We Have the Hope

She walked into my office and sat down. I don’t think I can do this job. She said. I understood where she was coming from. Just a few short months ago, I was saying the same words.

I told her there was hope. Things will click. It just takes time.  You will get there. I continue to give her words of encouragement, because I know she’s capable. I know if she sticks to it, she will have more than hope. She will have a newfound confidence that comes only through perseverance. I know that eventually she will be able to encourage other new ones who come behind her to persevere in their time of learning.

The thing is. I can’t rescue her from the difficulties she is facing. I can’t relieve the fears she feels in her insecurities. I can’t do the job for her. I have my own work to do. She must face the uncertainties and newness with boldness and strength. She must be willing to do the hard work in order to see the results. I hope she is willing.

But fear is a thing to be reckoned with. It can overtake. Overwhelm. Overrule our good intentions. It can pull us under if we don’t think rationally about the reality of the situation. Oh. It’s ok to be fearful. But fear doesn’t have to rule our lives and thoughts and actions. Fear is a liar.

There is hope. Without hope, we crumble. We fall. We lose our way. But when hope surfaces, the sun shines brighter. The flowers are prettier. The breathing is clearer. The day is worth living.

We all need something to hope for. Something to get us out of bed in the morning. But what is it? What do I hope for? What is my deepest longing?

I have given Christ countless reasons not to love me. None of them changed his mind. Paul Washer

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?


No power in the sky above or in the earth below — indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:39


I’ll tell you what gives me hope and quiets my fears.

Nothing can separate me from God’s love. Not even trouble or calamity. Not even persecution or hunger or poverty or danger. Not even if I’m threatened with death. God loves me even in the hard times.

Death or life can’t separate me from God’s love. Neither can angels or demons. The fears of today and the worries of tomorrow can’t make God stop loving me. The powers of hell can’t separate me from God’s love.

There is no power in the sky above or in the earth below that can remove God’s love from me. Nothing in all of creation will ever be able to separate me from God’s love.

Jesus Christ is mightily loving his people with omnipotent, moment-by-moment love that does not always rescue us from calamity but preserves us for everlasting joy in his presence even through suffering and death. John Piper

The good news is this. God’s love is forever. It is eternal. His love is so deep and so wide. It encompasses everything. No matter what I do or what I say. God will still love me. He can’t stop loving me.

That’s why he paid the ultimate price by giving his Son in my place. That gives me a hope that never runs dry. God’s love is forever. And therein lies my hope.

Great Commission

I heard the phrase on the news again. I never want another person to have to go through what I’ve gone through. It’s a phrase I hear often on the news. Someone was treated unfairly. Someone’s child was bullied. Someone lost a loved one too soon. Someone was swindled out of their life savings. Someone lost everything. Someone was the victim of a crime. And the list goes on.

We never want others to experience the same difficulties we’ve faced. So we share our story. Hoping someone will learn lessons we learned too late. Hoping our loss will help steer someone clear of the same grief. Or teach them how to cope better than we did.

Does it work? Our sharing? Do others listen and learn from our tough times? We only hope they do. Because we’ve learned from those times that we can survive. We’ve learned some wounds will heal and become scars. Reminders of our suffering. We’ve learned we must forgive. We’ve learned that life goes on. Even when we feel that we can’t. But we do.



But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? Romans 10:14


What if we would say this. I don’t want anyone else to go through life not knowing God. I don’t want anyone to live life thinking they have to be self sufficient. I don’t want anyone else to live without God being their source of strength. I don’t want anyone else to die without being ready to meet God. What would I have to do to make sure that happened?

If only everyone knew that in times of grief, God will give sustaining grace. If only everyone experienced the peace that comes with God’s forgiveness. Do people know that God doesn’t lie? When God makes a promise, He keeps it. Always. Does everyone know that God forgives and forgets? Does everyone know that God is three in one? God the Father. God the Son, Jesus Christ. God the Holy Spirit. They’re all different, but they’re one.

