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One Last Call for Hope

hope

“The nature of human beings is to be inactive unless influenced by some affection:  love or hatred, desire, hope, fear, etc.  Those affections are the ‘spring of action,’  the things that set us moving in our lives, that move us to engage in activities.”  — Jonathon Edwards

“We have this (hope) as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul…”  –Hebrews 6:19


This post was originally written in 2014, but seems appropriate to post again.

While written as the final part of a 3 part series to encourage us to parent out of hope instead of fear, the quote above is helpful in understanding this last season in American life as well.  Many finally felt heard (hope) under President Obama, while many felt threatened (fear).  Many feel finally heard (hope) with the election of President Trump, while many feel threatened (fear).  It would have been the same had the white house gone the other way.

A quick glance at the news or your Facebook feed shows us how these affections, as Edwards call them, lead us to action.  That’s not to say that these feelings aren’t justified at times.  However, the question we have to answer, in both parenting and politics, is it possible to cultivate affections (the kinds we want to determine our actions and therefore our lives) apart from current circumstances?  Or for the purposes of the post here, is there a source of hope that speaks louder than any fear we might have?

I think the quote above is right that we are naturally inactive unless provoked by the above affections.   What ‘springs of action’ are you allowing to take root in your heart and life?

“Every decision we make today will be driven by fear or love.  Who we toss the keys to determines a lot about the destination.”  –Bob Goff


October 7, 2014

I never intended to write more than one post on fear and hope, but as I’ve gone about my days I’ve found that many people need hope in a very real way in their lives right now.

I need hope.

Let’s be honest, we live in a world where fear can easily be an influence in the way we live our daily lives.  If it’s not personal fears specific to your day, it’s Ebola or the Islamic State!

Currently, as a youth pastor and a dad of two young girls (now three!), I need hope.  I’ve seen enough and been in enough counseling situations to know what this world is capable of.  I’ve seen the students who are truly good kids get swept away in the currents of adolescence.  And here’s where it gets tricky:  If I allow fear to rule the day on this as I think about my own kids, I will go crazy!

I have no choice but to surrender to God my worries and fears and declare that I ultimately have no control over the future.

But this isn’t a passive surrender, it’s a daily surrender.  It’s daily choosing hope over fear.  It’s actively letting hope determine my thoughts, motivations, and actions.  And this hope brings about drastically different results than fear.

It’s a ‘spring of action’ that allows hope to grow into confidence.  Confidence into rest and trust.  It becomes an anchor that can handle the realities of this world, knowing that God can influence the future and ultimately already has!

“Happy is the one whose hope is in the Lord” (Ps 146:5) isn’t just a scripture to be memorized, it’s a real state that motivates how we live our lives.  Sure, Ebola and ISIS gives pause and cause for concern, but “I have this hope that anchors my soul.”  I will not be shaken.

An Exercise to Determine Your Motivations

In the above quote, Edwards states that we would all be inactive if it were not for our “affections”, as he calls them.  What motivates your actions – love, hope, fear, hate or a softer version of hate?

TRY THIS:

Examine your actions, simply writing down the things you do without any judgement.  At the end of the week sit down and pencil in a probable motivation for each action.  Try to be honest as you examine why you did what you did.

I would love to hear what you discover!

This was part 3 of a 3 part series.  To catch the other two posts click here:  Hope, Not Fear.  Hope, Not Fear – Part II

(Exercise taken from a great book.  If you are looking for a book to stir affections in your spiritual life, this book is a great option –

Hope vs. Fear

“Every decision we make today will be driven by fear or love.  Who we toss the keys to determines a lot about the destination.”  –Bob Goff

Several years ago a good friend of mine gave a talk on parenting out of hope, as opposed to parenting out of fear and it has stuck with me.  I didn’t have kids then, but I knew I needed to remember this message.  At the time, parenting out of fear was easy to dismiss, however I knew enough about parenting to realize fear can be a constant companion.  Now that I’m a parent, I know that a lot of time is spent worrying about the big and meaningful and small and trivial.  It’s easy to get caught up in worrying about our kids.  It’s easy to begin to parent and make decisions based on that worry or fear.

Think about it.  What emotions do you experience when you anticipate any major milestone in your child’s life?  First steps.  First day of school.  Last day of school.  First taste of failure or rejection.  Dating relationships.  Driving.  College.

You get the idea.  There can be a lot of worry, anxiety, and fear in these situations.  Do these emotions drive your response?  Do you quickly rush in to build fences of protection?  Are your actions motivated by fear above all else?

Helicopters and Lawnmowers

In our culture today, there’s a reason many parents are described as “helicopter parents” who monitor and watch over their child’s every move (“How helicopter parents are ruining college students”).  Or, even worse, “lawnmower parents” who mow over any obstacle in their kids path (“Don’t Be a Helicopter Or Lawnmower Parent”).

But, what if we didn’t let fear rule the day?  What if we decided to adopt a posture of hope for our kids?  Instead of spending anxious energy worrying about possibilities that may exist “out there”, what if we began to pray our hopes and our dreams for our kids in these situations?

When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to go on a trip with a small group of people.  It was incredible opportunity to spend a week with my youth pastor, the director of a large Christian summer camp, and other men and women who would have a huge impact on my life.  It was a chance to do something significant that would change my worldview.  It was a chance to have a formative experience in the this great big world we live in.

