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Posts Tagged ‘#hope’

I just don’t know

In my fifty-something years of living, there is not four more hopeless words I have ever uttered.

This phrase speaks of indecision, resignation, confusion … even heartbreak, sorrow and hands in the air forfeit.

Have you said such words?

We all have. We have all walked through dark valleys, filled with fear and no hint at next steps, next decisions … not a hint at a light in the darkness.

We have all had hopeless moments … days … seasons … years.

After Moses died, the Lord spoke to Joshua, telling him that he would become the new Moses, the new leader of the Israelite people. In his speaking to Joshua, he spoke the following sentence (Joshua 1:9) :

“Be strong.
Be brave.
Be fearless.

You are never alone.”

Four more words … YOU ARE NEVER ALONE.

These four words are ones that speak comfort, promise, hope. They are, in essence, the anti-venom to our cry of I just don’t know

As you walk this day, this coming week and month and season … you are not alone.

When you feel attacked by people, or situations or forces beyond your control … you are not alone.

When you think you have hit rock bottom and there is nowhere to turn … you are not alone.

When sorrows, like sea billows are rolling, in you life, your heart … you are not alone.

When it seems there is just no light left in the dark tunnel … you are not alone.

you are never alone.

Everything around me seems uncertain
My weary heart can’t take much more surprise
I wish there was a point on the horizon
Something I could see with my own eyes

I need to tell you that I’m scared
I feel completely unprepared
And nothing’s what it was two weeks ago

But you already know
You already know
Everything I’m scared of
Everything I hope
You hold my tomorrow
And all tomorrow holds
You already know

I can’t seem to find the easy answers
Someday, I hope the suffering makes sense
I just need to know that you are with me
Even if you keep me in suspense

We talk so much these days
Because I have so much to say
You stay and listen to me closely even though

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Over the past year I have become a lover of that which I never thought I would like … podcasts.

They give my mind distraction from my own thoughts, my naval gazing, my perseverating. They entertain me, taking me away to far places, entertaining accents and soul-filling.

Recently my daughter introduced me to a podcaster who is soft-hearted, warm, hopeful and encouraging … and it’s not because her life has been all sugar-coated goodness!

One of the things she does, and does well, are blessings. When I hear her deliver a blessing I find it hard to listen without it penetrating into my soul and the effect is often a waterfall from my eyes (perhaps also because I have frequently been kneeling as I heard them, as was often the case when receiving a blessing in biblical days).

It got me to thinking this week,

where have blessings gone?

First off, what is a blessing?

We say a blessing before we eat a meal, before we take communion. It is a humble asking that what we intake is what God wants for us. It is also an acknowledgement of where our basic needs originate … from God. This is much like the blessing one might receive from another, before doing a new thing (such as getting married, moving away, going off to school or to work in missions).

A blessing is also a bestowing of good things (in OT biblical times it was often material goods, in NT times, it was more often spiritual benefits), grace, mercy, well wishes.

I think we all could benefit from an increased practice of offering and receiving blessings. It could be a beautiful reminder of God with us.

So, let me offer a blessing to you, as you read and as you move through this day :

Blessed are you, simply because you are a child of the most high King.
You, who arose this morning with a smile on your face …
Or a lump in your throat …
Or an ache in your heart …
Or … you needed the help of another to rise.
You are loved.
Blessed are you who sees a day before you filled with
joy,
family,
too much to do,
emptiness,
tough stuff …
for you will not walk this day alone.
You never walk alone.
Blessed are you who keep going,
keep showing up
at church
and in your marriages
and at work
and in your family relationships
even when it’s hard, you’re tired, you’re empty.
For He is here to fill you.
May you walk this day,
this life,
even though it is not straight or narrow,
even though it is not what you expected,
with hope.
I am your hope, says the Lord.
You do not walk alone.

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For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,”
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
Isaiah 54:10

Death and taxes … that is said to be the only guarantees in life. Sounds kinda grim and it is, if one lives without God in their life. For God in our lives guarantees one more thing …

hope.

The thing is that even for those who do not walk with God, he walks with them. I often visualize him as that shadow that is just on the edge of our periphery, that presence in an otherwise empty room, a whisper that is only heard inside our own heads, the sense of touch, of embrace when one is alone.

