Sunday, December 25, 2011

Hope Is The Thing...

(Sorry about the spacing issues. I've worked and worked on it,
and it just isn't going to cooperate today. - Marti)
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune - without any words
And never stops at all.
- Emily Dickinson
Last evening at the Christmas Eve service at my folk's church here in Charleston, the pastor spoke on the second coming of Jesus. It seemed a bit strange at first, as a Christmas message. But, then as I thought it through, like the most normal message in the world. Why on earth hadn't I heard it before? Why wouldn't we celebrate the hope of our Savior's second coming, as we celebrate the faithfulness of His fulfilled promise by His first coming...as a poor baby in a humble manger?
The hope of His second coming means the end of this way of life...no more pain, no more tears. No more lonely hearts at Chrsitmas, no more orphans or abuse, no more hunger or need.
It's a day I hope for every day of my life, but most especially on days like today, when an empty stocking hangs on the mantle. And you realize, six Christmases later, it's just never going to be what it was. Then you stop yourself, and hope for the day it's a new kind of wonderful, and work to appreciate the blessing of the day you're in...
Hope is a funny little creature, isn't she? She hides out in the strangest places and then jumps out in the oddest of places and smacks you across the face. Then she runs ahead, always just a step ahead...always just out of reach, but always there. A constant and joyful, if not maddening, companion. All those years ago, the Israelites had waited and waited and waited...for generations...for their Savior King. Isaiah and the other prophets had foretold of His birth in...as we look back now...eery detail. They expected that when He came, He would grow up and be the very King to come and deliver their nation from Roman rule.
Wait...deliver them from what?
Roman Rule.
Now, I have heard a lot of things, but never have I heard it said, "Thank goodness Jesus came to earth to die for our sins and allow us eternal life, I just wish while He was on that cross He would have delivered the Jews from Roman rule."
Really.
I mean, I get that this Roman rule issue was a hot topic to the Israelites back in the day...but Jesus came to deliver a whole lot more than Israel from a whole lot more than being ruled by the Romans.
Golf ball. That's all I can think right now. Golf ball. I know you don't get it, just bear with me.
There's a bigger picture. I'm preaching to myself here, by the way. Having to remind myself for the gazillionth time that the world does not revolve around my bottled blond head. There's so much more to the story. Yes, the Savior came...in the strangest and most unexpected of ways, which is a God thing if there ever was one...but He came to deliver a world from ourselves, our selfishness, our flesh, our greed, our own nasty sin and our Enemy.
Not Roman rule.
Do you have something you are hoping for? The Jews had prayed and hoped for the Messiah for generations...and He came. He just didn't come in the way they were looking for, nor do what they assumed He would do.
You know what they say about assuming...
He had bigger fish to fry than Roman rule...like the eternal life of mankind. And yet can't you imagine the old Jewish ladies wailing and lamenting their bondage to the state of Rome, and why doesn't God send a Deliverer...while the lives of all of those around her and to come were being decided by the actions of one holy man...
Born in a stable, sleeping in a cattle trough, wrapped in rags.
What are you hoping for? Could it be that, maybe, it isn't coming in just they way you thought it would? Maybe it doesn't look like you thought. Maybe it isn't doing what you thought. Maybe it just isn't at all what you thought...
Maybe there are bigger fish to fry than our own problems.
Maybe God is asking, as His people, for a little patience and cooperation as He fries some bigger fish.
Maybe there is more at stake than me, myself and what I want.
Hope is a funny little creature.
Because here's the thing: Even when things aren't going my way, even when I'm confused or disenchanted, even when I'm pouting and feeling sorry for myself...there's a little voice inside me that says, "God is up to something. Cooperate, please. This in not all about you, Princess" And, something inside of me, knows I'll be glad that I did. Something inside of me knows, He has a great big plan. And it is good. He...is...good.
I can hope in Him.
There is just something about Jesus. Even in my most tragic moments when I've thought I'll never smile again, He eventually wells up in me with a joy I can't describe, and hope springs up again, and again, and again, and again...
Hope springs eternal. And as it springs, I know...there are bigger fish to fry.
Christmas doesn't look like it once did, and if I'm honest, I spend a good deal of the 24th and 25th of December with a lump in my throat, pushing back tears. This isn't what it should be. This doesn't look at all like it was supposed to look...
What are you hoping for this Christmas? Maybe it won't come in the package you expected, or do just what you thought it needed to do. But, aren't we glad that little tiny Savior King saved more than the Jews from more than just Roman rule?
Yes, there is a bigger picture. But in all that, He remembers me...
and you. ;)
"And we know that God works all things together for good, for those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." -Romans 8:28
Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Oh, the Paradoxy

Paradoxy.

