Saturday, March 18, 2006

March 18, 2006: Beauty from Ashes

It is truly hard for me to believe where I am today. Oh, I don't mean where I am literally. I'm sitting in front of the same computer, in the same kitchen, as I was a year ago. I mean, where I am in my heart and in my soul.

Over a year ago, I began focusing on "beauty from ashes" as described in Isaiah 61:
"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted
to proclaim freedom for the captives,
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion--
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called
oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

I began praying diligently that the Lord would make beauty out of ashes. I could feel the ashes. I was immersed in ashes, the bitter residue left from years and years of turmoil, fighting for our minister and his wife--our friends. We were the charred remains left at the bottom of the fire pit when they finally resigned from the ministry.

One year ago was one of the saddest days of my life. I wept until I had nothing left inside of me on Casey and Teri's last Sunday. I despised almost everyone at our church. I couldn't even look most people in the eyes. My anger was a living, burning thing. And my sadness weighed as heavy as an anchor. Angry and sad that these lovely, wise people were so beaten down that they just couldn't take it anymore.

Beauty from ashes was hard to imagine, but His promises are mighty--that I never doubted. But I'm not sure I imagined the beauty to come as it has. We stayed at our church. At first we were only staying until spring. But then our women's Bible study began Beth Moore's Breaking Free study, which spends 20 weeks going through Isaiah from ashes. Coincidence? Of course not.

In six months, the Lord turned me from a prickly, bristling hedge to something soft and growing. Still very, very tender...but growing stronger--and growing toward the light. Here we are a year later, and my focus is now on the latter part of that promise: that I will grow into an "oak of righteousness--a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor."

Our new minister starts tomorrow. In this year of healing, the Lord has made our hearts receptive to this new family. I love them already. The people at church who caused so much trouble have lost their power. Bad power zapped; God's power victorious. Beauty from ashes.

Everything has fallen in place for Casey and Teri. Their house is sold and their debts paid-off. They are moving in a week for a new life, as they make final preparations to become missionaries in Mexico. Beauty from ashes. My heart is joyful as they prepare to leave, when a year ago my heart was broken and despairing.

What a year! When I think of the amazing things the Lord has done in me this year, I just want to kneel before Him in awe. His promises are unfailing. His power overrides oppression, sadness, mourning and replaces it with hope. Beauty from ashes.

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