Category Archives: Christianity

Hope Is A One-Stringed Symphony

Take a close look at this brilliant piece of art.

Consider carefully what you’re seeing…

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Okay, what does it say?

Here’s what President Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright (I know, I know) interpreted from it in a sermon preached 20 years ago:

“with her clothes in rags, her body scarred and bruised and bleeding, her harp all but destroyed and with only one string left, she had the audacity to make music and praise God … To take the one string you have left and to have the audacity to hope … that’s the real word God will have us hear from this passage and from [George Fredrick] Watt’s painting.”

That’s good, right? No matter who lectured on it. If it helps, pretend it was somebody else. 😁

There something you need to know about this interpretive-rich work of art. Actually, there’s two things. First, Mr. Watts labeled his painting simply (but pointedly) “Hope”, and, second, his work came on the heels of the tragic passing of his adopted daughter, Blanche.

I so get it, considering such a trial is all too painfully familiar.

Here’s what Watts offered with regard to his ironic painting:

“Hope need not mean expectancy. It suggests here rather the music which can come from the remaining chord”

My wife and I are holding a one-stringed harp. Our 31 years together have known a compilation of events that, each one by itself, would lead to a weakened marriage, or worse. What marriages survive the death of a child? Plus life-threatening sicknesses, ministry heartaches, a heart-wrenching adolescent whose prodigal life broke our hearts over and over again?

But, HOPE.

HOPE.

And Hope is a Person.

JESUS.

Take heart, bedraggled, downcast, waiting-for-breakthrough pilgrim. Your harp still has one string left…and always will.

The exiles of Israel were so broken over their captivity the Psalmist laments they hung their harps on the weeping willow trees. They opined they couldn’t play the songs of Zion in a strange land.

Well that’s unfortunate.

I say, how can you NOT sing the songs of Zion in a foreign land? Don’t the earth-dwellers need to here the harmonies of heaven? Is that not why we’re here?

To offer…

HOPE?

So, play your string.

And hope.

___________________

ACTION STEP:
In the comment box, paint a ‘picture’ of your situation and how God is giving you grace to hope?

Or just offer a comment!

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The Power of “No”

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I’ve been using this story in sermons and inspirational talks for years. It’s sorta my “go-to” illustration, especially with young people.

It’s from long ago, yes, but every time I share it, there’s a palpable resonance and it usually strikes home with more than a few. It always gets to me.

William Whiting Borden was born into affluence in Chicago, Illinois in 1887, the third child of William Borden and Mary Degama Whiting. The Bordens made their millions producing milk and dairy products and in real estate.

After Will’s mother converted to Christianity in 1894, she began taking him to Chicago Avenue Church (now The Moody Church). He soon responded to the gospel preaching of Dr. R. A. Torrey, turned to Christ and was baptized.

From then on, prayer and Bible study became hallmarks of his life. After graduating from the Hill School in Pottstown, PA, at age 16, he traveled to Europe, Africa, and Asia – a graduation gift from his wealthy folks. This, we can rightly assume, awakened his heart to missions.

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Sensing the call of God, Will matriculated at Yale University in 1905, graduated four years later, then entered Princeton Theological Seminary. The calling to foreign fields never subsided, but consumed his heart and, while in Princeton, Will was stirred to go back to the Muslims of Northern China, and focused all his efforts and energies there.

Here’s where the story turns and gives rise to being given Hebrews 11 status.

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An Unfinished Sentence

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I’ve picked a book from the bookstore shelf and am immediately caught in the lilting currents of prose by its author. She describes one of her antiheroes as perplexing as “an unfinished sentence.”

No one likes the broken meter of an abrupt end. I was recently in a conversation with someone unfamiliar to me who persisted in beginning a thought, then switching gears. Or trailed off and just…assumed I followed. I didn’t. It was maddening.

By the end of that convo I felt like a tiny steel ball in the old pinball machine, sensing a slow-down or landing-spot only to be slapped in another direction.

Change.

Not the kind you wait until the barista notices, then drop into her tip jar, the kind that essentially costs you nothing.

No, the kind of change that signals the end of an era, the conclusion of a matter, a shift to the unknown. The kind that you don’t fish out of your pocket or scrabble at the bottom of your purse for.

That change.

…Which is what I’m finding myself on the front edge of…

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