Hope Rising

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Keep Me Honest in My Prayers

Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint; preserve my life from dread enemy. 
Psalm 64:1

We do not have to "dress up," either inwardly or outwardly, when we come to God in prayer.  We do not have to hide our anger, suppress our distress, or mask our irritability.  It is alright to complain to God.

PRAYER: I am so used to hiding the feelings and thoughts that others might find unacceptable, O God, that I even try to do it with You.  Keep me honest in my prayers.  You know how to deal with such as me: I do not fear Your rejection, and I hope in your salvation, even in Jesus Christ. Amen.

I have had some time to reflect, after a fast-paced season.  God has shown me how I've started (once again) coping with life by putting my mask on, and how it is spilling over into my relationship with him.  What was a jumble of thoughts in my mind was put into clear words by Eugene Peterson with this simple but profound prayer. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Prayer for the Body of Christ

When Jesus of Nazareth rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and his followers cried out, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord," the Pharisees went to Jesus and told him to put an end to their blasphemies, and Jesus said to them, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out."
This church.  The church on the other side of town, the other side of the world.  All churches everywhere.  The day will come when they will lie in ruins, every last one of them.  The day will come when all the voices that were ever raised in them, including our own, will be permanently stilled.  But when that day comes, I believe that the tumbled stones will cry aloud of the great, deep hope that down through the centuries has been the one reason for having churches at all and is the one reason we have for coming to this one now: the hope that into the world the King does come.  And in the name of the Lord.  And is always coming, blessed be he.  And will come afire with glory, at the end of time. 
In the meantime, King Jesus, we offer all churches to you as you offer them to us.  Make thyself known in them.  Make thy will be done in them.  Make our stone hearts cry out for thy kingship.  Make us holy and human at last that we may do the work of thy love.
~Frederick Buechner
Listening to Your Life
June 13 reading

(Emphasis mine)

Along the same line, this is the best sermon on the Church (by Chip Ingram) that I have heard in a while.  Worth your time to listen. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Accepting whatever the Giver chooses to give.

 I looked up at the bulletin board over my desk just now.  It brims with quotes and verses that have spoken promise to me over the years, and my eyes rest on a scrap of paper that says, "I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living..." (Psalm 27:13) My mind wandered back to the day, the time of life that I wrote it down, when the words seemed new, and gave me life and hope.  I was recently divorced, devastated, and grasping for straws.  I read that passage, and the "in the land of the living" part stuck out.  Like a thunderbolt, it hit me: the phrase "in the land of the living" means while we're on earth. Down here. Not just up in heaven some day.  It must mean that I don't have to hang on by my fingernails until Jesus comes back to get good things.

I know that this verse is often quoted.  Maybe even over-quoted, if Scripture can be such.  I also know that for the passage to grab me in that way--to jolt me back to a reality where God does allow good things while we're on earth showed much about my view of Him...perhaps I felt that I had done something wrong, and now, for the rest of my life, I'd just cower in my corner, try not to upset Him, and experience the blessing when I finally made it to heaven.

But, then, at the time I wrote the verse down and pinned it on my bulletin board, it felt like a promise.  Fresh. New.  I could hope, I could wish, I could breathe.  For me, that meant that maybe, just maybe, I could hope for a new life.  Another try. For me, that mean that I thought of the blessing of a Godly husband and more children.

That was over 6 years ago. Those dreams haven't come true (yet). 

So you may wonder what I think about God's promises now--when my dreams from that time have not come true.  Whether I still  have nights when I lay in bed and wonder why I haven't measured up to someone.  Why I wasn't good enough or pretty enough. Why so many women complain about their faithful husbands while I no longer had one.  Why I, who only ever wanted to be a wife and a mother, must be a single mother, albeit with one beautiful precious child.  Where is my God now?

I would be lying if I said that there aren't nights of loneliness or struggle.  Days when it surprises me still that this has been my lot.  But in these 6 years, I have found a wonderful secret: God is always good.  His character has not changed simply because I am not experiencing the fulfillment of my deepest dreams.  In His goodness, sovereignty, and wisdom, He still asks me to wait for those things, but in the waiting, and even still in the longing for those things, I can still live--with fullness, thankfulness, satisfaction, and joy.  I may never see my dreams fulfilled--but I know that will only be because His dreams for me were better.

The key to real life is to continue, to be faithful, and to remember what verse 14 of Psalm 27 says: 

Wait for the LORD;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the LORD.

Ann Voskamp says, "The quiet song of gratitude...lures humility out of the shadows because to receive a gift the knees must bend humble and the hand must lie vulnerably open and the will must bow to accept whatever the Giver chooses to give..."

"Humbly let go.  Let go of trying to do, let go of trying to control...let go of my own way, let go of my own fears.  Let God blow His wind, His trials, oxygen for joy's fire.  Leave the hand open and be. Be at peace. Bend the knee and be small and let God give what God chooses to give because He only gives love and whisper surprised thanks.  This is the fuel for joy's flame. Fullness of joy is discovered only in the emptying of the will. And I can empty.  I can empty because counting His graces has awakened me to how He cherishes me, holds me, passionately values me.  I can empty because I am full of His love. I can trust." (One Thousand Gifts)

I heard Brother Andrew tell the story of visiting Corrie Ten Boom after she had purchased a beautiful stately home in Haarlem where she displayed her clocks that she loved so much. While visiting her and admiring her house and the lovely gardens, Brother Andrew commented, "Corrie, what a wonderful home. God is good to you."  Corrie's face fell, and almost crossly she said, "Andrew, God was also good when Betsy died. God is always good." Brother Andrew went on to say: "Corrie taught me an important lesson that day-- easy times and prosperity are not the signs that God is good. We know that God is good, which makes the hard times easier to bear because we don't face them alone."

So can I still say He's good now--nearing 7 years down a road I never dreamed I would travel? Yes, yes, and ever yes. 

He is good. Always and forever good. 

This journey has taught me so much about His character, about who He IS--and maybe that was the point of it all along.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Another Route

“Do you know what hurts so very much? It's love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill that love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.” 
Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place

To love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.  The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.  The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell. 

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves