Deferred Hope, Misplaced Hope

Ever wanted something, hoped for something, even though you knew, deep down, that it was unlikely or impossible?

I have. More than once. And it’s hard.

I’ve hoped for a relationship that isn’t mine to have.

I hope for friends who have blown up their lives to have a change heart and return to the Lord.

I hope that relationships that have drifted apart and changed for unknown reasons will be restored.

I hope I can be a successful advocate for the single moms I’ve come to love in a village in Uganda.

I hope I have “Teacher of the Year” days every day and that I love and teach my students well.

I hope for an e-mail from God that maps out the next 30-ish years of my life for me.

I hope for a lot of things that end in deferred hope because the hope is uncertain, misplaced.

See, hope is anxious expectation.

Like a kid at Christmas; they don’t know exactly what they’re getting, but they know they’re getting something and it’s gonna be good.

Uncertain hope is no hope at all. It’s the inconsistency upon which we build crumbling dreams and broken hearts.

Maybe you’ve experienced deferred hope, too. Maybe it had to do with a relationship, or a job, or any variety of things. Maybe you’ve made up stories in your head of what it might be if it was finally a reality one day.

Hope in the face of hopelessness can be the rope we hang on to in impossible situations. Healing. Salvation. Restoration. God things. Hope pulls us through.

But hope in the face of hopelessness can also be the rope we use to hang ourselves.

Hope in the face of hopelessness is not the problem, but the object of our hope may be.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
Prov 13:12

Hope deferred can be misplaced hope.

If your hope lies in someone or something that may or may not ever actually be yours, that uncertainty can eat away at your soul.

What’s the simple, Sunday school answer to the problem?

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. Psalm 37:4-5

But there is so much more to these verses than God, The Granter of Wishes.

When we delight in the Lord, He is the desire of our heart. And when He is the desire of our heart, no hope can be deferred, because all we have in Him is ours now.

So how to we heal a heart sick from deferred hope?

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Ps 42:5-6

Sometimes that means grieving the loss of that misplaced hope and realigning our hopes and dreams with God’s will for our lives.

Sometimes it means just giving it to Him as a the protector and keeper of your heart.

When our hope is in God, our hope will never be deferred. Our desires are altered and then fulfilled as we delight in Him and He is our tree of life.

Have you ever experienced a hope deferred? How did your heart heal?

Silencing Fools

I like to debate. I like to win debates. But I have learned that there is no point in arguing with a fool.

A fool is one who holds to their beliefs, even in the face of being proved wrong. Their beliefs and behavior are not based upon reason or Truth, but upon personal experience and perception.

I used to like arguing with fools. Not because I hoped to teach them or to change their minds, but because they were easy to prove wrong, and I was very interested in being right.

Eventually I learned that being proved wrong didn’t silence them. And it didn’t make me look smart. They kept on in their foolishness, and I looked arrogant and obnoxious.

So if proving them wrong doesn’t do it, how do you silence fools? Not by arguing with them or proving them wrong.

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 1 Peter 2:15

There are several places in Scripture in which God clearly tells us his will for our lives. This is the one I need to hear most.

God’s will is not that we would take the time to prove fools wrong. His will is that we go about our faithful service to Him. In doing this, the foolishness of fools will be obvious to everyone.

Don’t stoop to the level of the fool. Rise to the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Create a separation between yourself and the fool that is so great, all who look on your lives will know who the fool is.

Thinking Aloud About Praying in Public

Thinking out loud can get a person in trouble. Me be the person doing the thinking can add to the trouble; I tend to start my train of thought in a very different train station than the average person where I live.

But this whole war over public prayer with the Freedom From Religion Foundation really has me thinking about prayer, especially public prayer. The issue was reignited in the Chattanooga area in August when the Foundation filed complaint against a local football coach.

Then there was an issue over prayer at UTC football games. Now UTK has issued a statement to inform the public that, per legal advice, they have no reason to discontinue prayer before ball games.

My first, fiery response to the whole thing was decidedly redneck and all things that are wrong about tradition and religious culture. “We pray at ball games down here! No one has a problem with it here. Why don’t they go back to Wisconsin and leave us alone?” There’s my moment of confession; everything redneck and Southern Confederate heritage oozing out of the overflow of my heart. Massive heart check required.

But that thought made me think a little deeper; why do we insist on praying at public events?

Is it because it’s tradition?

Is it because we have a superstition that someone will get hurt if we don’t pray?

Is it because we want to summon our god to be on our side?

Southern redneck public prayers don’t exactly have the best track record of displaying the glory and majesty of the God we serve.

Jesus had some things to say in Matthew 6 about praying in public:

5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
6 But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Just some food for thought as I’m thinking through the Freedom From Religion yuck.

