Weekly Words of Wellness Archive
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• Living in Relationships
• Gaining Healthy Perspectives
• Practicing Self Care
• Building Values
Gaining Healthy Perspectives"Momisms 2013"
"Strength of Character"
"The Chess Teacher"
"What the Pope Election Teaches Us About Making Good Decisions"
"What's Your Story?"
"The Eyes of Our Children Are Upon Us"
"Many Kinds of Help"
"Your Christmas Present"
"Driving With Our Lights Off"
"Learning To Be A Good Referee"
"Rocking The Message"
"The Road Less Traveled"
"The Power of Prediction"
"Hope Against All Odds"
"A Whole New Light"
"Of Storms and Stories"
"Love and Delight"
"Outsourcing Our Resolutions"
"Unwrapping the Gift of Gratitude"
"As Sick As Our Secrets, As Well As Our Honesty"
"Your Current Balance"
"The Universal Wisdom of the Twelve Steps-Part 2""
"Back To School"
"Many Kinds of Love"
"The Best Time To Plant A Tree"
"Life Is Not A Spectator Sport"
"And To Dust We Shall Return"
"Listening to Whispers"
"Finding Our Voice"
"Light One Candle"
"Whatever We Pay Attention To Is What Will Grow"
"This Election Season, I Vote For......
“In the Autumn, Time Seems ‘Speeded Up’”
"Keeping the Problem, the Problem"
Deep Wells and Deep Wellness
In Honor of the World Cup: "The Beautiful, Simple Game"
"What Does 45 degrees feel like"
"How Do You Spell Success?"
"The Best Olympic Race of All"
"Life In Our Years"
Ritual and Community
Rose-colored or Tortoise Shell?
Of Mowing and Mindfulness
Endings and Beginnings
You’ve Got Talent
May Your Easter Joy Be Solid This Year
Can We? Yes. Will We? Perhaps.
March 10, 2011
"And To Dust We Shall Return"
The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner
My father is eighty-eight years old and has been battling some serious health issues recently. This has, of course, been difficult for him, for our family and for all who love him. At the same time though, there has been a special quality to many of the conversations that I have been having lately with my Dad. He talks openly about his mortality and what it feels like to know that his life may be nearing its physical end. In the midst of the struggles, my father displays a new softness, vulnerability and peacefulness that has been inspiring to me and to all who know him well. We say, “I love you” to each other more than ever. His faith is as strong as I have ever seen it. Apparently, coming face to face with one’s mortality can be good for the soul.
This week Christians observed Ash Wednesday, a day when many Christians went to church to come face to face with their own mortality. At some point in the service for Ash Wednesday, each person came forward to have ashes placed on their forehead in the shape of a cross. The words that accompany being marked with ashes are, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
When I was pastoring a church full time, I was amazed at how many people came to Ash Wednesday services. We usually had three services, including one at 7:00 AM, and they were all well attended by people from ages two to ninety-two. Everyone loved getting ashes on their forehead. At each service long lines of people patiently waiting to be reminded that they were dust and that to dust they would return.
I could always feel the power of the Ash Wednesday service and the ritual of ashes, but was not sure I fully understood why so many people sought out a ritual that on the surface seems like it’s message could be a bit depressing. The experiences I am now having with my father now provide a deeper insight into the power and wisdom of being reminded that, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Being reminded of our mortality can bring a new clarity to our lives, in a way similar to when a person survives a near death experience and says, “Wow, that certainly has helped put everything into perspective for me.” Coming face to face with our mortality helps us to distinguish that which is eternal in life and that which is temporary. Our souls are eternal. Love, peace, truth and mercy are eternal. Our bodies are clearly temporary.
Whether you attended an Ash Wednesday service this week or not, I encourage you to take some time to reflect on your own morality and the mortality of all whom you love. While doing this may be a little unsettling at first, I hope that it will lead you to a clarity and humility of spirit that allows you to both give and receive love more deeply.
I am grateful for the lessons I am learning from my father these days, one of which is that I now understand the power and wisdom of Ash Wednesday a little more clearly.
Scott Stoner for Living Compass