Hope: The strongest magic of all

I am in love with the TV series Once Upon a Time.  I will admit that every cliche makes my heart lighter and every time Snow or Charming say “I will find you, I will always find you” my eyes well up.  But there’s one beautiful theme etched into the very fiber of the show that makes my heart swell every time: hope.

hope 1

If there’s one thing that has popped up repeatedly in my life recently, it’s the idea of hope.  Be it in awesome series, or in an assignment on eschatology – there is always a glimmer of hope.  And though I may not believe in magic, I do believe in hope.

I must confess that in my Disney-addled brain I have come to put a lot of stock in happy ever afters. There is something intrinsically beautiful in the thought of finally having everything work out.  We all wait for it with baited breath.  We feel the pain of a world that is falling to pieces around us.  Like characters from a fairytale trapped in a new, dark place, we too yearn for home – for family.  You feel it in beautiful music when you wish hope 2you could catch that emotion of transcendence and float away on it.  You see it in sunsets and smiles  – brief glimpses of something so much greater than human experience.  That yearning, when led, can turn to hope.  And that hope, when placed correctly, leads to joy and fulfillment.

Doing a study on eschatology is fascinating for me.  It’s like the happily ever after of Christianity – sorry if that’s sacrilege to say, but let’s be honest here.  There is literally a Prince on a white horse in Revelation who comes to save the people captured by the evil beast.  And then that same character waits for his bride who is adorned in purest white.  And happily ever after is eternal.  People diss fairytales… I like to think I’m in one.

But back to the point!

Hope

Fairytales may just be stories.  And life might not always have a happy ending.  But for the Christian there is a hope – one that is confirmed!  Christ came!  He is our hope.  The Christian hope lies in a life beyond this one. Our hope is secured in a place where there are no more tears and no more pain.   Life gets really sucky really often and I’ll be the first to admit it, but there is one thing that never dies – hope.

Those who lose hope are those who will go as far as to take their own lives.

Hope gives us purpose.  Hope gives us joy.  Hope gives us life.
And if I am reminded of my hope in fairytales, so be it!  But put your hope in the one who can fulfill it.  And then remind yourself vehemently and regularly of that hope.  Don’t lose hope – it is the strongest “magic” of all.

 hope 3  hope 5

Advertisements

The Dead Theologian

Hi, my name is Cayley, and I am a theology student.dead theologian 2

(The blogsophere in my mind responds with: Hiiiiii Caay-leey.)

Is there a support group for people like me?  I’m pretty sure there should be one!  I have a feeling that the answer should be “yes, of course!  It’s called the church, silly!”  Unfortunately, I have the feeling it’s not quite so simple.

The problem with studying theology is that it becomes awfully easy to dismiss God as part of your studies.  (Here you go, God, here’s a nice box for you to stay in, right beside Ancient Greek and Demonology.)  It becomes far too easy to dismiss miracles – after all, they happen all the time in the Bible. And speaking of the Bible, that has a habit of becoming a little too much like a textbook.  Nope, better read something else today – just for your own sanity.

It terrifies me that a person who wants to study God would become the person to dismiss him and so easily believe lies!  It scares me even more that I am that person.

I called this post the dead theologian for this reason: we know we’re made alive in Christ.  We have the Spirit of the Living God in us.  We have been raised into the fullness of life with Christ…  Yet something seems to have died.  It’s hard to place my finger on it, but I know it’s dead.  Inside this living, breathing, born-again theologian wanna-be is something festering.  It’s the dead theologian syndrome.

So how do I combat the rigor mortis that is taking over my spiritual life?  How does this dead theologian live again?  Well, as I type this, I realise that the answer is quite simple… it’s just that, as per normal, the practice of it is not quite as easy.

Remember good ol’ Ezekiel way back in the Old Testament?  Well, he had a similar question when faced with a pile of dead bones.  He just got to do it in dialogue and slightly more eloquently.  The Lord asked him if the bones could live; if they could rise again.  And Ezekiel’s reply?  It wasn’t a sigh and a shake of the head.  Ezekiel didn’t hold a memorial.  He simply replied with the only thing he knew for certain: You alone know.

And lo and behold!  The bones lived!  God breathed his Spirit into those dead, dried up bones and they lived!  Those things were well passed rigor mortis.  Those things were practically decomposed.  I’m thinking elephant graveyard in Lion King.  Creepy, right?  Yet God made them live.dead theologian 1

That same Spirit lives today, and that Spirit is in me – I simply need to give myself over to God completely and allow Him to do His work.  As I said, harder in practice…  I’ll take a guess and say that what’s required is a broken, begging, fearful and worshiping heart.  I’m guessing God is asking for free reign. And this is one outlandish request I am more than happy to agree to!

Casting Crowns came out with a song some time ago with words that went like this:

A pastor stands before his congregation
Once a mighty army for the Lord
But now he stares into the lifeless eyes
Believers leading carnal lives
He wonders what they’re fighting for
But driven by a calling on his life

He spoke God’s word like
He’d done a hundred times before
But this time he comes broken and weeping
With tears of a broken heart
And he cries out to the Lord

Oh Lord, send Your wind into this valley
And breathe the breath of life into their souls
And raise them again a mighty army
For soon these arisen warriors will battle again
For they have been filled with the spirit wind

dead theologian 3I’m going to start praying hard for that Spirit Wind.  And I don’t need a theology degree to know that God answers prayers!

And that support group I so desperately need?  Well, church family – sorry for you, but you’re going to have to help this family member who needs to go to rehab…

 

PS.  If you know me personally, please don’t comment to me on what you’ve read here.  As Flannery O’Conner put it, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say”.

FROZEN (be warned, there are spoilers)

frozen 4I realise there are probably a million blogs already on this topic, but here’s my two cents anyway.  I want to recognise the genius that is Disney’s latest offering: FROZEN.

There are about a million things I could gush about, from Olaf the snowman who “likes warm hugs”, to Idina Menzel’s incredible power ballad that results in pure awe, but instead, I want to talk about the point that I think Disney was trying to get across.  See, hidden beneath love-sick teens who “finish each others… sandwiches!” and really awkward duets between one person (“But people smell better than reindeers, Sven, don’t you think I’m right?”), there’s this awesome line that I’m pretty sure is the crux of the story.  And it goes something like this:

“Only an act of true love can thaw a frozen heart”

frozen 1And we all assumed it was Anna’s heart that needed thawing…

Now maybe I’m stretching metaphors a little too far here, but in my (unabashedly weird) mind I’m seeing some seriously Biblical imagery making an appearance.  “Love covers over a multitude of sins” ringing any bells for anyone?  How about the persecuted one giving up their life for someone who causes pain and is, let’s admit it, pretty selfish?  Still nothing?  How about someone trying to kill the person in charge so he can rule the kingdom?  I’m really hoping something is getting through now…

I know I’ve spoken about this before, but there’s this awesome thing that Disney does which combines timeless movies with timeless truths! In this particular movie what we see is a sacrificial love that covers over the unstoppable results of a frozen, selfish soul.  Did you notice how Elsa realises her power and the damage it causes and runs away, then her sister goes and searches for her!  When Elsa refuses to come back, Anna doesn’t give up.  And when Elsa starts to destroy everything, Anna gives up her life for her!

It’s such a beautiful story!  We’re all pretty much sold on this amazing love story where for the first time in forever (See what I did there?) an act of true love is not true love’s kiss.  So why can’t we be sold on the original story?frozen 2

My youth pastor likes to ask why we don’t rave about Christianity the way we rave about movies.  I haven’t shut up about Frozen – I quote lines, sing the songs, download the sheet music… write blogs… but why on earth did I shut up about Jesus?  I mean, let’s review that story – Cayley realises she is full of sin and hopelessly lost, so she runs away from everything so she can let her sin go.  But Jesus follows, even when Cayley refuses to go back.  Jesus never gives up and goes on this incredible quest to save Cayley from herself!  Finally, in an act of true love, Jesus gives up his life for Cayley – and she is made into a whole new person because of it.

I would read that story and watch the movie! And not just because my name is in it…

Let’s get excited about Jesus again!  Seriously!  It’s all well and good falling in love with Idina Menzel’s voice, but how about falling in love with its creator?!  I mean, she didn’t get that awesome on her own.  And Frozen is not an original story…frozen 3

PS.  If you liked this, check out http://ineverymovie.blogspot.com/2013/12/frozen-cant-control-curse.html   , I’m telling you now it’s better than my drivel.

