Hope does not put us to shame

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

– Romans 5:1-5

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

– 1 Corinthians 13:7

You’ve heard of a fool’s hope, forlorn hope, false hopes, and “all we can do now is hope”. Hope seems to be a most milquetoast emotion, the way we often talk about it. Hope seems the last resort of the weak.

But not in the Bible. In the Bible hope is strong, it is virile, it is tough. Hope is a warrior. Hope sees the victory, before the battle has even begun. Hope bursts forth, the fruit of suffering that has produced endurance and a character strong enough to hope.

Hope is not a salve to numb us or a delusion to hide us away from hopeless reality. Hope is Reality. Hope is something that sets us apart; it is a key aspect of what we call holiness. Hope charges the bunkers of despair, hope outflanks its lines, hope takes the enemy camp. Hope is the flag raised on the Mount Suribachi of our fears, and hope doesn’t give heed to the bullets.

Hope is a primary trait of Biblical love, and Biblical love is something else which is as high above our often weak, watery view of love as the stars are above the earth.

Hope laughs at the darkness and sets it alight. Hope is rooted, grounded, anchored, and secured in Jesus. Hope has no fear of our problems, of our darknesses, of our heartbreaks and our loss. Hope has seen the Beloved tortured and nailed to a cross, beaten bloody and killed by His own who did not recognize him. And three days later Hope was born anew as the stone tumbled away and the powers of death crumbled. Hope has seen the worse the enemy can bring, and has seen him defeated. Hope will see the defeat of the principalities and powers that plague us today.

Child of God, your deepest dream will come true. In your flesh you will see God. And He will make all things right.

And because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts, we hope.

Testing the Trackback send

I’m hoping my good buddy Scott, one of the original Bloo testers, won’t mind me testing my trackback send against his blog.

It works find against other Bloo blogs. Now needing to test it against something non-Bloo.

So I’m sending a trackback from here to this post on Scott’s blog.

(Also, Scott, I’m putting you on my Bloogroll!)

On Anxiety

“Therefore http://cialistadalafils.com/ I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

– Matthew 6:25-34

As I read this passage, while simultaneously observing our culture (and myself), a few things jump out at me:

First, Jesus was admonishing his listeners to not be “anxious about their life”. Notice their worries: What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear? These worries were not the same worries most of us have in the 21st century West. When we worry about “what shall we wear”, it’s because we’re having a hard time choosing from all the clothes in the closet. In Jesus time, they were worried about not having any clothes. Ditto for “what shall we eat”; they weren’t stressed because they couldn’t decide between Mexican and Steak. they were stressed because they were running out of oil and grain, and harvest was still two months away.

For the most part, we have it so much better than they did, materially. And yet I am surrounded by people consumed by their worries. I know people, who have almost everything they could possibly wish for materially, socially, spiritually, and familialy (new word!), who are paralyzed with fear for the future and with uncertainty about the now. I want to tell them “don’t worry! Just live!” But then I look at myself; all it takes is just one tear in just one of the multiple safety-nets that I have been blessed with to start me revving the engine of worry in my own life.

For many of us, worry is something that we wrongly think comes at us from the outside. And yet in the Bible anxiety is rightly shown to be something we do, and that we should not do. “Do not be anxious” is a command, much like “rejoice!” is a command. It is in our power to refuse anxiety, and Christ tells us to do so.

And it’s only because of Him that we can do so! This universe can be a scary, lonely place, even for well-heeled, modern, 21st century types like many of us. But the Gospel, the Good News proclaimed by Jesus, includes the wonderful reassurance that our Father knows our needs, and He cares for us. No matter what happens in this life (and there are many bad things that can and do happen) He is there, and in His hand is ultimate healing, ultimate sustenance, ultimate protection.

We are not alone.

Jesus calls us to focus our lives on what is really important. Have you ever noticed that worry does a great job of crowding out of your mind the things you need to be focusing on? Like living, for instance. Worry sticks our feet in plaster, befogs our eyes, and stuffs our ears with cotton.

Jesus tells us to throw all that aside, and live, setting our eyes, minds, thoughts, and actions toward the Kingdom of God that Jesus Himself has inaugurated, and toward the righteousness that is the banner of that Kingdom.

“. . . and all these things will be added to you.”

[Note: this was cross-posted at Thinklings]

My daughter, the PopStar!

