Tag Archives: hope

Finding Life In The Commas

“The best lives are riddled with ambiguities and lined with shadows. Each of them is a story about grace.”

~Marilyn McEntyre

comma

Life is lived in the commas, among dashes and eclipses, but many of us prefer the period.

We like clear resolution and a definitive end.

  • I am right. She is wrong.
  • They are evil. We are good.
  • You are at fault and need to stop whining, so we can wrap this up and go home.

Wielding periods, we can slam doors, burn bridges, and shake the disgusted dust off our feet. How satisfying to stamp Mystery Solved, Case Complete, Game Over, The End to our drama, our questions, and our doubts.

But the truth unfolds in the commas.

  • In some ways he’s right, but not completely.
  • She may be wrong, but is on the right track.
  • We are all sometimes evil, and we are all capable of great good. The line goes through, not between us.

What are we learning when resolution eludes us? What growth takes place as life’s sentences run on? Commas must be feared if the world has no author. Truth feels slippery, lines quickly blur, we all stumble along, waiting for our worst fears to come true.

Waiting In The Commas

In the season of Advent we wait, and remember the ancient rumors have turned out to be true. There is an author in charge, the perfect end even no unfolds, and we’ve been handed the plot line–not a list of pious opinions, but a person to follow.  Jesus. Our light in the darkness, our guide through the chaos, our power to love when surrounded by hate, he promises to redeem, restore, transform even our most dreadful mistakes (if we let him) into breathtaking beacons of hope.

One day the period will be put to all evil, death, and misery. For now God waits, patiently moving through the good and the bad, wasting nothing, giving up on no-one, desiring that everyone on earth run into his outstretched arms.

But, remember, he uses our arms for the job. He demands that we love others the way we long to be loved, even when our punctuation is out of sync.

It’s not easy.

Flourishing in the commas requires humility (I could be wrong, because there’s more to this than I can see), hope (God is not absent just because I’m tempted to despair) and habit (I will keep my heart open, continue to love, especially the people whom nobody else will love).

1 Corinthians 13, 2 Peter 3:8-10

Where do you see the love of God at work in the commas?

 The quote at the top is from Marilyn McEntyre’s lovely new book, Word by Word, A Daily Spiritual Practice. A perfect stocking stuffer for your favorite reader.

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Practice Seeing Every Day

Vous, au contraire, vous êtes heureux, vos yeux voient et vos oreilles entendent!

But you, on the other hand, are blessed. Your eyes see and your ears hear! ~ Jesus (Matthew 13:16)

French flag

In a month, I travel to France! Meanwhile, I’ve opened my own practice. I practice packing, I practice sketching, I practice with paints, I practice my French. Je pratique.

Practice French

We sit at a table in the shade, the bouteille d’eau I sip from sweats moisture as the day warms. Un cahier rests by my elbow, its lined pages covered in scribbled notes written with le stylo I grip in my hand.

Right now my brain is cooking. The discussion is en français and my tutor has a lot to say. His paint stained hands gesture with the eloquence of a Parisienne, his grammar is foreign, yet familiar to my heart. Earnest and intelligent, this twenty-something will change the world.

We speak of a time in the past, when culture was not macdonaldized and our souls weren’t numbed by  TV. He waves a finger to remind himself–we can’t just go backwards in time. Desperate times are listed on every decade’s page. I chime in, “Les Miserables,” and he nods, “Exactement.”

He tells me his generation cannot be the hope, l’espoir d’humanitie, alone, but his children will complete the task. I recognize his vision, it mirrors my own longing for the world to be made new.

Quand j’etais une jeune fille, when I was young, my generation dreamed of change. Long-haired and starry-eyed we sang of  peace and justice and a world filled with love. We would be different, we would not conform. Je suis triste, I tell my tutor. I am sad. My generation is just as greedy and indifferent as those who lived before.

I quote a french expression, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Though a native of France, he has never heard the saying. Bon. Good. It’s a proverb for cynics, for those who’ve given up.

Our time has ended and I look across at this young man, his eyes filled with hope and the pain of the world. With hesitant French I compliment him. Vos yeux viorent…your eyes see.

Practice Seeing Every Day

Later I turn to Romans 8, a chapter filled with groaning. Creation groans to be set free from decay, God’s people groan for redemption, and the Spirit groans along. Unhampered by any pain of his own, the Spirit enters ours. He prays for us, for the world, with sighs too deep for words.

Do I pray along with the Spirit or close my eyes and reach for the remote control? My hope is no longer found in human solutions, but I’m a human God can use. An instrument of change in the Spirit’s hand, I must practice every day.

Jesus, help me share your light and hope with the open-eyed I encounter today. Amen

Where are you called to be the eyes that see?

