Hope

It’s Advent season. For those unfamiliar with that word or the weight of it, advent means arrival, emergence. This time of year Christians like to remember that Jesus, the God-man, stooped low and came onto the scene – to this “great terrestrial ball.” In crass terms, he entered our mess. Having created it many, many, many years ago, he was quite familiar with it. But this time he put skin on and came to visit it like one of us. This Advent season brings many emotions to the surface for me: regret, curiosity, thoughtfulness, thankfulness and wonder. However, if there is one word that comes to my mind more than others over Advent, it is the word HOPE.

This visitation is the cause for Christian hope. We can have hope because he is faithful. He came the first time, just as promised, so we can have hope that he will be coming again. We have hope that he will right all wrongs, that he will fix all the injustices and that he will, as the children’s Bible says, “make all sad things untrue.”

In the greek, the word for hope is transliterated “elpis.” It carries with it the idea of expectation. Hope, of the biblical variety, is not synonymous with wanting e.g., “I hope I get to see you soon.” knowing full well the person lives thousands of miles away and you know that you have no real plans to see the person, you just long to. Biblical hope is different. This hope is grounded in confidence that something will take place. The Christian can truly say, “I hope for Christ’s return” because her hope is grounded in a promise, not a whim. Hope is powerful and beautiful.

And terrifying.

Hope is double-edged sword. When you hope for something, it means you, well, have to hope for something. Sometimes hope feels like freedom, but other times hope feels like a prison cell. I have been praying for someone every day for 13 years. My prayers have been full of hope.  My hope is grounded in the faithful God who committed to listen to every prayer, who promised to tuck away every tear for safe keeping, and who vowed to love me. This is powerful and beautiful.

And terrifying.

This is terrifying because hope calls me to continue this prayer. This hope calls me to live in the reality that it has not happened yet and yet to trust the Lord with it. My cold little fingers have been holding this hope tight like a guy on death row clinging to the rosary in his pocket. It scares me – this hope – because it doesn’t promise me what I want.

So this Advent, when people talk about hope, I whole-heartedly agree. I’m sure Jesus thought the Advent was powerful and beautiful.

And terrifying.

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Farewell Futon

All good things must come to an end, every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end, time to face the music, and other cliches dealing with endings…

I feel ridiculous for even writing this down. It seems so silly to write about saying goodbye to a thing, but let me explain.

It was Christmas 1998. It was the first Christmas without my mom and I had asked my dad for a futon bed because it was the winter before I would leave for college and I wanted to have an adult bed that was bigger than my four post twin bed. I hinted at it, I outright said that I had wanted one and I showed my dad pictures of the ones I liked. To my surprise, all my hinting had helped. Even though my mom wasn’t alive to help my dad pick it out, he did a pretty good job. I had to assemble the whole thing, but it was all mine. I was 17 and had a bed that suited my age. I got to enjoy it until the following August when I moved to Spokane WA for college. My dad got remarried and the bed went in the garage of his new house. When I came home for Christmas, there was a guest bedroom I would stay in, complete with lamps, end tables and two queen beds I could choose from. I just wanted my futon. I wanted the familiar. I wanted what was mine. It was bad enough that the house I had grown up in, where I had spent 18 years with my mom was being sold so they could make a new life together, but to not even be allowed to have my own bed in the name of “having matching furniture” was enough to make me want to go back to Spokane early.

Christmas break came and went and so did their marriage. The next Christmas was proof that my dad would be getting his own place within a few months. I felt badly for my dad, but I was glad to have my futon back.

The next year I was in Chicago to finish up undergrad so I came home about one weekend per month and got to sleep in my bed. When I graduated I got a studio apartment which suited my futon well. I kept that futon when I moved into a two bedroom apartment with four! other girls. Then I moved to Hyde Park with one other friend, and in my bedroom I had my futon.

