Getting Better & Better: A Book Review — In the Heart of the Dark Wood

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Well. If you would like to read a thoroughly captivating story and are willing to do NOTHING else for about 24 hours, have I got the book for you.

This is the third in what I hope will be a limitless series of stories about Mattingly, a small town on the edge of the dark woods. And each one has gotten progressively more entrancing and intriguing. You can start with number one (reviewed here — and this is the book where the recurring phrase/idea “God has sharp edges” first appears) or number two (check it out here) or with this amazing story. 374 is a lot of pages, but this book is the very definition of ‘page-turner’ — and I mean that in the very best way.

This is a story about two children who are far more grown-up than many adults I’ve met. Allie is on a pilgrimage, ostensibly to find a plastic nativity piece that has blown away in a storm and she asks her best friend, Zach, to go with her.

But Allie is searching for far more than a Mary statue; she is looking for her mother, who disappeared in a gigantic windstorm almost two years before. And Allie has never been the same since. During the time that they are looking, all kinds of fascinating things happen to these kids. Both of these kids. They learn about life, they learn about fear, they learn about themselves.

And, as extra incentive for you, the story is set during the week before Christmas. I tell you, this is the PERFECT book for you to read right.now. (You can click here to order your own copy.)

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How often do you read a novel with this many dog-ears? With language that is rich and evocative, characters that are fully fleshed out and easily accessed, and a plot line marked with just enough magic to make it memorable, this is one grand adventure. I promise you will read it from beginning to end as fast as you can and then, breathe a deep sigh of satisfaction when you turn that last page.

Here are just a few samples of beautiful description, thought-provoking reflection and sometimes astounding insight into the deepest things in life: faith, family, love:

“Maybe we just gotta believe,” Zach said.
“How do we do that?”
“I don’t know. Believing’s not something you do. It’s something you are.” (pg. 80)

“There was a strange peace to that part of the woods, almost a gentle pulsing, and Allie let the stillness fill the cracks inside her.” (pg. 86)

Allie, on her estrangement from God since her mama’s disappearance: “I think God’s more like the moon, just sitting up there in the sky, watching what all’s going on. This is just a TV show to Him. . . I figure it’s best to ignore Him. Maybe then, He’ll ignore me. God finds out Momma sent word, He’ll do all He can to stop me.” (pgs. 162-163)

“As as Zach ran, he prayed that he didn’t have to wear a hat to be a man, that instead it meant doing for others even what you most feared. Not because he was strong and brave, but because he loved. Because in the end, love is the most powerful magic of all.” (pg. 300)

And to end this little jaunt through those pages, this last one, which is a favorite of mine:

“Everyone was lost somehow, turned around in their own darkwood, looking for something that would help them to go on. Everyone just wanted to find their way home.” (pg. 237)

Reading this wonderful, wonderful story will help you get there. 

I can hardly wait for the next installment!

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I received an advance copy of this book and was asked to write an honest review. This is me, being honest!

 

31 Days of Looking for the Little: Shared Moments of Delight — a Guest Post!

One of the sweetest things about this internet world is the connections that can be made — connections across time and distance, life experience and life stage. One of my dearest ‘finds’ has been Kelly Chripczuk, who writes beautiful words over at “A Field of Wildflowers.” Turns out she is a licensed pastor in the same denomination in which my husband was raised and with whom we served in Africa over forty years ago. She wrote this sweet, small piece and asked if I thought it might fit in with this 31-Day series. YES, indeed, it does! Delightfully. Thank you so much, Kelly.
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Kelly Chripczuk is a Spiritual Director, Writer and Speaker who lives in Central Pennsylvania with her husband and four kids.  She writes and speaks on the topics of identity, anxiety, transition and the practice of noticing and receiving the love of God in the midst of daily life.  You can find her blogging at www.afieldofwildflowers.blogspot.com or follow her on facebook athttps://www.facebook.com/AFieldOfWildFlowers.
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It’s a rare Sunday evening with no school on Monday.  To celebrate, we’re having a “pizza party” in the living room, the six of us gathered around the lap top with paper plates filled with pizza and chips.  The older kids, my husband and I line up along the old leather couch and the three-year-old twins sit in front of us in little plastic chairs, their plates resting on the old scarred piano bench. 

