Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Hope in the Trouble

With our Children's Program & Play happening on this 4th Sunday of Advent, the message this week will be given on Christmas Eve.

Nobody knows the trouble I've seen.

Luke 1:26-38

New International Version (NIV)

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Trouble makes for a dark world. 

All through Advent we have had this header in our bulletins.
A black box with a single candle lit. Our lives can be like this at times.
Things can be bleak and dark with little or no light to show us the way. 

This Advent season has been about finding your light.
Jesus is the light. We want Jesus in our hearts and lives so we don't get lost in a dark world.
Trouble is...lights can be snuffed out. Light bulbs burn out. Electricity can go out. Fuses can bust. The many things we look to for help and guidance can end up being so unreliable. The very things we look to for power and support can break down and leave us in a state of shock. 

So, where can we look for hope? I plead the case that it's right in front of our noses. 
 We've talked a lot about it this Advent season. It might be good is we took a long look at the word. 
 Upon opening Merriam-Webster and talking that look we see the word used two different way.
As a noun and as a verb. The noun should be obvious. It's something we can hang on to. Something possessive. Something definite.

Full Definition of HOPE

1 archaic :  trust, reliance
2 a :  desire accompanied by expectation of or belief in fulfillment <came in hopes of seeing you>; also :  expectation of fulfillment or success <no hope of a cure>
   b :  someone or something on which hopes are centered <our only hope for victory>
   c :  something hoped for 
I would venture a guess that most of us are familiar with the notion of hope.  There are certain things we want in life. Enough money to make it. Good health and a good report from the doctor. People to get along around the table this holiday. An avoidance of trouble. Most everything we list that we are hoping for could most likely go under that heading. If we could only avoid that problems coming our way. I think of the words to an old country song...

Trouble is
dark and cold and lonely
Trouble is
this big, half empty bed
Trouble is
there no one around to hold me
She's not here. Trouble is...

from the 1999 album "Tattoos & Scars" - Montgomery Gentry
Songwriters HOWELL/GAY
Published by Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Peermusic Publishing, BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

Here's the intersection of trouble and hope. 
The cross roads at times might lead you to believe that there is no turn lane. You feel as if you can't get off the troubled road, even if you wanted to. It makes me think of the intersection of High and Broad in downtown Columbus. There are only certain times of the day when you are actually allowed to turn. Most of the day you need to simply keep traveling straight. Even if you wanted to get off the crazy, troubled road you're on, there is no choice. If the sign says you can't turn right now, then you can't turn right now. What is it about trouble that keeps us locked in our lane while feeling there is no ability to escape? We should probably look at that word, too.

Full Definition of TROUBLE

transitive verb
1 a :  to agitate mentally or spiritually :  worry, disturb
   b (1) archaic :  mistreat, oppress (2) :  to produce physical disorder in :  afflict <troubled by a cold>
   c :  to put to exertion or inconvenience <I'm sorry to trouble you>
2:  to put into confused motion <the wind troubled the sea>
intransitive verb
1:  to become mentally agitated :  worry <refused to trouble over trifles>
2:  to make an effort :  be at pains <did not trouble to come>
It was interesting to see that both words - hope and trouble - both come in noun and verb forms.
They can be possessive. Something definite. Something to lay your hands upon. A thing. A person. But they are both used in an action form. Trouble is something that we do. And, it's something that we have.

Full Definition of TROUBLE

1:  the quality or state of being troubled especially mentally
2:  public unrest or disturbance <there's trouble brewing downtown>
3:  an instance of trouble <used to disguise her frustrations and despair by making light of her troublesCurrent Biography>
4:  a state or condition of distress, annoyance, or difficulty <in trouble with the law> <heading for trouble> <got into financial trouble>: as
   a :  a condition of physical distress or ill health :  ailment <back trouble> <heart trouble>
   b :  a condition of mechanical malfunction <engine trouble>
   c :  a condition of doing something badly or only with great difficulty <has trouble reading> <has trouble breathing>
   d :  pregnancy out of wedlock <got a girl in trouble>
5:  an effort made :  pains <took the trouble to do it right>
6 a :  a cause of distress, annoyance, or inconvenience <don't mean to be any trouble> <what's the trouble?>
   b :  a negative feature :  drawback <the trouble with you is you're too honest> <the main trouble with electronic systems is the overreliance on them — John Perham>
   c :  the unhappy or sad fact <the trouble is, I need the money>
Pregnancy out of wedlock...that's an actual line of definition for trouble? 
Wow. Now, we might have some idea of why the scripture says that Mary was greatly troubled when the angel came and announced with the words, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” I have spoken with many about the opening words to the letter of James. 

