andra moran

Ashes to Ashes

by Andra Moran

[This is from the liner notes of Andra's 2009 Insta-Rock Records Release: In Small Things. We know that after reading this, you'll definitely want to check out her website]

It was February of 2006 and I had a tall order:

The children’s choir I direct had been asked to sing in our church’s Ash Wednesday service.  Now, I don’t know if you are familiar with any children’s choir anthem that addresses our mortality, our need to repent, or our general insignificance, but I couldn’t seem to find any in our filing cabinet in the choir room.

I sat on the floor of my living room and as I mulled it over, I somehow found myself thinking about middle school science class and Carl Sagan and a rock concert I’d been to the previous winter.  Here’s what happened:

In 1990, NASA sent Voyager 1 into space.  After it had travelled about 4 billion miles away from Earth, Voyager 1 was directed to turn around and take some pictures.  Astronomists were very surprised to find that Earth showed up in the picture.  Can you see it?

It became known as the Pale Blue Dot picture, because that was all our Earth looked like in the vast expanse of space.

Carl Sagan, an astronomer, author and scientist affiliated with the space program since its inception, gave a talk the year these photos were released.  These are his words:

Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader”, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

Alright, now I was cookin’.  This is definitely Children’s Choir Anthem material, right?

The answer is YES! It’s EVERYBODY ANTHEM material!  We’re all in this together: our hopes, dreams, frustrations, loves, losses, significance, insignificance — all of it.

We are all in this together as one tiny speck of dust on a sunbeam, the sunbeam that God holds in His hand.

The way I see it; the way I sing it, we live our lives to know that we are called by love.


After all that worry and effort into trying to find an appropriate anthem for the kids to sing, I wrote the song for Ash Wednesday in twenty minutes.  The song just arrived.

The only part missing was a bridge.  I talked it over with Thomas Kleinert, the minister of our church.  Thomas recommended Psalm 42:2.

My soul is thirsting for You.  When will I see You face to face?

When the kids and I gathered to rehearse, I wondered how to preface the song.  I decided words like “cosmos” and phrases such as  “mote of dust suspended on a sunbeam” might  be a little much for these second and third graders.

I decided to keep it simple and preface the song with “We’re going to sing a new song. Here’s how it goes.”

To my astonishment, the kids were captivated by this song from the get go.  By the second chorus, they were singing along, and when we got to the end, the kids and I sat silent with only the buzz of the yucky fluorescent church light overhead.

It was one of those holy moments.

I was struck by the brilliance of the miracle that we are significant to God.

For the past three years, the children’s choir at Vine Street Christian Church has sung “Ashes to Ashes” each Ash Wednesday while our congregation comes forward to receive the mark of the cross, made from the ashes of last year’s palms on their foreheads.

I am so thankful to all the children and youth from Vine Street who came into the studio to finish this track with me (watch them singing along to the playback in the studio).  After all, this song started out with their sweet voices in mind.  You’ll also hear Ben Harper singing a sweet, sweet harmony in the bridge, Will Harrison’s mournful guitar, Stephen Daniel King on bass and Jason Cheek on drums.   

This year, we’ll come together for our Ash Wednesday service on February 17th at 6:00 in the chapel.  I hope you can be there with us.  Feel free to sing along!

Download here or listen below (and sing along!)

Ashes to Ashes
by Andra Moran

We watch, we wait
We hope, we pray
We try to take
A path that returns to You

Ashes to ashes, water and rust
We are but dust on the sunbeam You hold in Your hand
You call us by name
And we rise from ashes again

A breath of life,
A thirst, a fire
We live our lives
To know that we’re called by Love

Ashes to ashes, water and rust
We are but dust on the sunbeam You hold in Your hand
You call us by name
And we rise from ashes again

My soul is thirsting for You, I long to see Your face
My soul is thirsting for You.  Fill me up.