When We Live in Hope

The Christian life is fundamentally a life of endurance and therefore we must live in hope.”  Ligon Duncan

There are a number of things Harvard graduates tell their children. One of them will probably never be, “the school I went to has closed down now.” 

But I didn’t attend Harvard. And the school I did attend is closing down at the end of June. Someday I will have to tell my children that my college no longer exists.

We are often called the Post Christian Era. Some parts of raising children do not seem all that different from my own childhood. But at times, the culture of churches, schools, and societies can seem like we’ve transported to a different universe from the one in which I was raised. A friend and I chatted recently about how we went to four church services a week as children and now ours go to one or two. We discipline differently. We disciple them differently. We try to use terminology that corrects but gives grace. We have new issues to explain when it comes to loving our neighbor, issues that didn’t exist when I was a child. Elementary, middle, and high school education are encountering new challenges in the public and private sectors, due to regulations, costs, and consumer needs. How and where Christians direct their children for higher education in the future will likely be quite a different process from the past. None of these issues are negative things, in light of God’s sovereignty. They are simply new issues. Sometimes I feel I am navigating through uncharted waters everyday with my children. I am holding onto a life preserver, hoping for a good outcome. I sometimes feel unsure of the future results, and cling to Christ to guide my stewardship. 

 Many Christians want to despair that our schools are closing and churches are shrinking and we are losing ground between good and evil. But, we cannot forget Who is our hope. There is no reason to retreat and hide. The sky is not falling. The sky simply has a different weather pattern floating through today and it has not taken God by surprise. It is good, in some respects, to be thrown and tossed culturally. It is good to experience shifts and have to re-establish our paradigms and philosophies. Generational changes make us own what we believe. They makes us test what we are told and search the Scriptures for truth. We are forced out of softly padded pews and compelled to look at the Cross and not man, not at institutions.  

I thought carefully and intentionally before going to school there. I thought long and hard after I graduated about why I attended there. 

It was always a small school. When my husband and I were dating, after I had graduated, I drove him through the campus. He asked where the rest of the school was. And I laughed. And he said, “I was being serious.” I stopped laughing. I had planned to attend a Christian college most of my life. At the last minute I panicked, auditioned and was accepted to a large music school in the Northeast. Then I opted to go to Florida. The friendships I made and the growth that began there stay with me today. I have a short list of professors whose kindness, friendship, inspiration, and wisdom have traveled with me. I would venture to say much of their influence still shadows my path, everyday perhaps. After graduating, I had little connection to the institution as a whole, but the individuals who once made up a collective organization have remained a part of my life, both directly and indirectly. 

People who spent good years of their lives there may feel like they wasted time. But there is a quiet current pushing and traveling far beyond the walls of a school. Our world goes forward minus a few Christian colleges this fall. But the graduates of these schools are there, most raising their children, serving Christ, worshipping in other places, influencing the world in various ways. In my own home, my children benefit from my education. It was in college that my faith deepened, I learned to appreciate people different from me, I started to understand why I loved the arts and beauty and how those things connected to God. God raises up and determines times. He calls us. He used willing people to teach us and now He strengthens us to continue in the things we have learned. We should be  hopeful because we can cling to Christ, not manmade ideas. Perhaps in one era ending, a new one is quietly growing, surging nearby, and we are able to be part of it. Perhaps in losing a culture we once knew well, what we anchored ourselves to, we are being given the chance to walk on water with our eyes on Christ, rather than on the waves. He has never been shaken through time. 

I am grateful for those who touched my life. I am glad to know God raised them up in his appointed time and intersected their lives with my own. I know my children will be better for the lives that touched mine. Our rescuer is Christ, and there is nothing that surprises Him. He has already done battle against the snake. He has already won. And one day in the future, the goodness that triumphed as He walked away from the Tomb will be made clear. I grasp hope, knowing that on every path we blindly encounter, an unchanging God has walked ahead, lighting the way. 

 
 

Birthdays & Broken Bones

My little baby had surgery today. I’m snuggling with her as she wanders off to dreamland, peeking back at me with one eye, to see if I’m still with her. She reaches out from her blanket to rub my arm. We are listening to JJ Heller’s   I Dream of You album. I love all the songs on this album, but tonight this one is our little world. Birthday parties not so long past, incisions and bandages tonight. 

   

“I Get To Be The One”


Well hello,

Little baby.

Your eyes have never seen the sun

You should know

Little baby

That I am the lucky one


I get to be the one to hold your hand

I get to be the one.

Through birthdays and broken bones

I’ll be there to watch you grow

I get to be the one.


Don’t feel alone now,

Little baby.

Do you hear me singing you a song

I can’t wait to show you

Little baby

How to crawl

How to walk

And how to run


I get to be the one to hold your hand

I get to be the one.

Through birthdays and broken bones

I’ll be there to watch you grow

I get to be the one.


How does someone so small

Hold my heart so tightly

I don’t even know you

I love you completely


I get to be the one to hold your hand

I get to be the one.

Through birthdays and broken bones

I’ll be there to watch you grow

I get to be the one to hold your hand

I get to be the one.

Through birthdays and broken bones

I’ll be there to watch you grow

I get to be the one

springtime

It is really and truly spring. The constant nature of God has come to visit again in the promise of Spring.  He repeats the promise that there is more, that this life is not all, but that a better life that never ends is where we find hope, as the trees open to cover us in green bowers again and again.

We had a second birthday party for a little girl.  She won’t stop growing and learning.

I wrote a post at Grace Table.  You can find it here and check out the other beautiful essays there.

And over here are my pictures (and more pictures) of the transformation from winter into spring.  It is the small moments everywhere, everyday that make a large life.

sunday 5.3

We will feast in the house of Zion
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things, we will say together
We will feast and weep no more

1. We will not be burned by the fire
He is the LORD our God
We are not consumed, by the flood
Upheld, protected, gathered up (Chorus)

2. In the dark of night, before the dawn
My soul, be not afraid
For the promised morning, oh how long?
Oh God of Jacob, be my strength (Chorus)

3. Every vow we’ve broken and betrayed
You are the Faithful one
And from the garden to the grave
Bind us together, bring shalom. (Chorus)

-Sandra McCracken 

 

Looking for Christ in the Crumbs

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever eat a leisurely meal again, unpunctuated by interruptions. Breakfast is often consumed while standing, monitoring cereal consumption, watching for tidal waves of milk to come hurling over the cereal bowl rims. Lunchtime is a breathless race to place edible food on the table before the residents revolt in mutiny and march themselves through a Taco Bell drive thru on foot. (please note: they never eat at Taco Bell, because I normally manage to suppress most mutinies.) In between these times are moments where they like to act out Oliver Twist and the Little Match Girl, begging for more food or extra snacks, precluding the making of my own food at times.

  
Then, there is the crowning glory of the culinary day, dinner. The time in which I prepare food while one child transforms into a koala and pretends by leg is a tree and the other thinks she is Alton Brown and tells me she knows what she is doing and that she should be able to use sharp knives. The food finally gets placed on the table, hot and edible. Everyone eventually meanders to the table, we cut up food into bite size pieces, drinks are placed, and it is go time. The youngest child takes one bite before she scrunches her face and begins to send food to the floor in a pattern somewhat like rain dripping down the drainpipe. The oldest insists that she is going to gag on the food. Water spills, the other sippy cup is being used as a fountain, following the food from the virtual drain pipe to the river on the floor. I clean up the puddles.  I take my first bite. The food is now cold. We attempt conversation. There are more interruptions. More drink requests. More conversation. Laughter. Despair. More bites of cold food. Finally everyone else has finished. I scrape my plate and stir the leftover bits around. I start to clean up the floor, scrape plates into the trash, and run warm water over messy plates, before we begin the mad rush into the bedtime wonderland.

  
Meals do not often occur as I envision them. They are not the beautifully, plated and gourmet events I imagine. Not much about life is.

But there are some meals, moments of meals, when I feel like I’m looking through a magazine at a beautiful meal, that isn’t really showcasing the food. Not a real meal, but still a kind of event that makes one full. These moments happen when I least expect them. Like a breeze through a window, like a candle that flicks light across a room, it happens quickly and is gone. It takes a laugh, a giggle, a smile from one side of the table to the other, even while rice is strewn over the floor and broccoli shoved to the side of plates. I see happiness. I see plenty. I see provision. I see beauty.

  
I see time, time that seems long and interminable when I’m picking rice and broccoli off the floor, again. I see time that goes too quickly, like a firefly in the summer night’s air, flashing in and quickly darting away when I hear a delighted giggle. On long days it is hard to remember that time goes fast. On the quick days, it is hard to remember that the brilliantly exploding moments, ones that fade too soon life fireworks, are a necessary part of life’s path. 

It is hard to remember, in the interminable moments and the full moments, that one day we will feast with Christ. Feasting with Him is a vague idea that is often hard to imagine in the middle of our mundane. We repeat our meals and go through the motions of cleaning up, preparing, eating, and cleaning up again. In our lives, in the middle of our messes, the repetitive motions often seem just that, repetitive. In the beginning of a challenge, we bring excitement with us. At the end, we either bring disillusionment or grand achievement. But the middle is when we need grace and commitment.

  
Often those short, perfect, magazine-like moments are gifts from God, They are gifts that show us small graces now and the large graces to come. Sometimes those moments we share, laughing together, in between spilled water and refilled plates and reaching for extra napkins and cutting up food are the ones that give us glimpse into the joy of togetherness that the New Heaven and New Earth will provide. I see tiny children who depend on me for survival. I see a God who makes all things consist and cares lovingly for each of His children. I see a piece of perfection that could be, if the mess were held at bay. I see messes that will be gone, and curses that will be undone, and an existence that will be redeemed along with my soul and body.

  
The short conversations that I have with tiny people are grace. The laughter we share, the bread we break together, even the bread that crumbles all over the floor, are the grace that tells us know we are made for another world, a greater feast.

 CS Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him and with Him everything else thrown in.” That is true at meal times. That is true at every time.

  
And so, during the interrupted meals, I remember a better feast is coming. A feast where I hope my children join me.The hope of this feast cancels out the frustration of my non-feast like events. This will be the ultimate meal, full of grace and beauty. I do hope then, that I can put my fork in my mouth before someone needs a refill.