Tag Archives: hope

Agape

Earlier today a question occurred to me. Why, or how do humans love? What is love, anyway? I thought of this question because I keep coming back to the question of why God loves us. Ultimately, that’s an insanely difficult question to answer, so I decided to try and dumb it down for myself. The obvious next step was to “Google” this because I wanted to know what experts, whether they be spiritual or scientific, had to say. First I got scientific answers that really didn’t seem very helpful. They only really touched on romantic love, which wasn’t what I had in mind.

Then I rephrased my question and got the answer I somehow knew I was looking for all along. There are four different types of love according to Greek philosophy: Eros, or a love that is deeply related to the body and the senses; Phileo, or affection towards people and sometimes things; Storge, which is a loyal love, generally towards one’s family, friends, a cause one believes in, one’s country, etc; Agape, or an active, sacrificial love that is chosen simply for the good of others for no reason. Agape love cannot be understood in a passive sense. Agape is always a verb. Agape is to will the good of the other.

Agape is perfect love, and it is the kind of love that God showed us when he died for us on the cross. God is love. This is why he is a Trinity. He is a lover, beloved, and loving. The Father and the Son love each other, and the Holy Spirit is the love that they share. A human relationship is shared between two people, but if there is no love between them, there is no relationship. People need other people because we need to experience love, and we can’t fill our need purely on our own. God doesn’t need, nor did he ever need humanity to exist because the Trinity was already experiencing perfect love.

God created us knowing that we would betray him. He saved us even though he didn’t have to, and even though it would mean experiencing the worst we had to offer. The crazy thing is that even though God doesn’t need us to love him, he wants us to. This is revealed over and over in the Scriptures, and also through the writings of the saints. In fact, Jesus says that the greatest commandment is simply to love God. Loving God means a great number of things, and can be anything from enjoying and appreciating nature, to imitating Jesus and doing good for others, to stopping to pray or participate in some form of worship.

Jesus said that to find one’s life, one had to lose it. He also said there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. To lose one’s life does not need to be understood in a literal sense. It is meant that one is to give one’s self away freely, and in doing so, one finds out who they really are. Similarly, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends means to sacrifice for people without expecting anything in return. To make sacrifices for God’s Kingdom is Agape love. It is the kind of love that God wants from us.

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What More Can I Do?

I tried to start a prayer chain on Facebook a few days ago. The idea was that if you prayed the Rosary, you would do it at least once for the people in Texas, and then tag five people so they could do it in turn. If you didn’t (or don’t) pray the Rosary and wanted to join me you would just pray five Our Father’s, and do the same thing. I don’t know if anyone’s done it, but I’ve been doing it for several days now. Only two out of the five people I tagged have “liked” my original post, but three people who I don’t even know have also “liked” it. If anyone wants to join me, you can either repost this, or just let your readers know what your’re doing.

Anyway, While I was doing this two days ago, I really focused on each individual part of the Lord’s Prayer, and it’s amazing just how poetic and relevant it is. I’ll write the original, and then put it into vernacular here.

Our Father
Who art in Heaven
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in Heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
And forgive us our tresspasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.

Our Father in Heaven,
Your name is holy.
Let your Kingdom come and your will be done
On Earth just as it is in Heaven.
Today give us what we need,
And forgive us our sins,
As we forgive those who sin against us.
Keep us away from temptations,
And deliver us from evil.

When I started this prayer chain idea, I started with the Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary, which focus on everything that happened after Jesus rose from the dead. It may seem like a weird place to start, but I started here because to me, these are the Mysteries of hope, and I’m sure the people in Texas could use a little more of that.

Because of the hope that Jesus gave us, we get to call the God of the universe our Father, despite his holiness, and despite our humanness. We know that his Kingdom is coming, but the fact of the matter is, it’s already here, too. We ask that his will is done because his will is always good. We can always ask for help to keep us from sinning, and he always answers that prayer, and he always frees us from evil. It just sometimes takes a while.

two days ago I was doing the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, which focus on five of Jesus’ most significant miracles. In particular, I was thinking about when he turned water into wine. I found myself thinking, “Turn water into… something else. They’ve had enough.” I’m doing the Mysteries in order, so today I’ll be doing the Sorrowful Mysteries, which focus on his Passion. It starts with the Agony in the Garden, where Jesus prays to his Father, and says “I don’t want to do this, but your will be done.”

I didn’t have a chance to do this yesterday because we had family over, but two days ago I found myself thinking about those words in particular. I found myself thinking, “I don’t really know what to pray. I just don’t get this, but your will be done.” Over the past few days, I’ve found myself praying that a lot: “I don’t know what to do or pray, but your will be done.”

two days ago I watched a video about a guy who got burned by accident when he was nine. He had burns over one hundred percent of his body. No one expected him to live. Then a guy who was a baseball announcer on the radio came and visited him in the hospital. The kid couldn’t open his eyes because they were swollen shut, but the guy told him he was going to live. He came back a bunch of times, and kept telling him that.

Eventually the kid left the hospital and went home, but some of his fingers had been amputated, and he didn’t want to learn to write again because that would mean going back to school. The Baseball guy sent him a baseball that said if he wanted a second baseball, all he had to do was write a “thank you” letter. He kept doing this to help the kid recover and learn and essentially get back to normal. When the kid graduated high school or college (I don’t remember which), the baseball guy showed up to his graduation. He said he kept asking himself, “What more can I do?”

I found myself asking that same question this morning. I’ve been praying. I hadn’t donated any money because I’m on social security disability, and I feel like it’s not really “my” money. Then I thought about it differently. Donating two hundred bucks is basically just moving that two hundred from Massachusetts to Texas. Since it was never mine to begin with, I might as well make some use of it. I do have menial savings, so I donated that two hundred. Still, the question lingers. What more can I do? I won’t forget about this, and I won’t ignore it because I refuse to.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Braving The Bleak

Last week we were on vacation, camping in Maine. It was mostly awesome, but my medication did still give me some issues, and it was frustrating. I had to take a lot of naps. Today I was back to work. I’m working on a rather dark story for my mythology, which isn’t exactly fun, but I’m getting through it. I’ve actually enlisted one of my friends to help me with this one. Basically, I’m describing a Realm in my universe called the Bleak, which, unlike others, is deeply connected to darker human emotions. In another story I described a Realm called the Waiting Lands, which a human could possibly get to, not just in their minds, but also in bodily form, but they would have to “brave the Bleak” first. The Waiting Lands are very strange, but also very cool.

When I’m writing, or sometimes much later than when I actually finish a story, I find myself reflecting on how my fantasy mirrors my reality in a way. Last week was kind of a Bleak for me. I had a lot of fun with my cousins, but I was dealing with issues with my meds, and on top of that, I found myself fighting a pretty difficult spiritual temptation. I am hardly ever angry at God, but I did once yell at him. I didn’t doubt him. I was just mad.

Of course God, being obnoxiously helpful like he is, decided to intervene. My dad decided shortly after my spiritual tantrum that we should cut my dose just a little bit without informing my doctor, which seems to be working, and one night when I couldn’t sleep because I had slept all afternoon, I was reading random stuff on my phone, and I found Saint Therese de Lisieux. That girl lost her mother at the age of four, she was sick quite often, and she died very young. Still, she trusted God completely. I read snippets from her autobiography, “Story of a Soul,” and it was all about how God is truly a God of love. This really moved me, and I keep coming across more and more things that emphasize the fact that God loves me and that he’s listening.

There’s a line from a Tenth Avenue North song that keeps running through my head that seems quite appropriate. “Even when we fight temptation, even when we stand accused, we know that you will defend us, we can always run to you.” I won’t lie, fighting this particular temptation has felt like an uphill battle. Last night, though, I started rereading the Gospel of Luke, really slowly, just because I wanted God to talk to me. He did, in two ways, actually.

I don’t remember how I got to it, or what the verses were that made me realize it, but somehow God spoke to me and told me that I was promised heaven. Initially I thought, “duh, I’m Christian.” But then a voice in my head said, “No, think about it.” God doesn’t break his promises, and the fact that that promise stuck out to me means that I needed a reminder. It also said to me that I haven’t lost the fight. That wasn’t where it ended, though. I had a weird dream this morning. This seems to happen a lot. I was on a weird roller coaster train, and it broke. All the passengers were literally going to die. A voice from nowhere in particular said “Love, luxury, lust.” Then a priest on some kind of flying platform started going to all the passengers. Finally he came to me, right before the train was going to fall, and he gave me my last rights. I wanted him to stay with me, but I let him go so he could get to the other passengers. Then I woke up.

The dream said to me that there was love, and there was luxury, and there was lust on that train. It didn’t matter. Jesus came to save everyone. More to the point, he came to promise heaven to everyone. Okay, there is a path we have to follow, and it gets a bit complicated, but Jesus also said that he’d stick with us no matter what. When asked why he hung out with sinners and outcasts, he said that these were the people who needed him most. He’s not afraid.

I was one of the last people the priest came to in the dream. The train was about to fall, but he got to me. I’m not sure if that says anything in particular, but it was comforting. Maybe if there is a message there it’s that God will catch me if I fall. I think I needed a reminder of that, too. There are a ┬ánumber of places in the Bible that say the Lord is “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” Other translations might say “slow to anger and rich in kindness” or something similar. God is not looking to scrutinize and make us feel guilty for our every move. He’s our Father. A good father doesn’t do that. He will make sure to kindly correct us when we do something we shouldn’t, but ultimately, a good father loves his kids. That’s what it comes down to.

Today we got to see a full solar eclipse. We didn’t get the full effect in Massachusetts, but we watched it on TV, and got to see a partial effect outside, which was still pretty cool. My brother was less impressed, but I get excited. There was a bizarre sense of unity because of the eclipse today. It was all over the news, and unlike usual, the news was happy. Everyone was on the same page. While watching the full effect on TV, I couldn’t think of exactly how to express my reaction, but I thanked God because something like this is a gift. It’s definitely something you don’t see every day. I know this seems unrelated to the rest of my post, but maybe it means that I’ve braved the Bleak, or at least I’m almost through.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Who Do You Trust?

Yesterday massively sucked. Our house cleaner comes every other Tuesday, which basically means I can’t work every other Tuesday because I’m out all day doing mind-numbing errands with my mom and brother and by the time we get home I’m kind of fried. Yesterday was a house-cleaning day. Usually we’re up and out of the house pretty quickly, but for whatever reason, we took what seemed like over an hour to leave. On top of that, we had decided to go to Flat Bread Pizza for lunch, which for us is in Salem. Salem is a pretty long ride for us, and by the time we got to the restaurant I was famished. This is probably sounding like whining so far, and under normal circumstances, it probably would be.

Shortly after we got to the restaurant I started feeling sort of sick, so I just sat still and figured I’d be fine once I got some pizza in me. Flat Bread is my favorite. However, shortly after I got my first piece down, my head started spinning, I started feeling faint, and then I got sick in my plate. We left after that and went to a gas station next door where I tried to keep down some chips and some Gatorade. I couldn’t even keep down the chips, and I could keep down the Gatorade for a while until we got almost back to our house. Then I got sick again in a container of wet wipes.

I was so dizzy I could barely make it to the bathroom on the second floor of our house (which is across from my bedroom) to get cleaned up before I slept for several hours. I did finally get up around nine PM and was finally able to eat some crackers and drink some Gatorade. I was also, thankfully, able to get my epilepsy pills down, and then I slept pretty well last night.

Today I got up feeling almost back to normal. I ate a pancake and some cheese and crackers and a bit of fruit before going to get my blood drawn (to make sure I’m not, you know, dying or anything), which went swimmingly, and then I got coffee with my mom, and I just finished writing the fifteenth story in my mythology.

It kind of seems like I’ve had more weird health issues lately. I had a thought a little bit earlier today. Is a cry for help a kind of worship? I’ve learned to say, when I ask God for help that I trust him. He did get me through yesterday, and yesterday was one of the worst days I’ve had in a quite a long time. A little while after we had left the restaurant I was feeling really crappy, and I told my mom I thought I should go to the hospital. Willingly going to a hospital is like admitting the worst kind of defeat for me. I have to be almost convinced that if I don’t I’m going to die. I’m not exaggerating. My whole family (on my mom’s side, anyway) is like that. Luckily my dad talked me out of it, but I prayed to God before we got home, and I said, “I don’t want to die, but I trust you, and whatever happens, I’m ready. Just please help me.” Now reading it, it sounds absurd. I’m twenty-four, but yesterday I was ready to die if that was what it was coming to.