James 1:2

New International Version (NIV)

Trials and Temptations

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds,

Oh hey! I'm just jumping up and down. YEAH!! Here comes trouble!
I don't see Mary doing this when the angel speaks to her. She is greatly troubled. You probably would be too. The whole idea of raising a child can be a difficult matter. Especially if you didn't plan for it. Especially if an angel just appears out of nowhere. Especially if the idea of God wanting to speak to you comes off as a omnibus, formidable presentation. Jewish people know their history. They know where they come from. Their existence has not exactly been one of great honor and privilege. There were a few good years. There were a few good kings. There was also bondage to a foreign country and exclusion from their homeland. When God spoke, it seemed, bad things happened. Prophets died. Countries rose up. People were carried off. In their present situation, these people called Romans are on top of them. Their country, their homeland, is not their own. So, pardon the young maiden if she doesn't come off as joyous and gleeful. 

Life will do that to us. We are entrenched in the idea that there is no turn lane. Or, that the road ahead is just going to be bad and that's all you can do about it. You just call it bad and deal with it. Be miserable. I used to know a guy at the Nazarene church up in Shelby, a Dr Curren I think his name was. Every Sunday morning he'd meet you coming in the sanctuary. "How you doing today?" Ok I'm ok. How are you? "I'm mirrable." If it was your first time hearing that word, you'd say - What's that? "Oh, that's about half way between miserable and terrible." And, that's what he'd tell you every Sunday. Right there in God's house. Yippee. Life is terrible and I'm going to tell everyone. 

Hope. It's something we long after.
But, all too often we long for it and have no idea how to put the word in actual motion.
Remember I said earlier it was a noun and a verb. Hadn't showed you the verb form yet.

Full Definition of HOPE

intransitive verb
1:  to cherish a desire with anticipation <hopes for a promotion>
2 archaic :  trust
transitive verb
1:  to desire with expectation of obtainment
2:  to expect with confidence :  trust 

Notice how detailed and strung out the definition on trouble is and how simplistic the definition of hope is. If it's intransitive, then it's something you can do on your own. What is it you cherish? What is it you desire? What are you anticipating? What are you putting your trust in? Is it something that is worth your trust? Is it something you can actually see coming to fruition?

Mary knows in her heart that if an angel came and told it to her, then most likely, this is going to happen. We don't always get the billboard sign moments. Many times we get the feeling or the wisdom that something will happen. Soon, she will be with Joseph. It will take him some time to come around. He will have his own vision. Then it will be transitive. The two of them together will hope for what the Lord has promised. Do you have someone to lean on? Do you have the hand of someone who can hope with you? When we hope, we expect with confidence. I have a hard time being confident on my own. But, I can do it with someone else in which to depend on. 

We have gathered here tonight and I hope that it is not with the same hum drum of ritual in mind. Do you want a better world; a world without trouble? If I could ask you what you really want this year and then pray with you, and hope with you, would that be the first step toward a better world? If I could sing a song with you, would that bring hope? Would it keep our hearts in tune as we look towards a moment when we are all forgiven and free? Maybe a song like this would do it for us.

"Better Days"

And you ask me what I want this year
And I try to make this kind and clear
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days
Cause I don't need boxes wrapped in strings
And designer love and empty things
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cause everyone is forgiven now
Cause tonight's the night the world begins again

I need someplace simple where we could live
And something only you can give
And thats faith and trust and peace while we're alive
And the one poor child who saved this world
And there's 10 million more who probably could
If we all just stopped and said a prayer for them

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cause everyone is forgiven now
Cause tonight's the night the world begins again

I wish everyone was loved tonight
And somehow stop this endless fight
Just a chance that maybe we'll find better days

So take these words
And sing out loud
Cause everyone is forgiven now
Cause tonight's the night the world begins again
Cause tonight's the night the world begins again

As we come and partake in communion tonight, we do so in remembrance of the One who makes forgiveness and new beginnings possible.

As we take a candle, we take hope into our hands. We sing of His birth. We sing of His truth, His love. We cover ourselves with faith. We lift up the light and we do not forget. 

Nobody knows the trouble we've seen.
But, hope is possible. And, we rejoice at the view point from here.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Finding Your Light

Don't miss what's right in front of you.

In the dark. All alone. Feeling like there is no way out and no where to go.

The feelings associated with this moment can be applied to many ranges of emotion and social situations. Have you ever felt alone? Felt like you were in the dark? Have you ever lacked the ability to know which direction you should go?

