Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Bikes

     My daughter, who is now almost nine years old, has been asking to just sit and talk. I understand this is a precious, and possibly short-lived phenomena, but for now I am taking it as it comes. Like with most things I think the relationship narrative between parent and child needn't follow some stereotypical and antagonistic plot-line, especially if the parent is more aware of the developmental stages and identity needs than they are focused on behavior and discipline. And, sure, in the daily rat race of life it is easier for some parents to be tired, and slip into using a positional authority to stem the tide of annoying behavior, behavior which is neither immoral or even bad -- it is all too easy, especially if we are seeking to conserve a little of ourselves rather than leaving it all on the field. Such errant parenting is a soapbox of mine, and thus you the reader may see a clue as to the cheeky name of the blog.

     At any rate, my daughter asked if we could sit and talk. Of course I am going to honor that request. All she wanted to talk about was a story idea she had. If only there were an emoji for an authorial father beaming with pride. And I have to say that, when she finally had written a little bit of the story, and read it to me, I was rather surprised by the acumen, possibly the intuitive grasp of what makes a children's story book narrative good.

     And you-the-regular-reader might start to see where I am going with that, however I am not going there (not with this morsel): I was just tickled and wanted to write about it.

     No, it was yesterday, when my daughter asked if we could go get the bicycles my mother had given them money for at Christmas -- and that not for want of trying to pick them out herself, but just not knowing their bike-size -- that immediately I sprang into action, and hurried us off to Academy. I wanted her to have a good bike, and the bikes for her size are a little ... advanced. My daughter is tall, and most children her height are slightly older. My daughter, however, is also willing and wanting to move at her highest proficiency, so, while only slightly dubious, I still got her the bike she chose. It was a nice bike, with basic shocks and grip-shifters. My son, younger, as well, got a bike which seems to fit him nicely.

     It should be noted that, along with the bike, we managed to find some very appropriate helmets -- hers has pictures of cats, his a red, spiky mohawk -- and cheap bike locks, if we decide to bicycle to school.
   
     When my daughter asked if we could go get them their bikes, yes, I wanted them to have what was promised them and what I had promised my mother I would do with her provision of resources. But more so, more than just honoring the word I made to my mother, I wanted my children and my daughter especially to have the best thing for them. Not just what might fit, or what could be made do with. Something she had a hand and a choice even in picking out, so that it would feel like hers, like she had made it hers by her choice.

     Seeing this heart for her I can easily see God's father heart for us, how He wants for us to have the best, and even to have the new helmet that goes along with it. And the completeness of the gift He wants for us as well, even by the bringing in of our choice or preference into play.

     I think this is all the more impetus for us to, as it says in the New Teastament Epistle, 1 Peter 5, 5-7,

"5You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. 6Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you"

Granted, while this is directed at "young men" I think the principle applies to all: humble yourselves before God, who is wanting the best for you and committed to the best for you (even in the things for which you are anxious), going forward in loving others, and when you are anxious, cast your cares on Him so you can be free to go forward loving others . He is wanting good, the best things for you. Being freed of cares as you move forward loving others, He will even exalt you when it is time.

   

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Hand Sanitizer

     I  missed writing last Thursday's blog, mostly because it was Christmas Eve Eve and I was running around with my daughter shopping. Not an excuse, and I was as surprised as many of you when I realized I had not written. Forgive me, please, my head was not in the game -- in any game (that mattered). My wife had gotten sick, or rather, continued to be sick (just with more pronounced and debilitating symptoms) in what has seemed like a long month and a half of sickness. With the kids on winter break from school and my wife home (and awake during the day, since she works nights), I was a little thrown off kilter.

      At any rate, my wife had asked for some scented hand sanitizers from Bath and Body Works. More than just being a luxury item, they are something which she uses frequently throughout her work day (work night). Honestly, this was asked in the context of a stocking stuffer style gift for Christmas, and I am increasingly ambivalent if not rejecting of my culture's consumerism and materialising of tradition, and was really questioning if I think present giving hasn't overshadowed the honoring of others inherent to the tradition. Maybe this falls in a greater question of what it means to honor others. Suffice it to say, I was apprehensive with gift buying this year.

