Bright Hope for Tomorrow

When all the worst stuff happens, and we are reminded that the rains do fall on all, we stand at a cross-road of decision.

Do we grieve without Hope or do we grieve as those whose Hope is sure?

Because we do grieve, we must grieve. Being a Christian doesn’t mean we live immune to the sorrows and sadnesses of the world. It shouldn’t mean that a platitude will clear away our grief. Our faith must sit with despair as much as it sits with rejoicing.

Jesus was described as someone familiar with suffering and sorrow. He stood at the tomb of a dear friend and wept.

As we acknowledge pain and disappointment, when prayers slip into a chasm of silence, we also have the opportunity to lean into Hope. To lean into the promise we are not alone and to remember again and again the promise that tells us we are never alone.

hope for tomorrow

I’ve been playing these old words over and over in my heart of late:

strength for today and bright Hope for tomorrow

Wherever you find yourself today may you have the strength of being able to do all things (big, small, mundane, magnificent, noticed and overlooked) through Christ. The One who strengthens you, the One who loves you and who even now lives to intercede for you.

May you have the ability today to rest in the love of the One who hovers over you, who never despises a broken heart.

May you find in today strength, and bright Hope for tomorrow. Beloved ones you are noticed, you are cared for, you are held and you are accompanied in your grief.

Be blessed, be held, be Hopeful.

In a desert land he found him,
    in a barren and howling waste.
He shielded him and cared for him;
    he guarded him as the apple of his eye,
like an eagle that stirs up its nest
    and hovers over its young,
that spreads its wings to catch them
    and carries them aloft.

Deuteronomy 23:10-11

Setting Our Hearts

From time to time I read something that immediately undoes me – usually I recognise it is because it has voiced some deep longing in my heart, or some truth I cannot put words to myself.

Today I read again this beautiful quote of Reepicheep (the talking mouse):

“My own plans are made. While I can, I sail east in the Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I paddle east in my coracle. When she sinks, I shall swim east with my four paws. And when I can swim no longer, if I have not reached Aslan’s country, or shot over the edge of the world into some vast cataract, I shall sink with my nose to the sunrise.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

 

It made me cry, again!

Sometimes it seems as though are plans aren’t getting us somewhere fast enough. We feel like we don’t know the way. We feel, worse still, that maybe we have missed the way.

ba2c5-blsth8

Today maybe it’s time just to reassure your own heart that you will continue with all your heart in the direction your heart desires. And, if your boat sinks you will continue swimming and if all else fails you will sink with your nose to the sunrise.

Hope for you today dear heart.

Hope and courage.

Hope and courage and perseverance.

The story is not yet finished.

x

Permission

Have you ever been caught jumping in before you had permission to do something? Like that time you assumed the baking was for the family and cut a slice of too-good-to-be-true cake and then found out it was for someone else?

Like the 2-year-old boy who discovered all the wrapped Christmas presents hiding in bags ready for unwrapping – every single one?

We get taught it early to wait for permission. Ask before we take, to make sure it’s our turn before we get on the trampoline, to wait for the all-clear.

I feel like this is a thing I’ve taken and made my own as an adult. Like it’s not okay to launch into the great adventure before being told I’m allowed to.

rose stained glass

I’ve waited and waited for someone else to believe in my competence.

I’ve hoped to hear someone say – we’ve made a space for you, we’ve created a platform, we want you, we need you, it’s your turn. I’ve watched people get promoted, I’ve watched people be ‘discovered’, I’ve wondered and wondered when it will be my turn.

I’ve realised I’m living loud and bold in some things but in others I’m fluttering, unsure on the periphery waiting for permission I don’t actually need.

When I think about Jesus and his dealings with people they seem to be initiated with a ‘come’ or a ‘go’.

come to me you who are burdened and I will give you rest,

let the little children come to me

come and follow me

then there are the go’s

go and tell the world

go back to your servant and it will be as you have asked

go and live free from sin

Jesus didn’t say

wait until you have completed my special checklist

wait until you have a following

wait until someone else decides you are ready, competent, qualified.

