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Dust and Ashes


With Christmas a couple of weeks away, I should be buying and wrapping presents. At the office, all the Secret Santa gifts have been purchased and placed under the tree, save mine. My coworkers have labeled me, Scrooge and I hear bah-humbug when I pass their desks. Instead of shopping on my evening off, I’m sitting in Father Joe’s Bible class as the jingle bells chime and each Advent Calendar door opens. I hope I can keep my mind on the topic, taking into account my overwhelming never-ending laundry list of things to do.

Ten minutes into Father Joe’s introduction to the Book of Job, I came to the conclusion; Father hired a private detective to spy on my life. Father read Job’s drama verse-by-verse, and it coincides and parallels with mine. Of course, my quandaries are a tad different, not as severe as the biblical character traumatized by the fiery finger of Satan, but nevertheless the anxieties are drastic, disturbing my peaceful sleep.

My dramatic film production, As the World Burns, commences as soon as the alarm goes off at five in the morning, and ends after midnight, unless I’m having weird dreams. The nightmares ignite chaos to my overactive imagination. The stress factor finally fizzles out tapering off at four in the morning when my physical body surrenders to the bleating of sheep. Yes, surviving on one hour of shut-eye, sleep deprivation is my livelihood bastion. Even the top of my desk looks comfy-cozy. Long traffic lights; hear me snore. The bathroom stall is my rest stop. Startled by a profound thump on the table, I realized I was progressing down Barbara Street, forfeiting Father Joe’s class. Following the much-needed distraction, I was back on track.

The stout-goodly man continued with phase two of his instruction. “Class, now that you have listened to the first chapter of our spiritual role model and I’ve answered some of your concerns; allow me to express key points for your further consideration. If you would be so kind, jot-down your queries and I will address them when I’m done. If I stop my train of thought, I will lose focus. We’ll have an open discussion once I facilitate the not so obvious pearls of wisdom from Job. If there isn’t enough time, we will start our next session by reviewing your regards. So, hold on to those questions, they’re important and bring them next time if we don’t get to the wrap-up portion of our class.

“There was a reason I selected the Book of Job to read and study. Too often, we believe the Bible is full of nice stories and none of them relate to us. It was for the people who lived back then. We live in a contemporary society and things are different. That’s the first lie the devil wants you to believe. Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun and having great wisdom, a gift from God, Solomon is correct. The sins we commit today are the same sins that destroyed the world when the ark was afloat. Sin is sin and it has not evolved into something else nor have the consequences of sin been altered. God is divinely immutable, never changes.

“I also wanted to study Job because Christians like Jews, believe and believed, when hard-times or problems come our way, God is angry about some sin we have committed. Jesus said the rain falls on the just and unjust. Who suffered more than our Savior, Jesus? Who suffered more than the Apostles did?

“Life can be difficult when problems arise. With the downturn in the economy, employment is hard to find manifesting financial difficulties. Joe, who lost his job, looks at Larry, who is still employed, and wonders why God is still blessing Larry.

“Sickness and death may strike a family, creating emotional and financial hardships. Divorce tops the chart as a number-one stress inducer, hurting all family members from the youngest to the oldest. Children leaving the home for college or marriage will disturb the parent’s mental equilibrium. With the birth of babies, the entire household will be joyous but at times, there is exasperation especially if the baby is colicky.

“There are other tidal waves that rock our personal boats. Criminals can pose a threat to our comfort zones, natural disasters can be in the weather forecast, and even terrorists can strike at any time. If you read the paper or go online, our world can easily be launched into freaky Friday. Yes, people need reinforcement that bad things happen to good people. Just because life may be at an impasse, it doesn’t mean God is against us. Case in point our buddy, Job. When the book was written people believed if you were wealthy, God was your biggest fan. The more righteous you were, the more God showered you with material blessings. If you were evil, you were destitute and infirmed.

“Do you remember the man who was born blind? Saint John was very descriptive in his writing. Jesus was with his disciples and they came upon a man who was blind from birth. The disciples asked Jesus who sinned, the man or his parents. Jesus said neither and healed the blind man giving him sight. The man was born blind to show the saving grace of God through Jesus.

“What do we do when things get tough? Do we blame God? God, I feed the hungry and give to the poor. Why did you take my job? Why did you allow this to happen? I’m a Christian and my life should always be perfect. Look at Leroy; he doesn’t go to church, and he gets a job promotion. I have more experience and a better college education than he does. Why is this happening? When we question God, our faith begins to waiver.”

