Chosen to love the world.

1 John 3:16-24

16We know love by this that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? 18Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 19And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him 20whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; 22and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him. 23And this is his commandment that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

We are Chosen to love the world.

Leviticus 19:18 says, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s what God said to Moses and the people of Israel.

As far as formulas go, it’s great.  The golden rule.  I was telling Enoch yesterday, treat people like you like to be treated.

There’s nothing secret about this formula. Even Jesus endorsed it when in Matthew 22 he made it a part of his great commandment. “Love the Lord your God,” said Jesus, and “love your neighbor as yourself.”

But surprisingly, in the first of his New Testament letters, the apostle John offers a new recipe: “this is [God’s] commandment that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another” (v. 23).

Believe in Jesus. Love one another.

Not the same old formula.

In recent years, companies have learned how dangerous it is to change the ingredients of a successful brand. A little over 30 years ago, in April, 1985, Coca-Cola changed its formula and introduced a product called “New Coke.” The response was overwhelmingly negative, and within three months the original formula was back on the market.

Just how bad was it? The company hotline received 1,500 calls a day, almost four times what they usually logged. Psychiatrists listened in on calls and heard people talking as though they were grieving the death of a family member.

Southerners saw the change through the lens of the Civil War, describing it as yet another surrender to the Yankees. Even Fidel Castro despised New Coke, reportedly calling it “a sign of American capitalist decadence.”

Bottom line: Be careful when you change a successful formula.

So what is the apostle John up to? For starters, he wants to put a human face on the commandment to love one another — the face of Jesus Christ. Verse 16 says, “We know love by this,” he says to his brothers and sisters in Christ, “that he laid down his life for us.” John knows that the problem with the love commandment is that it can easily become sacrinny sweet like sweet and low, with people enjoying the pleasant taste of warm, fuzzy emotions and charitable thoughts. So he changes the formula to include the bitter sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

• Most of us find it easier to formulate our arguments in our head without real dialogue, real conversation, so much so that we demonize the other “side” than to love them.  1 John 4:7-10 says, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”  Mother Teresa who becomes a Saint today says much about love. “When you know how much God is in love with you then you can only live your life radiating that love.”  “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”

• Most of us find it so much simpler to define our Christianity in terms of attending church, rather than doing the complicated and challenging work of feeding the hungry, welcoming strangers, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, and visiting the imprisoned.  As Billy Sunday said, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.”

  • Most of us find it easier to point out the splinter in another’s eye, while we live with the plank in our own. For example, if you don’t want to gossip or cut down or talk trash or judge harshly or go on a road that’s a dark and twisty path to the dark side, BE THE CHANGE. Be the change, not just wish for it, BE the change – even the slightest movement, if you are resting in God’s love, puts more love in the universe.

    Such a change of ingredients can actually change our behavior. “We ought to lay down our lives for one another,” insists John, following the example of Jesus (v. 16). Under this new formula, sacrificial living becomes a central part of the Christian life, one that simply cannot be denied. John asks his followers, “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help?” (v. 17).

    Love is seen in action, not in words.  The greatest poet ever known can wax eloquent about love, but it is all flowery speech and frills, if it is not backed up.

    John summarizes his new formula with the words “Believe in the name of [God’s] Son Jesus Christ and love one another” (v. 23). He links belief in Jesus with love for one another, knowing that the clearest example of love is the sacrificial life and death of Christ. The result of this new formula is a close connection to God, one in which “all who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them” (v. 24). John says that we’ll know that God lives in us “by the Spirit that he has given us” (v. 24).

    The new link between belief and love can and will create a new kind of life for us.

    Throughout the gospel of John, we hear the promise of life. In fact, the gospel was written “so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life” (John 20:31). The gospel begins with the Word of God taking the human form of Jesus, and we’re promised that “what has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people” (John 1:3-4).

    Belief. Life. Light. Put these ingredients together, and you can see that a new formula is beginning to emerge.  John goes on to tell us that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16).

    So now love is in the mix. As well a kind of life that extends beyond the grave — eternal life.

    Describing himself, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

    – Life in Jesus.

    – Eternal life.

    – The light of life.

    – Abundant life.

    – The way, the truth and the life.

    – Life, life, life.

    Christ Life — not the same old formula. It’s a new one based on believing in Jesus and loving one another.

Clarence Jordan captured the concreteness of this everyday love and compassionate assistance when he translated in his Cotton Patch Version of 1 John 3:18 back in 1973: “My little ones, let’s not talk about love. Let’s not sing about love. Let’s put love into action and make it real.”

