Our Eternal Advent Hope

Grief has a funny way of catching us off guard, doesn’t it? It definitely caught me off guard this past weekend. As I was reading through the list of names in our prayers during worship, my eyes wondered down to the bottom of the list where my seminary friend Laura’s name now was laying. I was able to get through the list of names, but then it came time to read Laura’s name and the emotions took over. The tears poured down my face. I was able to compose myself…but barely…and get through the rest of the prayers. 
After the 8:30 am service, my colleague asked me if I wanted him to read the prayers at the later service. I was like “No I think I can get through them this time.” The time came for the prayers and I read slowly through each name. Then the time came to read Laura’s name again, so I took a deep breathe and proceeded on with the prayers as I uttered her name. This time, I was able to get through the prayers without any tears.

I have always been a crier…tears of joy and tears of sorrow have been intermingled throughout my life. I also have been known to cry at a Hallmark commercial or two. But so often those tears come as holy tears. Much like the waters of Baptism call and claim us as beloved children of God and cleanse us of our sins, our tears often help us to be reminded of that promise. Those holy tears are often a sign of new hope and promise.
I have been thinking a lot about Advent hope and promise in these last week especially because it seems like it is so hard to find that hope and promise in these days. During these days of Advent, it is important to remember that it is there; we just have to remember to look for it and savor it in this holy season. Jesus was born to an unlikely woman in the most unlikely of places. This promised Messiah came in the form of an infant son. God has a way of doing that; turning the ordinary into extraordinary—turning a simple chocolate bar into a flowing fountain of chocolate fondue. (Anyone else craving chocolate now?)
This infant Son came as the light in the midst of the darkness. This infant Son stands with us in a world that seems to be falling apart. This infant Son comes to calm our fears especially when it feels like our world, with good reason, is full of anxiety. This infant Son comes to call us each by name. This infant Son comes in the midst of our grief and promises to sit with us. 
Most of all, this infant Son comes as eternal Advent hope that is born in a manger in Bethlehem thousands of years ago to an unlikely woman Mary and her betrothed Joseph. This infant Son comes as OUR ETERNAL ADVENT HOPE! “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight (O Little Town of Bethlehem, verse 1).”
I am linking up with these lovely ladies today: Holly and Testimony Tuesday, Kelly and the RaRa Linkup, Jennifer and Tell His Story and Holley and Coffee for your Heart!


Our Hope

I am linking up for the Five Minute Friday. The FMF is hosted by Kate Motaung on her blog Heading Home. Today’s prompt is “Hope.” Write for five minutes; unedited.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”–Desmond Tutu

I have been replaying these words in my mind ever since I heard them especially as I look at the events in Charleston, racism, etc. It is extremely difficult to find the light in the midst of these situations.

And then I look at the world around me. I see hope in plants growing up in the soil. I see hope emerging from the children around me. “For a little child shall lead them.” I see hope as 30,000 youth and adults get ready to emerge on the city of Detroit for the ELCA National Youth Gathering. But even though I see this hope, sometimes (ok more often than I or any of us care to admit), it is almost impossible to spot.

Where is hope in the midst of the world’s events?

Where is the hope as we watch so many struggle with a mental illness, with cancer, with…..?

Where is hope when ISIS continues to steal away so much from so many?

Where is hope?

The truth, my friends, is that hope can be found in our Lord and Savior. Our hope comes in the form of a son who died on a cross for our sins. Our hope comes in the form of this holy one who isn’t afraid to turn the world upside down and sit and break bread with tax collectors and sinners. Our hope comes in the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I am reminded of what has become one of my favorite verses from the book of Psalms; “Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning (Psalm 30:5)

In these beautiful words, I see HOPE; a hope that only can be given to us by our dear savior.

Linked Together

The dirty dishes in the sink have finally been put away. The light in the kitchen is still on. The sounds of Cutthroat Kitchen are on in the background. And the residue from frying a little piece of steak is still stuck to my George Foreman grill. And it will sit there just a little longer as I spend a few moments in prayer as I write this post and pray for the family of dear Kara Tippetts.

