Glorious Hope

Sometimes we look out at our lives and it seems the garden is empty – plans dead as withered leaves, dreams laid waste. Could we rejoice in the season of waiting, believing that God who brought Jesus out of the black tomb and brings green shoots out of hard earth will bring new life out of all dark seasons too? Could we know that beauty is in this whole process, the waiting part too, not just the end result?

This year, I have beheld exquisite flowers, glorious outcomes that could have only been designed by God himself. I have watched Him make family out of strangers. I have watched Him sell a book that I never intended to write. I have watched my little girl walk with her foot flat on the ground for the first time in all five years of her life. I have watched alcoholics become moms who work hard to provide for their families. I have watched my 16 year old walk through processing the abuse in her past and learn to jump rope and have her childhood finally restored to her after nearly 4 years of living in a family. I have watched God answer prayers that I hadn’t even spoken yet.

As I gaze in wonder, I remember how He brought us out of the dark and the hard. I remember how He protected us from the pounding rain and the scorching sun, baby green shoots clinging to Him for dear life. I remember that as we reached high to the Son, He came down and pulled us closer. We turn out heads up in awe and we know what is around the corner, but we look expectantly to the bowing and the bending and the death of all we had planned because we know – in Him, there will always be more. Glorious hope.

By Katie Davis, from her blog on January 16, 2012

Surprised at the Heart of Prayer

Every human being knows prayer from experience. Have we not all experienced moments in which our thirsting heart found itself with surprise drinking at a fountain of meaning?Much of our life may be a wandering in desert lands, but we do find springs of water. If what is called “God” means in the language of experience the ultimate Source of Meaning, then those moments that quench the thirst of the heart are moments of prayer. They are moments when we communicate with God, and that is, after all, the essence of prayer.

But do we recognize these meaningful moments as prayer? Here, the answer is often “no.” And under this aspect we cannot presume that everyone knows what prayer is. It happens that people who are in the habit of saying prayers at certain set times have their moments of genuine prayer precisely at times when they are not saying prayers. In fact, they may not even recognize their most prayerful moments as prayer. Others who never say formal prayers are nourished by moments of deep prayerfulness. Yet, they would be surprised to learn that they are praying at all.

Brother David Steindle-Rast, Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer

Dialogue, Not Demand

“Talking to God personally differs entirely from trying to put the Almighty under our thumbs with prayer born of magic and ritual. Yet many people, ancient and modern, have treated prayer more as incantation than dialogue. … Practices of prayer akin of magic persist widely in the Christian movement. For example, some pray as if they will be heard the better for their flowery language or impassioned style. Others insist that certain postures, patterns, and phrases must be used if prayer is to be effective. Still others presume on grace, thinking that by “laying claim” to “promises” they find in Scripture, they put God under obligation to do as they ask.

In such sub-Christian and unbiblical expressions of prayer, what once may have been vital has degenerated into idle form. Biblical prayer is personal, not magical; dialogue, not demand.” – Howard Macy, Rhythms of the Inner Life

All of Life is a Pure Gift

Resentment and gratitude cannot coexist, since resentment blocks the perception and experience of life as a gift. My resentment tells me that I don’t receive what I deserve. It always manifests itself in envy.

Gratitude, however, goes beyond the “mine” and “thine” and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. … Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment. It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint. I can choose to be grateful when I am criticized … I can choose to speak about goodness and beauty … I can choose to listen to the voices that forgive and to look at the faces that smile, even while I still hear words of revenge and see grimaces of hatred.

There is always the choice between resentment and gratitude because God has appeared in my darkness, urged me to come home, and declared in a voice filled with affection: “You are with me always, and all I have is yours.”

There is the option to look into the eyes of the One who came out to search for me and see therein that all I am and all I have is pure gift calling for gratitude.

Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son

God Can Absorb it All

One bold message in the Book of Job is that you can say anything to God. Throw at him your grief, your anger, your doubt, your bitterness, your betrayal, your disappointment–he can absorb them all. As often as not, spiritual giants of the Bible are shown contending with God. They prefer to go away limping, like Jacob, rather than to shut God out. In this respect, the Bible prefigures a tenet of modern psychology: you can’t deny your feelings or make them disappear, so you might as well express them. God can deal with every human response save one. He cannot abide the response I fall back on instinctively: an attempt to ignore him or treat him as though he does not exist. That response never once occurred to Job.

Philip Yancey, Disappointment with God

How to Make Friends

Have you ever felt like it’s impossible to make friends? You just don’t know what to say, or how to say it? You don’t know how some people connect with others, and wish you could make friends that easily? It really is easy. You simply have to forget yourself and think of others instead. You’ll notice – if you haven’t already – that the people you feel most comfortable around are the people who are most comfortable with themselves. They’re at ease “in their own skin” and it’s usually because they’re thinking more about others than themselves.

Give it a try. Show concern for others. Ask them questions … and listen to their answers. Show an interest in what they do, even if you’re a vegetarian and they run a hog farm.

Remember the Golden Rule, which really is golden. And something we would all do well to follow. “Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”

In the case of friendship: be the friend to others that you wish others would be for you.