Monday, December 18, 2006

Beauty for Ashes

Isaiah 61:1-3

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.
Honestly, that phrase "beauty for ashes" has always been one of those Christian-ese things that is said, but one that never really resonated for me. However, when I saw that this was the subject of this Monday's Faithbuilder meme, I really began to think about it. Heather asks, "Where is Christ leading you? Have you traded your ashes in for beauty? Have you replaced your mourning with JOY? Do you wear forgiveness like a crown? He wants you to lay every burden down- He died so that you would have a place to lay it- at the foot of the cross." Maybe on this day that phrase does have new meaning, because I am seeing God at work in a difficult situation. In the Old Testament, ashes signify mourning. He is promising us beauty instead of ashes and joy instead of mourning. In reading the verses before Isaiah 61:3 in which that phrase appears, I have to say that I feel called to wear that forgiveness like a crown and to preach good news to the poor. I think that it's my heart that must be bound up. Proclaiming freedom from my own heart of darkness is and will bring joy to me and to others. How?
  • Bringing joy to others instead of grief by loving them unconditionally
  • Binding up negative thoughts which cause slaying another in spirit
  • Staying focused on the truth of God taught in the Bible
  • Focusing on uplifting others instead of being right
  • Giving up my rights and instead clothing myself with humility
There may be some Christian-ese there, too, but these are the areas in which I can focus to keep joy before me. That way, even if I don't "win," I know that I do gain freedom through obedience to God. Joy comes in the midst of trouble and sorrow and confusion as long as I hold on to that which God has called me to do. I don't know if we are all called to do those things listed in verse 1 (above), but I do know that when I am focused more on serving and less on self then I don't feel as frustrated, whether things are going my way or not. So in that, I don't let anyone steal my joy!

Click over to Faithlifts to read Heather's perspective and the others linked up.


Janice (5 Minutes for Mom) said...

those are some wonderful, tangible steps we can take - thanks! and thanks for participating in Faith Lifts - I always appreciate your perspective.

Katrina said...

Good thoughts, Jennifer. So much in my heart needs to be bound up as well, and I appreciate your list of ways joy comes - both to ourselves and to others - when we do that.

Susanne said...

Freedom does come when we obey, doesn't it?

MUISTO said...

I really smiled reading your blog today - I am just studying an older favorite book of mine, which is called "Beauty for Ashes" (Debra Evans).

This has wonderful poetry combined with really good thoughts on the expression "Beauty for Ashes" and what womanhood in Christ might mean.

Unfortunately it's out of print :-(