Does it work? Our sharing of our faith? Does sharing how God will never quit loving each of us and that He’s always available make a difference in someone else’s life? I hope and pray that it makes a difference. Otherwise. People will be lost. People will live without hope if they haven’t heard that God loves them.

We should tell our story.  Our hurts. Our fears. Our shame. Our successes.  Our failures.  Our losses. Our redemption.  How else will others know salvation is worth it? How will someone else know that a relationship with God is the most important one they could ever have? How will the world know unless those who walk with Christ lead others to him?

There is a great commission. Go and tell everyone that Jesus Christ is Lord of Lords. That Jesus died for them. That he wants to spend eternity with them in heaven. That they can escape hell. 

Good Good Father

I’ve heard it said that a person’s view of God is based on their relationship with their dad.  I’ve always had a respectful view of God.  I trust him.  I love him.  He is the authority.  Let me tell you why that is my impression of God.

My dad was always in charge.  He was the leader of our family.  He was the provider.  The authoritarian.  He was a tease.  He had a great sense of humor.  He had a great work ethic.  He loved his work.  He loved his family.  He helped those in need.

My dad  provided everything I needed.  No.  He didn’t give me everything I wanted.  But I never went hungry.  I was always clothed.  He built our home.  I was warm when I needed to be.  I was cool when I needed to be.

My dad taught me to work.  Whether I liked it or not, my dad handed out chores for his kids to do.  Mowing the lawn.  Weeding the garden.  Cleaning the hog house.  Working on the farm.

I saw my dad spending time with God every day.  He would read his Bible before breakfast.  He would lead our family in devotions every night before bed.  He would pray for us.  He would pray with us.  My dad made sure his family spent time in God’s word every day.

My dad was always present.  He was available when we needed him.  Oh.  He worked hard.  He worked long hours.  But he always took a Sabbath to rest and restore his spirit.  He was in a noisy environment a lot of the day, so he wanted peace and quiet at home.  That wasn’t easy with seven kids.  But we knew that once he walked in the door, the piano practice time was over.  The radio was turned off.  He wanted to hear himself think.

My dad was a disciplinarian.  When we did wrong.  And we did.  He disciplined us.  It wasn’t pleasant, but it taught us to respect authority and trust his leadership.

Oh.  My dad wasn’t perfect.  But he was honest.  He was a powerful influence in my life.  He took his faith seriously.  He had a library of Bible commentaries, Christian books and Bibles to study as he prepared to teach his Sunday School class each week.

My dad is the man I measured all other men by.  He set the standard high.

He was a good good father.


The Lord is merciful! He is kind and patient, and his love never fails.          Psalm 103:8

I think of God.  My heavenly Father.  He is the giver of life.  He is the lover of my soul.  He provides for all my needs.

My heavenly Father allows me to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but he calms my fear of evil.  My God is so wise that He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul.  When I am fearful, he alone is my source of strength and resilience.

Oh.  He disciplines me.  When I disobey, he teaches me how to be more like Him.  When I don’t spend enough time with Him, He calls me back.

The thing about God.  He is perfect.  He knows exactly what I need when I need it.  He provides at just the right time.  He does no wrong.  He cannot.  He will not.

My God is always with me.  I can’t move without him knowing it.  Oh.  He can see everything I do.   He hears every word I speak.  He reads my every thought.  He never leaves my side.  He is always available anytime I call out to him.  He fights for me.  He works on my behalf.

God shows me favor.  At times, I feel as if I’m his favorite child.  He showers me with blessings that I don’t deserve.  He loves me unconditionally.  No matter what I do, He never gives up on me.  He will not stop loving me.

He is the God I measure all other gods by.  May I never waver in the God I serve.

He is a good good Father.

 

 

 

Who are you wearing

It’s awards season.  The nominees have been announced.  They’ll get all fancied up.  For the event.  They’ll spend hours primping and priming and tucking and sleeking.  Hair is done.  Makeup is done.  Nails are done.  Nothing is left undone.  They must look their best.  The world will be watching.  Mostly from afar.