Of all the situations that could fit into these parameters the moment of being bullied is what comes to mind at this moment. Have you ever been bullied? Threatened? Spoken to harshly or tried to be controlled by another person's words or emotions? What does that do to your own emotions? How do feel when someone says things to you in this manner, or even physically harms you to get their point across?

By the time these words in the Gospel of John are penned around 90 A.D. the persecution phase of Christianity is well under way. The Romans would have come in around 70 A.D. and level Jerusalem. Many Jews were either killed or dragged away into some kind of slavery or servitude. 20 years after, the Apostle John is said to have his vision we call the Book of Revelation. Around that same time the words to this gospel are penned. Most likely, they are a rendering of teacher to student/scribe. The wording in much of this gospel suggests that John, "the disciple whom Jesus loved", is recalling the stories and messages on top of what has already been shared in the Synoptics. Matthew, Mark, and Luke were penned during a more peaceful time. John doesn't have that luxury. His words are written down after the hardship has begun, in a time when it's not popular to be a follower of the One True God. Listen to words in that context.

John 1:6-8

New International Version (NIV)
There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

John the Apostle is writing about John the Baptist. In the midst of a time when it is not popular to be one who follows, the Apostle writes about one who follows any way. The Romans were not the first to badger and jostle with one's faith. The Baptist has chosen to follow God is a recluse way. He is not standing in the temple courtyard, donned in fine clothes or serving feasts from gold plates. Here stands a man who is off in the exact opposite direction. Wearing sackcloth. Covered in camel's hair. What must the people think? Boy, there's a matter that we could grovel about for awhile. What. People. Think. My stomach just turns at the thought of what people think sometimes. History is written by those outside of the realm of knowing and feeling. The words we read are penned by someone who wants to remember John the baptist as fearless and courageous. But, we know our own emotions, and if John is human like you and I, then I would venture to guess he is not completely confident in what he is doing.

Listen to the rest of our scripture today and see if the subject of bullying might fit into the context you see.

John 1:19-28

New International Version (NIV)

John the Baptist Denies Being the Messiah

19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders[a] in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”
21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.”
22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”[b]
24 Now the Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
26 “I baptize with[c] water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

It's not just anybody who comes to do the questioning. It's the "priests and Levites". These are people who have been sworn to teach the law and uphold it. When someone goes against the grain of religious thought and life, they are the first to speak up and question what is going on. Religious practice is done at the temple. The way of life they know revolves around the temple mount in Jerusalem. Why then has this man decided to wander around the desolate places, far outside the city, and baptize people in the Jordan River? Looking at it through the eyes of the religious leaders does not give permission to their actions, but at least some understanding to their thoughts. Who is this guy? Why is he standing out here, so far from the Temple? Why is he dressed like this? Baptizing in this fashion is not something we would normally practice. Nothing wrong with it. But, there's just something not right about this guy. 

I personally know the misunderstanding that ensues from those in the wondering state. I decided early on that I wanted to be when I grew up. Entering Jr High school I knew how important this subject of Jesus was to me. Those two years of 7th & 8th grade were truly formational to my faith. Baptized in 7th grade, I then decided in 8th grade what direction I wanted to go in life. I was going to be a pastor someday. I had direction, but I had no light. It's kind of hard to go when you cannot see where you are going. I grew up around church. Other than 2-3 years of doing my own thing after high school the church life is all I have known. It was not until I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour around 1992 that light really came on. I compare the years prior that as being in the dark with a tiny flashlight and the batteries are dying. A person really can't see much in that frame. As we approached June of 1992, the light came on. Jesus came in and everything I felt or thought had been confirmed. I was called to ministry. I was supposed to go to college. Standing behind a pulpit is what I was supposed to do with my life. All it took was allowing Jesus to come in and turn the light on.

Those years in Jr High school were rough though. I didn't really know or understand who Jesus was. I believed, but I didn't know what I believed. However, that did not stop Mr Big Mouth here from telling everyone, especially those I was playing 8th grade football with, what I was going to be someday. That did not go over well. I can remember one day before school started...  We were to stay down on the first floor of this ancient three story building. I was putting stuff into a locker and had my head down as I was in a squatting position in front of a locker. Someone came up from behind and kick me squarely in the rear, sending my head into the locker and both collarbones right into the metal of the locker itself. Needless to say, that hurt. Drop kick punted right into a locker. Kids can be cruel. Adolescent kids are probably the most susceptible to not taking the time to understand or listen to where another person is coming from. In doing so, we damage other people. We hurt them emotionally. We scar them physically. And, we cheapen the human experience. In the framework of Jr High and Middle School, kids start turning to what they can find to ease the pain. Drugs. Peer pressure. I tend to believe that bullying is the real response of an insecure person who is simply finding a way to stand on top of the pile of adolescent humanity so as not to get picked on themselves. The bully is just as insecure as the one taking the punishment. Both people are searching for light. 

