I have vivid memories from my childhood in the Mississippi Delta of the sight and smell of ashes, of looking out across open fields and seeing flames and smoke in the distance, of running my bare hand over the hood of a car and picking-up ash. My father and other farmers in the area would once a year burn their fields to clear the remainder of the old crop and destroy any weeds or seeds. It was an economical and efficient way to prepare the ground for new growth.
What if ashes meant for us preparation for something new? What if ashes meant that we were ready to burn, to get rid of the old junk in our lives, so we could begin fresh? What if ashes were a sign that we were getting ready for our Lord to claim new ground?