Tag Archives: hope

The Hardest Part

Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. Psalms 27:14 (NLT)

For a news junkie like me, this week has left me exhausted. I like order and control and from what I have observed, the politics in Washington, D.C. have neither. The fact is that none of us knows what any given day will bring. We have our plans but a phone call, a diagnosis, a fall, a letter, an accident can turn our world upside down.

Trying to sell our house and move closer to town presents a perfect test for waiting with no control of the outcome. In my morning quiet time, I journal my prayers and have started thanking God for the sale of the house.

I’m reminded of the story of Daniel who prayed, pleading for his people and their deliverance. But God, seemingly failed to hear or answer. Twenty-one days later, an angel appeared to Daniel and basically told him he had been busy but he had heard him. He had been in battle in another part of the world but was now ready to give an answer to his prayer.

God knows our heart’s desires and He knows the timing of this sale. Rather than have the stress of a “must sell date,” we are not even looking at future homes. I know that God is in this move and He will take care of us. He’s got the perfect place picked out. But it may take “twenty-one days” to get it ready.

I read that “Waiting is the hardest work of hope.” Calling us to be brave and courageous, in our verse, makes sense because waiting may result in fear, anxiety, boredom, disappointment, frustration, or even anger. Hope has been my watchword since 2013 — a year that seemed hopeless in so many ways. But God. Because I know that God loves me, has a plan for my life that is good and a purpose even better than I could imagine, I hope…and I wait.

I don’t know what the next step entails — where it will lead or when it will happen — but I do know Who lights my way…one step at a time.

#alwayshope

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Refining

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer various trials, so that the authenticity of your faith —more precious than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

I Peter 1:6-7 (Berean)

While scrolling through my email, I found a Groupon for a facial located at a distance not too far away. I love massages but I treat facials more like going to see the dentist — every now and then it’s a good idea to check in. The selling pitch was that an arm and shoulder massage were included.

Sans make-up, when I arrived the esthetician gave me a form to fill out. One of the questions was what did I want to get out of the facial. I thought a few moments and then wrote down that I wanted her to take off 20 years.

An hour later, I left after tolerating many layers — cleanser, scrub, mask, serum, moisturizer — interspersed with hot towels, cold towels, and steam. Sensations of stinging, pain, massage, and finally, soothing lotion, alternately applied, reminded me why this is not my favorite beauty treatment.

But, but, but — my face is now so smooth and soft. It was worth it; I may even go more often.

God’s refining often comes in the form of many layers, too. We do our best to hide the imperfections on our faces with make-up, highlighters, and concealers, to name a few. We may try to cover up our sin and hopelessness with busyness, indifference, and addictions.

The trials we endure are like the scrubs and masks that rid my face of all the dead skin cells and clogged pores, finally,  getting down to the bare, clean skin. God wants to give us life — abundant life — and it won’t happen if it’s hidden by sin and selfishness. It may take the sting and pain of God’s cleansing to remove the old to reveal the new.

Yet, He doesn’t leave us bare with no covering, an easy target for the enemy. No, He blankets us with the blood of Jesus bringing life. He gives us the Holy Spirit who fills us with love. And above all — when we have endured to the end — HOPE is our reward.

 But that’s not all! We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure. And endurance builds character, which gives us a hope that will never disappoint us. All of this happens because God has given us the Holy Spirit, who fills our hearts with his love.

Romans 5:3-5 (CEV)

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Just a Word

 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Ephesians 4:32 (NLT)

Have you gotten used to writing 2017 yet? I love a new year — new wall calendars, new devotionals, new Bible studies, new semester. Changing over from the past of 2016 and embracing all that is ahead in 2017— I love it!

Starting from scratch has a particular appeal for me. It gets my creative juices flowing and I begin to look at a project in new ways. Never compelled to operate under the guise of “I’ve always done it this way,” the new year gives me freedom to expand what I already know and look for new and better ways to do it. “It” may be the way I decorate my house, arrange a closet, organize my library, exercise routine, or choose which areas to serve my God, family, and church.

One routine that I began in 2013 is to choose a word for the year. I thought I was being original until I opened my email today and found a devotion from a pastor telling you how to do this very thing. My journey began in sheer desperation because life was hard and getting harder. My word was HOPE. I needed to know that I was going to make it, by the grace of God. And He provided the hope that sustained me then and continues to this day. Always HOPE.

Other words flowed from that original word to include joy and grace. Last year, I though the word would be love but God had another in mind — humility. He kind of hit me upside the head but proved over and over that being humble was something I needed to practice.

This year it’s kindness. I’m just beginning so I’m not sure how it will play out but I know it will affect what I do and how I speak to family, friends, neighbors, and strangers.

