Dust and Clay

23 Feb

An editor’s note this morning.  I would like to apologize that this blog has been down for a couple of days.  I got myself tied up in some other Ash Wednesday business and was unable to get things to you in a timely fashion.  I greatly appreciate your readership and look forward to many months and years of this blog being an influential piece of NCMA.  My promise to you is that this blog will be once again a daily blog that does not have stoppage and will go on throughout the spring break season and beyond into summer.  Again, my apologies for the inconvenience

J Cody Nielsen


This week, on Ash Wednesday, we had have ashes “imposed” on our foreheads, marking us with a dusty, ashy cross as we set out on the journey towards Easter.  We will try not to be self-conscious when we see ourselves in the mirror, or clean off the stray ashes as they fall on the bridge of our noses.  We will go about our day, marked so that no one can miss it, while trying to pretend it’s business as usual.

I’ve been thinking about Ash Wednesday a little differently this year as I’ve worked on the liturgy and prepared myself to say to people, one after the other, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  I blame it on the pottery classes I’ve been taking.

Each week, with my hands in the clay, I am reminded that I am made of the same stuff.  Each week, when we ladle soup into bowls I’ve made, I am reminded that they used to be lumps of clay.  Each week I form lumps into new shapes and I am also being formed – not just into a potter, but into someone who pays more attention.

On Wednesday as people come forward during worship, I will be holding a small blue bowl I made, which will, in turn, hold the ashes.  Dust, holding clay, holding ashes.

The journey of Lent is simply a reminder of our bigger journey:   pilgrims on the way, dusty from the road, and marked by the cross.  The journey is to practice:  paying attention, knowing who we are, seeing the big picture.  Remember that you are dust.  There is no other business than this.  We are all lumpy clay, with the Potter’s fingerprints all over us, forming and transforming us until we transform once again into dust.


Deborah loves hiking, cooking, reading, and a good strong cup of coffee. She believes that a rainy day is one of God’s great gifts and that When Harry Met Sally can never be seen or quoted too many times.  When she is not throwing pottery on the wheel, she also enjoys writing, sometimes for the online magazine catapult.   She is an ordained elder in the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church and serves as director of the Wesley Foundation at the University of Virginia.  She has been in campus ministry for 11 years and shares the journey with her husband and stepson.


3 Responses to “Dust and Clay”

  1. Jane Wells February 27, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    “… dust, holding clay, holding ashes…” A beautiful and graceful post. Thank you.

    • Deborah Lewis February 27, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

      Thanks, Jane, for reading and commenting!


  1. Dust and Clay | Snow Day - January 19, 2013

    […] ready for Lent to start again in a few weeks…  This post was originally written for the NCMA blog on […]

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