The rope of hope

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I like happy endings. I like the manipulative swell of music as the handsome stock broker kisses the quirky girl with the glasses and bulky sweater. No make-over needed. I like resolutions. And redemption.

But I also respect real. Real is “Braveheart”. Real is the handsome stock broker insult-coughing “loser” as the quirky girl passes him in the coffee shop. Real is a slammed door and things left unsaid. Real is the guy on the street corner who spews forth hateful things about passersby. About the world. About Jesus.

There’s hope for him, though. He could still give me a happy ending, with a crescendo of violins, as he accepts Christ into his heart. There’s always hope. Even amidst the real.

What are you clinging to?

What are you clinging to?

My friend, Lady Di, says that, “Hope is the rope that pulls you through.”

Sometimes I need that rope like when life crumbles beneath me and I fall into a pit. Pit music is Jaws swimming toward the boat. Or Michael Meyers in a hockey mask lurking outside the babysitter’s window.

But Jesus always meets me in the pit. He walks with me, like He did with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fire. He reminds me He is the Way. They Way up and out.

The other day, I was reading Second Timothy and came across Paul’s warnings about the last days. His warnings are not about wars or rumors of wars, or weather patterns, or diseases, or famines. His warnings are about the types of people who will be prevalent. Let me just say, it ain’t pretty folks. It’s definitely not 1980-US-hockey-team-beating-Russia-at-the-Olympics melodies. Or Marlin-actually-finding-Nemo orchestral swells. Paul doesn’t sugar coat. Paul tells it like it is. Paul is real.

Real can be hard to swallow sometimes. So I flipped Paul’s words and turned them into words of hope to pull me through.

2_Timothy_3

Adapted from 2 Timothy 3:2-8 (NLT)

I read somewhere that if people actually followed “The Golden Rule” (Luke 6:31), then they would keep the commandments. At the core of The Golden Rule is love. It is love seasoned with respect, consideration, and seeing the person—actually seeing (without judging) a living, breathing, sin-filled person who is not more or less than you are.  Love, respect, consider, and see others. But cling to them? No. Paul is basically telling us not to live in a fantasy world where everyone skips along, Journey-Adele-mash-up-performing their way to a happy ending. As we know, not everyone gets a happy ending. There are even “Christians” who will prophesy in Christ’s name and perform miracles but Christ won’t know them.

Paul wants us to be able to spot those who claim to know Christ, who wear the cloak of innocence with the heart of a wolf beating underneath. He wants us to recognize Pyrite people. They might look like the real thing, but they are merely a cheap imitation.  They live by the Fool’s Golden Rule.

Peter tells us that we have great joy ahead of us despite all the trials we will endure while here. He tells us that “These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold” (1 Peter 1:7). I want my faith to be genuine, to be real. That is what will “bring [me] much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world” (1 Peter 1:7b). An eternity with Christ is the ultimate Happy Ending with a chorus of angels singing me Home.

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Tune in or out?

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I love music. I blame it on my parents. I grew up watching Elvis movies and knew every note to “Sound of Music”. I sang along to “Pete’s Dragon” and even learned the penguin dance from “Mary Poppins”.  I would put on variety shows for my parents and their friends who only thought they were in for dinner and cards. I capitalized on that whole captive audience notion. I belted out everything from Patsy Cline to the Carpenters and danced to Ricky Skaggs and the Beach Boys. I wrapped up the evening by hiding behind the piano bench to perform a sock-puppet show whereby I would improvise or quote lines from my favorite movies.

Am I in tune?

Am I in tune?

Music continued to play a huge role in my life throughout high school. The music I listened to even influenced my clothing. I went from dressing like Cyndi Lauper and The Pointer Sisters to donning Depeche-Mode-loving, pre-goth-uniform-wearing black-on-black clothing juxtaposed against a milky white face and fire-engine red lips. At least the “New Wave” look meant my parents could dump their stock in Aqua Net and I could knock an hour of hair-teasing time off my morning routine. To this day, when I shuffle my i-Pod, it switches from Chopin and Vivaldi to Mercy Me and Francesca Battistelli. From Rascal Flatts and Josh Turner to “Les Miserábles” and “Little Mermaid”. From Harry Connick, Jr. and Dean Martin to Amos Lee and Eva Cassidy. From Nina Simone and Julie London to Glen Hansard and Joshua Radin.

I  appreciate and respect melody and harmony. My ears are attracted to tune.

I am working through a “40 Days of Praise” Bible study with a friend where the first 31 days focus on Proverbs. In the midst of reading Proverbs 2, God shined His glorious spotlight across a word and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.

In the first verse, God instructs us to listen to what He says and to treasure His commands. I consider myself a good listener. Well, as long as I’m having a good “ear” day. But how often do I sit in silence and truly listen for Him and to Him? And when I listen, do I hear?

The next verse is where God smacked me over the head: “Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding.” TUNE my ears to wisdom. It’s as if God was saying, “OK, Heather. You like music, so I’m going to speak using terms you understand!” The word “tune” makes me think of a radio station that is set to a specific decimal point on the dial, like 100.9,  and will come in most clearly when adjusted to the point nine. Point eight and even one-oh-one will still pick up the station, but it will have static and noise, making the music harder to hear, harder to understand, harder to discern.  I also think of instruments and voices that please the ears and breathe life into melodies and harmonies when they are in tune. When a song is out of tune, it just doesn’t sound right. We know, inherently, that something is wrong.

In verse two, God is telling me to Pay Attention to wisdom, to listen for that stray, off-key note or static that clues me into knowing what I’m hearing isn’t from Him. Yesterday, as I flitted from one to-do item to the next (OK, I didn’t flit. I don’t flit. I lollygag. Flit just sounds better.), I played my Pandora station over my Sonos (yes, I have ONE station because I like a variety of music, remember?). Most times I know the music “they” choose. Sometimes, though, I check my phone to either give a song the up or down thumb. I heard a new song that had the simple acoustic sound I love and I was about to “thumbs up” it until I saw the name of the song. It was awful. Nothing fit to print here, that’s for sure. How could I have been so stupid as to appreciate something that sounded nice but was filthy at its core? The truth? I wasn’t really listening. I wasn’t slowing down to hear the words.

That’s really all God is asking of me in these first two verses. He wants me to listen to Him. To stop flitting (or lollygagging) and wait for Him to speak. Then He wants me to adjust my ears, to fine-tune them to His wisdom. Because when I open my life (and ears) to hear from Him, He will speak with clarity and His tune will fill my heart and home with the sweetest, most pleasing music of all.