Monday, February 22, 2016

Hope and the Glory Be

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. World without end. Amen.

Four short lines. One line of gratitude for Love, for Love’s promise that we can be better tomorrow than who we are today, and for Love’s gift of Hope that keeps us moving in the right direction. One line that acknowledges that Love never dies. One line that promises an eternal home for those who persevere. And one word that says we believe in that promise.

Love Is the Beginning of It All

Love, as we saw in the last chapter, is the beginning of all good things. Love is what brings us into being, and it is what brings all the good things into our lives. When we’re surrounded by Love, we’re surrounded by happiness, joy, peace and all the other things we desire. The problems that come our way don’t seem as big, the insecurities we struggle with don’t seem as powerful, and it’s easier to believe in a future that will be better than the present.

Glory Be to the Father

With these words, we acknowledge Love’s role in bringing the good things into our life. We humble ourselves to admit that we don’t have control over everything and that we need other people in our lives to help us. We invite Love in and we encourage it to stay by telling it that we appreciate the work it is doing in our lives to help us become who we want to be.

The Role Model for Love

Jesus is the ultimate role model for how to live a life fully devoted to Love. In examining his life, we learn to measure our success in life not by the amount of money, titles, or power that we have accrued but by the quality and quantity of the relationships that we have forged in our efforts to love others. We learn that loving our neighbor means that we can’t stand outside their experience looking down on them. We need to enter into their experience and understand it so we can guide them through it.

We also learn that living a life dedicated to Love isn’t a recipe for a pain free life. There will certainly be a spiritual, emotional, and even physical death awaiting us if we pursue love, but we also see that this death is not the end but the beginning of our ultimate triumph. His example gives us the courage we need to believe Hope’s promise that it will be worth it in the end.
And to the Son

Jesus is the offspring of Love. Love is conceived in us when we first agree to be its vessel. It is nourished in us by our choices, brought to others by our service, and manifested in us over time until it takes on a life of its own. When we say these words, we acknowledge Jesus’s role in teaching us how to Love and we thank Him for his service. This simple act of gratitude opens up our hearts to receive more of His wisdom and knowledge.

The Fruitfulness of Love

When we are filled with Love, we can’t help but be fruitful. We see people in need and our hearts are motivated to move in their direction. We can’t stop until we’ve found an answer. We can’t ignore it. Love won’t let us. And so we’re driven to change things, to improve things, to mend fences and heal wounds and change lives by changing hearts. And because we are driven to make things better, the world becomes a better place for our having been there.
And to the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is that motivating force that drives us to act on our feelings of Love, that moves us to follow in the footsteps of Christ even when doing so causes us so much pain that we don’t know if we can take even one more step forward. It gives us the strength we need to press onward, to continue believing that Love is worth it, and to secure the victory of making positive change in our own lives and the lives of others because of it.

In taking a few words to acknowledge the work that motivating force is doing in our lives, we allow ourselves to see it the work it has already done to change us and we encourage it to continue working to help us improve.

As it was in the beginning

Love created us, but love was here before we were. We don’t create love. We are created by love. Love is a gift we received from others.

Is now

Love is here, right now, and it is up to us to see it and to invite its presence in our lives. We can open ourselves up to Love, and accept that suffering and grief will come with it, or we can shut it out and lock out the good things it brings as well. It is up to us.

And ever shall be.

Love will continue on with or without us. Love is eternal, and we don’t control its flow. We can either let it flow through us, or it will flow around us.
World without end.

In this world, all things end. Love is in this world, but only imperfectly. Many times it can’t come in because no one will invite it or offer it a place to stay. If we want a world that doesn’t end, we need to follow Love. Love will lead us to perfection, and that world won’t ever end.

Amen.

Do you believe it? Then say it with an amen, because that's what "Amen" means. It means, "I believe."

The Endless Cycle of Love, Hope, and Action

Love leads to hope, hope leads to action, and action leads to an increase of love. It’s an endless cycle that flows across time and space. If we want hope, we need to love. If we want to love, we need to act for the good of others. If we act for the good of others, we’ll find hope. And with hope, we’ll know that we are loved.

Take Action

If you’re like a lot of people who are living without hope, you don’t think there’s anything you can do to serve others. You don’t see how you have anything worthwhile to offer. That’s okay. I’ve been there.

I know what it’s like to feel worthless, hopeless, angry, afraid, diminished, powerless, and unable to change things. I didn’t see that I had anything to contribute, so I didn’t offer to contribute anything.

Love came into my life in a powerful way at the moment when I was feeling the worst about myself. He spoke to me and He asked me to teach others how very much He loves them. That moment was the beginning of my quest to find the way forward to serving you.

At first, I thought he meant that I should get a teaching degree, so I quit my job, encouraged my husband to pursue his dreams, and moved to a small town in Wyoming where I studied and got my A.S. in Elementary Education.

That didn’t end up working out so we moved back to Texas and I spent a few more years struggling to figure out how it was I was supposed to teach anyone anything because I didn’t have anything to offer. Until one day, Love helped me to see that I was measuring myself by the wrong yardstick.

I was looking at all the degrees I didn’t have, the things I didn’t know, the money and the possessions I didn’t own, and I wasn’t using Jesus as my yardstick for success. Jesus never had a degree. He didn’t even own the ass he rode on to enter into Jerusalem. He didn’t own a home of his own. He was the poorest of the poor. By the world’s accounts, he was a low-life bum who couch surfed his way across Israel.

But He didn’t let the fact that other people make him believe that He was worthless. He knew what He had to offer was something everyone needed: Love. He knew He could offer them that, and He did.

What attracted His followers was His ability to see what was extraordinary about the ordinary people around Him. He chose fishermen to be his apostles because they were humble of heart and eager to learn. Their weakness was a strength in Christ’s mission of teaching people to Love one another.

I had a lot of lessons to learn about Love, about community, about commitment, and about overcoming my fear before I became ready to teach people how much God loves them. Now I know that my real strengths are my weaknesses. Those are the things that make me approachable. Those are the things that allow people to believe that I understand them and to believe that I can help them because they can see that I know what they’re going through. Love is what brings them to me.
Use Your Weaknesses

Start transforming your life today and applying the lessons of hope to others. Use your weaknesses as a starting point, seek out others who are weak where you are, and serve them. When you serve others in this way, you’ll stop feeling like a loser with nothing to offer and you’ll start seeing yourself as a leader who brings hope to the hopeless.

Tomorrow: Hope and the Sign of the Cross

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about what the sign of the Cross has to teach us about holding on to hope when we set out on our quest to find Love and cultivate hope through our service to others.

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