Tag Archives: hope

Nothing Wavering

“Trust me.”

James 1:5-6

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

We are told to trust that God will give us every good thing, that everything given to us by God will be for our well-being and joy. Sometimes, though… Sometimes, it’s so very difficult to trust. When something happens to us in our lives that is just so horribly sad, so painfully overwhelming… something that pierces and cuts our hearts so that even breathing seems a torment… it is then that we question God’s wisdom – or doubt that God cares anything for us, that there is any divine power at all to hear and answer our prayers.

And where does that leave us? In the dark world where we are shut in with our own workings, our own troublings, our own ways through, which are made of depression, anger, resentment, vengeance, or violence against others and ourselves. We are no longer open to the workings of the Divine, to the providence of God, to the ways of hope, forgiveness, compassion, generosity, and peace. The world will always be imperfect – and we, self-centered creatures, imperfect within it – but, we cannot choose to be subject to the world. We are each created by the Infinite/Eternal One and all of our joy, all of our fulfillment, is dependent on Him, depends from omniscient God. If we give up faith in God’s love and give up hope in the power of our own God-given gift of loving, then we miss the entire point of life, the very reason for our own existence. And we are left to fruitless desires, despair, and the hellish resistance of truth.

What if we had real wisdom? We are told that the beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord. Too often, however, our thinking of this “fear” leads us to walk on tiptoe lest we arouse the wrath God and bring down upon ourselves horrible sorrows and pains. Our sins, we think, justly bring about God’s punishment and are the reason for every ailment, loss, or difficulty in our lives. As God is just, this must be true. And, yet… And, yet, the truth is that we human beings are designed in such a way that, when we sin, we punish ourselves. Not consciously do we punish ourselves, most of the time, but, rather, by our turning away from faith, hope, and love after we sin. It is the turning away from God that is Hell. And, if we had real wisdom, we would know not to do it.

Instead, our fear of the Lord would be the all-consuming recognition that God is God and we are not – the wholehearted acknowledgment that God, our creator, is free to crush His Creation if He so chooses. Know this. Know it, and let the knowledge cause you to tremble and quake. Submit to the fact of your own littleness and be utterly and completely humbled by the omnipotent Majesty of God. This is the beginning. And then…

The apostles on Mount Tabor fell down on the ground in fear of the Lord when the voice of God thundered above them. But, they did not remain with their faces buried in the dust. They were lifted up. They were lifted up by the touch of Christ, who bid them to stand upright and follow him. Christ, who told his followers over and over and over again to not be afraid, brings us God’s mercy, and bids us to rise and to advance in expectation of things not seen – in trust. For the action of hope and faith is trust and the fruit is the reception of everlasting love.

God chooses not to crush us. God wants to lift us up. God is ever generous, giving of Himself by creating everything in love, and lovingly sharing His own divine life with human beings by creating us in His own image with the spiritual gifts of intellect, imagination, and freewill. The question, then, is what will we choose to do? What do we want?

The life of faith is not an easy one. There’s nothing facile or mindless about it. Faith requires desire. We need to want something in order to have faith. We want by lacking and recognizing our lack, a process of pain and sorrow. It is in that humble recognition that we then ask. We ask God for what we lack in ourselves – not in the world, in the manner of possessions, sensations, or accomplishments, but in ourselves – patience, empathy, wisdom. By believing that God will, indeed, grant us every truly good thing, we give our whole hearts and lives to this belief. And, no matter what happens to us in the world, we do not let heartbreak, pain, grief, or any suffering batter us about like a mindless, purposeless, directionless thing. We act in faith and we live faithfully and we are brought forward through our lives by the endless gifts of God, led by the touch of Christ – carried by the love of Christ, with whom, in whom, and through whom we are wise… from beginning to eternity.

© 2014 Christina Chase

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Arise, O LORD

Psalms 10:12

Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up thine hand: forget not the humble.

We who are weary here, crushed

beneath the burden of our existence in the world,

who cannot lift our heads for the weight of sorrow…

Some of us mutter to ourselves of our own misery,

defeated by the darkness to spurn any talk of light,

so drenched in wallowing are we that only the sharp

cutting of our tongues (and other weapons) upon the happiness of others brings

us any unpained recognition of being alive – and we curse that, too.

