On Monday, we take communion around our worn dining table after missing it on Sunday, share the hand blown goblet from Mexico filled with grape juice poured from small boxes. “This is His blood shed for you,” my husband says, and the five of us remember the drink that makes us one and the death that is our life.
I stand at the window and look across the street to the maple tree, leaves dripping burgundy scarlet, and it is an exquisite dying — these branches that will soon be stark silhouette against winter sky. This shedding to prepare for the green grace of spring.
Later, we drive past the large building next to the hospital with the sign that reads “Red Cross,” and my five-year-old asks what they do. I explain that (among other help and rescue) the Red Cross receives blood from people who want to donate theirs so it can be put inside the bodies of those who are sick.
“And the healthy blood makes them well,” I tell her.
In the stiff wooden pews under the stained glass, we sing, There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins; and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains. My 11-year-old daughter outright cringes at the gruesome thought of a blood fountain spurting from within Jesus’ body, even as we sing the truth of the only flow which makes us clean.
For 31 days in October, I write as honestly as I can about living fully in my ordinary, everyday life. In the process of daily writing, I experience holy intimacy with the God we are invited to know. On days I feel lost and struggle to put down words, I especially taste the miracle of daily grace as He speaks in love that wraps and provides.
But then I publish words formed in this intimate place, and my doubt and worry rush like a flood. I’m suddenly sure I’ve not done enough, nor said anything memorable. I stand naked and insecure in the harsh light of this daily one-way vulnerability, hoping to be “liked” and approved.
In a phone conversation, my sister tells me I need a tangible representation of the covering that is mine, a real life reminder that I am not truly naked, but continually clothed by Jesus.
So it’s the red scarf which calls to me. I realize it is a representation of the power of the blood.
I drape myself in the ribbed red knit as I write, and it recalls my true clothing made by the One who is my salvation. When I release the day’s words from fingertips and press “publish,” I lay the scarf across the keyboard and computer screen to remember the power of His continuing love covering.
For I am saved not only in relationship with Christ who has set me free from the power of death for all time, but also in my over and over again surrender of daily works through which I attempt to prove my value to myself and this world.
When Jesus, the perfect sacrifice, shed his holy human blood on the cross, He both fulfilled every previous ritual of performance and altar sacrifice and cleansed each of us from what Hebrews 9:14 describes as the futility of our dead works.
Even now, wrapped in this red scarf, I am saved from this trying and failing, striving and straining to do the work that is already done. For nothing I do can earn this scarlet grace covering, the wonder-working power of blood that fills, forgives, and frees us.
Thank you. It is important to have our ways of reminding ourselves of what our Lord has done to make our lives free to reflect his image in the things we do unto him. Thank you for sharing some of yours.
Thank you for your words, Daniel. I am a very visual and tactile person, so it’s certainly helpful for me to have metaphors I can touch and see that remind me of God’s character. Rocks, candles, red scarves — my life is full of them. And I so agree with what you’ve said here: we must know what our Lord has done specifically for us, so that we can go forth bearing his image and not our own in our service.
Ashley, there are absolutely no words so life-giving as the honest kind that convey someone else’s personal experience of grace. They are, in their own way, a kind of communion – a lifting of the shared cup. I sense that here, friend.
Thank you for letting us into the Holy of Holies.
Kelli, you always have such a beautiful, life-giving way of echoing back what you hear. Thankful for the communal lifting of the cup — yes, forgiveness, hope, redemption united by grace.
I wish I could tell you how I needed this. I know these words intimately. I must come back and read again. I am both naked and clothed. What a difference I now see my red scarf. Thank you.
Grateful that God worked through these words to touch you today, dear Rebekah. Naked and clothed — reminds me so much of how we are both enough and not enough. These paradoxes of faith, these honest human experiences transformed by the one who covers and makes us ultimately whole.
Ashley, thank you so much for this. Hebrew 9:14 has new meaning for me in the context of your story. Also, I first read your words this morning while wearing my deep, red robe. I don’t think that was a coincidence. 🙂
I love that, Christie. I learned so much from Hebrews this week. Not that every scripture can be applied this way, but to see the deeply personal in Hebrews and not just the overarching (though amazing) grace in the blood was a powerful shift for me.
