Bring On The Hope!

I’m giving myself a double dose of hope these days in my reading. First, with this book…

Second, with a youversion reading plan by Paul De Jong entitled “Now Hope.”

This quote stood out to me in my reading today:

The level of hope we have today is an indicator of the level of character we’ve developed.

He believes that based on Romans 5:3-4 where Paul wrote that “tribulation produces, perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

We don’t like it, but we know it’s true. So what if we decided to like it? Like spinach. I didn’t like spinach as a kid. Now, I’m a fan. My taste buds have developed.

Given the right time and attention, we can choose to embrace hard times. Rather than run or sulk or wallow, we can declare, “I’m all in for whatever is about to be developed. Bring on the character. Bring on the hope!”

Photo by Paolo Bendandi on Unsplash

In The Middle: Where Healing, Conversation, and Change Happen

Tyler Perry’s acceptance speech resonated with me because his story and language align with an affirmation God gave me last week.

Not everyone is called to be in the middle. One could argue that, so maybe a better way to put it is not everyone is ready to come to the middle.

If you are in the middle, know that your hope isn’t in victories. Your hope can’t be but in one person, the One who put you in the middle. He has lifted you up. Keep pointing people to the One that can lift them up.

Storytelling: Finding Joy

My ongoing search to find podcasts that interest me has recently delivered a gem. The podcast is Being Known Podcast with Curt Thompson and Pepper Sweeney. Here’s their description of their podcast’s purpose:

In a world in which we experience such deep desire and such great grief, we find coursing through all of it our unquenchable longing to be known. But we don’t want to stop there, for we know in our bones and blood that we desire to be known in order for us to create and curate beauty and goodness in the world — together with our friends and, in our best moments, even our enemies — in every domain of life that we occupy.

I just finished listening to episode #4: Story. So many good thoughts-some new and some reminders-about what story is, how we tell ours, and why we need to.

A lot of what I’m doing in life in my storytelling is I’m looking for ways to find joy in a world that I know is not easy to live in. -Curt Thompson

This week I’ve had to find joy in a world not easy to live in. The story told about me, that I told myself, and that I shared with others led me to renewed joy. Thank you, Curt and Pepper, for conversation affirming my joy.

Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash

Lessons from “When Mama Can’t Kiss It Better”

Finally finished book #6 for the year.

And did I learn a lot. The challenges this family dealt with due to adopting a child eventually diagnosed with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) and RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) are astonishing. How this played out through the adoption, health care, and education systems sheds light on the many challenges of families trying to love and care for their mentally ill children.

This story is a good reminder of three lessons:

You never know what is going on in a stranger’s life. You may witness something you think you understand, but it’s impossible to know the full story.

Media can get it wrong also. Just because the headline says it doesn’t make it true.

Grace goes a long way. Give it as much as you need it.

Pilate Got It Right

I read John 19 this morning, Good Friday. Here are two interesting verses to contrast:

15 They shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”

Pilate said to them, “Should I crucify your king?”

“We have no king but Caesar!” the chief priests answered.

19 Pilate also had a sign made and put on the cross. It said: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.

So many questions. Did the chief priests really mean what they said? Did they really view Caesar as their king? If so, what did they say to the people around them when they spoke about their God, their loyalty to him? Seems contradictory. Feels familiar in 2021 America.

Of course, one could understand from Jesus’ teachings that the chief priests didn’t really get it. When Jesus talked about the kingdom of God, his language and teaching may have even gone over their heads, too. They either didn’t understand it or they rejected it. Either is tragic for them and the people they led. Seems that what we continue to witness happen in religious circles when leaders focus their eyes on the wrong king isn’t anything new.

As a follower of Jesus, to declare allegiance to any created being over their Creator declares citizenship in an earthly kingdom. Some scholars teach that Pilate’s note on his sign wasn’t so much a personal declaration as a statement of charge-that Jesus claimed to be the King of the Jews. Interesting that, regardless of his intent, Pilate-the non-Jew, the one not looking for a Messiah, the one who was simply trying to do justice for the accused man-declared the truth.

May we all on this Good Friday declare that Jesus is King.

Photo by Josh Applegate on Unsplash

This Easter

I started this Thursday listening to my Easter playlist. In that, Lauren Daigle’s “How Can It Be” played. These lyrics from verse two stuck in my ears, mind, and heart.

The main reason they stuck is the contrast between the doubting of love and the exchanging of grace. Been on my mind for several weeks now, so these lyrics heard through the lens of Easter stopped me in my morning routine.

