January 17, 2018

Announcing the Preorder Treats for My New Book, "Searching For Spring"

Too often, the ugliness of sin and the brokenness of our world cause us to lose sight of the beauty of our God. Searching for Spring reminds us of this beauty, of the wonders of God's creation and Christ's promise to make all things new. Read and wonder as Christine Hoover teaches us to see the beauty and hope ever-present amid the pain.
--Russell Moore

About Searching For Spring 

As I told you recently, I have a new book coming out on March 6 called Searching For Spring: How God Makes All Things Beautiful in Time. This book, at its heart, is about faith. How do we, while holding the pain and brokenness that life throws at us all, live by faith, believing that God is eventually going to right all wrongs and restore all that's broken down? How do we un-numb ourselves from the mundane routines and the constant distractions in order to see God making beauty even now? And how do we ourselves join in the beauty-making God is currently doing?

We start with creation. Creation says there is a God and that this God is beautiful.

Scripture, too, speaks of God's beauty, most often as his glory: the infinite sum of his goodness, strength, and dazzling purity.

Our lives also speak of God's beauty, because God bestows his beauty upon us: he creates us uniquely and wonderfully, and, according to Ecclesiastes 3:11, he works everything in our lives to make it beautiful in time. He is alive, and living things, as we learned in science class, reproduce. They give life.

The problem is that we often seek the treasure of beauty in lifeless and decaying things. We call a new purse beautiful. We call fleeting physical attractiveness beautiful. And we call created things beautiful without turning to discover and worship the source of all beauty. Our definition of beauty can be limited, confining, and destructive to our own joy, because decaying or dead things cannot birth joy, nor can they produce beauty and life.

In addition and even more to our detriment, we deem things ugly that are really in process of becoming beautiful: suffering, brokenness, confession, loneliness, and death. All of these experiences are painful, but each can produce or lead us to unexpected beauty: Perseverance. Hope. Redemption. Heaven. God himself.

The question remains: Where do we seek beauty? What do we find beautiful? And where does the beauty we seek direct our minds and hearts? The secret of life is to seek beauty in God himself and embrace in faith his ability to make all things beautiful in his time. This perspective leads to our gratitude and joy, and toward imitating the creative nature of our God.

Seeking true, alive beauty means we must take a big picture, slow process perspective of life. The natural seasons teach us how. Using these seasons as a framework, Searching For Spring is an invitation to a treasure hunt for beauty in both familiar places and unexpected places. It's an invitation to awaken your affections for the Creator of it all and a call to go and rest in the sovereign hands of God.

Searching For Spring is for the man or woman who is waiting for something in their life to become beautiful, whether brokenness and suffering or faithfulness that hasn't yet borne fruit. I want to show you not only how to wait on God's beauty to bloom but also to see that there is beauty even in the waiting.

Preorder and Receive Gifts of Beauty 

Your preorder purchase of Searching For Spring comes with preorder treats! 
  • The first chapter of the book will pop in your inbox for immediate reading (and perhaps for deciding if it's a book you'd like to share or discuss with your friends). 
  • My artist friend April Sanders (aprilsandersart.com) has created four exclusive abstract prints representing each season, which you'll receive as a download.
  • Enjoy a downloadable yearly calendar that will remind you to take in the literal and figurative beauty of each season of your life.
  • Download computer and phone wallpaper of the book's theme verse, Ecclesiastes 3:11.

Searching For Spring is available for preorder on AmazonBarnes & NobleTarget, or Christianbook.com

Once you've preordered your copy (paperback, ebook, or audiobook), simply fill out this form and you'll immediately receive an email with your gifts.

