Tag Archives: Hope

Screenshot_20201006-085317For when you miss the mess and noise and chaos and laughs of your people crammed round a long table covered in food and life before the limit was 6 -

And the table will be wide.
And the welcome will be wide.
And the arms will open wide to gather us in.
And our hearts will open wide to receive.

And we will come as children who trust there is enough.
And we will come unhindered and free.
And our aching will be met with bread.
And our sorrow will be met with wine.

And we will open our hands to the feast without shame.
And we will turn toward each other without fear.
And we will give up our appetite for despair.
And we will taste and know of delight.

And we will become bread for a hungering world.
And we will become drink for those who thirst.
And the blessed will become the blessing.
And everywhere will be the feast.

– © Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.

The table will be wide! And I’m already compiling a menu for when we can feast together.

Break the bread. Pour the wine. Give Thanks.

So, how’s your Easter weekend shaping up?

I should be in the kitchen prepping a feast for all the fam coming over later. I should be facing the agonising decision of which of my fancy clothes to wear for Easter morning church – because just like Christmas, if I’m not overdressed on Easter Sunday is it even Easter?

The Feast of Good Fridays Past
The Feast of Good Fridays Past

And then on Sunday I should be celebrating with my people before Feast Round 2 at my Nan’s – roast lamb, rice n peas, curry goat, fried chicken and crunchy potatoes. ALL THE GOOD THINGS AND SECOND ONLY TO CHRISTMAS DINNER.

Instead, celebrations have to happen via zoom. Family are only a few miles away but in this lockdown life they may as well be across an ocean. And I’m probs having lentils for dinner. No roast lamb. No fried chicken and no crunchy potatoes [insert all the crying face emojis here].

in the context of, you know, a global crisis, this is not a big deal. But even so, I’m just a little bit broken hearted at this Easter in a time of Corona.

Good thing Easter isn’t actually about the food or traditions but instead the gateway to life in all its fullness. A life that promises peace and hope and blessing through every circumstance, including, as hard as it might seem to believe right now, through global crisis and escalating death tolls.

Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5 v 4.

I never really understood this – how is it comforting when you’re can’t breathe, can’t think, on the floor in the depths of grief? But then I read this:

Maybe Jesus was simply blessing the ones around him that day who didn’t otherwise receive blessing, who had come to believe that, for them, blessings would never be in the cards. I mean, come on, doesn’t that just sound like something Jesus would do? Extravagantly throwing around blessings as though they grew on trees?" Nadia Bolz-Weber A Benediction

Extravagantly throwing around blessings as though they grew on trees [insert all the heart emojis here]. And somehow 'Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted' sounded more like hope and a promise.

I'm pretty sure we could all do with a bit more hope right now. There is grace here for all of us in this Easter in a time of Corona.

Blessed are those who mourn for you shall be comforted.

Blessed are the fundraisers facing gaps in charity income, for the funds shall come in.

Blessed are the furloughed for your days shall be filled with good things.

Blessed are the huggers for you shall receive allllll the hugs again.

Blessed are those for whom staying at home is not safe for you shall find security.

Blessed are those who are worried sick for you shall recieve peace.

Blessed are those missing sport for one day it shall return (My family have replaced all football discussions with random chat about cats. My father simply cannot handle this but I'm pretty sure its a just retribution for letting football monopolise family gatherings all my life).

Blessed are those trying not to freak out over how this will hit the developing world, for God will (please) have mercy and richer nations will look beyond their borders.

Blessed are the homeschooling parents for you shall figure out how to do long division.

Blessed are those making it through on the 80% for you shall receive all you need.

Blessed are the unemployed for you shall work again.

Blessed are those who plans and celebrations have been so unexpectedly interuppted, for there shall be space to re-make them.

Blessed are those struggling with the uncertainty of it all, for you shall find stability.

Blessed our are hospital caterers and cleaners and nurses and doctors and administrators and everyone else in the NHS that keeps it all going, for your people love you.screenshot_20200410-1049174866719997024794598.png

Blessed are the breadmakers for you shall perfect your sourdough (and when you do please let me know how because mine have always been a disaster).

Blessed are the small business owners for your customers will return.

