“This week we watched in agony as Notre Dame was engulfed in flames. We feared the worst, watching from across the world, hearing commentary about its seemingly inevitable destruction. In the darkness of those unknown hours it seemed likely that the priceless art and relics would burn up into the black Paris sky. That we would wake to a heap of ashes where, for centuries, beauty had stood. . .
In Isaiah Christ promises us that He will give us Beauty for Ashes. He doesn’t promise us that things won’t burn. He doesn’t tell us he’ll simply sweep away the ashes after the fire. Jesus doesn’t ask us to come to him only if some walls are still in tact, or before our rose windows melt or our spires fall. He doesn’t run to fix us only after we’ve squelched a bit of the fire and crafted something presentable for Him to work with.
He tells us that he will give us beauty for the ashes. The promise is that He will take the most burnt up, dark, nasty, horrid things in our lives and souls and somehow grow not only something worthwhile, but something beautiful from them. He will turn what appears to be the very substance of our ruin into something beautiful.”
– Saydi Shumway, Incanta Concert April 19, 2019
This excerpt is from a talk my friend, Saydi, gave at our Incanta concert during Easter Weekend. The theme for our program was Beauty for Ashes. Saydi’s remarks were so halting and exquisite, I am linking to them here so you can read them in full.
She and I talked a fair amount about how we all have ashes. We can “sit in the wreckage,” as she describes it, immobilized and unhappy, or we can take our ashes to Jesus. While this is difficult, what other option do we have? Such a powerful visual isn’t it? This act of taking our ashes to Jesus. . .
and watching Him transform them into something beautiful.
Incanta performed on Good Friday and Silent Saturday. As part of our repertoire, we sang my mother’s favorite song, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” We sang a medley of negro spirituals, which were all about grace and family and the resurrection. The spirituals were hands down (or up) my favorite!
Fix Me Jesus got me every time 😢and Rise Up Dry Bones was an original spiritual Kendra wrote from the text of Ezekiel 37. We sang Down in the River to Pray and Will the Circle Be Unbroken. There was toe-tappin’, hand clappin’ and a swingin’ bluegrass band. I was in heaven belting out the lyrics, channeling my inner Allyson Krauss! For video and more pics, you can follow us @incanta.ensemble on Instagram.
I’m still on a high from the concert. I have really come to love these ladies.
We finished the program with a piece our director, Kendra, wrote to the words of Christina Rossetti’s poem, Good Friday. It was stunning. The whole experience so soulful. An hour and half of real worship.
The more I get to know Kendra, the more I adore her. She is as genuine and good as they come. And let me add one more “g” word to describe her. She’s genius. Seriously. Like Handel, Beethoven and Mozart kind of genius. I am in awe of her mind and her many layers of talent. We all love her so much.
So how was your Holy week? I hope it was happy, restful and brimming with light. Mine felt a little bit like a marathon. Literally. 😂 I ran the Boston Marathon on Monday the 15th (I may share more in another post — it was an incredible experience), arrived home Tuesday and had to hit the ground. . . [still] running.
I was a little behind from missing a couple rehearsals with our choir, so I hustled to learn the music, get myself up to speed on all the logistics, and we performed both weekend nights.
Then on Easter Sunday, I was asked to speak in our church’s Stake Conference (a general meeting for a number of congregations in a geographical area – I know I’ve explained the lingo before.) So with all of that in the works, I came home from Boston Tuesday, but didn’t really come home until Easter afternoon.
Bless Doug for keeping everything rolling on the home front while I was racing around. Not an easy week for him either!
I missed these crazies. So much.
Speaking of children, the topic I was assigned to speak about on Sunday was Jesus and the Children — how we should care for and love the children in our lives.
Saydi’s remarks stayed with me in a deep way. I could not speak on Easter Sunday without mentioning this same imagery — beauty for ashes. So the text to my Easter talk is linked below. It’s about caring for any children over whom we have stewardship. With the reminder that Jesus will always take our ashes and turn them into something meaningful. Not just an up-cycled version of reused rubble. No, something truly beautiful.
We, however, are the only ones who can take our ashes to Jesus. The only ones who can willingly place them in His waiting hands.
When it comes to parenting, I have struggled lately to know how to love the ones who aren’t being very lovable. When I turned to the scriptures to see how Christ interacted with the children, this was the message that came to me. Maybe it will be of help to you too: