Hope Is an Anchor


So what if this is heaven? Here. Now. How would you feel about that?

Last week as we sat around the dinner table, our oldest explained to us that he had been doing some speculating with some of his friends. Somehow they got on the topic of heaven. They decided that maybe we are already in heaven. All I could immediately think of was The Truman show, the movie Jim Carrey starred in back in 1998. The main character, Truman,  thought he was living a normal life, only to discover his whole life was a reality TV show.

We unpacked Joshua and his friends’ idea a little together. The theory instantly fell apart, of course, when he considered the part about heaven having no more sorrow, pain, or tears.

I had several thoughts from that conversation. First, I love how my big guy is a little philosopher and takes the time to analyze the world around him. Second, I love that he has friends he can talk with about heaven. Third, I considered what if that fact was indeed true. If this is heaven, I’d hate to know what hell is like, is all I can say.

Ultimately, what struck me most, is that my son’s life is good enough that he could even consider our world to be heaven. Just yesterday I read some local news including gun shots fired, an attack at an apartment complex, and an assault on a woman on our college campus in an area I’ve walked many times. The violence continues to grow and gain severity in our used to be quiet town. And let’s not even get started talking about the poor pregnant mother that was shot in the head just an hour away, the wife of a pastor, who clearly had a servant’s heart.

My mind has a hard time comprehending earth as heaven as I read about Syrian refugees and terrorist attacks. How can my son’s life feel so wonderful while others in our world are suffering through incomprehensible circumstances?

Apparently, I have many blessings to count during this holiday season.

My faith wavers at times. I have moments of fear that this life of mine may be all there is to experience. I think I would be infinitely more selfish if the hope of heaven didn’t exist in my life. Forget about using religion as a crutch; it’s one of the few things making me a decent human being.

Take a few moments to reflect on the following scripture. In light of all of the evil in the world, thank goodness we have promises that tether us to a better future.

Hebrews 6:11-19
11 Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. 12 Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.
13 For example, there was God’s promise to Abraham. Since there was no one greater to swear by, God took an oath in his own name, saying:
14 “I will certainly bless you,
and I will multiply your descendants beyond number.”
15 Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.
16 Now when people take an oath, they call on someone greater than themselves to hold them to it. And without any question that oath is binding. 17 God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. 18 So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. 19 This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.
Wishing you hope that will see you through the messes of this life!

Rekindling the Light



His nose has a hole in it. Most of the “fur” has been rubbed off of his tail. A good portion of his stuffing has come and gone. His once white coat has evolved into a dingy gray.

I read the following passage the other day from the Velveteen Rabbit, and while I thought of my son Austin’s dear Yoggie, it spurred many other thoughts for me.

“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

If ever there was a candidate for becoming real, Austin’s Yoggie would top the list.

Stuffed animals are truly that way…the more well-loved, the worse they look. As I thought about it, though, people aren’t much like that. This passage is often used to talk about aging and how with a full life we become more flabby, wrinkled, broken, and such. Yet, I think the more well-loved we are, the more vibrant we are.

Think about someone you know who has lived a hard life. Or even reflect on your own life and a time you went through where you may have felt lonely, abused, or unloved. There is so much you can tell from a person’s eyes, appearance, and demeanor. I can remember a time in my life when I felt like an empty shell of a person. It can take just one individual to extinguish your fire.

Not long ago I met a woman who had experienced severe abuse for years at the hands of her father. She had just set out on the path to healing. Her eyes haunted me afterwards. A vacancy existed. You could tell she was reluctant for human interaction. Her light had been snuffed out, stolen from her.

The good news is light can be rekindled. The loss doesn’t have to be permanent. One of the joys from working in women’s ministry for the last 10 years is that I get to witness many success stories. I have seen women enter our midst with their light dwindling. It only takes the love of a few compassionate people to change someone’s life.  Few things are more thrilling to me than watching that light shine brighter. Even just one caring man or woman can make an enormous difference.

With eyes sparkling, one woman recently sat with me sharing her life story. She said our group of moms had changed her life. Joy bubbled from her. Her road has been hard, and I mean hard,  but she knows she has people in her corner now.

I think I understand a little better now why Moses face shone like the sun after being in God’s presence. People may not “glow” like Moses did, but there is no denying that when we share God’s love with others there can be a visible transformation that happens. And not just in them, but in us, too.

Friends, it can just take a hug, a kind word, some of your time to listen, a note of encouragement, to change the trajectory of a person’s life. Then just stand back and watch them walk a little straighter and shine a little brighter. Whose life can you touch for the better today?



