Where did I put the ashes? (An Ash Wednesday Prayer for Pastors)

It’s the opposite of Christmas.
I wake up with a feeling of dread.
Where did I put the ashes?
How will I coordinate bread and cup and bowl?
Oh, no, is that the cat throwing up?

Meanwhile, the child prepares for school,
and I flash back to older children,
standing with their backpacks on,
that time we tried an early morning service
and no one else came.

Foreheads marked with smudges,
up and down, and left to right,
they disappeared into their schools,
carrying something of us and You
into a place where few understood.

Not that we understood completely,
how the ashes of last year’s palms,
palms we burned ourselves in the fireplace,
become extraordinary, ineffable,
by mixing with oil.

I’m terrible at the mechanics of it,
but I love the idea that we mark
the season and move with Jesus
toward that week in Jerusalem,
reading and praying his story.

I love the idea, but I worry about
the proportion of ash to oil,
how the people will move from
bread and cup to bowl,
or bowl to bread and cup.

AshesMeanwhile, outside my head,
a biome project is planned,
and someone is texting me,
and it’s time to get out of bed
and clean up the mess

and hunt up the pouch of ashes,
this year ordered on the Internet,
yet still a wonder, still a sign
that we are dust, Your dust,
and to dust we will return.

I would love to know your thoughts.

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