Message of Ashes

Your feelings of impurity, humiliation, filth and worthlessness are all ashes that Jesus died for. He died to trade the ashes of your past, present and future in exchange for His radiant beauty.

I have sang the sweet words “beauty for ashes” in worship many times. I have prayed those words over people crying out to God for deliverance, “trade your ashes for Christ’s beauty!!” I’ve prayed that great exchange from Jesus to myself many times. But today it was as if the words became a little more tangible; the Word of God cut into my bones a little deeper.

This morning I was reading about burnt offerings in Leviticus. The priest would perform the offering and then take the ashes of the burnt offering out of the camp (Leviticus 6:11). There was no reason why this stuck out to me, except that the Holy Spirit wanted to teach me something. I tried to read on, but the word ‘ashes’ became a ringing bell in my head. Therefore I proceeded to use my favorite biblical study tool, a concordance (through biblehub.com) and look up the root meaning of ‘ashes’. As I read that this specific Hebrew word, דָּ֫שֶׁן or deshen, means ‘fatness, ashes of fat, abundance’, I wondered if the same version of the word was used in the ‘beauty for ashes’ scripture I knew and loved:

To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”” (Isaiah‬ ‭61:3‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

To my amazement, the word for ‘ashes’ in the Isaiah passage was different from the Leviticus one. ‘Ashes’ used here in Isaiah 61 is אֵ֫פֶר or epher, and it is used in several other scriptures meaning: ashes of the red heifer which was an offering for purification, ashes put on the head as a sign of humiliation, ashes representing contrition (self-reproach, repentance), ashes for mourning, ashes meaning filthy or loathsome, ashes meaning worthlessness, sorrow and distress (all taken from Brown-Driver-Briggs). Wow, isn’t that powerful? These are the ashes Jesus wants us to give up to Him so that He can exchange them for His beauty, the beauty of the Bridegroom! Your feelings of impurity, humiliation, filth and worthlessness are all ashes Jesus died for. He died to trade the ashes of your past, present and future in exchange for His radiant beauty. That’s astounding. That kind of pure love makes no sense to the human mind, but it doesn’t have to because God just is who He is and does what He does despite our level of understanding.

I very briefly studied out this message of ashes before going about my day. Around mid-afternoon I found myself in a situation where my past sins and mistakes were being kind of..rubbed in my nose. A conversation that was intended to be redemptive, forgiving and freeing, had felt shaming, accusatory and enslaving. A list of mistakes I made (4 years ago and very early in my walk with Christ) were being thrown at me in detail and it hurt to revisit those dark places in my life. I could literally feel the spiritual cuffs of my past being clicked onto my wrists and ankles and could hear the enemy’s excitement that he had captured me again…but God.

God wouldn’t have any of that, no sir. He caught me as my mind tumbled into that pit and He fought His way out with me in His arms. After much prayer, repentance and seeking His counsel, I saw the situation for what it really was: An invitation from Jesus to trade my buried, old ashes for His fresh and new beauty. Jesus wants to be the king of my entire heart..not just some of it. Even the most dark and infected spaces within me-especially those places. The devil wanted this conversation to harm me, but God used it to take me back into that sinful time in my life and totally annihilate that darkness with His glory light! His light always overcomes the darkness (John 1:5). Instead of wearing those past sins and allowing shame and regret to control my mind in that moment, I allowed Jesus to take those ashes of humiliation and give me His beauty-His grace, His mercy, His love, His peace. These are the things I am called to meditate on. Not who I was then, but who I am now in Christ Jesus! Today is the day of salvation and today I am sold out for Jesus. God is renewing me into the image of His perfect Son, Jesus. I’m not perfect, but God is and He will complete the good work in me that He started.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6 NLT)

Ask God if there are any ashes you are still wearing on your head in humiliation or despair from past regrets or present mistakes. If you’re feeling worthless, shamed, impure, or filthy there is an invitation from Jesus to you. An invitation to trade all of that pain and heartache for His beauty and resurrection which can be received through accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior and surrendering all of yourself to Him!

