Hope is a killer

bench-free-photo_385-95Have you ever dwelt in the agonizing wilderness of uncertain hope? A friend and I have discussed this many times. While I have heard it said, that a person couldn’t live even one minute without hope, it has been my experience that hope can also be tormenting.

I came across this verse in Proverbs 13 some time ago, and it resonated with me: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Do you know what that feels like? To feel sick in your heart, even in your whole body, over an unfulfilled hope? A hope that clings on, without closure, deferred week after week? I know what that’s like. Hope is a killer.

But not always.

The pain of unfulfilled hope comes when we put our hope in things that are uncertain. The solution is to hope in that which is guaranteed. Yes, there are things I will wish for that I may not receive, but when my daily, hourly hope is in the promises of God I will experience “fulfilled longings that are like a tree of life.”

If my daily hope is in my salvation; in a God who loves me; in someone who will never leave me; in a future that is secure and a guarantee that all things will work for good; if my hope is in these things, then my heart will not fall sick, because I will discover, daily that my hopes are fulfilled.

Why I hate disappointment

Many years ago, feeling let down by a sudden change of plans, I emphatically said to a friend, “I hate disappointment!”

His response was “Really? I think most people love it,” and his sarcasm put me in my place with the realisation that of course no one likes to be disappointed.

kids-kite-1417233Still, I felt that disappointments and let downs hit me particularly hard. Why is that?

I think one of the keys is how much I can relate to this quote from Anne of Green Gables: “You set your heart too much on frivolous things and then crash down in despair when you don’t get them.”

Even now, well into adulthood, I frequently find myself “flying up on the wings of anticipation,” grasping for things that I think will make me happy, risking and fearing the crash of disappointment.

Today I am reminded, however, that while disappointment is a part of life, it would be greatly diminished if I were finding my joy and security in the One who does not disappoint. If, instead of chasing after frivolous things, I am abiding in Christ, disappointment will not overwhelm me. I would rest with confidence in the deep knowledge that in his love for me, he is working all things for good.

Turn off your lights so you can see

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Do you ever wonder what a person from 200 years ago would think if you just plonked them down in the middle of one of our cities?

Sometimes as I’m driving along I’m struck by the absurdity of the world I live in – a world that would surely be incomprehensible to people only three or four generations before me.

The concrete jungles that fall like a perfectly normal backdrop for our existence have, in reality, only existed in the last 100 years.

As we march forward, proudly carrying the greatest of human progress, I wonder if we have failed to stop and look for what we can no longer see. We’ve replaced so much of what is natural for what is artificial and many of us have lost God in the process.

It does not astound me that atheism’s unprecedented growth has coincided with the industrial revolution. Humanity cannot find God in his creation because they are blinded by the glory of their own creation. As I drive through the city my vision is dominated by cars and roads and buildings and power lines and paths and lights and planes and clothes and shoes and fences and windows… and suddenly man is the creator.

If only we would turn off our fluorescent bulbs for a second, we might be able to see beyond ourselves; to see that before we had covered the earth with our creations, far superior creations existed, and they must have come from somewhere.

We all want the power

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There’s this great verse in Philippians 3 where Paul says “ I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection…” If you’re like me, your heart has a similar craving to Paul’s. Oh to truly know Christ in such a deep way that we daily experience the amazing power that flows through Him. A power that not only changes lives but that conquers death.

The idea of this kind of power is intoxicating, and, dare I say, very human.

See, Philippians 3:10 is a verse that, perhaps more than any other in Scripture, I like to leave incomplete. I like to pretend that that’s what it really says. Yes! I want to know Christ. Yes! I want to know the power of his resurrection. Stop.

But the verse doesn’t stop, and it is dangerous for us to pretend that it does. It continues: “…and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”

Wow. We all want the power, but let’s be honest, we don’t want it God’s way. God’s way says “my power is made perfect in weakness” (2Cor 12:9). It is in sharing in the sufferings, yes, even in the death of Jesus that we can truly know the power that has been bought through His resurrection.

We must not despise the suffering that God allows in our lives, nor suppose that we can truly know Him or experience His power apart from it.

The glory of Vegas

eiffel-105506_960_720I was recently in Las Vegas. I had low expectations of glitzy facades attempting to cover seedy bars and casinos, and filthy streets; I wasn’t expecting to love it.

But love it I did. It was fabulous: glitter and glamour, bright lights and creativity and a central strip that never sleeps. It was like a giant, adult carnival, and the seediness, while certainly present, wasn’t as overt as I’d feared. I remember walking down the strip one night, past the extraordinary fountains of the Bellagio and the soaring spire of the Eiffel Tower and thinking that human creativity had outdone itself. Here in Vegas, was everything that man had to offer.

Two days later, I drove out of Vegas and went to the Grand Canyon. The contrast was immense. Not just in size and in grandeur, but in heart. In Vegas, human creativity was at its peak, at the Canyon, we caught a glimpse of God’s. And it won, hands down.

The next day we were in Monument Valley, and we rode through the desert on horseback.20160104_074834 The silence was overwhelming. The monuments rose, towering trough the frigid air. They were so sure of themselves. Their majesty did not need the adornment of bright lights, or the lure of naked women. They didn’t care whether people came to look at them or not. They reflected the glory of their creator, and they will likely stand in worship of him, long after Vegas falls.

Have you ever wondered if this Christian gig is the real deal?

the-sower-sower-with-setting-sun-1888As a kid, I never questioned my faith. I remember telling someone when I was a teenager that my salvation was the one thing I was most sure of in the world.

