Cleaning Out the Ashes

February 10, 2020
Meditating on the Scriptures, I have come to realize, can impart meaning into our everyday routines. Brother Lawrence discovered this as he washed dishes in his monastery. David found this to be true on a night of watching over sheep. 

In my case, I have a wood-burning stove, and it constantly needs cleaning. I am so grateful to have this stove because it saves on my utility bills. When in use, I enjoy the relaxation of laying near a good fire and watching it burn. However, removing the ashes is a regular (and untidy) task. This week, I cleaned out the recent accumulation of ashes again. 

I have developed a routine. I get my bucket and little fireplace shovel. I collect my shop vac, a little scrubber, and some dish soap. I keep a little spray bottle of water to wet down the ashes, if needed. Then, I exercise a lot of patience and care. As I carefully start lifting out ashes, I barely breathe so as not to stir up those ashes and scatter them all over the family room. 

The ashes seem to stick to everything they touch, so I get out every bit I can with the shovel. Then I vacuum out the ashes my shovel will not pick up. Finally, I spread a thin layer of dish soap on the glass window, let it set for a few minutes, and then scrub away all the soot and smoke stains. I sit back a few minutes and enjoy a spotless wood stove. Afterward, I carefully lay in kindling, a couple of dry logs, and a couple of homemade fire starters. Done. The stove is clean, and the fire is lain for the next chilly evening. 

This week, as I cleaned the stove, I began thinking about 1 John 1:9 (ESV): “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I wondered, does my life become cluttered with the ashes of sin and other disappointments? I think it does, so confession is a necessity of following Jesus. 

This realization made me think about one of Martin Luther’s awakening moments when he realized how unworthy he was to hold up the sacraments to God and offer them to the people. He froze in the middle of the Mass. He later wrote, “At these words I was utterly stupefied and terror-stricken. I thought to myself, ‘Who was I, that I should lift up mine eyes or raise my hands to the divine Majesty?’ Shall I, a little pygmy, say ‘I want this, I ask for that?’ For I am dust and ashes and full of sin and I am speaking to the living, eternal, and true God.” Soon after, Luther rediscovered righteousness by grace through faith. His path to grace is the same path we all take. We all realize that our lives are full of dust and ashes, and the way to cleanse our souls is through confession.

I am thankful for the opportunities in my everyday life to turn my mind to God. He is present even in the most mundane moments. As you go through your daily routines, I encourage you to find time to meditate on the scriptures. Open your mind to the lessons God might be trying to show you. 

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