I loved reading this Ashley Tolins Larkin! Writing for 31days was a heart wrenching challenge. Spiritually spent at its close, I felt relief and so much grace. Thank you for putting into words, the emotions behind this annual writers test of faith. Gorgeous writing!
So thankful to see you here, Lisha. I was amazed at how much 31 days wrung me out and am glad to know that you, too, experienced the exhale and grace in the doing of it (and being done with it). Bless you as you continue to pour out for Jesus.
I have just read today that even our attempts at being generous and helping others can also be counted as trying to earn God’s approval if we do and give for the sole reason of trying to fulfill what Jesus has begun to do in us with His Spirit like the Galatians did. That made so much sense to me and I realized that we really are saved by His grace and grace alone!
Grace and grace alone. May we give from that place of grace, and may God give us spiritual eyes to see when we are veering off course. Bless you, friend.
Oh, Ashley, I am picturing that red scarf now- and will race to my coat closet as soon as I’m done here so I can check to see if I’ve got a red scarf stashed in all of those bins of winter warmers. And this line captures your gift for writing and for seeing Him—“I stand at the window and look across the street to the maple tree, leaves dripping burgundy scarlet, and it is an exquisite dying — these branches that will soon be stark silhouette against winter sky. This shedding to prepare for the green grace of spring.” You are an artist with words, friend. A beautiful ambassador for the Greatest Artist of all. Thank you. Really. Thank you.
I thought the same thing when I read that portion too Alicia – beautiful indeed.
Thank you, Shelly.
Thank you, thank you, friend. I love imagining you and I both wrapped in our scarlet warmers, remembering the grace that envelops. Your words are such encouragement, and it brings a smile to my face to see you here.
Ashley my friend, I’m at a loss for words that’ll do justice to my gratitude for your heart on my computer screen today. Just… thank you. So much. There are a few people whose words put me more in touch with Jesus inside me. You’re one.
Wow. So humbled by your words, Dana, and grateful that God worked through them to bring you closer to the One who loves you beyond all imagining.
My dear sister, during your 31 days of writing I witnessed you pour out and Him poor in; you reveal and Him cover; you vulnerable and Him protective; you blessing and Him guiding. Your partnership with Jesus in your writing is a beautiful gift to the world. Thank you for loving us in this way and helping us reflect on things so lovely, holy and true. I will never look at my red scarf the same. xoxo
Oh, sis, you bless me over and over again. Thank you for showing me a picture of what I needed when I didn’t even know myself. I am grateful to walk through this life of faith in Jesus with you. I adore you.
Ashley, this is beautiful. Wow. Even if your 31 Days series was just for you (which I KNOW it wasn’t) it was worth it to let Him stretch you, for you to bleed a bit, to grow through the uncomfortable letting of your own blood, that He could transfuse you with so much more of Him. Keep going, my friend. I see Christ in you.
I love how you carried this metaphor through, Kris. Thank you for this encouragement — we so want to know that what we do is not in vain, don’t we? I’m so grateful for you and your heart that speaks out the good you see in others.
Ashley, you have several most blessed gifts that combine, in the end, as one. You listen, carefully, exquisitely. You embrace fully, with both arms, your mind and heart. You work, hard, honest, intense and sometimes relentlessly, to understand. And then you speak, you write, in words filled with grace and with a poet’s pen. Your 31 day series was an awesome gift to us your readers. (I think I need to send you 31 thank you notes.) But now, already, here’s another. Thank you dear girl for always speaking with such honesty, humility, integrity and above all, and always, Love.
Oh my dear Mama, thank you for your words dripping love to your girl. I love you.
Thank you Ashley…
I always feel I am able to take a deep breath and a sigh of relief when I read your words, as you remind me what an all-loving God we have, who has redeemed us!
Breathing in and out with you, friend — in such gratitude for the love and redemption that is ours. May we live in such a way that reflects we know it. Bless you, dear one.
Wow…this is so powerful. I think I need a red scarf!! So beautiful Ashley!