I suppose this needs a bit of explanation. The symptoms I was experiencing yesterday seemed to be the result of really low sodium levels. One of my epilepsy medicines does deplete my sodium, which stinks because I’m also kind of a health nut, and a lot of salty things aren’t particularly healthy. Sure enough, though, once I got some crackers and Gatorade down, I was a lot better. I should also say that I’m only a health nut in the sense that I try to eat fairly small portions and ration the amount of actual junk food I eat. I also prefer, in general, to snack on fruits and vegetables, but I certainly don’t go overboard to the point that I feel like I’m missing out on something.

Still, none of this really answers my question. Is a cry for help a kind of worship? After yesterday I’m inclined to think so. I think it depends on whether one trusts God, and if one remembers that he’s there in the good times as well as the not so good ones. I remember our priest talking about this a handful of times in church when I was younger, before I had ever even accepted Christ, really. He said it’s so easy to remember God and to call out to him when we need something, but he’s not just here to give us whatever we need or want. He seeks our worship when things are going well because he loves us and he wants us to love him back.

While I was waiting for my appointment today I was trying to work through this in my head, and ultimately I had to realize that I keep asking myself the same questions over and over, which all boiled down to one: Am I worth dying for? In the opinion of the God I worship, I am. Part of that question is: How am I, one out of millions, and nothing special, worth it, and why am I worth it? I’ve decided to stop asking, though. I told him that in the waiting room. I’m done asking, and instead I’m just going to say, “I love you, too.”

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

A Strange Dream

A few nights ago I had a very simple dream. This in itself is odd because my dreams are never simple. I’m usually embarking on one epic quest or another and they don’t usually make too much sense. In the dream I was in a seemingly endless, empty white room with no one else in it except me and a man wearing a somewhat strange outfit. The only thing I remember distinctly is a white fur coat. I was looking for Jesus and since there was no one else there, I assumed this was him. As soon as I started talking to him, however, two things happened.

Firstly, I quickly realized that this wasn’t who I was looking for, and secondly, a man who was a mirror image of the first man showed up out of nowhere. Since this was a dream I didn’t think this odd at all, so I went over to the second man assuming that, once again, this must be Jesus. Interestingly, though he looked exactly like the first man, he had a completely different personality. Once again, however, as soon as I began talking to him, I realized that this, too was not Jesus. The process repeated over and over, every time producing more and more men who looked exactly alike but had completely different personalities.

Then I stopped. Finally I knew this wasn’t working. By now there were countless men I hadn’t even spoken to yet, all who looked alike, and who, I could guess, all had different personalities, but were not Jesus. So I tried a new strategy. If I spoke to no one, they did not speak to me, so I simply wandered around and looked. They all looked the same. Eventually a theory popped into my head: maybe these are all different versions or parts of who Jesus is or even how people perceive him, and I have to find the one I’m looking for.

Shortly after that, however, I realized this was an absurd thought and there is only one Jesus. Only one. As soon as I realized this, I saw a man who looked like the others in that he had the same facial features and hair, but I distinctly remember him wearing much less elegant clothes. What was also distinctly different was that, unlike the others who were standing, he was sitting on a rock, his feet were in a pool of water, and he looked very weak, like he was about to fall over. This scared me. I wanted him to be okay. I knew this was Jesus, and once I was sure of it, he got up unsteadily, came over to me and gave me a hug. He said a few words, but I don’t remember what he said. I woke up after that.

I don’t think he actually said much, and I’m not really sure how important it was in the end. If he had wanted me to remember it, I would have. It’s easy to forget things between dreaming and waking up. I think what was important was the entirety of the dream itself. I learned a lot of things that I already knew in part, but that hadn’t entirely solidified in my mind.

In Mathew 24, Jesus warns of “false prophets:” people who preach things that sound like truth but really turn people away from the Truth. He warns of wars, famine, and natural disasters, and he warns that people will hate his followers because of what they (we) believe. He says that his followers need to be careful and not be fooled. There were a lot of people in my dream who looked like him, but who weren’t him, and it took me quite a while to figure that out.

What was interesting, however, was the real difference in appearances. The other men in my dream may have looked like him to some degree, but as soon as I talked to them, I knew I was talking to the wrong people. Not only that, but they looked strong, well dressed, and dignified, while Jesus did not. Jesus doesn’t present himself as above anyone. We find him in simple things and small acts of kindness. He humbles himself despite the fact that he is the Son of God. He is a part of the Holy Trinity. That’s kind of insane.

What hit me most of all was the very end of the dream. When I found him, he looked exhausted, like he was going to faint, and I felt responsible, as if it wouldn’t have been so bad if I had found him sooner. I was so surprised to find him like this that I hesitated, and I felt bad about that, too, but before I could even move to help him, he was getting up. When he hugged me it was the most relieving feeling I’ve had in a very long time, and it was in a dream.

I just wanted to write this all down and share it with whoever finds it interesting or helpful. I would love to hear what anyone has to say. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.

 

All Or Nothing

I’m taking a little break from work (working on my mythology). I need to let it sit for a few minutes. Last week I finished one of the longer stories in the collection, and I was a bit stuck on where to go from there. Right now I’m trying to finish up a story I put on hold a while ago instead of starting completely new material.

I procrastinated for quite a while today because it was so nice out. That’s the beautiful thing about being a writer. I also just wanted to talk things over with God, though. We had a really good conversation, actually. As we were talking I realized something. When I was a kid, all I wanted to be was “different.” I didn’t want to be like all the other kids. It wasn’t as simple as that, though. I wanted to be a rebel. I was, in thought if not in action, anti-establishment, and firmly against anything that was popular, whether it was policy or pop music.

While we were talking, though, I realized something. Anti-establishment and against-what-is-popular is normal now. I still want to be different, and I realized that being outwardly Christian and proud of it makes me different. I was never good at the different I thought I wanted to be, but the different that I know I really am; the different that I strive to be is a different that I love. The different I thought I wanted was about making noise and breaking rules. The different I really want and the different that I am is about love. It’s as simple as that.

I watched a talk by a priest named Father Mike (I forget how to spell his last name) about when Jesus says to take on his yoke and learn from him. Basically what that means is that we have to walk beside him and learn to imitate him. We have to learn to see people like he sees them, and we have to learn how to act so that people see him when they see us.

Being like him–being different–has always seemed like a huge responsibility to me, and at times, it seems impossible. In particular, telling people about him and about his Kingdom has always seemed to be a very difficult and intimidating task because to a lot of people it sounds at least crazy, if not offensive. I’ve read a lot of advice about how to pray effectively, and everything says to listen. I’m usually not good at this, but today was different.

I asked a question. “Were you ever afraid to say what you had to say while you were here on Earth?”

I waited for a moment, but the answer came pretty quickly. He said, “Of course I was afraid. I had to defend something that sounded crazy and blasphemous to a lot of people, and I knew I was going to get killed for it. I am God, but I’m also a regular person. You’ve read about how scared I was the night before I died. What you feel is normal and okay.”

Of course his fear was different than my fear. A large part of my fear is simply not wanting to be thought of as a weirdo. The truth is, though, that I’ve gone too far to turn back now. This is the different that I want, and I can’t just stay where I am. With Jesus, it’s all or  nothing.

Holy Week (Friday)

 

I have to go away for a while, and you won’t see me. You’ll worry. You’ll doubt. You’ll wonder if I’ve really been telling you the truth, and if I really am coming back. Before I go, I need to tell you that I love you, and I need you to let that sink in and believe it. I know you haven’t understood everything, but you will. I am coming back for you.

And he did. And he will.

 

Day 3

I’ve had an interesting day so far. It technically started before the sun came up. I couldn’t sleep last night, so I lay in bed and made up a weird story for an hour and a half or so. It wasn’t bad for bored-at-two-in-the-morning. I remember a lot of it, but I don’t think I’ll bother writing it down. I think it’ll be my secret insomnia story.

I got up around 10:15 because I was supposed to come up with the lesson plan for today’s CCD class yesterday, which doesn’t take long, but I forgot, so I needed to have time to do that plus eat lunch. That all got done and the lesson itself went swimmingly, although I think I occasionally get a little too complicated for my nine-year-old students. When I was a kid I hated CCD. It wasn’t taught well. I just want them to know Jesus. I definitely didn’t know him when I was a kid.

