A New Song for 2017

Abide. Rest. Comfort. Hope.

Another year gone, another word- but so much more -joins the list.

It was truly a year of practiced hope.

We’ve been raising a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder for about nine years… from foster care to adoption. It has been incredibly difficult and at times, I’ve felt helpless and hopeless.

My family has experienced trauma on a few fronts, all of which affected my marriage, bringing my husband and I to a year of counseling (which greatly helped). We also see individual counselors / mentors to help us navigate the emotional waters of raising a child of trauma (who re-injures in a home with other children.)

We live cross-culturally in a place we love, but in a place, all the same, that differs in language, culture, expectation, money, and norms. We weave in and out of Alemanish Germany, Alsatian France, and Northern Switzerland and a Christian conglomerate of individuals working together from every different denomination, from different countries, and from different cultures with a common purpose and many different ways of getting there. It would be enough to live within one of these cultures, but we daily navigate them all.

And to do that, we have to raise our own salary… which adds another layer of stress (I mean, opportunity to trust and hope and believe).

This is just a sampling.

Needless to say, the words abide, rest, comfort, and hope have been crucial to my last four years. Their deep meaning has carried me and comforted me and challenged me in ways I could never have expected. And as I said last year, each word continues on long beyond December 31st. They weave together into a more beautiful hug.

This year, for awhile, I thought my new word was going to be expectation. It’s close to hope… and I’m fine with a thread of hope continuing to weave through my life story. However, as I was recently on a walk and pouring out my heart to God, I heard myself asking Him for a new song.

Okay, that’s not a word. But I’m going with it.

My last few years have been heartache nestled among great beauty. I have so much to be thankful for, in spite of those things which have challenged me to the core. And, looking back at the me who arrived in Germany nearly five years ago… I’m a different person. Hopefully a better person. Certainly a person, though, that has been to the ends of herself multiple times. Who is clear that she is weak and only He is strong. Who lives in the constant reality of her inability to affect change in the circumstances around her and the incredible ability of God to be the Change-Maker. A person with deeper compassion for godly, loving parents who are struggling, suffering marriages, individuals with depression, the lonely, the lost, and the broken.

And I’m ready for a new song.

There are sweet glimpses of healing and growth and joy in my family’s future. This is where I thought expectation would be my anthem… but instead, I know the Singer and Dancer of my soul delights in this coming season with a new song.

A song of deliverance.

A song of joy.

A song of peace in storms.

A song of love.

For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.

Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT)

 

Perseverance… According to {Dad}

I’ve literally sat here for almost an entire hour… doing anything but write this post.

Even now… I finally wrote that sentence… and then spent another five minutes distracted.

*Sigh*

Do you have those moments too? When a thing you love doing… finds you lacking the inspiration, the energy, the time to do it?

I chose a topic and sat here… uninspired. Even though it’s an inspiring topic… my dad, the artist.

I even contemplated skipping today.

Can you believe it?

That’s how uninspired, unfocused, and drained I feel.

But I knew I couldn’t quit. Skipping a day is quitting. Because why do something only partially? When you can do it completely… and receive the “reward” for the hard work of endurance?

That’s when it hit me.

Confession: Anything I know about perseverance or endurance I learned from watching my dad.

And still I struggle.

My dad is the most patient, long-suffering, forbearing person I know.

He is slow to anger.

Steadfast through the most difficult tasks you could imagine.

I’ve seen him sweat, bleed, and weep under the pressures… begging for an alternative.

And yet he continued on… diligent with what was given him.

And joyfully!

Oh, how much I have yet to learn.

Because it’s not just about waiting… but the hope that drives it. The belief that carrying on is good and right. That there is some value to the effort of sticking out something that’s difficult.

That staying married to your spouse, even when things are rough, has an outcome far greater than just one’s own pleasure.

That consistency in child-training has an eternal value, even if exhausting in the now.

That going to job interview after job interview, filling out application after application, is somehow leading to something life changing.

That sitting down to write a post, in the middle of a 31 Days in 2012 Challenge, will build something in my character as a writer and as a human if I stick with it… regardless of the visible outcome.

Regardless if anyone reads it.

Especially if anyone reads it.

Because you are worth it. You, the one reading this… is worth pushing through the muck of writer’s block and lack of inspiration.

You need to hear that you are not alone.

That some days are hard to get through. Some hours seem unbearable. Some moments find you pleading, “Is it worth it?”

And it is.

It’s worth it because it changes something in you. And gives something deep and meaningful to this world.

Another true-life example of perseverance against all odds. Endurance. Diligence. Faith and patience.

There are plenty of stories about quitters and they inspire no one.

Your story can be different. It can change lives. Yes, pushing through the toughest of seasons can change lives.

Because they are watching you.

Just like I’m watching my dad. And his life is changing mine. Showing me that this not-giving-up changes people. Encourages people.

Saves the world.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:9

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4

To learn more about 31 Days in 2012 or view other 31 Dayers blogs, click here.