Both of our Johns are searching for light. Something they can hang on to. Something that brings hope. That's all we really want. Something that will show us the way and tell us it's all ok. We need to know where we are going. In the face of ridicule and bullying, The Baptist knows where to stand. He knows he is not the light. He simply points to the One who is. If you have been in the midst of a situation involves poking & prodding, and uneasy place of ridicule and strife, the best thing you can do is find your light. We need something we can lean on and depend on. We need words to deliver. Finding your light involves finding the words to say in a situation that might otherwise leave us speechless. And, if words cannot be used, let our actions point the way.

We walk in the light as He is in the light.
Peter would state that....

1 Peter 2:23-25

New International Version (NIV)
23 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,”[a] but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

Jesus would state that He is the light that is coming into the world.
Then he would turn to his followers and say that they are the light of the world. A city sitting on a hill cannot be hidden. It gives off light and people know where to find their hope and peace. 

How can we be light to a darkened world?
How can we give hope and peace to others?

We have to find our light first.
The shining forth can only take place when the light is the center of our lives.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Hope of Preparing

Straight paths begin as crooked roads.

Preparations don't just all of the sudden become as they are.
Everything has a beginning. Even preparations. Especially preparations.
Preparations are the beginnings of something that will come to pass.
Whenever we are going to have guests over to the house it is never something that we just throw together at the last second. My wife plans it out. Sometimes weeks ahead, so that she can plan the meal. The shopping list she sends me to the store with will include items that she might not plan to use for another 2 weeks. Sometimes it drives me a little batty that we are planning that far ahead. I am the spontaneous personality in our relationship. She tends to schedule everything out. But, then I find that even when i think I'm being spontaneous there was much preparation, in my head, that went into the moment of springing the idea upon my unsuspecting love. It's only 'spontaneous" because I hadn't shared any of the preparations with her.

Life tends to be like that for us humans. Spontaneous. Sometimes we have it all planned out. We get to see things happening and we are pleased with the flow of events, even if they are bitter, because we were anticipating their approach. We could prepare for them. We know we can handle what's coming at us. Then there are those moments that come up and slap you up side the face. The spontaneous in life always has a way of spoiling our fun. We want to be prepared and ready for everything. Sometimes there is no way to prepare for the moment. It comes at us. We endure it. We get through it. And, as hard as it may be, we need to move on from it. We are not asked to linger in the wake. We need to learn for our experiences and move along.

What can scripture teach us about preparing?
It is in this time of the year that we hear these words most often. Let us look at them now.

Mark 1:1-8

New International Version (NIV)

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah,[a] the Son of God,[b] as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way”[c]
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.’”[d]
And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with[e] water, but he will baptize you with[f] the Holy Spirit.”

John the Baptist is a whole load of spontaneousness rolled up in preparation.
He is only spontaneous to those who weren't ready to see a guy walking around wrapped up in sackcloth and camel hair. God had been planning this moment for some time. In reference to Jesus, the disciple & apostle John would say that "he came to those who were his own, and his own did not receive him". No, the people were not ready for this moment. To them it was completely spontaneous. This guy shows up walking around in the desert, baptizing people in the Jordan, yelling something about repentance, and all the while disturbing the nice plan that was going on in everyone's minds. The people probably had preparations in place. Their daily grind. Their work. Their families. Their own problems to maintain and solve. Now this. In a "stop what you're doing moment" they are cautioned to drop everything and come respond to a call of preparation. Something great is coming. Something people had forgotten about. In all the prep work of life the message that salvation is near got lost in the shuffle. 

What is so great about preparation any way? How does preparation bring hope?
Ask anyone. The OCD person who has to have everything just so, or the person who is ok with things being sprung on them, and you'll find the prep work is not something anybody cherishes. Just ask my wife. She has to have everything just so-so. She likes to have all in place and ready to go. It's not really a joyous process. Not for her. Not for anybody in the house. Getting ready for guests or getting ready for something at school, it's a hard thing to ask someone to be joyous and happy through this time. Peace is fleeting. It is in moments like this that we need peace as we go through it. We can't wait to get through the moment and out the other end so that we can find peace. Some moments are not meant to be traveled so quickly. 

