Thursday, March 10, 2011


I grew up in a denomination that doesn't formally recognize Ash Wednesday, and even though I am now part of a denomination that does, I'd never been to this particular worship service. Miss Priss had expressed a desire to attend. She was intrigued with the idea of ashes marked on her forehead, and she longed to celebrate communion by intinction, an ancient custom in which worshipers come forward to the altar, take a piece of bread, dip it in a cup of wine/grape juice, and then partake.

But she vacillated. It was raining hard. The thought of a game of Clue with the family in front of a nice fire was appealing. So I changed my plans also. Instead of showering, I took a nap, something I love to do on rainy afternoons, and put off supper plans until later.

Imagine my irritation when she announced, an hour and a half before the service was to begin, that she'd decided she'd really like to go. No argument from me about how this was now a difficulty made a difference to her. Muttering with frustration, I jumped into the shower, and an hour later we departed, leaving Himself and Tiny Girl at home, everyone supperless.

It's possible I could have been in a mood even further from worshipful than I actually was, but I have trouble imagining it.

Sitting in the darkened sanctuary, surrounded by friends and strangers, I found myself untangling on the inside. I breathed more freely. I relaxed. I smiled at Miss Priss when she caught my eye and returned my smile. We held hands.

The service began, and together the congregation heard again the old story of Abram and Sarai on a journey from Ur to Haran and from there to Canaan. We considered God's faithfulness along their journey. And we connected that particular journey to our personal journey through Lent toward Easter. We joined our voices in hymns of praise.

When it was our turn to go forward and receive the sacrament and marks of ashes, I stood behind my little girl, my hands on her shoulders and my heart full. We smiled at each other as we walked back to our pew; she knows intinction is my favorite way to celebrate communion. And I was so thankful for the grace that flooded through me during worship and changed me.

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,

because the LORD has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
               Isaiah 61:1-3a


  1. That's beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I love the image of untangling. Of Him untangling us.

    So glad you went.


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