They’ve fasted.  They’ve dieted.  They’ve cleansed.  They’re as thin as they’re going to be.  For that night.

They’ve been offered the best of the best among the dresses.  The jewelry.  The shoes.  They must choose the attire they think will outshine everyone else.  For everyone else will be looking.  They will all be looking.  Hoping to win the best dressed award.  Which really isn’t an award.  It’s an opinion.  But opinions do matter.  Especially on this night.

I’ve watched the red carpet events for years.  Oh.  Not the actual awards shows.  But the shows as the gowns are being paraded down the red carpet.  The women pose.  First to the front with hand on hip.  Then flip out the leg if the slit is high enough.  And it is usually high enough.  Turn around to show off the back of the dress.  If the dress has a back.  Smile your brightest whitest smile.

They’re all waiting for the question.  The one question.  It’s a big question.  It’s asked at every event.  Supposedly made famous by Joan Rivers.  Who are you wearing?  That’s the question.  Oh.  It’s important.  It’s very important to give the designer’s name.  The name of the person who created the dress.  You see.  If someone rich and famous wears that designer’s clothes, then it’s assumed the rest of us will want to wear them.  Or knockoffs.  Whatever fits the budget.  Oh.  It’s a serious thing.  It’s a money maker.

But woe is the designer whose dress makes the worst dressed list.  As one show says.  One day you’re in.  The next day you’re out.  All because of other people’s opinions.

One particular event.  Every woman wore black.  They were making a statement.  They were taking names.  They were sharing a message.  With the color of their dress.  That event wasn’t so much about who they were wearing.  But it was about the color they were wearing.  Or weren’t wearing.  Fighting for a cause of their choice.  Daring others to join in or be called out.


And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  Philippians 4:8


The way I see it.  I have a choice every day.  Every single day.  Which designer will I wear?  There are two designers to choose from.  Some may think two isn’t much of a selection.  Frankly.  One is all we need.  But we have a choice.  There’s an obvious difference in their designs.  In their taste level.  In their purpose.  And the choice makes a huge difference.  In everything.  One designer is the master creator.  The other is the master deceiver.

The master creator clothes us with truth.  Honor.  Respect.  Purity.  Love.  Grace.  And the price for all this. You ask.  There is no cost.  For us.  He paid a great price.  He gave his only son so we could be clothed in forgiveness.

The deceiver.  He clothes his followers with arrogance.  Deceit.  Murder.  Evil.  Wickedness.  Conflict.  Lies.
Oh.  The deceiver had his chance to work with the master designer.  But he wanted the top position.  It didn’t end well for him.  So he’s trying to trick anyone and everyone to wear his designs.  But don’t be fooled.  His designs come at a great price.
Just so you know.  Everyone is watching.  They’re listening.  They’re looking to see which designer you’ve chosen.  Is it easy to tell at first glance?  Do others ask for the name of your designer, because they like what they see?  Or are your knockoffs easy to spot?
So I dare to ask.  Who are you wearing?

 

We Can Change

Change is good.  That’s what they say.  Whoever they are.

We change our diets.  If we have to.  We change jobs.  Some people change spouses.  We can even change our gender.  On the outside, at least.

We change to try to please others.  To get in their good graces.  To get on their good side.

We change the color of our hair.  We change our weight.  We change our zip code.  We change.

I remember a couple of changes I made.  Not big changes.  Petty ones, really.  I remember when grocery stores switched from paper bags to plastic.  I resisted.  I didn’t want plastic bags.  The funny thing is.  I got used to them.  Now I’m told that plastic is environmentally unfriendly.  Stores are returning to paper.  I find myself resisting again.  I’ve changed.

When paper towels became available in full and half sizes, I resisted.  I wanted the full size.  Now I only buy the ones with an option.   Full or half size.  I sometimes feel that I’m being wasteful if I use a full paper towel when I only need a half size.   I’ve changed.

I used to drink pop.  Now I don’t.  I used to eat sugar.  Now I don’t.  I used to take naps.  Now I don’t.  I’ve changed.