The story is told of a young man who approached the foreman of a logging crew and asked for a job. “That depends,” replied the foreman. “Let’s see you fell this tree.”The young man stepped forward, and skilfully felled a great tree. Impressed, the foreman exclaimed, “You can start Monday.” Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday rolled by — and Thursday afternoon the foreman approached the young man and said, “You can pick up your pay check on the way out today.” Startled, the young man replied, “I thought you paid on Friday.” “Normally we do,” said the foreman. “But we’re letting you go today because you’ve fallen behind. Our daily felling charts show that you’ve dropped from first place on Monday to last place today.” “But I’m a hard worker,” the young man objected. “I arrive first, leave last, and even have worked through my coffee breaks!” The foreman, sensing the young man’s integrity, thought for a minute and then asked, “Have you been sharpening your axe?” The young man replied, “No sir, I’ve been working too hard to take time for that!” Our lives are like that. We sometimes get so busy that we don’t take time to “sharpen the axe.” In today’s world, it seems that everyone is busier than ever, but less happy than ever. Why is that? Could it be that we have forgotten how to stay sharp?

Moments like those transpiring in Ferguson, MO still are rocking our headlines. How do you prepare for the events that taken place in this suburb of St Louis? Life comes at us with the news and decisions that we might not agree with. People stood on the lawn out front of the court house for days waiting. What was going through the minds of the people? There were preparations being made. People were already saying in their hearts that if the decisions went this way or that they would respond this way or that. The rioting that ensued might seem spontaneous to some, because they weren't prepared for it. Some might not have thought in their minds that people could do such things. So did prepare though. The police were out front, waiting, watching. They anticipated that some were going to respond in a harsh manner.

There's hope spreading around Ferguson, Missouri, with many in the community refusing to let the demonstrations and violence of earlier in the week affect their holiday weekend. They're channeling protests over the Michael Brown case into positive energy, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Strasssmann. Cathy Daniels is known as "Mama Cat." The 51 year-old Navy wife was up at 1 a.m. Thanksgiving morning to cook dinner for her large, extended family -- the hundreds of Ferguson protesters she adopted as her own two months ago. "This is a labor of love for real," Daniels said. "Food is a strengthener, so when I can feed my family and they're strong, we are going to be ready for the fight." She normally cooks for them on Sundays. But this dinner was special for two reasons -- Thanksgiving, and the first "family" meal since Ferguson erupted earlier that week. "Our souls are bruised but it's not broken. And it's not a black thing. It's not a white thing. It's not Hispanic, Asian. It's all of us together," she said.

Preparations involve more than one. When my wife has plans mounting up on her shoulders I will admit that I used to get a bit huffy. I used to blame her for getting all bent out of shape. It was all her fault. She didn't have a great attitude about it all, I would entreat.  Well, how was I handling it? What kind of attitude was I bringing to the party? What my wife needed was some support. A hug. Someone to mop the floor or fold a basket of laundry. Something to help take the weight off her shoulders for a bit. How we respond to the trouble is our lives has everything to do with preparation. Because, this isn't the only time we are going to be faced with trouble. It will find it's way into our lives again. And, how we responded to it last time will most certainly have an influence on how we respond to it the next time trouble rears it's ugly head.

A girl named Mary suddenly had an angel appear and tell her she was going to have a baby.
How Mary responded to the message prepared her for what lie ahead. Her family would not understand. After the child was born, a priest at the temple would tell her that the child was destined to cause the rising and falling of many in Israel. And, a sword would pierce her own soul too. She watched the boy grow up. She saw him wander away as a young boy and get lost in the temple for a day. All the searching, the looking, the wondering, it must have tried her heart. Then, the day her son left home to fulfill the work God had set before him. Messages come back about him wandering through Israel. People being healed. People finding hope. People not happy with him. People wanting to harm him or even kill him. All of it was preparation. Finally she would see her son in the most awful of places. Hanging on a cross. The words John the Baptist had spoke. The message she had been given from the earliest moments of her baby's birth, now converge on the hill called Calvary. How would she respond? Was she prepared to face the trouble that lie ahead?

There is hope in preparation.
A hope that comes to us in our darkest moments and carries us to a place of peace.
We light a candle to remind us that the light is still on. One stands for hope. Another means peace. If we are in those dark moments of life, we look for the light and we find it. Because we have trained ourselves that even when life seems spontaneous, God has been making plans all along. He is walking beside of us. He is there to carry us. We can expect it. We long for it.

And God does not disappoint.