justbarelymadeit

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Category: Hope

Dealing with Death and Our Immortal Moments

I simply cannot shake thoughts of Robin Williams from my mind. Over and over I am drawn back to look for more information on his death and the events leading up to it. Each time I am brought to the verge of tears, and I cannot help but wonder why I care so much about a man I never met. He was like a childhood friend to me, and he was my parents age. I felt like I identified with and knew Jack, or Peter Banning. I saw that child inside of him wanting to explode out and I felt like that too. Except that I was a child. It probably made more sense for me.
This has placed me on a trip of nostalgia and thoughts on the past. I look at the years behind me and picture each one of them like a death. I love and smile about them but ultimately mourn for each and every one of those that will never come again. I watched Hook again to commemorate Williams’ death, and I almost shouted bangerang right here on my couch. I cranked up my old dance music from the 90s for my boys who must have really thought their father looked the fool cutting a rug in the kitchen while they ate their dinner (except Wyatt, he really thought I was cool). And as I listened to Heaven by DJ Sammy, I stopped dancing and stopped smiling, and the mourning down deep welled up and I began to feel hopeless for my future, sensing futility in moments, as they like the others will all die. I wanted to cry again, it was crushing. A dark pall had settled over me with the advent of Robin Williams death, and it was persisting.
Then I saw my boys, watching me, grinning. Squeaking. Growing. Having their own immortal moment right now that they would one day mourn. I wonder how my own father felt about 25 or so years ago as he ambushed us and ran roaring down the forested hill with his deadly stick gun, my brother and I scrambling out of his way, screaming. He must have loved creating that immortal moment for us, all the while mourning the death of his own. I go to bed tonight with a heavy heart but a much more understanding spirit. It is not for me to live in a moment forever, but rather to create those immortal moments for others.

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Imbued Worth

All too often, we find excuses to be ineffective, impotent and lethargic. We doubt our own abilities and in turn doubt God’s call in our lives. Were we not given the Great Commission alongside the disciples? Was not Christ looking directly at me when he said those words? So why do I balk? What holds me back? I am foolish. I am a sinner. I am not worthy of His work. I sing too off-key. I am too young. But what did God say in response to Jeremiah when he claimed to be too young? In Chapter 1 of that book, God responded almost angrily with “Don’t say that, when I have told you to go!” We are afraid of failure. We fall to our knees, shaking and stammering, “but I might fail, Lord!?” and He responds with “so..?” We were not called to success, but to obedience and the prophet Isaiah is a good example of that.
Our doubt can bring about self-loathing and an inability to believe that we are worthy of His work. We are given worth, though. We are imbued with Christ’s worth and in that must find our courage to face our doubt and do what is requested of us. Though pride may have fallen and led us into insecurity, we can have that insecurity reversed and find, instead, courage and encouragement.
Hold fast, believer, and know that is not your success that will win the day but rather God’s will that will be done. Do what you are asked because it is He that asks, not because you might be successful at it.

Hope in What?

You hear some news that frustrates and disappoints you. You are let down and you don’t know how to process it. Expectations and assumptions held for so long are dashed, and depending on what you are experiencing, the repercussions can be quite strong. So many have abandoned their faith because of problems in their church or moral failings in the church leadership. A theological difference handled badly, an affair come to light, conflict unresolved, all of these can lead to disenchantment with the church or faith. They really should not but they do for the simple reason that the hope has been misplaced.

You see, in an age where the Church doesn’t seem much different from the world, and our divorce rate is about the same, we need to remember we were never really promised a better or more moral life. A Helper was promised, yes, and in that a possibility for temporal victory over sin, but the promise wasn’t “repent and be better!” but rather “repent and be saved!” We were not promised a better life. We were promised a Hope. That is what makes us different, Hope. Yet so many of use foolishly take that hope and place it in the tangible parts of our faith structure. Our church body, our pastor, our parents, we build these things up and when they inevitably let us down and fail us, we despair and lose hope. Our minds fill with disillusionment and the black, as we seek solace from these disappointments. We leave a church, we break ties, we abandon our faith, all in response to having our hope in the wrong place.