Kara and I never met, yet I have felt our lives linked ever since I first read her blog Mundane Faithfulness. Kara was diagnosed with cancer in 2012 and today she finally was welcomed into the arms of her dear Lord and Savior. Kara leaves behind her beloved husband Jason and their four children. Throughout her journey, Kara was so full of grace, authenticity, vulnerability and pure faith in God. (Her words continually reminded me of several dear friends of mine who are currently battling cancer and whose words speak the power of community and God’s love for all of us!)

Earlier this evening, I popped onto Twitter and saw a Tweet that shared that Kara had entered into her Lord’s arms today. As I read that Tweet, I found myself thinking about the chain links to a fence and how those links connect together to make the fence complete. At the churches I have served, whenever we have had a special milestone blessing (3rd graders receiving their Bible etc), I have tried to have the congregation stand and place their hand on the person next to them or in front of them to link back to the ones being blessed at the front of the congregation. My favorite piece is being at the advantage of seeing everyone linked together. It is a powerful witness…to look into each face and know that no matter what we are linked together as brothers and sisters in Christ. And that is what I am reminded of today as we know that Kara heard the words “well done good and faithful servant.”

As God’s beloved children, we are all linked together even though we may have never met in person. I think of how many times in this life I have been blessed by reading someone’s words or by talking to someone I have never talked to before. God has a way of linking us together in ways and places that we never imagined which is why we grieve those that we have never met yet feel like we have known forever.

Knowing that we are all links to the fence, my heart still breaks for Kara’s family and friends. How do you say goodbye to a dear friend or family member especially when it doesn’t seem fair and seems far to soon? How do you share how someone has blessed your life in more ways than you ever imagined?

What I do know is that it is not easy to say goodbye. Throughout my thirty six years on this earth, I have had to say goodbye to my maternal grandparents. I have said goodbye to one of my favorite high school teachers who saw gifts in me before I saw them in myself. I have said goodbye with friends as they have said goodbye to children they never got to even hold. Each of these goodbyes has not been easy, but the hardest for me was my high school best friend Mandy.

Mandy and I were inseperable growing up. She was just a few years older than me but had a kidney transplant which held her back in school. So we ended up in the same grade. As we graduated, we both went our seperate ways which eventually led me to seminary. Every one in awhile my phone would ring and Mandy would be on the other end. We would laugh like old times. During one of her calls, she asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. I was honored that she asked and flew home from seminary to be a part of her special day. I will never forget that day…she was so happy! Not long after that wedding, a year or so, I got a phone call from Mandy’s mom letting me know that she had passed away. Sadly we had lost touch as our lives went in different directions, but my heart was still breaking. Mandy was my first “best friend.” I remember standing in the church office, tears streaming down my face as I listened to that voicemail.

Saying goodbye is indeed a part of life, but it is still so hard. There are days I wish I could shield us from the hurt but then I am reminded of the words we hear  Jesus say “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Jesus is with us through it all. Jesus was crucified, died, and was buried, but then, on the third day, Jesus rose. HOPE AND RESURRECTION! That is what it is all about. I am reminded of these words from one of my favorite Psalms. “Weeping may come for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”–Psalm 30:5

The weeping is fresh tonight especially for those who love Kara so much and so deeply, yet God promises that joy will come with the morning. And knowing that joy will come with the morning, I am reminded of the quote on Kara’s website from our dear Martin Luther: “What will you do in the mundane days of faithfulness?” So, honoring this beautiful soul and remembering how we are linked together like chain links to a fence, I ask you, my dear readers and friends, how will we live our days even in the ugliest darkest spaces? And what will YOU do in the mundane days of faithfulness?

Hope Worth Waiting For

We wait all the time, don’t we? We go to the post office to mail a package and we wait. We go to the grocery store to buy groceries and we end up waiting at the check out counter. We wait for the anticipation of the next big day or the next big event. But what I have come to realize is that we are not very good at waiting AT ALL. And I am just as guilty as the next person. On my way to workout and I get stopped because a train needs to cross the tracks. I find myself tapping my fingers on my wheel because this is holding me up and I need to get to my destination NOW! It seems that in this high tech world, we have so much accessible to us that we have forgotten how to be patient.