     My daughter, being fully her giving and precious self, wanted to go with me to get her these small items, and to use her own money to do so. I think I had promised to take her, I don't recall, but I could see it was important. However, mom was asleep at home, and taking one means taking both children, and so my son came along even though it was a trip for my daughter. It turned out to be one of those "'x' number for 'y' amount" sorts of things, and the 'y' amount just happened to be the amount my daughter had, and so I ended up contributing an equal 'y' amount plus the sales tax (effectively doubling) the gift.

      My daughter wanted to honor and bless her mother, which I find to be, simply, a good thing, and consistent with goodness. I mean, not only can I readily say her heart was in line with my heart, but that (and this I know with certainty) it (honoring her mother, loving her, supporting her mother in the God-given calling on her mother's life) is a thing in line with God's heart. All around, it was a good thing.

     Seeing my heart, knowing my own (and God's) desire for my wife to be honored, especially in something which is good and is (an activity, pursuit) consistent with the heart of God, I can say I see God's... attitude, His heart, about / for supporting us in our own efforts to do good, to pour out of ourselves and our "riches" on other's behalves. (And "riches" can take many forms.)

     We walk by faith, not by sight, as it says in the New Testament book, 1 Corinthians 5:7. Now, New Testament scriptures elsewhere says that suffering is winning for us an eternal inheritance which is of greater worth than gold (and never perishing nor fading), which is the completion of our faith, and elsewhere that faith is the certainty of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. So, this faith is not something we drum up, we white-knuckle down upon though or through uncertainty.

     We walk by faith, not by sight... doing what we know certainly is good, what we specifically know is in the heart of God to do, but not for which we have some physical evidence or even some logical argumentation. While we are "participating with God (moving in His will)," it is not even something which "makes this world a better world," because we are not home with God here. As 1 Corinthians says in context:

"6Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord-- 7for we walk by faith, not by sight-- 8we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord."

Surely, and I want (and want to want) to grow in courageousness in God, courageousness in, well, in trusting ... just as my daughter did, not wondering if spending the money in honoring and wanting good for her mother wouldn't deprive herself (my daughter) of something. Basically to grow in courageousness in wanting good beyond wanting just for myself, my emotional protection, my emotional safety. Subtextually this drives at my fear of emotional pain, and I want to be courageous in God where He is wanting for others emotionally, where He is providing honor, comfort, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, truth. You can pray for me there, beggar as I am perhaps.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Throwing the Football

     My daughter asked the other day to go outside and throw the football. Growing up I did that sort of thing with my step-brother for hours, and it was the primary source of a sort of adolescent, meta-meditation -- a rhythmic, and subtext-laden ritual around which the warm sentiment of relationship was metered in the back-and-forth. My step-brother and I could be silent, or talking, but always peppered through either state were the "good throws" and "my bads". Frisbee was the same. Perhaps more important than even this nugget of my childhood history is to me, is the fact that my daughter knew of this nugget about me, and (I suspect) it played a role in her request. 

     It is not with some small amount of pride that I saw she was rather good at throwing a spiral, almost straight out of the gate. I mean, she has a throwing style that, well, looks something like a baseball pitcher windup, where she holds her free hand and arm outstretched to me in an almost crossing-guard-stop-gesture, and then throws with a lot of shoulder motion, but dang it if it doesn't produce a bee-line spiral right at my face. And fast, as well. For a split second I actually wondered if there were some girls-allowed, non-contact flag football league for elementary-aged children. I wanted nothing more than to rush inside and brag to my wife, to get her to come see what our daughter could do, and do so well (and so un-stereotypical for a girl). I imagined this activity of throwing the football being something we did even when she was grown, surprising many guests and onlookers at our family functions.

