Monday, January 31, 2011

When Hope Hurts

It shouldn’t be true, but it is.

Sometimes it hurts to hope.

When you’re a mom
who’s tried every seizure-stopping medication known to mankind,
but seizures still attack your son several times a day...

Hope hurts.

When you’re wannabe-parents
who’ve spent all your savings and half-a-dozen years
to overcome infertility,
but you’re still,
very definitely
not pregnant...

Hope hurts.

When you’re the dad of a teenage daughter
who’s never walked or talked
and is nearing the end of her high-school years,
and you have no idea how you'll care for her....
much less how you’ll pay for it...

Hope hurts.

When, like so many of my friends,
you’re a single woman
who is lovely, intelligent and downright-fun,
and you can’t figure out why God doesn’t say “yes”
to your repeated prayers for marriage and a family...

Then, too, hope hurts.
Oh, it hurts.

And sometimes
when hope hurts so deeply,
it seems safer not to hope at all.

Safer not to think about what could be ahead.
Safer not to hope,
not to plan,
and certainly not to expect...
that things could change.
It's definitely safer not to hope that things could get better.

But as many of us have learned
to our sorrow,
hopelessness has consequences, too.

It makes our hearts hard.
It makes us not-so-fun to be around.
And it takes away any good we might be to others
who come to us hoping that we'll give them hope.

I don’t know why God allows some of us to hurt so much.

I don’t know why He doesn’t promise that,
if we just hang on,
and always do the right thing,
it will all get better.

And I wish I knew how to fix the hurt of hoping!

But there are some things I do know.

When hope hurts, we’re not alone.
God has promised to be with us.
And He keeps His promises.

When hope hurts, someone understands how we feel.
When Jesus came to earth,
He experienced every emotion we feel...
So He understands.

When hope hurts, someone cares.
God doesn’t watch with disinterested objectivity,
As if we’re some kind of science experiment.
He cares about each of us.
He cares so much that He collects all our tears!

When hope hurts, someone hears when we cry.
When we cry out to God,
He never turns a deaf ear,
or closes the door to give Himself “a break” from our crying.
He always hears when we cry...
And He always listens.

When hope hurts, there’s always reason to hope.
We almost never understand it.
And it’s hardly ever easy.
But, somehow, in some way,
when we see the big picture,
God brings good out of our hard times.
He does,
and He will.
Even when it hurts to hope.

-- Reenie

Sunday, January 23, 2011

#6 – We practice what we preach

We who say we live by the Bible,
and call ourselves “Christ-followers”,
tend to make some claims that others call radical.

From the time we were little, we’ve sung,
“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.”

So we say God loves everyone, regardless of race, language, gender, appearance or ability.

We quote Psalm 139, which says we’re so precious to God that He’s noted every little thing about us since before we were conceived.

So we say all of human life is valuable to God, and take a decidedly pro-life stance.

And we tell the story of Jesus welcoming the children,
even when His adult followers told the children to go away.

So we say everyone, no matter how small or weak, has the right (and the need) to know God personally.

God loves everyone.
Every person is precious to God.
Everyone has the right and need to know God personally.

We believe those things with all our hearts.

Or do we?

When we send a child home from every church program...
simply because she has Down syndrome, we’re saying,

“God might love everyone... but He loves those who are able-bodied and able-minded more.”

When we hear ourselves saying, over and over, that church guests who have disabilities should “try the big church down the street because they have a special program,” we’re saying,

“God might treasure everything about you... but we’re pretty sure we don’t.”

When we repeatedly watch a mother carry her teenaged child in a wheelchair up a long flight of church stairs,
and refuse her requests to build a ramp, we’re saying,

“Only people who are able-bodied have the right to know God personally.”

Sadly, these examples are recent and true.

We sometimes “say” these things through our actions, even while blithely voicing the opposite belief.


When a children’s pastor says, “I don’t know much about children with special needs, but I’ll learn everything necessary to support and welcome your child...”

...we’re practicing what we preach.

Jesus does love all the children of the world!

When we spend hours training volunteer buddies to come alongside kids with autism so they can enjoy VBS along with their typically-developing peers....

...we’re practicing what we preach.

God treasures everything about you... and we want to know you, too!

When we say, “How can we help you get to church?” rather than “I don’t think we can make this work...”

...we’re practicing what we preach.

Everyone does have the right to know Jesus personally!

Am I getting a little personal here?
I hope I am.
Many of you see yourself in the second set of examples.
You know who you are.
You always think you’re not doing enough,
But the truth is, you’re already making an enormous difference.
May God give you grace to keep on practicing what you preach!

Some of you,
if you’re honest,
will see a bit of yourself in the first set of examples.
But the good news is that your past doesn't have to be your future.
I pray God will help you open your heart,
make small changes in your attitude
that bring about big changes in your actions....
And enable you, too,
To practice what you preach.

The really good news is that God does love us all,
He treasures every little thing about us,
and He wants us all to know Him personally.

That’s true even if we have disabilities
....and even when we don’t practice what we preach.

#7 – Next Up -- We give the world a truer picture of the Church