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews‬ ‭12:1-2‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

Our daily bread

Today, like every other day, has been long and eventful. It’s only 1:30 p.m. and I’ve already been “Ninja Turtle Mommy”, master Lego architect, peek-a-boo professional, cleaned the entire house twice, and wrestled two children in to bed for their unwanted (but desperately needed) naps. Days as a stay-at-home mom are busy. I’m sure all of us have different forms of action-packed days that can drag on and leave us feeling as though we are running on empty fumes once mid-afternoon rolls around. What if there was a sustenance that could keep you filled up regardless the circumstances and busy events?

I come with Good News, such fulfillment exists.

One scripture has continuously been showing up in front of my face recently, The Lord’s Prayer:

“In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:9-13 NKJV)

Jesus gives us an outline for how we should pray to God. This prayer sounds simple, and it really is simple but powerful. I think that because it is simple, the Lord’s Prayer can often be over looked or watered down. I grew up reciting it before every intake of communion at my family’s small Baptist church in North Texas, and sometimes before meals. My memory knew the words but my heart only scratched the surface of the meaning. Over the past month, this prayer began appearing either in song form or just simply when I’d open my Bible up only to find the prayer miraculously within the paragraphs on the page. It was obvious that God wanted to teach me something deeper  within Jesus’s words.

The entire prayer is full of nourishing meat, but one part in particular really stuck out to me in relation to where I currently am in life.

“Give us this day our daily bread”

I always thought that meant God was giving me today, a day not promised but given. Or possibly meaning that my daily bread is a day provided to me with everything I need to get by in. But this time there was more for me to see. What triggered in my mind while reading those few words was the question,“What is bread?”

God’s response to me was as it usually is,“Well what did Jesus say?

“And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.’” (John‬ ‭6:35‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

Jesus is the bread! Jesus is our daily bread! He is our sustenance that gets us through the day, that gets us through life. Jesus is our manna provided by God for us to get our fill everyday. Only after we have had our fill of Jesus, can we give Jesus out to others without running empty. I have found myself ministering to people, my children included, and feeling so frazzled or drained afterwards. Why?

I was loving people with my own counterfeit version of love. My love runs out. My love is a shadow of the real deal. God’s depthless river of love made manifest through Jesus never runs dry. We must dig our wells in His love before pouring out into others.

We are intended to continue filling up even while we are already full, so that everything we give is merely an overflow of what has been given to us. Jesus is our overflow. Think about the story of Jesus’s first miracle. The wedding guests had already drank all of the expensive wine and were full. They ran out of the drink and Jesus miraculously changed the water in to wine-and better tasting wine at that! The guests already had wine, it wasn’t as if Jesus was supplying a need. Jesus was giving out extra. Jesus was providing an overflow. Now how can we press into this and receive our daily bread?

“She also rises while it is yet night, And provides food for her household, And a portion for her maidservants.” (Proverbs‬ ‭31:15‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

This scripture provides us with the practical method of getting up in the early hours of the day, when the rest of the household is still sleeping, in order to provide food for both her household and the other people in her care. We can only provide to others that which has first been given to us.

“We love each other because He loved us first.” (1 John 4:19 NLT)

We must really and truly look to Jesus daily to see God’s love before we can pour out to others. We have to stay in a constant state of consenting to God’s love if we are to love others.

It’s a process. One I am journeying forward on. I want to share my amazing friend, Katelyn’s, testimony in regards to her own journey of setting apart time to receive her daily bread:

“It has been nothing short of easy to set apart this time. It truly is something I’m having to train for just like running a race. Right now I wake up 5-6 a.m. and read… take my notes then go back to bed until around 9 a.m. when my kids get up. Yes, I know that’s not exactly the way I think it should be but I’m training myself to be able to stay up and just not go back to sleep. Through me doing this it’s felt like I’ve been under more attack with the devil with the kids a lot (not even going to lie). But the awesome part is even though I feel the devil is running right behind me all day , God is right in front of me, cheering me on, reminding me what I’m training for, what I’m learning, and guiding me on how to use it! Honestly it’s hard some days, it seems easier to get that extra hour or two of sleep, but then I have to remind myself of the things that I have defeated because of doing this… Outside of my household, I truly feel like I am remembering His word even more than ever now that I rise early to provide the food (spiritual) for my family and friends. I used to always felt timid on saying stuff because I didn’t know what I was talking about. But now it’s like verses come to me on what I’m reading and I’m remembering them! How great is our God. Through believing Him, in faith that this would turn out for the better, He’s helping me with things I wasn’t even focused on. I can’t give that glory to anyone but Him. Because of rising early I now feel more confident and comfortable sharing his word!