I kinda think of the Spirit of God like a stalker, who hovers, awaiting an invitation to enter into our life, to lead rather than to follow. His ghostly presence, causing the heebie jeebies for those who have yet to welcome him in, is the essence of peace for those who rely fully on him to do life.

For those in whom the Spirit lives, there is another reality …

you cannot get away from the Spirit.

There is no hiding, or ignoring or running away from him. He is simply always there.

Always near.
Always loving.
Always right beside.

His presence is comfort, peace to those who know him. The awareness of him in our lives gives hope for the future, whether it is decades of life on this soil, or hours.

The other day the song (below) started to play and was absorbed into my otherwise preoccupied mind and soul as I’d spent that day in constant prayer for another. My heart was heavy, immersed in the weight of those circumstances. Then these words pierced my mind:

You love me when I’m lost
You love me til I’m found
Your love it surrounds me
I can’t get away

I tell you, he’s always there, you can’t escape him.

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The night is lit by the stars and moon and my how they put on a stellar show sometimes. The night sky is not static, it changes with the days and seasons providing an original performance every. single. night.

“When I observe your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars …”

Psalm 8:3

I find it impossible to look up at the dark night sky, illuminated by the moon and stars, and not thank God who created it all. It is an unnecessary beauty, for beauty is not needed for it to fulfill its function. Yet, God, in his wisdom and grace gives us this nightly display.

You know what I find interesting?

The light display is more glorious when the backdrop of the night is more inky black. It is, in actuality, the inky darkness that enables the moon to shine most bright.

And so it is when darkness seeps into our souls and minds. When sorrow, or grief, or sadness, or fear, or anxiety, or depression, or loneliness, or heartbreak or … you name it, for we have all been visited by a time of darkness … when the dark stops by and stays, when the shadows cast eerie images and feelings … that is when the little glimmer of light shines brightest, in the forms of connection, hope, delight, beauty, joy, good news.

While watching an episode of Call the Midwife (season 9, episode 8), recently, the monologue caught my attention … stayed with me into the next day :

Welcome the darkness, embrace it as a canopy from which the stars can hang, for there are always stars when we are where we ought to be, amongst the faces we love best, each with our place, each with our purpose, as fixed and familiar as the constellations.
The darkness is beautiful, for how else can we shine?

Ecclesiastes 3:11 reminds us that God makes everything beautiful in it’s time.

As we look up to the night sky, as we are treated to the beauty, may we not just thank God for the moon and stars, but also for the dark backdrop, from which their beauty shines best.

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Though the new year is days past and many are returning to the regular things of life, my mind has been spinning about an idea I heard.

The thing is, I heard it more than once, from more than one source. The only thing that connects all the sources of this idea is that they were human souls … not lifestyle, not age, not financial wealth (or lack thereof) in common … just a heartbeat …

but … maybe that is because this idea is … primitive, coming from a common human need …

hope.

I think that maybe, in our human rush to pack Christmas away (even before it has ended) we often pack the hope that advent whispered to us in early December. As though it is not in season at any other time.

Yet, hope is always a hot commodity. It is always sought for. Always, always, always, needed.

Because, when the joys of the season pass, when the minimalistic decor that is all the trend leaves us feeling cleaned up of … everything,

we still need hope,

heaps and heaps of

the encouragement, the confidence, the acceptance,

the giggle in our bellies,

the spark in someone’s eyes,

the dream that feels like reality when we awake.

When we awake and feel …

a. l. i. v. e.

unlike ever before.

The feeling, the knowing,

that our every breath is good, and planned and meaningful.

The hope that it gets

better,

but, more than that,

that. we. are. not. alone.

So …

get a jar from your cupboard,

get a bowl from the thrift store, the department store, the designer home store,

and start writing your own news.

This year, start the with an empty jar and fill it with notes about good things that happen, throughout the year. Then, on New Years Eve, 2022, empty it and see what amazing, memorable, joyful, loving things happened this year. I think we might have a New Years filled with good memories and real hope for the future.

you in?

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A blogger friend recently wrote about the Sears Christmas Wish Book and her memories had me drifting off into Christmas past.