Our world is in desperate need of a church that puts love into action and makes it real. Like customers looking for a good, cheap haircut or a calculator for their big test, there are people all around us who are searching desperately for a community that actually practices what it preaches. Over 100 years ago, the Christian philosopher Søren Kierkegaard made the point that Jesus was looking for followers, not admirers — he wanted people who would walk with him, do his work, and serve in his name.

One of Kierkegaard’s own parables told of a man who was walking down a city street when he saw a big sign in a window that said, “Pants pressed here.” Delighted to see the sign, he went home and gathered up all of his wrinkled laundry. He carried it into the shop and put it on the counter.

“What are you doing?” the shopkeeper demanded.

“I brought my clothes here to be pressed,” said the man, “just like your sign said.”

“Oh, you’ve got it all wrong,” the owner said. “We don’t actually do that here. We’re in the business of making signs.” We don’t do these things, he was saying. We’re in the business of talking about them.

And that, said Søren Kierkegaard, is often the problem in the church. We advertise ourselves as a place that is showing Christ’s love and doing Christ’s work. But when people show up looking for real love and real Christian action, they don’t see it. “Oh, no, we don’t love people here. We just talk about loving people here.”

When Christ is our life, we live and move and breathe in the Spirit and we do what Jesus wants us to do.  This means helping a brother or sister in need, and loving one another in truth and in action. It means focusing on activities that really show the love of God to people who might be feeling quite unloved and unlovable. That also means BOLDNESS.  We boldly approach the throne of grace with confidence.  Not just giving people fake, plastered on smiles, but telling them about Christ.  Showing with our lives the greatest show and tell in the world.  We need signs that God is LIVING in us!  I love the tv show Friday Night Lights, maybe because I went to High School in two big football towns – Cheraw and Rock Hill.  The team’s motto, “Clear Eyes.  Full Hearts.  Can’t Lose.” Clear Eyes on the cross, focused on Jesus’ sacrifice for each of us.  Full hearts of the love of God for the world.  The unconditional, agape love of God in ACTION in and through us.  Can’t lose.  We are more than conquerors through him who first loved us and nothing in all of creation will make us lose that, not even the monster in the Upside Down, nothing.

For those who dare to sip this new flavor, abundant life awaits. Believing in Jesus and loving one another draws us closer to God and one another, and allows us actually to abide in God. To abide is to live or to dwell in something — to accept, observe and follow a particular path. So when we believe in Jesus and love one another, we abide in God and God abides in us. “And by this we know that he abides in us,” says John, “by the Spirit that he has given us” (v. 24).

So give it a try. As missionary, Jim Elliot says, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” You have nothing to lose, but a new life – transformed – to gain.

The Anger Stage

So it’s there.  A little bit after the parental units, but nonetheless, the anger stage is in the house.  I, like most of you, know about the stages of grief and it’s almost worse that I know this and realize this and can clinically say, why of course, Narcie Jeter, what you are experiencing is a quite substantial dose of the anger and sadness stages of grief.

Lord knows why it took me so long and why I went into survival, defuse the situation, and keep bouncing along mode except for the fact that I just really don’t want to deal with this.  I really don’t want to think about surgery again.  I really don’t want to show the kids the scar from the last time and let them know this is all going to be okay.  I really don’t want to feel so freaking ticked off and frustrated and distracted and weepy.  Weepy.  And not in a nice, cute crying way, but watching old episodes of Dawson’s Creek and crying like a nutcase.

I don’t really know how to make this feeling go away so besides the Dawson’s Creek marathon which is strangely always comforting (nutcase, I told you), I’m trying to blog it out.  Maybe if I articulate whatever this is…since I don’t really have a punching bag and I probably shouldn’t throw things against the wall so late at night.

I don’t actually know what I want.

I don’t know if there’s an answer.

I don’t even know if there’s a question.

Things I know:  I love my family.  I trust God.  I know there are many, many people praying.  I appreciate that greatly.  I love what I do – all of it – silly, serious, and in between.  I am tired.  I am worried.  I am scared.  I am loved and cherished by an amazing man who is more than I ever deserve or imagined.  I have done this before and I know all will be fine and it’s a great doctor and facility.  I can’t decide if this is a big deal or not a big deal or if it’s just normal, which is weird and not quite right.  I’m already wondering about the next surgery or what will happen…  I have the two silliest, sweetest, most unique and precious and precocious children imaginable and I swing between the hope that they may never know anything about this because I wish I could control things and realizing that this isn’t just my story but our story.  I realize that there are a heck of a lot of people dealing with things more awful and challenging and I sometimes feel whiny and weak for even articulating this.

