butt dust

Today’s post comes from Brave Writer, Lorretta Stembridge.


For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an artistic “shape”,  encouraged and strangely embodied by my rather “rough and ready” mother.

Since grade school,  it’s found expression through music. While I’ve never been outrageously good, I joke that what I lack in true talent, I’ll make up for with enthusiasm!  

Many choir 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.


butt dust


Ornate and 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.


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.


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.


All of this– butt dust and 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.


God Chooses Unqualified

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


Lorretta strives to live every day as God’s big “show and tell”, trusting nothing past, present or future will be wasted in His capable and loving hands. She writes at Dancing on the Dash http://dancingonthedash.com/

10 thoughts on “butt dust

  1. I’m not the best singer, Lorretta, but I’m singing in the choir with you. Walking… no, running after Him… the audience of One. {Butt dust… Ha!} Can the choir laugh? ‘Cause if not… I might need to join you in leading it to laugh on the journey too 😉

  2. loretta, i love this post:) i too, sang in choirs in high school and early college. never heard the term but(t) dust, but the concept is a great one…for all of life!

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