I don't even know if it's a word.

But, it is today. (thank you George W. Bush and all your strategery.)

I guess I could google it real quick, but I'm not into all that.

So, I changed the look of the blog, just to keep you all on your toes. I wish I could be super-savvy and somehow figure out how to customize the website and make it all super-cool and super-personal and you all would be super-impressed. But, alas, I can't find the time to do all the plain old regular things that I NEED to do, much less all the super stuff I WISH I could do.

Can I get a witness?

However, just to make a point, the new outlay IS a map, and the title of the blog IS about a road...

I'll take it. Game, set, match. (Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, I played tennis. And not very well. At all.)

Soooooooooo...I'm sure you're wondering when I'll get to the point, but I absolutely love mindless chatter blogging, and I don't do it nearly enough. I wish I was half as clever in real life as I am over written words.

Do you love that I just called myself a clever writer?

No...what I actually did was say that I was a more clever writer than I am in real-life. But that isn't saying much. I'm exceptionally dull in real life, and have moments when I nearly have stage-fright trying to come up with something interesting to say.

It's ridiculous.

But seriously, thank you for your patience.

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." -Romans 12:12

So, pray for me...

(Now...wait for it, because I'm about to tie my mindless chatter in with my actual point in a genius, yoda-type fashion.)

Paradoxy.

Look close at the verse again.

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." -Romans 12:12

It's slam full of the paradoxy.

God laid this verse on my heart after, well, what He would likely call a meltdown/temper tantrum of epic proportions that I had with Him a few months back.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who has the nerve to throw a fit to the Master and Creator of all things. Please tell me. Please. Right now. Tell me.

So, I pitched a fit...and He gave me a word. Which was very kind of Him considering the fit I was in the midst of.

In moments of extreme distress, where I feel little hope and no way out and I am on the verge of full panic, I remind myself (for the THOUSANDTH time) that my feelings DO NOT AND NEVER WILL equal reality.

Let's say it again...

REALITY.

Me and my feelings don't create reality. I don't invent truth. I don't make the rules.

Imagine that.

I know it seems like these things would be obvious, but I seem to have to remind myself of this seemingly basic truth an obnoxious amount.

You all have no idea how much I climb all over my own nerves.

So, anyway, I'm right in the middle of my fit, trying to convince myself that the world doesn't revolve around my head and the sky is actually NOT falling, and I ask God for a word. If I couldn't come up with some TRUTH, I needed (badly) for Him to shed some.

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." -Romans 12:12

Now, at first glance, I really dig this TRUTH. It talks about hope, for crying out loud.

I can get into some hope. I can get down for some hope. I will GET UP for some HOPE.

Ok, but keep reading.

There's gotta be some patience.

In affliction.

One more time...

Patience.

In affliction.

From me.

Oh, dear.

I'm just going to go ahead and say something here that I have thought for a long, long time. Here I go...

I think Jesus is a little bit sneaky.

Now, this is nothing I haven't said to Him directly, and , of course, I mean He is sneaky in only the most holy and good and perfect of ways.

But, sneaky nonetheless.

For instance. In this moment, He's telling me that I have permission to have HOPE...something that brings a much needed balm to my sore soul...

But, as He does this, He's also telling me, by the way, that there's gonna be some affliction in that hope, and He's expecting my patience.

Really?

Paradoxy.

Am I the only one who just wants something to be easy? I'm just being honest here. I look around and some things seem to come so easy to some people. And I seem to make everything so difficult...

Now, I could write a whole other blog entry about that last statement I made, and all the myriad of things that make it wrong, wrong, all wrong...

I know it's wrong. But I just wanted you to get my point.

Can't something just...be...easy?

So, I lamented the paradoxy for a while.

Hope...in affliction.

Joy...and patience.

And then, I begrudgingly remember that no great man or woman of God, or anything else for that matter, ever became anything without a fight, hard work, discipline, mind over matter, blood, sweat, and tears....

And some affliction and patience.

(Insert sigh.)

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." -Romans 12:12

So, I stopped my fit, got on my knees, thanked God for the word, straightened up my face, and got busy praying...and thanking, and trusting, and asking....

And, before you know it, I had some hope. Some real live HOPE.

He may be sneaky, but He sure knows what He's doing... ;) (And thank goodness, because I don't have a clue.) So, get joyful and hopeful. Be patient in your affliction...because the sky is NOT actually falling. And y'all be faithful in prayer. (For me. I clearly need it.)

But, seriously...

Ephraim, people. He always brings it home to Ephraim. Fruitful suffering.

Just like my Jesus. ;)

See you back here at Christmas...

Big hugs!

(and spell check just confirmed that paradoxy is, indeed, NOT a real word. There I go, making my own reality again...)