Thursday, February 22, 2007

Ash Wednesday gratitude

I have never before experienced Ash Wednesday as a day of thanks giving, but this year was overflowing with a sense of great gratitude.

I often take the measure of my life at odd little milestones, not just at true anniveraries or birthdays. And Ash Wednesday is a "holiday" that offers nothing if not opportunity for reflection and recollection.

As Bob Plimptom played the prelude to our Ash Wednesday service, and after a more rowdy than usual collection of clergy and us clergy wannabes had settled down on the front row, I entered into a quiet place with myself and -- dare I say it -- the Divine and I knew a peace that was true. And the truth of my peace was this: I am in such a better place, personally, this Ash Wednesday than last. I was in an agonizingly horrible place last year as Ash Wednesday and Lent commenced, and, though I didn't know it then, I know on reflection that, as bad as I was last year on Ash Wednesday, I would be worse. And now I'm better. Much better. Taking the measure of the year, I felt deep gratitude, immense gratitude for being in such a better place. And I said one of Anne Lamott's two most frequent prayers to God: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

At that moment I was grateful for my life.

From start to finish, though, the day was filled with joy and gratitude. It began in the chaos and love that combined in my morning routine at home with Jeff and Ryan and ended in a lively conversation about ministry, theology and drama with my friend Jeri when she and I both arrived late into the commuter dorm.

My sense of thanks giving yesterday was so great that to list each moment might truly take an entire day. So I offer this litany of the things for which my heart is filled with deep gratitude.

Words. Words of a sermon not yet polished. The Word, this day from Luke, that promises a perpetual presence of God's Spirit. Tentative words of encouragement from my husband. Wise, wise words from my son that could be an essay all their own. Combining words with Jim and creating more in the hope of sharing a word of God -- Trust. Words of humor and truth from Anne Lamott. Words of both depth and laughter with Molly. Prophetic words from Erika, even the expletives. Words of guidance, reflection, consecration and prayer from the Ash Wednesday service. Honest words about hope from Ellen Ott Marshall. Words that filled both my head and my soul as I drove up to school. Words of love, both spoken and not, especially the ones I could literally feel. The words of John 1 that I will always hear now in the voice of Earl Kernahan (in both Greek and English). The Word that was in the beginning. Logos.

And this morning, I am grateful for the ash that remains under my thumbnail, reminding me of my first opportunity to administer ashes -- clumsy as it was -- and reminding me that we all are from dust and to dust we will return.

What a long and wonderful road I have traveled since Ash Wednesday three years ago when I took my questions about returning to Methodism to a warm and welcoming pastor and then went to Ash Wednesday worship to receive sacramental ashes reminding me of my humanity and my place among all humanity.

I feel richly alive and richly blessed and deeply grateful.

Thanks, thanks, thanks be to God.


RevErikaG said...

words of gratitude (minus expletives) for this reflection! thanks for sharing your spirit....

molly said...

It was good for me, too. ;)

I <3 Ash Wednesday.