And yet.  When I start typing and I stop feeling the waves of anger for a bit and I stop crying along to “I Don’t Wanna Wait” like a sad sack, I know that God is carrying me and holding me each step of the way, which ironically in some ways makes me cry more.  And for the record, I’m not writing that as a pastor and I don’t care a hill of beans if anyone reads this, but it’s just good to feel and know that.  Even as silly as that may seem to some.

Thanks for being on this journey.  Thanks for praying.  Even if I don’t always answer the emails, comments, facebooks, fast enough or at all, know that I appreciate them and I read them.  They help that “held” feeling when it’s denial, anger, sadness, and yuck city.  Love you all.  Especially my crazy WNWers that would let me share my Dawson’s obsession.  And if any of you reading this make fun of me for my silly, trashy, and immature tv watching….you’re going to get it.  (I kid.  Mostly.)

***I also realize that I write plenty of run-on, stream of consciousness sentences, and I, nor the English major inside of me, actually cares.  So ha!

I’m Still Listening

I’ve just gotten into using Pandora. I don’t know what the difference is between the things that I’ll jump on the bandwagon for and the things that I won’t. Some of them that I’ve just started – itunes (I’ve always liked actual CD’s – call me crazy), instagram (no idea yet), or even Words with Friends (the students have me playing it, but I’m absolutely terrible.) Maybe I wait and see if it will catch on (still waiting on Google+) or more than likely, I wait until I have some free time to try it out and it’s easy to access. I still haven’t figured out the “cool” Pandora play lists yet, but I have a couple that I love and regularly jam to. The thing that I’ve noticed more than anything is how long it takes me to realize that the music has stopped. You see, if you listen long enough, or if you like me listens while you work, eventually the music is going to stop and you’ll click on the box and you’ll see a message that inquires whether you’re still listening or not. There are some days when I immediately notice, whoa, whoa, whoa, the music has stopped. There are other days when I’m running a bit more on the ragged side or if I’m deep in thought or a project and I finally realize it but can’t remember where along the way it stopped.

Yesterday, for the first time in many, many years, Mike and I worshiped together at a local church. Neither of us responsible for any part of the service. No preaching, speaking, singing, playing the piano, announcements…nothing. Several things struck me all at once. One, I was tired. And it’s a lot easier to zone out and yawn really loudly and for a long time when you’re not the one leading worship. I noted that there’s something energizing or I would say more accurately – Holy Spirit infusing – about leading worship. Sometimes it’s hard to go from closing your eyes during the prayer to focus in on what’s being said. Then I began to wonder to myself about how the folks in the congregation feel? After a few moments I arrived at the conclusion, that a lot of it had to do with me. If you are an active participant in worship – singing, listening to the words of the prayers, paying attention to the children’s sermon – than you’ll get a heck of a lot more out of it.

When I calmed down in my own skin for a minute and actually tuned in to the word God was speaking, I was able to realize that somewhere along the way, the music had stopped and I indeed needed to click the “I’m Still Listening” button. As pastors or those that work in the church, how often are we tuned into the word God would have us share with our congregations, but we’re not quite as open, when we’re not the ones in charge, doing the feeding, and being open to the ways that word will be revealed to us?

I don’t know about you but I feel like there are times when we have been coasting and cruising and we’re doing the appropriate motions and the right spots, but our movements aren’t connecting with our brains. Things are going pretty okay, but if we tuned ourselves in just a bit more to the music flowing all around us, things would be going pretty fantastic…or at least more in tune. Once I got my head and my heart communicating and opening up, I heard a great, convicting, challenging, and well-thought out sermon that was a confirmation that I needed to wake up and do some listening. Isn’t it funny that God brings those things that we need to hear? We just need to clean out our ears sometimes and sort through distractions to get to the place where we can feel and know the presence of God clearly and actively.

What are ways that we stay in tune to God’s music?

What are the things that get in the way and distract us?

What are ways that we can practice listening or centering?

I turn the music up

I haven’t blogged in ages. It’s not that I haven’t thought about blogs or haven’t wanted to, I just haven’t. I think it’s the same thing that I feel about resolutions and reading the Upper Room email devotional in the morning – things that I want to do and crave to do and would feel better after doing, but for some reason I let the other more pressing things get in the way.

