When I read my Bible, I tend to ignore the prophets. Well, except for Jonah. I come back to that gem again and again. Jonah is not a children’s story — its real target is curmudgeonly adults like me.
I steer away from the prophets because, well, God’s rage scared me. So, imagine my surprise when I felt nudged toward reading Isaiah this Advent. When I’ve read Isaiah before, I narrowed my focus to the happy and hopeful sections, while forgetting hope is made more substantial by the presence of God’s anger and justice. I looked for the love and light, while glossing over the gory.
But, not this time. Isaiah interrupted my world this Advent. Continue reading
Advent. The season where we wait expectantly for Jesus to come. It’s a season of hope bubbling up in the darkness. We trust God is bigger than the things going bump in the night.
And here’s where the message of Advent and God’s sovereignty gives me pause.
For some, “God’s in control” is a sparkles and glitter concept. God is in control implies God’s going to work things out for you or me. Sunbeams. Kittens. Daisies. Easy-peasy. Continue reading
The Need for Advent
I need Advent this year. This year it’s beyond enjoyment. I need it. In years past, I approached Advent as a personal “God, fix me or help me (usually with infertility issues)” season. This year Advent pulls me to think of justice and hope in a systemic way, incorporating Church, U.S. government and culture. Continue reading
In other years, Advent marked my favorite part of the church calendar. All the anticipation and hope made me eager for Jesus. This year I’ve followed our Christmas preparation traditions, and the emotions and the “feels” of Advent have seemed empty.
The world seems especially violent this November and December; I know it is almost always violent, but somehow the weight of the evil seems much more pervasive. Maybe I’m just paying more attention rather than burying my head in the sand.
And as I sat through a choir concert last week with J and my mother-in-law, I found myself tearing up as I heard Robert Lowry’s hymn How Can I Keep from Singing at the close of the concert. The choir’s singing filled Orchestra Hall with hopeful, worshipful song. As they sang the chorus, “No storm can shake my inmost calm while to the Rock I’m clinging,” I felt God’s warmth with me.
Even as life feels uncertain, even as I’m not sure how some things will shake out, I’m still hanging onto Jesus with a death grip. Jesus is worthy of that trust, and I can be confident, though waves crash overhead and storms arise, Jesus won’t drop me either.
Though I’ve only heard the words and tune of the hymn once, they linger with me on repeat in my head. And in the repetition, joy and hope bubble up from some mysterious place. How can I keep from singing?
Truthfully, we sought out the holiday train so I could put this quote and photo together. I’ve been struck by the vividness of the imagery in this Koyama quote I jotted down a few years ago. I wanted the electric lights and train together behind his words. Beyond that, I struggle with the image and quote.
Maybe the experience makes the words ring more truthfully — not because I experienced them lived out, but because I experienced the opposite. Waiting for the train and watching it pull in was not full of Christmas spirit, generosity or self-denial. Rather, people shoved and nudged their way past to stand in front of those who arrived before them. Families grumbling back and forth over others crowding their space. Me first. Me first. Me first. And I was sadly part of that bitter, selfish cry as I got aggravated with all the phones obstructing my photos.
Lord, have mercy. Teach me to walk in your ways Jesus, instead of mine.
Thumping heartbeat, cold sweats and dread accompany the use of the word “judgment.” Well, for me, anyway. I grew up terrified of hell. My pursuit of God in my elementary school years stemmed mainly from the fear of landing up in the place of fire and brimstone and bottomless pits. I saw judgment through the lens of terror and never feeling adequate in God’s eyes.
Then in the last few years as I’ve been reading the Old Testament prophets (like Jeremiah, Isaiah, Amos and Malachi), I see judgment differently. What if judgment wasn’t a bad thing, but a good thing? What if it wasn’t something to dread, but something to be excited about?