Beauty for Ashes

“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither, deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken, a light from the shadows shall spring; renewed shall be blade that was broken, the crown-less again shall be king.”  J.R.R. Tolkien

These are tough times when many have seen dreams dashed and hopes shattered. There is pain and struggle as people struggle to overcome or re-build their damaged lives. It is really unclear how many people are actually affected, because the hearty, proud and stalwart bread-winners of our country do not like to admit that they cannot help themselves out of a hole when they fall in one. Patience and understanding are at a premium these days, as well as compassion and HOPE.

Today I read an article which broke my heart. It was from a fellow-blogger who was discussing the reasons behind Sesame Street having to cover the issue of food stamps and childhood hunger. (You can read the article here.) The fact that this is even a question for any child SHOULD be heart breaking. Sadly, many of us have become immune to this issue, and many, many others. We give up, we discount our ability to help one, or two, or three or a few. Now, however, the problems are knocking at our own front doors like the Big Bad Wolf. Where do we turn for sympathy? Who do we ask for help?

It is discouraging for many of those who suffer from lost income, surprise medical conditions, crushing debt, hunger, homelessness, and the overwhelming feeling that they might not make it to see the fulfillment of their dreams. It is discouraging for these people to see and hear their more fortunate friends and family relate stories of shopping sprees, vacations, new cars, new houses, and promotions at work. There is so much trouble all around us, our sensitivity is incredibly crucial for those who are facing troubles that genuinely make them wonder how they will pull through this new test.

For those who have or are facing these kinds of trials, there is hope even in the midst of your suffering and confusion, and your dark night will have a dawn. Don’t you dare give up!!

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim 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 joy
    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.                                                                                     

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
    that have been devastated for generations.
Strangers will shepherd your flocks;
    foreigners will work your fields and vineyards.
And you will be called priests of the Lord,
    you will be named ministers of our God.
You will feed on the wealth of nations,
    and in their riches you will boast.

Instead of your shame
    you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
    you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
    and everlasting joy will be yours.

“For I, the Lord, love justice;
    I hate robbery and wrongdoing.
In my faithfulness I will reward my people
    and make an everlasting covenant with them.
Their descendants will be known among the nations
    and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
    that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”

I delight greatly in the Lord;
    my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the soil makes the sprout come up
    and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
    and praise spring up before all nations. Psalm 61

Wrong Shoes, or Wrong Attitude?

Today, I was getting ready to take my teenager to school, so I put my shoes on….the wrong feet. It was dark in the room and I couldn’t see what I was doing. If you’ve ever done this before, you will know it almost immediately. It’s just uncomfortable. It feels wrong. You are usually in a hurry to take them off your feet. Of course, I did take them off and put them on again the right way. 🙂

Imagine yourself, like me, in shoes that don’t fit, just to humor me. 🙂 Imagine we chose to stay this way for awhile. We may sigh in these shoes that don’t feel good and look at other people walking, running, and dancing in shoes that fit. We may wish we had shoes like them. We may wonder why our shoes are the ones that don’t fit. We may use our shoe situation as an excuse to not participate in life as we should. We even blame our shoes! After all, it’s hard to walk in shoes that are on the wrong feet.

This is, admittedly, a silly example of something we all have a tendency to do. Sometimes in life, things happen, and we find ourselves in a situation that doesn’t make us comfortable. It feels wrong. We wonder why us? We wonder how we got here in the first place? Oftentimes, we whine, complain and blame other people for our situation. After awhile, if the situation has been going on for awhile, we notice the other people who aren’t in a situation like ours and we may even get irritated with them. We may be jealous of the things they have, the experiences and opportunities in their life, their relationships, their job, their house, and on and on… Of course, none of this helps our own situation. At this point, we may feel like giving up.

The good news is that, just like when we accidentally put our shoes on the wrong feet, we have the ability to change things so that our situations improve. Sometimes, all we have to do is change our shoes around. Sometimes, we need to use some common sense and realize we are the ones who have made our own choices. We can also make new choices and change our situation. The story hasn’t been written until our life is over. At any point, we can change the genre of our life.

Many times, we can avoid these self-made situations in life, by taking preventative measures beforehand. Today, for example, it would have helped a great deal, if I had simply turned on the light. The most important piece of Good News is that none of us have to live our lives in the dark, blindly making assumptions on the wisdom of our choices. We can go, at any time, to the One who loves us more than anyone else will ever be capable of loving us.

Psalm 119:105 says: Your word is a lamp for my feet,
   a light on my path.