     I suppose seeing that desire of mine (to promptly go praise my daughter to my wife, to extol my daughter's prowess) I can say that I see how God feels similarly about us, when we move and be and become as we are made to so move and be. God wants to brag on us, to herald us, to see us glorified. God desires that all (His) goodness in us be seen. A city on a hill can not be hid; no one lights a lamp and puts it beneath a bowl. And more than this, He wants to enjoy us, to be with us, sharing His enjoyment with us.

     There is a verse which comes to mind, and comes to mind because I think it is how we "get there" to that place, of being with Him as He is enjoying us: Philippians 4:6-9 --

"6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."

Again, I think in the verse above is the "way" in which we get to a place or positioning of ourselves to find God enjoying us, being with us.

    For what this is worth, I suppose.

*As an aside: *
    Wow, as I wrote that earlier bit about how proud I was of my daughter, this post hit me. Throwing the football about with my daughter I was happy. I enjoyed myself. In the moment and now remembering it I wasn't sad and grieving as generally I am in this season. I had found an atoll of peace in an ocean as vast and deep as grief within the human heart (and penetrated by the light of my understanding only a fraction of it many fathoms). 

      Honestly, I am surprised I can say I am happy. And I am genuinely happy, thinking about that moment, and even am feeling so right now. But I wonder if I am going to keep writing about this if I won't have to give some context. Recently (within a discussion with someone) I came to be aware of a certain sedated feeling that came with the thought (realization) that God wanted me healed, in part through the pairing of me with His GIFT to me which is my wife. Even now thinking the thought I feel "sedation," or peaceful. God wants me blessed through His GIFTS to me of my children. Historically I have not been able to fathom such thoughts, much less recognize I am feeling such feelings.

     God is good. God is good indeed. Praise be to Him in Heaven, Glory be to God in the highest.

     

Today's post late...

Please look for today's post at around 5:30 PM.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas Parties

     So, today was my daughter's 3rd grade class Christmas Party. They had it right at the start of the school day. The teacher, being a lovable and beloved hippy-after-my-own-heart sort of gal had a mellow, breakfast-style party, complete with arts and crafts and a YouTube video of a fire log burning while snow fell (just that, no window, nothing else, just burning log and snow). There was hot chocolate, pigs in a blanket, fruit, scones, and mini-muffins. Evidently none of this (aside from the projected video) was her idea, and was spear-headed by the classroom mom.

     Before I even knew about the nature of the party I hadn't wanted to go. I was already whining about going, yet, deep down, knew I was going to go. Somewhere deeper down I wanted to be the help I could be. And, sure enough, I had a blast. My daughter seemed equally thrilled by me being there. The thought of being allowed to be a fixture in her life, even in her school world, well, that's like frosting on the cake.

     And maybe the most I can really talk about in this moment is the blessing this experience was to me -- and maybe that is more a reflection of the position of my heart. God allows me to do that which through (the doing of) which I feel blessed, augmented, my "tent stakes expanded." It felt honoring to be asked to participate, be considered worthy of the place to be asked to do. It is not a task master god, but an honoring Lord from whom we receive. And He, being humble, knows His own infinite worth and worthiness to be served, knows and wants for us the honor of serving Him.

     He knows our needs for such affirmation, and wants for us that affirmation (of our worth, our honor). And I know I am only able to see any of this because, as the verse says, "We love because He first loved us, and gave Himself for us." Loving Him and being thankful to Him enough to see this grant of His to serve, even in the little way of attending and helping at a third grade winter party, well, is not by my drumming up the faith or hinging my hopes on a really wanted uncertainty that I receive this love. It comes from receiving He loves me, as he helps me receive even to receive that love. Receiving and then knowing His certain love for me.

