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Posts Tagged ‘#hope’

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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Approximately one hundred and sixty years ago, Emily Dickinson wrote a poem illustrating hope as a bird.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -

That perches in the soul -

And sings the tune without the words -

And never stops - at all -



And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -

And sore must be the storm -

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm -



I’ve heard it in the chillest land -

And on the strangest Sea -

Yet - never - in Extremity,

It asked a crumb - of me.

This metaphorical description of hope is as “the thing with feathers”, a “little bird” whose song is heard sweetest in the midst of the storms of life.

It is one of Dickinson’s most popular poems and I expect it is because the truth of her descriptive words resonate in the hearts of those who read it.

Hope … that ethereal quality that is available to us all, that gives sustenance to unfed souls, that keeps us vertical when we think we might drop and that never asks anything in return.

The apostle Paul said, “hope is as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19) and that it “does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us” (Romans 5:5).

Today, this first Sunday of Advent, 2020, we need this hope. We need to be reminded that it flutters all around (and even, in) us. It will not disappoint. And this year, this pandemic year, hope is sweeter than ever.

In the book of Isaiah (40:31), is another feathery metaphor of hope :

“those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

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Hope … that is the word on this first Sunday of Advent.

As we enter this season of waiting, we begin with hope …

because hope is what helps us to take one step, after another.

As I awoke this morning, I felt the heaviness of the day … it took effort to convince myself of the hope that is promised. I left to head across the country. I left my mom to do the things, internally and externally, that follow death. My heart aches for her, for her heartbreak, for her loss of her life’s love and the things that need to be done after a life is all done, buried. I felt hope slip through my fingers and toes, as I tried to imagine her grief, exhaustion …

like wandering through the wilderness.

That is what today, what hope is for … to help us put one foot in front of the other, as we walk that pilgrim journey through the valley of dark shadows.

The hope of the world is Jesus, from the first hints in the Garden to the manger in a dusty, dirty stable in Bethlehem. We put our hope in what we cannot see, Jesus, the very Son of God, the rescuer and redeemer of our weak and weary world. 

Jesus … the rescuer of those who grieve, those who are heartbroken … like a cane for the lame, he steadies, supports as we place the weight of our world on him.

I know it’s all you’ve got to just be strong,
and it’s a fight just to keep it together
I know you think that you are too far gone,
but hope is never lost

hold on, don’t let go
Just take one step closer,
Put one foot in front of the other
you’ll get through this
Just follow the light in the darkness
You’re gonna be okay

I know your heart is heavy from those nights
but just remember that you are a fighter.
You never know just what tomorrow holds
And you’re stronger than you know

When the night is closing in
don’t give up and don’t give in.
This won’t last, it’s not the end
You’re gonna be okay

“Out of the depths I call to you, Lord!
Lord, listen to my voice;
let your ears be attentive
to my cry for help.

I wait for the Lord; I wait
and put my hope in his word. 
I wait for the Lord”

Psalm 130:1-2, 5-6

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When you are seeking … for something, anything.

When your ear wants to hear … but the sound is not yet there.

When your eyes are searching the horizon … but nothing appears.

When your heart just knows … knows that there is a message coming, that there is reason why the hair is standing on the back of your neck.

When your soul is … restless.

The experience that something visceral, felt deep within is about to happen.

I learned of a song I hadn’t heard, and sought out it’s story … for every song, every piece of art, every created thing has a story … behind it, within in, for the creator as well as the admirer.

Though the lyrics of the song do not contain these words, this scripture from Lamentations 3:28-30 (Message) was mentioned in the writer’s description of it’s formation:

“When life is heavy and hard to take,
    go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:
    Wait for hope to appear.
Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face.
    The “worst” is never the worst.”

Within a few short lines, such depth, such good advice, encouragement.

When life is heavy, we often go after advice and help through people, books, podcasts. Yet, this encouragement to enter the silence, to join with God in his silence and not ask why? when? don’t keep searching for answers, but just …

wait.

wait for hope

to appear.

He’s reminding us that he will answer, he will be there … he is there. We just need to bow in prayer, rest in him, wait for the hope that is only available through him.

The waiting has purpose.
The purpose is always hope,

if we wait with him.

Then that final reminder, “the worst is never the worst.”

Hope resides in the reminder that today’s worst is never the worst. Our heavenly father knows the worst, he gave his son up to save us from the worst. Our hope is in him.

The same week that I was seeking, listening, looking and my soul was restless, the same week that this song came to my ears, that that sunrise brightened my view, a friend lovingly shared a message about hope (coincidence? I think not).

If hope is what you are looking for from every fibre of your being, or if you are just restless … check out Hope is too Heavy Sometimes, by Abby Norman.

“I do not believe that we are meant to hope alone. Hope is often a burden best shared.” Abby Norman

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Karla Sullivan

Progressive old soul wordsmith

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