Find Searching For Spring on AmazonBarnes & NobleTarget, or Christianbook.com 

“Of all the things that can scuttle our faith, forgetting the goodness and beauty of God must top the list. In Searching for Spring, Hoover calls us to encounter a God whose heart beats with goodness and beauty—a God who persists and insists on ‘making all things beautiful in their time.’ This is a book that you will want to read slowly, allowing its hope-filled message to saturate the corners of your weary, doubting soul.”—Hannah Anderson, author of Humble Roots: How Humility Grounds and Nourishes Your Soul

January 10, 2018

Winter is Waiting

What's your favorite season? I can make a lengthy and persuasive argument for fall or spring--take your pick--and summer, too, if there is a beach vacation planned and money to spare. But winter? The occasional snowfall (where I live at least) is wondrous for the day but typically turns gray and frozen solid much too quickly. Along with winter comes cozy fires in the fireplace, and that is most definitely to winter's advantage, but winter is so sullen and overcast, bare and colorless to be my favorite. In winter, I spend an inordinate amount of time holed up in my home under a blanket, guzzling hot coffee, and longing for spring's arrival.

Favorite or not, winter is important. God would not have designed it into the earth's framework if it were not so. Agriculturally speaking, in winter there is a world of motion happening beneath the surface. Freezing temperatures kill pests that would otherwise eliminate a crop. Plants and seeds "sleep" in dormancy, storing energy that enable their growth come spring. In winter, despite what we see with our eyes, the earth is busy creating life. We only know this is so because spring eventually comes, and then we marvel at what that life looks like.

Is it possible that God designed winter and the earthly cycle of life, death, and renewal in order to speak a deeper truth? I believe, because the Bible says it's so, that everything in creation is designed speech about its Creator. Just as we find him on warm summer days, standing in the sand, listening to the waves crash against the shore, we find him in the stillness of winter.
But winter often speaks of a barrenness we don't want to hear about. Yuval Noah Harari, author of Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, says that humanity is driven by a quest for immortality, pleasure, and divine-like supernatural capacity. In other words, we seek God, but we seek him in all the wrong places. We seek to be God rather than worship him, because when it comes down to it, we want a life with no winters. We want to redesign what God has set in motion.

Annie Dillard writes, "All that summer conceals, winter reveals." And so we need a life with winters, because we need our hearts revealed. Winter comes to strip us bare of our delusions, to make us face reality: we have imperfections that we can't perfect. We are helpless to find a formula to reason or act our way out of our helplessness. We are human, and we, in our barrenness, must be acted upon if we're to experience eternal life, joy, and the supernatural.

Winter then, after stripping us bare, points us to the invisible motion as if in invitation to these very things: life is happening. God is at work, acting upon us. Jesus came to show us how: God's work is resurrecting life from death. Jesus's dead heart restarting was sudden spring after a long winter, but then, having tasted the beauty and wonder of spring, the world was suddenly plunged back into the cold waiting once more.

The harshness of our waiting winter tells us that this world has nothing for us and that we have nothing for ourselves. We have this hope--one, and only one--that there is life waiting for us beyond death.

Although we are not yet in that world, we have reasons for our hope: the words of God. With words, he formed the earth and its seasons and cycles. With words, he continues creating. We can trust his words. In our winter, we must draw ourselves under the warm blanket of God's promises, a sure comfort in the darkest of hours. I particularly love when God combines his Word with something tangible, something I can look at and hold in my hands, which is what he did with Jeremiah:
"And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'Jeremiah, what do you see? And I said, 'I see an almond branch.' Then the Lord said to me, 'You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.'" (1:11)
In Jerusalem, the almond tree, the first to bud in the spring, was said to "watch for spring." God used the almond branch to comfort Jeremiah in his lamentable circumstances. The almond branch was a reminder that God is always in process of keeping his promises, that he is, at this very moment, hurtling all of us toward eternal spring. He pointed to the almond branch--the coming of spring--and told Jeremiah to watch and wait.

