The First Sunday of Advent: Hope

This time of year always has me hopeful. I am not sure what it is, if it’s the story of Christmas, the childlike enamorment with giving gifts to others, or white twinkly lights.

I think it might be all three, and the smell of snow and cold.
I do love this season of the year and the hope many seem to carry, including myself. As I dig into the Christmas story, as I am prone to do each year about this time I find there is grit to hope
where we often put gleam.

I think about the hope Mary carried within her for months. That hope that she carried the Messiah, the hope of the entire world. Do you think that hope shone when others questioned her reality? I think it got gritty and messy and probably a bit scarred.

Hope got scary and truly unknown when strangers came to greet the One she gave birth to in a barn. They came because they too had been called by hope, a gleaming star guiding their journey to them. Shepherds, the veritable lowest class of society at the time, bowed before them because hope came in a heavenly host of angels. How would hope shine when it was wrapped up in the form of a newborn? One that had been born and placed in a feeding trough?

It’s absolutely absurd to leave hope as this shiny thing we see only during this current season. We cling to hope with dirt under our nails and tear-streaked faces. We grasp it with grit and dust all around because hope is there in it all. It’s a Hope we give nod to at this time of year but it’s the same exact hope that lasted for three days in the darkest hours of humanity. It’s the same Hope that brings blessing and allows trial.

This Hope gives traction with it’s grittiness because it’s a Hope that’s been used before. It’s been there before in the dark bringing light and shining brightly through the crack in the doors. It’s been there in the wild, bright shiny moments of joy and laughter. It remains, Hope remains regardless of whether we see it in it’s grittiness or it’s gleaming.

Not because of what it is, but who we are. We see with eyes and hearts that are fallible and ascribe only the glitter of hope while the grit remains there as well. All for our benefit and for His glory. Hope is His, and ours.

The grittiness of hope is where perseverance meets passion after all.

 

Newborns, Expectancy and Advent

Yesterday I had the privilege of holding a friend’s newborn baby. He was a mere 13 hours old and I have to say the sheer breath of calm and joy he ushered in was beautiful. To see friends becoming parents, and the elation and sereneness on the faces of my friend as she looked at him, as her husband held him, was one of the most beautiful sights to behold. (Thank you Abby and Tom for allowing me to witness that and hold the fantastic Fitz)

All week there’s been a build up of expectation, even as another friend awaits the arrival of her son whose holding out a bit on them a week after his expected arrival. It occurred to me the same feeling was overcoming me as well heading into Advent season. This expectation of the glory of the Lord. The celebration and elation of the birth of Christ 2,000+ years ago even now.

In doing some digging into expectancy, and what that word looks like (hi word nerd over here) in the Bible, it is so strongly correlated to hope throughout the Hebrew. They are linked and intertwined, and then I found this beautiful imagery of expectation. It is as one with an outstretched neck.

I don’t know about y’all but I LOVE THAT. Expectation is us stretching out to look, to see. It took me back to the days of going to parades in my hometown, and leaning out my head to see what was coming, to see if Santa was near at the Christmas parade, or the band was marching next in our 4th of July parade. You have to put yourself into it and truly feel the expectation in your body.

The expectation doesn’t come without a wait. It doesn’t come without some pangs of hurt, loss, strife, and suffering. Expectancy can be long and drawn out, but it’s still lingers. Hope builds in expectancy, confidence in the thing believed to be on the way. And just as my friends are now living out the fulfilled expectation of new life, so do we. The expectation of this season of Advent brings new life in joy, peace, hope. It ushers in the new life of Christ with us. In flesh now appearing. It brings confident expectation of new life not found in ourselves, but in Him.

All may be calm, it may be quiet as we wait in expectation. But may we lean out our necks to see the fulfillment of our expectation this Advent season in Christ’s presence with us.

Perfect Peace

You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in you.

Isaiah 26:3

I don’t know about anyone else but on this Monday (or whatever day you are reading this) it’s no accident this verse is here. I love this translation version from the CSB because it’s pointing directly to a dependency issue.

When we are depending upon someone or something, we put our trust in it. We know it’s steadfast and true to what it has stated it will do. It comes through on promises. For me, placing my mindset in a dependence upon anything else than God will not bring peace. It’ll bring turmoil, anxiety and a lot of heartache. But when I choose to bring my thoughts back to God, depending upon Him in my thought-life over and over again? Well, there’s a bit of calm. There’s stillness and a quietness that descends.

