Reflections on Hope

“Hoping does not mean doing nothing. It is the opposite of desperate and panicky manipulations, of scurrying and worrying. And hoping is not dreaming. It is not spinning an illusion or fantasy to protect us from our boredom or our pain. It means a confident, alert expectation that God will do what He said He will do. It is imagination put in the harness of faith. It is willingness to let God do it His way and in His time.” – Eugene Peterson; A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

A long time ago I had a conversation with a friend about faith and hope that lead to a verse in Romans 8 “Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” I can’t remember the entirety of the conversation but I remember that verse sticking with me, following me around. It came back to me on Monday, when I read the above quote from Eugene Peterson in a Daily Office written for Advent by Rich Villodas.

Sometimes I think words lose their impact because of overuse. I’m often guilty of using words the wrong way, or overusing words like “awesome” to describe something that is just slightly out of the ordinary as opposed to something that really inspires awe in me. And I think sometimes I do that with hope.

So, this week I have been thinking of the word hope and wrapping my mind around the meaning of the word, the feelings that it draws from me when I truly mean it. There is expectation, but not anxiety, longing but not obsession and confidence that God will do what he said he would do; and in this season it is a reminder that I believe that Jesus is the son of God and that one day he will return to earth. It is my hope and that hope is illustrated through my faith in Him.

May I live my life never losing sight of this, never losing hope.

——

On repeat: Hallelujah (Light Has Come) by BarlowGirl

~*~

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Hello Spring…

And Spring’s gown whispers around her ankles as she tiptoes into Winter’s hall. 

This post isn’t about spring, it’s about being anxious. Well, really it’s about these verses that have been on my mind in recent times.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Phil 4:4-7

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. ~ Proverbs 3: 5,6

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. ~ Matthew 6: 28-34

Second Hand Experiences

The Word we study has to be the Word we pray. My personal experiences of the relentless tenderness of God came not from the exegetes, theologians, and spiritual writers, but from sitting still in the presence of the living Word and beseeching Him to help me understand with my head and heart His written Word. – Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

I have, at times, taken someone else’s word for my own, but I admit, the things that have stuck with me – really stuck with me, so much so that I can relive the experience when I’m thinking about it, and not just say, “oh, someone said” or “I read it somewhere, something like …” – are the things that I have understood while digging into the Word on my own.

There is a difference between hearing someone else’s experience and actually experiencing it for myself. Sure, someone’s POV might supplement my personal experience, but when I experience it, when I get it, it sticks.

~*~

A Sonnet from the Weekend

I told myself that I’m going to revise this sonnet before I post it, but who am I kidding, I am me, and being me I know that I’ll tuck it away and won’t look at it until a year or so later, at which point I’ll wonder why I even wrote it in the first place! 

But, this came out of a weekend away, where we did inductive bible study on some passages in Mark and where something struck me harder and a bowling ball on the head; my way is not necessarily God’s way and if I really believe that he’s all that, perhaps I should let him… well, have his way. 

So, here is first draft of a little poem I like to call…

Love – Not Always What I Expect

I want you to fulfill my heart’s desires
To listen to my wants and make them real
But instead I find frustration spirals
And tosses me as upon angry steel.

Now I must decide, should I keep telling?
Or should I pause, wait, see what you will do?
Suppose instead of telling I’m waiting?
Instead of demands, listening to you?

What if I let you do what you do best
And let you guide my paths and lead the way.
What if I let you handle all the rest
Would I find peace rather than disarray?

If I believe that you indeed know best
Then why not be amazed, truly impressed?

~*~

A Lesson in Trust

My dad sometimes tells a story of a time when I was younger. We were at my uncle’s auto shop and there was a gate standing in the yard. It wasn’t attached to anything, it was heavy, made of metal and able to stand on its own. My dad was on one side while I was on the other side playing.

Dad saw the gate start to tilt towards me and the only thing he could do was yell at me to run! He said that I followed his command to run just in time since moments later the gate fell. I came out unscathed because I heard my father’s command and executed it, because I trusted him without doubt.

When I was a little older, I was waiting on a bus to take me home from school. As I stood at the corner I felt the need to move away from where I was standing (near the edge of the sidewalk) to a place closer to the buildings. Just as I moved my position, a truck carrying glass bottles came around the corner and one of the cases with the glass bottles fell off, breaking and flying all over the area that I vacated just seconds ago.

Sometimes I wonder about myself now. Would I have reacted the same way? When I ask God, “Why?” am I asking because I want to know, or because I can’t trust? I wonder if my want to know everything is due to the fact that I don’t fully believe Romans 8:28?

Thoughts to ponder.