     What He wants for us will be brought to bear, and that is our certain hope. And what He wants for us is our blessing, which comes from an over-abounding love for us, out of the truest humility which recognizes its own true worth. 1 Peter 5:6-7 sort of comes to mind:

"5You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. 6Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.… "

     I think what I am getting at is that, it was only out of joy and gratitude and (a growing) love that I did leap at the chance to "humble myself" and help out at the party, and it is that God (who cares for me, and knows all the thoughts and worries which held me back from initially wanting to do so), was yet still the source of my (motivation to) leap, and of the blessing which came from it all. This paints the picture of God's heart: that He would supply (the drive, the want, the response), because He cares for us, and because He is caring.

     Later today I will go back up to the school and try to make my son's classroom winter party. Lord, may I see where the grace lies in this one.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Off-Sidewalk

     My daughter has this cheap remote control truck she got a year ago for Christmas. I remember buying it, simultaneously excited for her and thinking back to the remote control car I had growing up (a dune buggy of some quality as a toy). I wasn't entirely certain at the time I got the truck that my daughter would be as in to the thing as warranted buying a fancier version. Little did I know.

     My daughter pesters me to get to go play with the truck out in the front of the house, along the sidewalk. Well, recently a wheel snapped off at the axle. Un-repairable. And yet the child plays with the toy, un-deterred. Granted, the design of the vehicle is such that the overly wide wheel-base allows an almost entirely balanced chassis... except when you are going fast and trying to turn in the direction of the missing wheel. Then, well, it "does tricks," as my daughter says.

     What is most precious about my child is that she remains content with the toy: she hasn't asked for another, for a replacement; she still plays with it as much as she ever did. My daughter, when discussing usages of her own money, discusses Christmas presents for others, and not a lick about replacing her own, broken toy. I mean, it does still function, and functions sufficiently well enough that it can perform, in optimal conditions, like any other vehicle.

     So, you could say, the truck is still good. But it is broken. And being broken is not good. And, it can not perform in non-optimal conditions, the way it was designed and meant to perform -- which is where the real performance reveals its ability and nature. It's meant to go "off sidewalk."

     Well, it is not, nor was it ever a question, when the wheel broke off, if I was going to get her a new RC car. I began looking for the upscale, higher end hobby / enthusiast models of RC cars. I wanted my daughter to have something I knew she would enjoy, something which allowed her to play with it as it could be played with it, if it were whole (e.g. across the grass in the yard and over little jumps and hills and small rocks). I wanted for my daughter even beyond what she wanted for herself from her car.

     And seeing this allows me to understand that God wants for us, wants for me, more than just what works, and more than just "it" working kinda sorta when things are right. God wants us fully functional, even "new and better." As it says in the New Testament book of Romans, 8:24-26:

"24For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. 26In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;… "

Even when we don't know the better thing of which we are certain (if we don't know the difference between a store bought RC car and a real hobbyist RC car), the Spirit Himself "intercedes for us (me) with groanings..." It is not just a feeble asking, but an in the soul-bowels-deep type yearning, helping us in our weakness.

I find comfort in this, especially in my weakness knowing I am weak. I find a lot of comfort.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Christmas Pageant