The noise of depending upon social media, opinions and television just don’t hold my trust like God does. And they shouldn’t. They can’t fulfill promises made, they won’t provide peace. In fact they will often times distort and disrupt peace in order to further our heartache, the lies of the world, and our anxieties to perform for the crowd.

Maybe this Monday holds a lot of worry and chaos. But when we align our minds, pushing into utter dependence upon God alone to give peace in the midst, we find ourselves trusting more and more in the God of fulfilled promises.

Growing up I don’t remember being grounded much. That’s not to mean I was the perfect child (far from it y’all) because I was met with a spanking instead when my mouth got me in trouble. A grounding would mean my oft-times introverted self would have a reason to sit and read for hours instead of playing with the majority of boys that grew up in our neighborhood.

Being grounded or getting grounded has taken on the connotation of that of airplanes more than it’s intended meaning. We’ve been there when a plane has gotten grounded, and the disparate sighs of the passengers and the crew too become the soundtrack of a gate. Or it’s been our own and we scurry to try to get around it, finding another one to hop onto to bypass the grounding. But being grounded as a person means you are stable, realistic, unpretentious. Wouldn’t you want that for your plane as well as your character?

Maybe that grounding as a kid was so that we could be more grounded as an adult, emotionally and mentally stable, realistic. Being grounded gives us time to think about what put us there to begin with as a kid. What consequences our actions (or words) hold for us and those around us.

I thought on this as well when I saw Paul’s words to the Ephesians of “being rooted and grounded in love”. And then again his words to those at Colosse, “if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard.” That grounding means rooted, holding fast, and found tapped into the very love of Christ and hope of the gospel. Being grounded isn’t a punishment but a reflection of character and of Christ Himself, who we are called to reflect. That to be grounded means we are unmoving and not blown about by whims and feelings, but connected to the source of our rooting, the True Vine Himself.

I think for me I’d much rather be grounded more and more as an adult, finding that if it’s in love it ends up setting up roots that grow deep and secure not in my own actions, words, whims and feelings but in Christ’s, in the very Hope of the world.

The Wait of Saturday

img_7170Originally posted in 2016, this post below has been updated and edited.


I have a small sign on my desk from a friend that reads “Hope always.” It was given to me in a time where I couldn’t muster much hope. I was practically an empty shell and questioning much about what I had known for some time. It sits not only as a reminder but a marker of a time when I may not have been able to find hope, but someone else was giving me some of theirs in the waiting.

Today, Saturday, I think on this hope in the waiting.

I think of those who couldn’t muster hope after standing, watching the One Whom they called Christ die. The One Whom they believed to be just as He said He was, the coming Messiah. He was their hope, and hope was dead.

I thumb through the words of Matthew, of Mark, in Luke and John looking for hope. I find waiting. I find Joseph active in the wait, I see the women resting in the wait. I just see a whole lot of waiting.

When it seems like our rescue is dead and buried, when that promise will not be fulfilled we can lose our hope. We watch it slip away, confident expectation no longer pulling us. But in that waiting I believe we see hope. We see hope isn’t always this shining, beautiful thing but a mess. It’s hard. It’s difficult, and maybe even borrowed when we can’t seem to muster the hope we once knew and called our own.

Hope in the waiting can look like doing the thing we know we should or resting in a promise given by Him. The wait of Saturday can be a weighty thing in our lives. It can bear out grief, mourning, doubt and fear. Hope collides with each and every one of those to bring us through and unburden us from the weight of it all. Waiting through Saturdays of our lives guide us to the beauty of the coming morning. We no longer want the pain of Friday, a necessary grief. Yet our hearts aren’t quite prepared for Sunday.

So we wait. We wait in Saturday.

Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive
To the voice of my supplications.

If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
And in His word I do hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
More than those who watch for the morning—
Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord;
For with the Lord there is mercy,
And with Him is abundant redemption.
And He shall redeem Israel
From all his iniquities. 

Psalm 130 (NKJV)

Silent Nights

We are six days from celebrating the birth of Christ. This time of year is most often characterized by the hustle and bustle, songs of cheer and laughter in the air. It’s running from one party or program to another, squeezing in those last minute gifts and errands in order to have this perfect holiday scene you know never makes it to reality.