Blessed are the stockpilers for you shall have peace of mind (and pasta for dinner).

Blessed are those having to remind their housemates that dogs are for life and not just for lockdown and even if that wasn’t true Battersea dogs home is closed at the moment so we can’t go adopt one right now anyway.

Blessed are the church leaders figuring out how to guide their people through a pandemic, for you shall recieve wisdom.

Blessed are those having to remind everyone to go on mute in group video calls for you shall have good audio quality.

Blessed are those having to teach their parents how to use new tech, for you shall receive patience in abundance.

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Blessed are the tired and lonely and afraid, for you shall be filled with life-giving radiance.

Blessed are the please-can-life-just-go-back-to-normal-ers, for this season will pass.

Blessed are those praying for the first time in years, for God is listening.

Easter speaks hope that all these good things are possible.

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. Matthew 5 v 3 - 9 The Message

Friends, Beloved Reader, you’re blessed when you’re figuring out how to live through a pandemic, for God is with you.

Much grace and peace and virtual hugs this Easter x x

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What is saving your life right now?

Many years ago now, a wise old priest invited me to come speak at his church in Alabama. “What do you want me to talk about?” I asked.

"Come tell us what is saving your life right now,” he answered.

It was as if he had swept his arm across a dusty table and brushed all the formal china to the ground.

I did not have to try to say correct things that were true for everyone. I did not have to use theological language that conformed to the historical teachings of the church. All I had to do was figure out what my life depended on. All I had to do was figure out how I stayed as close to that reality as I could.”

From An Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor.

It is the year of our Lord 2020 DCT (During Corona Times), consider the formal china swept to the floor - because if you can’t mess up your fancy table setting DCT when can you?

What is saving your life right now? (other than staying at home, obvs)

Saving my life right now is: Sunlight. Taking photos of beautiful things on the Boris sanctioned daily exercise of lunchtime walks. Exercising wonder. Reminding myself this is just for a season.

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Abandoning all notions of being a part-time vegetarian – turns out, in times of global crisis, all I want is comfort food. Turns out, lentils are not comfort food and so, when the going gets tough, the tough eat burgers.

Psalms that lament. Psalms that praise. Psalms that start with lament and turn to praise. The clocks going forward meaning we had one less hour of this to deal with. Yoga. Cleaning everything in sight. Updates on the latest Isolationships. This painting:

The invitation to joy, peace, love, trust - life in all its fullness. By Jenedy Paige
By Jenedy Paige

Good music - praise be for the Quarantunes playlist - turning it up 11 and dancing for joy. Friends sending daily encouragement. Knowing God is present and at work even if it doesn’t feel like it. Online workouts with the gym crew. Not checking the news more than twice a day. Phonecalls with my people. Zoom calls with my people. Memes that perfectly capture life as we now know it DCT:

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The Calendar of Thanks:

Everyday we write one thing we are thankful for.
Everyday we write one thing we are thankful for.

Virtual church – much love and socially distanced hugs to all my Grace and Streatham loves. Hope that this season will pass and we will live in the glorious future of life ACT (After Corona Times). The internet. Finding the flow of new routines and creating some order within chaos:

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Knowing that, whilst they might not be the biggest issues right now, its ok to grieve the loss of: being with my people, routine, structure, any semblance of certainty, seeing horizons, the hustle and bustle of London, being angry with tourists reach the barriers before looking for their oyster cards, Easter weekend food.

Keeping track of every time a neighbour leaves their house so we can let the police know if they're not sticking to lockdown laws - we sit by the front window 8 hours a day, we see everything (shout out to No 243 who did a great job cleaning their windows on Friday).

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I beg to differ - we have top intel.

"As surely as the sun rises, as surely as it sets, we anticpate your goodness, we anticpate the rest." Interlude - Torwalt

Knowing I have enough leave-in conditioner to last a couple of months (if black women ran the goverment you know for sure black hair shops would be in the essential business category). I may or may not have stockpiled.

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Frequent phonecalls with my mum and sister – BCT (Before Corona Times) I called my mother on Sunday afternoons and my sister every few weeks. Now I talk to them most days. I don’t know why. None of us have anything interesting to say – we’ve all been sat at home.