      This past Sunday was the children's annual Lessons & Carols / Christmas Pageant at church. I often wonder why we as a church put ourselves through the rigmarole of pageantry preparation, spousal discord on the day of said event (especially in the preening and prepping), but then, seeing the unabashed cuteness of children in their little dresses and child-sized clip-on ties, meandering around the stage like elderly cats having a dementia episode, well then I am reminded of what is important: the warm delighting in community.
     The Lessons and Carols were well done, in that they were well orchestrated. I've read a different poem at the last two, and have included them below (for what that is worth to you). It is a tradition at our church, made all the more exciting by the annual rendition of the "12 Days of Christmas," in which everyone sings the line of the day of Christmas in the song which corresponds with their birth month, e.g. January birthdays sing each time "a partridge in a pear tree" is repeated. After the whole crowd has hooped and hollered and had a gay ole time, we retire to the wing of the church were tables full of cookies have been set up, socializing and enjoying merriment. It is nice. Needs to happen more often.
    We found ourselves an hour before the time we would have to leave to get there on time, and we still had yet managed to get the children new clothes, nice clothes, for the event. Little girls need pretty dresses, and little boys need smart outfits, after all, and especially so with my children -- a proclivity I (in my self-described metrosexuality) share with them. With my daughter in tow we rushed off to the local mall. I found the section but my hawk-eyed daughter spied the actual dress for herself, and the little rack of elementary boys' outfits. Her's was a white dress with black wrap and patterning, his was a grey and lavender vest, tie, handkerchief, and light colored shirt.
     What I didn't expect was the outpouring of gratitude and delight in the outfits, by either. I had gone in with the attitude that, well, "little girls needed their nice little dresses." I wanted them to have what they needed to look nice, even to feel honorable and esteemed. (As I write this, anticipating the direction I am going, I am hearing (the unintended) echoes of theme in the poems I include at the end, hehe.)
     I feel God the Father in Heaven wants for us similar. God wants, like a proud and a determined Father, to provide us with glory. I might have already referenced this verse, but surely the thrust and theme of it is easily recognized: (2 Corinthians 4:17 (16 - 18; "Treasure in Jars of Clay"))

"16Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,18while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
And it is not as though God wants for us and is unable to provide what He wants for us, or that He is to preoccupied to get it done, as we might be. The Lord wants it, and is doing it -- that is, "bringing many sons (read "children") to glory."
     I wonder if my attitude is as my children's attitude about their new clothes. Granted I am being dressed in Hope, Love, Faith, and these things take a bit more than rushing off to the mall for. But, at any rate, God is clothing me in Glory, and more so, delights in doing it and seeing it. Honestly, I struggle to even imagine God delighting when He sees me. If you are a praying person, you can pray it would no longer be a struggle for me to see, praying for whatever healing and revelation has to occur. I mean, I know He does, with/upon others, and by virtue of how I look upon my children with delight, as I did at the pageant.
     It is inescapable logic that knowing He has done this for Christ He necessarily is doing this for me (robing me in Glory, in Hope, Faith, Love), because doing so for me is part of His fulfillment of doing so for Christ. It doesn't get me to knowing He specifically delights when He sees me, but I know He loves me, so I ought to, and it helps. And seldom does it (being robed in glory) ever come in the way or look in the manner as we thought it would or should... but then, "If anyone is to come unto me, let him come unto me as this small child, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those such as these." By this I mean to describe our posture of receiving.
     End of the day, we say, God wants us glorified, is glorifying us, delighting in our glory.

_________________________________________________________________________________
Lessons and Carols, 2015: Micah 5:2


“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
   though you are small among the clans[a] of Judah,
out of you will come for me
   one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
   from ancient times.”
-- Micah 5:2


Small and of little note, Bethlehem,
though you know it not, this one who shall come unto you
and forth from you will be
the most honoring of presences,
the most esteeming of kingly men,
a royalty beyond your non-descript wells,
a glory outshining a thousand cities upon
a thousand hills, never
perishing, never fading;
and by such personage shall you be known.


Small and of little note, Bethlehem,
around whose walls could be marched an army
between three morning crowings
of a rooster,
and which scarce could keep out a band of jackals, a pack of wolves,
shall come
A King of Kings, the
Lord of Lords, who
alone is King,
and He shall build walls for a nation,
walls which never shall be breached,
and within these walls shall be green pastures
and still waters for all.




Small and of little note, Bethlehem, whose name
reaches only as far the lips of its local herdsmen
shall come
a name above all names,
inscribing a peoples more plentious than
the number of stars multiplied
and multiplied again,
by the number of grains of sand,
and the righteous will run to this strong tower, and be safe.


Small and of little note, Bethlehem,
who will be razed time and again, as often as the number of your enemies,
a promise
more sure than the one answered
in this morning’s risen sun,
the promise of a son rising,
and though the stone of your
long-since crumbled, ancient walls be turned
to dust, and the embers of even the last, great
earthly city be cooled
until its name be forgotten,
He shall be, and He shall yet remain,
ever your Savior.

