Ashes…Prelude to Outpour

“O Lord, to you I cry out, for fire has devoured the open pastures and a flame has burned all the trees of the field. “ Joel 1:19 NKJV

I’ve been thinking about ashes. There’s no great mystery as to why, after all Ash Wednesday was just a couple of days ago. Ash Wednesday signals the beginning of Lent, a day that calls us to a greater awareness to draw near to God knowing that God has promised to draw near to us. Lent demands that as people of faith we, with solemn hearts and a sobering mindset, set out on a journey of reflection that often takes us through ragged pathways, gardens of great struggle, and dusty and unrelenting roads that lead not to still waters, but to rugged crosses where death appears to reign supreme. Ash Wednesday does not at first remind me of the promise or power of resurrection but of the reality of death. It reminds me of ashes.

On Tuesday evening I had a conversation with a friend that catapulted me into my own personal vast land of ashes. She touched on an area of my own heart that has remained tender in the center though at times the edges have appeared to have calcified, or maybe just the periphery of the wound has crusted over. But I found myself fresh in the valley of unresolved issues, of this unresolved issue. As I looked around, it appeared to me that I was standing in what the prophet Joel witnessed, a once fertile place that had now become a wasteland of ashes. It was painful. It was troubling, yet the irony was not lost. On the eve of Ash Wednesday I stood in the midst of ashes, but if one was to find herself in such place what better time to be there than Ash Wednesday?

“Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and the nursing babes…”Joel 2:16a

In these few short days since the conversation, as I reflect on this Season of Lent and sense God’s beckoning me, wooing me, cocooning me in to do something that I cannot yet fully name, ashes look different than they did Tuesday evening. Ashes not only signify the reality of devastation, the marker of the path that the fires of life have consumed, but it also serves as an announcement of the call to turn. At the heart of Lent there is the echo of heaven calling us not only to repent from sin, but to turn to God in very intentional ways. I sense in this season a turning. Yet strangely enough, ashes remind me of the possibility of healing and restoration. There have been some indigenous cultures that have used the ashes of certain plants for medicinal purposes and cleansing agents. Ashes have also been used in modest amounts to treat soil, preparing the land for future harvests. I do not consider myself a bearer of ancient healing wisdom, nor a modern-day horticulturist yet I am reminded that in some ways and in my own life ashes point to a place ahead, a place beyond the fire that sings of the possibility of restoration. Ashes look different from my current vantage point.

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh…” Joel 2:28a

Prelude. Who knew that ashes moon-lighted as introductions to following acts, the opening curtain to the part of the dramatic presentation for which we all wait? Ashes as a prelude to outpour. I now survey my land and find that ashes were never the point. Ashes were never intended to be the final act, but instead the Divine handles the ashes to prompt my turning, to apply in some ways my healing, yet ultimately to announce the time of outpour. This outpour may not come today, but afterwards…after some other things have taken place.  There is the promise of the Spirit’s drenching hidden in the folds of ashes. And so I wait, at times still overwhelmed by what I see. But hopeful that the journey of this season of Lent will lead me beyond the wasteland and into the place where fresh, lush, and vibrant vegetation grows.

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3 Responses to “Ashes…Prelude to Outpour”

  1. Andrea Says:

    Beautiful, thoughtful reflection, sister! Looking forward to becoming with you…

  2. Nicki Says:

    What a nice piece. It’s so intimate and yet it has helped me and likely others. Thank you! I too look forward to seeing this gift of yours manifested here and becoming…

  3. Chanelle Says:

    I will be here often my sister. Thank you for sharing.

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