Advent is the perfect time to truly wait and be patient. Now I realize in a house full of kiddos, that can be extremely difficult but I think it also is important for us to remind children the true reason for the season and the importance of being patient. This season is all about the waiting and the preparing and the arrival of this precious holy child; the one who brings light in the midst of the darkness, hope in the midst of despair, and joy in the midst of sorrow. This holy child is the one who can bring about peace, justice, and mercy.

As you prepare your hearts, minds, and homes this Advent season, may you take the time to be patient, to wait for this precious child born in the unlikeliest of places. This precious child who is the Prince of Peace, who is Emmanuel, who is the Savior of the world, who is Messiah. This holy infant born in a manger in Bethlehem is the embodiment of hope in the world.

” ‘Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’ “–Luke 2: 11-14

Jesus was sent into the world by God to remind us that there is always hope especially when we trust in this holy child. This holy child who later sits with tax collectors and sinners. This holy child who will be crucified for our sins and then will be raised from the dead. Jesus is the hope that we all must cling to; a hope that only God can give, a hope that is born that holy night in a manger in Bethlehem; A hope in an injust world that will bring about justice; A hope in a broken world, that will bring about healing and wholeness; A hope in a violent world that brings about healing, reconcilation and peace.

Hope is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not yet seen.”

And this, my friends, is a hope worth waiting for!

Freedom Is Coming!

In a small chapel in Gettysburg PA, voices were raised as these words carried through the chapel: “Oh freedom, Oh freedom, Oh freedom, Freedom is coming, Oh yes I Know; Oh Jesus, Oh Jesus, Oh Jesus, Jesus is coming, oh yes I know!” These words were joyfully lifted to the Lord that night. It’s a memory that is forever engrained in my mind.

My small group was to lead worship on Thursday night (the Thursday before Martin Luther King Jr. day). A couple of them had suggested “Freedom is Coming” from the This Far By Faith hymnal so that is what we sung. That day was an extremely difficult day because that morning we received news that Wartburg Seminary student Ben Larson had lost his life in the Haiti earthquake. Having planned worship a week before, we decided to continue with our worship that night which still included “Freedom is Coming.” I remember watching and listening as our voices were lifted joyfully to the Lord as we sang this magnificent African American hymn. The next day we were reading a blog that someone had posted from Ben’s senior year of college and he talked about international music and the song Freedom is Coming and how that song was a song that was very important to him. Little did we know when we planned worship what this hymn meant to Ben. The Holy Spirit truly works in mysterious ways!

Today as we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I am reminded of all that MLK Jr. did for us. I also am reminded of why Ben, Renee, and Jon were in Haiti. What beautiful witnesses to faith! Yes, there are times when it is hard to share that faith or see that faith because of all the evil in the world around us. Yet with hope, I believe that freedom is coming. Christ promised to come again to judge the living and the dead. And in that moment, it seems to me that true freedom will be reached.

And so may we all lift our voices declaring that “Freedom is coming!” (I found this video of children’s choir singing in Uganda. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!)

Ode to Cancer

“The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.”

Oh how many times I’ve heard or read that passage. Yet there are times when it feels almost
downright impossible to believe in or trust in. Tonight my friends is one of those nights.

The ugly “c” word has reared its head once again. A friend and classmate went in for more scans today. She is (and has been) battling cancer. I found myself thinking of her and praying for her on and off all day. Then tonight I was eager to read her post and when I got to her post, I was heartbroken. It was not the news her and her family were hoping for. The tumors have grown. She will begin chemo once again. This was not the news any of us was hoping for.

But not only am I sad for her, I am sad for her daughters. This isn’t fair…not for her, not for her daughters and not for anyone. She has already lost her husband and the girls their father to this awful c word. I want to scream at the top of my lungs; Screw You Cancer!!
(I am not a swearing lady but I truly would like to use stronger language than this!)

