“Our Hope is Unchanged”

1Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not put us to shame [some versions: hope does not disappoint!], because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

I love the pattern of this passage. It opens with the foundation of all that we believe: because of Jesus we are reconciled to God. And this makes us happy. But we can also find joy in our times of trial or suffering, because through it, we see Him again. We are often reconciled to who He is even more honestly in the middle of our trials than in the middle of our triumph. And it isn’t until we’ve come through the suffering that we can really understand what hope is . . . and how it is maybe the only thing that never disappoints us.

Next weekend I’m speaking to a church group using my testimony against the backdrop of this Scripture. Claire will be my visual illustration of how near God is when we are at our weakest, and I’m going to attempt this gorgeous Natalie Grant song as well. If you click the link, you’ll be able to listen to the song (look for the play button just above the lyrics box). Enjoy for Music Monday!

(photo thanks to chocolatepoint on Flickr)

Something I’ve Been Working On . . .

After Bible College, I took a couple years off and then spent a year at Truman State University as an English major. Then I got married and had babies. And I sort of forgot to even think about going back to campus. After Ada was born (my 6 year-old), I decided to work on that degree again. And now two Universities, one online college, and one community college later, here I am.

On May 15th I will participate in the 2010 Commencement Exercises in Springfield, Illinois!

I’ll spend the summer catching up on my last two undergrad credits, and in August I will officially have my BA in English.

You are welcome to join the party in real time or virtually. I’ll be sure to share the fun here!

Intentional

You know why I believe we need to be intentional about our spiritual formation? Because very few good things happen when we are being unintentional.

Point in case: my body (or yours). I am not intentional about being in shape. I think about being in shape. I have the shoes, the clothes, and the water bottle. I printed a plan off the Internet that promises something to the effect of “From Couch to 5K in 12 weeks!” But I am not intentional in my pursuit. Generally, I go to sleep thinking if I feel good in the morning I’m going to take the dog for brisk walk. Right. I never wake up feeling good.

The really bad part is that not being intentional about the shape of my body does not translate into no changes in my body. Apparently, there is no such thing as maintaining or staying the same. As we age, things are naturally getting worse. It is a race against time now, folks, and I’m on the short end! So, my lack of intentionality does not result in me staying the same weight and size that I was when I was 20. No sir, those numbers have moved in the wrong, wrong direction.

And here’s my point. The same is true of our spiritual lives. There is no such thing as a spiritual plateau. We are either going toward him or away from him. You see the evidence of this in an earthly marriage (to use the analogy in the Scriptures concerning the relationship between God and his people). I could post a list of links here, but infidelity and marriage break-ups are way too common. You don’t need the reminder or the latest gossip. But if you think about any of these cases, consider whether either or both party in that marriage was being intentional about their relationship. Where they pursuing one another? Working to find common ground? Celebrating the common alongside the milestones?

This is what it takes to be intentional in our spiritual formation. We can’t just think about doing it. We can’t just know we should be doing it. We have to do something.

Eventually, we have to wake up and say, It’s a good day for a walk!

*photo by timtak on Flickr

Music for Monday

My new favorite: Gungor. This is an acoustic version of “Beautiful Things” -  the title song.

Lyrics:

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll even find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make me new, You are making me new

A Poem for Good Friday

– excerpt from Walter Brueggemann in Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth

The terrible silencing we cannot master

Holy God who hovers daily round us in fidelity and compassion,

this day we are mindful of another, dread-filled hovering,

that of the power of death before which we stand

thin and needful.

All our days, we are mindful of the pieces of our lives

and the parts of your world

that are on the loose in destructive ways.

We notice that wildness midst our fear and our anger unresolved.

We mark it in a world of bruality and poverty and hunger

all around us.

We notice it all our days.

….

Our only urging on Friday is that you live this as we must

impacted but not destroyed,

dimmed but not quenched.

For your great staying power

and your promise of newness we praise you.

It is in your power

and in your promise that we take our stand this day.

We dare trust that Friday is never the last day,

so we watch for the new day of life.

Hear our prayer and be your full self toward us.

Amen.