~ * ~

On that Saturday …

I went to a Good Friday service that was a little different from ones I’ve been to before. The sanctuary was dark, except for the flickering of candles in the front and around the floor. They read scripture and sang songs about Jesus’ final hours on earth. Participation wasn’t in the doing, but in the observation – in the experience. It was a somber affair. I was sad.

I have been sad all week. There was a heaviness weighing on my heart and I couldn’t seem to shake it. As I sat in the service I lifted it up, but over and over again I was reminded of the fact that what I was going through, the sadness, the heartbrokenness, Christ went through it a million times more. The more I thought of it the more I started to picture and wonder about those last hours.

How deep was the rejection, when God turned his back away? It sliced through my heart; any rejection I feel or have felt, will never compare to the rejection that Jesus felt that afternoon when God could no longer look at him, when the father turned his face away from his son. Sitting there I imagined the pain, he must have felt as he experienced, for the first time, what we have to live with because of sin. The agony that he felt, I cannot express.

I thought about the disciples, the people who followed Jesus. How did they feel? How did they feel to see the person whom they believed to be God, whom they believed will bring the kingdom of God to earth, how did they feel to see him crucified? Maybe some of them felt disappointed. Maybe some of them felt like they were betrayed, like the wool was pulled over their eyes. Perhaps some felt like the rug was yanked out from under their feet and they were free-falling into an abyss of uncertainty.

Then what happened when they laid him in the tomb? What emotions were they experiencing when they spent that entire Saturday wondering if they would be next. Wondering if people would accuse them and crucify them. Did they question? Did they shed tears? Did they talk about what it was like when he was alive?

A heaviness must have filled them, a coldness that permeated from their heart and flowed through their veins, filling their body with dread.

In light of all these things I felt small. THIS is how it feels to be disconnected, to be separated from the one you love, the one you trust, the one you felt like you knew inside and out. I was overwhelmed.

I think it’s important to remember this feeling; the feeling of loss and despair – of hopelessness. I think it’s important because it makes what happens next even more extraordinary…

~ * ~

Are you there, God?

Today’s post is a little later than usual. It’s been a long week so, I took a nap around 2pm and got up at 8. I would have turned around and gone back to sleep, but in my head I heard, “you have to do BEDA” so, I dragged myself out of bed to write this. BEDA motivate!

I read this book a while ago, Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey, it’s very thought provoking and it leads to questions like, “Where is God when bad things happen?”

I read this book about 4 years after I moved to the United States, and now, 9 years later, something connected in my head. That something was about the night we moved here and how I could have been disappointed, or taken it as a bad “omen”, and why I didn’t.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that God doesn’t leave us unprepared. Before we left Guyana we were cleaning out the bookcases and I found this old book, Will the Real Phony Please Stand Up? by Ethel Barrett, I don’t remember what grabbed my attention, maybe it was the name, but I decided to read that book on our flight.

The book touched on the life of Job and one of the things that stood out for me was Job, crying out to God, wanting to know why he had fallen so low. His children were dead, he was poor, his friends had forsaken him, his wife told him to curse God and die and his health was affected. Job didn’t have a clue as to why these things happened, yet he still trusted and believed in God. When God replied to Job, he didn’t tell him why he did what he did, he didn’t clue Job in, saying, “Well done, Job!” and though Job was healed and restored, he was never aware of why the bad thing happened in the first place.

I say that God doesn’t leave us unprepared because, that night, we lost the majority of our money and all of our records, the only exception being our passports. It happened at the airport, when we were meeting our family, when we were celebrating our reunion. We were robbed, it was quick, and they took the most important things. My siblings won’t remember, they were very young, 5 and 7 year olds, but I remember. I remember this event with a clarity that I rarely experience when remembering the past. I remember my emotions and I remember that, upon realizing what happened, the first thing that popped into my mind was, “remember Job”.

I could have felt a negative reaction to the entire thing, “How could you God? Where are you? Are you even listening to me?” or, I could have gone the path that comes easier to me, the apathetic path, “Well, obviously God doesn’t take care about his people, so who cares about him?”. However, I found myself taking a different and unexpected path, “Since I am not privy to your ways, God, I’m going to let this play out and trust that you have it all under control. That you will take care of your people.”

I cannot tell you how I would have reacted if I hadn’t read that book, I feel like it prepared me to face that experience and many more after that. The fact is, bad things happen all the time, to all kinds of people; we live in a fallen world and just because I’m a follower of Christ doesn’t give me a pass to a trouble-free life. The thing that determines my faith is how I react when bad things happen. After that experience, whenever the question comes to mind, “Where are you God? Are you there God?” I always hear him say, “I’m right here. Trust me.”