Because, our hope should be in Christ, who is one with the Immutable God. He is mighty to save, and faithful to His promises. He created this world and its many wonders. He made us and provided a way for us to him. He shed His blood to pay our cost and welcomes us home. That is where our hope should be, and it is truly there that we can weather the disappointments and let-downs we are given, without pause or falter. Praise be to Him in who our Hope is found.

Is this the Day?

This is the day

Really? With my 5 hours of sleep, screaming children, and sensory overload? This is what God has given to me? I want to just scream or pull my ears off. I cannot seem to even finish a thought, and yet He wants this for me? Really?

This is the day

Really? This is what God has for me as I stand over this hole in the ground, speaking final words for a lost one? Wondering why they might have been taken from me just now? Really?

That the Lord has made

Really? As a woman is sentenced to death for her faith, and beaten first. This is what God has given her, today? Really?

That the Lord has made

Really? As I cannot seem to accomplish anything but anger and stress today? This is what God made? Really?

I will rejoice

I have asked one thing from the LORD; it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the LORD and seeking Him in His temple. For He will consceal me in His Shelter in the day of adversity; He will hide me under the cover of His tent; He will set me high on a rock.

I will rejoice

For I know the plans I have for you, this is the LORD’s declaration, plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

And be glad in it

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.

And be glad in it.

Now the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will personally restore, establish, strengthen, and support you after you have suffered a little.

Oh God, grant me the wisdom to rejoice in my suffering, for I am terrible at it, and I need Your help.

Hope Exploited

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Prosperity Gospel, health and wealth, name it and claim it, and even the Prayer of Jabez. All things bordering on heresy, but all showing a strong following. If they are so wrong indeed, then why do so many give it credence. After some thought, I do believe it is because it taps into one of our God-given characteristics. We are nothing if not a hopeful lot. Hope, we are tenacious and resilient because of it. Many Science fiction and fantasy story traditions have ridden on the concept of the one unique characteristic of humanity is hope, and the tenacity that is born out of that. But that hope, that blessed bulwark against doubt, makes us also vulnerable to that pie in the sky, good things are coming our way message so often preached from the prosperity pulpit., That message reaches down inside of us and resonates with our hope. Untempered by wisdom though, it will carry us away and drown us in a pool of foolishness.

God does enjoy blessing us and rewards are promised us, if not always temporally obvious. We don’t want to ignore the positive out workings of a righteous life. We also cannot ignore the myriad of times that we are warned or even promised that we will go through suffering for Christ’s sake. (Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 5:10, Romans 8:18, Revelation 21:4, John 16:33, 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, Isaiah 43:2, 2 Timothy 3:12, Psalm 34:19, there are many more, but I cut it off here) Scripture is rife with admonishment to believers to be prepared for, to glory in, and to expect stormy seas. The New Testament speaks to doctrine and life application in regards to it, and the Old Testament gives us story after narrative story of the people of God struggling through their own storms.

So, even though the prosperity gospel models strike chords in our yearning hearts of Christian Hope, we must recenter our understanding and temper these huge promises with a realistic and wise understanding of the preparation that God expects of us. We are pilgrims and the journey will be perilous. Beware.

GUEST POST: Cautious Hope

Kelley is a mother, a doula, and an ex-producer. She shares this with us in hopes that it might remind us of what we have been given. Enjoy

 

I pull on the tights.  Oh blimey, lint.  Lots of it.  Maybe I shouldn’t go running after all.  My body feels slow, and heavy.  But these nerves, spawned by fear, not only linger.  They multiply, encroaching upon the heart and swallowing up what life-giving hope remains there.  Yes.  I need to shed the nerves, so I run.

I see trees, and clouds, and his blue baby body, limp on my living room floor.  My pace quickens, and I exhale.  A new breath works its way through my insides, gathering some of the yuck on its way back out and expelling it into the cold winter air.  In comes life, hope, to replace death, fear.  I am alone with my Maker, with the baby boy’s Maker.