After my lesson I came home and assessed my mosaic. My dad and I got a lot done last night, and I realized I just need to glue one more design piece down before starting on the background, which is going to be all black tiles. It was cool to realize that I now know how to complete the puzzle. We ended up talking a bit about mosaics in class today because, surprisingly, most of the kids didn’t know what they were. One of the kids asked me what mine looks like. I told him it currently looks like a mess.

I didn’t have a whole lot of time to do mosaic things, though, because I had to get upstairs before Kathy came over. She was super nice and cool and kind of reminded me of our family friend who lives in Florida. What she told me was so reassuring. I, Katie Curtis, can become a consecrated virgin. I still have a lot of thinking to do, but I’m pretty sure this is exactly what I want, and there’s nothing getting in my way that I can see. She said the next thing I should do is read a document on this vocation that’s provided online and meet with the director of vocations in Boston.

The most helpful thing she said, though was that, while I’m working through all of this, I can say that I’m dating Jesus. It sounds weird, but I’ve been wanting to be able to say that for a long time. I’ve loved him for a long time in a way that has felt more than friendship, and I haven’t known what to call it. It was just this weird in-between thing. I think I’m right. Everything is telling me that I’m right. It’s kind of ridiculous. Right now I’m listening to very weird music that I’m not sure I even really like, and I haven’t got anything done on my Mythology today, but I don’t even care. I’m in a stupidly good mood.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Cry

I have a hard time being vulnerable. The trouble is, I’m kind of sensitive. I take certain things too literally. I let things get under my skin. I over-analyze. Sometimes I’m too critical of myself. I used to just let things build up. I would hide my emotions. I would refuse to cry because I was stronger than that. Instead I would block out the world and play violent video games while silently hating everyone.

The reason I’m writing this is because I saw a post on Facebook today that said “When life gives you a hundred reasons to break down and cry, show life that you have a million reasons to smile and laugh. Stay strong.” The problem with this idea, is that this is exactly what I used to try and do, and I don’t think it’s healthy. If you have one hundred reasons to cry, then you should cry. You should cry your heart out because that’s what you’re truly feeling.

Sometimes you do simply have to disregard perspective. You might have a million things going for you. You might have a pretty darn easy life compared to so many millions of others simply because you life in a first world country, etc. While that’s important to remember, it’s also important to take care of your emotional well being, and if something really crappy happens, it’s perfectly okay to forget everything else, go to your bedroom and cry.

It also helps to have someone to cry to. For you it might be a friend, or a parent, or a pet. Personally, I still don’t like people to see me cry, but I’m comfortable letting God just be with me while I cry because he knows I’m upset anyway. Sometimes you’ll want to talk, and sometimes you just need someone to be there. It’s important to have someone like that.

I don’t claim to know much about psychology, but burying reasons to cry in reasons not to does not seem like a good idea to me. If we widen the scope beyond our own lives and the things that directly impact us and the people around us, we see almost nothing but sadness and devastation on the news. In the past several months I am guilty of almost entirely ignoring the news for a multitude of reasons. Staying uninformed is a method by which one can bury reasons to cry in reasons not to.

Powerlessness is an unpleasant feeling, and waiting for results is hard. We watch the news, and we think, “What am I watching this for? I can’t do anything about it. I can’t end a war. I can’t bring those people back to life. I can’t change (insert social justice issue).” The thing is, on your own, no, you can’t, and even if you get organized with a bunch of like-minded people, change takes time. Peace takes time. It’s just the dreadful truth.

When you scale it back to your own life, though, the dreadful truth is that crap happens–crap that is out of your control, and maybe you have to lose a battle to win a war. You don’t always have to impress everyone. You don’t always have to be perfect. You don’t always have to agree with everyone. You don’t always have to be liked. When crap happens, sometimes you just have to let go and recharge so to speak. It’s counter intuitive, but I have found that allowing yourself to lose is often the only way to get through.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Bring It On

Over the past few days I’ve been thinking about when Jesus talked about building a house on a rock versus building a house on the sand. Scrolling through my Facebook feed, I see a lot of cynicism and a lot of pessimism, and I wonder what this has to do with where one chooses to build their house. I remember at the beginning of Advent, going into my church and being surprised to see the purple on the altar and the Advent wreath by the entrance, but I was also excited.

