The snow in West Michigan fell furiously on this February day. Snow squalls come through near Lake Michigan at unpredictable times with winds which often cause white-out conditions for drivers. Temperatures have been near and below zero. From inside it is beautiful. I was glad to be out of the weather after going to my Bible study, and sat down to write and read. Stoking up the fireplace, I enjoyed the unusual amount of dusty Ash tree smell it was emitting. Before long, I could barely keep my eyes open, with the heat of the wood burner now warming me to a sleepy stupor.
About six hours after I had come home, my husband came in shouting to me, “Are you trying to start the house on fire?” I hopped up and said, “What?” Hurrying to the place in the garage he referred to, I could not believe my eyes. There was a smoldering cardboard box with a few red embers still showing through the gray mass. Cinders had eaten away over half of it and some had floated onto the top of the nearby garbage container. My car and some other things which could have caused problems were also close by.
I was amazed at God’s protection over me. Earlier in the day, I had placed some ashes into that box. They had been sitting outside in an aluminum pail for at least a day and since it has been so cold I thought there was no possibility of fire. I was wrong! No wonder there was so much more “wood” smell in the house than normal. I recognized the miracle and thanked the Lord for it. No one was harmed and nothing was damaged.
My husband shoveled the box and its contents into the snow bank near the woods. I took a picture of the box, as the wind made it flare up into a small fire until it finally consumed the mess.
Enjoy this song by Michael Gungor:
Suddenly I was reminded that it was Ash Wednesday. It’s almost humorous that I would have an “ash” episode on this day.
This whole incident caused me to think of the deeper meanings. Ash Wednesday is a day which is set on the Christian calendar to mark the beginning of the Lenten season. It is “40” days before Easter. Many people go to church to receive an ash mark or cross on their foreheads. We ask the Lord to help us put off the old self, and clothe us with the new self. It reminds us that Christ is the only way we can be cleansed from the dust of life. He made it possible to be forgiven of our sins because of his sacrifice of dying on the cross for us. (Eph. 4:22-24)
What a clear reminder for me today. The ashes had hot embers within it. I thought the ashes in the pail were cold and dead. Just as the fire of the Holy Spirit is within our mess of life and needs to have wind blown on it to stoke it up. It then consumes the person and brings it to completion to make all things new. He can make beauty out of the ashes of hurt, pain or loss in your life. He’s done this with me by remaining by my side throughout life. My mom and sister died when I was young and the Holy Spirit was my comforter and never left me. As I walked in the fields and prayed, sang and cried, He was always there. He continues to make my life new every day.
If you would like to understand more about the history of Ash Wednesday and how people observe it, here are a few links to articles:
Heidelberg Catechism question #88:
Question 88. Of how many parts does the true conversion of man consist?
Answer: Of two parts; of the mortification of the old, and the quickening of the new man. (a)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSCxRHxGTqY&list=RDoSCxRHxGTqY#t=0 Another u-tube of Gungor’s song, “Beautiful Things” with lyrics and gorgeous pictures.