"before we turn to stone"

Well, I feel exhausted.


I did a video last night with my cat Madeleine L’Engle.
I have a mild allergy to Madeleine L’Engle (the cat).
When I hold her next to my face while singing a song, I apparently end up looking like this:





In my Benadryl induced haze, I am having a little trouble thinking theologically, so please bear with me.


Last night we had an amazing Bible Study/Prayer Service.
Generally the focus in the first week of Advent is Hope and the second week it is Peace. It is in this perspective we came to our Gospel lesson, Mark 1:1-8.


 1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah,[a]the Son of God,[b] 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

   “I will send my messenger ahead of you,
   who will prepare your way”[c]
3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
   make straight paths for him.’”[d]
 4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 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. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.7 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. 8 I baptize you with[e] water, but he will baptize you with[f] the Holy Spirit.”



We were struck that the whole Judean countryside came because they heard his message of repentance and therefore came to confess. We started talking about repentance and how that is a part of waiting actively in anticipation.

This has resonated with me so deeply in this season of Advent and the times of transition I find myself in. It would seem that the Gospel on a whole, and Mark in part, makes it clear that repentance, the willingness to say “I was wrong, I’m sorry” is essential for a life of peace. 

I see this over and over again in my life. If I am unwilling to  humble myself and ask for forgiveness for the wrongs I have done, it is impossible for me to have peace. Completely impossible. It happens quickly. When I have done something that has caused offense to someone the immediate reaction more often than not is to find a way to defend myself and my decisions. And if I don’t get myself in check, it becomes defending myself at all costs, causing further offense and hurt. But that isn’t even the beginning. 

It begins to eat at your insides. Eat them and at the same time disable them. It makes them hard so that the next time you hurt someone, and don’t humble yourself and ask for forgiveness, you don’t feel it as much. It becomes duller, so it can happen more and more and more.

I’ve found (by trial and error) that most of the “instructions” in the Bible aren’t just for the heck of it.
Not just for kicks, because God “can”.


It really is in our best interest for ourselves and our relationships to freely give and seek forgiveness. It’s the only way we can truly have peace.


It’s hard to humble yourself. It’s like dying to yourself. A little death that comes before a whole lot of life. There is so much freedom when you humble yourself and ask for forgiveness. A huge weight is lifted off of you and you can feel again. I’m not going to try and fool you, that it doesn’t open you up again and again to the possibility to be hurt again and again. But that is the danger with truly living isn’t it? The danger when we choose to fully participate in humanity.


In my short experience on this earth, the peace that can be experienced is far greater than the turmoil.  The possibility of deepening relationship, of showing true love, it can be amazing.


I couldn’t get this song out of my head with the Gospel lesson from yesterday.







To me it speaks beautifully about looking beyond ourselves at the world around us, and the importance of taking responsibility for our actions “and not waiting for someone else’s hand”. The specific line that keeps speaking to my soul is:


“but brother how we must atone, before we turn to stone”


It is a simple truth.


If we aren’t vulnerable to one another, and are incapable of humbling ourselves, we will turn to stone.


The further we separate ourselves from humanity the less human we become.


Let us all take this Advent season as an opportunity to seek forgiveness where it is needed and to freely give forgiveness as it is asked of us. Not many better ways I can think of to honor the coming of Christ who came to us in a humble vulnerable human form so that he could grant us ultimate forgiveness and redemption.


peace to you,
meredith










Wedding Week Day 5-"Theology" of a Marriage

After six years if there is one thing I have learned, it is that you cannot label your marriage, and you can’t define it.

You might have an understanding of your Faith, that there are non-negotiables, and the rest is up for discussion. I think Marriage (as we are told it should be) when modeled after our relationship with God has to look like that.

When we were married we had our good friend Miles (also the man who hired us both that fateful first summer at East Bay, pretty integral person!) read an excerpt from who else? Madeleine L’Engle!

This was it:
“Ultimately there comes a time when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take. It is indeed a fearful gamble. Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created. To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take. If we commit ourselves to one person for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation. It takes a lifetime to learn another person. When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling.”


We still aspire to this vision of a marriage today, EVERY day. It’s a choice. The choice isn’t always easy, the choice isn’t always fun. But you choose, because you have made a commitment before God to that other person. And when you don’t make the right decision, you look to that person, and are amazed when they have the strength to give you the grace you don’t deserve, and equally amazed when you have grace to give to them. There is so much freedom, as Madeleine says, in those choices. 


For freedom Christ has set us free. 


Such a responsibility in this freedom. And not just in the confines of a marriage or romantic relationship. In each friendship, each family member, each stranger, each enemy. 


It’s exhausting, but we are called to be in community for a reason.
Because it’s still going to be exhausting, but when others can help hold up our hands it makes it easier to love others as we start to get tired.

I love you Nathanial Ryan Hopping, and look forward to six-TY more years of holding each others hands up to love each other and the world around us.

peace to you,
meredith












Wedding Week Day 4-The Wedding (Continued)

Our wedding ceremony was probably my favorite part of the whole wedding.

We were so blessed by the community that came together to make it happen and to support us in our commitment to God and one another.
One of my favorite parts of the wedding was the “soundtrack”.
First we had a full praise service-
1.) Come Thou Fount
2.) Great is Your Name
3.) Be Thou My Vision
4.) Though I may speak
5.) Memorial Candles were lit/Grandparents were seated to Motion Picture Soundtrack by Radiohead played by a string quartet.
6.) Mothers were seated to Sheep May Safely Graze by Bach.
7.) Bridesmaids/My processional to Only Hope by Switchfoot
8.) Nate sings an original song I hadn’t heard yet!
9.) We recess to what started as The Bridal March but morphed into “Good Love”
It was so randomly and perfectly us. 


I look back at the words of “Though I may speak”:


Though I may speak with bravest fire
And have the gift to all inspire
And have not love, my words are vain —
As sounding brass — and hopeless gain.

Though I may give all I possess
And, striving so, my love profess
But not be giv’n by love within,
The profit soon turns strangely thin.

Come, Spirit, come; our hearts control.
Our spirits long to be made whole.
Let inward love guide ev’ry deed;
By this we worship and are freed.


it is a hymn I haven’t sung since our wedding day six years ago, and I find myself struck by what little that 21 year old girl/woman (still feel like a girl/woman, but that is for another post, at another time!) knew of what true, real, hard, life, love looked like and would look like. And yet I/she knew enough that there was truth to these words, that something resonated with what this marriage thing was supposed to look like. What a gift. what joy, what bliss, this deep true friendship and community I have been given in my husband is!
I am so aware of how “lucky” I am. So grateful.


And often times when I laugh so hard that I fart in bed, because of the hilarious things he says, I half expect a parent to come in and tell us to be quiet, that it’s time to go to sleep, because I don’t know how I got to have a sleepover with my best friend every night, I feel like I must be doing something wrong to have so much fun and get to spend every waking moment with my best friend.


Bet you didn’t expect me to talk about farting, but that’s how I roll. 
Or better yet, how WE roll!




peace to you,
meredith








Wedding Week-Day 3 The Wedding

We got done with Bible Study and it is late so I am posting pictures now, and more on the wedding tomorrow!

My favorite individual pic of my love. 
He still rocks a newsboy cap like nobody’s business.
My favorite individual pic of myself.
Tres dramatique, no?
Right after the ceremony, so excited!
Leaving the church! 
Our First Dance to “The Luckiest”.
More to come tomorrow!
peace to you,
meredith