Being extra. Yes, I put on my fancy Going Out clothes, spent the morning straightening my hair and putting on a full face of makeup just to sit in the house and order in brunch. Yes, on Wednesdays we wear pink and Fridays we wear formal business attire to the new office at home. And yes, I was the only one wearing a cocktail dress and fancy earrings for Friday Night Wine Zoom. Being extra is in my DNA and I make no apologies.

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Contemplative prayer and the Lectio365 App. Eating a Malteaser everytime someone on TV says unprecedented (am rapidly running out of Malteasers - please send supplies).

God is good all the time. All the time, God is good.

Every morning I ask for the grace for the day and every day it is given. Break the bread. Pour the wine. Give thanks.

What is saving your life right now?

So. How was your Christmas?

Mine was pretty much like the rest of this year – an absolute whirlwind of the loosely planned being usurped by the surprising. Though I learned the hard way that if you spend half the day holding small children and hefting a turkey in and out of the oven your arms will ache for atleast a week. Even brushing my hair is a challenge - sorry to anyone who has to be seen with me in public right now.

Christmas Joy: Getting to meet my 6-day old new favourite
Christmas JOY: Surprise visit from my 6-day old new favourite

I must confess, I was not ready for Christmas this year. I don't understand how its come and gone already, I'm still waiting for summer. I was the most Grinch of all the Grinchs and so reflecting on the reason for the season was not forefront of my mind. But what I did realise is that Christmas is all about abiding - Jesus came to abide (live/dwell) with us, so that we could abide (live/dwell) with him.

The birth of Jesus was the beginning of the end of our separation from God. It changed everything. Jesus came to abide (live/dwell) as light in the darkness, offering us hope, peace and joy.

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God was no longer as distant as before. But here. Present. With us. Immanuel.

And just a few short decades later the death and resurrection of Jesus would change it all again. Giving us access to a home we could fully abide (live/dwell) in together. Forever.

But it’s not just for the future, if nothing else, this absolute madness of a year has taught me that abiding is also for right here, right now. This very moment. Here. Present.

Everyday in China I asked God for the grace to make it through just that day. And the next day I asked the same. And the next day the same again. But I think what I didn't have the words to ask for was this:

O Lord. Life passes by swiftly. Events that a few years ago kept me totally preoccupied have now become vague memories; conflicts that a few months ago seemed so crucial in my life now seem futile and hardly worth the energy; inner turmoil that robbed me of sleep only a few weeks ago has now become a strange emotion of the past; books that filled me with amazement a few days ago now do not seem as important; thoughts that kept my mind captive only a few hours ago have now lost their power and have been replaced by others... Why am I continuously trapped in this sense of urgency and emergency? Why do I not see that you are eternal, that your kingdom lasts forever, and that for you a thousand years are like one day? O Lord, let me enter into your presence and there taste the eternal, timeless, everlasting love with which you invite me to let go of my time-bound anxieties, fears, occupations and worries.... Lord teach me your ways and give me the courage to follow them. Amen." Henri Nouwen

This is what abiding this year has looked like - an invitation to let go of my time-bound anxieties, fears, occupations and worries. To live fully loved, at peace, joyfully, on a foundation of trust.

Is this what I've been doing all year? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha (pauses to breathe and then resumes hysterical laughter) hahahahaha.

No.

I had to go to China and back to figure this out, let me save you the journey and the planet the carbon emissions. Turns out sometimes abiding feels like a picnic in green pastures beside still waters.tanguy-sauvin-3118-unsplash

But also, abiding can feel like being on a rollercoaster, holding on to the edge of your seat, both eagerly anticipating what’s next and dreading it, uncertain whether to laugh/cry/vomit/all three, wondering why you’ve put yourself in that position AGAIN and why no-one told you it was a bad idea, clinging for dear life/faith/sanity onto the knowledge that God is good and God is with you always even if it doesn’t feel like it, and praying it will all end soon so you can get off and return to life on terra firma.

Christmas, a solid reminder than wherever we find ourselves and whatever is going on God abides with us. Our choice is whether we abide with Him at the picnic, the rollercoaster or elsewhere.