We too watch and wait, not in fear of this winter in which we live, nor in fear of our own spiritual poverty or even final death. We watch and wait, comforted, because all of this God is right now working for our true life, when winter will forever turn to spring.
Friends, my new book, Searching For Spring: How God Makes All Things Beautiful in Time, frames the life of faith according to the seasons and according to Ecclesiastes 3:11: "God has made everything beautiful in its time." If you are in need of a little hope and a little firming up of your faith, this book's for you! I'll be sharing preorder treats next week and soon will be introducing a podcast in which I interview folks who are waiting well by faith. Look for all of these exciting things in the coming days!

January 3, 2018

A New Book For the New Year

Dear readers, I've been waiting and waiting to tell you some exciting news: I have a new book on the way! (Perhaps you picked up on this hint or on this one.) On March 6, I'll be releasing, Searching For Spring: How God Makes All Things Beautiful in Time, and I simply cannot wait to get it into your hands.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that God makes everything beautiful in its time. In other words, the work he is about is the work of redemption, and he is currently turning all that is wrong into all that’s right and good and beautiful.

But when I look around at our broken and marred world—and, even closer in view, at my broken and marred heart—so much of what I see and experience is not right and good and beautiful. Jesus came to redeem, but he left so much temporarily unfixed that it can be difficult not to despair. How do we live with hope? How do we walk forward by faith, waiting for the future redemption of all things? These are the very questions I’ve attempted to answer in Searching For Spring.

Searching for spring is really a search for God’s redemptive work, where suffering and death become fruitful life. Framed by Ecclesiastes 3 and the changing seasons, I invite readers like you to join me on a treasure hunt for beauty in both familiar and unexpected places. 

I certainly need the message of what I've written; it feels as if the eyes of my heart have become blurry and even blind to God's imprint of beauty in this world. God is good to have done work in my heart as I've wrestled to get this message down on paper, to have shown me anew the grand story arc of which we're a part. Even in the last few weeks, as I've encountered the harshness of death, the refrain of the carol Joy to the World rings in my ears: far as the curse is found. As I sing those words over and over to myself, I imagine a fast motion film of winter thawing into spring and new life bursting through the soil. This, in fact, is the ongoing work of Jesus, but we live in what feels like slow motion, so slow and so hidden that we're prone to doubting it's even happening at all.

And so this book is for all those who, like me, are in the midst of weariness or suffering, who find their faith withering, or who are questioning whether God is at work—or even present—as they wait for something in their lives to become beautiful. 

In other words, this book is for you. It's for you to know that God is at work right this very moment and that his primary work is one of making beauty from your ashes and spring from your cold, dark winter. Far as the curse is found.

Are you deep in winter? Join me in searching for spring.

Searching For Spring comes out on March 6, but it's available for preorder in paperback or ebook form from AmazonBarnes & NobleTarget, or Christianbook.com. The audiobook will be available after the book releases.

In addition, I will soon be releasing some beautiful preorder treats, so keep your receipt handy! To stay in the know about preorder information, as well as some helpful podcast interviews with incredible and faith-full people I can't wait to tell you about, be sure you're subscribed here and following me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter

December 13, 2017

The Pattern of Advent

As I write this, it’s cold outside, as it should be, because it’s winter and cold is what winter brings. We don’t question this is as it should be because there are patterns ingrained in our world. There are patterns for our days: the sun rises in the east, it crawls toward its height by midday, and it sets in the west. The tides go in and go out. Our bodies, just the same, are made to fall into sleep and rise again.
As there are patterns for our days, there are also ingrained patterns for our seasons. Summer gives way to fall and fall gives way to winter and winter to spring and so on, indefinitely.

What do these patterns tell us? Why did God write the pattern of our days and seasons and years into the DNA of the world? I think they are physical reminders of a deeper reality, one we cannot see with our eyes but one we experience deep in our bones. That deeper reality is a pattern of redemption.

The seasons speak of the pattern of this deeper reality: Summer is warm and carefree, a type of innocence. Fall, though beautiful, is a type of dying. Winter is barrenness, gripped completely by death. And then in spring comes new life. Plants that have given their seeds in death during the fall grow and multiply.

