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

Celebrating Along the Way


Most people are prisoners, thinking only about the future or living in the past. They are not in the present, and the present is where everything begins. 
Carlos Santana

Let’s put something on the table right now: I am crazy about the Lord of the Rings. I love the genteel way that women were treated, instead of objectified. I love the heroes who were willing to fight and struggle and sacrifice their own opinions and comfort in order to do what was right and stand up for the good things in the world.

Let’s consider Hobbits for a moment. Hobbits are very much in the moment, even though sometimes others don’t think their habits are practical or appropriate. In the movies, for instance, there were many times when the Hobbits stopped to celebrate with food or a pipe, or both. Sometimes, when danger threatens, or disaster looms, it may not always seem like a good idea to stop everything and celebrate, especially when surrounded by Nazgul.

In life, however, there can be periods of time when we seem to be constantly facing danger, hardship, or disappointment. It IS important to stop and smell the roses along the way and learn to celebrate along the way to our dreams. Maybe you didn’t land a great job (or any job, as is still the case for many) yet. Maybe you are going through unpleasant relationship issues or battling health problems or find yourself mired in legal proceedings. We are all going to be beset by “stuff” from time to time, many times, for longer than you imagined you could endure.

This doesn’t mean, however, that your life should be free from release, rest, and down time, even in the midst of your trials. For one thing, if you are able to actively enjoy things in your life even though the big picture is not going your way, you prove that you are more than just your circumstances. You show the world that life does not have to be perfect in order to find meaning and enjoyment in the midst of it. When you are willing to invite a fellow traveler into your life by means of encouragement, help, companionship, and compassion, you are punching a giant hole in the darkness that hovers over this world. Not everyone will understand when you celebrate your milestones and make the best of a tough situation, but you will be much happier on the whole because of it.

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter —
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousnesswill go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. Isaiah 58 : 6-12