There are all sorts of things that demand our attention and it often feels like the things that would re-charge us or center us whether that be writing or reading or taking a walk or exercising or what have you – these are the things that we feel like need to take a back burner when we’re busy burning the candle at both ends and trying to keep our head above water.

I’m not good at treading water. To be even more honest, I’m a terrible swimmer. By the time we started taking swimming lessons, I was already in late elementary school and a pretty tall kid. If you can stand up in the 5 ft. deep end, swimming just doesn’t take on the same urgency it might would. The rest of my family can swim and in thinking about this (because I am that weird), I think I could survive for a little while lost at sea. I’m pretty good at floating on my back or doing like a frog stroke of some sort. If I’m treading water – I’ve got maybe 3 minutes, and I think even then, I’m being pretty generous.

Am I terrible at swimming, because I’ve seen no use for it yet? I just never got into it? I don’t feel a sense of urgency to do it?

Am I terrible at self care because I see no urgency in it? Because it’s not something to mark off the to do list?

Maybe if I added things like: Take a walk, write a poem (for fun not for serious), read a book in silence without interruption (yeah right), turn the music up and blast it, learn the dance to Thriller (finally), write down three things that you’re thankful for each day…maybe if I added some of these things to the to do list, they would actually happen and not just sound good in my head or me wistfully saying them out loud as a cop out.

What should you add to your to do list? What do you need to make time for? As a parent, as a teacher, as a preacher, as a student, as a leader, as a learner, as a philosopher, as a pragmatist, as a advocate, as a dreamer – what does your soul need today?

I’m listening to a little Coldplay “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall.” I don’t want “Monday morning to feel another life,” but like the authentic, passionate, continuation of following where God leads – the challenging, the joys, the wake up calls, the turning points, the ah ha moments, all apart of the waterfall that is our lives. We keep going with the strength of God. We keep grooving in the Spirit of God. We continue sharing love and grace in the joy of Jesus. And we re-charge, re-energize, re-new, re-store, re-fresh in the midst – taking the time to let the movement of Spirit work inside and out.

Time to Wake Up!

This morning Enoch slept late. On Mondays and Wednesdays he has speech at 8 am before going to preschool at 9 am so I let him sleep in until about 8:20 today before waking him up to get ready for preschool at 9. It always cracks me up to wake him up because for the most part, as soon as I open the door he’s bouncing out of bed ready to go. Now this is only when he’s slept late. If you’ve actually tried to get him up early, he’s like a walking zombie. But if you’ve let him sleep a little later and get that little bit of extra time to snuggle and stretch and enjoy life under the covers, he’s pretty ready to head out into the day.

There are few days these days that I have that extra time to sleep or snuggle into the covers mostly because Evy enjoys climbing onto the bed and jumping, snuggling, talking and pulling my eyelids up to have time to snuggle with me before it’s time to get going. 98% of the time I LOVE this and I wouldn’t trade a minute. There are 2% of times though where they’ve somehow gotten a flashlight and are shining that in my eyes to wake me up and I just am panicked and jolted out of sleep. On those days I don’t really start the day out fresh or ready to go, it feels like I’m just trying to survive to opening my eyes, getting some caffeine, getting kids dressed, and trying as much as I can to savor moments in between. Oh the life of working Mommy. Or any Mommy for that matter.

One of the verses from this morning’s Upper Room was one of my all time favorites, Matthew 11:28, “Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Maybe it says a great deal about my life and real priorities that this is a favorite. It definitely speaks to my tired self and mostly crazy hectic silly life. Although this verse speaks to me about the source of our Living Water, the one who nourishes us and provides us rest, I also think it sometimes give me a slight, tiny, little excuse to have a stressful schedule and not take very good care of myself because I have very strong faith in the God who is all sufficient. God is all sufficient and there for us in the ups and downs but that doesn’t mean we take advantage and get so caught up in the ho hum of doing life that we miss all of the joys and fun and amazingness along the way!

If I actually took time to be with God and dwell with God and got some sleep and didn’t schedule things like crazy and didn’t try to juggle all the balls in the air, I might find that my busyness is more about me and wanting to feel needed or wanting to measure up and other prideful and self-doubting things.