What’s being proven with making a stink about praying before a ball game?

Are we reducing prayer to a magic charm when we insist it take place a certain way?

What’s wrong with observing a moment of silence? That’s what UTC decided to do, and it seems to be a mutually respectful compromise.

I understand that some people see this as further encroachment upon our religious freedoms and this is the issue at which some have chosen to draw the line of saying “no more.” I’m just not sure which religion people are practicing that requires they pray at the beginning of public events. Sometimes it feels as if this whole fight is based not upon protecting our religious freedom, but about insisting our religion is right.

But what causes us to think that we have the “right” to pray in public at all? Is having a moment of silence preventing us from practicing our religion?

My questions are based more on the global perspective of knowing the friends and family of people who have died for their faith around the world. Knowing the loved ones of martyrs changes your perspective of the term religious freedom.

What would our nation be like if we spent on private prayer all the time we spend filing litigation to protect our right to pray over public events?

What will Americans do if we are ever really faced with the loss of religious freedom?

The Faces of Islam

In recent days, there has been so much violence in the Middle East directed toward Americans. And our reaction is, understandably, to take a defensive position. I want to defend myself and my friends, shout from Twitter and everywhere else that not all Americans are “like that” (whatever “that” may be). Whether the riots are about the anti-Islam movie trailer or not, I want them to know that some Americans watched and thought it was horrible. Horrible acting (at the very least), horrible caricature of their culture, disrespectful, most likely offensive.

But I also want to say, “Violence is certainly not the way to protest a cheap movie that portrays your faith as violent.”

I want to say those things to them. But I have no way to make contact with the Muslim world. I do, however, have the ability to make contact with the American, Christian world. And with this tiny little platform I have here on the Internet, I want to remind you that while this may be the face of Islam we think is blowing up the world today…

(Photo Credit, Mohammed Abu Zaid, AP)

…these are the faces of Islam that rocked my world and flipped my perspective upside down when I spent time in Kabul and Dashti Barche, Afghanistan, in 2007.

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Don’t let the face of Islam overshadow the faces. Remember the faces.

Pray for the faces.

Pray that the Prince of Peace will continue to make Himself famous in the lives of these precious people.

Pray that Christians in America will remember that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of darkness.

Pray that we will see these people not as our enemies, but as prisoners of war who are held captive by our spiritual enemy.


Out of the Mouths of Babes

My niece is 2 1/2 years old, and she is one of my favorite people on the planet. Already too smart for her own good, she can talk circles around kids her age– and most adults, for that matter. And she’s hilarious. And sometimes, she’s much more theologically sound than even the most well trained theologians I know.

Take Friday night as an example. I picked her up for a Squeaker and B Date Night. That’s pretty much an evening in which I let the 2 year old decide what we’re doing. And she has pretty good taste for a toddler. This past Friday, she picked Cracker Barrel for supper (“I want pancakes, and B, you want eggs and grits and bacon. And you want to share them with me.” Natural negotiator), and the Silverdale football game so she could do her “Rock, Chalk, Seahawk” cheer that she’s been practicing for a year.

By halftime she had worn herself out and was literally spinning in circles while talking to herself, trying to prevent early onset bedtime. As the band finished the halftime show, she crawled in my lap and said, “I have a secret to tell you.” She leaned close to my ear and said, “I think it’s bedtime, ok?” Sure, kid, that’s ok. She didn’t make it through “The Circle of Life” in the car before she was out cold.

For all of her spontaneity and hilarity, though, she also loves her routines, and not even sleep was going to get in the way of her favorite daily event– bedtime prayer. I got her out of the car, up two flights of stairs, out of her play clothes and into her pajamas without even jarring her pattern of breathing, but when her head hit the pillow and I turned to walk out of the room, she sat up and said, “Wait! I have to pray.” Already more dedicated to conversation with God than I am. Pretty sure sleep has kept me away from the throne of grace more than once.

So I turned around, kneeled by the bed and asked, “Ok, what do you want to thank Jesus for today?” I love stories of little kid prayers. Prayer time lets you into their head, to see what they’re thinking, to get a gauge on their perspective on life. I was hoping she’d thank Jesus for her totally awesome Aunt B that let her do all the fun stuff she wanted to do, or her friend Gracie that let her hang out with the big kids at the football game. Or maybe she’d be thankful for pancakes. I couldn’t wait to hear what sweet and funny things she was thankful for.

So I was completely unprepared for the convicting depth of her response.

“Ok, what do you want to thank Jesus for today?”

“Ummm, Jesus.”

Can’t argue with that, kid.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. Colossians 1:15-20

All things. That about covers it.

So what are you thankful today? I’m thankful for the reminder that it’s all about Him, and that he used my niece to remind me of that beautiful truth.