What does “hope” really mean?

What does “hope” really mean?

Today marks the first Sunday of Advent in the Christian calendar, and traditionally the first Sunday represents “hope.”

I’ll be honest and say that I’ve always struggled with the idea of hope. To me, it’s seemed like another word for optimism. Not that that’s a bad thing at all — I’m a very optimistic person, and I always try to find the good in everything. But I’ve never really understood the theological reason for the subject of hope to be so predominant throughout scripture. Until now.

According to Webster dictionary, hope is “cherishing a desire with anticipation; to want something to happen or be true.”

So often, I simply tell God that I’m trusting Him because I know He has everything in control. I trust Him with my life and with my relationships and with my career and with everything. And that’s good. God wants us to trust Him. But that’s not all He wants us to do. He wants us to have hope in Him.

Without hope, trust is empty and futile. There’s no anticipation. Trust becomes easy and religious; it becomes pharisaical — blind to expectation and a strict adherence to the things we trust.

Hope brings that sense of expectation that God is going to do what He said He’s going to do and that He will fulfill His promises.

It’s not blind optimism. It’s anticipating in Someone.

And that’s what Christmas is all about. It’s the celebration of the moment God began to fulfill His promise that He will reunite us back with Him in a personal relationship.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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Walking

A popular parable describes a person walking along the beach while being shown images throughout their life. There are two sets of footprints in the sand — the person’s and God’s — until tragic moments are displayed, during which God explains that the set of footprints were His, and He was carrying the individual through those moments.

The reason why this parable is so popular is because it reveals the loving and supportive nature of God, and I think it’s a good analogy for how God cares for people through times of crisis. However, as with any analogy, we can take it too far, and I think the danger with “Footprints in the Sand” is that we imagine God carrying us through all of life.

The Christian life is a journey. It’s a process of learning to be more like Christ and discovering what it means to live in the Kingdom of God. While there is plenty of biblical evidence that God will certainly carry us through times of hardship, I believe God wants us to journey with Him. So often we pray that God will guide us to where He wants us to be, as if He’s pushing or even carrying us to wherever He wants us. Instead, I think He wants us to journey with Him, trusting and leaning on Him to discover the next steps.

I do not like change. I’m uncomfortable with the unknown. I like to know where I’m at and where I’m going, so blindly following an unseen God to uncertainty is a real struggle for me. But I also know the goodness of God, and I know that a true relationship with Him involves a mutual trust: me trusting that He will daily guide each step as I lean on Him, and Him trusting in me that I will listen to His voice.

Allow God to hold and carry you through times of tragedy, but I also invite you to walk with Him through this crazy journey we call life.

No gift exchanges this year

No gift exchanges this year

We love to raise people on a pedestal. We’re amazed when talented musicians play their instruments, and we marvel at intricately painted artwork. We’re motivated by powerfully-delivered inspirational speeches, and we’re moved by beautiful writing.

What makes these gifted people so special? Has God uniquely blessed them with extra talent? I would say no. The difference is how they use their gifts.

God has not gifted people a unique amount of talent, but rather gifted every person with a unique gift. It is how we use our gift that determines whether our gift is seen by the rest of the world.

It’s easy to see the gifts in others, and it’s even easier to become envious of other gifts. But what if we realized that the gifts we have are just as powerful and unique as those we admire?

When Laughter Cries

When Laughter Cries

Two years ago today, the world lost one of the funniest men who ever lived: Robin Williams. The man was a comedic genius, yet this post is not about him specifically. It is about the way the world lost him.

Honestly, I don’t want to talk about this subject because it’s not a happy topic. But this world has lost too many people to suicide, and that breaks my heart.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US for all ages, and it is the second leading cause of death for 15 to 24 year old Americans. Additionally, it is the third leading cause of death in the world for those aged 15-44 according to the World Health Organization (WHO), so culture, ethnicity, and race don’t matter when it comes to suicide.

