Addendum September, 2006
   You might ask, “What does ‘ash work’ entail?”  

Fireplaces give warmth to a home.  
They draw people together and help create
more intimate and personal conversations,
especially on cooler nights.  

However, fireplaces need some care and
maintenance in order to function to their highest capacity.  
Fires leave ash residue.  
It piles up after several logs have been burned.  
The flow of oxygen to the fire is diminished as the ash accumulates.

Ash needs to be removed from the hearth
so the fires will burn cleanly and brightly.  
Ash is all that is left after a fire.  

This residue must be cared for in our own lives
if we are to shine brightly.
It is interesting to note that in the story of Cinderella,
her name carries the term cinder.  
As the story begins we see her carrying out the ashes from the fireplace.

We read in the story of “Iron John”
that the first job the young man is given
is to clean out the ash pit in the cook’s oven at the king’s castle.  

“Ash work” is about grief…
it is about a descent downward
to those areas of our lives that are unpleasant
and painful that need our care.
Fires will smolder and possibly go out
unless we grieve the losses that come with great inflations.  

   Many feelings arise during this time…
feelings of insecurity, failure, rejection,
fear, sorrow, depression, anxiety, lack of confidence,
denial, regret, sadness, and hopelessness to name a few.  
They run in a pack and attempt to ravage our lives.  

Our first response is usually to run from these feelings,
act like they are not there,
and become stronger in our ego,
pushing them out of our awareness.  
We try some heroic maneuver.  
Regretfully, this only exacerbates the problem!

   The only way to journey with these feelings is to befriend them…
allow them a place in our lives
and listen to what they are endeavoring to accomplish.
Feelings of this nature need mercy, grace, love,
and a non-judgmental attitude.  
Behind each of these feelings is enormous pain.
Trying to get rid of those feelings only
increases the sorrow and causes us to become stuck.

By embracing them and gently holding them
and bringing them in prayer to the Lord,
we give them a place to deepen us,
to give us wisdom, and enrich our lives.

I have often said we need seminars
that teach us how to be insecure,
how to be in failure,
how to be rejected,
how to be fearful, sorrowful and depressed;
how to be anxious, hopeless, doubtful, and unconfident.  
These darker feelings can become narcissistic
and overwhelming if we ignore them.

Most seminars today focus on all the positives
of security, success, acceptance,
happiness, peace, confidence, and hope.  

However, all those difficult feelings
I mentioned in the last paragraph are always with us.
They never leave us.  
They are always under the surface of our skin.  
Given time and our lack of attention to them,
they will rise and cause havoc in our lives.  
They need God’s tender care and love.  
Truths of grace, mercy, forbearance,
patience, kindness and love
are deepened because of their presence.  
These darker feelings are as much a part
of our family of feelings as the lighter ones.  
We must not go about trying to
extinguish them from our lives.  
It is a futile effort.    

   “This being human is a great house.
Every morning a new arrival!
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.  
Welcome and entertain them all!  
Even if there’s a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture,
treat them honorably.  
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
Be grateful for whoever comes
because each has been sent as a guide from above.”  (Rumi)