Hope Rising

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

 Merry Christmas!

"...Jesus Christ, on account of His great love for mankind, 

became what we are in order to make us what He is Himself."

St. Iranaeus 


 Since my great intentions to get real Christmas cards went out the window this year, consider this your Christmas card from us. :)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The way I'm thinking of the Christmas Story this year...

I know that we are all aware these facts, but this is how they have been tumbling through my mind in the last few weeks as I've contemplated the story of my Savior's birth:
Mary was an unwed girl when she became pregnant.

 Joseph became Jesus' stepfather.

 He chose a dirty stable, not a beautiful palace, for the arrival of His precious Son.

The baby, the Son of God, was placed in a well-used feeding trough.

The occupation of a shepherd was a job for the lower class--and to whom did the Infinitely Wise Father have His angels announce His Son's birth?

The magi were Gentiles, seeking to worship a Jewish King.

I believe that God was making a point, even from the very beginning of the Jesus story: perhaps something to do with redemption.

It makes me wonder where we got our Christian misconceptions about who a Redeeming God will work through and where a Redeeming God will show up.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Let the Stable Still Astonish

Let the stable still astonish:
Straw--dirt floor, dull eyes,
Dusty flanks of donkeys, oxen;
Crumbling, crooked walls;
No bed to carry that pain,
And then, the Child,
Rag-wrapped, laid to cry
In a trough.
Who would have chosen this?
Who would have said: "Yes,
Let the God of all the heavens and earth
Be born here, in this place"?
Who but the same God
Who stands in the darker, fouler rooms
Of our hearts
And says, "Yes,
Let the God of Heaven and Earth
Be born here--
In this place."

Leslie Leyland Fields

Saturday, November 27, 2010

An additional thought on "A 'Yes' to God's Earth"

What we need is not the old acceptance of the world as a compromise, but some way in which we can heartily hate and heartily love it.  We do not want joy and anger to neutralize each other and produce a surly contentment; we want a fiercer delight and fiercer discontent.  We have to see the universe at once as an ogre's castle, to be stormed, and yet as our own cottage, to which we can return at evening.
G.K. Chesterton (saying it better in one paragraph than I could in ten)

Friday, November 26, 2010

A "Yes" to God's earth

A few years ago, when I was walking out of the most painful time in my life, I began to understand how sweet heaven must be. A place with no more tears or pain?  That sounded great to me!   I asked Jesus to come back almost every day (I actually still do), but at that time,  it was often because I was facing a hard decision or problem.

Don't get me wrong.  I think that hoping for His return is something we should all be doing...however, I was longing for His return to get me out of a situation before I learned the lessons that He wanted me to learn--before He finished the refining process.  As I've experienced His healing, I do want to see Him.  Now,  it is mostly because He has been so close and precious to me--although I have to admit, the no more tears and pain part is still pretty attractive to me. ;)

With time, I'm acknowledging the fact that if I'm still here on earth, it's for a purpose.  He wants me here, so as I wait for Him, I should be about the business of LIVING.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer has some great stuff on this concept.  In his book, Bonhoeffer, author Eric Metaxas quotes a letter Bonhoeffer wrote to a student who had recently become engaged to be married:

Disclaimer: While I respect the institution of marriage, I'm not trying to hint that marriage is what I'm looking forward to on this earth...Bonhoeffer's quotes that apply to accepting our time on God's earth just also happened to be in regard to marriage. :)
“As earthly human beings, we have to take account of an earthly future. For the sake of this future we must accept tasks, responsibilities, and joy and sorrows.  We need not despise happiness simply because there is so much unhappiness.  We should not arrogantly push away the kind hand of God because God’s hand is otherwise so hard….May God also prepare you through this divine kindness to bear again the divine hardship if necessary.” 
 Also this quote from a letter Bonhoeffer wrote to his fiancee Maria:
“Our marriage must be a ‘yes’ to God’s earth.  It must strengthen our resolve to do and accomplish something here on earth.  I fear that Christians who venture to stand on earth with only one leg will stand in heaven on only one leg too.” 
 Metaxas goes on to clarify where Bonhoeffer is coming from by stating: "Bonhoeffer was constantly trying to correct the idea of a false choice between God and humanity, or heaven and earth.  God wanted to redeem humanity and to redeem this earth, not abolish them." Later he continues to clarify Bonhoeffer's position by saying, "...the 'desire for earthly bliss' is not something we steal from behind God's back, but is something He has desired that we should desire."

I love that God understands our earthly/human desires...I love the thought that in the midst of a world that is evil and dark, and even as we anticipate Christ's return, we can have moments of happiness ordained by our Heavenly Father...as we learn to say "Yes" to His earth.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Missing my grandmother these days...

My son and I with Me-Maw
 My Me-Maw was a beautiful lady. She passed away about 2 years ago, and I have been missing her terribly--especially as the holiday season approaches.  I think of her every day, in some way.  Sometimes, I'll remember something she told me, or the way she moved.  I can see her in her little kitchen, making her famous brownies. Ever since she died, when I make those brownies, I imagine her measuring out the cocoa with a real table spoon (not a measuring spoon), and stirring the pot over her stove.  They somehow taste better when I try to emulate the way she did it.

Recently, I've missed talking to her the most. There are things I want to tell her that I probably wouldn't tell anyone else...or if I do, it's not the same as telling my Me-Maw. She was a wonderful listener, and I remember many quiet talks with her throughout my life, but especially the ones before she passed away.  I  am so grateful for those moments alone with her in the last few months of her life.  She needed help with simple things like eating her supper, or holding up her glass and bending her straw to her mouth.  I helped her whenever I could.  Then we would sit and talk, always in a lamp-lit room (she loved the cozy light), and towards the end, when we had those quiet conversations, I would hold her hand.