My daughter, Bethany, is in her freshman year of high school. Also attending her school is a young actor named Tony Oller, who stars in the Disney short series “As the Bell Rings”. Throughout this first semester Bethany got to know Tony a bit (they say hi in the halls, are MySpace friends, etc)

Today we got a fun surprise. Bethany was a bit shy about telling us this, but it turns out that awhile ago she sent a picture of herself and Tony to PopStar!â„¢ magazine as part of a contest.

And, wouldn’t you know it – if you know Beth, this is no surprise, actually 🙂 – here she is, right on page 32 (I scanned this in tonight).


And here’s the magazine cover.

Some more recollections from Ukraine

Some more, somewhat random thoughts on our recent trip to Ukraine (to read all my Ukraine posts, click here):

– I irritated the Ukrainian customs officers quite a bit at the Kiev airport. Not because I was trying to; more because I was clueless. But they waved me through anyway, with a roll of the eyes, two quick flicks of the wrist and a sound kind of like “Pfft pfft”. I’m sure they were thinking ” *sigh*, Amerikanski“.

– The experiences and sufferings of the Crimean Tatars in World War II, and in particular the event they refer to as the Deportation, are incomprehensible to most of us. To the Tatars, the deportation is the key to how they see themselves; it’s a big part of what makes them Tatars. I hope to write on that soon.

– I wondered how the DJ at the Matisse restaurant knew were were Amerikanskis. Jill made the wise observation that we were the “fat and loud” group – a dead giveaway.

– Europeans absolutely, positively do not believe in ice.

– In Ukraine, when you buy groceries, you have to pay for the grocery bags. When you buy french fries, you have to pay for the ketchup.

Plov tastes good.

– I’ve been told that the dollar is weak when compared to the Euro. Ukraine, thankfully, has the Grievna as it’s currency. . . Amsterdam, unfortunately, does not. A normal meal in Amsterdam cost us the equivalent of about $110 US dollars, prompting my one and only episode of trip-stress.

– I really liked Grievnas.

– Ukrainian currency features pictures of writers and poets.

– I was, evidently, the only person in all of Ukraine wearing white Nikes. Another dead giveaway.

– In discussing cultural differences with Aliye, she made the interesting point that we seemed more “open” with our kids. In their culture, adults will not usually play with their kids. Aliye was intrigued by how, in her words, “we seemed like equals with our kids”.

– Did I mention how I, in a swirling snowstorm, stared down the entire former Soviet military apparatus to regain a lost bag at the Simferopol airport? More on that in a later post.

– Ukrainians are more reserved than we are. When we were on the bus in the Kiev airport that shuttled us to our plane, our family was laughing and joking. I remember the sideways looks that many of the other passengers were casting at us. They were just quietly riding, no doubt thinking ” *sigh*, Amerikanskis

– I joked with the kids that we should pretend to be from Canada while we were in Europe, to avoid confrontations with anyone who was not happy with American foreign policy. So now and then we would drop an “eh” or a “what’s that all aboot?”, so as not to blow our cover.

– No one ever confronted us about American foreign policy, even though it was pretty obvious the whole time that we were Americans.

– I said “Spasiba Bolshoi” many times on the trip. It means “Thank you very much”. People were wonderful to us.

– I also learned how to say “Excuse me”. It is “Ees Venitye”. The way I remembered it was because it rhymes with “Pleased ta meetcha”.

– I want to go back.

Changes over at Thinklings

If you get a chance, go check out the changes on Thinklings, which is the group blog I contribute to.

It’s also the first blog I ever wrote for. Hard to believe we’ve been going at this for nearly five years.

It’s based on Bloo too (and is, as is this space also, running a pre-release of version 1.00). It’s been through three blogging packages since I first revved it up; it started on the venerable old B2, then went to WordPress, and finally to Bloo.

My Thinklings brothers are some of the best friends a guy could ask for.

East and West

During our time in Ukraine we had dinner one night with Jason and Anya and their sweet little baby Lilly. Jason is an American and Anya is Ukrainian; they met while she was an exchange student in the U.S. They are a wonderful Christian couple.

Jason, Anya and Lilly

Anya speaks excellent English and I asked her where and when she had learned to speak it. She told me that her father was stationed in Germany when she was six and that she learned English at day-care while there.

I also spent time as a child in Germany; my dad was stationed there with the Civil Service for three years when I was between 9 and 12 years of age. Always interested when people mention that they too spent time over there, I asked Anya where they lived. She gave me the name of a city I had never heard of and I asked her if it was anywhere near Ramstein, where we lived. She wasn’t sure.