Clouds

In my head I know that clouds are nothing more than water in the sky.  Schooling and education tend to knock the romantic out of you like that.  But try as my teachers would, there was a little girl – a little romantic – who could never be knocked out of me.  My mind and my heart don’t have to be on the same page all the time, and, honestly, they normally aren’t.  And I like it that way.

One thing about sitting in the car for 12 hours is that it gives plenty of time for cloudsendeavours such as cloud-gazing.  I particularly like what I call fairytale clouds.  Those are the big fluffy ones with flat bottoms and big puffy tops, just like In the storybooks!  But then there are the jagged, geometric ones – they look like someone took a pen full of cloud and constructed them.  Then there are the sweeping, immense ones that dominate vast majorities of the sky and act as anchors.  Little clouds spread their wings and float off the anchor cloud, and tired, heavy clouds return to rest.

Clouds are a happy place.

But the best thing about clouds is that they are forever changing.  I sit in the car and label them – a cat pouncing… a seal… a duck smoking a pipe… a hand full of cauliflower… But I look up two minutes later and everything has changed.  Now my kitten looks more like a clam talking to a Smurf.

The sky gets to be creative.  Everything changes, but everything remains.  The splendour of the sky is never-ending but it’s never constant.  One day the sky will be brilliant azure, and the next, it will be heavy grey.  It’s like the clouds are playing a great big game of hide and seek, and when they’re tired, they come out to play charades.

Clouds are like life.  No really!  Hear me out on this one…

We’re forever moving, forever shifting and changing. We chase something on the horizon only to realise that the horizon is as fickle as we are.  So we choose to be stationary. We sit in our situation trying our hardest not to change, and we find ourselves compromising into something else, being pushed on by others, or simply falling to pieces.  If clouds are inconsistent then my life can definitely empathise!clouds 2

I remember hearing once that the only constant in life is change.  I hate that saying!  Why must everything change?  After all, change is hard.  Girls know how hard it is to change outfits.  Anyone who’s moved will tell you how hard it is to change your address.  Changing lightbulbs – as humorous as the thought may have become – is even becoming complicated.  (How many bumbling bloggers does it take to change a lightbulb?)  Why must change be the only thing we can rely on to never change?

But then I think about those clouds.  Can you imagine what would happen if they never moved?  How could regular life continue if the water cycle decided it was over change and it would rather stagnate?  No more evaporation.  No more rain.  No more snow.  No more mist or dew or hail or cloud cover. Quite simply, we could not survive.  Change is what preserves.  Change creates growth and development.  Change is what keeps everything from falling apart.

None of this means I like change.  Mostly, it means I got rather philosophical when I looked at the sky one day.  But perhaps through the practice of putting whimsies into words, I have managed to contain the thought that change is beautiful and maybe help me one day when the change in life seems like just a bit too much to handle.

And maybe next time you look at the sky, instead of seeing cumuli nimbus,   you’ll see an acrobat about to do a backflip off a saxophone…  Or at least something equally outlandish.

Beautiful Savagery

Had you asked me last week where Craddock is, I would have told you it wasbeautiful savagery 1 somewhere along the coast of South Africa.  Most likely in Cape Town.  I would have told you Colesburg was near Kimberly, Port Elizabeth was near Cape Town, and there is no way that a place is actually called Daggaboer (for the rest of you, translated, that means weed-farmer)!  Basically, my South African geography – considering I grew up here – is atrocious.  Clearly, my understanding of South African terrain and fauna is equally horrendous…

A few days ago we did the long-haul drive from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth. To be completely honest, I slept through half of it… but I was absolutely astounded by two things: first, how little I know of my own country’s geography, and second, how vast an expanse the African plains are.  I was agog at the immensity of the plains – or shall I say veld – that we drove past!  Land that just goes on for hours – untouched and raw with African savagery.

The thing about Africa, you must understand, is that nothing is really pretty.  Beautiful, yes!  But not pretty.  Everything has an almost harsh undertone that stands out.  There is a predatory feel to the most innocuous of areas.  There is a beautiful savagery to the plains, forests, and ocean.  Here, in this diverse and sprawling country, everything is a wonder – and everything harbours the potential to destroy.

