When We Need Hope For the Hard Road

Promises are strewn throughout the Bible like buried jewels.


Built on the scaffolding of God’s character, these promises prove firm… sure… trustworthy.  Something you can build a life on.  I mine them in the early morning hours, searching for hope.


This gem sparkled this morning from our lectionary:

Philippians 1:6  [I am] confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.


Standing tall at the wooden lectern, Ian Attila slowed down his reading and looked over the congregation as he read that promise.  I raised my eyes from the metal side chairs.


Hope glimmered and I caught it.


Paul’s secretary scratched those words of hope into parchment thousands of years ago and it was copied from one text to another until it was proclaimed over us, the Body gathered, today. Promises lighting hope into our everyday lives like the Advent candles bouncing light over Baseline Middle school auditorium.


I needed that hope.  His work is not done and He will never give up on me.  Promises declare hope and hope gleams like the light at the top of our red lighthouse on a clear night, a light we followed this summer back into the harbor catching our breath after a good sail.


As a priest, I’ve learned to be a follower.

I follow Andrew, my husband, my 19 year love, my boss.

I follow behind the red gospel book lifted high.

And I follow behind the cross.


The brass celtic cross is grasped every sunday by Mark Lewis in his long white alb and is carried forward toward the altar, a military drum beat pounded by Andrew Sicard to O Come O Come Emmanuel and I follow, eyes locked on that cross.  I’m being trained every sunday so I can follow it anywhere.   One thing I’ve learned?  Following the cross is pure obedience.


Behind that cross, I am no longer in control.


Our three blond headed kids fill up the processional with us, carrying the gospel, the Advent torch. And one sunday when Mark was pursuing the finish line at the end of another 28.2 miles, I had the privilege of carrying the cross, inviting my large-eyed Madeline to grasp its long wooden handle.  Involuntarily, I flinched.  Two hands on that wooden cross and we have lost control, little one.  We are now followers and pursuing a zigzagging comfort-filled route is no longer an option. (Yes, I know, praise the Lord, right?) But, are you ready, little one?  Sometimes following is a joy, lately I’ve had little notes from everywhere to keep following my dreams, persevering into writing.  But, sometimes the course winds through the valley, chilly in that shadow.


Life, true life is on the other side of that cross, but following can never be called easy. (Christ, have mercy.)  It means learning the hard work of dumping our baggage, learning to chase after God weight-free. We follow, eyes wide open, locked hard.


The gift for every follower, everyone who grasps that cross?  Jesus walks beside us.


And He knows where the cross is headed.


This last week I’ve been thinking a lot about Mary’s “yes” to God and Elizabeth’s statement in Luke 1:45, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord had promised would be accomplished.”

And with that “yes” Mary became a follower, moving slowly toward the cross, a gem collector on the way.  She gathered and pondered and treasured the promises.  And I imagine she would take them out turning them over in her hand, watching them glimmer in the candle light when it started to grow dark.

Summer Gross

What promises have you collected on the way, that build hope in the darkness?  I invite you to please share and write them in the comment section.

I’m joining Ann Voskamp and so thankful to be counting, still counting the simple and profound gifts He is always sending:

1. A drum beat to follow this Advent.  Thank You for Andrew Sicard.

2. Clumps of snow drifing down.  “Is that snow, Mom? It must be Christmas.”

3. Beautiful friends who open wide their lives so we can mourn together…

4. In the catacombs of a prayer clinic, the nativity throwing light up onto the street.

5. Christmas gifts hidden well.

6. Caravan of Thieves on Friday night making us laugh and clap and wonder at the beautiful tone of the violinist and the energy of the guitarist.  Sharing it all with the children.

7. A clean living room and a friend who stayed with me to the end even rearranging furniture.

8. The coming joy of mom, dad, sister, brothers, my belle soeur, and a nephew/niece in utero.

9. A big box of Christmas books borrowed.

10. Sharing an apple with my three year old, giggling at who gets the last red slice.

Also linking with the lovely Laura Boggess here:

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  1. 1. A surprise call during the day from my husband reminding me of his love.
    2. The anticipation of having our adult children, their spouses, and our grandchildren to arrive at our door on Christmas day.
    3. The gift of a beautiful sunset painted across the sky tonight.
    4. The treasure of old friends I cherish and the blessing of new friends.
    5. Opening my home and heart to these new friends.
    6. Standing in awe this morning at such a beautiful scene out my kitchen window: a sliver of a moon set in a dark blue sky hung next to a sparking morning star and shining through the evergreen tree in my backyard.
    7. Hearing my neighbor’s joy that she would have relatives come for Christmas. Family is so far away in Africa.
    8. Less discomfort in my knee today.
    9. The hope of new jobs for people I love.
    10. Reading your blog brought tears to your Dad and I.
    Thank you for persevering with your gift of writing.

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