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Twelfth Gift Of Advent: Rejoice In Hope

I believe that God really has dived down into the bottom of creation, and has come up bringing the whole redeemed nature on his shoulders. ~C.S. Lewis

Rejoice In Glorious Hope

Rejoice, the Lord is King! Your Lord and King adore;
Rejoice, give thanks and sing, and triumph evermore;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Jesus, the Savior, reigns, the God of truth and love
When He had purged our stains He took His seat above:
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice:
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

His kingdom cannot fail, He rules o’er earth and heaven,
The keys of death and hell are to our Jesus given;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

He sits at God’s right hand till all His foes submit,
And bow to His command, and fall beneath His feet:
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice:
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

He all His foes shall quell, shall all our sins destroy,
And every bosom swell with pure seraphic joy;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice,
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Rejoice in glorious hope! Jesus the Judge shall come,
And take His servants up to their eternal home.
We soon shall hear th’archangel’s voice;
The trump of God shall sound, rejoice!

~Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Every Reason To Hope

The King becomes a pauper so he will know first-hand the hard paths we travel,

The Savior whose only weapon is self-giving love,

The Judge who lays down his life for the accused, has come.

Like a teacher handing us the answers to the test as we walk into class, like a doctor discovering the cure before revealing his diagnosis, Christ has defeated every reason for despair and now invites us to anchor our hope in him.

Lift up your heart. Lift up your voice. Join in the glad song of  hope.

Which of Charles Wesley’s promises will you claim today?

Photograph, Yosemite, by Melanie Hunt


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Sabbath Quiet: God Wins

Every moment of each day I have the chance to choose between cynicism and joy. ~ Henri J.M. Nouwen

God Wins

God Wins

One

There’s joy at the end of our sorrow. By sorrow we’re flown to His arms.

His arms never fail to hold us. Held, we will sail through the storm.

The storm leaves behind it a rainbow. A rainbow turns raindrops to light.

Light is greater than darkness. Darkness will tutor our trust.

Two

Trust will guide us to mercy. By mercy alone we are judged.

Judged, our hearts are well-broken. Well-broken, we weary of sin.

Sin is sent away by forgiveness. Forgiveness bandages shame.

Shame will not torment the humble. The humble find rest at the Cross.

Three

The Cross destroys the great Curse. Death is swallowed by Life.

Life awakens our longing. Longing will lead to despair.

But despair will look for a window. A window reminds us to hope.

Hope finds a home in Jesus Christ. Jesus makes everything right.

God Wins

 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels can’t, and the demons can’t.

Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can’t keep God’s love away.

Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Romans 8:38-39 NLT)

God Wins, by Janet Hanson (In every brief sentence, in the poem as a whole, God wins).

 Photo Credit: Ted Martinson
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Sabbath Quiet: Joy Is The Great Surprise

The beating heart of the universe is holy joy. ~Martin Buber

joy

Optimism

To be surprised by joy is something quite different from naive optimism. Optimism is the attitude that makes us believe that things will be better tomorrow.

An optimist says: “The war will be over, your wounds will be healed, the depression will go away, the epidemic will be stopped…all will be better soon.”

The optimist may be right or wrong, but, whether right or wrong, the optimist does not control the circumstances.

Joy

Joy does not come from positive predictions about the state of the world. It does not depend on the ups and downs of the circumstances of our lives.

Joy is based on the spiritual knowledge that, while the world in which we live is shrouded in darkness, God has overcome the world.

Jesus says it loudly and clearly: “In the world you will have troubles, but rejoice, I have overcome the world.”

Surprise

The surprise is not that, unexpectedly, things turn out better than expected.

No, the real surprise is that God’s light is more real than all the darkness, that God’s truth is more powerful than all human lies, that God’s love is stronger than death.

The world lies in the power of the Evil One. Indeed, the powers of darkness rule the world. We should not be surprised when we see human suffering and pain all around us.

But we should be surprised by joy every time we see that God, not the Evil One, has the last word.

Hope

By entering into the world and confronting the Evil One with the fullness of Divine Goodness, the way was opened for us to live in the world, no longer as victims, but as free men and women, guided, not by optimism, but by hope.

Henri J.M. Nouwen from Here and Now

Photo of Whiskytown Lake, CA

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Hope: A Sunday Memo To Self

He that lives in hope dances without music. ~George Herbert

Pacific Grove hope

The Hope of Everyone on Earth

You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior. You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas.

You formed the mountains by your power and armed yourself with mighty strength.

You quieted the raging oceans with their pounding waves and silenced the shouting of the nations.

Those who live at the ends of the earth stand in awe of your wonders. From where the sun rises to where it sets, you inspire shouts of joy.

Psalm 65:5-8

Every Reason To Hope

Our ultimate hope is not to escape a damned world, but that God’s will shall be done in His redeemed world.

We truly hope for the renewal of the earth only if we really wish for it. We actually hope for it only if we can imagine it.

And we will hope for the renewal of our world only if we have reason to believe that God can and will make it happen.

My own reason for believing that it will happen is God Himself, the God who “makes all things new.”

Believers are not optimists, they are people of hope.

Their only reason for so huge a hope is the story of how the Maker of the world once came to His world, died, lived again, and still intends to come back and fix His world once and for all.

Lewis Smedes in, Standing On the Promises

Pacific Grove beauty

Pacific Grove, California

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