What a delight it was each year when that shiny paged catalogue arrived. I remember gazing longingly at each page, dreaming of how much better life would be if I could have everything I wanted from it’s pages.

I remember staring longingly at the Barbie’s and all of their available possessions, the science kits, the board games and, as I got older, the clothing.

The anticipation was real!

Anticipation … that’s a word that adequately describes hope.

Hope … that is a theme as we anticipate what Christ brings to the world, during this time of advent.

Why hope?

Well, when sin entered into the human experience in the garden, it tarnished us, leaving us in need of a Savior, one to redeem us from sin. For when Adam and Eve sinned, they made a choice that, let’s face it, we all would have chosen, for we all want what God has and we forget that He has a plan, that we can rest in his wisdom.

But Jesus, he was the anticipated Messiah, the hoped-for Savior.

The oft spoken verse from Isaiah 7:14 will be read in this advent season,

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (which means God with us).

Immanuel … God with us.

Immanuel … God with us.

Immanuel … God with us.

There is not greater hope, than to have the presence of Immanuel, the Savior, Redeemer and King with us. It is the guarantee that we will not be alone, ever. He is with us! The most anticipated wish come true.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace, as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

 

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Who saves us?

Who redeems us?

That ‘ol Sunday School answer, of Jesus, is, of course the answer. Yet … in all practicality, we often do not live as if that were true. We strive, and move and posture in such ways as to show far more reliance on self than on the Savior.

We often put our faith in us … in our prayers, our giving, our acts of kindness or hours spent doing the work of the church … but our actions offer little if they are what we are counting on to save us. They are little more than rituals, outward adornments to show the world the state of our souls.

Of course that summation is rather dismal, rather over-simplified.

A friend recently introduced me to a poem by Christina Rossetti that I had not remembered reading before, called A Better Resurrection :

I have no wit, no words, no tears;
My heart within me like a stone
Is numb’d too much for hopes or fears;
Look right, look left, I dwell alone;
I lift mine eyes, but dimm’d with grief
No everlasting hills I see;
My life is in the falling leaf:
O Jesus, quicken me.

My life is like a faded leaf,
My harvest dwindled to a husk:
Truly my life is void and brief
And tedious in the barren dusk;
My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall—the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.

My life is like a broken bowl,
A broken bowl that cannot hold
One drop of water for my soul
Or cordial in the searching cold;
Cast in the fire the perish’d thing;
Melt and remould it, till it be
A royal cup for Him, my King:
O Jesus, drink of me.

In reading this, one might read the mood of Rossetti to be terrible sad, even depressed. It is a lonely, meaningless, hopeless reading … at first glance. But, there is very much life as well and Rossetti is looking in the right direction for that life, that meaning, that purpose.

O Jesus, quicken me

O Jesus, rise in me

O Jesus, drink of me

There is constant acknowledgement of the human condition, of our helpless state … yet each verse returns to petition for life, meaning and hope from the only one who can provide. The resurrected one, who can resurrect you and me.

It it toward the end of the second verse, where I think true hope is expressed for our lives :

My life is like a frozen thing,
No bud nor greenness can I see:
Yet rise it shall—the sap of Spring;
O Jesus, rise in me.

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It’s spring!

Is it just me or does it seem that winter lasted an entire year?

Though Easter came and was celebrated, last spring. Though the days got longer. Though the weather warmed. Though we experienced vacation time and even a bit of (more local) travel. The restrictions and cautions connected to this Covid pandemic have made it feel as though, like in Narnia,

““It is winter in Narnia,” said Mr. Tumnus, “and has been for ever so long…. always winter, but never Christmas Spring.””

This year, as the calendar, the news and even Google’s search bar announces the start of spring … it actually feels like we might get to experience the hope that spring heralds.

Many have already received one (or two) shots in the arm of vaccination against the Covid virus, with many of us awaiting our turn at, what I like to call,

the arm jab to a more normal existence

With this rollout of the vaccine, we feel a spring in our steps, hoping that things like travel, concerts, sporting activities, church services and hugs will soon come back to us, to our open arms.

This past year has been the liminal time … between what was and what is to come.

