HOPE

HOPE.

This week, the first week of Advent, HOPE is our focus as we consider as Christians how our faith stirs hope within us.

This is the time of year, however, when that word is often plugged into sentences that have more to do with the pressures the Holidays than the hope that can be found in the Advent Season.

hope I can find something for everyone on my list.  

 I hope the mall traffic isn’t horrendous.

I hope I don’t go into too much debt again this Christmas.

I hope the drinking doesn’t get out of hand this year.

I hope there isn’t too much family feuding.

I hope no one mentions our recent loss.

I hope the depression or loneliness isn’t too severe.

Whatever is anxiously bubbling up for you this time of year, consider these words from Romans 15:13:

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.   

My friends, do not allow the frenzy of this Holiday Season to distract you from the Holy Season of Advent.

Let your focus be on the joy and peace that comes not only in following Christ, but in trusting that the God of hope is at work in our lives.  No matter the struggles, no matter the despair that can rise up in the dark winter days or when you’re not sure how you’ll afford Christmas or when family tensions are rising, remember that God does not forget nor forsake us.

This Advent may we witness hope being transformed into peace between family members, neighbors, and countries. May we fashion with God’s help a hope that comes in the form of courageous and creative change to dire situations. In this Holy Season and every season, may we plant seeds of hope in the hearts of the downtrodden and feel it overflowing from our very own souls.

 

 

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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

The song, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,”  was made famous by singer Andy Williams in the 1960’s and quickly became a Holiday classic .  (Are you humming it yet?)

And sure, for many it is the most wonderful time of the year. (Look how happy those folks are giving their best Christmas tree thumbs up. )

I have friends who have already, long before Thanksgiving, posted on Facebook their excitement and anticipation of the Holiday Season.  A few even shared photos of this year’s lights and Christmas decorations. (Oh, the horror of it all!!)

But here’s the deal.  For many, this is NOT the happiest time of year.

I witness year after year the struggles of those overwhelmed before and after the Holiday Season.  Family tensions, loneliness, financial struggles, unfulfilled wishes–all these and more contribute to a less-than joyful experience of the Holidays.  I have certainly been there myself.

This year I will resist the temptation to dive into the Holiday frenzy and  instead immerse myself ever deeper into my faith.

I will actively engage Advent, the liturgical season that marks the start of the new Christian year.

It is a time of contemplating and waiting on not only the first coming of Christ–which we honor on Christmas day–but the Second Coming as well, when God’s Reign on earth will be undeniable.

Please, don’t get caught up in the frantic, busy-ness of the Holiday Season.

Join me here starting next Sunday (you could even subscribe!!) for a weekly Advent reflection of hope, peace, joy, and love as we mindfully make our way to the manger to rejoice,  once again, in the birth of Jesus.

See you next week!

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Rise Up, Christians!

I have been searching for months for adequate words that might tell of my heart’s sorrow.

I witness again and again so much hate on the airwaves and in the news and in the comment section of far too many websites and social media platforms.  I am stunned each time the President of the United States freely belittles or threatens others on Twitter. Has it really come to that!?

We have morphed into a society that gives free-reign to the inner monologue—those thoughts often best kept in the confine of one’s mind—as the core of public discourse.  I find this kind of hate-filled, one-sided conversation to be a vile regurgitation of personal opinions that come with little regard for speaking one’s truth in love and compassion.

And let us not think that Christians are innocent of such behaviors.

Yes, it would be naïve to believe all of the mean, nasty comments we read are NOT from the hearts of Christians.  I, myself, have no doubt I stand guilty of the occasional heart-less comment or two.  If anything, I am guilty of mentally approving of someone else’s mean-spirited opinion or post.

A recent spiritual discipline I have engaged is resisting the urge to respond immediately to things that I read on-line, especially when negatively triggered by the words or visuals.  Beyond restraining my fingers from firing off, I am understanding that my thoughts must be equally tempered.

What about you?

What motivates you to post on-line or comment, especially when you do not agree with an article or statement?

Is it pride, arrogance, fear, or disgust? Do you comment just to have your own opinions heard?

The Apostle Paul advises in his letter to the church of Rome:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

I can hear Paul addressing Christians today with similar words of wisdom:

Rise up, Christians!

Let not the world dictate how you respond to friends and strangers alike.  Conform no more and instead be transformed by the renewing of your minds!

Pause–breathe–and pray before you share your thoughts with others.

Be that much needed holy and acceptable, living sacrifice to God.   Speak and post what is good, acceptable, and perfect in God’s eyes.

My Christian sisters and brothers, please…join me in being that living sacrifice.

Your voice of compassion and the love of God you can share are needed more than ever in the world today!

 

 

 

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What Shouldn’t Be

I shouldn’t be here!” my daughter cried out, both angry and devastated that her roller derby team was about to skate for a second time at a tournament she was missing.

My daughter, in black, at a bout earlier in the year.

And true.

She should not have been home.  My own grief and anger rose up as I recalled the event that led to this moment.

How could someone be so negligent?   That Sunday before, on our way home from practice, our car was struck at an intersection.  The young driver was attempting to make a u-turn from the right lane. She was outraged that we happened to be in the left lane at the time. The impact was on my daughter’s side of the car giving her whiplash that left her with a persistent headache.

And that is life. It changes in an instant.

Shortly after our accident it was reported that three men were attacked while standing up for two young women being harassed on a train. How could they have known the aggressive man calling out racial and anti-muslim slurs would turn on them, fatally stabbing two of them?

The lives of their loved ones were forever changed in an instant.  They shouldn’t be here in the shadow of their unspeakable loss.  They shouldn’t have been writing obituaries and speaking with news outlets or planning memorial services.  One of the victims was 23, just 3 years older than my son and the other man, barely into his 50’s.

Why did this happen? An ancient question still asked by so many.

As I consider the reasons, I am reminded Proverbs 3:5: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

Maybe there are things in life that will never make sense, that cannot be understood—the death of a child, a senseless murder, a cancer diagnosis, and yes, even a car accident that, if only temporarily, turns a few weeks up-side down.

Things may not always make sense, but with my faith and trust in God, I know that I will eventually make peace with all the changes life brings.

Praise God, I’m so grateful to be able to witness that same peace rising up in my daughter.

 

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Thy Kingdom Come; My Kingdom Go

There is something to be said about this self-imposed challenge of mine to write 40 blog posts before Easter.

 It has me more than ever delving into scripture and roaming about the internet for words on Christianity as I reflect on the world around me.

Today I found this:

Have you, as a Christian, surrendered your life to Christ? Have you said, “Lord, I want Your will more than I want my own will. I am willing to surrender to You now”? Because you cannot pray, “Your kingdom come” until you first pray, “My kingdom go.” Have you done that yet? (Greg Laurie)

Wow!  I love that image of first needing to let go of my kingdom before I can embrace God’s.  And so I must ask myself:

What do I allow to creep in and rule my life? Truthfully?

My condemnation of others.  The thrill of slander.  Pride.  Apathy.  Resentment.  Indifference.

When do I forget to let God control my words, decisions, and actions?

When I am driven by my anxiety.  When I forget to “pray without ceasing.” When I neglect to “be grateful in all times.” When I seek my will in life over God’s will. (1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18)

I cannot deny there is plenty of my kingdom of which I still need to prayerfully let go.  How about you? 

May these final weeks of Lent reveal the makings of our self-righteous kingdoms and bless us with the grace to seek God’s Kingdom and righteousness first. (Matt. 6:33)

 

 

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