Today I went to gather some wood for a fire and when I pulled it off the pile, sawdust fell to the ground. It was fine and dusty. My mind began to contemplate ashes. The ashes this wood would eventually become; the very truth that my own form was made from dirt and would return as ashes one way or another.
There are many verses in the bible which speak about ashes. My heart has been contemplating those that speak of prayer, desperation and sorrow. I think about the fire in my heart to burn for God, to pray with Jesus until I am left in ashes. Burnt up, giving everything I have until I am nothing. I want to be found in the ashes, having held nothing back in the firestorm of my prayers.
Like Abraham, I say, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes…” He was praying for the salvation of others.
In many prayers I ask not to settle into a seat of complacency. It should come as no surprise at my complete dissatisfaction. I do not turn myself away from others; I simply turn myself head-on into the need for more. I have no road map, just a desire to move forward on a crooked road I am assured the Lord is making straight for my path. Each time I turn left or right, my ears hear “this is the way, walk in it”.
*Isa 30:21 Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left.
* Isa 45:2a I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight
Life with Him is dangerous and I am scared. I admit it. Infatuation was the door I walked through but I just can’t leave. He has shown me a love I’ve never known. My stomach churns when I am not near Him. I feel lonely when not in His presence. Life feels empty without Him.
He wants my undivided attention and my life, but then asks me to pour it out to strangers; to everyone I meet and know? How can I do this? I am selfish and prideful. He even asks me to put my life on the line for Him; to die for Him. This is craziness in the world I exist. People say I am taken in by a spell, part of a cult.
For over two thousand years this love of Jesus has permeated society. Yes I have been captivated by this great love, and yes, even afraid I will follow Him wherever He may lead…
“Nobody does it better, makes me feel sad for the rest, nobody does it half as good as you”, just some words from an old song rumbling around in my mind after reading the news. My fingers grip the bible tighter than ever, and tears burn more than my eyes, they burn in my heart. I think about the love of Jesus and the ways he prayed for people, teaching us all how to pray when the disciples asked?
“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! Pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need,
and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation
but rescue us from the evil one.”
It was the words, “makes me feel sad for the rest”, that hit my heart; triggering a call to keep crying out for my family, my friends, my neighbors and yes, the lost I read about in the news. And then I remembered another part of the song, “I wasn’t looking, but somehow you found me, I tried to hide from your love light.” I am sure it was prayers that helped me be found.
My words are nothing astounding in revelation but I do hope we keep encouraging each other to pray without ceasing.
*Mat 6:7-13, Lyrics from Carly Simon, Nobody Does It Better
For months when I was needing strength, I’d read my bible along with books of strategy, military history and thoughts from old about how wars had been won and lost. Trying to watch movies with historical themes, I sought for tiny grains of truth amongst exaggeration. Although not my forte it seemed important to understand human history repeating these scenarios over and again. We write about them through the ages, we make movies to share both the heroes and the villains. Why, when it seems we don’t learn from any of it?
And that’s when it came to light, some people do learn! Some give themselves up for the greater good of humanity and eternity. Still humanity surrounds them to feed upon their carcasses, to cover over accomplishments with the lies of how they never existed nor mattered. Yet in the darkness of the world these bright lamps have never been snuffed. Their names surface again and again offering the greatest of hope in a world that needs it so much. Their lives given to death have offered us strength to be courageous ourselves; to walk in faith no matter the cost.
John 12:24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
Heb 11:35b-40 But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.
In the U.S. military there is a medal given for acts of valor. It’s called the Congressional Medal of Honor. Historical facts about its beginnings in the 1800s show how our country’s leadership wanted to recognize noble acts of service and at first it was given generously. In time it was noted that this medal should stand out above other emblems of service and specific changes were made to the conditions of how it would be awarded.