The kids watch the movie and my husband I alternate between watching the movie and watching our children.  We share looks over their heads as entertained by their perceptions of the show as we are by the movie itself.  Then this little exchange, so precious and sweet, takes place between the twins:

“Yours yummy?”  Isaiah asks, holding a sour cream and onion potato chip in one hand, his faced turned toward his brother who doesn’t hear him.

“Yours yummy, Yevi?” he persists, raising his already loud little boy voice and replacing the unpronounceable “L” of Levi with a “y.”

“Huh?” his brother finally replies, turning to look him in the eye.

“Yours yummy?” Isaiah wants to know.

“Yeah, yummy!” Levi replies with unmistakable enthusiasm.  “Sometimes me dip it on my pizza like this,” he adds, demonstrating his method of scraping a chip across the top layer of pizza.

“Yeah,” says Isaiah, turning back to the show with the satisfaction of their shared pleasure evident in his voice. 

Witnessing this from behind, my husband I smile with our hands over our mouths, our hearts savoring the bond of companionship so deep, so sweet, in ones so little.  We’re delighted by their delight, our hearts awakened to joy through this small moment of pleasure shared.

 

What small moments of delight have you experienced lately?  

Just Wondering

31 Days of Looking for the Little: Finding Rainbows

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It started small. And sort of unsure of itself. It was our last morning in the lovely, large condo we had rented with our son and his family for our 9 days in Kahana, Maui. They were scurrying round, packing to fly home, and we were waiting to leave for our next, smaller place to stay.
Then we looked out from our lanai and watched the rain pour down into the channel between Maui and Moloka’i. Soon, just for a second, a rainbow started to form. Hawaii usually sports many lovely rainbows, but this trip we had seen very few. 
We called to the girls to come and see as it began to spread across the water. The arc was forming quite low over the water, but the colors were clear and bright. 
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And then, there it was! In all its glory, giving testimony to the wonders of light and shadow, water and reflection. And of course, to the Giver of the rainbow, the Keeper of promises. It felt like a blessing on our time together, a beautiful mark in the sky to say, “I see you, I love you.”
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It was just a small patch of color, hanging between sky and sea. But soon, it was a long, low arc of delight, a picture of love and beauty and joy.
What small pieces of beauty have you seen lately?
Just Wondering

Surprised by YES – A Book Review: “Rhinestone Jesus” by Kristen Welch

 

I need to tell you something about me: I am a skeptic by nature. Those of you who know me are not surprised to read this, are you? I have a suspicious streak a mile wide and there are certain trigger words and names that can send me running down that mile-wide road very quickly indeed. 

I am not a fan of prescriptive writing, of anything that smacks of “Just 5 Easy Steps to . . . Anything You Care to Mention.” I’m likely to cringe if the language on a blog or in a book gets either too preachy or too syrupy. And I really, really, REALLY resist slogans.

So I will admit to more than a little bit of trepidation when I began to read Kristen Welch’s new book, “Rhinestone Jesus.” There was a quote from John Piper early on. There was some Jesus-y language that made me squirm a little, and I began to fear the guilt trip I was pretty sure was coming at me any minute now.

But I kept reading. Why? Because I believe in the ministry of Mercy House, a home for pregnant young women in Kenya, a ministry which Kristen and her family helped to birth and continue to encourage. Even though it was decades ago, I have lived in Africa. I know the need is great and what I loved about this ministry is that it rose from — and was staffed by — African nationals. For me, that is a huge positive, so I wanted to know more about how it all happened. I was also a blogger and a financial supporter for the wonderful group fund-raising effort for this ministry sponsored by (in)Courage and Dayspring in 2013.

Kristin comes from a Christian tradition and a part of the country that are both very different from my own. She’s a Baptist from Texas, I’m a Covenant pastor from California. She is a more regimented parent than I ever was (although we both agree on the central role of a shared family meal every day), and she is also a dreamer of Big Dreams.

