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Hope

I’ve found myself a little behind on my Advent reading, how about you?  I shared a couple years ago how observing Advent was new for me until about five years ago (To read more click here.)  But gracious, I have fallen head over heals into every way of observing this season of remembering the waiting, hoping, needing, and even sometimes doubting the arrival of Jesus.  A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.

But hoping has changed for me in the past two years.  When you embrace a hope of clinging onto and believing with everything that you can, when you put your whole heart on the line with no other option of believing anything else and that hope is deferred.  All hope feels lost.  And empty.  And silly.  And a waste of time.

Yet Advent, is a season of hoping, believing, and knowing that Jesus will come gently and quietly into a lost and grieving world.  Amidst groans and cries for relief, his very presence whispers, “I hear you.  I see you.  I know.  I’m coming.”

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Yet in my own groans and cries, hope seemed too vulnerable to put on again.  I could never again face the hurt I felt of hoping and believing with my whole heart to see healing, to see a miracle, to spend more Christmases with my Dad, and my hope was unfulfilled.  It only brought to mind so many other things I had prayed, waited, and hoped for that also were unmet.  Unfulfilled hopes I still carry.

But I’ve learned to see hope differently.

Hope is far more a waiting for something in a hot, sticky mess than it is a peaceful, orderly affair. – Sarah Bessey, Out of Sorts

Hope is not just knowing.  Hope is trusting enough to place your every bet on what may make absolutely no sense to believe.

And knowing if not, He is still good.

Hoping, vulnerably placing every single ounce of our weak and scared souls onto God fulfilling his promises is one of the absolute bravest things we can do.  And for me, one of the hardest things I’ve ever recovered from.


(Warning: I will probably get some facts wrong.  Friends who are knowledgable about space/science/etc. please correct me.)

On October 15, 1997 the Cassini satellite was launched on a twenty year journey.  Cassini ventured further into Saturn than any other previous explorations, observing its moons that may be suitable for life and its rings.

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Upon reaching its 20th year, NASA planned for Cassini not to return back to earth, as it had consistently sent all images and information back to NASA’s headquarters.  Rather, Cassini concluded its pioneering through its “Grand Finale” by going further and further toward the surface of Saturn until Cassini could no longer endure the conditions.

On April 26, 2017, Cassini began its Grand Finale, sending images of Saturn as it reached closer and closer to its surface until after 20 years of discovery, Cassini’s mission was completed.

This video explained it’s Grand Finale in a way I loved.  The narrator describes Cassini plunging 22 times around Saturn’s rings then making its final decent to the surface of Saturn, “fighting to keep its antennae pointed at Earth as it transmits its farewell.”  On September 15, 2017 Cassini sent its last images of Saturn to NASA, concluding its 20 year mission.


If I’m honest, I think learning how to hope again, has felt significantly more like fighting with all I have toward something that feels so unsafe I may be destroyed, than it has felt simple, safe, or peaceful in any way.

Lacking the energy and sometimes faith to hope, in many situations I haven’t.  And I’ve regretted walking away from loved ones who are hoping and holding onto believing in a miracle with all they have.  And I’ve called that silly deep in my bones because I didn’t have the faith to claim and believe in my own miracles.  I only had space to hold my unmet hopes.


But in the sweetest of ways, this Advent season has felt really different.  Really hopeful.

Of sharing in the waiting of centuries.  The waiting and hoping that looked much more like groaning, doubting, and grieving.  And amidst that waiting, believing and knowing that “Unto us, a child [will be] born.”

Hope is vulnerable.  It’s pressing deeper and deeper into our Father’s ability while simultaneously pulling us further and further from our own control, even our guarding our hearts.

But the beauty of our Father that Advent keeps bringing me back to is that He is a God who “fulfills His promises.” (Hebrews 10:23)

And as I read through the prophecies that point to the life of Jesus, God the Son, I am overwhelmed once again with how dependable and sure our hope is.  How God will always prove Himself true.

And I’m writing HOPE all over my Advent book as I read:

“He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.  In Him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
– Colossians 1:13-14, CSB

“What the law could not do since it was weakened by the flesh, GOD DID.”
– Romans 8:3, CSB

“Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through his death he might destroy the one holding the power of death- that is, the devil- and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death.”
-Hebrews 2:14-15, CSB

I’m learning to hope that my faithful Father will do what He says, even though He’s proven it time and time again, while the enemy loves to whisper the times my help felt unseen.  I’m working to allow myself to vulnerably lay all my heart deeply hopes for at His feet, and to know this is what He calls me to.  I’m learning to believe that I will receive, like a child who lays their head on their pillow, knowing Santa will bring them just what they asked for.