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By Jessica Hagy
By Jessica Hagy
This simple diagram has led me to so much fun and gotten me in so much trouble.
I love comfort. I love not having to embrace the difficult, the stressful and the uncertain. And yet…
Life outside my comfort zone has taught me things I couldn’t have learned any other way. Life outside my comfort zone has developed my character and helped me to grow in faith and hope and love.
Life outside of our comfort zone is both exciting and terrifying. There’s always the possibility of failure with a side plate of embarrassment and wounded pride. But there's also adventure beyond anything we could imagine.
Ever been asked what you would do if money were no object? Apparently, retire tomorrow and travel the world with my friends is not the response people are after. But maybe the question is too narrow – it assumes our only limiting factor is finance. Perhaps a better question would be: what would you do if you trusted even just a little bit more in the goodness, faithfulness and love of God? What would you be brave enough to attempt?
Would we be bolder? More adventurous? More generous? More loving? More forgiving? More hopeful? Would we find it easier to ignore the lies of doubt, fear and worry? Would we be more willing to push the boundaries of our comfort zone?
Jesus said he came to give us life in all its fullness. A fullness which empowers us to make decisions based on faith and not fear. Faith that God loves us beyond our understanding and there's nothing that can separate us from his love. Faith that God is with us wherever we go - whether we're riding the wings of the morning, going into a difficult situation or even to The Gambia. Faith that God is good all the time, and all the time God is good - whether everything goes well or whether we have to rise from the ashes.

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Confession: This life outside the comfort zone is not the life I usually live - I like comfort, did I mention that already? Though occasionally, I dare greatly enough to start a chain reaction that means I have no choice but to leave my Empire of Comfort and embrace the terrifying, exciting, uncertain and unknown. Case in point: I've waved a fond farewell  to my colleagues and have quit my job with no plan  more detailed than 'travel/volunteer in the general Africa or Asia area.' There’s not much about this that sits in my comfort zone.
I keep being told I’m brave, I don’t know about that – brave, foolish, there’s a fine line between the two and given that it feels like I’ve set my life on fire and at least five times a week day hour I ask God what I’ve done and why I couldn’t be content to just be normal, it certainly doesn’t feel brave. Rachel the wild hippy with flowers in her hair would be disappointed at my inability to embrace this unknown. So here I am, currently navigating the outer reaches of my comfort zone – if anyone wants to come join me YOU’RE MORE THAN WELCOME - I have drinks, food and an epic playlist. The sunrises are amazing and the night skies are devastatingly beautiful. And I have a small idea of where we might end up. Everyone but my Nan and sister will love it!
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Sometimes I make myself sick because the very fact that I've written this post means I need to go out be be braver than I want to be. Well done Rach.
What would you do if you trusted even just a little more in the goodness, faithfulness and love of God? What would you be brave enough to attempt? Dare greatly team.

And so, dear reader, the year of endurance is almost over. Rejoice! Celebrate! Kill the fatted calf and pour the drinks! Next year I’m gonna be the Queen of quitting.
I’d love to have a nice shiny pearl of wisdom to impart to you, some eloquent revelation about endurance and what it means. But all I have is three words – stay with it.
Endurance is about staying with it when you’re tired, when you’ve run out of options, when you just want to give up and all you have left is an itsy bitsy teenie weenie tiny glimmer of mustard seed sized hope.

Stay with it – stay with doing hard and holy things, stay with believing God for impossible things, stay with brazen hope, just stay with God through it all in this season you are in." Ann Voskamp