And some of us, bowed down with sadness and fatigue,

still cast our sight, like fishing lures, for any bite of hope,

bobbing along the surface, waiting for the nibble of a small comfort, or,

if brave enough, diving into the deep, submerging

the whole breadth of our brokenness into the ocean of divine mercy,

to be swallowed up by a greater being than ourselves,

one that is quick and liquid ready and eternally alive…

 

Rise up, O Lord, and bring with thee from the depth of the waters

all who have given themselves over to faith in the gulf of hope,

all who have sunk down in their littleness and plunged into their wounds

so they may seek and discover the love that abides there –

not their own miseries, but thy joy and thy triumph!

Lift thy hand, oh God, and with it, the multitudes

who, in their weeping and wretched afflictions,

did not spurn thy name, nor destroy thy images,

nor deny the gift of hope though the world made a mockery,

but who, rather, cast into the deep and trusted thee in the swim.

 

The One who lit the stars and set them in motion,

who pulls the tides with light-reflecting orbs,

and teems the earth and every body with the rush of life,

this is the One from whom I draw my living

and in whom I will pour all my tears and laughter and blood –

though the world forsake me and taunt me with their miseries,

I shall not be overcome… for I am already drowning in love.

 

© 2014 Christina Chase

 

Every Man That Hath This Hope

Does hope purify?

1 John 3:3

And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.

Dozens of people have been murdered in the United States, in the last 18 months, by young men on killing rampages. When teenage boys killed their fellow students at a high school in Colorado in 1999, our country was shocked and appalled. But, this wasn’t the first mass killing in a school. And it wouldn’t be the last. About a year and a half ago, the murders of little children at Sandy Hook Elementary terrified and enraged us again. Just this week, a killer shot and murdered a student and shot a teacher at a school in Oregon, and then ended up dead himself. There seems to be an epidemic. It’s even worse than you might remember – take a look at this timeline starting from 1984: http://timelines.latimes.com/deadliest-shooting-rampages/ Men from the ages of 55 to 11, most of them under 30, have made the decision to seek out human beings and kill them, arming themselves for the rampage, wanting to destroy their lives. Sometimes they commit suicide directly. Sometimes it’s almost a matter of suicide by police. None of them get away. Why do they want to do this?

Why?

Why???

The President of the United States has said, in light of the most recent killing, “this is not normal.” But isn’t “normal” a relative word? Certainly we would agree with the president’s assessment, I mean, it’s kind of a no-brainer to call this “not normal” – but isn’t it becoming normal? For some people in our country, perhaps for some young men who live just down the street, these killing sprees look like the exact right thing to do – they look perfectly and brilliantly normal to them. For me, the most chilling murder by young men is one that hits close to home, literally. And, I think, it points to a reason why the abnormal is becoming normal.

In 2009, in the small town of Mont Vernon, four seemingly normal young men, ages 17-20, took a drive, armed with knives and a machete, looking specifically for someone to kill. Anyone. They broke into a home in the woods and found a woman and her 11-year-old daughter sleeping there. They brutally and viciously stabbed, slashed, and hacked the woman to death, hacking away at the little girl as well, so violently that they not only smashed bones but also hacked bones into pieces. The little girl only survived by playing dead. Why did these four boys do such a thing?

No, they were not mentally ill. They wanted to know what it was like to kill people. One of these boys, even after the fact, thought that this was cool. The four of them had called themselves the “Disciples of Destruction” and enjoyed violent music and images. In an article on CrimeLibrary.com, Michael A. Washburn writes, “Like many suburban kids with too much time on their hands, the “Disciples of Destruction” were drawn together by a shared fascination with the cultures of death and mayhem.” When Judge Abramson sentenced one of the killers to life in prison with no parole (the harshest penalty allowable) +76 consecutive years, she said to him that she wanted “to ensure that you stay in that cage for the rest of your pointless life.”

His pointless life. Indeed. I think that’s exactly the point.