And their story isn’t the only one. There are so many I know who are currently battling cancer. Why them? Why does cancer have to once again rear her ugly head?
It simply isn’t fair!!

I pray and cling to hope but that sometimes is so much easier said than done. It often is hard to see the light when this darkness seems to be looming all around us.

Yet I know that there is this one; the Messiah our Lord who IS the light in the midst of the darkness;
who always triumphs even when it seems all hope is lost! I believe that this Messiah often comes in the form of caretakers and doctors; in the form of family and friends who love the patient in the midst of their struggles; and in their mat carriers who hold the mat for them and lift them through the roof to Jesus!

In all actuality, I wish cancer wasn’t around. I wish that people didn’t have to struggle with it. I wish for so much. Yet I know that it still is a reality so we must choose hope. We must cling to the one who is the light in the midst of darkness especially when our lives; our world seem so dark.

Because in the end, I believe light will always emerge from the darkness and that there will always be hope! I also believe and trust that Christ WILL have the final word!!

(But on days like today when someone I love; a sister in Christ is sick and hurting, it is so much harder to find the light and hope!)

Come, Holy Spirit, Come!

It was a great day today. I started the morning with a friend. We had some great coffee, then we went and did some shopping in these cute little shops downtown. And then we went to her house, had lunch, and made some Christmas cookies. We tried a new recipe and the cookies were awesome. She dropped me off and I signed onto my computer to check FB and do some other things. My homepage opened to MSN where I saw the news headlines that there was another school shooting today. It took my breathe away. This on the eve of the anniversary of the school shooting at Sandy Hook. And all of a sudden my great day didn’t seem so important.

My heart is so sad! I want our world to be a better place. Once I find my Mr. Right and I have a family, I don’t want to have to worry about sending my children to school. I want more hope and not fear. I want there to be more love and not so much hate. A friend of mine posted several questions on her FB feed today after the shooting and I cannot shake them. Her questions are in no way rhetorical. They need to be answered. And I find myself clinging to those questions tonight. She writes, “We have too many hurting youth, too many kids who don’t have hope, too many kids who don’t feel loved. What are we going to do about this as the people of God? How are we going to speak light into this darkness and hope into despair? How will we show love to all people today?”

Yes, my dear readers and friends, how are we going to show light in the midst of this darkness and hope in the midst of this despair? How are we going to show love to God’s people today? In the midst of the darkness, I cling to this precious one who was born in a manger in Bethlehem; the one who comes as the light in the midst of darkness, the hope in the midst of despair, and so much more. How do we help show that kind of love to those who are hurting, to those who don’t know love?

I am reminded of my dear mother who has lived most of my life with a mental illness, yet she is one of the most faith-filled women I know. I swear she would give the shirt off her back. She simply loves unconditionally. She has been an amazing model of God’s love for me and I am so grateful and thankful for that. But I find myself wondering where are those examples for those youth who are hurting and don’t feel loved? How do we show them that they are loved? How do we show them that there is hope in the world? I don’t know the answers, yet I want the answers! And I want those answers sooner rather than later. I want the answer not to be violence. I want the answer to be kindness and love and grace. I want…..

Tonight I am praying for this one who thought their only answer was violence. Tonight I am praying for Eric and Dylan who walked into Columbine. Tonight I am praying for all those who lost a child a year ago at Sandy Hook. Tonight I am praying for Adam who felt his only answer was to walk into that school a year ago. Tonight I am praying for all those youth who don’t feel loved and who are hurting. Tonight I am praying that we will be able to answer these questions that my friend posted. Tonight my prayer is simply…come, Holy Spirit, come…help us to show them light and love and hope!