If, as God says it does, nature speaks of him, what is he saying to us through the seasons? He’s saying redemption is in process.

The seasons perhaps were created just for this reason: so they could be a tangible picture of the process of regeneration, so they could be a picture of what God speaks of in Scripture.

Because throughout the generations covered in Scripture, a pattern emerges there, too, among its stories and poems and commands. This is the pattern: look back and then look forward.

In the Old Testament, God repetitively required his people to build altars, to recall to their children stories of his acts, and to celebrate feasts that marked his miracles. Over and over, he said to them, “Look back. Remember.” They were to remember how God made freedom from slavery and provision from lack. Why? So they’d trust him in their present circumstances, their present winter.

Later in the Old Testament, God’s refrain through the prophets then became, “Look forward.” They were to look forward to a perfect deliverer and forever rescuer, when God would make beauty from their ashes. Why were they to look forward? So that they might trust him with those ashes in their present state.

In the New Testament, the same pattern emerges. After the Gospels, the writers continually point back to the death and resurrection of Christ and then forward to his future coming, all so that we’d look at the past with gratefulness and awe, the future with faith, and the present with eyes wide open to hope.

And so, where are we in the pattern of the seasons? We are, of course, in winter--literally and figuratively-- and we feel it profoundly. We know barrenness, both literal and figurative. We know cancer. We know uncertainty. We know generational sin. We know destitution and desperation. We know loneliness and our spiritual poverty. We know how we’ve hurt and been hurt. We know what it means to groan under the weight of winter.

There are those who say the present is all we have, that we should live fully in the present and not consider yesterday or tomorrow. As they’ve done in every generation that’s watched for Christ’s return, to everyone who’s waited for all things to be made right, these people say, “Where is He? Where is your God?” Sometimes we ask this too. How could he allow this? How can this be? We question through tears.

He is enduring, that’s where he is. He is enduring the world’s winter just as we are. But there’s a difference between what he’s enduring and what we’re enduring. We know our own winter, and perhaps those of our closest friends and family. But God sees and carries all the pain in the world. He sees the vilest things done in secret. He weeps and grieves the injustices done against his children. And he endures injustices against himself as well: those who mock him; those who swell with pride, believing that they’ve created their own successes; those who question his engagement in this world even while he continues giving air to their lungs. God endures the pain of billions of people so that his work of redemption can continue and can be completed.

This is his work. Isaiah, in 25:1, says God’s plans, formed of old, are faithful and sure. God says of himself in Isaiah 42:16, “I will turn darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.”

Did you notice? God says to you, “Redemption is what I do.”

The seasons speak of it. Summer turning to fall shows us our sin leads to death. Fall turning to winter warns that death comes for each of us. Winter turning to spring screams out that there is a very real hope for new life after death.

And here we are in our winter, waiting, adventing.

So what do we do in this long, dark winter? There is a place for lament in advent. This is not something we often talk about, but if our hope is real, it also gives us the ability to look at pain without turning away. We don’t have to pretend. We must lament and lament with the lamenters, because winter is harsh. Jesus came and set things right, but that work is like the seed underground. The soul is blooming with forsythia. The soul is redeemed but we cannot see it yet.
Jesus left many things unfixed for now. This should elicit tears and tears are OK, because they are laced with the longing for the fulfilled promise.

We lace our tears with joy instead of despair when we do what all of God’s people since God’s people were have done in their own winters: we follow the pattern. We look back. And we look forward.

That is actually what we’re doing during Advent. We’re tracing the pattern God has given us.

We are looking back. We say we are waiting for the birth of Jesus, even though we know the birth of Jesus has already come. We are going through the discipline and practice of preparing as a way of looking back and remembering: God has created and God has come to dwell with us in our winter. 

We also, in this practice of Advent, are looking ahead. We are remembering the promise, that Christ will come again and we will dwell with him in the spring he has wrought.