Many of these serial killers who do all their murdering in one rampage were, I’m quite sure, mentally ill. But, people who think that other people are not worth anything, people who want to feel the thrill of killing, are not necessarily mentally ill. We, as a nation of people, absolutely have to get together and truly help people among us who are suffering from mental illness. We need effective ways to find them and treat their illnesses. But this won’t be enough. Just as banning or regulating guns won’t be enough (as the Mont Vernon attack shows). As these killings more and more become the new normal, we have to be aware that there are young men among us whose lives are pointless, who have no positive direction, who are drawn to darkness and destruction – who have no hope.

What are we, as a society, offering them? Meeting beautiful women in bars, drinking alcohol, getting laid, playing video games, and putting up with a crappy job with a jerk for a boss so that they can afford the beer, the games, and maybe a hot set of wheels? Isn’t this the ideal life of a twentysomething? And, no, the answer isn’t to provide better jobs – Please! Is no one listening? Is no one watching what young men are watching, hearing what young men are hearing? Frankly, I can see why some are rejecting “normal” behavior. I can see why young men might want to neither become couch-sitting gamers with five kids from three nagging baby mamas nor workaholics with professional prestige and empty, materialistic lives. I also see why some would not want to be neatly dressed, mild-mannered fathers-of-two, whose biggest excitement is an enthusiastic “Amen!” on a Sunday or the thrill of an amusement park ride once a year. Is this really all we’ve got? Have we nothing of real value to offer?

Meaningful relationships. Yes, that’s a start. But… what do relationships mean? Working with their hands to create something solid that actually helps real people. Yes, that’s good, too. Are you making your sons do that? If you are, are you making them do it so that they can be “nice”? If so, it’s not going to work. Nice ain’t gonna cut it. Real love is the only thing that makes a relationship meaningful. Real love is the only reason to build improvements for other people’s lives. And real love is the only thing, the only thing, that keeps our lives from being pointless.

No, I’m not going to blame the parents. Unless, that is, we, as a society, are the parents. It does take a village to raise a child, because often the parents can’t do it by themselves, either because they are too busy, too ignorant, or too wounded themselves to know what real love is. So… What is real love?

Let’s take the qualities that the young killers at Mont Vernon were attracted to: courage, bravery, honor in brotherhood, something different than ho-hum-get-through-the-day, the newness of discovery, the experience of something hands-on, pushing themselves beyond where they had ever been before. Yes, I know, even I’m feeling kind of disgusting writing down those words in light of what they did with their desires. But, now, take those qualities to the classroom. Now they don’t seem so chilling, but, rather, exhilarating and exactly right. Take those natural desires of young people to the home and give them a direction in which to go. A path to take that is beyond ordinary. Help them to love something, really love something. I don’t mean a particular someone – how many murders have been committed because a young boy put all of his energies into one girl? I mean a love of nature, a love of construction, a love of science, a love of arts – poetry, music, performance arts, literature, painting, sculpture, photography, film, etc. – a love of travel, a love of commerce, a love of sports (maybe, at least they won’t have “time on their hands”) a love of community. Teach them not to look down on other people. Teach them that we are all interconnected. Teach them that every human being has – that they have – inherent value that no one and nothing can take away. Teach them about the human soul! Every human longs for something more! Don’t misinterpret, and therefore stifle, that longing to mean more money, more clothes, more accolades, more excitement, more thrills. The something more for which we all long is Something More. Something more infinite than the outer reaches of space-time… Something more intimate than the inner depths of feelings. Infinite and intimate love that calls for courage in making new discoveries and bravery in giving of ourselves completely; infinite and intimate love that doesn’t merely help us get through the day but pushes us beyond ourselves to the sharing of that infinite and intimate love – real love.

I know that I can’t change the world. And I certainly know that these words are too abstract to be translated into any concrete action. But, we seriously need to take a look at hope in our country. (Not the kind of hope that’s marketed and branded by politicians, who are too narrow-minded in their understanding of hope, and who invariably disappoint anyway by getting bogged down in politics, selfishness, or even just the practical, and lose sight of the big picture – lose sight of Something More.) Every person is unique and has unique gifts for the building up and the giving of life. Every person is loved into being – hope in that. There’s the point. No person is worthless. No matter how bored, how small, or how voiceless. A culture of life would understand this. A culture of life would make decisions out of real love and not out of fear or hopelessness. But… ours isn’t a culture of life, is it.

Christina Chase ©2014

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