This morning on my lovely Pandora station, needtobreathe’s “Slumber” came on and boy I needed that. Maybe it doesn’t make any sense, but I think that sometimes the hectic routines of life seem much more like a “slumber” than actually grasping hold of life in real and transformative ways. I don’t want to be in the drone of routine and slumber, I want to experience and be open to change and to even be open to correction and accountability. I don’t want every Sunday or Monday or Thursday to look exactly the same or to be going through the motions of preaching, teaching, listening or being Mommy. I know that we do that. I know that it’s probably a magnificent coping mechanism and one that is super important when juggling, but are we going to be so zoned out that we realize we’re 6 weeks into the semester and we haven’t found our rhythm yet between work, church, family and anything in between?

It’s a challenge. Time to wake up? Or keep slumbering? Depending on God not just to provide but to also inspire, correct, and commit? Saying things out loud in sermons and studies or really putting them into practice for myself? Who does Christ call us to BE in this world, not just DO, not just pretend, not just negotiate, not just rationalize?

“Wake on up from your slumber, Come on open up your eyes”

Days they force you
Back under those covers
Lazy mornings they multiply
But glory’s waiting
Outside your window
So wake on up from your slumber
And open up your eyes

Tongues are violent
Personal and focused
Tough to beat with
Your steady mind
But hearts are stronger after broken
So wake on up from your slumber
And open up your eyes

All these victims
Stand in line for
The crumbs that fall from the table
Just enough to get by
All the while
Your invitation
Wake on up from your slumber
Come on open up your eyes

Take from vandals
All you want now
But please don’t trade it in for life
Replace the feeble
With the fable
Wake on up from your slumber
And open up your eyes

All these victims
Stand in line for
The crumbs that fall from the table
Just enough to get by
All the while
Your invitation
Wake on up from your slumber
Come on open up your eyes

Sing like we used to
Dance when you want to
Taste of the breakthrough
And open wide

All these victims
Stand in line for
The crumbs that fall from the table
Just enough to get by
All the while
Your invitation
Wake on up from your slumber
Come on open up your eyes

Sing like we used to
And dance like you want to
Open up your eyes

Tonight, Tonight – Sometimes You’ve Just Got to Jam

It’s a dreary gray day here in South Carolina.  We need the rain and I’m loving the cooler weather.  I’d probably be down with the gray skies too except it’s doing more pouting and looking gloomy than actually raining.  Let’s get it going clouds!

It’s funny to me how much the weather can affect our moods.  Every Wednesday when I would write the Wesley Weekly email to the students I finally realized I talk about the weather all the time.  My desk faces some big windows so you see where mind is.

Right now I’m closing out our Summer newsletter getting ready for a conference and doing various crazy things that are on the never-ending to do list.  But I’m reminded how easy it is to get derailed.  You can get some bad news or read something on facebook or email or hear about a meeting where your name came up or remember something that can send your day in a spiral.  Or you could in general not be feeling well or be in the midst of something that has you just feeling blah.  Sometimes I’ll find myself not in the greatest of moods and I’ll have I try to remember – when did I start feeling this way?  Is this just a general “funk” or did something prompt this?

We all have different triggers.  Some of those are questions about the future or if we’re really living our vocation or what we’re called to do or money concerns or health concerns or family worries or whatever.  There’s all sorts of anxieties and fears out there and it’s almost like the lie in wait for us in the shadows ready to jump is or being to creep in.

I have this funny suspicion that Jesus doesn’t want us to live a life of burdensome worries and mopey-ness.  I’m not saying Jesus wants you to be sunshine and rainbows all the time and I totally believe he walks with us in the most mopey of mopeys, but I also think there are some days when we’ve just go to jam.

The song, “Tonight, Tonight” by Hot Chelle Rae keeps popping up on my radio and I keep playing it on my youtube at work.  Don’t worry I haven’t watched all 5 million times that it says it’s been viewed.  Do you ever just jam in your car when you hear a song that is just fun and funny and you just start dancing and digging it?  Or have you ever done that with a group of friends or on a retreat or whatever?  I distinctly have some of those memories with Faith Hill’s This Kiss and Macy Gray and the Dixie Chicks.

I’ve been playing this song, one to keep me moving and awake on this dreary day, but also because it’s fun to jam sometimes.  Can you picture Jesus jamming along with you?  A stretch?  Maybe not.  But I can totally feel like sometimes we just have to let go and get moving.  Sometimes that means regrouping.  Sometimes that means some new inspiration. Can you hear Jesus being the one that says, “Come on?”  or “We can get crazy, let it all out.”  Now I’m so not saying that this was the intent of this wonderful Hot Chelle Rae.  Probably far from it.

