Thursday, February 14, 2013


I never know what to expect at an Ash Wednesday service, but over the years,
I have learned to simply wait for God to show up and take my breath away.

Last night, I knew we wouldn't have a big crowd. We Presbyterians rarely
do, but with the cold and snow yesterday, it would be fewer than normal.
Those faithful folks who come to all such special services came, one couple
brought their co-grandparents with whom they share the joy of a new
grandchild; a couple of old friends came because they saw the sign out in
front of the church. And, almost at the last moment, a father came with his
six-year-old daughter. As they went to sit down, she whispered to him, 'I'm
going to go sit with Thom,' and she did. I smiled at her and asked if she
would be my assistant. With a big smile and a loud stage whisper, she
announced, "dad, I'm Thom's assistant!"

When we came to the point in the service for the placing of the ashes, I
went around the circle and came to her last, and with wide eyes and wider
hope, I was blessed to anoint her. And then, on the spur of the Spirit, I
whispered to her, "Will you put them on my forehead?" And with a wide smile
and a joyful spirit, she did so. And I said a prayer to myself, hoping they
would never come off. Later, during communion, I asked her to carry the
loaf of bread around to folks, while I followed behind her with the cup.
And by the end of the service, I was nearly breathless.

As I begin this dangerous journey of discipleship during this season, I am
reminded of all the companions I have had over the years. From Mrs. Galt,
who took seriously my childhood yearning to sing, to Ms. Helen who wrote
poetry until her last day on earth; from the professor who was the only one
who didn't laugh at my questions to the security guard who stopped by on
Christmas Eve to invite me to his house for Christmas Day when I was staying
on campus that holiday; from the friends I made on my sabbath time a dozen
years ago in Scotland, France, and Ireland and whom I may never see again to
those 'virtual' friends who encourage me in ways they will never know, I
have been surrounded by an incredible cloud of witnesses.

But it is the children I remember most. The little girl at the church
Bonnie and I attended when we first go married who called me 'Magic Man'
because I would pull a coin out of her ear; my nieces and nephews who have
grown up into people that continue to amaze me; John, Margaret, Helen, and
Francis, who challenged me with their questions and inspire me with the
lives they lead as adults; the pre-schoolers who will be waiting in a couple
of hours for Dusty the Church Dog and me to come read to them and let them
feed him carrots and brocolli.

By God's goodness, so many of my companions on this journey have been
children, and by God's grace, I hope I will continue to be blessed.

© 2013 Thom M. Shuman

© Thom M. Shuman

'Lenten and Easter Nudges' is an e-book of Bible readings and short prayers
for Lent, available from

No comments: