On Honor

The term “honor” seems to belong with “valiance” and “chivalry,” in the linguistic land of “thee”s and “thy”s and “thou”s, collecting dust alongside ancient armor and rusting swords. Maybe, however, it’s time to put the armor back on.

The concept of honor carries with it the impression of audacious integrity, dauntless virtue, and courageous character. Honor is not overawed by ostentatious opinion or societal sanction. Honor plants its feet on solid rock, and its anchor will not be moved by the waves. However, while firm in its foundation, it carries with it the connotation of deference to others. A person of honor is one who chooses to think less of herself and more of others.

But how can we get there? The thing is, honor is not an innate trait, but a practiced discipline. Aristotle famously said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” As with forming any habit, practicing honor requires hard work at first, but with time and repeated effort, gradually becomes a natural part of one’s character. It’s part of the “training in righteousness” Paul talks about in 2 Timothy 3:16. Much as an athlete trains for a sport by repeating her exercises over and over and over again until they are ingrained in her muscle memory as automatic actions, so honor is ingrained in our hearts by continued, deliberate decisions.

Because of this, pursuing honor is something that has to be intentional–and we cannot do it alone. In Proverbs 27:17, Solomon writes, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” God helps us grow through his Word and through the Holy Spirit, but also through the people he places around us. I want to be surrounded by others who are pursuing honor intentionally by building each other up and sharpening our iron against one another day by day–maybe enough to ignite a spark that could fan into a flame.

Paul’s challenge to the Romans was to “outdo one another in showing honor.” As Christians, we are to not only exhibit honor, but to fall over ourselves in trying to each show more honor than the next. What would it look like if our churches took this challenge seriously?

Would it mean we stopped pointing out the specks in each other’s eyes and started working on the logs in our own? Would it mean we stopped worrying about the political divide and being the hypocrites they say we are and started loving without asking questions? Would it mean we actually went out of our way to do something nice for somebody, just every once in a while? Would it mean we saw service as something noble, rather than something “for somebody else”? Would it mean we stooped to Jesus’s level and started washing the feet of our betrayers?

Maybe.

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For my daughter: be wise

Be wise, little girl.
Life is hard,
but it is also sweet.
Stay curious,
and ask the hard questions.
I know you are restless,
so be relentless.
You are searching,
yearning;
I know you feel lost,
aloft,
exhausted by the endless riposte,
but I hope that you know
you’re not alone.
Little sparrow, I know,
but follow the sun,
and he’ll guide you home.
Do not despond,
for to Christ you belong
and that makes you strong.
so shake the earth,
climb a mountain
break a wall
write a song
cross a sea
tell a story
for words
are
powerful.
Little girl, listen to mine.
The trees are a sign:
stay grounded,
fireproof
entwined with the vine
and rooted in truth.
Be wise.
Remind yourself of the light
and make it a habit to shine.
Take hold of your passion;
unfasten
the weights that you carry
and burn bright–
like a phoenix rising from ash and gray,
colors flashing, unafraid.
But I know,
some days you don’t feel that way.
You feel lost and ashamed
You question your name
You long for what’s safe
Too tired to be brave
Lost in a haze
And you’re slipping away
Caught in the chase
Trapped in the maze
But when you’re ready to break,
pray.
Clear the stage and seek out grace.
Call his name and know you’re safe.
He doesn’t let go–
so you can.
He won’t let you fall,
so follow the call of the wind
to the edge of the limb.
Have faith.
Build your house on the rock,
and answer his knock.
Smile in the face of challenge,
unfazed, unenslaved
unscathed by the blaze.
Embrace the flames that burn the chaff away.
Don’t hide or try to ride the fence
but rather ignite.
You may be a candle or you may be a star
but whatever you do and wherever you are,
Be wise.
Strive toward the light and delight in what’s right.
You have been baptized
in sunrise.
Don’t contrive to be like
what surrounds you.
Remember what grounds you.
You are strong
and brave
and beautiful.
Seek the truth relentlessly,
unpretentiously and honestly.
Stay real.
Don’t be afraid to feel.
Open your eyes
and breathe, just once in a while.
Smile often.
You’d be surprised by the difference it makes
to be kind.
Be wise.
Never lose your wonder.
Live unencumbered,
for this is not your home.
Don’t be so afraid to blunder
that you forget to live.
See the world
as an adventure and exploration
And see its people
as a starlit generation.
Tell their stories
and reflect his glory.
Recognize,
and be wise.
Never stop learning,
and be faithful in the little things.
May you send forth springs
of joy.
Be the everyday kind of brave.
That is what makes a path-maker
culture-shaper
world-shaker
wall-breaker
change-creator.
Be bright
See with different eyes
Be kind, and little sparrow,
you will fly.
Be wise.

The stepladder and the galaxy

“You will live in awe of what you credit with the blessing in your life.”
Paul David Tripp

An interesting thought. I see it in my life. If I credit my happiness with good friendships and being well-liked, that is what I am going to value and chase after. If I credit my fulfillment to hard work and learning, that will be what I come to pursue more and more. Same thing is true for extracurriculars and entertainment and writing and material possessions and the status quo or anything else; if I credit my joy as resulting from God’s blessings, then pursuit of God will be my priority. It’s an interesting little perspective check. Especially when it’s so easy to get thrown off course, even if you’re valuing all the right things but keep getting them in the wrong order.

It reminds me of a metaphor used to explain it to me a few years ago, the stepladder vs. the galaxy. We often think of our priorities as a stepladder: 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on, down the line, ranked highest to lowest. But godly priorities look more like a galaxy–with him at the center, and everything else in orbitals around that. All lit by his light and grounded by his gravity; each held in its proper place as he pulls all of it to himself. A stepladder missing a rung may not be very useful, but a sun without its planets still burns.

Christ-followers, remember not to make too much of this life. Of these earthly pursuits that are so good, perhaps, but are naught but a taste of what our God has to offer. Let us not lose sight of the sun amidst its planers. Let us revel in his brilliance and be filled with his fire.

Happy New Year!

Bre

HOPE

May the God of hope
fill you with all joy and peace in believing
that by the power of the Holy Spirit
you may abound in hope.

 The God of hope. That’s a new one.

We don’t usually think of a God of hope. We think of a God of wrath, of power and holiness. A God of fire and thunder and wind and storm. A God who sends down lightning from above and shatters the walls of Jericho. A God of power and strength and rage and perfection. A God who demands, a God who judges, a God who is far, far away or a God who is all too close.

Or, we’re all too happy to ignore that part of God. We see a God of love. A God of love and grace and peace and mercy. A God who is gentle, who is near and undisturbing. A God who sends us a Baby, a God who died on a tree, a God who is the rescue from my sins and this world around me. A God who cares and who will take care of all my needs.

Both/all of those things are true of God. I think a lot of times we have trouble seeing both at once. I think a lot of us like to fit God in a box. We like a self-made, custom-fit God to neatly slip into our puzzle exactly as we want him to.

NEWSFLASH: that’s not how it works.

Something I’ve been learning over the years is that God does not depend on how I feel, but on who he is. Neither my pain nor my pride can change his character. I could go on and on about this, maybe I will someday. But for now I want to talk about this verse I found yesterday, in Romans 15:13, because God is a God of hope.

May the God of hope
fill you with all joy and peace in believing
that by the power of the Holy Spirit
you may abound in hope.

Hope. We don’t give a lot of thought to hope, a lot of times, do we? 1 Corinthians 13;13 says, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love.” We hear a lot about faith and love, and for good reason. But hope? Hope doesn’t seem to fit.

Hope is wishy-washy. Hope doesn’t seem to require grand, sweeping gestures to prove our devotion to God. Hope doesn’t come down and bleed and rise again for me. Hope doesn’t have an application for me. Hope is only for the desperate. The needy.

WRONG. On all counts.

Hope is a challenge. A dare. Hope is what Christ died for. And hope is life-changing–because we are all desperate and needy. Hope is security in something bigger than yourself.

God is a God of hope.

Is it making sense now?

Hope is not a quality. It is a promise. The Bible is full of them. The one that most particularly struck me this week is found in Isaiah 33.

Verses 1-14 declare God’s power and greatness:

You who are far away, hear what I have done;
    you who are near, acknowledge my power!
The sinners in Zion are terrified;
    trembling grips the godless:
Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire?
    Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?”
(verses 13-14)

But then in verse 17, there is a shift.

Your eyes will see the king in his beauty
    and view a land that stretches afar.
In your thoughts you will ponder the former terror:
    “Where is that chief officer?
Where is the one who took the revenue?
    Where is the officer in charge of the towers?”
You will see those arrogant people no more,
    people whose speech is obscure,
    whose language is strange and incomprehensible.
Look on Zion, the city of our festivals;
    your eyes will see Jerusalem,
    a peaceful abode, a tent that will not be moved;
its stakes will never be pulled up,
    nor any of its ropes broken.
There the Lord will be our Mighty One.
    It will be like a place of broad rivers and streams.
No galley with oars will ride them,
    no mighty ship will sail them.
For the Lord is our judge,
    the Lord is our lawgiver,
the Lord is our king;
    it is he who will save us.
(verses 17-22)

There! Did you catch it? God’s promise: you will SEE.

Because here’s the thing: not only are you desperate and needy, but you are blind.

I know all too well how easy it is to lose my sight. You can probably relate.  In this world, it’s not too hard. I don’t do it on purpose. I just sort of, slip into everyday life, and boom! Lost.

Things start to become a lot more important. Things like status. Like friends. Like reputation. Like possessions. Like achievements. Like goals. Like plans. Like success. Like comfort. Like fun. Like business and busyness.

These are things that are important. Or that would be, if this world was all there is.

You see, because I can’t see it, I struggle to remember sometimes that there is a world beyond this one.

That’s amazing to me. The hope of this place called heaven, where he will wipe every tear, every weary, frustrated, angry tear from my eye, and all these burdens that I feel but don’t quite know how to name, my shoulders release and I fall into your arms…

I cry out to God, why can’t I live like it’s heaven on earth now? What would that look like? For you to be all I need, now? For me to never look back, now? For you to always be there for me, now? Why do I have to be here? Why can’t I go to heaven now and have all of this then come true?

Oh, wait…

God does not depend upon how I feel. Neither does he depend on where I am.

Here’s the thing. Right now, it can be really, really hard to see. Really hard. And I’m about ready to give up. But God is a God of hope. And hope does not give up. And hope promises, that you. Will. See.

You will see.

You will see something beautiful, something glorious. Something unlike anything this world has ever encountered. You will watch the fireworks as heaven and earth collide, and observe the awesomeness as his glory breaks the skies. You will see a city where there are no tears, no heartache, no sorrows, no weariness, no burdens, no depression or desperation or need for anything but more and more of this glorious light, filling our eyes and being drunk by our souls. You will see God for who he really is, and in that moment everything else will have faded to dust.

I crave it. I crave hope. I crave security in something bigger than myself. Because it reminds me, that all this stuff that does create these tears and these burdens and this weariness–it’s all going to go away. It reminds me that he does meet all my needs, now, and he is so, so close to me, now, and why should I be looking back, now?

It reminds me that he promises something beautiful. God is a God of hope. And hope, is how I see.

May the God of hope
fill you with all joy and peace in believing
that by the power of the Holy Spirit
you may abound in hope.

Bre

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