Today, I'm missing not only those conversations, but the pleasure of holding her hand.  She did not have an easy life.  Her hands showed the years of raising 5 children alone, the years of hard work to provide for them, and, I believe, the strength of her spirit.  She loved God most, and even though her life had been difficult, she loved Him still.

I read an excerpt from C.S. Lewis' classic Narnia series last night, and I think it's appropriate to end this post with these few lines from The Last Battle--I especially love the last paragraph:
Then Aslan looked at them and said:
"You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be." 
Lucy said, "We're so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often.  
"No fear of that," said Aslan. "Have you not guessed?" 
Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them. 
"There was a real railway accident,"said Aslan softly. "Your father and mother and all of you are--as you used to call it in the Shadowlands--dead.  The term is over: the holidays have begun.  The dream is ended: this is the morning."
And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them.  And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story.  All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.   
Just some thoughts from a granddaughter who is grateful to know that her Me-Maw has begun Chapter One of the real story...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

love this song

Seek Christ, then lead us.
We need you.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ponder this...

Sometimes God allows what He hates to accomplish what He loves.
 Joni Eareckson Tada 
For God is not merely mending, not simply restoring a status quo.  Redeemed humanity is to be something more glorious than unfallen humanity would have been...the greater the sin, the greater the mercy: the deeper the death, the brighter the rebirth.
C.S. Lewis

Monday, November 8, 2010

Seeking the Blesser

I'm slowly reading through a book called Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.  In the chapter on fasting, he asks a short question that struck my heart in a way that I cannot forget.  I paraphrase: 
"Do you love the blessing more than the Blesser?"

Honestly, I believe my heart was struck so deeply because I am guilty of seeking the blessing.  As I've let those words penetrate my soul, I have seen that many times, I have not sought Christ--I have sought what He could do for me, or how He could get me out of a certain situation.

Since reading that line, I'm learning to regularly take some quiet mornings alone to seek Him, not something from Him.  To listen.  To be still.  For me, this usually means heading to the beach, or some quiet area outdoors.  It's hard to seek anything from the Blesser but Himself when I'm surrounded by His handiwork.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Carrying His heart

I first read this poem several years ago after I was divorced.  I was struggling with the fact that I did not have a life partner who could share this poem with me, because I loved the emotion of the words.  I began to feel sorry for myself.  Right then, I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to me, telling me instead of focusing what I don't have, focus on the fact that He is my Husband (Isaiah 54:5).  Ever since then, when I think of this poem, I ask Him to help me carry His heart with me. 

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)
i am never without it(anywhere i go you go,my dear; 
and whatever is done by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)
i want no world(for beautiful, you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

ee cummings

Monday, November 1, 2010

An Unexpected Lesson

This past weekend, I had what is possibly the most beautiful experience of my life. It was an unplanned, unexpected God-moment. I was in an idyllic mountain town in North Carolina with some girlfriends--a much needed weekend away. We were spending the day exploring the little town--a quiet, unassuming, fairy tale-like town; the kind of town that had existed only in my imagination before that day.

As we came to the end of the main street, we noticed an old church. It was obviously historic, so we took pictures of the outside, and one of us wandered up to the charming wood doors. She motioned us to come, and we all quietly approached the door to see a sign that read something like this: "Church choir practicing, visitors welcome to come in and listen." As we neared the door, we heard the strains of a traditional Sacred chorale piece being rehearsed inside. We filed into the small church, which had wooden floors and pews, and saw that the choir director was sitting at an old pipe organ with the choir members casually standing around him, eyes focused on their sheets of music. He played and directed from the pipe organ, and although they stopped and started (they WERE practicing), the experience was reverent. Beautiful. Sacred. Traditional. Holy.

The lights in the church were cozy, the ceiling was high with wood rafters. The fall weather was cool outside, and the beams of the weak autumn sun filtered softly through the church windows. We didn't speak. We listened. I can't even tell you what the song said, but it was about my Savior. It was about their Savior. Any walls that I had in my mind about traditional church or liturgy came down. I was reminded that sometimes, in our attempt to make church like-able to the masses, we lose the hushed reverence that God deserves.

My heart cannot forget, and my soul is still touched by the simplicity and reverence that I felt there in those quiet moments.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God--but we do not. We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life, and holy on the ordinary streets, among ordinary people..." Oswald Chambers (My Utmost, October 21 reading)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A 5 year old's prayer...

I was reading through my journal and came across the entry from 7.27.10. It reads:

My son's prayer tonight:

"Jesus, we love You. Guide us. Don't forget us. Protect us."

My prayer tonight:

"Jesus, we love You. Guide us. Don't forget us. Protect us."

Monday, October 11, 2010

He is building up a palace...

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right, and stopping the leaks and so on. You knew that those jobs needed doing, and so you are not surprised. But presently, He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably, and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to?...He is building quite a different house than the one you thought of--throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.  

You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage, but He is building up a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Jesus is really big in my heart...

Over the last few months, I've been telling my son how important it is to pray, "Search me, O God, and know my heart...see if there is any wicked way in me..." every day (Psalm 139:23,24). When he's done praying the prayer, I encourage him to be quiet and to listen with his heart to see if Jesus is telling him anything.

Last night was no exception to the way we end our days. After we had read his bedtime Bible, I reminded him again that we should pray the "Search my heart" prayer. We prayed it, and then I reminded him that he needs to be quiet and listen to see what Jesus tells him.

As I was saying this, he interrupted me and said, "I hear Him, I hear Him!" I asked him what Jesus was saying, and with his hand over his heart, he said, "He's making my heart feel warm, and He's really big in my heart!"

What a description of being right with God.

It made me think: when was the last time our hearts felt warm, and Jesus was really big in our hearts?