So we can change.  We just don’t want to.  It isn’t easy.  It isn’t fun.  It upsets our routines.  We’re set in our ways.  But we can change.  We just have to want to.  We have to work on changing.

What changes do we make just to make our life easier?  What bad habits do we stop doing?  What bad words do we stop saying?  What bad attitudes do we correct?  What gossip do we stop spreading?

What changes do we willingly make?  What is the good we intentionally start doing?

There are some changes that I resist.  No matter what.  I just don’t want to change.  It just seems too hard to change a bad attitude.  That would take work.  And will power.  It’s hard to love the unlovable.  Those who treat us bad or bully us or reject us.  But we can love them.  Love is a choice.


And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.  Ezekiel 36:26


If I listed all the changes I’ve made in my life, would I even be able to list one character flaw that I’ve worked to change?  Do I expect God to forgive me and then me not be willing to change?

Isn’t maturity a sign of change?  Isn’t change a sign of maturity?

Look at Paul.  I mean Saul.  Saul changed.  God called out to him.  And Saul changed his life.  He changed his behavior.  He changed his motives.  He went from hunting Christians to being a leader of Christians.  He changed his name.  Paul changed.

The soul that’s in tune with God.  That truly loves God will change.  Will want to change the old for the new.  Old attitudes for new.  Old beliefs for new.  Old ways for new.  Perhaps old friends for new.  It’s possible.  It can happen.  Our hearts can change.  Our hearts must change.

I See You

I know this guy.  Honestly.  I don’t know him well.  But I know enough.  I’ve never felt comfortable around him.  I can’t really pinpoint the reason, but it’s there.  Hiding behind the façade of friendliness.  I see inconsistencies in him.  I hear the words he says.  I see the look he gives.  I know what he does.  He’s fighting something.  He’s facing a storm within.

The fight looks familiar.  It feels like it fits.  I think the inconsistency I see in him is the one I’m trying to hide in myself.  The thing that bothers me is the flaw I see in him is what I don’t want others to see in me.  But I see it in him.  Is it because his flaws are similar to mine?  If he can’t hide his, then what are the chances mine are hidden?  Who is seeing my flaws?  Do they judge me as I’m judging him?

Oh.  It’s not my intention to judge him.  But if I’m honest.  Really honest.  I’m judging.  I want to call out his narrow-mindedness, while I shove mine down.  Hoping no one sees.

What inconsistencies do others see in me?  Who do I think I’m fooling?

I wouldn’t call him out publicly by name.  I wouldn’t do that.  But I watch.  Hoping he’ll change.  Hoping I’ll change.  So maybe the one who’s watching me sees change in me.  I’m trying.  Perhaps he’s trying, too.  I like to think he’s trying.

I don’t know his history.  I don’t know what caused his attitude and his faults.

Instead of focusing on his flaws, why don’t I look for his strengths? His gifts?  His talents?  They’re easy to spot.  If you know him.  If you see him in action.  And his career is pretty spectacular.  He works to make people’s lives better.  That has to be a good feeling.  Why not praise him for those things instead of tear him down for his imperfections?  Why is it so much easier to focus on those annoyances?


If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.  But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.   1 John 1:8-10


I look at my faults.  My flaws.  The inconsistencies in my life that I try to keep hidden.  Oh.  I know God sees them.  He knows them.  He lets me know he sees them.  And asks me to do something about it.  He wants me to change.

Someone recently told me one of the faults they see in me.  They didn’t call it a fault.  They just let me know that’s how they see me.  They believe it to be truth.  I was left trying to figure out why they think that of me.  It’s interesting, humbling and eye-opening to hear others describe you to your face.  Sometimes their critiques are correct.  Other times, their words make me stop and examine myself.

Maybe I’ve been denying the truth.  Maybe I’ve been so blind that I can’t see my own faults.

Reuben Welch once said that we really do need each other.  And we do.  We need to hold each other accountable.  We need to encourage each other.  We need to stand with each other.  We need to pray for each other.  We need to love each other.