“Is he breathing yet”?  I re-live the 9-1-1 call, the slow panic, the suffocating thought that maybe this was it.  All because a toy was carelessly tossed, and toy met head.  Such a small event seemed to frustrate the life right out of him.  Inhale, exhale.  A song blares in my ears: “We live and die like fireworks…”  Duncan, he is young, but he’s not a fizzle.  He is an explosion of life, and like each child born he shocked my heart awake, flooding it with love.  My heart, thus linked, lay pale and quiet on the carpet as the rest of me made phone calls in the other room.

For 29 months we have shared this planet’s air.  At first, I could breathe for him.  Now he’s on his own, and this mother dislikes feeling helpless.  “He’s dead!” cried a brother.  “He’s not,” said a paramedic, “he’s just sleeping now.”  He finally got his air.  I was still holding mine, craving more signs of vitality.  Then, as strangers poked and prodded, his blessed cry of anger was like a song from Heaven.  Though subtle, color began to return to his body, as if to mirror the cautious hope resurging in me.

Cautious hope?  Isn’t that an oxymoron?  What I see is rose mingling with grey.  The joy and sorrow of what-ifs all tangled up in a traumatized heart.  What can I do to keep this from happening again?  In striving to shield him from death, I would inadvertently shield him from life.  In truth, the best life lived is one that doesn’t hang onto itself so tightly.

Inhale, exhale.  Blood surges through my veins.  I am alive.  The little one is alive.  Now a new song: “It is well with my soul…”  Really, God?  I was working towards that.  Would it be?  Well?  This is Duncky Boy we’re talking about: Bright, bashful, soft, doe-eyed, coy, quirky, smelling always of sweet milk.  How tight is my grip on this precious gift?  You know I often ponder the giving and the taking away.  It seems, however, that in this moment, the best I can muster is “I love him.  Can I keep him?”  At home he sleeps peacefully in his crib.  I exhale a weak “thank you,” and inhale Grace.

Living and dying, all the while loving and being loved…that is Grace.  Though harder to swallow, suffering is grace, too.  Through suffering, I am reminded that each day of air shared with little Duncan Smith is more than I deserve.  I’ll take it.  I turn the corner towards home, leaving at least some of the nerves, the fear, in the dust.  Still unsure of what lies ahead, I breathe two hearty prayers: “Lord, please…” and “…Lord, thank you”.

– Kelley Smith

Hope in Change

Often we fear change. We are so comfortable with our current discomforts that the thought of losing them can terrify. No matter how frustrating or abusive our circumstances can be, they are, after all, ours. We claim them and then clasp them tightly to our chests in their familiarity as change might bring something worse. Complacency, after all, is basically living in fear. And are we even called to have a spirit of fear? Are we? Or perhaps are we called to have a spirit of something else.

To that I say, “no!” Complacency finds its safety in a static environment. A preference to fight the enemy you know rather than the one you don’t know, that you might have. But the sad reality of that is that there is no real standing still. There isn’t a static environment. If you aren’t moving towards faith in Christ then you are effectively moving away from it. If you actively choose a static life, and live in fear of change, you are sealing your faith doom. A sure destruction versus a feared possible one.

So rise to that challenge and change. Do not live in fear of it. Look forward in hope instead of sticking your head in the sand and there by dooming yourself. You will find hope in change, and the only difference from before is perspective. Instead of looking in fear, look to the future with hope!

That hope will bring with it a vibrancy for your faith. Jurgen Moltmann, upon seeing his peers succumbing to hopelessness and accepting their current static circumstances as their reality, was spurred on to write his greatest work, the Theology of Hope upon that greatest of changes that we are to accept, the great eschatological change of the end times, and the hope that must bring to us as believers.

Letting fear of change dictate our life will certainly spell our doom, but rather looking to change for the hope it can provide will always pay dividends.

Stephen Mattson

Inspiration. Faith. Christian Culture. Writing.

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