Beauty for Ashes

Wednesday, March 13

3-13By Carolyn Brock of Redmond, Oregon, USA

To provide for those who mourn in Zion—to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.

—Isaiah 61:3

I have an iridescent glass heart made from ash scattered by Mount St. Helens’ violent eruption in 1980. Minerals in the ash create the heart’s deep indigos and purples. Of course, when it rained down on gardens and housetops, cars and streets, the ash was powdery gray and not welcomed as attractive or useful.

The volcano’s nearly symmetrical cone had graced the horizon of southwestern Washington and northwestern Oregon for hundreds of years. It became but a memory as tons of forested land exploded and eroded, burying plants, animals, and humans. The shape of the mountain and the view of the horizon changed forever.

Was it a loss? Yes, something to grieve about, certainly. Beauty and harmony appeared to have been overcome by violence and ugly debris. How interesting that human creativity looked for and found ways to redeem and reclaim the natural byproducts of the event. How remarkable that in just 20 years foliage and wildlife once again inhabited the decimated landscape.

God promises that what has turned to ash in our hands—the shape of life as we know it, the tears we cry for what we feel we have lost—can and will be redeemed. Are we willing to exchange who we have been for who God calls us to become? Are we willing to embrace future joy by letting go of our fear and heaviness of heart? Are we willing to offer the ashes of our former selves to God, trusting that God will put us together again in a beautiful shape we ourselves may not even recognize?

Prayer for Peace:
God of what was and what will be, mold us for our role in sharing Christ’s peace.

Spiritual Practice: An Offering of Ashes
God promises healing for our wounds and losses. Hold (or imagine holding) a pinch of ashes in your hands as you become aware of situations in your life, family, congregation, and world that are broken, lost, or falling apart. Be honest with God about the fear, sadness, or burden you feel. Offer the ashes to God in prayer. Ask God to create beauty, peace, and healing in the places and people who now experience the ashes of despair and grief.

Peace Covenant:
Today, God, I will look for joy in the tragic; beauty in the ashes.

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1 Comment

  1. Barbara Hawksford

     /  13 March 2013

    Thank you, Carolyn — This helped me offer the prayer I needed to pray for someone I love deeply. Barbara

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