2017 has not been my favourite year (17 is a prime number so we were already off to a bad start - prime numbers are selfish and I don’t like them). But if nothing else, this absolute non-ironic 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife kinda year has taught me that sometimes all you can do is take a deep breath, take your shoes off (it’s grounding) and choose to stay with God.
Endurance is about sticking with faith/hope/love through the minutes/hours/days/weeks/months that started with such promise but seemed to crash and burn despite your very best laid plans of prayers and intentions. Endurance is about sticking with it through the doubt, the fears and tears. Endurance is making decisions based on faith and not fear. Endurance is about staying with the hard and holy things. [Disclaimer: Endurance is not about staying with the abusive, unboundaried and destructive things. Run like you’re about to miss the last train home from those.]
Stay with brazen/bold/barefaced/shameless/unabashed/audacious/unashamed hope – I JUST LOVE THIS.
The secret to endurance? It’s there, written to a people who were being beaten up, jailed and killed for choosing to follow Jesus. We endure by keeping our eyes on Jesus. The number of times I have had to relearn this lesson over the past 12 months is quite frankly embarrassing.
When we take our eyes from Jesus we can find ourselves looking at the situation and start to sink, just like Peter walking to Jesus on water. The weight of what we carry can seem too big. We forget that Jesus invites all those wearied and burdened to come to him for rest.
I used to think endurance was about continuing to move forwards  through the difficult things. But actually, maybe it’s sometimes just about staying on the course - sticking with faith and hope and love when absolutely everything tells you to give up.
Endurance is Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego about to be burnt to death – “We know our God is able to save us, but even if He doesn’t, we will not worship your idols.” They had brazen unashamed wild hope, and yet acknowledged that God might not intervene. They based their decisions on faith and not fear.  They had faith enough to keep believing, faith enough to stay in the race and faith enough to not let their situation dictate their actions “even if…”
Endurance is faith enough to stay with it. Faith enough to pray through the mountains in our way and faith enough to not be offended by prayers unanswered. Faith enough to say this:

I know You're able and I know You can save through the fire with Your mighty hand. But even if You don't, my hope is You alone." Mercyme

My prayer for you in 2018 is that you stay with the hard and holy things with brazen/bold/barefaced/shameless/unabashed/audacious/unashamed hope.
Stay with it babe. In hope and anticipation of the absolute JOY to come in 2018.
Much love x x

 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honour beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. Hebrews 12v 1-

From the archives of Christmas past and remixed for 2017:

I am loving this song right now. Repeat-repeat-repeat. And then repeat some more.

Isaiah 7v14-15

She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel – ‘God is with us.’

Immanuel. It means God is with us. I return to this every Christmas. God is with us.

God is with us through colds, flu, cancer, broken bones, broken hearts, allergic reactions, depression and the everything in-between.

And God is with us in so healthy we tell absolutely everyone about how many days its been since we had a sick day and how much better life is now that we're meat free, gluten free and sugar free.

God is with us through the job that drains your life but doesn't fill your bank account, the job that you can't escape, your annoying colleagues and when we join the many and the humbled of the unemployed.

And God is with us through the much hoped for, much prayed for but now we've got it don't think we're equipped for promotion.

God is with us when we want nothing more than to find a valley, dig a giant hole, stock it full of good snacks and good books and then climb in and hide from the world forever.

And God is with us when we're standing on the mountaintop, basking in the sunlight, taking selfies for the 'gram and admiring the view.

God is with us when we’re o so can't-think-can't-speak-can't-remember-which-day-of-the-week-it-is tired.

And God is with us when we have so much energy we run around and around and around and around and around and around and still have enough energy left to power the most ridiculous pub Christmas lights you've ever seen:

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God is with us in grief, mourning and the breathless heart wrenching pain of making it through just the next second after hope died and all is lost.

And God is with us in joy and celebration so great you find ways to bring it into each and every single conversation regardless of the original topic - so great to hear about your work trip to an oil rig in Norway and how you monitored the levels of Salmon but have I shown you a picture of my baby cousin yet? Isn't he the absolute most cute baby you've ever seen in your whole life? (the correct answer is yes). Did I tell you he can hold his head up now? Did I tell you he can pull my hair now? Did I tell you he can read books? Did I tell you he can count to 105 even though he's only 6 months old? Did I tell you he learnt to walk at just 3 months? Did I tell you he's the youngest baby ever to pass his driving test? Did I tell you? Did I tell you? Did I tell you? Did I?!

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God is with us when we dread the day ahead more than being forced to watch yet another ridiculous Adam Sandler/Ben Stiller/Will Ferrell/other stupid boy film.

And God is with us when we're so excited for tomorrow that we can't even go to sleep and make the day come quicker.

God is with us through how on earth are we going to pay the rent this month.