A week or two later I was asked to explain the meaning of the Advent wreath to my fourth grade class, and honestly, I had to google it. The wreath itself represents eternity. The three purple candles represent love, peace, and hope, The pink candle represents joy, and the white candle which is lit on Christmas Eve represents purity. My godmother came to visit during the first week of Advent, and she drew an advent wreath on our chalkboard. Even though it’s just a drawing, it’s been exciting each week to draw a yellow light on each of the candles.

In scripture, God is referred to as our rock, our fortress, and our refuge. He has been that for me over and over. This weekend is Christmas. All the candles will be lit. There won’t be any more darkness. Still, scrolling through Facebook, I see darkness, sadness, and bad news. I heard once from someone who went to a therapist that they were told every ship needs a sail and an anchor. Some people are sails, and some people are anchors. Some people lead to new adventures, risks to take, and experiences to delight in or learn from. Others lead home. Using that analogy, it seems to me that so many people are sailing ships with no anchors.

Last week┬áI finished a song about the aftermath of the election. Don’t worry, this’ll be quick; I know we’re all sick of talking about it. Both Clinton supporters and Trump supporters have been unfair and unkind, and in some cases, violent. I supported neither candidate. I didn’t vote. There’s a line in my song that says “I have one king.” The chorus of the song says:

I dare you to lose
Stare down your own defeat
And defiantly believe
That it’s true you can live on hope alone

I think a lot of people have lost hope. I think Trump won because people lost faith in the government, and I think the people who didn’t support him lost hope because they still had faith in the government. Either way, everybody lost. Everybody lost if we’re only talking about the present, the immediate future, and the reality we know apart from God’s part in it. Everybody lost if we forget to hope.

Jesus is king no matter what, and he will always be king no matter what. There is no reason to lose hope at Christmas time. It’s not about whether or not one has amazing decorations, or can hold extravagant parties, or can afford the newest, greatest gifts. What matters is the reason for celebrating. Last week I spent an hour with my fourth grade class as usual. I brought my ukulele and a bag of cookies my mom made. We sang a few songs, and my assistant teacher read a couple stories to the kids. It was one of the most worshipful hours I’ve spent during Advent, and I spent it with eleven little kids.

For some, Christmas is one of the only times to get together with family. For some, it’s a good excuse to eat junk food. One of our favorite traditions is to get my parents, brother, aunt, cousin and me into the car, get some hot chocolate or coffee and drive around and look at everyone’s lights. It’s fun to make our neighborhoods look pretty, and Christmas is a good excuse. For some, however, the weeks before Christmas are not fun. While everyone else is enjoying themselves, some are simply stretching themselves too thin. Some are reminded of bad experiences connected to this time. Some go hungry. Some are cold. Some spend the holiday alone.

The first Christmas wasn’t a party. The first Christmas was dark and dangerous. Jesus’ life was in danger from the moment he was born. I don’t think he would want the world to forget that for the sake of having a good time. I think he might find it easier to identify with the people who aren’t having a good time. For those of us who are, it’s important to remember why, and to invite the Lord to have a good time with us. It can be as simple as remembering to pray before Christmas dinner, and making sure we get to church.

I’ve seen so many posts about how 2016 has been a really crappy year. Okay, in many ways I can’t disagree. Maybe it’s just been another year for me, but we’ve had political unrest in our country, and the Middle East is still in turmoil. There have been terrorist attacks in various countries all over the world, and sometimes it looks like the world is going to end. As we fight for a better life for ourselves and others, we are dished out more problems. Yes, 2016 has looked bleak in many ways. We’ve had to stare darkness in the face.

We have two options this Christmas and in the weeks to come. We can look at that darkness, often disguised in songs about snowmen and sleigh rides: candy and chaos: we can look into that darkness and see only war and death; or we can look into that darkness and defiantly say, “bring it on. I have the Light of the World inside of me. Jesus is with me, and that’s all I need.” We can live on hope alone.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!