“I rise before dawn and cry [in prayer] for help; I wait for Your word. My eyes anticipate the night watches and I awake before the call of the watchman, That I may meditate on Your word.”
‭‭PSALM‬ ‭119:147-148‬ ‭AMP

I challenge you to prioritize a time in your day to receive your daily bread, Jesus Christ! Whether it be the early dawn or the late evening, commit to finding the moments of stillness before God and receiving His love through the reading of His Word. Jesus is the Bread of Life and Jesus is the Word of God. Setting apart a slot of time to read your Bible and communicate with God (praying) is how you will apply this to your daily routine.

My Surrender Moment

Walking in the darkness
I shiver against the cold
My life
So very, very alone
The alarm rings, rings
Loud in my head
I should not be here
This is not me
Yet I fight the urge to leave
Because here is better
Than there
Where
Everything fell apart
I tried to control my own life
But nothing ever went right
Betrayed by my family
It hurt
Left alone by my fairweather friends
They wanted me
Only when I was ‘fun’

But it hurt
And sometimes the pain showed
except no one likes a sad person
No one hears my silent screams
No one gets me
No one seems to understand
My demons locked inside
Became my only friends
So I left
I walked away
Better yet, I ran
From the hurt
The pain
The sorrow
I left the narrow path
And entered the scary land
Why me?
Why does everyone always leave?
What is so wrong about me?
I cry
I yell until my throat
Bleeds
And the loneliness
Overwhelms me
The voices,
The demons begin to whisper
“You are nothing”
“No one wants you”
“You are ugly”
“You are fat”
“No one wants you”
“Feel ashamed”
“Feel ashamed”
“Feel ashamed”
The terrible things I have done
Lock me in a cage.
“Nothing and no one could ever truly love someone like you”
The voices tell me their my friends,
And I listen.
“Drink this-you’ll forget”
“Take that-you are invincible”
“Throw up your food-you will stay beautiful and thin”
No!
Stop!
I can’t take it any longer!
I am suffocating!
So much death all around me

My baby
My family
My friends
Why was I left alive?
Why, terrible me?
I should not be.
The voice whispers
“Grab the knife”
I’m drunk
I hate everything
So why not?
“It’s quick and painless”
I drag it across my arm
Oh no!
I have never done this
And it’s deeper than I thought
Crimson red
Gushes out of my arm
I see my blood.
And suddenly remember
Jesus shed
Crimson red
So that I
Could live forever with Him.
What have I done?
Is it too late?
Lord I need you!
Forgive me,
I have sinned
So so much.
You are all that is right in my life
Father, please save me!

Finally, I see a light
In my dark world.
My cage of shame is destroyed
And You take away my pain.
You cradle my head on the bathroom floor
In Your arms, I am held tight.
Your tears hit my cheek
And it is then, that I realize
You have been with me
The entire time

You held my hand
You screamed my name
Through all the voices,
Through all the pain.
I was looking down and all around,
When I should have been looking up.
You kiss my wound
You wipe my tears
You fight off my demons.
No more cold
No more darkness
I am set free
You lift me up and tell me
Sweet daughter, I love you
Goodbye to temporary happiness,
I am filled with eternal joy
Because of Your truth
It gives meaning to my life
I am weak
But You are strong
And even though I fall
You promise to always pick me up.
Jesus Christ
By dying,
You have rescued me
Sovereign Father
Redeemer
Above all,
You are holy.
This is a little piece of my testimony that pushed me to finally surrender my life to Christ in February 2014. Written by God through me during a 2014 summer mission trip in Santa Cruz, CA.

My “He loved me at my darkest” tattoo covering my scar from the suicide attempt & my beautiful daughter, Isabelle.

God supernaturally saved me in that exact moment, not a minute too late. God knew then the beautiful life awaiting me right around the corner of all the darkness. Now I’m a mommy. Now I’m a wife. I’m a child of God. I’m a friend, daughter, aunt and sister. I’m somebody. And I’m loved. So are you!

 Don’t let the present troubles keep you stuck. There’s more to come. Don’t give up! 

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Please reach out to someone if you or someone you know is depressed, anxious, has suicidal thoughts, or just feeling mentally overwhelmed. You are not alone. 

Don’t hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: tel:1-800-273-8255