that ritual, I offer these thoughts.

Stopping at the grocery store today for a few last-minute items,
I saw a woman and child, each with a gray ash cross on her forehead.
My hand unconsciously went to my own forehead before I realized that it was bare.
To their eyes and to the world around, my faith is not openly worn today.
No vestments, not even a cross necklace symbolize the religious leanings,
far less that I am an ordained minister, serving as a religious leader.
To the outside world, no one would even know that I am aware of this day after Mardi Gras.

But tears have been my companion, inward and occasionally external signs that there is more below the surface than what might be easily visible.
I weep for relationships that are less than I dream they could be.
I weep for friends whose struggles seem unbearable, and I am too far away from them to hold them with anything more than prayers, words, and tears.
I weep for a world with too much violence, too little compassion.
I weep for my own too frequent complacency.

In my mind, I envision these tears mixing with ashes to form a tangible paste,
And in my imaginings I envision God hold this paste, adding additional tears and a fierce love,
Then using it to bind together the pieces that feel hollow or broken.
Draw me near to you, God of creation and re-creation.
Continue to breathe life into me, into all of your sons and daughters.
In the name of Christ who walked and walks among us,
Stirring up dust and lighting fires of faith from abandoned ashes.