New regulations…Established that Medals of Honor could only be awarded for “gallantry and intrepidity” above and beyond that of one’s fellow soldiers,…Required that a submission for the Medal of Honor be made by a person other than the veteran who had performed the heroic deed,…Required the testimony, under oath, of one or more eyewitnesses to the heroic deed.
Testimonies to date of those who received this medal have become quite solemn. Many have been awarded posthumously. I cannot express enough my respect to these recipients for their acts of heroism and I quickly become choked up when I think about the many men and women who have gone before me to give part or even all of their lives for my freedom. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends…And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”*
Today I also contemplate the unrecognized heroes. Those who have done acts of valor but no earthly witnesses were present to testify to man of their heroism. They will not wear a medal here upon earth. Instead they are watched and validated by the “great cloud of witnesses” with which we are surrounded.
Honor is a medal itself and what we do daily gives merit to how we can wear one of our own, either here or in heaven.
*John 15:13, 1 John 3:16b, Heb 12:1 http://www.cmohs.org/medal-history.php
I want to announce to the world I’m a heterosexual…
I want to announce to the world I love Jesus…
I want to announce to the world I forgive…
I want to announce to the world our headlines should be something else…
But if they had stood before Me, and listened to Me, they would have spoken My words, and they would have turned My people from their evil ways and deeds.*
Do you ever remember back to moments when you questioned yourself or even friends about something being done which didn’t feel quite right? In a group you’d hear each voice. Some would have persuasive arguments for how all was fine; inwardly though was that tug of conscious. On rare occasions you might hear a voice from someone who agreed with your tug, but too often it was you alone, standing there to make a choice to go along or speak out for why you wouldn’t.
Long ago, the Lord said He’d put His conscious in our minds and write upon our hearts His own words of right or wrong (Paraphrased*). As we mature the gray becomes more definitive between lightness and darkness. Our actions and words must become certain because the cost of ambivalence is too high, for us and for those we love. We must stand in the only counsel that matters, the Lord’s.
*Jer 28:22, Jer 31:33b …I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people
My husband has reminded me about how the voices of the bible aren’t always warm and fuzzy; they are more direct and impacting. He is right. Even Jesus never sugar coated his message of love with words of flowers and heavenly encounters with cherubic angels. More often than not people got angry, resentful and let murder enter their hearts after hearing his message. There were some who received the truth he was speaking but the cost was high; being thrown out of their places of comfort, position and even family.
I speak of my husband’s reminder because he, like many of us are searching for truth at all cost, especially the eternal…
Can we talk about hell? I mean really talk about it? Seems as though this is a missing word in circles where I roam. Maybe it’s just because I myself don’t bring it up either. Why?
I remember having a conversation with my father. He is a man who knows scriptures and can easily overrun me with them. I was pushing my food around on my plate trying to understand what he was sharing with me. He’d had a health scare and started looking into the existence or should I say non-existence of hell as we perceived it.
My dad has been a Jehovah’s Witness for 40+ years. He kept trying to tell me hell was simply sleep. Inwardly I was disturbed by this doctrine that hell is laying in a grave alone, but he is my dad? He is a man who has been reading scriptures for decades and gone to so many services it is a lifestyle he gives all his time to. Who was I but a baby Christian in his eyes and my own? I knew he’d often been disappointed I didn’t come into the fold of JW ministry. To honor my dad I tried to listen until finally my spirit’s grief could be held back no longer. I spoke, “what it looks like I can’t answer, I just know I don’t want to be there!”
There is constant discussion of its description using many translations of the bible. Inwardly I think on much simpler terms. Jesus spoke of this not being a desirable place for us to exist. I believe Him and that seems enough for me.
Looking back I don’t really think my dad ever meant to share hell wasn’t real, he was just curious to dispute what it looked like. He was bold enough to share his thoughts with me. Maybe I missed the bigger point at the time of our conversation; his love for me to even speak about hell openly.
Why am I not bold enough to share with those I love and care about? I talk enough about love for sure, but perhaps I also need to love enough to talk about hell in a conversation…