Our world has become impersonal, impatient, and often unkind. We expect our life to be solved with instant messages, microwaves, emails, and TV episodes wrapped up in 40 minutes. Friendships are “likes” on Facebook. Being kind is not part of the mix and requires persistence and intentionality; two big words that may require spell check because they are not in vogue.

Yet, the outcome of a little kindness may be a new friend, a smile from an overworked employee, a squeeze of the hand or a pat on the back to let someone know you care. It may be a meal delivered in the middle of illness or crisis. Or a simple note that says, “I care.”

To help me focus, I’m always on the lookout when I read the Bible for verses to include in my journal with a focus on kindness. Etsy is a great place to find a plaque that I place on my desk to remind me of my commitment when I glance at it. If you’re artistic, make your own. God is faithful to give you opportunities to use your word and encourages you in the process.

A special blessing happened this year when my grandgirlie, Kate, called a couple of weeks before Christmas and asked me what my word was for the year. Under the tree was a bread board that she had burned in the words, “be humble.”

So…do you have a word for the year? It’s never just a word. What is God whispering in your heart that He wants you to concentrate on for 2017? Let it be a filter that God will use in your heart and mind and add in ways you never imagined.

I’d love to hear what your word is. Feel free to comment.

 

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Missing Piece

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)

The Christmas check list seems unending. From decorating the house, shopping and wrapping presents, making cookies, parties and Christmas cards—there always seems to be one more thing to do. If you had known me in my full “go Christmas” mode, it would have just made you tired.

And then life feel apart. Divorce hit and it happened near Christmas. I wanted to ignore the whole season and pretty much did. Long time friends knew that something must be up because they didn’t receive my Christmas card the first week of December. All the joy was drained out and I was left with little hope that Christmas would ever be special again.

I knew that Jesus was with me and He even met me very personally during an especially difficult time. But Christmas…

The traditions had to change and I’m not particularly fond of change. But each year was a little bit better—not great but tolerable. My kids made sure that we kept many of the old traditions and then added new ones. But there was always a little hole in my heart.

Until the big news — I was going to be a grandmother and the baby was due the day after Christmas. Joy, anticipation, and excitement filled my heart.

A good friend said to me one day in early December as I waited for the birth of that baby, “Isn’t it just like God to give you a grandchild now so you can celebrate the birth of two babies at Christmas?”

That was certainly the missing piece for this holiday but it reminded me that the real missing piece was allowing Jesus to fill me with hope and joy every day. He knew what the road ahead looked like and promised to never leave me or let go of my hand.

A funny situation occurred this week when I stopped to get a latte at a new local cafe. It was filled with decorations for purchase and as I perused the shelves, I noticed a tiny nativity set with miniature pieces. I have collected nativity sets all over the word and thought this would be a perfect addition.

When I got home and unwrapped the pieces and placed them in the miniature stable, all were present but one.

I called the manager and told him the story.

“Mmmm, the baby Jesus. Let me check,” he said.

“I found him. He’d been moved to another shelf.”

I picked up my missing piece and the tableau is now complete.

But are you missing something this Christmas? Are you feeling like you’ve been moved to another shelf? Has grief left you wrung out? An injury sidelined you for all the festivities? Depression’s pit just around the corner? No paycheck to cover the gifts you want to give your kids?

Remember that the missing piece is Jesus. Happiness and joy are two different emotions.  Jesus will give you joy even in the darkness because of the flicker of light that was lit on Christmas morn.

That missing piece?

He’s now your Prince of Peace.

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O, Give Thanks

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!

For His mercy endures forever. 

1 Chronicles 16:34 (NKJV)

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My screensaver has this verse sprawled across the top with falling leaves blurred in the background. It is the season of Thanksgiving with the holiday less than a week away.

Reasons for giving thanks in year 2016:

  • The election is over
  • Family is all back in California
  • Vision is stable
  • Grandgirlies are happy in school
  • New church with new opportunities
  • Everyone has a job
  • Mark and Parker are taking it one day at a time

Our pastor often noted in his Thanksgiving sermon that he was thankful for his bed, his car, and his dog, good food, and clothes to wear — so many things we take for granted. In a world of war and confusion, the everyday creature comforts become expected. But just ask a Christian family fleeing from Mosul, having to leave everything behind, what they are thankful for.

Yet, I think the one thing I am most thankful for is hope. For without hope, why even try? Why go to work? Why study for that test? Why take those medicines or go to physical therapy? Why make time to visit that friend in the hospital? Why care about the outcome of that election? Why look for anything different in those hard areas of life?

Because, there is someone and something greater than ourselves who gives us hope and ultimately an eternal home. Christ defeated Satan at his own game because death is not the end — it is only the beginning. His resurrection put the final nail in Satan’s coffin regarding our future.

