When You Know the Ending

I’ve mentioned it before (I think) that I have a few books that I like to re-read every year. One of those is The Lord of the Rings, which is actually one novel with three parts and not a trilogy of novels as is commonly believed these days– but I digress.

You might think that for me to already know the outcome would diminish my enjoyment of this book. Actually, it’s quite the opposite.

For me, knowing the end makes some of the darker parts of the book more bearable. Knowing that Frodo and his faithful Samwise will come out alright in the end (spoiler alert) helps me through some of the passages when it seems that all will be lost.

It’s like that when I read the Bible. If you look at the metanarrative of the Bible story and keep the ending in mind, it makes some of the Old Testament passages (particularly Judges and the majority of the writings of the prophets) easier to stomach. Knowing that the Messiah is soon to arrive helps me get through all the apostasy and idolatry of the people called out by God.

In my own story, there have been many times when I’ve had to remind myself of the happy ending that awaits me. I am no different than most of you who have gone through dark and difficult chapters where the villain seems to be winning and hope seems all but lost. Sometimes, you think that if your life were a novel, it would be either a black comedy or a dark tragedy with no chance of a redemptive ending.

But the ending has already been written. God wins. Love does actually win in the truest sense. Not the warm fuzzy kind of love that comes with butterflies in your stomach, but the kind that lays down its life for a friend. That’s the love that wins in the end.

Everything good about this life will be redeemed. All the evil will be undone and all the lies exposed and banished forever. All the best parts of your deepest longings and dreams will be fully realized.

You are allowed to skip ahead and read the last chapter, Revelation 22. It’s my favorite ending of all time.

 

Absolutely Positively Definitely Maybe

Definitely-Maybe-2008-movie-quote

“That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens” (Romans 8:18-21, The Message).

Such a great moment in the movie. I’ve actually owned Definitely, Maybe for a while and just now got around to watching it (one of the few perks of being without a job).

I love that line because it reminds me so much of God and the Story He is writing. And I do so love stories, especially when they’re well-told and have happy endings.

I know that ultimately God’s Story is about God, as it should be, but one of the very happy side effects is you and me finding redemption and freedom and abundant life. Because of God’s Story, you and I have a Story that we get to share. Because of God’s Story, we know that our Story will always have a happy ending because God has written it already. I read the last page of the book and I know that it’s good.

It’s hard to remember that when the Story seems headed for tragedy or when the current chapter seems like it will never end and circumstances will never change or get better. It’s hard to see that happy ending when you’re wondering how you’ll pay the bills or make your struggling marriage work or find that job that makes you come alive.

As I’ve learned in reading books, you don’t put down the book when the characters run into hard times. You keep going with the hope that those struggles will lead to something better. As Corrie Ten Boom says, you don’t jump off the train when it goes through a dark tunnel. You trust the Engineer to get you through.

I don’t want to be that guy who says things like, “Hold on, it will get better” or “The darkest hour is just before the dawn.” When you’re feeling overwhelmed with anxiety or discouragement, bumper sticker quotes don’t really do the trick.

You need to know that God is still faithful to His promises. You need to know that the same Jesus who conquered death and the grave can conquer your circumstances. You need to know that He will finish what He started in you because He said He would.

That’s a happy ending.

 

Things I Love 50: The Last Farewell

island hammock

“Joy in looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift” (Albert Einstein).

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself” (Tecumseh).

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness” (John Keats).

“Count blessings and discover Who can be counted on” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are).

This is the last one. But as C.S. Lewis wrote in The Last Battle, the the end of history was not the end; history itself is but the title page and preface, and after that begins the real story which goes on for ever and where each chapter is better than the previous one. That’s how it is with joy. There really is no end to joy and its gifts for those with thankful hearts and wide-open eyes.

1,551) The good tired feeling after mowing the lawn.

1,552) Hugs from my grandmother.

1,553) Great music from Coldplay and Radiohead.

1,554) Freshly clipped toe nails.

1,555) How perfectly cold water quenches my thirst.

1,556) The Living Water than never runs dry and never leaves me thirsty ever.

1,557) People who “get” me.

1,558) The freedom that comes with forgiveness.

1,559) Finding out that being broke doesn’t mean the end of life as I know it.

1,560) My friend Wendy who is just a facebook message away at all times.

1,561) That post-shower feeling.