After that it went to a short term lease place I got with another gal as I waited to raise support to go to Australia. Seven months later I was on my way overseas and my futon went into storage at my dad’s house when I moved. The support didn’t come in, so I came home early and felt at home once I got my futon moved into my new apartment. Two years later I found myself taking apart the frame to move it once again to Saint Louis to begin an adventure to seminary.

I used that futon for the first 6 or 7 months living here until I found an almost new queen mattress set that I couldn’t turn down. I have a sun room off of my room that the futon fits perfectly in. Unfortunately I have been away for weeks at a time and when I couldn’t clean the litter box, my pet found the futon a great second option.  This has happened a few times now and the futon just won’t get clean. It’s time to let go. It’s a mattress that is nearly 15 years old.

The reason why this is such a hard thing for me is because that futon has seen me into my adult years. It’s seen me through four break ups. It’s seen the tears and prayers of a girl trying to turn into a woman without a mom. It’s seen my wrestling with God over my support not coming in before I left for Australia. It’s seen my pounding fists when hard times have knocked at my door. It’s seen the sleepless nights after Mandy died.

That futon has been the comfort at the end of hard days and I think that’s why it is so hard to say goodbye to it. It was also a gift from my dad, the first one, that he gave to me by himself.

When I say goodbye to it, it feels like a little part of my growing up is also being given up. It might be silly, but it’s how I feel.

Farewell my futon. You did your duty valiantly.

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And God saw that it was very good

It’s funny how working on a paper will cause me to think of something else while I’m writing. The other day I had to stop in the middle of a thought for a paper to jot down some poetry that might turn into a hymn in a few weeks – stay tuned for that! Today, this very minute, I had to stop while reading a familiar passage to me and to anyone who has ever picked up  a Bible before. Page 1. I’m reading about creation and I’m writing about, ironically, writing. Something leapt off the page for me that didn’t before.

I had to pick a vocation and talk about how it has dignity by rooting it in the biblical story, starting at creation. We have a tendency in our evangelical circles to bypass the first two chapters of Genesis. Maybe it’s because we are so familiar with them; “oh yeah, creation, that happened, but then they rebelled!” We skip right over it. A lot of my classes at Covenant have helped me to slow down when I open my Bible and remember it all started out good, OH SO GOOD. I need to sit in the fact that God made people good. He made creation good. He made this world good and a very fit dwelling for us. In the words of one of my professors, “He intended us to live here. He didn’t drop us off at the wrong address. He doesn’t make junk and and he doesn’t junk what he’s made.”

In my slowing down to read this familiar story I find myself curious that after each thing that God did, he saw that it was good. And you know the rest of the story. God creates man and he “saw that it was very good.”

In each instance of God creating, he saw that it was good almost immediately after he made and named what he had done. But before this proclamation of creation with the inclusion of humanity as very good, he gave them an invitation (Be fruitful and multiply, subdue the earth, have dominion) and a blessing  (he gave them the earth with all the plants, animals and the dirt). Not until after the invitation and blessing – giving man and woman a purpose and the ability to mirror God’s own good acts, was creation “very good.” God’s creation was very good when he gave creation to man to steward.

It’s not often something likes this pops at me while reading a familiar story. I think this gives me pause because as an image bearer of God and created with great care, I’m able to see how good, how very good it is to be human. God didn’t call creation very good until the blessing and invitation were in place. I’ve never noticed that.

In my subduing and caring for the earth (which I confess I do not do often enough), I am acting in line with the way God intended at creation. In a way, humans are not reflecting the very good-ness of creation until they join God’s blessing and invitation. It is a very good thing to bless the earth.

These thoughts are all very much in process, but I had to put pen to page to get them started. I hope you will enjoy the journey of discovery with me.

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Guilty

When I was a kid I would often climb all over the counters and cabinets. I was short so I would hold one of the handles on the upper cabinets and pivot my left foot sideways. Then while holding on, trying not to cause the cabinet door to swing open and make me fall or hit me in the temple, I would bend my right leg and throw my knee up onto the kitchen counter. I don’t know how I never pulled the cabinet doors right off the hinges.

