Tuesday, November 27, 2018

People of Hope

We are a people of hope, we Christ-followers.  Love is to be what defines us, and Paul wrote that love hopes all things.  In the past few months I have been overwhelmed with the number of things we are hoping for.

First we are hoping for the return of our Bridegroom, Jesus, the establishment of His kingdom, and the fulfillment of our salvation.  This future is promised and sure, but not realized – often not even observable on its way. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, evidence of things not seen.  So much of what we do until His return is based on what we can’t see. We love the brethren, whom we can see. We hear the Shepherd’s voice and follow Him. Our feasts remember Him and anticipate the wedding feast we will share with Him.  He has left us gifts and we use them. Purity is important in a Bride, so we try to be always ready to meet Him adorned with good works and holy. These are the acts of hope.

Many of us are hoping for the salvation of friends and family.  We labor for it. We petition for it. And we recognize that it is God who brings it about.  This isn’t a detached hope; we are eager, invested, agonizing as we plead for those who are lost in spiritual darkness and death.  The answer to our hope is glorious: redemption and reunion and our Lord’s increased joy.

In singleness we wait for a spouse and children, in hope.  God has led me to not just bide my time, but to really desire these good gifts.  I can’t acquire the kind of husband I would need to glorify God, by myself. God is abundantly able.  So I wait, dreaming of the day when God brings completion to my hopes and I begin a new life, picturing the new life we Christians will share with Christ when He returns for us.

Others are hoping for God to grow their families by blessing them with conception and healthy births.  They ask God for babies, get excited about names and interactions and discipleship and teaching and growing.  Months too early they begin collecting children’s books and decorating nurseries.

Having kids is an abundant source for more hopes.  Parents hope for their children to grow into men and women who zealously pursue God.  They pray for long, strong lives. When their children stray from the truth, they fervently intercede for their repentance.

We gently and lovingly confront sin, hoping for the offending Christian to be restored to submission to God and fellowship with those of us who walk in the light of His grace and power and leading.

In all sorts of things we pray for what we don’t have, our hope in the good-gift-giving Father who hears all of our requests with love and wisdom.  Sometimes He has told us what to pray for, and our hope should be enthusiastically confident that we have whatever we ask (as it is asked in faith according to His revealed will).  And sometimes we lay our hearts before Him, begging that He will grant our desires or turn them to what pleases Him.

"And hope maketh not ashamed;

because the love of God

is shed abroad in our hearts

by the Holy Ghost

which is given unto us."

~ Romans 5:5

Monday, November 5, 2018

Solid Rock

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.


On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
In Him, my righteousness, alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

~ Edward Mote

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Puddleglums

"It is the work of the Puddleglums, 
often with stink and pain, 
to show us that there is something wrong with the way things are, 
and that there is a better country to long for." 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

St. Patrick

I was thinking about St. Patrick this week. There weren't a lot of Christians in Ireland when he began ministering there. The pagans were prevalent. But the pagans did not prevail.  

The light overcomes the darkness.  Don’t forget. 

The Whole Story

"Despair forgets 
that there are more pages. 
It gazes at the brief span of our lives 
and complains 
that all should be fulfilled 
before 
the page is turned. 
But hope loves the whole story. 
Hope breathes, laughs, and draws courage 
from gazing upon something grander than self. 
It grows in an epic tale, a tale with joys that 
cannot be abridged 
within one hundred years on earth." 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Courage Every Day

Flax flowers, tall and green crowned with sky-blue petals bend beneath the water falling on them, stooped double, dripping and dreary under a summer sky shrouded in grey.  Am I made for such a world where the beauty bows to necessity, where death is such a threat that the glorious sun must be cloaked, life furled?

I wish I had made these observations while on a walk, but I was driving.  My car was pulling out of my driveway to carry me to the paces just outside of where babies die.  The heart of me resisted, catching its hands on trees and fence-posts, loathe to leave them behind.  A few yards down is a rose garden, and in my mind I shrank…

Paradise.  Shadows and breezes, still and soft and just enough to shed the perfume of the roses across the little green between.  It is like an elven meadow, the little people running about their blissful business – the tallest thing they can see is the living tower of blossoms rimming their country.  No eyes can pass the borders to see the sorrow of our world, the world of mortals.  No tiny heart is troubled like mine, knowing of the suffering and wickedness and death I am about to witness.

Are elves diminutive or tall?  Those legendary immortals, acquainted with nature and delight, cut off from our world by size, by magic, or by choice?  Tolkien wrote about elves, despising the modern conception of them as petal-sized fairies, who evade human capture and notice by their slightness.  The author’s idea was of a people maybe even taller than men, living in the depths of the forests or across the leagues of the sea.  They were powerful and wise, joyful – and sorrowful.  For Tolkien’s elves could see over the roses.  They witnessed mortality and evil and the changing world, and it was a grief to them.

Mankind was in a different sort of captivity: not hemmed by fragrant visions of living loveliness.  Their world was the broken, mortal one, saturated with sorrow.  Battlements built high: temptation, pain, guilt, fear – guarded their even seeing something else.  And then they saw the stars.  Ever beautiful and untouched, glittering points in the sky spoke of a joy and purpose beyond the grueling existence through which men plodded.  Faramir tells that men burdened by mortality built high towers and communed with the stars.

They may have been wrong, seeking something forbidden, discontent with their created lot.  In the Shire lived a different sort of mortal.  They knew fear and death, so they celebrated peace and long life (and birthdays).  Life was too short to simply hoard; they gave away.  In the rural country of the Hobbits there was danger of becoming fat and complacent, gradually surrendering more and more of the fullness of life granted to mortals.  But most didn’t.  They enjoyed things: friends and family, stories, food and drink, walking, gardening.

Outside the Shire, the Hobbits proved that it was they who had built their country, and not that the simple life of relative ease had birthed their contentment.  Hobbits don’t have courage in tight spots because it is hiding deep inside them; their courage is something exercised every day.  It takes enormous strength to feast when you know the world is dark, to hope when it has been so long since anything happened to encourage you.  Complacency is not hope.  And Samwise Gamgee was not complacent.

He carried with him the willingness to seize good times.  His eyes grow large with wonder at the hidden elvish cities he visits. They’re in a gardenous land filled with herbs and wild game just his size, so he stews some rabbit. And when his quest seems hopeless, he sits on the top stair of an enemy tower and sings about the stars: those beacons of hope anchoring him to a reality he belongs to.  He can’t access it now, but it is no less sure or beautiful because it is far away.

“Above all shadows rides the Sun
And Stars for ever dwell:
I will not say the Day is done,
Nor bid the Stars farewell.”

So in the hobbits we have the same spirit as the elves seeing over their flower-hedge, but in reverse.  The elves looked out and what they saw brought grief in – something they would not shrink from, but took and blended with their joy.  And the hobbits looked out and what they saw brought hope, but they took it and blended it with their weariness.