That’s what grace does. Makes you pause. Humbles your expectations. Erases your doubts. Brings you back.

May we all pause in humility to be brought back from our wandering through the erasing of our doubts of God’s love this Easter!

Every Circle Grace

Grace is an interesting topic. In my years in the church, the focus of grace has mostly been on the grace we receive from God. Rightly so. And during this Lenten season, it deserves top of mind.

Devoted followers of Jesus’ teachings believe we are to give what we receive. Everything we receive from God we are to pass on. Love. Mercy. Forgiveness. Faithfulness. And even Grace.

My observation is we tend to gift grace in various degrees. Some people give themselves plenty of grace…much more than they give to others. Some people disproportionately give their family members grace in comparison to others-some more, some less. One amazing observation that stands out more and more is the grace people in the church give to themselves compared to the grace they give people outside the church. Again, it goes both ways. Some people give better grace to their fellow churchgoers while others give better grace to those outside the church.

For better or worse, I’m the latter. For the record, neither is correct. Grace is to be shared with all people equally.

Looking at Jesus’ relationship circles, we observe supernatural grace giving. He gave Peter as much grace as he gave the woman at the well. He shared his grace equally with Nicodemus and Judas. His mother and Pilate both received appropriate grace. What an example he left us.

I most often fail at giving grace to those in my closest relationship circles. That awareness provides growth opportunity so whether in the next hour I engage a stranger in the store, a friend on the phone, or a colleague in the office, my grace is for every circle.

Jesus practiced every circle grace. His resurrection power says, “So can I.”

Our Batons

This morning I listened to a student pastor speak on the importance of being for the next generation. He used the analogy of passing off a baton in a relay race. His last point was an encouragement to not waste your weakness-meaning your past brokenness, your inabilities, or your inexperience do not disqualify you from being on the track, being part of passing off your baton to the next generation. You can carry a baton and pass it on.

Got me to thinking about the actual baton. What is the baton we are passing off? Is it just a broad view of a way of life? What if each one of us knew in more detail what the baton is that we are carrying? I believe we have our own unique baton that we can pass off to countless others throughout life.

Many things come to mind for me. I have a baton of music that I have passed on in many ways. I have the baton of church leadership that is still running its course. I have a baton of living a contented single life. One could say I have a baton of running that I occasionally pass on.

Those are skills and experiences. We could, and I believe we should, consider our spiritual batons also. These spiritual batons are the core of who we are, how we live. We run with the baton of faith, surrender, peace, hope, love, mercy, humility, kindness, patience-what Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit.

Another thought about our unique baton could include the life challenges that God has used to mature us. These could be anything from experiencing loss of jobs, finances, relationships to seasons of doubt, distance, or disconnect. All of these things make up the baton that we are carrying.

What if we held tight enough to our unique baton making sure we don’t drop it but loose enough to let God keep molding it? What if we passed on these batons as often as we are prompted to while we are living rather than only after we die? What if we lived more for what we relay than what we grip?

You might have to get a wheelbarrow for all those batons. But imagine the impact when your race is over and your batons are still in the race.

Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash

Remember

When the car dies

Remember what He’s already done

When the doctor isn’t smiling

Remember what He’s already done

When the check bounces

Remember what He’s already done

When 3AM parenting clocks in

Remember what He’s already done

When they move out

Remember what He’s already done

When the blue lights follow

Remember what He’s already done

When the house is empty

Remember what He’s already done

When you don’t know what you don’t know

Remember what He’s already done

When the tank runs dry

Remember what He’s already done

When shame invades

Remember what He’s already done

When your best is rejected

Remember what He’s already done

When forgiveness appears wasted

Remember what He’s already done

When eternity taps your shoulder

Remember what He’s already done

When reflection lies

Remember what He’s already done

When it’s your time

Remember what He’s already done

Photo by Mihály Köles on Unsplash

Light

Light uncovers

the begging to be

seen, corrected, confessed, forgiven, celebrated, heard, protected, cleansed.

Light pulls

out the

disfigured, undiscovered, forgotten, lonely, hurting, rotting, hidden, stolen.

Light comes

rhythmically to every

morning, home, friend, neighbor, child, field, highway, mountain.

Light resurrects

what darkness

broke, destroyed, severed, tore, distorted, invaded, belied, abandoned.

Light wins

in every

heart, mind, city, neighborhood, country, family, room, soul.

Photo by Josh Boot on Unsplash