These practices remind us that, in the present reality of winter, there is a world in motion going on beyond what we can see, because God, whom we cannot see, never sleeps nor does he slumber, and so he is at work, bringing about our final redemption, which we cannot yet see and experience.

But just as sure as the seasons that have existed before we were born and will continue long after we die, spring is coming. The Seed is dormant but it won’t be dormant forever.

Christians at Advent are together standing on the heater grate, looking, waiting, searching for signs of his coming. We look back at the first coming of Christ and we look forward to the second coming of Christ, so we can live in this present winter by faith. There will come a day when we won’t need faith or hope or advent any longer, because today’s hidden reality and today’s hidden patterns will become visible.

Isaiah in chapter 25:7-9 describes this reality to come. He says:
“The Lord will swallow up on this mountain    the covering that is cast over all peoples,    the veil that is spread over all nations.He will swallow up death forever;and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,    and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,    for the Lord has spoken.It will be said on that day,    “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.    This is the Lord; we have waited for him;    let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

Brothers and sisters, we cannot see it fully yet, but we can begin to do now what we will do then--let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

December 6, 2017

What Our Children Will Remember About This Christmas

My happiest Christmas memory is the time each year that my aunt Nancy directed my cousins and me in a reenactment of the nativity. The youngest among us--a girl--was always baby Jesus, and as Mary, my main job was not dropping her when I placed her in the manger. That and avoiding wayward staffs twirled by the ragtag band of shepherds played by my boy cousins.
When I reflect on those memories, the principal player was my aunt Nancy. The yearly play was her idea, so of course we looked to her for to take the lead and to direct us as to when to proceed solemnly into the living room for our performance. But more than that, we followed her lead because she cared. She was enthusiastic about the story we were reenacting, so we naturally were too.

My happiest memories as a child, and the ones imprinted most indelibly on my heart, typically involve a happy or enthusiastic adult--a teacher who taught my class to dance the Virginia Reel during our Civil War unit, a softball coach who infused fun into every practice, and a band director who loved his job.

But the happiest of happy moments always involved my parents. When my dad laughed or my mom got excited about something, time stood still and my heart threatened to burst. I delighted to see them delighted; their enthusiasm and joy instantly and naturally transferred to me because I loved to see them happy.

Kids learn to love what makes their parents light up. I see it in my own kids now. My oldest son brings me the Sunday comics, points out a good strip, and waits expectantly to hear me laugh. All of my sons are adamantly loyal to my college team only because they know that I am. And when I ask them what they’re thankful for, they’ve learned to add a spiritual element, because they know Who it is that I love.

So what does this speak to me and to all parents during this Advent season?

Sometimes Christmas can feel like pressure to a young mom who wants her children to be well-versed in all things Jesus. There are countless (wonderful) Pinterest pins, blog posts, activities, and books about how to make the most of the season and communicate the meaning of Christmas to our children. This year I have felt this pressure acutely, for I can count down on one hand the years my oldest remains in our home. I want to make Christmas special and say all the right things that will imprint its meaning on each of their hearts.

I imagine, however, that what they’ll remember about this Christmas and all the Christmases of their childhood combined will not be coloring sheets or books or a lit candle on the Advent wreath, although these will certainly hover with warm connotations in the background of their minds. No, if they are like me, I imagine that what will have the most impact are the happy and enthusiastic adults in their lives, namely my husband and me, who have the story of Jesus joyfully tumbling around in their hearts throughout the year and the Christmas season.

Am I happy in the story of Jesus? Am I contemplating what His coming has wrought? Am I looking expectantly for His return? Am I enthusiastically speaking of it as I sit with my children in our house, and when we walk by the way, when we lie down, and when we rise up?

This is what our children will remember about Christmas, long after the presents are opened and the Advent calendar is put away. They will not remember the details of their December experiences, but they will remember what delighted us. And because it delights us, it will delight them too.