I’m spending 31 days writing about my confessions and the lessons {Dad} has taught me. This is day 20 of 31 Days in 2012.

20/20 Faith

Faith.

I’ve been struck by the word.

Its overuse, its watered down meaning, its misconceptions and misinterpretations. I actually found a definition or two that flat out say, “strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof” and “accepted without reason or evidence and often in spite of evidence” (emphases mine).

These are certainly the most absurd definitions I’ve ever heard correlated with faith. If faith was belief without finding, we would consider faith a tool of total idiots and the mentally unstable.

The reality is, our culture has greatly abused the word and given it a new meaning (and stigma) entirely.

Faith.

Not a mental exercise of choosing to believe something or someone unprovable exists or will act.

Faith.

In Greek, the word for faith is pistis. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary defines the fullness of pistis (pisteuo) as, “a firm conviction, producing a full acknowledgement of God’s revelation or truth, a personal surrender to that truth, a conduct inspired by such surrender.”

This, Vine’s points out, is in contrast to the notion that faith is “a purely natural exercise, which consists of an opinion held in good ‘faith’ without necessary reference to its proof.”

Faith, therefore, involves belief (a firm conviction), evidence (acknowledgment of God’s revelation or truth), acceptance of the evidence (a personal surrender to that truth) and action (conduct inspired by such surrender).

A very different definition from the ones I began with.

The Hebrew language only acts to further establish the Greek understanding of “faith.” The words emunah and aman/amen most closely mean, “certainty” and “to be certain, enduring to trust, believe.” These words translate to convey our word of choice, faith (and truth, which are almost synonymous in Hebrew, sharing their root).

Going deeper yet, this word “faith” (emunah) is an “action oriented word meaning ‘support’… the Western concept of faith places the action on the one you have faith in, such as “faith in God”. But, the Hebrew word אמונה places the action on the one who ‘supports God'” (Jeff A. Benner). Faith, then, is not simply knowing that God will act, but asking “How does my certainty/belief translate into action on its behalf?”

Greek and Hebrew literature, of course, cement these meanings of faith. “Faith is being sure… Faith is being certain… By faith we understand…” (Hebrews 11)

Faith is worthy of our attention. Worthy of our dissection. Something not left to idiots and the mentally unstable, though they are as welcome as any to share in its fruit. No, faith is meat for the scientific, the analytical, the philosopher. Faith calls us to more than wishful thinking and desperate hopes. Faith calls for decision. Faith beckons with revelation. Faith doesn’t release you with proclamation alone, but with stirrings and passion to move onward, to change things, to change yourself. To act on its behalf in ways deemed impossible, perhaps, but truer than any hypothesis or speculation could offer. Faith is the true legacy of a person. Faith is not for the faint of heart. Its not for liars. Rationalizers. Avoiders of truth. The weak.

Faith. Faith is not blind. Faith has better than 20/20 vision.

Faith without evidence is superstition, not faith. They have errantly become two words with the same meaning. Faith is not for the “irrational, uneducated, unintelligent, or unintellectual view of life.” Nor is unbelief  “a rational and intelligent and enlightened view of the universe” (-James Kennedy)

Everyone has it.

In one sense, we all operate every day on faith in many different areas of our lives. If you’ve ever eaten at a restaurant, accepted a doctor’s prescription, or planned for the future, you have certainly been operating on a degree of faith, that in fact, may be a bit blind. As C. S. Lewis said, most of the things you believe are believed on authority, secondary evidence, etc. For example, you may never have actually seen a molecule, but you have no doubt that molecules exist. Even more to the point, we are confident that things like gravity, time, the laws of logic, and true love exist even though we cannot see them. Of course, experience and rational investigation should increase your confidence in what is true. -FaithFacts

To what have you a firm conviction? What has produced in you a full acknowledgement of revelation or truth? To what have you personally surrendered? To what does your conduct reflect your surrender?”

Has your job or career proven to you that it is worthy of your surrender and loyalties?

Has your wealth?

Has the government’s welfare system?

Has your spouse?

Has your education?

Has true love?

Faith.

“Faith wich refuses to face indisputable facts is but little faith.” -Albert Schweitzer

“Faith does not admit of telling. It has to be lived and then it becomes self-propagating.” -Mohandas K. Gandhi

“Real works are the natural products of faith taking its next step.” -Paul Goodman

“Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.” -Abraham Lincoln

“True faith is never merely a source of spiritual comfort. It may indeed bring peace, but therefore it does so it must involve us in struggle. A ‘faith’ that avoids these struggles is really a temptation against true faith.” -Thomas Merton

“Reason, devoid of the purifying power of faith, can never free itself from distortions and rationalizations.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Without reason we would not know how to apply the insights of faith to the concrete issues of living… The rejection of reason is cowardice and betrays a lack of faith.” -Abraham Joshua Heschel

*quotes taken from Quotationary