The only wait the disciples were given was to wait for the Holy Spirit – the Holy Spirit who is all the power, peace, grace, strength and permission we need. This week I’m challenged to stop wasting time looking for permission to do something and start investing my effort and thought  and prayers into how I can get on with doing the things that make my heart beat fast.

As I go towards these things I remind myself that the One is with me and that His permission, approval are all I need and that He is more than capable of making a way for each of us.

Be brave today dear heart and live free to be all you have been called to be.

xxx

On Getting Up After the First Hurdle

So… I love this idea of Advent so much I wrote a book. I thought about Advent so much, the season of it, the stepping outside the race. Determining to dwell in the season.

Then suddenly it was Advent – 3 days in and I realise I’m a hot mess.

My heart is resentful not rested.

My mind is scattered not settled.

I am tangled up in a sea of lights with a to-do list that is growing by the minute.

It’s like I’ve stood at the start line, in all the right gear, all trained, all shiny, all good to go and then as the starting gun has gone off I’ve run straight into the first hurdle and landed all skinned up and shamed while the others have sped on.

So I’ve stopped and been furious with myself. I’ve felt cross at others, I’ve entertained resentment. I’ve even made it a cup of tea and really got comfortable with it. I have tumbled down and stayed there.

Then, I’ve really stopped and waited and listened with more than my ears. I’ve been reminded that Advent isn’t about me creating something perfect – it’s about me receiving something perfect.

e654f-ashesin

That first arrival is not some grand display of power and might. It is a cosmic display of humility, of emptying, of being small – so small that God, the Word can fit inside skin.

Today I’m holding tight to the fact that Adventing well is not about what I can achieve in 24 days, doing it well is about letting Hope grow in my heart. Letting the inner part of me expand to prepare to host the Word.

I’m closing my eyes to the lists.

I’m quieting the resentments that try to tell a tale that I am put upon, that I am put out, that others are getting in the way of me doing well.

I am taking myself to the unholy smell and mess of the manger to realise what Hope was laid to rest there. To receive Hope.

To realise that the answer lies not in the doing but the dwelling.

Sometimes the best of all achievements is the letting go. The laying down the burden of perfection and the disappointment that minimises the everyday joys.

My word for today is receive.

Today I’m letting go of every expectation of me. I am turning my face to the Light. I am saying – here is an open door. I need you. I needed you to come. I need you to come again.

Right now I need you in this messy sacred moment.

I am taking seriously the invitation to receive Him.

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

John 1

I come to receive. I want the best gift of all. I want you Jesus.

 

 

dear overwhelmed heart

It takes a great deal of grit to keep going in the face of things that feel like a fast closing tsunami on a flat plain with no higher ground in sight.

It takes courage to look past the comparison of your real life when you’re constantly thinking other people’s ‘show reels’ are their real life.

It take determination to face another day of the same challenges, the same demands, the same brokenness.

I’m thinking of you today and praying a safe space for you to lower your guard, to lay down this load of perfection, to come out from behind the screen and allow yourself to be really seen.

100 percent

The internet has its wonderful graces but it has helped us all to live under the sin of covetousness and comparison.

It’s made us look at our ‘neighbour’s’ (aren’t we all neighbours now?) parenting skills, slim thighs, attractive partner, exotic holiday locations, pin worthy bedroom makeover and let our hearts be dismayed.

Covetousness is a robber. God knew when we went down that path – the path that makes us focus on our flaws, our lack, our disappointments – we were never going to return healthier, more motivated, more gracious to ourselves, quicker to forgive the less than perfect people we share our lives with.

To a people just delivered from slavery we see God establishing a set of safeguards to keep them again from self-inflicted slavery.

Because, dear heart, when you start to focus on how everyone else is getting it right, how their load is easier, how their grass is greener you have entangled yourself again in slavery. You have become a slave to an ideal that not only is impossible to meet, but an ideal that isn’t true.

Your imagination is making more of the greener grass than reality would suggest.

Jesus says, come to me you who are burdened and I will give you rest.

