butt dust

In one form or facet, for as long as I can remember, I’ve had an artistic bent. It’s my “shape”, you know? And it was always encouraged and strangely embodied in my rather “rough and ready” mother.

Part of that shape found it’s expression through music. While I’ve never been outrageously good, I’ve always joked that what I lack in true talent, I’ll make up for with enthusiasm!  However  from grade school to the present, music has been a part of my life and I’ve been a part of many choirs and ensembles.

Many experiences were less than stellar but all of them taught me something. Some were quite memorable, such as when we were members of a large Episcopal congregation.

It was here that I learned one of the most important lessons of my life…..

butt dust

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Ornate yet understated, the church’s surrounding artistic community lent itself in such a way that anyone could fold into the arts somehow. Several choirs ensured there was no shortage of grand and glorious music.

“High-church” choral, evensong and chants, call and response; Psalms echoed off high wooden rafters and spilled across the stone-tiled aisles. Gorgeous, candle-lit and in-censual affairs.  Time spent here shaped my appreciation of  both music and worship. Lessons learned through practice and preparation still shapes how I approach worship today.

Again…don’t misunderstand; I was not and still am not a great musician or vocalist. But I know it when I hear it and something rises up inside trying to get as close as possible and maybe add a little bit of what I can to the praise of our great and glorious God.

As I said, this church had quite a few choirs and ensembles. I was in the “B-string, league-of -the-warm-and-willing” choir. The “A-string” choir contained the highly-fluent music professionals. The “B-stringers” just loved music and could be reasonably  beaten into a presentable form with enough practice!  Occasionally, for holidays, the choirs would combine and oh. my. WOW.  Truly Beautiful.

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Rehearsals were always a bit tense. The Director was a wee man with a big baritone voice and an ego to match. But he’d earned his “stripes” and could play the organ like nobody’s business. Though we were the “second-level” choir, he’d never settle for second-best. He pushed us to the max, stretching and training us to achieve excellencies we may never have attempted otherwise.

I learned to “eeee-nun-ciate” and soften “S’s” to perfection. Drawing attention to yourself was NOT the goal. Occasionally, he’d throw a piece of music our way and we’d think….no way. He’d have none of that and if anyone dared to complain or draw attention to their “superstar status”, without fail he’d exclaim,

“Don’t forget: you are butt dust and to dust you shall return!”

Butt dust?
I am butt dust?
But ……dust.

It was his humorous reminder that we’re not as wonderful as we might imagine. We’re  BUT mortals crafted from the handful of dirt taken up by God and breathed upon to exist for… His glory and His alone.  I learned some things here I’ve never forgotten:

I learned how to humbly take my place as part of a glorious whole.
I learned the art of worship and of the only One worth worshipping artfully.
I experienced what it was like to be a part of something truly beautiful for the truly beautiful One.

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This past summer, I went to the movies. Noteworthy only because I don’t go often and only go see things that won’t burn my eyeballs or melt my brain.

The movie was, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”. Again…oh. my WOW. If you haven’t…do. I promise I won’t spoil much for you.

A statement  made by the award-winning photographer, beautifully under-played by Sean Penn, has stuck with me more than any other.

He’s on assignment to photograph a rare and beautiful animal. Private and reclusive–much like himself… rarely seen and yet remarkable in every way. Sitting quietly in the middle of the mountains….he’s watching. Waiting for the chance to spot and snap that shot.

Finally, the animal appears. Enraptured, he looks through the lens with hand poised, takes a deep, awe-filled breath….. and backs away from the camera, purposely missing the shot.

Something in you knows it’s because of the respect he has for the privacy of the animal/subject and for the respect he has for the One who created such majesty. It’s out of respect he has for himself — refusing to exploit anything for the sake of his own personal gain.

He says the most remarkable thing:

“Beautiful things don’t ask for attention; they don’t need to.”

Let that sink in for a moment.

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All of this– butt dust and my mortality.
True Beauty.

I have to ask, where is my place in the glorious whole?

What do I do with what I know is true?
Have you ever asked these questions?

The world screams, “Look at ME!  Because if we’re still long enough we might see that in reality, we are “butt dust”…and to dust we shall return. Because we might see we were made for Something bigger than ourselves….and that’s scary.

It’s something I’ve struggled with.

However… if I can continue to see my place as a piece in the whole and that my role is to gather with the chorus–wherever that is– singing “Look at Him! Look at Him!”, there I can find my peace.

Suddenly the goal becomes  to simply live in such a way that God is beautiful in me and I’m made truly beautiful through Him.

Then I don’t need to draw attention to myself.
I don’t need to be “somebody” because I am Somebody’s.
I don’t need to exploit others or situations to gain fame or attract attention
because it’s about Him, not me.
I can bare my broken-made-beautiful story of God’s redemption before others inviting them to add their own broken and beautiful bits to the chorus of praise.

Because together, we make the music.

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God Chooses Unqualified

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I need to remember this.

I need to be reminded in this calling every day and especially this July when I’m far away in Africa seeking to share God’s love and gather in the stories unfolding daily before me.

I need to be one who pours and one who gathers at the same time… pointing always back to the One who’s sent me.

Because although I am but dust… like everyone else, it’s not to dust that I shall return.
I shall return upon the same breath that first breathed life into me ...

it’s the inhale of that first exhale.
I shall return back into the beautiful hands of my waiting Father.

Others need to know this too. They need to know the hope and hear the song of the One who sings over them, calling them home.

This is the art…the song…the story of glory  I was created for.
It’s the song that must be sung…

one beautiful note at a time

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16 thoughts on “butt dust

  1. You visited me (my blog) a few months, and I’m finally checking out yours. And I’m so glad I did. This is a lovely post. Really made me think (and I’m excited that my husband reserved Walter Mitty for our movie-night tonight — can’t wait to see that scene for myself).

    Where are you heading to in Africa? I’ve been twice–to Burundi–life- and heart-changing for sure.

    So glad I found your little space of the Internet.

    Blessings.

    1. Hooray for Merritt! I’m truly glad you popped over here and that God’s big grace in my little space was evident to you. Burundi…I’ve heard of that place and like many places in Africa, there’s so much treasure to be discovered while serving. We’ll be gone most of July and working on a project for Baptist Global Response in Nairobi and Samburu, Kenya and in Swaziland. I’m hoping to write more this week–I just announced it “out loud” but it’s been nearly a year and a half in the making! Thanks for stopping by and please, do pray.

  2. Oh, Loretta…this: “I don’t need to be “somebody” because I am Somebody’s.”…and “butt dust”…won’t be forgetting that anytime soon…I think I would have been in the “c” or “d” string choir…maybe they would pay me not to sing …Good to be here 🙂

  3. Oh my goodness, Lorretta. You had me hanging on every word here. And that movie scene… the backing away from the beauty because of the awe of it and not trying to capture it… I must see that movie. Thank you for this!

  4. Thank you for sharing the story of “butt dust.” I’ll never forget it! Loved these words: “If I can continue to see my place as a piece in the whole and that my role is to gather with the chorus–wherever that is– singing “Look at Him! Look at Him!”, there I can find my peace.”

    1. Hi there Tarissa! I JUST went through all my spammed comments and you got lost in there! So thank you for your visit and your encouragements–Honestly it’s been 15 years since I sang with this choir and I STILL remember! I’m glad for these pearls along the way and I’m happy to share them now with you. Blessings!

Welcome to the discussion!