The ocean has a majesty that takes the breath from your lungs, throws it to the wind and then twists your heart with it as it spirals in awesome abandon.  It begs you to grasp it, to embrace it, to revel in it.  Yet it is a fearsome foe to those who don’t exercise caution.  We don’t even know half of what lurks in the ocean depths, but we know that there is danger.  And plenty of it.

Each day most of South Africa wakes up to smile at the sun and marvel at the blue skies.  And yet each day has the potential to burn, to bring cancer, to scorch plants, to devastate lands. It is a beautiful savagery.

beautiful savagery 3It makes me wonder at God.  I know God to be majestic.  I know He is beautiful and splendid and marvellous.  But I also know God to be mighty and strong, He is an “all-consuming fire”.  This is the God that I serve.

People always say that in the midst of untouched nature, they find a brighter glimpse of God.  Yesterday as we drove, that is what I felt.  Today, as I looked down the embankment at the sea, I felt it again.  The danger in the splendour and the savagery in the beauty that was made so clear to me in nature, is the same wonder that is found in their creator.

When last did we stand in awe of His beauty, or fall to our knees and beg mercy from His wrath?  Maybe it’s time we rethink our perspectives and give God the awe and respect we’re so willing to give to the wilderness of the African landscape.

destined for…something

destiny 2What did you want to be as a child?  My brother used to tease me because my interests ranged from dolphin trainer to missionary, rock star to teacher.  At one point I distinctly remember wanting to be a “musicianary” (it’s a musician/missionary) who rode her horse through Uzbekistan while playing on her grand piano and singing about God.  I have no idea how that piano got onto that poor horse, or how the poor creature carried it, and I certainly don’t know why in the world I would want to go to Uzbekistan, but that was my dream.

Most of us, at some point after this, then realise that we need to come up with something feasible and secure – hence the primary school ideas of fire-fighting, teaching, nursing, or flying to the moon.  All of these are actual jobs!

And so we progress… getting more realistic… getting more boring!  And we lose those fantastic childish dreams!  What’s so terrible about being childish anyway?  Ask almost any adult where they’d like to be on their age timeline, and the likely response will be somewhere in the category where dreams were more than whimsies and farce.  At some lethal point, our dreams die and we are dragged into “reality”, and all too often we don’t go kicking and screaming.

So now I have to ask, what happened to our dreams?  True to myself, I must mention those dear Disney Princesses I am so fond of – Belle with her great “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere”, Kayley (Quest for Camelot) with her “How am I ever going to do great things if I’m stuck here with these silly chickens?”, or Pocahontas’ “Why do all my dreams extend just around the riverbend?”

In destiny 3our childish exuberance, we built dreams on clouds and wished for what might be.  And then it got hammered out of us. And I don’t see why…

Up until now, this post has been quite useless – it’s just a silly rant, really.  But I do have something to say – if you want the serious stuff, read on!

Here is my opinion: we need to embrace our dreams.  Sure, be realistic, but keep your head in far enough in the clouds that you can see your feet, and still reach for the stars.  When we expect our lives to amount to nothing, they inevitably do, but what makes the greatest people great is that they dared to dream – to do the extraordinary!  Alexander Bell dreamed up a way of talking to others over a distance!  People must have thought he had lost it…  Zuckerberg dreamed up a social networking site – and now we have facebook!  Noah built an ark, Esther became queen, David became king, Solomon was one of the greatest men to ever live.  The list goes on and on.  And maybe you’re arguing that not all these people dreamed – maybe you’re right… but maybe, just maybe, that’s because they let God do the dreaming for them.

Had Esther gone for “realistic” there would have been a poor girl sitting at home darning socks and a nation destroyed.  Had Solomon decided to go for “practical”, there would have been a mediocre kingdom and a bored, useless king.  What sets greatness apart from mediocrity is the insatiable desire to be more than what the world expects!  Those who dare to try – knowing that they might fail horribly – are the ones who make it.

I believe that each and every one of us believes we are destined for something.  We don’t necessarily know what, but we know there is something.  We spend years – sometimes our entire lives – looking for our purpose.  We discard our dreams for something expected and follow the status quo down a road that leads to boredom and dead ends.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could go back to believing in happy endings?