Fretting and worrying about tomorrow only takes away our joy and peace. God knows what’s next on His calendar and ours. Our job is to trust Him and do the tasks each day that He calls us to do.

Take time to say thank you to those who cross your path. Lift thanks to God for His many blessings each day. A heart of gratitude changes our outlook and makes our heart happy, and this is a perfect week to practice.

That is our hope.

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The Big Debate

How happy is the man who has put his trust in the LORD and has not turned to the proud or to those who run after lies!

Psalm 40:4 (HCSB)

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The TV and radio are off. I watched a little this morning but I decided I didn’t need the tension created by the commentators. I read through posts on Facebook and Twitter but it was more of the same. This has been a long year of political rhetoric and debate. I normally enjoy that kind of thing but I will be very glad when November 9th rolls over on the calendar. It has been an unprecedented campaign on both sides.

We have seen and read about the lies and corruption that emanates out of both camps. Tabloids share juicy details. Spokesmen attempt to tamp down the hysteria. The sides are so entrenched that emotion erupts in fisticuffs both physically and in print. And that goes within the parties, too. I fear that reconciliation will be difficult for all.

Suggested debate questions are flowing from the pundits’ lips but my question echoes from King David as I ask you, “How happy are you?”

Neither candidate can assure your happiness or security. Trusting in the government will only bring disillusionment and frustration. I don’t follow the mindset of some of my fellow Christians that this election will result in the end of the world. That doomsday forecast has no scriptural basis because God is in control. He deposes kings and raises up others. He promises to never leave us or forsake us. Maybe He is calling the church to kneel down and repent and sees this as the only way He can get our attention. No one man or woman can solve our problems except that one man, Jesus.

Tonight, I will watch the last debate. I’m not expecting any dramatic changes.

My only hope is in Jesus Christ, my Lord.

 

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Light or Shadow

Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. James 1:17 (NLT)

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A nine-year-old girl joined her mother and aunt for a week of camp at Forest Home Christian Conference Center, a first for all of them. One evening, during the course of the week, the young girl was introduced to Christ as her Savior by her counselor and as she prayed, she began to cry. The counselor shooed the rest of the girls into another room, hoping to find the cause for the tears. With a limited vocabulary, the young girl could only say that the story had gone deep into her heart and that she was so happy. That young girl was me and the story took place during one summer day, sixty years ago.

Some things may change but the story of my redemption is steadfast and sure. I was pondering changes of things that I miss—singing with the Blackhawk Chorus in California, singing in the 4th of July concert, Let Freedom Sing, here in Tucson, perfect vision with no thought of it ever being otherwise, moving away from family and friends to live in the Arizona desert. We can never go back but we can grow and change, step back and walk forward.

I love that God, our Father, never changes as a shifting shadow does. A shadow is defined as “an area of darkness, caused by light being blocked by something.” But, we don’t need to worry that God will turn away from us creating a shadow of uncertainty or fear. He won’t do that because He is light and in Him there is never any darkness. Remember — He doesn’t change. We can trust that His good and perfect gifts will flood our hearts with the light of His presence, hope for tomorrow, assurance of salvation, and peace in a stress-filled world.

Change? Embrace it. You’re not alone.

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Know-it-all

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”  John 4:13-14 (NLT)

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Our church has the tradition of greeting those around you. I spoke to a woman today who made me stop and think.

“I’m sorry,” she said. ” I have vision problems and can’t see you very well.”

“I do, too. Do you have macular degeneration?” I asked.

“Yes, in both eyes,” she answered.

“I do, too. Wet or dry? I have wet,” I replied.

“Both.”

“Are you getting shots in your eye?” I asked.

“Oh no. I had laser surgery 12 years ago and it really messed up my vision,” she answered quickly.

“But,” I said, “they have new methods and shots which really help! I get them in my eyes.”

She shook her head, no, and the music began. As I walked back to my seat, I thought of the good news available to her if she would only listen.

How typical is that in life? One of the sayings — no matter the context — that makes me lose it is, “we have always done it this way.”

I wonder what the woman at the well thought when Jesus asked her if she wanted water that would assure her of never being thirsty again. Was she satisfied with the way she currently retrieved water for her household? Maybe she wasn’t thirsty? Had she already tried one of those new “sparkling” waters and found it didn’t quench her thirst any better than regular water? Was she in such a rut that a new way looked too hard?

What area of your life is so routine but without much life and joy? You realize that options are available to make changes but it’s just too much effort, it may not work, and you’re OK with the way it is.

But what are you passing up? The woman heard something from Jesus that she wanted — and she didn’t even know what it was. The more he talked, the more intrigued she became. And to top it all off, He knew all about her.

His offer of living water was irresistable and she realized that this man was the Messiah. She opened her heart to His “water”and could hardly wait to tell her neighbors and bring them to meet Jesus so they could have it, too.

