Oklahoma. Sometimes I think you have to be half crazy to love this place.
Christmas day was absolutely beautiful! We had high temperatures near 70. Perfect weather! But then came Saturday. Rain. Rain. And more rain. We saw several inches of rain dumped on us in a matter of hours.
And then came the cold front. Sunday saw the largest variety of weather conditions I have ever seen in one state! We literally had severe thunderstorm warnings, tornado warnings, blizzard warnings, ice storm warnings, and winter weather warnings…all at the same time. Oh. And don’t forget to throw in an earthquake or two. There was something for everyone. We hunkered down at the house, a crockpot full of chili cooking in the kitchen. We gathered around the table for an afternoon of board games and card games.
Monday morning, we woke to nearly an inch of ice coating everything—trees, power lines, streets. Darkness covered everything as electric poles were downed by the heavy ice and strong winds, knocking out electricity for huge portions of the state. Trees lay destroyed, unable to withstand the weight of the ice. Devastation and destruction everywhere, even as the remnants of the last ice storm still littered the neighborhood.
And yet, as I drove home from work just before sunset Monday, I saw the most amazing scene. The sun finally began to peek out from behind the clouds. The ice glistened in the light of the sun, creating the most beautiful winter scene I believe I have ever seen. As the sky changed to a yellow-orange hue, the reflection only grew more beautiful.
I was captivated, mesmerized by the beauty before me. The ice had brought devastation, destruction. And yet, it was creating the most beautiful scene. Beauty emerging from destruction. Devastation reflecting glory.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. Isaiah 61:1-3
Oh, what beautiful words! Words of hope. Words of prophecy. Words of comfort. Words of truth. Truth for you and truth for me.
Seven years ago, my life lay in complete destruction, devastation. I could see no way to experience beauty or to have a full life again.
God took the devastation and destruction I was experiencing. He looked down, began to shine his light on the pain. And, over time, his light caused my pain to shimmer and shine, to glisten and reflect his light. Just as the ice this week reflected the sun and created the most amazing view, God’s light has created a beautiful picture from the devastation I have experienced.
In the midst of the pain, it’s often hard to see what God is doing. We become consumed with the pain and devastation. We can’t see beyond the destruction.
And yet when we surrender to him, trust him with our pain and circumstances, he creates a beautiful picture of his goodness and his grace. He uses our pain to give our lives purpose and passion.
Let’s look at a few phrases from this passage:
the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…
From the very beginning, I asked God to do an amazing work in me so he could do an amazing work through me. Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would be where I am today. I was resigned to working as a nurse (a good and noble profession), being a mom. Instead, God has used the devastation and destruction to fulfill my life-long dream of writing and speaking. He used the pain to prepare me, to give me compassion for those who are hurting around me. He used this journey to draw me into deeper faith, to learn to trust him fully and completely in all things. And now, he is giving me the opportunity to minister to others, to share his good news with those who are hurting. No greater joy!
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…
The last few years have been rough! As I look back over the trials even of just this year, I’m amazed at all that has been thrown at me. In the last 18 months, my oldest son has had two surgeries and multiple other medical problems. My dad has faced cancer and has had multiple surgeries. We’ve seen financial crises. We’ve seen family dissension. We’ve seen more than I can even seem to recall.
I honestly can’t complain that 2015 is almost behind us. I think I’m ready to turn the page, to start a new chapter. And somehow, I have an overwhelming and growing sense that 2016 will see the Lord’s favor. I am proclaiming today that God’s blessings are about to pour out, that we will see him move in mighty ways. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God,” (Matthew 5:8).
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
The sun is beginning to peek through the clouds. It won’t be long and his light will be shining down on you. The pain and devastation you have experienced will begin to glisten, shine, reflect his light. You will see his promise that “all things work for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28).
The pain and destruction will give way to a glorious picture, a breath-taking view that is greater than anything we could ever ask or imagine. It’s coming. It may not seem possible, but cling to that hope because beauty is coming!
They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor
When God has brought his work full circle, when he sees that the work he started is complete, you will stand strong and tall. You will be a towering oak, with roots that go down deep into your savior. Your faith will have been tried, tested, purified. You will be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
And the best part? God will use your life, your story, to display his splendor.
Lord Jesus, as we enter 2016, I offer myself to you. May I be a living sacrifice, a drink offering poured out and used up for you. May I be anointed to bring hope to the hurting, healing to the sick. May your work be complete in my life, may your favor rest upon me. Exchange my ashes for a crown of beauty, my mourning for joy. Let me be a shining light, a display of your splendor. May I always reflect your light and your glory. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
Happy New Year, my dear friends!