Once the first act of what my mother called “monkey business” was over, act two would commence. Anchoring my right hand next to my right knee, I then would thrust myself up onto the counter while my left leg was loosed out into space, my mind trying to remember to get it up to the counter next to my right leg. Now, with two knees up on the counter top, I’d lean back using the center of gravity to pull the cabinet doors open on my right and left. While my body was angled like a rock climber I carefully scanned the contents of the cabinets. If I had ropes I would have repelled down. What a rush from having to jump.

Why did I do all this? To get a snack. Yes, just a snack. I got pretty good at getting up there too. The first few times I would fall and my mom had to tell me to stay off the counters and I never really learned. At one point I could get up on the counters in a matter of 8 seconds.

One day, to my mother’s surprise, I had gotten up there and gotten an entire bag of chocolate chips in the time it took her to check the laundry. How did she know? Well, half of the chocolate chips were all over my face. So when she asked me, “Did you climb up there and get into the chocolate chips?” it really wasn’t much of a question. She was giving me opportunity to say that I did and acknowledge that I disobeyed. I had no idea I was a chocolate mess so I tried to hide it and emphatically say, “Noooooo.” When my mom heard my answer she looked disappointed, cocked her head to the right, turned me around and directed my body by driving my shoulders into the bathroom. When she turned the light on I saw my reflection in the mirror and I knew I was done for. Chocolate on my lips, on my cheek and a little bit up by my ear. What can I say, I’m an… excited eater.

~

At my church we do communion every week by intinction. (Intinction is when you get a piece of the bread and dip it in the cup.) I have been going to this church for two months now, since I moved to St Louis, and every week I rip a piece of bread out of the loaf and dip in into the wine. And every week I inevitably get wine to drip down my arm because the bread didn’t absorb it in the amount of time I had it in the cup.

Tonight while I was standing in line, waiting for my turn to rip the bread and dip my piece in the wine I thought, “How appropriate.” I mean, I am as guilty as guilty can be. There is no use hiding it. And as the wine dripped down my finger and down my arm and then onto my jeans I think it was a good reminder that I am the cause for Christ’s death- his blood is all over me. Instead of being found with chocolate from ear to ear I am found in a garden with fruit in my hands. I am found next to the cross holding the nails while His blood is all over my body. There is no getting away from it; there is no use trying to hide my sin. In knowing this I can see that the grace that covers me is even bigger.

From now on I’m not hiding it. I’m grabbing a big piece of bread and letting the wine drip down my arm as it may.

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To Grasp It

This song is a work in progress. It may change…

My soul has been stirring

I’ve tried to give it up

Crying, “My God My God!” has gotten old

And you lifted my head

Spoke peace to me,

And reassured me that you know –

“I feel your pain more

More deeply that you do.

I know the hairs on your head

And the freckles on your face.

Those hazel streaks in your eyes –

I put those there…

And not only did I plan

Your days and know your pain

If that weren’t enough, I –

I collect and save your tears.”

So these things I know

Although it’s hard to believe

With the Spirit to remind me

And the peace that He gives

I want to live the resurrected life. Not content

In chains, bounded- oh you tell me…

“I feel your pain more

More deeply that you do.

I know the hairs on your head

And the freckles on your face.

Those hazel streaks in your eyes –

I put those there…

And not only did I plan

Your days and know your pain

If that weren’t enough, I –

I collect and save your tears.”

And so I walk

Not by sight’s deceptive way

But by the faith that first was giv’n

Trying to remember your loving way

And knowing I can cry

And that you care.

Bridge:

It doesn’t mean the pain goes away,

But walking in newness, unashamed…

“I feel your pain more

More deeply that you do.

I know the hairs on your head

And the freckles on your face.

Those hazel streaks in your eyes –

I put those there…

And not only did I plan

Your days and know your pain

If that weren’t enough, I –

I collect and save your tears.”