And God is with us through we just won the lottery and we're taking everyone we know on a round the world adventure for two years, and then we're buying a yacht, and then we're buying a horse, and then we're buying a unicorn.

God is with us through "I said yes!" and the resulting admin.

God is with us through "It's over" and the resulting admin.

God is with us through (insert your situation here).

God is with us, even when it feels like he isn't, through every season and activity under heaven.

And be sure of this: I am with you always, even until the end of the age. Matthew 28v20

I was asked why its so important that God is with us. Its because it means that God cares. God is not aloof, watching the goings on of the world at an indifferent distance, but instead God is there in the midst of the mess with us, constantly cheering us on further in love and holiness, giving us strength to endure and hope, offering us comfort and an invitation to joy - a life and beyond in all its fullness.

What are you hoping for?

Fine weather tomorrow? A team win? Spice Girls reunion? F.RIENDS reunion? Legs like Beyonce? Strength like Serena? A promotion? Healing? An all expenses paid luxury trip to Patagonia, New Zealand and Cuba? A pet Alpaca? A payrise? End of conflict? Solution to drought? Restored relationships? That election season will be over soon? Super cheap tickets to the Dreamgirls musical?

Who wouldn't want to go to Patagonia?
Who wouldn't want to go to Patagonia?

Are you hoping for something that is pretty much certain? Are you tentatively hoping for something but not that bothered about the outcome? Are you hoping for something with every fibre of your being and simply can't envisage living without the much hoped for outcome? Or are you scared to hope because the disappointment will be too heart wrenching to bear?

And what about those things we just simple can't see ever changing so why bother waste time and energy hoping for the impossible?

It was Easter last weekend and to be honest it passed in a blur. The last four weeks have been a few of the toughest and some of my family are currently fighting their way through their darkest days. Before I knew it, I was in church on Easter Sunday thinking about resurrection, hope and what that means. But right now it still feels like the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday - Silent Saturday. When the followers of Jesus were heartsick with hopes broken.

But unlike them, I know what's to come - joy restored. Maybe not tomorrow, probably not next week or even next month, but its on the way. Despite the tears and sadness I have hope in a God of healing, provision, goodness and abundance.

Seems like 9 times out of 10 hope is a choice, a declaration that despite the circumstances, despite the odds, despite our natural inclination to believe a certain thing, we are choosing to believe that another outcome is possible. It's a step of faith, exposing our vulnerabilities.

It reminds of one of my fave CS Lewis quotes:

To love is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. but in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless it will change. It will not be broken; it will become impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

To hope is to be vulnerable. Hope for anything and your dreams will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping them intact you must hope for nothing, not even a sunny day tomorrow. Wrap it around with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your pessimism. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless it will change. It will not be broken; it will become impenetrable, irredeemable. To hope is to be vulnerable.

Because when we hope we have to embrace the possibility that what we hope for might not happen. Our prayers might not be answered the way we want. But when we hope we fly in the face of an enemy who would have us discouraged and despairing. No hope means we deny the God of abundance and miracles, no hope means we believe the situation is more than God can handle.

Perhaps hope is like a giant jar we carry around, when the lid is off, when we have hope, it weighs nothing, allowing it to be filled with the comfort and peace of God. But when the lid is on, when we have no hope, we refuse the comfort and peace of God, and instead it weighs more than a moon-sized elephant, causing us physical and emotional damage a we lug it around, contorting out bodies and lives to carry it.

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15v13

 

I don’t know what to do about the pain.
Not mine.
Theirs'.
The mothers’ - daughters’ - sisters’ - aunts’ - cousins’ - nieces’ - grandmothers’ - friends’ - neighbours’.
I don’t know what to do about the pain.
Not mine.
Theirs’.
The fathers’ - sons’ - brothers’ - uncles’ - cousins’ - nephews’ - grandfathers’ - friends’ - neighbours’.
Aleppo. Yemen. South Sudan... The list goes on.
War. Famine. Destruction. Lines drawn between Us and Them.
I can make donations, right letters, sign petitions, light candles, weep, mourn and go to demonstrations.
But I don’t know what to do about the pain, the grief, the shattered lives and blood soaked clothing.
It is with them every minute. But I can barely read, talk or think about it.
The option to shut out the pain is a privilege.
Today we in church we sang about the baby in the manager, the Prince of Peace.