Now I believe in dreaming. I believe in Holy Spirit-planted desire, that thing that gets you moving in a certain direction, that calls your name in the wee hours of the morning, that makes your heart go pitter-pat with both joy and fear. Nothing wrong with dreams at all. But Big Dreams? Sometimes I find myself getting defensive, even resistant, when there is too much talk about those.

It is true that we serve a big God,  yes, we do. And sometimes, God calls people to do big things. But most of the time? Most of the time, God calls us to be faithful, wherever we find ourselves. To be constant, to be committed to living out the great commandments, to go deeper in our faith, to walk the talk right here in the neighborhood. So my skeptic-hackles were vibrating a little as this book began to veer in the direction of those Big Dreams.

It was with a huge sigh of relief that I moved into the closing chapters of this book. Because here, it gets really real, really fast. All of the hard work that made this dream come to fruition — and continues to make it grow — has been hard work. Kristen is not afraid to say so and she admits that she feels overwhelmed on a regular basis. She also admits to occasionally falling off that fine edge between obedience and works righteousness — always a danger when we become immersed in the production end of anything. 

She also carefully reminds us all that anything we do as an act of worship and obedience can be a way of living out God’s kingdom dreams, right here on planet earth. Tending toddlers, running photocopies, answering phones, providing meals, offering hospitality to the neighbor’s kids — each of these is an opportunity for kingdom work and for personal growth. All that is required is for us to say ‘yes’ to whatever it is we’re being asked to do. 

It’s that ‘yes’ that is key.

The ministry of Rehema/Mercy House is a strong and vibrant one, the lived reality of a dream planted in the hearts of the Welch family and their African partners. It really is a Big Dream, and a fine one.

But the ways in which God is working in that place are remarkable precisely because so many people are saying their ‘yes’ to a small act, a small gift, a simple prayer. Big Dreams do not happen without a whole lot of small things coming together in just the right way at just the right time; and I believe that is exactly the way God designed it to work.

Because following Jesus is about individual acts of obedience that are offered in concert with the body as a whole. In truth, there is no small, there is no big — there is the ‘yes’ that is repeated over and over around the globe. And there is the ‘together’ that happens when we each offer our ‘yes,’ no matter what size it is. That is how Kingdom Come happens. This story is a beautiful and moving reminder of that powerful truth.

I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is it. You can purchase your own copy at any of these retail sites:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Christian Books.com

Dayspring

An Advent Journey, 2013: Looking for the Light – Day Twenty

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Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your might,
    and come to save us!

Restore us, O God;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved.

O Lord God of hosts,
how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbors;
our enemies laugh among themselves.

Restore us, O God of hosts;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Psalm 80:1-7-NRSV

I believe this is the cri de coeur of every human who has ever walked this planet, even those who will deny it up one side and down the other.

Some of us are able to silence this cry when it rises; some are able to argue it away, at least in their conscious minds. But I think it’s still in there somewhere — this cell-deep desire to be saved, rescued, made whole, energized, sanctified. Whatever kind of language you might choose to use, the issue is the same.

Shine on us, O God. Rescue us.

I love that this psalm references the ‘face’ of God. The face, the visage, that which we see when we greet one another, that space within which can reside smile or frown, delight or dismay, joy or judgment. It’s that Face that we want to shine, to radiate, in our direction.

That phrase, and all that it means, is one reason why I love and use the Aaronic blessing so often. “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”

I prayed that blessing over my aunt as she lay dying last month; I offer it when I wrap my arms around another and ask for help from God for their dilemma, whatever it might be; I pray it over my husband and my children and my grandchildren, my mother and my friends; and I pray it over myself from time to time, too. 

I pray it for all of us, this 20th day of our journey together. May we each pray these words more fully as Christmas draws nigh.

“Let your face shine, that we may be saved.”

An Advent Journey, 2013: Looking for the Light – Day Sixteen

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As the deer longs for streams of water,
so I long for you, O God.

I thirst for God, the living God.
When can I go and stand before him?
Day and night I have only tears for food,
while my enemies continually taunt me, saying,
“Where is this God of yours?”

My heart is breaking
as I remember how it used to be:
I walked among the crowds of worshipers,
leading a great procession to the house of God,
singing for joy and giving thanks
amid the sound of a great celebration!

Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!

Now I am deeply discouraged,
but I will remember you—
even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan,
from the land of Mount Mizar.
I hear the tumult of the raging seas
as your waves and surging tides sweep over me.

But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me,
and through each night I sing his songs,
praying to God who gives me life.
“O God my rock,” I cry,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I wander around in grief,
oppressed by my enemies?”

Their taunts break my bones.
They scoff, “Where is this God of yours?”

Why am I discouraged?
Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again—
my Savior and my God!

Psalm 42 – NLT

I love this psalm — the back and forth between lament and praise, the sometimes dizzying roller coaster ride through the peaks and valleys of the life of faith. And threading its way through the entire, beautiful ride, is the glimmering thread of desire.  

What do I want? What do I really want?

I want more of God. I do. There are times when I hunger for God above all things, when I desire to experience God’s grace and love, God’s presence and comfort. And there are times when I experience the ‘goodness of God in the land of the living.’ 

But I also want to be comfortable; people to like me; my children and grandchildren to be whole and healthy; my mom to be more fully the mom I’ve always known; to be a stronger, more disciplined person; my life to be easier. 

And when those things are not happening, I can easily become discouraged. Like the psalmist, I hearken back to days of old, when I felt God’s presence, when everybody was well, when mom was mom, when my body was less creaky, when I had more energy.

So I cry out in those times, cry out to God for relief and for reminders.

And what I’m learning to ask for in the midst of these times of discouragement is the gift of remembrance, the ability to think back on ‘the good times’ without nostalgia. Why? Because I think that nostalgia, at its heart, involves regret. And regret — wishing for things that cannot be — is counter-productive to a life lived in gratitude and praise. Remembrance, which I define as reflection-without-regret, seems to naturally elicit exactly that — gratitude and praise, both of which help to lead me to peaceful memories of what was and joyous acceptance of what is. 

During this season of Advent, and its invitation to the quieter emotions, when I reflect on this favorite psalm, I try to picture the ‘streams of water,’ our source of refreshment and rest. And in my mind’s eye, I try to see the Rock which is underneath it all. The Rock, out of which the only true refreshment I know emerges.  And as that River of Life flows downstream, I pray that it will burble its way right into the likes of me.

Our Rock and our Redeemer, will you help us to desire you above all things? Help us to remember well, to let praise and gratitude flow right out of us as your loving presence flows right into us. Thank you. Thank you.

An Advent Journey, 2013: Looking for the Light – Day Ten

 

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I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well you can teach each other all about them. Even so, I have been bold enough to write about some of these points, knowing that all you need is this reminder. For by God’s grace, I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit. So I have reason to be enthusiastic about all Christ Jesus has done through me in my service to God. Yet I dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through me, bringing the Gentiles to God by my message and by the way I worked among them. They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit. In this way, I have fully presented the Good News of Christ from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum.

My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else. I have been following the plan spoken of in the Scriptures, where it says,

“Those who have never been told about him will see,
and those who have never heard of him will understand.”

Romans 15:14-21 -NLT

“A special messenger to the Gentiles. . . ” It is the apostle Paul who picks up the thread woven into the fabric of the Incarnation by those wise men from the east, who came seeking a new king. I suppose this story is really more of an Epiphany tale than an Advent one, but here we are with this passage on the 10th day of our Advent journey.

Perhaps those who laid out this list of readings wanted to be sure this small, golden thread was right up front, where it would be noticed. Because, you see, we are the recipients of this particular gift of grace. We are the ones who walk in the shadow of those ancient seekers from the east; we are the ones who follow along with Paul as he rounds the Mediterranean Sea, leaving depositories of gospel grace everywhere he goes.

It’s a thread worth noting, an essential slice of the light we are seeking as we turn round one more bend in the road, journeying toward Christmas Day. We, too, are part of this story.

We, too, are marked by the Spirit as ones who are ‘full of goodness,’ simply because we know Jesus.

Humble Savior, will you help us to know you better as we travel this road? Shine your light on us, lead us into truth, help us to see your goodness shining out of our lives, even in the midst of the holiday crazy.

