“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He might be glorified.”—Isaiah 61:3. There really isn’t anything beautiful about ashes. Anyone who has ever cleaned an oven, grill, campfire site…or forgotten to open the fireplace flue…can attest to the fact that ashes make a big mess. They tend to stick around. We’ve seen the ash that rains on towns from volcanoes and the smudged faces of firemen after fighting a blaze. The tiny little particles are so fine it is a nearly impossible task to get rid of all the ash—all the grime and dirt. In Isaiah 61:3 ashes are equated with mourning and the spirit of heaviness. It is a very profound comparison, mourning has some many facets and pieces it’s hard to let it go, and depression can cover a person’s heart and inner being just like the ashes after a house fire so that only tiny and unrecognizable remnants of what once stood remain. God will wipe all that away. He’s offered beauty for ashes, the oil of joy, and garment of praise. Very appropriately in this verse is the combination of ashes and oil—together they make soap. On this Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, may you exchange your ashes for beauty.Happy Writing

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