But I am thankful for this sort of fun music that make you feel like you’re joining a live, active, vibrant party.  It’s not always a party day, but I’d like to think that Jesus invites us to the dance and seeks to give us that abundant rockin’ life!

So if you come by office today, be prepared – you could see a very silly and terribly dancing Narcie.  Join in.  Dance.  Have some fun.  Even on a rainy day.  Even the uncoordinated kids.  Even the serious and grouchy among us.  Even the ones that certainly don’t have time for this.

Join the dance.

And may that energy and passion and fun and levity and release and liberating feeling bleed over into our faith.  Yep, life can be challenging at times, but it’s also awesome and amazing and so much to be thankful for!  This isn’t a prosperity Gospel but it is join in on the freedom and contagious fun of life in Christ!

Four letter word – Hope

Hope is one of those words that evokes….hope, promise, possibility, trusting something to completion, believing against all odds.

Sometimes hope is something that you grasp hold off in the darkest or most challenging of times. Sometimes hope is what you cling to when you know something may not work out.  Sometimes hope is that thing that keeps you moving forward and putting one foot in front of the other.

A friend and colleague emailed me a few weeks ago and said that he was glad that I was hopeful about our Church because we need that.  He said he just wasn’t there anymore and had no idea where his calling/ministry was going.

A student and I talked this week about a relationship where things aren’t quite working out and whether one should be hopeful that things might change or if after time and time again of things not changing, it was better to move on.

Another student and I talked about how it totally sucks sometimes to be single and whether God had someone out there for her or if she would every meet someone.  Should she hope?

I look at all of the freshman coming through Orientation and their hope and fear and wonder about what the next step in college is going to be.

I look at people facing health concerns whether personally waiting for the next checkup to see if tumors or cancer has returned, those facing the health concerns of family members, or those facing the loss of a loved one and I wonder about hope.

A four letter word.  Unlike the others.  Hope.

One of my favorite lines in the Matrix movies was said by the Architect to Neo in the second movie (yes the first one is probably the best, but I really liked this quote) – “Humph. Hope, it is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness.”

Now I’m not saying in the case of the relationship that we live into Albert Einstein’s quote of Insanity – “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  I agree that sometimes our hope may be misplaced or that we’re trying to see the silver lining when there’s not one.  We have to be wise and discerning and honest with ourselves in that.

But I do think we rest in the hope of God and let that four letter word shape our story.  I think of the words from Lamentations 3, beginning with verse 19, “I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.  I remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.  Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassion never fails.  They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”  The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;”

The thing about hope to me is that it’s an active thing.  You don’t just hope to win publisher’s clearing house or the lottery or to strike gold or to find a big pile of money in a brief case outside your house and expect it to happen just by hoping for it.  You have to actually enter to win publisher’s clearing house or buy the lottery ticket or rob the bank to find the briefcase full of money or work hard as heck on “Gold Strike Alaska” on the Discovery channel.  Not really encouraging any of these things but you get my drift.  You discern where the Spirit is leading you.  You don’t sit passively and hide out, but you grasp hold of your life with two strong hands and engage and grow and keep pushing forward.  You rest in the hope of God.  Giving God the chance to move and breathe and blow all over your life and your plans and your hopes and dreams.

If you really want a more solid devotional life, be intentional in making that happen.  Set aside time to pray, journal, sit in silence and listen, subscribe to the Upper Room email every morning, check out Alive Now, ask God to lead you to the people and resources that would best speak to you.  If you want joy at work or you want to do that thing that you’ve always dreamed of but that doesn’t fit with the “plan” in your head – ask God to show you the way.  Actually explore the possibilities and open yourself to making changes and making it happen.  There are many “what if” dreams that we have or moments or seasons of dissatisfaction or frustration, but in some ways we just comfortably stay in our safe little ruts because actually doing something about these things are scary as heck.  And we don’t know if it will work.  Or we’re scared that we’ll try and it won’t work and then we’ll have failed or lost that dream.

Swinging for the fence, hoping when it seems like it’s fruitless – you’ve got to actively and sincerely and intentionally do it and put your time and actions and heart where your mouth is.

What are your hopes?

In your personal life?

In your professional life?

In your vocational journey?

In your spiritual journey?

For your family?

For your friends?

For our Church?

For our world?

Hope.

Not a “Christian” song but I do think it talks about grasping hold of your life and not making excuses or complaining when we feel hopeless or frustrated or afraid.  Live your story with hope, actively engaging, and knowing that the crud will come, but there is One who gives us hope each step of the way.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. — Hebrews 11:1