Resting in the ashes

“And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country.”

Luke 4: 13-14

The tile floor is bearable this morning despite record-low temperatures in East Texas. It is comfortable because this fire in the fireplace has been going for three days and nights straight now and there is an awesome bed of hot coals.

Ice, snow, dangerous temperatures—these are unprecedented conditions for East Texans who readily accommodate record high temperatures. My Papa, who built a large number of homes and buildings in this town, served in World War II. He told the story of freezing in Germany, snow and ice everywhere. He prayed and asked God to get him warm, promising he would never again complain about the Texas heat.

I’m fairly confident he held true as the story was often told on sweltering summer days.

Today though it is bitter cold.

We have a warm fire and I sit on the floor.

There is ash all around.

I normally spend morning prayer and reading time in my closet.

Today I moved to help keep this three-day fire alive.

Today my New Testament reading is Luke 4. This reading falls today despite my missing days or reading more on some days and less on others. I love when God does this.

This is the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. Forty days of fasting and self-denial followed by a direct attack from Satan.

Today, this Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of Lent and remembering those 40 days of denial, of commensurate temptation, of the beautiful, spotless life of Jesus and His completion of every work perfectly on our behalf.

This week my husband and I have scrambled to be sure we had everything covered, all in place, supplies to meet every need as this deep freeze approached.

Temperatures dropped. Snow fell. Icicles formed. Stores closed. Roads froze.

People lost power.

We laid in bed and on the couch each night, listening intently. We have watched and waited for whatever was coming, whatever we needed to fix. As I lay in the dark, focusing on each little creak of branches in mature pine and oak trees all around, I remembered what I already know. My life, my every breath, every need I have, is already in God’s hands.

From the tiny to the looming, from a freshly plastered pool that has to have the pump running all week, to people freezing and hungering, He is sovereign. We are never forgotten.

I am not in control even when I think I am.

We live when cars can drive themselves, with computers in our pockets and groceries are delivered to our door. We are implanting chips in our brains in an attempt to “live” forever.

It just feels like we have power…

In the notes of my bible reading today it said that Satan was tempting Jesus to use his power to supply his needs during the temptation instead of trusting God to supply.

My mind boggled.

Jesus was holding back His own power (which happens to be the literal power of God) to trust that His needs will be met.

I, who have absolutely no power to speak of, still hold on and leverage all I can around me to meet my every whim.

The power does not rest with me and there is no rest until I relinquish, until I see reality is this: All power rests with God.

When Jesus came to live that life—that life that cannot truly trigger any response but awe, He did it to restore power.

Not restore power in the weary ways that we think, but to reconnect that damaged line to Him.

Ice laden trees have torn down power lines. People are cold, hungry, suffering.

This King came and hung on a tree and the line of power was repaired.

Jesus was tempted to use His own real power to meet His own real needs. He could have resisted. He could have come down. But instead He trusted. He stayed on the tree.

Death came.

God’s power, God’s timing, God’s plan was what He needed.

It is what we all need.

So I sit in these ashes today knowing I can’t filter dust and dirt from a pool without power anymore than I can avoid breathing in the dirt and dust of sin that is all around me.

I cannot unfreeze the water treatment plant.

I cannot restore power.

I am filthy.

This ash reminds me that this is how I began. I carry this dust in mortal frame until my own death. My ending, however, was rewritten when he resisted temptation, rested in God and was resurrected.

This is the power of Christ in me.

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