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Yet peace seems further and farther away.
And though my head knows there is hope in the wiping of every tear and end to death one day, my heart ached with pain of the present.
Despite what the world says, I know You are good.
Despite what the world says, I know that Your heart grieves for every lost life and heart filled with pain.
Despite what the world says you are Emmanuel - God with us. It's your very name.
I know you are Good. I know this is true.
But right now I don't know what to do about the pain.
And so I live in the tension of celebrating joy to a broken world.
So I will continue to pray for your good and perfect will of Love, Justice & Peace  to be done.
I will continue to pray for our world leaders to make wise, compassionate and loving decisions.
I will continue to pray for protection, healing and provision to those living in terror.
I will continue to pray for comfort for those who mourn.
I will continue to pray that we will love and forgive our neighbours.
I will choose to rejoice despite the darkness.

I wrote this a couple of years ago in response to a world that seemed full of violence, hate, pain and death. This has felt like another such a week - hence the remix.

The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1v5

 

Last last weekend I ventured into the wilds of Basingstoke-shire to see some of the East London crew.

It was a weekend full of the usuals and the unexpecteds:

The usual apprehension about trips to the country:  no street lights, axe murders hiding in the trees, no phone reception when being chased by said murderer, amazement at big open green spaces and seeing an actual live cow. A real cow. Not a burger.

Some of the unexpecteds: managing  to eat celery and mushrooms without crying, wifi,  & going for a walk by myself in the country without getting lost and/or murdered by a mad axe man (win win).

I was reminded of why I found leaving Bethnal Green so sad. I was reminded that my story, though important, is not the only one. Let me break it down for you...

Mary and Martha were friends of Jesus and their brother, Lazarus was dying. So they did the most logical thing when someone you love is seriously sick and you happen to have a friend who can heal - they sent Jesus a message to let him know. They probably hoped that Jesus would come right away and heal their brother – bringing an end to the pain and anxiety of Lazarus being on his literal death bed. (Read John 11 for the full story).

But Jesus arrived four days after Lazarus had died.

Four days late you could say. Four days of heart wrenching grief. Four days of pain and sorrow. Four days of so many tears you have none left. Four days of so many tears you think you have none left but somehow they appear from somewhere over the rainbow. Four days of wondering how Jesus could have stood by and let this happen to you. Four days of wondering why you even bothered to tell Jesus what was happening – because apparently it made no difference. Four days of wondering if Jesus didn't even care. Four days of people trying to say the right thing and making it worse. Four days of people saying the right thing and bringing some comfort. Four days of wondering what the future holds. Four days of wondering why it didn’t turn out as you hoped for with all your heart. Four days of unanswered questions. Four days of trying to remember that death is not the end. Four days of clinging to the hope of resurrection and heaven. Four days of heart wrenching grief.

Ever been there? Hope deferred and heartsick? Ever wondered why what you hoped for with all your heart is as dead as Lindsay Lohan's music career?

The thing about Mary and Martha was that God had a bigger plan than just healing their brother. God had a bigger plan than just restoring their family and ending their pain by bringing Lazarus’ back from the dead. Their story was not the only one.

Many people had come to mourn with Mary and Martha, and many of them were at the tomb when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. As a result of witnessing this miracle many of them believed in Jesus. They were still talking about it a few days later in Jerusalem.

So when Jesus first heard that Lazarus was sick he could have gone straight away and healed him. And maybe only a few people outside of their community would ever have known – and maybe few of those would have believed that it was true.

But God’s timing meant many people witnessed the miracle of life being brought back to a dead man. Many people outside of their community heard about it.

It was never just about Mary, Martha and Lazarus. They were part of a bigger story.

Ever been there? Hope deferred, heartsick and wondering why.

I would like to promise you that if you stick it out, just have a little patience, God will do the unexpected when you have lost all hope. Maybe He will. But maybe its just like my invite to Beyonce's next party - got lost in the post and never gonna happen.

Or just maybe you’re part of a bigger story that though painful will mean much to many others.

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. John 16v33