He invites us to unburden ourselves and be clothed in something that doesn’t require us to get it right. It requires us to admit we can’t.

When we start living free we release others to do the same. When we lower our guard and admit friend to friend, heart to heart, face to face that we are struggling we will either find that we have freed someone else to admit the same, or, we will find a safe place to be loved despite it all. Surely either of those are a better offer than the struggle of trying so hard to be all we cannot be.

Today instead of looking at someone’s perfect life online how about taking time to connect with someone offline?

How about we all ask to be delivered from the trap of covetousness and instead see ourselves for what we are – the radically loved, forgiven, cherished children of the Most High. Because that is what we are.

belonging

See how safe you are to be imperfect? We are all imperfect and any who present as less than are probably drowning in a terrible tide of overwhelming pressure to continue the facade.

Let’s use our determination, our grit, our courage to hold onto our freedom in Christ and certainly not let ourselves be burdened with a yoke of slavery that demands perfection.

Instead, we rest in the Grace of the One who knows us as imperfect and loves us all the same.

Be loved beautiful ones.

Father let us rest today in your care, unburdened and free from comparison, covetousness, and perfectionism. Let us be found secure in you, becoming whole and fully rescued. Give us strength to face the battles in our lives knowing we are not alone, nor will we ever be. You have promised to be with us always, and you always deliver on your promises.

Why So Downcast Oh My Soul?

The Psalmist sings,

Day and night my tears

    are my only food,

    as everyone keeps asking,

    “Where is your God?”

Sorrow floods my heart,

    when I remember

leading the worshipers

    to your house.

    I can still hear them shout

    their joyful praises.

Why am I discouraged?

Why am I restless?

David sings –
anointed to be a king and inherit a kingdom and legacy,
loved by God
gifted by God
worshipper

yet broken hearted, downcast, distracted by the troubles that loomed large – how can that David be downcast?

Just the same way you are downcast

You
anointed to be a co-heir of a kingdom that will rule all kingdoms
loved by God
gifted by God
worshipper

just the way you too can be downcast.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how great the promises, we can still be all broken to pieces with nothing to fix us.

So do not be dismayed that you are downcast – because even those with the surest of promises wobble in the present from time to time.

Re-align your Hope and do not berate yourself. Being downcast by circumstance is not a sign you are a loser. You are in the company of King David and you dear one are loved just the same.

Put you Hope in Him for you will yet Praise.

God would you meet us at the intersect of our downcast soul and speak promises to the hopeless emotion, speak life to the broken dreams, speak truth to the passing circumstance.

When You Feel Like a Skeleton Leaf

When Autumn turns to Winter and sometimes-sun shines hot, leaves dry to crunchy underfoot. Those leaves once glorious shades of rich are now brittle, dry, broken.

So far gone, a gentle touch might be enough to break the leaf beyond repair.

I am reminded of skeleton leaves – so fine and dry there is nothing to them.

This picture came to me and I wondered if it were for you.

And maybe you feel guilty for sitting in your ‘comfort’ and your home when babes are washed up on shores in distant lands. Guilty that for all you have your heart still feels like it might disintegrate within you.

The mocking voice of how lucky you should feel, how happy you ought to be, how everyone else is managing, is like the hand that might crush you down beyond repair – like you might turn to dust and be borne away on the wind.

Because you feel bad for feeling bad and you feel like you are trapped in some cycle that will wear you down until you are no more than an invisible set of threads, that show the pattern of what was once a green leaf attached to the vine.

These are the verses I feel for you today,
“there is hope for a tree:
    If it is cut down, it will sprout again,
    and its new shoots will not fail.
Its roots may grow old in the ground
    and its stump die in the soil,
yet at the scent of water it will bud
    and put forth shoots like a plant.” 

Job 14

and maybe we don’t know each other, and maybe we do, but I wonder if this whisper from heaven is for you today.

Because you matter. We all matter – and that is the long and short and confusing and overwhelming truth of it all.

the ones who ignore
the ones who stand up and take action
the ones who kneel down and win unseen wars
the ones who are self-obsessed
the ones who are self-loathing

all matter.

