change

Hope

I love this time of year. For a brief few weeks we allow ourselves to be children again – to have a sense of awe, wonder, and hope. For most of the year big hopes are so easily shot down as “false hope,” as if there could ever be such a thing. We get so busy that we don’t give ourselves the time to hope. We get bogged down by the difficult situations we experience and begin to buy in to lie that too much hope can be bad. We listen to voices of others who tell us our hopes are too big or too unrealistic. Those voices that tell us that we shouldn’t hope for the things that we do because they will never come true. However, this is the time of year we indulge ourselves. We let our dreams and hopes run wild. We allow ourselves to see beauty and good in the world, dream big, and hope for the future.

Why when we become adults do we censor our own hopes and dreams?  Children have such a beautiful outlook on life because it is not censored. They speak their minds and dream as if there is no limit. They dream as we all should. They hope. Sometime along life’s journey we begin to feel like our hopes and dreams don’t come true – as if they are false. We have hope but when it doesn’t come true in our perceived acceptable timing, we lose our faith, belief, and wonder. We forget that the circumstances in life don’t happen because of our desired timing. We allow other people in our lives determine what kind of hopes we should have. When others question our hopes, we begin to question them ourselves.

How could a hope ever be false? Hope is just a personal desire for something that has not yet come to be. It is a dream for the future. It can never be false and it can never fail. It is a want that comes from deep within the soul. Even when the desired outcome from a hope does not come true, the hope itself is not false. The end result may not come to be as it was hoped for or expected, but that hope that was clung to was real and true; it kept the soul alive.

It drives me crazy when I hear people talk of “false hope” or worse yet when I hear that someone was told that we don’t want to give a such “false hope.” How dare we tell others not to have or give “false hope.” How dare we try to squash the beauty of hope that is so innate in every human soul?

We need hope. Without it no change would ever come in our lives or in our world. It is hope that allows us to see a different future, a better future. It is hope that gives us the motivation we need to work and try to make that dream come true. It is hope that drives passion and goodwill. It is hope that keeps the soul alive and well. It is hope that gives peace.

Part of the Christmas miracle and the beauty of the new year is that during this time we  hope. We start with with Christmas which reminds us to have wonder in our lives and move quickly into the new year and set resolutions, goals, hopes for the future. The childlike hope that we experience this time of year replenishes our souls.

My hope for all of us this new year is that we do not allow anyone or anything to take away our hope or diminish it in any way. My hope is that we would all find the courage and childlike spirit to hope again so that regardless of what the world may say, our hope will shine bright and inspire others.

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Walking on Water

Have you ever been called to walk on water? Have you ever heard God call your name and ask you to do the seemingly impossible? Have you ever tried to hide from the path He was calling you down because you thought you knew where it would lead and were scared to follow it? Yes, I said thought you knew because God so often surprises us, even when he takes us down the hard paths in life, by giving us grace, peace, and joy beyond imagine when we willingly follow Him.

The question really is – do we trust Him? Do we trust that He knows what is best for us? Do we understand that what is best for us isn’t always what is easiest?

I have heard God calling me over the past year to walk down a path rarely trodden. I have heard him calling me to love in ways I never knew were possible. I spent some time resisting because it was too hard, too impossible, to do what He was asking.

But when, like Peter, I took that step of faith and walked on the water, I found myself surprised. Not only did God provide me with everything I needed to follow His calling for me as long as I kept my eyes and faith in Him, but he turned what seemed like a long, painful, lonely journey into a joyful one with greater companions than I could have ever imagined. He replaced pain with joy and provided a way for me to meet others who He was calling down the same path.

There are times, like Peter, when I am walking on the water of this path and I stop trusting Him. I allow myself to think about the practicality of what He is calling me to do. I listen to what the world says – that it is impossible. In those moments, I start to fall in the water. But Christ says to me “look at me. Keep your eyes steadfast on me. Don’t lose faith. I will give you all you need and more.”

In what ways is God calling you to trust in Him and walk on the water?

Metanioa – Transforming Love

I have been transformed by love and as a result my love has been transformed.

I heard a new word the other day: metanioa. It means a transformation, a change, in your way of life as a result of penitence or spiritual conversion. It originated from the Greek word metanoein which means to change one’s mind. As I look back at the last year of my life where I have studied, prayed, and contemplated what it means to love – to truly love – the way God calls us to love as Christians I have seen my thoughts, my actions, my whole life be transformed. I am changed and I can never go back to who I once was. This year I realized one thing that changed me forever – love is not about me.

I always knew love was selfless. I had heard and read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 so many times. I knew the words – “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” Although I knew the words, I didn’t live them fully.

Love is not about me. How easy is it to look at your spouse and silently as yourself the question – what do they do for me? How do they make me feel? Do they treat me the way I deserve? But love, selfless love, is not about what your spouse does for you – it is about what you do for them. It is about how you lay yourself down for the other. It is about how you give yourself, all that you are, as a gift to your spouse. This love is about the gift of yourself and your love.

As I sat contemplating the cross in a moment of darkness a year ago I saw love in Christ in a way I had never seen it before. Love so perfect because it is freely given without asking for anything in return. Jesus suffered and died for me and in doing so gave himself as the perfect gift for me out of love. He knew I would reject him. He knew I would fail him. He knew every sin and every mistake I would make but yet chose to give himself, all of himself, up for me as a gift. How humbling.

So often we see the picture of love as roses, laughter, joy, and happiness. The world tells us to look for a fairy tale version of love – a happily ever after – as if love is easy or comes without challenges. Where in our culture do we see the picture of a love like that on the cross? A suffering love. Is a suffering love really any less love than one filled with joy? I would argue not.

It is in a suffering love like that of the cross, that love is perfected. It is in this kind of love that the illusions are torn away. When love is suffering, it is like a stone in the ocean. The currents of pain and suffering roll over the stone taking away the rough edges and creating a smooth stone. It is moved, it is changed. Love through suffering does the same. It takes all our sinfulness, our pride, and our misconceptions and removes them from the core, leaving only love. When you learn to love through the suffering and your misconceptions of love are taken away, you are able to see love for what it truly is – a sacrifice, a gift, an outpouring of grace and mercy.

A suffering love is joyful because it rejoices in the gift it gives without looking for anything in return. A suffering love finds its peace in the quiet, constant stream of love it extends. Love requires sacrifice. It requires laying down your life. Too often we hear that laying down your life is sad – it is not. When you willingly choose to lay yourself down for another, there is no greater joy in the world because this laying down of yourself for another is the same kind of love that Jesus modeled for us on the cross – His perfect example of love.

As the circumstances of my life and my love have changed with time and I have experienced times of suffering love, I have been transformed. I have come to a new understanding of what it means to love and seen a new side of love I never knew existed before. The trials and challenges of life change us – metanioa.