And I wonder what is to come …

The experts on business are discussing the probability that working from home will be around long after the globe is vaccinated. That online ordering and curb-side pick up of various goods will continue to increase in popularity. That people will continue to make more meals at home. That online meetings will continue to be utilized. That shopping local will carry on.

Will churches continue to offer online services, realizing that they are not just an opportunity in a pandemic, but an option for distanced connection? Will school districts and private schools consider how beneficial distanced education was for the students who struggle with anxiety, or who simply learn better with less distractions? Will restaurants, pet food stores, grocery stores and pharmacies continue to offer home delivery and curb-side pick up? Will doctors keep a few appointments available for online patient care? Will we continue to look at nurses, doctors, grocery store employees, emergency workers and delivery drivers as cheer-worthy?

Will we continue to look into the eyes of people passing by?

Like the season of spring heralding the switch up of weather, plant growth, daylight, activities and wardrobe changes, the vaccines can lead us into the time after the pandemic … from the liminal to whatever is to come.

And this puts a spring into my steps.

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The clock glowed 5:00 in the dark bedroom. Not a sound from hubby beside me, or the Wonderdog in his bed at the foot of our bed. Yet, my heart’s beat was pounding in my ears. The sleep cycle of my day was done, whether I wanted it to be or not.

As expected, the change in my breathing from slumber to awake alerted the dog that it must be time to start the day, so as I exited the room, my shadow followed closely behind me.

Dark.

The house was dark, even in the familiar descent down the stairs all that was familiar was covered in almost complete blackness.

We walked outside into the cold air, my skin immediately contracting from the chill, the Wonderdog immediately in need of just the right slice of grass to let loose his waterworks.

Coffee was brewed, the dish on the floor filled with kibble, we ascended the stairs to the cozy chair, the light box turned on and laptop in my hands, to tap out the wonderings in my early morning mind.

Immersed in my tapping until suddenly I turned towards the window. Sure enough the blackness was fading, lightening the sky with ombre blues.

I smiled.

Though it is lovely to see the sun setting later in the day, it is it’s earlier rising that thrills my solar-powered self the most. This morning light fuels me with a foundation of light for whatever the rest of the day might hold.

It is the foundation of hope that returns, day after day, year after year. Yet, it is in spring that we are reminded of the hope that rises early, like the sun in spring.

Yet hope returns when I remember this one thing: 
The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy still continue, 
Fresh as the morning,
as sure as the sunrise.”

Lamentations 3:21-23

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After months of advertising online, displays set up at the ends of aisles, the advent calendars are now daily being opened each day, normalizing chocolate as a breakfast food. So, each evening we go to bed anticipating the delight of a piece of chocolate to start the next day … a joyful waiting.

This is part of this spiritual practise of waiting, of counting down, of anticipating the celebration of Christ’s birth and the hope that he brought and continues to bring.

Waiting has also been a common practise during this pandemic. We wait, providing space for others, in the aisles in stores. We have waited in lines to get into stores and businesses. We wait to get outside of workplaces, stores and businesses to remove our masks from our faces. Teens have had to wait to get the varying levels of driving license. We wait for the day when travel re-opens. We wait for the day when church doors re-open for the whole of our church family to be together physically again. We wait to hold our elders, living in care homes, again. We wait …

This waiting, this frustrating, sometimes lonely, confusing practise of waiting is intensified when we do not have a known number of days, weeks and months, each with a chocolate token for our patience to countdown to the end of this waiting game. We all cry out,

I just want this to be done!
I want to be on the other side of this waiting!

We are weary from this waiting. Our patience is waining. And that is when our good side starts to get shadowed by impatience and we spew nastiness with our words and even our actions.

It’s good to hope, it’s the waiting that spoils it.

Yiddish Proverbs

And we do hope …

This first week of advent we are ruminating over the hope that is to come, but …

it’s not here yet!

… or is it?

“Before the first advent, the people of God were waiting in the dark. As we await the second advent, we are waiting in the light.” Rev Dr Glenn Packiam

As Christ-followers, our hope has already come … we are not living as hopeless people. We still are awaiting his second coming, but we are doing so in the light, already having Emmanuel … Christ with us.

So, as we wait, for Christmas, for the end of this pandemic, let’s remember the wisdom of the Apostle Paul,

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people,
holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion,
kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Colossians 3:12


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