Living in a Fear Based Culture

Fear Not

On Pentecost Island in the South Pacific, male villagers demonstrate their faith in a unique way — by climbing a makeshift tower constructed by 20-30 men, tying vines around their ankles, and plummeting headfirst toward the earth. Only then will God ensure a good harvest and protect his people from starvation, according to this particular group of Christians.

Nine-year-old Bebe feels determined to become a man, one other aspect of this ritual . He and his father go out into the jungle to procure just the right vines for his jump. The lowest platform reaches a height of 10 meters. The ideal jump is as high as possible and is considered successful if your head brushes the ground.

The mother stands below and holds an item belonging to her child. After the jump, she will throw it away, symbolizing her son has now reached adulthood. Did I mention that Bebe is NINE???

So, I’m trying to picture myself standing at the base of a tower next year holding Yoggie while Austin climbs 10 meters into the sky with the intention of plummeting to the earth using vines that have been eyeballed for good use. Jumps can end in severe concussions, paralysis, or even death. How do those mamas’ hearts survive?

Let’s compare this for a bit to our own culture. I’m going to relate several examples of situations I feel are motivated by fear. I may be wrong. There may be legitimate reasons for the decisions made. I don’t have all of the details, but I still feel like the following are indicative of something unhealthy in our society.

  1. Many once commonly accepted childhood games are now being banned across the nation. Red Rover is becoming an activity from the history books. The latest culprit is tag, which has been deemed too unsafe to engage in by school districts from Washington State to New Hampshire. Oh, and dodgeball has been targeted, as well. Frankly, I miss those old wooden teeter-totters where you could make your partner’s brain jiggle.
  2. Maybe you heard about Ahmed Mohamed, the teenager in Texas arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school. The teacher was suspicious about its construction, fearing a bomb, and next thing you know he found himself in handcuffs. The good thing for Ahmed is that with all of the attention he received, he’ll likely have no trouble getting into a college of his choice when the time comes. I had a student one year who verbally declared he was going to blow up the school. We had to take it very seriously, even though I knew he was just spouting off. Just remember, teachers and administrators can be bound by rules that are in place.
  3. Last Saturday was Halloween. It’s the newest holiday to meet the chopping block across our nation. A school system in Connecticut told parents they would no long be celebrating with costume parades because too many kids were being left out. You know, I think that time in 8th grade I couldn’t participate in gym class because of my back they should have cancelled the class instead of just having me sit out. My junior year I sat out of a song in show choir because I didn’t agree with it. That was my choice, and I would never have expected the teacher to not do the song. Also, I was painfully legalistic at the time. We all grow and change.
  4. Suicide and depression rates are increasing among college students. Some attribute it to the problem of helicopter parenting that is becoming more prevalent. Julia Lythcott-Haims, former dean of Stanford University has written a book called How to Raise an Adult: Break Free of the Overparenting Trap and Prepare Your Kid for Success. She writes, “We want so badly to help them by shepherding them from milestone to milestone and by shielding them from failure and pain. But overhelping causes harm. It can leave young adults without the strengths of skill, will and character that are needed to know themselves and to craft a life.” I find it interesting that struggle is a necessary part of becoming an emotionally healthy adult.
  5. When I was teaching, our school performed regular safety drills to practice what might happen if an intruder entered the building. I hated these so much. Who wants to practice cowering in a corner and trying to explain why? School secretaries sit behind locked office doors, but the reality is that one gunshot to the door is all it takes for any amount of “safety” to become void. All of our procedures might only delay the inevitable. I’m not saying these things aren’t necessary, but are they only a band-aid to a deeper problem?

These are just a few examples, and I’m sure some of you could argue that they are not really indicative of fear, but I think they are, especially when you contrast them to the accepted practices on Pentecost Island.

There is a meme that has gone around Facebook recently that says, “The phrase ‘do not be afraid’ is written 365 times in the Bible. That’s a daily reminder from God to live every day being fearless.” When I first read it, I thought, “How amazing.” Then, I thought, “Wait a minute.” A little research proved this isn’t really the case. I suppose if you threw in a lot of related phrases about fear and worry, you might be able to come up with that many, but the quote simply isn’t true. However, the Bible does repeatedly remind us to not fear and to trust in God. I think we could all use a healthy dose of that.

So, I’m not encouraging you to have your kid leap from a tower anytime soon, but I think we all need to evaluate our motivations for things that hold us back in fear, both with ourselves, and with our children. I always say life is messy, but how much of the mess are we responsible for?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Watch Bebe’s dive here. Yikes!