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Quotes I’ve Loved Along the Way

-Come here, I want to say goodbye. And by ‘goodbye,’ I mean holding you in my arms until you are ready to change your mind and stay.

-I find it shelter to speak to you.

-Difficulties went on presenting themselves to him; at times he would be overwhelmed by the tossing waves of contradiction and impossibility. But with every fresh conflict, every fresh gleam of doubtful victory, the essential idea of the Master looked more and more lovely. And he began to see the working of his doubts on the growth of his heart and soul–preventing it from becoming faith in an idea of God instead of in the living God.

More to come, I will keep adding- I just wanted a safe place to keep these.

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That Was Literally Music To My Ears (Part 2)

This one won’t make any sense unless you scroll down a few posts and read the first one. So go ahead and read that one if you haven’t already. I’ll wait.

Okay, Sigur Ros. That concert at Red rocks was pretty incredible. It was probably the best concert I’ve ever been to and I don’t know that it will ever be topped. Between being under the stars near the Rocky’s and listening to the most passionate, inspiring music, it’s gonna be hard to top.

The lead singer of Sigur Ros, Jonsi, decided to do a solo album about a year ago and it was just released in April with a limited US tour to immediately follow. Luckily, Chicago was one of the stops.

Now Sigur Ros knows how to combine lighting/stage effect with music in order to help you get the full emotion of the song. And while I’m not much for gimmicks in concerts (let the music move you, not the effects) I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.

Jonsi’s new album,” Go” featured him sporting a headpiece with feathers, reminding me of Peter Pan. I’m not so sure that he’s hip to the fact that schools are pulling anything with a headdress as a mascot for fear of racism, but since he’s from Iceland, we’ll give him a break. Besides, it seemed to “feel” pure and whimsical, if you will.

On Tuesday, April 27 I walked into the Vic an hour early and took my place with friends along a railing in the middle.  This show was packed, but it was more intimate than Redrocks. And between songs you could hear a pin drop. No one was talking. No one was really moving. I think we were all trying to just soak it in. It was like having sunshine for the first time after months of damaging hail.

Jonsi had animation and lights that aided in the emotion of the concert. This was no normal ligting effect. For example during one song that was giving you a feel like you were being pulled forward on an adventure; there was a pencil drawn deer put to animation. It lept across the screen in several forward, fluid movements. Then a fire came and devoured the forest that it stood in. It looked like it was real fire and it started at the bottom right hand corner and slowly burned up the backdrop as the music got sad and at points, furious. Once the music stopped suddenly, the sheet dropped and thousands of butterflies appeared as the music made you feel as if there was rebirth. I don’t know if this sounds hokey, but I assure you it was the exact opposite. Euphoric and epic? Yes. Hokey? No.

Another song, Grow Till Tall, starts out a little light-hearted and a little pensive –  is it possible to experience those two emotions at once?. At the concert we saw flowers on the backdrop growing.  Most of the time Sigur Ros sings in Iclandic, or hopelandic (a made up language that uses similar sounds to iclandic). Jonsi did most of his new album in English, which is difficult if you think about it. He’s not writing in his heart language.

After Grow Till Tall’s beginning, it gets a little more happy with subtext of unsettled. Enter instruments gaining momentum. Enter Jonsi repeating a phrase and gaining momentum until the instruments join him.  Then boom. Dark. He puts you in the middle of  the reality of heart wrenching pain. You are in a downpour of emotion. He even changed the song on the CD to make the dark part longer and way more intense during the performance. When Jonsi got to that intense part, the background lighting effect went dark and simulated a downpour. All the flowers withered and gave themselves to the rain.  I think everyone grabbed the  railing, feeling as if they were in that storm too and feeling the power of the music to take them into pain. The images that came to mind for me was the moments of Christ’s crucifixion when He was giving his last breath. When death thought it won and the world was mourning. I had to hang on tight. Tears my friends. Tears.

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