This morning as I start the day in prayer, my gaze is drawn to our Christmas tree so beautifully adorned with lights and ornaments. One particular ornament catches my eye, the one you see above. This one is made from volcanic ash. When I bought this ornament, my husband and I were in Seattle, WA visiting a group of Korean-Americans who wanted us to speak into the development of their church. I remembered how dazzled I was by the beauty of the area, how I understood why people from the Pacific Northwest always pine away for the beauty of this place if they move away to someplace like Kansas where I’m from! Snow-capped Mount Ranier rises majestically on the horizon above the other mountains of the Cascade range surrounded by evergreen forests. Also among the volcanic mountains in the state of WA is the now famous Mt. Saint Helens. I remember the devastating eruption of Mt. Saint Helens in 1980, It caused more deaths and damage than any other volcanic eruption in the mainland USA. How does this relate to the ornament on the Christmas tree, you may be wondering? This work of art is made from the volcanic ash of Mt. Saint Helens. It amazes me this morning that someone saw in those ashes the raw materials of something incredibly beautiful, that they went to all the trouble of gathering those ashes, melting them down into glass, adding beautiful color and crafting a beautiful Christmas ornament to sell in “Made in Washington” gift shops all over the state. First of all, this speaks to me of the Messiah who is “the reason for this season” of Christmas we are now celebrating. “To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.” Isaiah 61:3 NLT. That God saw in the “ashes of humanity” something beautiful in the making, then came to earth Himself to make sure that the transformation happened is in my eyes, the greatest miracle of all time. As I think of this parable in light of the difficult and damaging events in our lives that regularly happen to us and those around us, it gives me hope for everyone. No matter what happens to us, in the aftermath of those events, the ashes can become the raw materials of a beautiful re-creation. When we are able to envision the beauty we might possibly create with “ingredients” that seem unlikely candidates for “beauty”, an amazing transformation begins. The essential elements for creating a beautiful life are present everywhere in our lives if we have eyes to see them, patience to distill them, and creativity to add the color and design that is our unique contribution to this world. We can powerfully serve others with beauty created from the ashes if we dare to hope, dare to believe, dare to see and to do the hard work it takes to recreate life. This to me is real beauty, beauty that endures, beauty that never fades. Beauty from ashes is stunning me this morning. It makes me want to see the potential in each of you and encourage you to ponder how the ashes in your life might be transformed into something incredibly beautiful this next year.