Ash Wednesday

Receive this cross of ash upon your brow
Brought from the burning of Palm Sunday’s cross;
The forests of the world are burning now
And you make late repentance for the loss.
But all the trees of God would clap their  hands,
The very stones themselves would shout and sing,
If you could covenant to love these lands
And recognize in Christ their lord and king.
He sees the slow destruction of those trees,
He weeps to see the ancient places burn,
And still you make what purchases you  please
And still to dust and ashes you return.
But Hope could rise from ashes even now
Beginning with this sign upon your brow.

Ash Wednesday by Malcolm Guite

The deepest repentance we find the Bible is that of “dust and ashes.”  The ashen cross we have placed on our foreheads is in many ways a repentance of self promotion.  We who are careful curators of our own perceived image turn our hearts purposefully toward  the imago Dei – the image of God in which we were created.

In The Word in the Wilderness, Malcolm Guite says this:

I sometimes wonder whether instead of a brief ritual ‘ashing’ we shouldn’t use Ash Wednesday as a day to rebel against our culture’s obsessive concern with body image, presentation, clothing and appearance. Fashion models could be encouraged to dress as dowdily as possible, and we could all be invited to eschew the pressures of those ‘photo-shopped’ images of the impossibly thin and glamorous, resting instead on the inner beauty of simply being loved, at last, and in spite of all, by the maker of the cosmos.

Our quest for beauty often leads us from its very source. How does Ash Wednesday call us to love God with all of our heart?

Job 42:1-6

Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Listen, please, and let me speak; You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’ “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.”


D i g  D e e p e r

Art: Blessing the Dust

Jan Richardson

Widely known for books such as Sacred Journeys, Night Visions, and the recently published In the Sanctuary of Women, Jan Richardson is an artist, writer, and ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. Her distinctive artwork also appears at her blog The Painted Prayerbook, which Gordon Atkinson of Real Live Preacher has called “one of the most beautiful blogs in the blogosphere.” Whether creating her luminous painted paper collages, or laying down the haunting lines of her charcoal drawings, Jan illuminates the landscape of faith with courageous vision and a generous spirit.

To learn more about Jan’s ministry in word and image, we invite you to visit her website at


Malcolm Guite

Malcolm Guite is poet-priest and Chaplain of Girton College Cambridge, but he often travels round Great Britain, and to North America, to give lectures, concerts and poetry readings.  For more details of these and other engagements go to his Events Page.

For every day from Shrove Tuesday to Easter Day, the bestselling poet Malcolm Guite chooses a favourite poem from across the Christian spiritual and English literary traditions and offers incisive seasonal reflections on it.

Lent is a time to reorient ourselves, clarify our minds, slow down, recover from distraction and focus on the values of God’s kingdom. Poetry, with its power to awaken the mind, is an ideal companion for such a time. This collection enables us to turn aside from everyday routine and experience moments of transfigured vision as we journey through the desert landscape of Lent and find refreshment along the way.
Following each poem with a helpful prose reflection, Malcolm Guite has selected from classical and contemporary poets, from Dante, John Donne and George Herbert to Seamus Heaney, Rowan Williams and Gillian Clarke, and his own acclaimed poetry.

Published by

Rick Wilcox

Rick is voraciously interested in the holistic transformation of people individually and in an organizational context - enabled by technology, educated continuously through multi-channel systems and informed by the wisdom of history's greatest thinkers. He is a Ph.D. student at Faulkner University, focusing on the appearance of the Logos in English Literature. He earned a Master of Arts in Christian Education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Master of Science in Management from Sam Houston State University. His undergraduate studies earned a BA with double majors in Sociology and Theology from Houston Baptist University. Rick is an ordained minister who leads the Parenting Teens Adult Community at Faith Bible Church in The Woodlands Texas.