The problem for my parents was that it was in a third-world country where my safety could not be guaranteed.  A country where our car might be surrounded by a large crowd at the airport (which it was) or where I would find my self in the presence of automatic weapons often (which I did) or where we would be taking a picture of the beautiful countryside and then get rushed into the bus because we were no longer safe there and needed to leave quickly (which happened).

My parents had a lot to be afraid of and plenty of fear and worry, but they allowed me to go.  They chose to adopt a posture of hope.  They chose to hope that this trip would expand my heart for God.  They hoped it would be a trip where I rubbed shoulders with adult men and women who were following Jesus with all they had.  They hoped I would see poverty up close and understand more about God’s heart for the orphan and the oppressed.  They hoped I would go on a great adventure and it would plant a seed to continue to follow God into the tough places and be a light to those in need.

It was their hope, not their fear, that came true and that trip remains a significant part of who I am and my faith journey.  If fear ruled the day, my parents would have been seen as reasonable and responsible parents.  No one would have faulted them.  But I wouldn’t have experienced the growth and transformation that trip allowed.  This trip shaped my high school years and ultimately my future.  I’m thankful for their courage.

Echoing Jesus’ Prayer

Recently, I came across Jesus prayer in John 17 and decided to adopt it for my own kids.  As Jesus’ time on earth is coming to an end, he prays for those he will be leaving behind.  Jesus knows what is out there and what they will be up against.  He knows the dangers of the world and desires to protect those he loves.  Knowing this he prays:

“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name…my prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.”  John 17: 11, 15

For my kids, my prayer is that they will engage the world and be a light of God’s love to those they meet.  In order to grow into the strong, courageous person that requires, I have to let go of control.  I have to take risks.  I have to allow them to fail.  I need to give them space to grow and explore.  Is that going to be easy?  It’s not proving to be.  But when I step back and imagine the end (my little girls as adults living in the world), I know the answer lies in hope not in fear.  God, give us the courage to trust you, cultivate hope and smother fear.

What does it look like for you to echo Jesus prayer for you kids?  What protections do you need to trust God for?  What ways do you need to allow them to stay in the world and engage?  In what ways are you doing God’s job of protecting and need to take a step back?

There will be a part two to this post coming soon with some practical thoughts on this can play out, but until then:

Who are you giving the keys to –  fear or hope?

Choose Your Own Adventure

“The dominant ideology of our culture is committed to continuity, and success, and to the avoidance of pain, hurt and loss.  The dominant culture is also resistant to genuine newness and real surprise.  It is curious, but true, that surprise is as unwelcome as is loss and our culture is organized to prevent the experience of both”

— Walter Brueggemann

Recently my daughter shared something in the car that made me realize we were moving through some big changes in our life, but more importantly we were making the transition.  Change in life is inevitable.  Change happens and comes in many forms.  But what I realized in the car that day was that it’s the transitions in life that matter most.  Or another way to say this, transition is how we react, process and grow through that change.

LEANING IN

I have an idol of comfort.  I realize that a lot of my frustration in life often comes with a disruption of my comfort.  As the quote of above would suggest, this idol of comfort causes me to seek to avoid both pain and surprise.  Even though pain and surprise are always opportunities for growth and newness.

How about you?  What are your reactions to disruptions of comfort or normalcy in your life?

No one likes the disorientation that change can bring.  But if change is inevitable, the better option is, not avoidance, but leaning into the change.

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WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENS

I’ll never forget a man I met and worked with several years ago.  When I met him his cancer had been in remission for 8 years.  As he told me the stories of his life, it was obvious that his battle with cancer had changed everything.  After cancer, his perspective on life changed.  How he spent his time changed.  What he valued in life changed.  He was so refreshing to be around because he would share wisdom and perspective that oozed joy and hope.

Cancer is a terrible disruption and disorientation and no one wants to “welcome” it as a surprise in their life.  But as his cancer came back and he had to battle it all over again, I watched a man embrace the challenge knowing that this disruption — which was messing with his comfort and his ideal, normal life — had the possibility to bring new orientations and surprises that were worth the pain and potential loss.

He was incredibly thankful for the lessons cancer taught him and the 8 years of life with a new orientation that cancer made possible.  He was loving his wife and kids better, giving his time to walk alongside young people and help them make sense of the world, he was driving a motorcycle across the US, he was noticing the beauty in life all around him, he was skiing areas that you had to helicopter in to get access to, and he was filled with joy and hope and the mystery of what can happen when we embrace change.

This man could have easily shrinked away and become bitter in the face of his diagnosis, but he embraced the pain and surprise and emerged thankful for newness of life.

MAKING THE TRANSITION

In the last 6 months, our family has sold our home, been “homeless” for two months, moved into a new home, had a baby, and started a kid in kindergarten.  Significant change, but the question is have we transitioned?

After we got back in the car from the “meet the teacher” night, I asked my daughter, –“You’ve been through a lot lately, has it been hard or fun?”

Umm…It’s been in the middle of hard and fun.  But…

New house – check!
New baby – check
!
And now I have started Kindergarten – check!

She has been through the change, but now she is making the transition.

 

How have you recently experienced change in your life?  Have you leaned into this change and what has been it’s effects on your life?

Are you shrinking back from the change and therefore neglecting the opportunity to grow and embrace surprise and newness?

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