Colors of Hope

The colors of hopeSince I am travelling I don’t have time for my normal Storm Survival post…and it is a day late. ūüôā But I am going to write a quick review of the book that has been the biggest inspiration for me walking through this season. I first read this book, Colors of Hope by Richard Dahlstrom in December of 2011. (You can check it out in more detail here) It was at a time in my life when things were pretty “easy”. I was working in Europe…we were traveling when¬†we wanted to…living an expat life can be lonely and isolating but all things considered it was good.¬†However, everything felt a bit empty. It is hard to describe. I could do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it but I wasn’t investing anywhere and without that life¬†was pretty¬†selfish and seemed to lack direction.

This book is a call for Christians to be artists in this world…to paint our lives with the gifts God has given us and to truly share mercy, justice and love with the people around us. Artists! People who create beauty. People who share real hope for redemption and transformation. It was as if something in my heart was waking up and my eyes shifted from myself to¬†actively looking for ways I could paint beauty¬†on this world. I was inspired.

THEN came cancer…do I still want to be an artist with hope knowing now how much I can’t control? Yes. Absolutely. And the door opened with this little ‘ol blog to share my thoughts along the way.

THEN¬†the chasm went deeper with a¬†marriage crisis and separation…Crap, do I still want to be an artist with mercy and forgiveness when that seems like the last thing I want? Gulp…harder…but again YES. Absolutely.

This book and this year have transformed my heart and my faith. The colors we, as Christians, are asked to paint with are not trivial. They can be hard choices. But there is real hope and redemption¬†in the suffering. I just re read this book through the lens of all the securities that were stripped out of my life…and the words still pierced my heart…in fact I read them with more urgency. Through all the hardships I have felt more freedom, more joy, more love than ever in my life and honestly I can’t help but share. Not to convince people of a path but to be authentic and let people judge for themselves if it is true. Because no one will believe that Christianity is good news until it is at least different news.



Free to love

I don’t often listen to “Christian” music…most of the time it comes across as a bit sappy and lacking any emotional reality. But I have a Spotify list that I turn on every once in a while and a song We are Free by Aaron Shust caught my attention (not necessarily in a good way – sorry Aaron):

The chorus is what stands out to me:

We are free to love like our god has loved we are free to give like he gave
We are free from sin we are free to begin to forgive as he forgave.
–> With blue skies and sunshine and soaring chords

I absolutely believe these words are true but, as Christians, are we ready to accept the reality of them? When I hear a song like this it is easy to get swept up in the melody and passively sing along with the lyrics…content to let the words wash over me without taking a moment to step back and evaluate what “loving like he loved”, “giving like he gave” and “forgiving like he forgave” look like in my life.

Today is the beginning of Passover (a Jewish holiday remembering the Hebrew people being freed from slavery and Israel being established as a new nation) and is celebrated with food, family and friends. The (arguably) most famous account of a Passover dinner is “The Last Supper”…the last meal Jesus shared with his intimate friends before he was arrested, humiliated, beaten and crucified…to be resurrected on Easter Sunday. This dinner has been the inspiration for countless works of art and I have found myself reflecting on its significance this year.

OK…here’s a really basic synopsis and paraphrase: There is Jesus, who knows he is about to be cruelly executed and suffer TREMENDOUSLY (physically and emotionally). He sits down to dinner with his closest friends. Friends who have been with him night and day…listened to him…laughed with him…prayed with him…shared life with him…but still Jesus on the crosscan’t really see him for who he is. Judas is at the table and has already made the decision to betray him by turning him over to the authorities and ultimately to his death. He looks at the rest of the disciples and knows that they are also weak and will deny him at this most desperate time. They are arguing about who will be the greatest and Jesus knows that once he is dead they will be terrified and run away to hide. He knows that he will be abandoned and that they will break his heart but he STILL LOVES them. He washes their feet and gives them one last urgent sermon…tells them to love each other as He loved them…to lay their lives down for each other…He is about to leave them but they wont be alone…he is telling them but they can’t hear it…he knows they are blind and can’t fully understand what he is saying but over and over he is talks about how much he loves them…how much God the father loves them and wants them to know Him…to follow the way he lived his life. Jesus looks at them and says “I love you. I want the best for you. I want freedom for you. I want REAL life and joy for you. I want you to know me. I want you to love this world like I love it.”

He knows these are still the same men who will turn their backs on him in a few hours. Betraying him. Abandoning him. Allowing fear and self preservation to consume them. Jesus knew they couldn’t understand what he was saying but he told them anyway because someday they would. He urgently wants them to know how much he absolutely loves them and is proving it by dying in their place.

OK…wow. Loving like Jesus loved is not necessarily a cheerful upbeat song. It is personal and requires a tremendous amount of sacrifice and humility. Loving someone means truly wanting the best for them. And it’s not just loving the people that are easy to love…it means loving the bad people too…the people who have hurt you. People who have wounded you with hard hearts and selfish choices.

  • It can be an injustice in your past
  • Maybe someone used you in a relationship
  • If there is a person whose mere name makes your blood boil
  • Someone at work stabbed you in the back
  • ….the list goes on

God loves them too!! You see the world differently when viewed through the lens of how much you are loved and forgiven. Do you look at this world with compassion and see blind, wounded people just trying to live life and find love and affirmation (probably in the wrong places)? Or do you see their behavior and put them in a box with judgement? Can you see through their choices and have mercy on the hurting heart that made them? Or do you want to stand on righteousness? Please keep in mind I am writing this as much to myself as anyone. And I don’t mean we need to live life without boundaries. Jesus took time to care for himself. Loving someone does not protect them from consequences but allows the truth to be revealed.

But on the cross…as Jesus was dying he said…Father forgive them for they know not what they do. Basically – They are blind.

So yes, we are free to love like he loved, give like he gave, forgive like he forgave…and actually living life that way is the only TRUE freedom…but let’s not pretend it is as easy or happy as our songs may make it seem. Maybe if more Christians truly lived life this way it would be easier to convince people that it is actually “Good News” rather than a list of rules.

Looking forward to Easter,