In a world filled with fear and frustration—we have that same Jesus. He offers hope and help to fill us up with joy and peace. Speak to those around you.

Don’t be a know-it-all. Be an I-want-to-know-it. Offer the Living Water as you meet those on your way. They may be very thirsty.

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Messy House

So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You’ve had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God.

1 Peter 2:1-3 (MSG)

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My house is normally pretty tidy with things picked up and a clean kitchen to work in. But I hire a couple of girls to come in twice a month to “deep clean.” The other day I walked into the house after lunch and it looked like a whirlwind had hit it.

Because of the holiday, my cleaning girl brought a couple of extra friends to help her catch up on the missed day. All the furniture was pulled away from the walls. One girl was on a step-stool wiping down bookshelves. Another had the kitchen torn apart and was spraying and wiping the counters and cupboards. I heard others in the back of the house making noises with vacuums and mops.

You would think that I was messy and dirty. On the surface, the house looked fine, but underneath the furniture, behind the books, in the nooks and crannies out of sight, dirt and dust lingered and multiplied.

It made me wonder about the state of my heart and life. I can put on a good face and attitude and people observing will think all is well. Not much cleaning up for her to do. But is my heart and mind free of fear, prejudice, frustration, anger, pride, and selfishness? Honestly, no. If I had to clean them up all by myself, I would fail miserably. But God took the giant vacuum cleaner to my life when I confessed my sins and weaknesses to Him and accepted His offer of love and forgiveness. Jesus’ blood cleansed me and gave me life eternal.

Yet, this world still leaves our feet dusty as we walk the roads of life. The news indicates that things are hardly tidy and free of grime. We have experienced a week with the murders of police officers in Dallas, rallies in cities across the nation to protest racism, lies and distortions by politicians. And that is only in the United States. The rest of the world is hurting, too.

We will never live in a perfect world, this side of heaven, but we have help and hope from God’s word, The Bible. When we spend time reading, meditating, journaling, confessing our sins, and praying over the truths that we read, God promises to grow us up into mature people. Just as my grandgirlies had to learn to walk one step at a time, so do we. The love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are a result of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Only then will:

  • Anger on the streets be replaced with love.
  • Racism be replaced with acceptance.
  • Rudeness be replaced with kindness.
  • Pride be replaced with humility.
  • Fear be replaced with hope.
  • Division be replaced with unity.

The disorder and disarray in my house? By the time they left, everything was back in place, the sinks sparkled and the floors glistened. Maybe it’s time to check the corners and pockets of your hearts and minds for dust and grime. Give Jesus the opportunity to clean up your mess and make your life clean and whole, ready to be a light and witness for Him to a darkened world.

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Do Good to All

 We ask you, Christian brothers (and sisters), speak to those who do not want to work. Comfort those who feel they cannot keep going on. Help the weak. Understand and be willing to wait for all men. Do not let anyone pay back for the bad he received. But look for ways to do good to each other and to all people. 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 (NLV)

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From childhood, Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. I love every part of it…from the decorations, to the Christmas carols, sparkly lights and yummy cookies. Christmas parties, choir concerts, family gatherings — it is all the very best.

Yet, this year, there is a pall over my heart. The Paris and San Bernardino shootings, a friend whose son attempted suicide, another in the hospital with congestive heart failure, a neighbor who hurts all the time from a fall and broken hip, family members struggling with anxiety and depression.

If this is supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year,” what happened? Unlike the headline from the New York Daily News, “God isn’t fixing this,” I know that He is. We don’t know what is going on the heavenlies but we do know we have a God who is not surprised, is greatly saddened, and is in control.

So what are we to do in this time of upheaval, fear, sorrow and anger? The verses quoted today give us some ideas.

Many are out of work and can’t find a job. They may be friends or family and this is about the worst time of year to look for a job or have Christmas less than two weeks away. But you can look them in the eye and speak to them. Let them know they are not invisible to you. Encourage them with a smile and squeeze on the arm.

Some are so discouraged and downhearted. Life is messy and not what was expected. Too much time spent in doctor’s offices or hospitals. No energy to do shopping or make cookies. The phone is silent. Pain lurks and and then erupts. Offer them a ride and have a latte and bit of conversation at a favorite coffee bar. Stop by and wrap some of their presents or take them for mailing. Send an email or text of hope and cheer. Smile and give them a hug.

Be patient. Waiting is the hardest work of hope. We live in a world of instant gratification so that we assume no response or delayed response means no. But that isn’t always the case. Hope gives us the courage to keep on, to trust God with the hard stuff — the parts that don’t make sense — and know that He loves and cares more than we can ever fully understand.

Be on the lookout for someone who is hurting and be that little bit of light and hope. And SMILE. Christmas is coming!

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