For me, in this season, I truly enjoy sitting in the quiet of my home with the lights of the tree sparkling in the dark. I love the stillness of it and the peaceful calm that seems to emanate from corners of the season. The world gets loud, it gets rather busy and hectic with so many people vying for my ears and often my eyes. It becomes overwhelming to this heart of mine and sometimes I just need to pull back to pull on peace and quiet.

silent-night-logo-w-text2-copy

But I think I get a bit fidgety if the quiet goes too long when it comes to God. That’s when doubt seeps in rather than peace pervading. I tend to worry that He’s forgotten me, or that He doesn’t love me as much as He has said countless times in countless ways. I question His work ethic and His ability to hear my prayers.

I don’t often read about Zechariah outside of the Christmas season. I don’t dig into his story much in the beginning of Luke except as the precursor to the story of Mary, Joseph, and the Coming Messiah. If we’ve heard the story of the birth of Christ, we can probably give a brief synopsis of his precursor, John the Baptist.

Dad was a priest in the temple, mom was a lovely woman of God but both were without a child and advanced in age. Dad gets called to the temple as part of his rotation, an angel  tells him that “Hey, you’re going to have a kid. He’s going to be the forerunner for the coming Lord. He’ll lead Israel back to prepare their hearts.” (my interpretation, obviously) Zechariah doubted, he wanted confirmation…and so he got silence, for nine months. In one interpretation it says he was mute, meaning he could not speak, nor could he hear.

For nine months.

Silence inwardly and outwardly for that long probably led to some real moments of fidgeting in Zechariah’s life. But then he could see the visual confirmation of the promise from God-growth of human life in his wife, the fulfillment of a long prayed desire. Hope confirmed. Yet God allowed him to be silent until his son came into the world. His first words once he arrived? Praises to God.

For nine months he had time with God alone. Silent nights filled with discerning and relationship building. Discipline lived out, and doubt rooted out. This wasn’t punishment for him, but discipline from God to bring the doubt out of Zechariah and draw him in closer to Him.

How often do I forsake the silence for doubt? How many times do I take the silent nights for granted and turn to God in mistrust and accusation? What if the silence-no matter the longevity-is for my good and His promise to come to full birth? To wait expectantly in the hope of Him who gives good gifts to those that love Him? To root out even the slightest sliver of doubt that may pierce deep within and allow God to have the only voice in my life?

As we enter the final week of expectancy of Christ’s arrival into our world thousands of years ago, may our hope and expectancy be rooted in the hope of a Promise Keeper, a Listener, and a Heralder of Good. May our doubt and fear of unanswered prayers be uprooted and the silence of a holy God take it’s place.

Advent Week: Hope 

This week I broke my first pair of Ripstix, at 5:30am…They are lightly weighted drumsticks used in a fitness class I’ve been taking (I shared about POUND one Friday Favepost) for the last 11 months. It’s a big deal to break them, and it sparked a little hope in me on this well person journey I’m on. 

This week I got asked out. It was unexpected and provided a little hope that I might not be single until death (or The Lord returns). 

This week I saw people chipping in, time and talents, money and spirit to assist those who lost everything in the fires of my beloved Smokies. While lives have been lost, I have seen hope in the eyes of those found and those that made it out. Hope in words and deeds alike. 

Much of this week hope has been very tangible for me. It’s no coincidence as it’s the first week of Advent, the week of hope. While it’s nice to hope in the physical, the tangible, people and things, it’s not where our hope should remain. Our hope should be fully vested in Christ, who is the Hope of the World. A world that needs Him just as much as you and I do right this very minute. 

When I look at hope in Scripture, I see it woven in stories of lament, trouble and heartache. Stories like Ruth, Job, Hosea. I see it reminding us of the praise that is due when we hope in Him from the Psalms. Paul naming Christ as his hope, and ours too, in letters from prison. I am reminded of the truth of Romans 5:5, that hope does not disappoint because of Christ-God’s love poured out. 

Through trials, perseverance and character defining moments we push after hope, hope in the Christ who came thousands of years ago because of us right now. Christ that knew we would need Him, a Hope Everlasting, at this particular time and for this particular season. We hope in One Who is written across the pages of Scripture and lived out fully in our daily lives, calling us to hope in something better than a health plan or a person. 

He is our hope. Then, now and eternally. That hope does not disappoint but instead fills us, knowing our hope lasts when it’s fully in Him.