Beauty from Ash

There it was. A single, dark green leaf, beginning to unfurl. It had been conceived in darkness. A tiny seed that lay dormant, not dead, merely asleep in the cozy warmth of the dark earth. While it was sleeping the dragon had done his damage. He had ravaged the landscape, burning every tree and every living thing until all was nothing but ash. He thought he had destroyed life, but what he had meant for death, the One had meant for life. 

The ash lay heavy on the earth. It became, not a grave blanket of death, but a rich, comforting layer of warmth and nutrients. Gradually, over time, the rains came and the ash cooled and lingering life seeped into the black earth below. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

The seed drank the death life and began to swell. Swollen and full, it opened, releasing a shoot into the fertile soil above. Pushing, struggling, reaching, it climbed upward. It knew, above the darkness there was light and the light was what it wanted. The light was what it needed. The shoot didn't know how it knew, but it knew it had to reach for the light. It knew the light would help it grow. It knew the light would give it life.

Pixabay

Pixabay

Soon the pushing, struggling and reaching paid off. At the very tip of it's furthest point the shoot felt an odd sensation, warmth. It had only ever known the coolness of the earth in which it lay. It had only ever known the darkness, but now...now it reached. With one last ambitious push it poked through the earth and ash and found the light.  

*          *          *          *           *

Are we not like the seed? Were we not conceived in darkness? Did we not, when we were full with the nutrients of our mother's womb, the womb that would die after our life, death life, did we not move toward the light? We knew when it was time, as our mother's womb knew when it was time to help us, push, and reach and struggle, that we must find the light. We needed the light. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

Why then, when we know the light is good, do we stop seeking it? Why, when we know the light gives us life and helps us grow, do we we hide from it? Why do we prefer to cover ourselves back up with the dragon's ash, trying to hide rather than growing to the potential that the One had meant for us? 

It is because we are afraid. 

Do not fear the light, or the One from which the light has its source. Rather, push, struggle, reach for Him. He will tend you like a tender shoot and raise you up into a mighty tree.

He alone can bring beauty from ash. 

(Written by Amy D. Christensen)

 

Giving up Grumbling

How often do you realize you are complaining? How many times a day do you find yourself grumbling? If you are like most people grumbling and complaining come without thinking. They are similar to breathing, the brain just does what it does and we don't have to think about it. I don't have to tell myself to take a breath or let it out. Breathing comes naturally. Unfortunately so does complaining. Think about your drive to work this morning, or your fellowship with believer's at church yesterday. Did you cuss at the driver who cut you off and then gave you the finger when you beeped at them? Did you grumble to your spouse after you left church that you were asked to be on another committee or teach another Sunday School class? How about the last time you went out to eat? Did you complain about the service, or like my Dad during his last years of life, grumble that you no longer got a spoon with your meal? Complaining and grumbling come all too easy!

Do all things without grumbling or disputing;
— Philippians 2:14

There are many things in life that we do or don't do that we don't give a whole lot of thought to. However, when your life begins to look toxic because you spend more time ornery and cantankerous it might be time to evaluate what is going on and what needs to be changed. I can just hear you now, "It's not me that needs to change! It's all those idiots out there." Funny, they may be thinking the same thing about you.

Pixabay

Pixabay

The Bible says, no, commands that we do all things without grumbling or disputing. Disputing is also translated as arguing. I know what it is to argue. We as wives do this without a thought. I am speaking to wives here, just because I can identify. Your spouse makes a suggestion and you question. He makes another suggestion and you balk. I know, I've been there. We can explain it away, "Well, I wasn't arguing, I was just trying to say my piece." "I was just trying to get the facts", or "I just wanted to be heard." All of those things are true, but the essence of grumbling and arguing is not in what is said, rather in the way it is said.

Let's look back to what is said, previously in this 2nd chapter of Philippians.

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
— Philippians 2:1-5

Doesn't complaining and arguing stem from selfishness? I know I wrote on this topic a few weeks ago (see that post here), but our selfish tendencies don't usually just disappear. In fact if we feed them they grow. When we don't get our own way, we grumble. When we are inconvenienced we complain. The world is not making me happy and I'm going to let everyone know. But to what end? Grumbling and complaining,usually,  does not get us what we want and rarely does it increase our joy factor.