Father Joe is right, I have to admit; as soon as my blue-sky starts clouding-up or unexpected heartache downpours, my mouth is grumbling even in prayer; God why did you allow this to happen. If that isn’t enough, your friends and neighbors scrutinize your hard luck, because surely God is punishing you. Why else would your life be plagued with black clouds hanging overhead? Father Joe eased my emotional and spiritual state by his verbal support - good people suffer.

“My dear friends, if calamity befalls you - don’t blame God. The one Bible character that stands out and exemplifies this is Job. God has a purpose for this book and it is to instruct us on how to deal with life when things aren’t so cheery. It’s all about relationships.

“Job was a man who lived in the land of Uz not Oz! The guy wasn’t a wizard but he was a whiz in righteousness. The Bible tells us Job was blameless, upright, God’s servant; he feared God and shunned evil. How many of us can say we avoid or reject evil? Let me not get into the sins of drunkenness, gambling, and pornography. A few glasses of wine can be okay, unless it leads us to sin. If you get a DWI, it’s not God’s fault.

“You can see my addiction - I love Mrs. M’s Italian bread. She was baking it for me twice a week but I kindly requested, once a month. And please, no cookies for Christmas. I was told by my doctor to lose fifty-pounds. Dieting is difficult with all the parties and good food. The doc gave me fair warning. I need to eat more apples and broccoli.

“Back to our dear friend - Job populated the earth by fathering seven sons and three daughters. Because of his spiritual and diligent work habits, the Lord blessed Job with seven-thousand sheep, three-thousand camels, five-hundred yoke of oxen, five-hundred female donkeys, and a very large household to sustain and maintain his property and possessions. This man was the wealthiest of all the people in the East. Job was blessed by God and that is why scripture numbered his worldly possessions. The more animals and land you owned was the spiritual measurement to the height and depth of your righteousness.

“The scriptures continue to read, Job’s children were adults with their own households. During the feast days, the days God wanted observed by all his people, his sons would feast in their homes, each on his appointed day, and they would invite their sisters to eat and drink with them. The feast days ended, Job was prepared to sanctify his family. Rising up early in the morning, the devout man offered burnt offerings to God according to their number. With a tearful eye, and heavy heart, Job knew his sons had sinned and cursed God in their hearts. His sons should’ve been with Job preparing the sanctification but God wasn’t worth their rising up early in the morning. Sleep was more important than worshipping and praising God. Sound familiar; go to Mass on Sunday morning? God understands; I worked all week, I’m excused. No time for God but we pray and expect instant answers. We give nothing and expect everything.

“Family problems have been around since Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden. Cain and Abel were not best buddies. Eve’s heart was broken; knowing her beloved son, Cain murdered her dearest Abel. Satan knows exactly how to win us over and it is through relationships.

“Well, Job is distraught over his unbelieving children. He beats himself up trying to figure out what he did wrong. Satan, our adversary, knows right where to pinch to make us flinch. Job was a loving father but his righteousness would not cover his children. They were on their own. As adults, we all have the freedom of choice to do good or evil. Parents cannot make those decisions for their grown children.

“Satan approaches God, and God asks the devil what he has been doing. God already knew what the devil was up to. Satan makes a candid remark; he’s been having a ball watching God’s people. The devilish spirit continues to use his cunning devices and lectures, if your people are heeding your laws and ordinances, let me have-at them because I can change their hearts.

“The imp boldly confesses to God; he can easily persuade everyone to follow his lead. Satan prompts God and requests the green light to trespass and engage in human contact. If God allows the hand of Satan to touch God’s people, Satan will change their faithfulness into faithlessness.

“Entreating the Almighty, Satan proclaims, and then you will see how much your people really love you. Of course, they praise you. They’re nothing but spoiled brats. God give me this. God give me that. You give them everything they want, ergo Job the righteous servant.  I hear their silly and selfish complaints. God, do you really think Job is sincere? Take away one camel, and you’ll hear Job curse your name. All the others will ditto him.

“God denies Satan’s fabrications, mockery, and catechizes the wicked one. God points out; there is none like Job on the earth, a blameless and upright man. Job is a man of his word and one who fears his Maker out of love. He shuns all evil knowing it displeases his Lord. God rebukes Satan. With extreme emphasis, God tells Satan that Job will be faithful and long-suffering unto death.

“Satan paints on a sneering-slimy smirk, while sitting on his reptile-like haunches. Snickering, he places his finger with a long-pointed fingernail to his face. The evil spirit’s consideration was to con God. Capacious slick words spewed out of his devilish churlish lips as he persisted to inform God about the ratiocination of Job’s subjective homage.

“The creature declared using my dramatic voice and narrative, ‘God, you built a fortress around Job, around his household, and around all that Job has. You have lavished Job with everything. God, you have blessed the work of Job’s hands and his possessions have increased in the land all because of you. Job doesn’t love you. Job is using you. Job basks in the bounty that you have given him. Take it all away and Job will grit his teeth and despise your guts.’ Here is where I picture Satan ending his spiel and then squints to hear God’s rejoinder.