________________________________________________________________________
2014 Lessons & Carols - Magi Reflection


Rituals, traditions, year in and year out
they toll, like throaty temple bells,
and their resonance stir Memory.

On this night, within this ritual,
i am reminded of the greatest night
to which all of this many-ritualed season
harkens, reminded that I have never truly left
that night, though time and distance and activity
have raised such a pressing noise that I need this entoning
authority to silence such harrying distraction.


By way of camel and star, through,
desert and brigand-layed lands and thief-haunted passes,
through tracts of expanse and along caravan roads,
we rode, we certain Philosophers of the natural world,
we resolute scholars of those destinies written of in stars,
 we unflinching interpreters of those truths sung by dreams,
we Medes, we magi, we road.


Within that house, what we found,
oh what we found,
when our treasures up we gave and our burdens
down we layed,
and in joy, our hearts our souls our minds,
we raised,
and with hope through voices like roiling incense we prayed.


A kings ransom we paid our Ransom,
and beggars still were we;
A priestly resin sweetly scented did we bestow
and yet it was lost beneath the wispy pungency
of the babe’s breath hung upon the room;
With a many-purposed embalming oil anointed we
the King of Life, and in one sacred night,
entombed ourselves forever in His light.

~~ (two pieces by author of this blog, all rights reserved)
     


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Christmas Lists

     So, two Thursday's ago was Thanksgiving. This was the first Thanksgiving since my grandfather's passing earlier in the year. My grandmother, prior to the Thanksgiving gathering, kept the family tradition of asking for a Christmas list from the kids. She could have asked for a fried egg over easy on a piece of brown toast from the kids, and I would have been in the kitchen with my six year old son with a spatula in his hand, teaching him how to (more) gently whisk scalding hot grease over the yolk as my eight year old daughter no doubt would have just learned. My grandmother was going to get what she asked for, no question. 
     Leaving aside a good deal of commentary on my distaste of materialism (as a way of life), and the hyper-commercialism of Christmas and the Holiday Season (any holiday, for that matter), it is something I did -- the making of lists -- only because my grandmother asked, and giving her a list had nothing to do (for me) with the kids' Christmas this year. Indeed, when the in-laws asked for a Christmas list I had to tell them we were no longer doing lists, and I intend that to be the case in the future.
      My daughter's list was typical of her: short, centered around her deeper passions (which totally thrill me that she has, especially not just for their similarity  to mine but because they are so just who she is in her giftings and talents and character). My daughter's wants align with whom I feel she is at heart, and that flowering is beautiful to see. My son's list, well, he is a six year old boy.
     The thing is, I could have written out both their lists. I know them well enough to know what they really have an interest in, what they like, who they are, and what will feed their specific persons. I am with them daily, and shop with them, and know what they talk about, and play with them and interact with them. More so, to the extent I am submitted to God and listening to Him and allowing Him to teach me, then to that extent I know them as He reveals them. Maybe even God is not dependent on me or my submission to show me these things about my children, so long as I am loving my children.
     I think it is only because I can say I know my children that I can say I know that God the Father in Heaven knows me... and I am certain He knows me better than I know my children. He knows us. And He knows us for what can be, and are being made to become, calling that which is not as though it were. He knows us more than we know ourselves. Just as I understand the world better than my children and know their characters and strength so does God know us in our becoming. 
     And so, God asking me to trust that others love me, and that I am surrounded by a (church) community of people who love me, and his asking me to endure suffering as if it were discipline (for the sake of producing hope, which does not disappoint, see last post about "Snacks"), well, it is because He knows my "Christmas list" -- my desires, my passions. He is building in me love, faith, hope, belief even. 
     There is a song by Kim Walker Smith and Jesus Culture, "Holy Spirit," whose lyrics have been rattling around in my head this morning: 

"There is nothing worth more / that will ever come close / No thing can compare / You are our living Hope / Your Presence, Lord / ... Your Glory, God, is what our hearts long for / To be overcome by your presence, Lord / ..."