If you asked me that today, I’d probably give a similar answer, but my adult life has been far more fraught with questions and doubts than the decades before.

I guess it is inevitable that as we see more and more of what the world and its intellectualism have to offer, we question what we once knew.

I have had enough years now to explore the claims of my faith, and I have never found them lacking. Time and time again the Bible has stood up to the most rigorous of testing and my God has always proved Himself faithful.

And yet, still, I find myself wondering from time to time: what if?

It is during these times, that I am often inspired by Elisabeth Elliot’s quote: “Lord, I have said the eternal Yes. Let me never, having put my hand to the plough, look back. Make straight the way of the Cross before me. Give me love, that there may be no room for a wayward thought or step.”

It’s kind of like a marriage covenant. I’ve made my promise, and there is security in that. So, with my eyes fixed on Jesus, I continue the race, knowing that it is really the power of God and the strength of His promise that keeps me.

On building castles in the sand

US12_SUN0991.jpgI’ve always had a good imagination. Not that cool, creative dragons and unicorns kind of imagination, that could help me to be some kind of literary genius, but the sort of tragic kind. The kind that found me sitting on the floor of my room as a kid and suddenly realizing I was crying my eyes out because I’d imagined my parents had just died in a car accident and I was all alone.

As I’ve become older I’ve realized that my imagination combined with my slight control-freakish nature finds me lapsing regularly into fantasy. Imagining future scenarios and how I would act and what I would say and what-would-I-do-if-this-happened-and-they-said-this etc. etc.

God spoke to me about this recently. I’d worked myself into a bit of a state over something that was almost entirely in my head and all of a sudden God showed me what I was doing:

You’re building a castle in the sand, Sarah, and you’re planning on living in it.

That’s exactly (metaphorically) what I was doing. The scenarios in my head had little grounding in reality. I was constructing a falsified world, one that would be swept away with the next tide… and I’d been planning on living in it.

Following the apostle Paul’s instructions to think only on ‘whatever is true’ is something I find insanely hard, but I know it’s something I need to work on.

Guess who else is killing consumerism? Kim McLeod

FB_IMG_1454933482874A few people have approached me over the last year regarding my non-shopping journey, though none quite so inspirational as this young lady.

Meet Kim McLeod. She’s vowed that 2016 will be her year of killing consumerism, so she’s sworn off buying all those little luxuries that we’ve convinced ourselves are ‘needs.’

Here’s what she has to say about her journey so far:

1. What has been the most surprising thing? The feeling of walking away from a sale and how quickly I forget about it. When the option to buy something is eliminated it’s kind of freeing!

2. Hardest thing not to buy? Clothes and jewellery! I’m not a big spender, but I never walk away from a sale!

3. Why did you commit to a year of no shopping? I did it because I didn’t think I could and wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to be in control and be able to walk away from a sale. I already have so much stuff and, after visiting Nepal and seeing how content people are with so little, I realized I’d rather save money so I can bless others rather than accumulating things. I also feel like I’ve been called to live simply so after I saw you do it I thought I needed to at least try.

4. What used to be your biggest shopping weakness? Online shopping. Darn those Facebook adverts!

5. No 1 tip for quitting shopping? Avoid all shops. So far so good.

Christians don’t steal music (bless them)

I was listening to the radio the other day and they were discussing how times have changed with music. You know how the ladies who do the school pick up shift aimed at 35-year-old mums like to harp on about ‘back in the day?’ Yeah.

They were talking about vinyls and how so and so’s teenage daughter has never even bought any music, like, ever because all she does is stream it.

record-shop-2-1558936I was listening with only half-baked interest until one of the ‘voices’ (sounded like Meshel Laurie) said, ‘you know, the only people who are actually buying music these days are old people and Christians.’

She went on to say that the only people in the music business who are really making any money anymore are the old school people (because their fans don’t know how to stream music) and people like Guy Sebastian. He’s making a killing (apparently) because he’s got a lot of Christian fans and ‘Christians won’t steal music… (bless them.)’

Sure there was a slightly patronising edge to her tone, but I did find it interesting that it was an acknowledgeable phenomena. I know that a lot of non-Christians don’t steal music, and sadly, a lot of Christians probably do, but I have to say, that in that moment, when a woman who makes her livelihood in the media industry acknowledged that the Christians were holding up the integrity of the music business… well I was pretty proud of my people.

I need more boundaries

385428_10150435859463143_1946831023_nLast year I completed my ‘no shopping’ challenge. As you’d know, I found it easier than expected and enjoyed feeling liberated from my consumerist lifestyle.

Then the end of the year came.

I was free.

And as I have so often found before, freedom without boundaries leads to bondage.

Restarting shopping came with several unexpected pitfalls.

Judgement: People who had watched my ‘non-consumerist’ journey, now felt free to judge my every purchase. All of a sudden I was a hypocrite.

Extravagence: Over the year, I’d had a build up of things that I needed, so when the end of the year came, I bought a lot of stuff. I felt myself begin to slide down the slippery slope towards the pit that I’d spent a year climbing out of; my love of shopping came oozing back.

That sick, icky, guilty feeling: I loved shopping again, but I wasn’t feeling good. I felt like someone who had been on a healthy diet for a year, and had then gone out and eaten cake, and chips, and chocolate. Not in excess… I wasn’t being excessive, but my body was used to better things.

So now it’s the end of January, and I know I need boundaries. This year, apart from op shopping, I’ll buy only one new thing per month. And if it’s clothing, I’ll do it ethically. I want to be calculated and think about what I need. And I want to be free to give more.