“God was quiet. Satan stood. The provocateur persisted with his main intent. I can hear Satan babbling at God, ‘Lord, test this fine-outstanding man named Job. Stretch out your hand, and take away all that Job has, and he will surely denounce and execrate you to your face! Trust me God; I know how people are. They’re fair-weather worshippers. Let me - take away Job’s possessions. Let me - take away his family, and let us see what he does.’

“This bookmark is where Job’s drama begins. Before I go into the drama, I want to give you my points of interest. First, Job was noble and God confirmed it. Second, Job is married, has ten children, and classified as upper crust labeled the greatest of all the people of the East. Third, being disappointed, Job pours out his heart revealing his issues! Job, are you saying your sons and daughters are not following your good example?

“Evidently, Job feels compelled to divulge the truth to God and out of sheer desperation exposes his problems openly to the Almighty. Funny, God already knew this. Job needed to get it off his chest. What gives Job? Job’s a spiritual janitor. He routinely mops and sweeps-up all the broken pieces of his children’s lives. Job tries to make them holy by doing what they should be doing.

“The good man gets up early to start his religious service to God. His kids are still sleeping in their nice-warm beds. Keep in mind, the scripture said they all have their own homes. Who gave them their homes? I would surmise, Job. Considering his social status, he would not want his children to live like paupers.

“What is rather anomalous; where is Job’s wife through all this? When you read further into the text, her name is never mentioned. She had ten children. With so many names given in the Bible, to leave her name out is not in error. The spirit-filled writer had a specific motive for the omission.

“Job, you spoiled your kids rotten! Job’s children did not respect Job or God. Not only are his sons and daughters a huge spiritual disappointment, Job did not have a loving relationship with his spouse. A loving marital relationship is the foundation of a good marriage and strong family unit. Job and his wife didn’t have a common denominator - God.

“Our topic of discussion was a poor decision maker when it came to his family. Job was a pushover and a doormat, allowing the family, including his wife, to take advantage of him. Job felt responsible for his irresponsible adult children’s sins; the downfall of parents. Parental love is unconditional. Unconditional love does not rationalize or cover-up children’s shortcomings, but rather, their love should teach the truth with patience and humility; not beating their children over the head with the Bible.

“The devil, a cunning and conniving sinister creature, knows exactly where to drill the screws. If you think you have problems, wait until we get into the meat of what Satan does to Job, anticipating Job will curse God and die. God allows Job to be tested, to prove Job’s sincerity and faith.

“Let’s review a few things about Satan. Satan talks to God. Satan has free rule of the physical and spirit world. That is why one should never conjure up spirits in séances, divination, Ouija Boards, tarot cards or any means because Satan will be knocking on your door. Satan will always try to discredit God. God, you favored Job and that’s why Job loves you.

“Here are a few snippets about God. God sees everything we do. God knows our names, what we do for a living, and hears and feels our woes. God also understands our limitations, weaknesses, and character. Our lives are made open to God’s omnipresent eyes. God knew David in his mother’s womb. Conception is God’s breath of life. Life is the work of God’s hand. Every breath from God deserves dignity, respect, and the right to live.

“God gives Satan the go-ahead to test Job but there was one thing Satan could not do. Satan could not take Job’s life. A second latter, Satan was on a jet plane flying back to the earth to bring Job to his knees.

“Spiritual warfare takes place and the first trial begins. A messenger came to Job and told him the Sabeans raided his land, took the oxen and the donkeys, and killed the servants by the edge of the sword. This messenger was the only one to escape!

“While this messenger was still speaking, another messenger came and informs Job that fire burned up all his sheep, the servants, and this messenger was the only one that escaped.

“As this lucky messenger was speaking, still another messenger came and gave the bad news - the Chaldeans formed three bands, raided Job’s camels, and took them away. Then, they killed the servants by the edge of the sword. This servant was the only one to escape and he came expeditiously to tell Job!

“Job didn’t denounce God, standing firm in his faith. Satan being mystified renders more tribulation in the second trial-by-fire. Another messenger knocks. He informs Job that his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in Job’s oldest son’s house. Suddenly, a fierce wind came from across the wilderness. It struck all four-corners of the abode. The walls and ceilings collapsed on the young people, and they died. This messenger saw and escaped this travesty!