* As an added Advent bonus, I heartily recommend you click on this link and meander over to SheLoves fine post on Random Acts of Advent Kindness. I’m going to try and do this as often as possible and I encourage you all to check it out for yourselves.

An Advent Journey, 2013: Looking for the Light – Day Eight

 

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Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—
yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.
And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of theLord.
He will delight in obeying theLord.
He will not judge by appearance
    nor make a decision based on hearsay.
He will give justice to the poor
and make fair decisions for the exploited.
The earth will shake at the force of his word,
and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked.
He will wear righteousness like a belt
    and truth like an undergarment.

In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together;
the leopard will lie down with the baby goat.
The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion,
and a little child will lead them all.
The cow will graze near the bear.
The cub and the calf will lie down together.
The lion will eat hay like a cow.
The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra.
Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm.
Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,
for as the waters fill the sea,
so the earth will be filled with people who know the Lord.

In that day the heir to David’s throne
will be a banner of salvation to all the world.
The nations will rally to him,
and the land where he lives will be a glorious place.

Isaiah 11:1-10   -NLT

The Peaceable Kingdom, that’s what many call this passage from Isaiah 11. A picture of the future, where all of God’s creatures will live together harmoniously. Animals of every size and shape interacting peaceably with children; scorpions no longer lethal, cobras not to be feared.

And I love that imagery, too – although, to be honest — even though artists have rendered it repeatedly, I have a really hard time picturing all that wild animal/human conviviality. For me, it’s the picture in the first half of this passage that sings. That old Jesse stump, the tree from which David and then, Jesus, grew and flourished.

My spirit resonates with these lines, this picture of a righteous ruler, one who looks beneath the surface of things before pronouncing judgment. Righteousness and truth the garments nearest to his skin, closest to his person.

Yes! I love this picture. And in just the right light, I can see that this is a picture of Jesus. At least, this is one picture of Jesus. One that I like and look forward to, but one that is not yet fully realized. We still await the coming of this One, don’t we? A truly just ruler and judge, one who looks out for the needs of his people and will not abide cheating or oppressive behavior. 

Can I hear an amen?

Of course, I can. We all long for such leadership, if we’re honest with ourselves and with one another. And we’re all still waiting for him to show up, aren’t we? This is the deepest layer of Advent waiting, I think. We wait for the Just One to come and make things right; we wait for justice to reign; we wait.

Lord of Righteousness, will you help us to wait with hope? To know in the deepest parts of ourselves that you are always in the process of coming to us? Help us to see you in the small victories, the short, sweet moments, even in the little ones — those small human creatures that you give to all of us. And excuse my rudeness here, but could you somehow show us your undergarments – the ones that move right next to your heart, the ones that empower you to serve the least of these? Just a flash, that’s all we need. A reminder that you’re on the throne — and yet, you stand ever ready to help us little ones see and tell the truth. 

* As an added Advent bonus, I heartily recommend you click on this link and meander over to SheLoves fine post on Random Acts of Advent Kindness. I’m going to try and do this as often as possible and I encourage you all to check it out for yourselves.

 

An Advent Journey, 2013: Looking for the Light – Day Five

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Give the king your justice, O God,
    and your righteousness to a king’s son.

 May he judge your people with righteousness,
    and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
    and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
    give deliverance to the needy,
    and crush the oppressor.

May he live while the sun endures,
    and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
    like showers that water the earth.
In his days may righteousness flourish
    and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
    who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed be his glorious name forever;
    may his glory fill the whole earth.
Amen and Amen.
       Psalm 72:1-7 18-19 – NRSV

A song for a king, written one thousand years before Jesus was born, yet somehow a song for him as well as for David. We are all ‘the needy,’ it seems to me. We need a royal visit, some patronage now and again, someone looking out for our best interests.

Is Jesus that one?

I choose to believe so, even when I’m puzzled by some of the things that happen in this world, that happen to me or the people I love. I surely don’t ‘get it’ much of the time. There are questions without answers, horrors without any visible saving grace, illness and hardship and death.

Even so, I will continue to choose this king, the one who came in squalor and loneliness, the one who doesn’t fit the job description most of us might design for a king.