If you look carefully at the above passage, it says that it is by having the same attitude as Christ, that Paul's joy was going to be made complete. He wanted the early church to follow Jesus. To follow His example, which surely wasn't one of grumbling and complaining. He also knew that being of the same mind as Christ would involve doing nothing from selfishness, but by being humble.

The passage continues with the very purpose for not complaining and arguing:

so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world,
— Philippians 2:15
Pixabay

Pixabay

We are to be examples of Christ-likeness. We are to be above reproach. In other words we are to be acting, talking and being people of whom others cannot disapprove. Wow! That's a pretty big order. We might as well board up the windows in our houses, go inside, lock the doors and never come out! Ha, ha. But really, we are to appear as lights in the world, so I guess that means we can't board up the windows! 

This may seem like an impossibility, but the whole point of Christ giving us His Spirit is so that He can do it. He can shine through us, even when we feel dark and gloomy. He can love through us, even when we don't feel like loving. He can spread joy through us, even when we feel like grumbling and complaining. The key to all of this is to let Him! Once again, that idea of control. We want to have control. But even on our best days we might love and give and spread joy for a while, but we will at some point crash and burn. At least I will. 

Pixabay

Pixabay

I have learned that in these littlest details of life, the words we speak, the steps we take, I must let Christ work in and through me. So, I will continue to try to give up the grumbling and complaining and work out my salvation....for His glory!

Light Beyond the Darkness

As the days begin to shorten and I realize the seasons are about to change again, I grow more reflective of the seasons of life. I am sure it is because I am getting older. Age has a tendency to make us more aware of our limitations, weaknesses and failed plans. But it also has the capacity to make us more aware of what is really important and help us to focus on our blessings rather than our difficulties.

sunset over the river

As we were driving this evening the sun was getting low on the horizon. Though I didn't see it actually set I could tell, it was going to be spectacular. The sky was streaked with brushstrokes of cloud residue. So often when that happens the sun reflects off the clouds in a brilliant display of orange, pink, red and purple. I have found in my 50 plus years fall sunsets can be some of the most stunning.

As I looked at the beauty the Master Painter created for our good pleasure, I thought about the sunsets of life. Sometimes, when we know the darkness is coming we grow anxious and fearful. The realization hit me, however, that we would not have the stunning sunsets if darkness did not come. We would not have some of the spectacular sunrises either. Darkness is a part of the cycle God put into place to bring rest and repose.

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the sky displays his handiwork.
2 Day after day it speaks out;
night after night it reveals his greatness.
3 There is no actual speech or word,
nor is its voice literally heard.
4 Yet its voice echoes throughout the earth;
its words carry to the distant horizon.
In the sky he has pitched a tent for the sun.
— Psalm 19:1 - 4 (NET)

Darkness is the absence of light. That could refer to the light of day, the light of a candle or that of an electric light bulb. Darkness can also refer to a lack of understanding. There are times in life when, not only does the way seem dark, but we also travel the path without understanding. We need to remember that outside of the darkness there is light. 

I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.
— John 12:46 (NASB)

If you are in a house, board up all the windows and cover those with room darkening drapes, you will be in the dark, but the light is still glowing outside of your house. If you descend into a cave with no flashlight or matches and candle, you will be in the dark, but the light is still glowing up on the surface.

To me, what seems the most overwhelming about darkness is the absence of light. If I can't see the light, I feel as though I am suffocating and all of life is about to end. But the reality is, light is still glowing, I just have to remember that. When I come to terms with the fact that I am closer to seeing the sun set, than I am to seeing the sun rise and I can remember that just the other side of that darkness I am about to face there is light....perhaps it will go easier.

Pixabay

Pixabay

When God's face seems hidden by the darkness or by the clouds, remember that Jesus is walking on the tops of those clouds. When the path seems dark, perhaps is it best to stop walking for a while, stop fumbling in the dark. Take a deep breath, sit a spell and remember He is the light.

Jesus said of Himself, "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12 - NASB)