Today you matter. Through the throngs of crowds, the crush, the voices – a single trembling hand that reached out just to touch the hem of His garment. That one mattered.

In the empty, broken silence can you smell the scent of water?
Just the smallest of trickles that might bring life to an empty shell.

Can you believe you might see green shoots come in your life again? Is it too great a thing for God to achieve in you?

“Though you were ruined and made desolate
    and your land laid waste,
now you will be too small for your people,
    and those who devoured you will be far away.
20 The children born during your bereavement
    will yet say in your hearing,
‘This place is too small for us;
    give us more space to live in.’
21 Then you will say in your heart,
    ‘Who bore me these?
I was bereaved and barren;
    I was exiled and rejected.
    Who brought these up?
I was left
    but these—where have they come from?’”
Isaiah 49

Because that’s the Hope I feel for you too, little, broken, dry, skeleton leaf…. that it’s not just a scent of water that will Save you – it’s that there is more for you. There is life in you, and that life will give life, and you will not be sentenced to being barren and neglected.

You will be a life-giver.

Read these words today and let them settle deep down in your dry bones. Dare to let your mind, your heart, your faith, wander again to the promises you have been given. The One who promises you is faithful.

May you know today the scent of water.

You are loved. You matter. You are noticed and heaven whispers your name. There is life for you yet.

Spirit, I am dry, crushed and broken. Help me know the scent of life. Let me live to see your promises realised.


You shall be called by a new name,
Which the mouth of the Lord will name.
You shall also be a crown of glory
In the hand of the Lord,
And a royal diadem
In the hand of your God.
You shall no longer be termed Forsaken,
Nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate;
But you shall be called Hephzibah(my delight is in her), and your land Beulah(married);
For the Lord delights in you.

Isaiah 62

holding hope in a broken cup

one of things I read about Christian’s contribution to creativity is that we can depict both the despair of fallenness and the glory of the goodness of God’s good creation,*

most of the time I find that I have all sorts of joy in seeing the wonderful glory of God seen in his good creation and in people who wear his fingerprints all over them

but sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the brokenness, the groaning of creation and its people who bear up under the grief of genocides, of people oppressed, of women and children living in fear, of domestic violence and children sent to school with hungry tummies, of creation neglected and the pursuit of wealth and happiness above all else

I feel the weight of this stretched out scale where I live in comfort when other Christian mamas and their babes are pursued to death… and I feel it like a hot burn down the back of my throat, and I feel it like a stone in my stomach and I feel like all I can offer is dust in my hands in a desert full of dust.

it’s like I am called to bring water, to be the scent of water, to bring refreshment to those who are longing and parched and all I have is a tiny broken cup

and I feel that water trickle out of me like unshed tears and drop and evaporate onto a land so dry it needs a flood

and my own lack of anything

my own barrenness

my fear

my emptiness

brings me to my knees

and with dry and cracked lips I whisper to the God who holds it all would you send streams over the dry land, would you rend the heavens and stand upon the earth, would you send a flood to wash away my sinfulness, my self-obssession, the claws of death and torrents of destruction that are sweeping like a cyclone across a desert

would you send the rain

and I am reminded, in the depths of emptiness I have access to a never-ending well

I am invited to drink deeply and freely of the waters that quench all of my longings

that even when I am a tiny and cracked cup hope can still be poured in

and Hope was always meant to be poured out – and a broken cup is a wonderful vessel for emptying its contents

a broken cup

and an endless supply of Hope

this is where I find myself today – small and broken, and cup titled upwards to the only source of Hope I know

He reached down His hand from above me; He held me. He lifted me from the raging water. He rescued me from my strongest enemy, from all those who sought my death, for they were too strong. They came for me in the day of my destruction, but the Eternal was the support of my life. He set me down in a safe place;  He saved me to His delight; He took joy in me.
Psalm 18 – the words of Hope dripping out of my broken cup today

* N.T Wright’s book Surprised by Hope has a beautiful section on this