I decided some time ago that I would believe that I am made for something greater than this world allows.  People seem to think that optimists are born that way – I beg to differ.  I chose to be this way.  I may have no clue where my life is going, or what I’m doing with my life, but I know that it’s going to be good and I know it because I never stopped dreaming.

…And this Disney Princess has already found her Prince.

Dreams do come true!  We just need to allow them to be shaped by the one who put them there instead of pushing them, and Him, away.  Believe in fairytales and have faith in God and you will see miracles you never even dreamed possible.

Child of God, you are destined for something great!

destiny 1

The Spirit of the control freak

control freak 1

We are the ones with anxiety disorders
The ones with five year plans
We take ourselves very seriously
We are peacemakers, do-gooders, givers, savers…
We are on time
We are overly prepared, well read, and witty
We pride ourselves on getting as little sleep as possible
And thrive on self-deprivation
We are relentless
Judgmental with ourselves
And forgiving to others
We are the daughters of the feminists who said:
“You can be anything”
And we heard:
“You have to be everything”

My best friend sent this to me recently and I could identify with all of it.  I smiled and nodded and laughed in that weird awkward way we do when we know something so accurately describes us that it’s just scary.  And then I read it again and felt my heart sink to my stomach.  This just makes me sad now.  In this simple description of an unnamed people I see positive, powerful ideals that I want to attain to.  But I also see a shaded vulnerability and a fear of never being enough.

I am control freak.  I claimed the title long ago and I’m ok with it.  I know that I lead because I want to know the process and outcome.  I plan ten years ahead.  I get frustrated when a new idea or plan is sprung on me.  I don’t do spontaneous.  I do control.  To me, the end justifies the means, and so I plan the end in order to arrange the means perfectly.  I don’t do unplanned – it throws me!control freak 2

Which is why, when I read 1 Corinthians the other day, I felt so much relief.  See, as a control freak, mysteries are annoying.  Yes, I like gifts and the mystery of what’s inside, but I hate events or circumstances that are a mystery.  This is one reason I can’t understand people who don’t believe in God – how do they survive not knowing why or how or when or who…  Life is HUGE mystery to most, but it’s made quite clear to us that God has revealed the mystery.  We’re not in the dark anymore!  Hallelujah!  And how do we know what we know?  Well, take a look for yourself at 1 Corinthians 2:10 (and you can be in control of this discussion for a while): “But God has revealed it to us by His Spirit…”

It really is wonderful to me to know that what I need to know is all there – it’s all laid out in front of me if I just let the Spirit of God open my eyes.  I wonder how often I miss stuff because I’m squinting so hard my world goes blurry.  I guess in that regard, the Spirit is like glasses – suddenly everything is a whole lot clearer!

But on top of the comfort of knowing that not only has God got it under control, but he’s also allowed me to have some control and to see the bigger plan, there is also the comfort of knowing that I am enough.

Remember how I spoke about being freakishly controlling as being secretly insecure? Well, God deals with that too.  1 Corinthians 2:15 says “The Spiritual man makes judgements about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgement…”  That whole insecurity thing comes from trying to seem enough to other people.  We’re so desperate for the affirmation of those around us that we forget that God affirmed us long ago – when he MADE us!

And I totally understand that when people are looking at you like last months tuna mayo sandwich, it’s kind of hard to remember that God is looking at you with love.  But again, maybe it’s time we insecure control freaks took hold of the gift of the Spirit and used some discernment in our thoughts.

The whole passage ends with “But we have the mind of Christ”.  I could sit and read that line for ages!  We are so incredibly undeserving.  It’s actually insane!  I’m being serious, if you’ve made it this far through this post, take a moment to stop and consider the immensity of what those seven words are saying.

Did you stop?

No!

I said stop.

Ok… I guess I can’t really make you, but I tried.

All I’m really saying here, I guess, is that it’s ok to be a little controlling.  It’s ok to be me and to want to know what’s happening and to control certain areas of life (after all, when I bake a cake, I need to control a whole lot of aspects!)  But I’m also saying that it’s about time I give that control over to God and trust the Holy Spirit to control and to comfort.  This world is not enough.  God is.

Sorry this one turned into more of a Bible Study, but that’s what was on my heart.