     I know I have been despairing, doubting, fearing, not trusting. I have been pinning my hopes on hope which is seen (which is no hope at all) when what I really want is real Hope, real Faith, real Love. God wants more for us, for me, than that, and what seems as denial or suffering are actually moments when He is offering surer gifts, real Hope. It's a matter of trusting it in the moment of its experience. I suppose writing will flow out of that place.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Snacks and Hope

     Last Thursday was the Thanksgiving Holiday, and the whole week of the holiday we had our best "couple" friends and their kids in town staying with us. Their kids are best friends with our kids; my wife and I are best friends with the parents; we vacation together; we put each other up when we come to our respective towns. So it was the last week didn't see much writing, and only slightly more focused activity with the children. Given the kids play together as they do I actually had less interaction with them (when there are more to watch, funny enough).
     Last week also happened to be the last time I would regularly watch the neighbor kids, at least for the rest of this calendar year. Given I had known I was going to have company I had gone to the store and over-bought on snack foods for my guests and their children such that, when the neighbor kids came, I had plenty of snacks to offer them as well. Sounds like a small thing, but I love to provide food for people. I don't say I love to cook. I used to, but picky wife and picky children who wouldn't eat 2/3 of all the ingredients I enjoyed cooking with sort of pushed the desire way down in me. At any rate, I could offer the neighbor kids tons of choices of snacky-type, healthy food. Made me happy.
     There is an obvious, fatherly lesson here: God, our Heavenly Father, who is infinitely plenteous, delights in feeding us from His storehouse, His very self. It is more than just that He wants to give us fine artisan bread instead of a stone when we ask for bread, but fine cheese and fine fruit and good everything else. It is more a lack of faith which doesn't see that desire on His part to provide every class of good thing / need in our lives, and even to provide our good wants. Now, I am not suggesting a "Health-Wealth" gospel here. I mean only to focus on the heart of God to goodly provide good things -- it is His delight, His yearning desire to provide, and to provide from His vastness.*
     God wants to feed my every need and desire from His storehouse, beyond even the one or two needs / desires upon which I, in my narrow-nearsightedness, tend to focus. I have desires for friendship, for family, for food, for clothing, for rest, for shelter, for significance, for identity, for connection, for place, for direction. I have struggled with that need for direction, but have to now say God does want to provide (is providing) that sense of direction, even a sense of being led, but especially of direction.
     I feel this direction is "Hope (whereby "hope" I mean that expectation born of the knowledge of certainty of that which has yet come to pass) -- and hope that is seen is no hope at all. In the New Testament book of Romans (8:23-25, specifically 24) we read:

"23And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.… "

Even in my "light and momentary sufferings" (2 Cor. 4:17) :

"16Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,18while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. "

... they are winning for me a faith of greater worth than gold (I Peter 1:7):

"6In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 8and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,… "

The things in this life, while good, do not bring me what I want, and the desires of those things in themselves (and the Bodhisattva and Buddhists are right on this point) bring only suffering. But it is through these things (wanting and having them, not having them) that I am being brought what I want, that is, Hope, Faith, Love, Life. And why would He who sacrificed His own self in His Son for our sake not graciously give us all these (earthly) things (Romans 8:32-34):

"32He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; 34who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. "

I guess I should pray, "Lord, thank for that I do not have clear direction for my life, but that I may have Hope for life eternal, grant me not only (deeper) knowledge of your Son but also direction in my earthly life, that you would be glorified. Amen" I think I would ask you, the reader, to pray for me, though, pray along with me (for me) for direction, Hope. What I know is that mine is a story being written, and written with intent. Lord, may it be a deep and an expansive story, Amen. With lots of threads, lot of interwoven subplots and intersections with other narratives. But it is being written, it is... and written that I would know.