Archives For hope

Past Imperfect: Let It Go

randomlychad  —  February 12, 2014 — 2 Comments

We all have pasts of one sort, or another. Living well does not mean denying those things, nor does it mean being crippled by shame.

There comes a time to “let it go.”

In recovery, I learned that we are only as sick as our secrets. This is undeniably true. Secrets held onto have a way of festering, of eating us up inside. Maybe it was something we had done. Maybe it was something done to us. Something said about us.

The reasons we keep secrets are many, but there is freedom to be found by letting go…

At the top of the list is shame. By confessing, we cut the Accuser off at the knees. He doesn’t have ammo to shoot us with. He can’t shame us for that which is no longer hidden.

Remember, “it was for freedom that Christ set us free, therefore no longer be entangled in a yoke of slavery.”

One the many means of contiuing entanglement is simply believing the same voices we have always listened to. Whether that’s a parent, grandparent, friend, mentor, peer, what have you.

We do ourselves no favors when we continue to elevate the same old voices over what God says about us. A good place to start is Romans:

“Be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Make no mistake, friends: the mind is the battleground, where each day is either won, or lost. My advice you is: “Choose you this day, whom you will serve.”

Will it be voices that tell you to hide, that you’re no good? The voices which seek to shame you into silence?

Or the voice which says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock?”

The choice is yours.

Let it go.

Happy Endings/Hope

randomlychad  —  January 14, 2014 — Leave a comment

'Happy Ending' photo (c) 2012, HarshLight - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Sometimes, there are no happy endings. Scratch that. Many times, there are no happy endings. We need look no further than the world around us: that car accident we may have passed on the way to work, the cat’s corpse laying dead in the street (some would say this isn’t a bad thing. Tell that to the child whose cat this was), the death of a spouse, parent, grandparent, friend… a marriage’s end. These are not happy tidings. No, this is more par for the course in this place the Scriptures term a “vale of tears.” Life isn’t fair, things don’t work out the way we want.

In this, we find ourselves in august company:

Abraham, who looked forward to the promise, yet died before it was fulfilled.

Righteous Lot, whose soul was vexed, living there in Sodom.

Moses, who through anger, lost the Promised Land.

David, whose hands were too blood-soaked to build the temple he longed to erect as testament to his love of God.

Solomon, who despite his much-vaunted wisdom, piddled away his kingdom via compromise.

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Yesterday, I wrote of being disappointed in the movie Oblivion. This stems, I think, from its kitschy, tacked-on happy ending. I understand why Hollywood is in love with the happy ending–it’s embedded deep within us. Somewhere, buried down deep in our marrow, we know the world as it is is not how it’s always been. Call it Eden–call it what you will–we know there was once something better, instinctively that we are something more. Hence our love of fairy tales, of happy endings. Thing is, as John Eldredge says, we live in the Third Act of history. The in-between. There’s no going back to what once was, but the Fourth Act has not yet begun. We’re stuck between the now, and the not-yet. Every happy ending we posit is a kind of wish fulfillment–either a looking back, or a questing ahead. We try to regain what we’ve lost, or grab hold of what’s not here yet.

But it never quite works out.

Truth be told, God has a way of shattering our illusions. The truth is: life is hard, and then we die.

But in dying we find life.

That is the truth of the Gospel. It has the quality of fairy tale, but it is no mere wish fulfillment. Christ had to die, else there would be no resurrection.

Likewise, sometimes (oftentimes) our hopes, dreams, all that we have lived for, given our lives to has to die as well… For God to bring new life.

Yet we fight Him, wanting our happy ending now–without putting in the hard work. Lest we forget: Christ emptied Himself of divinity, became a cluster of cells, a zygote, an embryo, and squalling shitting baby (no matter what Martin Luther tells us about “no crying He makes.” He lied). From infant to toddler, toddler to child, child to young man–all the while learning from, and being obedient to, His parents. By all accounts, He learned the trade of carpenter from his stepfather, Joseph. By all accounts, though not included in Holy Writ, He lost Joseph sometime before His earthly ministry began. Think on it! The Holy One, God the Son, born in ignominy, toiling in obscurity: He emptied Himself of all divinity.

And eventually humbled Himself to become obedient to death on the cross!

“Who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame.” And He “learned obedience through those things which He suffered. ”

Think on that! Christ, God the Son, learning obedience! That is the crux:

Sometimes (oftentimes), happy endings have to die, privations must be endured, for joy’s sake.

Make no mistake: there will be a consolation of history. But we are not there yet. Like Job–like Jesus before us–we must patiently endure.

Until…

Until the faith shall become sight.

Sacrifices must be made, hopes will fade, and dreams will die. But “unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone.” The trick is, in this vale of tears, to keep the true light alive:

HOPE.

'Hope' photo (c) 2007, *USB* - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Fan the embers into flames, my friends. Go with God, and walk in the light.

image

I’m a fan of well-crafted stories. If you know anything about his writing process, nobody spends more time crafting books than Dean Koontz. Seriously. His process–continually revising a page until it’s just right, then moving onto the next–would drive me crazy. But it works for him. Some accuse him of being formulaic, of being inferior to King. That may be.

There’s no discounting his success. The numbers don’t lie. And when he’s hot, he’s hot. Witness: Watchers, Strangers, Intensity, Lightning, and Odd Thomas. (My friend, Ricky Anderson stayed up into the wee hours last night reading Odd).