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Because our faith never calls us to be logical or to trust as much as we’ve seen trust fulfilled, but to have faith like a child.  A faith that cultivates hope.


fdb3Thanks for stopping by!  My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story, primarily in the sudden loss of my precious Dad on my 22nd birthday.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

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Review of Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey

 

We sort through our mess on the threshold of change.

To know me well is to know my deep adoration of Sarah Bessey, not for her books alone, though Jesus Feminist was extremely influential in my life and story.  I enjoyed her work and commentary so much that I followed her on social media like any good millennial.  When I stumbled upon Sarah and her husband dressed as Sookie and Jackson from Gilmore Girls, the deal was sealed for me.  Sarah Bessey is one of my favorite Christian speakers and writers.  Beyond her love of one of America’s greatest TV shows Sarah is full of wisdom, interjecting Truth both to the global and local church.  She is a precious mama and her Canadian grammar idiosyncrasies grab my attention and wrap her closer around my heart in each read.

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To know me well is also to know how timely Out of Sorts publishing was in my life and story.  I had not yet purchased the book when news spread Sarah Bessey was coming to speak at the college where I work.  Upon the loss of my Dad and the grief that followed I had not picked up a piece of Christian literature in a while, including my Bible.  I was angry and lost but I knew I loved Sarah Bessey, I mean she dressed like Sookie, so I went and could not put to words how thankful I was.  She shared about braving the wilderness of doubts and questions, pressing into our wrestling and never feeling like we need to protect God.  It felt like a scene in a movie when the lights go off in a room and one single light was on me.  At a time when I felt completely missed, I felt completely seen and understood by her words.  I waited in line to speak with her afterword and shared about her voice in my life and story and how sweetly the Truth God laid on her heart had met me that night.

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But you didn’t come here to hear me fan girl about Sarah, you came to hear about Out of Sorts.


Real life is the undignified life and it is the classroom for holiness.

Sarah Bessey begins this book by describing the process of cleaning out her grandmother’s attic upon her passing.  She then opens up to describe the “sorting” of our faith and theology that grief brings.  Grief of losing a loved one, grief of hurt from a friend, grief of a divorce, or grief of losing a job.

She shares of her own journey of walking away from the Church for years as she questioned her faith while her husband was still working in ministry.

She unpacks the preconceived notions about faith and ministry she and her husband carried for years, without ever bringing them into the light of analyzing their true weight or faithfulness to Scripture’s call.

Out of Sorts is honest about the difficult tension of holding allegiance to the evangelical church amidst watching many actions and decisions taken and made in the name of Jesus and disagreeing with them deep in our bones.  How do we reconcile the Church we claim and the Church we are ashamed of?

She speaks of taking off the cape and crown of being a modern, evangelical hero and learning to be the faithful friend that brings over dinner when a friend just had a baby.  In a world that applauds those who take big steps of faith in obedience to move and sacrifice, she affirms those who stay, who brave it out in movements that are slow to change.

I believe we don’t give enough credit to those who stay put in slow to change movements.

 


I recently listened to a podcast by Annie Downs, in which, she encouraged us to pay attention to the trends of Christian books as they represent the heart of believers.  Recently, especially within women’s circles there were trends of bravery and courage and more recently friendship and finding your “tribe”.  I have found this idea of real sorting, of reaching back to the broken places to be a recent trend in Looking for LovelySearching for SundayOut of Sorts, and more classically The Inner Voice of Love.

We are in a unique age in the Church.  A changing age.  A time of sorting, reorganizing, and reorienting.  Sarah Bessey sets an incredible stage through her own story of how we on and individual level and collective level can truly sort our faith, returning to the often hidden Truths of Scripture’s true call.

 


 

dalton-31Thanks for stopping by!  My name is Emily Katherine.  On this page you’ll find lessons I’ve learned through my own story, primarily in the sudden loss of my precious Dad on my 22nd birthday.  You’ll find book reviews and recommendations.  And in between you’ll find a few resources I use in teaching middle school through college students.

I would love to hear from you through your comments!  Click the follow button to stay in touch.

When your biggest fears are all you see

I’ve grown up hating two things everyone around me seemed to love: roller coasters and thunderstorms.