1,562) “God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him. We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in seastorm and earthquake, Before the rush and roar of oceans, the tremors that shift mountains. Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, God-of-Angel-Armies protects us” (Psalm 46:1,MSG).

1,563) Jesus’ promise of rest to those who are weary and exhausted.

1,564) God making me and loving me just the way I am.

1,565) Catfish and hush puppies, all fried.

1,566) Relaxing in a jacuzzi.

1,567) Liking me for me and being good with being a nice guy.

1,568) Knowing when to hold ’em, knowing when to fold ’em (like Kenny Rogers sang).

1,569) My very sleepy yet very comforting feline therapist yet again at her job.

1,570) iCloud automatically transferring pictures from my iPhone to my iPad and my iLaptop (just kidding, it’s a Sony Vaio).

1.571) How much better typing out one of these lists makes me feel.

1,572) My dad’s goofy but totally lovable dog, Molly.

1,573) My goofy and random sense of humor.

1,574) My impressive t-shirt collection.

1,575) People who wait until they are married before living together (which is so rare these days).

1,576) Planning up a Delilah playlist of cheesy love songs on my iPhone.

1,577) The safe recovery of that 16-year old girl Hannah who had been kidnapped.

1,578) All news stories that have happy endings.

1,579) Friendly neighbors.

1,580) Credence Clearwater Revival.

1,581) The photo frame option on my iPad that turns it into . . .wait for it. . . one of those electronic photo frames.

1,582) Stepping out of a muggy summer day into air conditioning.

1,583) People who not only speak their faith but live it out.

1,584)  The car KITT from the old TV show Knight Rider.

1,585) Seeing pictures of healthy newborns from friends and family on Facebook.

1,586) Taking a spoonful of local honey that’s supposedly good for my allergies but so good to me.

1,587) That girl’s smile in the picture that I used for one of my blogs. I’ll probably never see her again but I won’t ever forget that smile.

1,588) John Mayer’s lyrics.

1,589) Checking out the newest smart-phones in the stores (even though I’m perfectly content with my iPhone 5).

1,590) Looking forward to my next coffee and conversation outing.

1,591) Knowing all my family and friends are safe and sound for the night.

1,592) Real and authentic conversations about life and faith.

1,593) Having all my needs supplied out of God’s glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

1,594) Perfect love casting out fear.

1,595) That Jesus isn’t safe, but He’s good.

1,596) One day going overseas on a mission trip.

1,597) Having no regrets about following Jesus.

1,598) “For to me life is Christ, and death is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

1,599) Having many local coffee spots to check out in the next few months.

1,600) Every second I’ve spend writing these lists over the last couple of months.

I hope these lists have inspired you to start list of your own where you name those things you’re thankful for that you love. Not necessarily the monumental or earth-shaking things, but even the tiniest of things that make you smile or make your day a little brighter. It has been so much fun writing these and I thank you for reading them. God bless.

Taking Your Medicine

My niece was not having a good day. She’s teething and has a cold, among other things. My sister was trying to get her to take the medicine that would make her feel better and not be in as much pain, but she wanted no part of it.

It would be easy for me to scoff at a 17-month old who is refusing what is obviously good for her. But then I have to ask myself how many  times I’ve done the same thing.

I don’t mean when I was growing up and adamantly refused to take my cough medicine (namely, because it tasted like cherry-flavored death in a bottle). I mean now when I don’t want the disciplines from God that will make me more like Jesus and less like that selfish sinner I used to be.

I want every day to be sunny, but without constant sunshine without the occasional rainy days leads to a desert. If I never have bad days or days that don’t make sense, then I don’t appreciate the really good days.

I’m sure God looks at me like I looked at my niece today, smiling and shaking his head. He knows what’s best for me. I only think I do. I only see a limited part of the picture. He sees it all.

I think the lesson for me is to be thankful when things don’t go the way I wanted them to. I can’t count the times I look back at my life, grateful that I didn’t get some of the things I asked for and desperately wanted at the time, because I didn’t know what I wanted or how to ask for it. And most of the time I still don’t.

The story has a happy ending. Once my niece settled down and took her medicine, she felt a lot better. Once I stop fighting God and demanding my own way and finally agree to his way, I often feel a lot better. I have a peace that only comes with acceptance and surrender.

Now if I could figure a way to get my cat to take her medicine.