Maybe that’s because we’ve got it all upside down and backwards. Maybe that’s because we are slow to know that ‘neediness’ can be defined in lots of different ways. Maybe it’s because God is in the business of standing things on their heads.

A king on a cross, that’s our story. With no political power, no financial acumen, no henchmen surrounding him to enforce whatever word he might care to proclaim. Yet he is, indeed, like “showers that water the earth,” bringing refreshment in the midst of drought, and the spring of new life to the trod-upon green. 

How can this be? This kingship without the pomp and circumstance?

It’s hard for us to grasp this truth, to release our expectations and look instead for the Humble One, the Broken One, the One who was left to die on the garbage heap outside of town. 

But look we must, and it starts with the simplest of things. The bloom of late roses, the angle of light across a wooden floor, the scent of sweetness on the evening breeze, if you live where I do. Where you are, it might come from the smoke spiraling up the chimney, the glistening of white on every twig, the bracing coldness of the frozen air. Small things, tiny points of light. Reminders that the King of the Universe disguises himself as a helpless newborn, spilled out onto the straw.

King Jesus! We call you that in ways we don’t begin to understand, yet we know them to be true. Remind us again of what royalty really looks like, help us to look for the rain, the moisture poured out in a dry and thirsty land. Help us to see you.

 

* As an added Advent bonus, I heartily recommend you click on this link and meander over to SheLoves fine post on Random Acts of Advent Kindness. I’m going to try and do this as often as possible and I encourage you all to check it out for yourselves.

An Advent Journey, 2013: Looking for the Light – Day Four

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Sing, O barren one who did not bear;
burst into song and shout,
you who have not been in labor!
For the children of the desolate woman will be more
than the children of her that is married, says the Lord.
Enlarge the site of your tent,
and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out;
do not hold back; lengthen your cords
and strengthen your stakes.
For you will spread out to the right and to the left,
and your descendants will possess the nations
and will settle the desolate towns.

Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed;
do not be discouraged, for you will not suffer disgrace;
for you will forget the shame of your youth,
and the disgrace of your widowhood you will remember no more.
For your Maker is your husband,
the Lord of hosts is his name;
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called.
For the Lord has called you
like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,
like the wife of a man’s youth when she is cast off,
says your God.
For a brief moment I abandoned you,
but with great compassion I will gather you.
In overflowing wrath for a moment
I hid my face from you,
but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,
says the Lord, your Redeemer.
This is like the days of Noah to me:

Just as I swore that the waters of Noah
would never again go over the earth,
so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you
and will not rebuke you.
For the mountains may depart
and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,
says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
Isaiah 54:1-10 -NRSV

The writing in the book of Isaiah reduces me to tears on a regular basis. The cadence and rhythm of the words, the glory of the truths proclaimed, the beauty of the God who loves despite frustration, despite disappointment. The forward thrust of it all is what I cling to, I think. The acknowledgement that things are difficult at times, that shame is alive and well on planet earth, but . . .

The love of God will prevail, the peace of God will sustain, the compassion of God will triumph. These are words to cling to when disasters circle our globe, when despots rule, when unspeakable things happen. These are the words of hope.

Where are you finding hope right now? Where do you see glimmers of light?

I see it in the faces of my family, in the honest searching of my eldest grandsons, the gleeful gaming of the middle boys, the playful willfulness of my youngest granddaughters. I see it in the tired eyes of my son who works far too hard as a hospice doctor, in the creative hospitality of my daughters and daughter-in-law, in the gentle goodness of my sons-in-law, in the faithful commitment of my husband

I see it in the blueness of the sky, I hear it in the birds calling across the yard, in the waves crashing and receding, in the green, green, greenness of every tree and bush.

And I find it in your faces, in your words, in your stories.

I am grateful.

Oh Lord of hope, help us to gather up these glimmers and see your hand at work. Make us ministers of compassion to the hopeless among us, bringers of joy to those who are shamed, and believers in your goodness, no matter what.

* As an added Advent bonus, I heartily recommend you click on this link and meander over to SheLoves fine post on Random Acts of Advent Kindness. I’m going to try and do this as often as possible and I encourage you all to check it out for yourselves.

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