In my estimation, there’s more to Koontz’s success than just adrenaline-laced plots that keep the reader turning pages (as welcome as that is). No, it’s his characters. They feel like real people–people facing insane situations overwhelming odds, and yet somehow holding onto hope. These people could be you, me, or the neighbor down the block. And his villains are more, or less, than human. Their motivations are real, and they never see themselves as villains. Like Satan, Koontz’s villains usually see themselves as the aggrieved, misunderstood, party. Thus they are justified in their own eyes.

Like most Catholic writers I’ve read, Koontz isn’t afraid to let his villains be villains. Thus he portrays evil as it is. And thus the light of hope, of the protagonists, shines out all the more brightly in contrast. That is what I love about Koontz: he is an eternal optimist: no matter how dark, how bad things get, there’s always hope. Good will triumph on the end. (Now this is not say that his good guys aren’t flawed people–they are. They overcome these shortcomings, confront themselves, and the darkness in their own hearts).

The genius of Koontz is that, while not writing sermons, his work is infused with his faith stamped upon every page. His is the voice of one calling us out of the darkness into the light. It will, like life itself, be a bumpy ride. If you know any of his personal story–raised in poverty with an abusive, alcoholic father–you know that Dean is an overcome. He doesn’t see himself (or his characters for that matter) as a victim of circumstance.

By extension, he is calling us into the same life. We are not victims of circumstance unless we choose to be. We, like the people of which he writes, can overcome whatever life throws at us.

In this way, Mr. Koontz is an evangelist.
An evangelist of hope.

Have you read any Dean Koontz? What are your favorites?

Funeral Thoughts

randomlychad  —  October 11, 2013 — 4 Comments
'Coffin rest' photo (c) 2010, Tim Green - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

My work day today began with a funeral. It was for a man both well-loved, and well-respected in our community. Numerous nice things were said of him, photos and memories were shared. Though I didn’t know him well, it was touching.

Of all that was said, the one thing which stood head and shoulders above the rest was the statement that “death comes for us all.” We can’t bargain with it, cheat it, get out of it.

We don’t know when it’s coming. Only that it is.

Which was why, while I was supposed to be there memorializing the deceased, I thought of me. When my time comes, will people remember me fondly? Will I be likewise known as a man who loved well, and gave his all?

Will you? Will you be remembered as a man, or woman, who loved, who worked, who invested your life in others? We don’t know the number of our days, how long, or short, our lives will be. What matters–the only thing that matters–is what we do with what we’ve got.

Of the man who passed on, it was said that rather than being someone who found fault, he was a man of “remedies.”
This reminds me of greater man, One Who once walked the sands of Israel. Who said to the woman caught in adultery, “Go, and sin no more.” He was not just a man of remedies, solving the problems (as necessary as that is) which crossed his desk, but rather He Himself was the remedy for our sin-sick hearts.

How can we, by how we live, go and do likewise? No matter our vocation, we are each of us called to be His hands and feet.

Today.

I leave you with the words of an old hymn of the church:

“Only one life, twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

A wise man once said that “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” That’s absolutely true.

It’s how we’ve gotten where we’re at today, with the American federal government shutdown. With one kind of health plan for the common man, and another for his congressman. Where a private business, in a building leased from the federal government, is forced to shutdown (despite not employing any government workers), but the congressional gym stays open.

This is not the America I know and love; rather, it smacks more of Orwell’s Animal Farm, where “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

The hogs slurp from their troughs in D.C., while the rest of us bear the brunt, and the cost, of their poor governance. Yet, I’m not sure who’re the bigger fools here: the politicians, who above all else-despite eloquent words to the contrary–seek only to hold onto power.

Or the numbskulls who keep electing them.

It’s said that stupidity, and insanity, bear the same definition:

Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. In other words, meet the new boss (Obama), same as the old boss. You didn’t really believe him when he crested that wave called “Hope” and “Change,” did you? Sucker.

That’s like the folks who voted for Nixon in ’68, when he campaigned on the promise of getting us out of Vietnam. Hah! (News flash: we weren’t out until the fall of Saigon).

In more recent times, there was President Bush (the first) with his (in)famous “Read my lips, no new
taxes,” and the equally obnoxious declaration by then-president Clinton, “I did not have sexual relations with this woman, Miss Lewinsky.”

The point is that politicians on both sides of the aisle are well-practiced in telling us what we want to hear (read: lying). Both sides espouse the respective virtues that their reputed constituencies hold dear. While the only real agenda is, in the words of the old song, “everybody wants to rule the world.” They say (whatever) to stay (where they are).

The real skill in Washington is appearing to be all things to all people so they can keep their cushy jobs. (In other quarters this is known as hypocrisy).

And this what our forefathers fought and died for? What Lincoln termed “government of the people, for the people, by the people?” Abe is probably turning over in his grave.

Yes, the country is in a grave state. Which is why my hope is not in politics  or politicians, but rather in Jesus. Although I used to consider myself a Republican, I no longer claim so. Nor am I a Democrat. I am a Christian, and that is horse of an entirely different color.

While I will render unto Caesar insofar as Caesar’s dictates do not violate God’s law, my kingdom is not of this world. I am seated in the heavenlies in Christ, my name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.”

Where does your hope come from? The three-ring circus in D.C., or somewhere higher.

Choose you this day.