One year ago today, I work up to the looming smell of ashes. It was a smell that would continue to fill the air for several months. It was a strong smell that effortlessly declared the power of the fire that had preceded it the day before. On Monday, January 3, 2011, I woke up in the midst of many unknowns. The previous morning, the church at which I have ministered for the last eight and a half years had caught on fire and burned down completely. It was unknown how we would move forward, what we were supposed to do, and how we would continue to minister on the corner of Claremont and Barker. However, what was unknown to us, was completely known to God.
The upcoming hours were spent trying figure out the logistics of continuing the ministries of the church. The upcoming days were spent addressing the loss of a building that housed so many memories of those who worshipped there in the past. The upcoming weeks were spent making arrangements for the building of a new worship center. And the upcoming months were spend watching the pieces of God's plan fall into place. And piece by piece, God has shown to His children what He can do with ashes.
There is a worship song that was written a few years ago by Chris Tomlin that says "Out of the ashes we rise." It is that very song that has played through my mind many mornings this past year as I have reflected on the progression of the new worship center. Today, the words that I am singing have changed slightly. Today, my heart sings, "Out of the ashes YOU rise." Out of the ashes that have been our stress, our worries, and our fears, God has shown and revealed Himself to us. He has show that from ashes, He can bring forth a Crown of Beauty. The new Worship Center is not a testimony of a great architect, building designer, or leadership team (all of which we have been overwhelmingly blessed with) but it is a testimony of God's power, God's strength, and God's provision.
In a couple hours, a beautifully polished white steeple will take its place in the very spot that was covered with debris, ashes, and a deep sense of loss one year ago. It reminds me of the state of my heart when God redeemed my life and, by His gracious and merciful hand, raised my life from slavery to sin and the overwhelming stench of pride and judgment.
My prayer this morning is that the beautiful white steeple, raised one year and one day after the fire, will be a reminder of two things. First, that it would remind me of the low state from which God has brought me and the high price that was paid for my redemption. And second, that it would remind us all of how God has powerfully, miraculously, and graciously taken the pile of ashes on the corner of Claremont and Barker and provided a means by which He will choose to minister to the quiet community on the west side of Evansville. Because God has truly risen out of those ashes.