Now enough about statistics. What can we do?

When I first think about this topic, my gut reaction is that I have no idea. Life is so precious, and I can’t begin to imagine someone ending their life. I care so deeply about people, and it hurts to think that someone has come to the ultimate conclusion that the world would be better off without them.

So my second reaction is love.

For goodness’ sake, love people.

I mean, isn’t that what God commanded us to do in the first place? Love your neighbor as yourself, right? (I’d put the biblical references here, but since it’s mentioned several times in the bible, God must have really meant it).
I realize I’m a big-picture kind of person, and some of you might need a little more evidence. How about the fact that “80%-90% of adolescents that seek treatment for depression are treated successfully using therapy and/or medication”? (Source: SAVE)

This isn’t the cure-all for suicide. The people I know who have been the victims of suicide were well-loved, so suicide will never just magically go away. But I can’t help but wonder what this world would look like if we all just made a little more effort to genuinely love the people around us and showed a little more patience with annoying strangers.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to a loved one or call the national suicide hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255. It’s okay to not be okay, but it’s not okay to stay that way.

No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world. —Dead Poets Society

The best thing about fall

The best thing about fall

Fall is my favorite season, and I don’t even care that my reasons are all cliché. I love breaking out the hoodie on a cool evening, drinking apple cider, watching football, carving pumpkins with friends, and you better believe I will definitely go out of my way to step on that crunchy leaf. There’s just one problem with fall: it inevitably leads to winter.

If you know me at all, you know I absolutely hate cold weather. Having to bundle up in at least three layers of clothes just to take the trash out is obnoxious. Sure, snow is great around Christmas, but even Santa goes back home the next day.

It would be easy to let the prospect of winter ruin fall for me. Knowing that blistering cold weather is coming could make me miss the magic of a walk on a cool, clear evening. But I won’t let it. Life has a way of blinding us to the awesomeness of the moment. We become preoccupied with what’s coming next that we forget to enjoy the present.

So, in a way, the best thing about fall might actually be winter. Even though the challenge of harsh, cold weather is coming, fall reminds us to slow down and savor the transition. Whether you’re enjoying the company of friends around the campfire, sharing memories with family during the holidays, or making it your secret mission to conquer every crunchy leaf, cherish every moment.

Happy fall, everyone!

This post goes to you

This post goes out to everyone…

to the 9th grader getting ready to start high school…

to the brand new teacher getting her classroom ready…

to the graduate still trying to find a career…

to the employer trying to find the right new employee…

to the girl trying everything to make him love her more…

to the guy trying to impress his girl…

to the kid on the playground who got picked last…

to the kid on the playground who did the picking…

to the insomniac still awake at night…

to the recently divorced, wondering what went wrong…

…life sucks sometimes. Plans don’t always go the way we want, people disappoint us, and vending machines steal our money and won’t give us our M&Ms. Life can be tough and unfair.

But it doesn’t end there. There’s something you should know and never, ever forget…

…you were created for a reason. You were not brought into this world by chance or by accident. Your life has a purpose. Whether you realize it or not, you are impacting the world around you every day. And you have gifts and talents that no one else can do.

God never said life would be easy, but what he did promise is that he would help you through tough times. And that promise is to everyone.

Peekaboo

You know how babies giggle when you play peekaboo with them? They think it’s funny because according to their understanding, that person has literally left. They haven’t developed the mental capacity to understand that just because they can’t see a face that the person is still there.

That’s silly of course because we’ve developed more complex abstract thinking. Thankfully we’ve reached the pinnacle of this type of thinking and understanding. Or have we?

What if our understanding — our complex, abstract thinking — is still vastly limited? What if, in comparison to God’s understanding of the world, we’re like infants playing peekaboo?

That’s not to make us feel down and belittled, but I find that rather encouraging. What if we don’t have to understand everything? What if God understands it all so much more that, in comparison, we still think someone has literally left if we can’t see them?