The book of 1 John was written to a group of believers who weren’t getting along.  John was asking them to be better.  To be together.  Not against each other.  It takes work on both sides.  We can see each other’s flaws and still get along.

Acquainted with Grief

She walked over to me that Sunday morning after church.  In a quiet voice, she said, “How do you do it?  How do you get through each day?”

A year earlier, I had lost my older brother.  Five years before that, my husband had lost his sister.  I am acquainted with grief.  She knew that I knew what she was asking.  My friend had lost both of her parents just a few months apart and was having trouble coping with the loss and the pain.  I recall feeling bad for her, because I couldn’t fathom losing my parents, let alone just a few months apart.

As we talked through our hurt and loss, we shared a common bond.  Grief does not discriminate.  It hits everyone who has lost a loved one.  It’s not a club you want to join, but you can’t refuse membership once it’s offered.  Membership is free, but you’ve already paid a great price.  You’re in the club in that moment of loss. With that one phone call.  Or with the knock on the door.  He’s gone.  She’s not going to make it through the night.  The test results are in, and it doesn’t look good.  There’s been an accident, and there are no survivors.

Little did I know at the time of our conversation, that only a few years later I would once again be circled by grief as I lost my parents eleven days apart.  Eleven. Days. Apart.

I am acquainted with grief.  I am acquainted with loss.  I am acquainted with the replaying over and over in my mind of how the scene of death played out for my loved ones. What were his last words?  When was the last time I saw her alive? Those thoughts filled every moment of every day for months on end.

What I realize now is that we really do need each other.  In those times of loss and uncertainty and unfamiliarity as we face a future without those loved ones, we need others who have walked that path.  We need someone to hold us up and to encourage us to grieve.  To live through the hard parts of life without our loved one.  We need someone to be there for us in those times when we can’t hold ourselves together.  When the memories and the loss are flooding down on us, and we feel like we can’t breathe.  When we don’t know if life will ever feel normal again.  We need to tell our story of loss over and over again.  We especially need someone to listen to our story. To hear our hurt and our pain.  To let us know that there is hope.  To let us know that as life goes on, we should cherish the memories we have and hold onto them.

As Reuben Welch said, “We really do need each other.”

Love one another, as I have loved you.  John 15:12

What Brings Me to Tears

There are certain events and experiences that bring me to tears.  Events that make me proud.  Actions that show respect to power and authority.  Experiences that are personal and meaningful.

I think of a bride.  Walking down the aisle on her father’s arm.  See the white dress.  The bouquet.  The veil.  The vows.  The kiss.  The anticipation of a life together.   The respect of the sanctity of marriage.  My eyes well up with tears.

I hear the national anthem.  The Star Spangled Banner.  I see the flag rise above the crowd.  People stand.  Right hand over their heart.  Pride in our country.  Thankful for freedom.  Respect for the courage of battles fought.   My eyes well up with tears.

I have served on jury duty.  I have been a juror.  People in the court room stand each time the jurors enter and exit the court room.  All conversations and activities cease.  All eyes are on the jury.  The group of twelve who will decide someone’s fate.   They know the power of this group.  They respect the sacrifice the jury is making to perform their civic duty.  The weight of the decision is in their hands.  My eyes well up with tears.

I have driven in a funeral procession.  Loss of a loved one.  Near and dear to my heart. People standing along the street.  They stop and pay respect.  Remove their hats.  Stop mowing their lawn.  Stand still for someone they’ve never met.  Traffic stops and lets the stream of cars interrupt their busy day.  They respect the loss of a loved one.  My eyes well up with tears.

I think of the man who died on the cross.  For me.  For you.  I think of his sacrifice.  He died willingly.  To save every sin everyone born on this earth has ever committed.  So we can enter heaven’s gates. So we can see Him face to face.  His mercy is new every day.  His love and compassion are never ending.  His sacrifice is our eternity.  My eyes well up with tears.

In Christ Alone.