Don’t get me wrong, Space Mountain at Disney World is my jam- I’ve ridden it at least 6 times in the past year.  I’m talking about the big, scary, slinging you around and upside down roller coasters.  Sometimes I would tell myself to muster up the courage to ride them.  I would stand in line with my brothers determined to be brave, but once I got close enough that I could see and hear what I was walking into, I would ever so conveniently need to go to the bathroom and “just wait this one out” with my mom.

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And while we’re on the topic of brothers, be ever so grateful you weren’t one of mine during thunderstorms.  I mean it was sheer terror the moment I heard what could have potentially been thunder.  I’m not sure why I’m stuck on Disney today- maybe it’s time for a trip back- but when I was 6 years old my family went to Disney World.  We were in Magic Kingdom on a July evening and it was storming terribly.  I was naturally petrified and waiting for all of us to die there.  But we were eating in a restaurant and Chip and Dale came over so I was fine for a minute.  Then, my brothers convinced me the chairs were just someone moving chairs above us and the lightning was cameras flashing- P.S. this was the year 2000, long before iPhones so everyone had cameras with huge flashes.  Crafty as they were, I bought it and enjoyed our meal not scared at all, because the storm wasn’t real.


I think ultimately what I hate about these two things is that they place a threat on my sense of being safe.  If I am upside down moving at a rapid speed, I am in no way in control, in no way guaranteed my safety, and I don’t enjoy the thrill.  I just terrifies me.  And the storms, they just always made me feel so small and helpless and like some terrible thing was impending ever since a giant tree fell on my neighbor’s house growing up and tore down half of it because of a really bad storm.

I think we’re pretty naturally wired to try and be safe, that is unless you’re a big thrill seeker.  But for most of us, we want to know that we’ll live to see tomorrow and when we don’t believe it, all of the anxiety sets in.

I wrote recently about how the transitions of life are so hard and so scary.  (Read more)  But sometimes it isn’t simply transitions, but just situations or circumstances that threaten these sense of being safe and secure that we’ve created.  And what do we do there and how do we approach God when we know He can give us every good and perfect thing, yet we’re trembling and fearful, wondering if we will even live to see tomorrow?


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But there is this cool pattern in scripture of God proving over and over again that He is faithful and that we can trust in Him, which should come at no surprise.

In Ezekiel, God is warning the people to turn from all of their ways of sinfulness and idolatry.  Continuously in this book, we see God’s fierce and zealous love as He talks about how all of the altars they have built to other gods, all of the security they have established in so many things apart from Him will be destroyed.  “And then they will know that I am YHWH their God, who delivered them from Israel.” 

Ezekiel 38 describes when the people are living so securely that they don’t even have walls on their houses, the Lord will come to “remind” them of His zeal and glory by destroying all they have built.  The passage then goes on to describe how the Temple should be constructed and I was reading this like what, I think you missed some key transitions here, Ezekiel?!  But what a pattern I soon discovered through Scripture that God utterly destroys what we are placing our security in apart from Him, and in those moments when we are trembling in fear, He invites us to come and worship Him.  And these are the most intimate moments of worship.

Like when He destroys the whole entire Earth as they knew it, their sense of community, everything that had been established, and invites Noah and his family to build and altar and worship the Lord.

And when He destroys sin and death on a rugged cross and an earthquake and breathless Savior have us at a loss for if we will even live to see tomorrow.  But when the stone rolls away from the tomb, we are invited to come and worship.

Psalm 33

13 The Lord looks down from heaven;
    he sees all the children of man;
14 from where he sits enthroned he looks out
    on all the inhabitants of the earth,
15 he who fashions the hearts of them all
    and observes all their deeds.
16 The king is not saved by his great army;
    a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation,
    and by its great might it cannot rescue.

18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,
    on those who hope in his steadfast love,
19 that he may deliver their soul from death
    and keep them alive in famine.

20 Our soul waits for the Lord;
    he is our help and our shield.
21 For our heart is glad in him,
    because we trust in his holy name.
22 Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
    even as we hope in you.

So in a season of seeing all of the senses of security and protection I have built, I am learning that having those torn down are not God telling me He doesn’t love me, but in the fear and in the trembling, He is inviting me to come and know and trust Him like never before.

I recently attend an IMPRINTED event, in which Erin Moniz ever so wisely said, “Fear and hope are a double sided coin.  Whatever you fear is what you place your hope in.”  And I had to swallow a big lump in my throat.  Because so often I place my hope in good things, but not necessarily the ultimate things and I fear because I know that I know that they will not be enough for me.  Only my Father can.

So I’m learning that fear is truly having my hope in the wrong things, the things that aren’t worthy of my hope of protection or hope of glory.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face.  And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.