“Poor Job, he lost all his possessions and children. At least he still had his loving wife but she wasn’t much help. When we read further, the wife tells Job to curse God and die! What does broken Job do? What would you do? Did Job curse God and die? No, Job tore his robe, shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped his Lord. Job declares; he was naked when he was born, and he will be naked when he returns. The Lord gave to me and the Lord has taken away; but blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this, Job did not sin nor charge God with any wrongdoing. Job knew, as we know, the earth is not our final destination.

“I read this and all I can say is way-to-go, Job! When Satan wants you, he will do anything to get you! If I lost all my possessions and then my Saint Bernard, Brutus, all in one day, could I withstand all this pain and sorrow? Or, would I be hosting a major pity-party, inviting all my friends to listen to my tales of woe. Please, I’m not making light of all the horrendous inflictions we bear, but don’t we get ruffled when even the slightest inconvenience takes place like waiting on line at the store? Our car breaks down on the highway and we’re frantic. The boss didn’t like the sales presentation or the washer quit working making our life unbearable.

 “Taking away all of Job’s material possessions and his children, did not please Satan. Satan knew there was one more crisis that could possibly make Job buckle under the pressure. The three-strikes and you’re out rule. Satan returns to God and requests to touch Job’s skin. God, let me hurt Job’s flesh. Satan believed; if he touched Job’s physical body, Job would surely blaspheme God! The Lord tells Satan, you know my rules but spare Job’s life. You cannot take Job’s life.

“God gave one charge to the devil - do not kill my servant Job. God gave the parameters of the spiritual warfare, good against evil. God gave Satan rules. Satan, you can physically harm Job but you cannot, hear me on this one, you cannot take his life! This is the amazing part, as corruptible as Satan is; the beast obeyed God. Even Satan listens to God! God delegated Job’s physical health to Satan, but admonished Satan not to take Job’s life.

“Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, took the red-eye, and struck Job with painful boils from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head. While sitting in the middle of ashes, Job scraped his skin, throwing the flesh into a pot. His nameless wife ridiculed and harassed her husband, while he sat in the midst of the ashes. She questioned Job’s integrity. Job, you did something wrong, fess-up. God is mad at you. All our neighbors and friends know you have done something pretty awful for God to be this angry. Job, I’m tired of looking at you. Curse God, and die. You know you want to curse God!

“Job defends God. Calling her a foolish woman, he clarified his current predicament. I accepted all the good things God has given me and I will endure the hardships. Job did not sin with his lips.

“News travels fast, and Job’s three best friends came to visit. They were good fellows. They sat quietly with Job for seven days. Sometimes just being with a grieving person in quietness is the best solution. If the sufferer wants to speak, allow them to talk. When we get to chapter seven, there is where we learn how to pray without whining to God. Job told God how he felt; he was honest about his feelings. Do we honesty speak to God about our feelings?

“Job’s wife did not support her husband. Job’s wife did not support God. Job’s wife was being used by Satan. She allowed it. Here is a thought - when sin takes over, it has consequences on all humanity. Getting back to Job, his three friends came to visit. Sometimes we think this is just a story, but in real life, this does happen. In times of crisis, you will quickly find out who your true friends are and it might surprise you. Also, listen to what people are telling you. Talk is cheap. People will always put their two-cents into the kitty. With friends like that, who needs enemies? That is why we need a Savior.

“Do we have modern day Jobs? Yes, in a sense we are all modern day Jobs. How we stand against adversity will be the product and outcome of our own destinies. Can we say when we are being tempted that we are tempted by the Lord? No, it’s our own sin or the devil is on the prowl. Does hardship make us curse God? Do our problems bring us closer to the Lord? Does Satan drive a wedge between us, and God’s listening ear? Do we pray and honestly talk to God? Are we accountable and responsible for our actions?

“By reading Job, you will come to the understanding that the human mind will never comprehend God’s infinite and divine mercy! Our appetites are whet by God’s words, but our brains cannot digest all that is Holy! Some things are hard to swallow. In times of heartache and despair, we have a Savior who feels our pain and will help us carry our crosses. He carried His. Pray, pray and pray some more. Prayer is a gift. Remember, in times of sorrow we are never alone. Jesus is there. The glory of Heaven far exceeds our present mortal challenges. What can separate us from the love of Christ?

“I would like to end our class with a poem titled The Calling, written by Barbara Case Speers.


So wretched a mortal life I lead.

A meager existence with Satan’s endless hand,

Hence a continual weapon of tribulation.

Immovable faith imparts my weary soul to pursue my righteous journey.

God; unequivocally is the center of my unmitigated adoration.

For no bloody man, vulturish beast or supernatural being

Can force my knee to bend and kiss a jeweled ring upon fleshly hand.

With sharpened sword thrust forward for battle, my heart of cold-hardened steel

Shall slash the adversary with my resilient and victorious faith of honor,

Then the Almighty will call me home.”


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