It was then that I realized something . . . it should have been obvious to me, but it wasn’t: The reason I didn’t recognize the place where Anya had lived is because Anya’s dad was a member of the Soviet military, and she lived as a child in East Germany. Our nations were opposed to each other in those days and our parents were on opposite sides, serving governments that had thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at each other.

I’m so thankful that our nations aren’t hostile toward each other any more, and I pray it stays that way. It’s so good to be able to go behind what was once the Iron Curtain and to have fellowship with dear brothers and sisters in Christ who live in Ukraine.

Thanks be to God!

С Новым Годом!

. . . transliterated Snovim Godom! (Happy New Year!)

On 12/31, we traveled back to Yalta to ring in the New Year. Loys and Virgil booked a few rooms for themselves, our family, and Jason, Anya and Lilly so that we could share this holiday together.

Heading to Yalta

The hotel we stayed at was nice (Loys and Virgil were so generous toward us on this trip!). In the lobby, as we waited for our room keys, we witnessed yet more of Father Frost and the Snow Maiden. This was New Year’s eve, so excitement in the hotel was high.

More Father Frost and Snow Maiden

We checked into our rooms and got settled, and then headed downstairs for a meal at an in-hotel Italian restaurant. The food was very good, and service was good and slow – Ukrainians enjoy taking time at their meals, especially when eating out (which they don’t do as often as we do) so meals lasting two or three hours are not uncommon. It gave us time to talk. The food was very good and we had a great meal.

At the restaurant

A side note: In Ukraine, the marriage industry is quite active. We met an older Canadian man and invited him to sit with us. He was at the other end of the table talking with Jason so I didn’t get to hear much of the conversation, but he mentioned that one of the reasons he was touring Ukraine was to meet up with a girl in one of the villages that he had been writing to. While he never said it, I’m assuming that he was working out a potential marriage to the girl. There’s something about that that troubles me.

Following dinner, Blake really wanted to play pool, and pool playing could be had in the basement, so Molly, Blake and I headed down there. I mention this only because I think this picture is very, very cool.

Blake, concentrating

After playing pool, we went back to the lobby elevators to head back to our room. In the lobby, a string trio was performing. They were good. I mean, really good. They were playing some classical piece and ripping off long runs of 32nd notes; it was amazing.

String Trio

After listening for awhile, we headed back up to the room we had designated as the “party room”. This was the room Loys and Virgil got for our family, on the fourteenth floor with a great view, where all three families were congregating. We played some Phase 10 and MadGab (great fun!) as we waited for midnight. As the last minutes of 2007 ticked by, we all went out on the balcony in anticipation of the fireworks.

We didn’t have a “Rockin’ New Year’s Eve” show for a definitive reference on time, but we used one of our watches as “the” time and counted down the last ten seconds in Russian (hope I got these about right):

Decyet . . .

Devyet . . .

Vocem . . .

Seim . . .

Shaste . . .

Pyatt . . .

Chetiria . . .

Tree (good rolled “r” on this one 🙂



Snovim Godom!!!!

It was something! People on balconies all over the hotel were shouting “Snovim Godom!” and “Da! Da! Da!” (Yes! Yes! Yes!) as the fireworks got going in the city. This was a unique fireworks-viewing for us; we were basically above or at eye-level to most of the explosions. There wasn’t one central fireworks deployment area, but rather dozens of them, some quite close to the hotel (in the parking lot, for instance). After each rocket was set off, we could hear the aftermath: car alarms all over the place were going crazy as cars were jolted with the vibration and the noise.

It was awesome.

Below are some pics we took of the fireworks.

We went back inside after things died down and played some more games, finally going to bed around 2am. From talking to some Ukrainians later, it seems we were pikers when it comes to Snovim Godom partying; many of them celebrate until 4 or 5am.

The next morning at 10:00am we went down to the lobby to enjoy a Ukrainian buffet breakfast, which included such (to us) unconventional choices as broccoli and mashed potatoes. Following breakfast we checked out and drove the hour and a half back to Simferopol.

It was a great way to spend New Years.

Snovim Godom!

Back home

We are back from Ukraine today! We were without the internet from 1/1 till our return today, hence the lack of posts. But we had many great adventures in wonderful Crimea and I’ll be posting on them as I find time and get over my jetlag.

God is good.