Hope Stands Up To Its Knees

I don’t know about you but on days like today especially, I find my emotions on an emotional roller coaster. The truth is feeling emotions is only human. It is only natural to feel these emotions. ..to feel brokeness, sadness, and probably even a little anger. Today a tornado hit in Oklahoma City and it appears many children have lost their life. I don’t understand why these things happen and I know that I am not alone in questioning why things happen. But what I do know is that God is with us in the midst of it all. God is with those who are laying in that rubble tonight in Moore OK.  I think of my friend Renee’s husband Ben as Ben lay in the Haitian rubble. What comes to mind are the words that Ben was singing that night, “God’s peace to us we pray…”

Even in the last moments of his life, Ben prayed…prayed for God’s peace. And tonight in the midst of our hurting broken world, we too pray and ask God’s peace to reign. However it is hard to find that peace when there is so much sadness is in our world. This past year there has been so much brokeness—a tornado, West Texas, the Boston Marathon bombings, Sandy Hook, Auroro Colorado….and the list goes on. So much sadness….so much brokeness….so much pain….so much fear….so much doubt. Yet God promises that God will always be with us. God walks with us in the midst of our pain, our sorrow, and our sadness. God is ALWAYS there.

A friend shared the following quote from Frederick Buechner (I love Buechner!) on his Facebook page tonight. Buechner’s quote offers the peace and hope that I think many of us are searching for tonight. My prayer is that it brings you a little peace, hope and comfort tonight as well.

“Hope stands up to its knees in the past and keeps its eyes on the future. There has never been a time past when God wasn’t with us as the strength beyond our strength, the wisdom beyond our wisdom, as whatever it is in our hearts–whether we believe in God or not–that keeps us human enough at least to get by despite everything in our lives that tends to wither the heart and make us less than human. To remember the past is to see that we are here today by grace, that we have survived as a gift.” (Frederick Buechner)

Hope and Restoration

“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!”

Palm Sunday begins the journey through Holy week and to Jesus’ death and Resurrection. As we celebrate on Easter Sunday, we are reminded that Jesus came into the world for us. Jesus came to restore our relationship with God. And in return we are called to be forgiving and to be forgiven. One thing I love about the 40 days of Lent and Holy week is the reminder of this awesome hope…a hope that comes in the midst of death and the Resurrection.

And in that hope, we are reminded of life…that life does come out of death. What a beautiful reminder for us all. This week I have spent a lot of time around new life. On Friday, a dear friend and I met up for lunch where I got to meet her new son who is almost a month old. We sat and visited for quite awhile. And as we visited, the little guy snuggled down on my chest and just slept. I think I held him for like an 30 minutes or more. I was hoping he would open his eyes for me but he never did. Apparently he was content just the way he was. Today, I sat and held a church member’s new little baby who is about two months old. Again he snuggled right down into my chest and listened to my heart beat. I literally could have sat their all day with him snuggling in. I returned home to open up FB and read that my dear friends J and C’s daughter decided to make her entrance into the world today too. There is something absolutely spectacular about new life. Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t have to be asked twice to hold an infant?

(It also happened to be First Communion Sunday at DLC this morning for our 5th graders and their homes. In coming to the table, we are reminded again of what Jesus did for us. Jesus died on the cross for us; to restore our relationship with God and each other. At the table, God also reminds us of God’s grace and hope; reminding us that we are forgiven and that we too should be forgiving as well. Yet another reminder of God’s grace, mercy, love and hope…)

And in the midst of this new life, I am reminded of this amazing grace…this amazing hope that God offers to all of us; a hope that is always there. Yes, I still deeply yearn to be a momma and to have someone call me “mommy”. However hope outweighs that yearning. (I’ll be honest there are days when that hope is clouded by the deep yearning but most days, God reminds me of this hope; a hope that I cling to in the midst of this thing I want so deeply!)Because God in sending God’s Son into the world reminds us of this amazing love, grace, and mercy that only God can offer.

“This is how much God loved the world; He have his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him,anyone can have a whole and lasting life(John 3:16-17;The Message).”

Treasuring Time

Why do some things move so slowly? It seems that when I am excited for an upcoming event; a wedding, a Baptism, etc, it takes forever for that event to get here! I sometimes find myself wishing for time to move more quickly! But that is such a ridiculous thing to wish for! We shouldn’t wish time away! So many pray and hope for time back with family who left too soon etc! I am doing my best to treasure every minute and not wish for time to move quicker even when I want something do desperately to come!