If there is one word that continues to haunt me these days.. it is hope. I think for the first time that I can remember as a Believer.. I am struggling to have hope. The world seems like such a mess.. as I write this, fires are still burning in Northern California.. and that is our home. We smelled the smoke and looked at the pictures of homes burning, people dying and there was nothing we could do to stop it. It is heart breaking to see the suffering that is all around us.. the mass slaughter in Las Vegas.. just a week earlier. What is happening Lord? Everything seems to be out of control and there is so much suffering.. In my personal life there have been challenges on a level I have never encountered.. emotional and physical trials..
So as I process all of this.. the word HOPE emerges. We cannot live without it, but it does not come from our circumstances or our surroundings. Our hope .. my hope.. can only be found in the Lord. He is with us and He is unchanging and we are living in a fallen world.. a dark world. All of these tragedies teach us that this world is not going to provide us with security or be our refuge .. it is an unstable place and we are not safe here. I believe that God is taking us deeper.. to a place where our faith truly rests on His goodness. Often that happens when everything else fails.. when all our dreams are broken..when we no longer believe that anything here can save or protect us. The world gets excited when people come together and accomplish good things.. and of course that is encouraging.. but not enough to sustain us through the long years of recovery.. through the grieving process. Once the headlines are gone.. and we go back to our “normal” lives.. there are people who cannot do that and we may forget about them because their pain is not public.. time to pray for them.. to remember them.. because it could have been us.
I am grateful for my life.. grateful that so far we have a roof over our heads .. grateful for the way I see people reaching out to help others.. but what I am the most grateful for is my relationship with the Lord.. for the knowledge that He loves me and is with me no matter what happens next.. He is my safe place and my refuge in the storm.. He is good and we can trust Him when nothing makes sense and when our next trial starts.. Our faithful loving God.. we are blessed.
Hebrews 6:18 in the Message says:
We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus, running on ahead of us, has taken up his permanent post as high priest for us..
A conversation I had with a friend this morning made me think deeply about choices. We have so many of them in this world. Everyday we are choosing without even knowing it. The Lord gave us free will and He gave us a mind. Both of these enable us to choose.. He seems to be very in favor of that or He would not have created us with the ability to choose so freely. I realize that there are people who think we should choose everything that feels good with no regard for anyone else.. I am definitely not in that camp. Then there are those who believe if you do not choose what I choose.. then something is very wrong with you.. not in that camp either. Choices are very serious and they are messy.
What prompted this blog post was the realization that we may have more choices than we realize.. maybe we feel like if we don’t choose wisely right now.. this could be our last chance. While I realize that there are grave consequences to choices made lightly without careful prayer and seeking God’s best.. I also know we are serve a God of second chances. third chances etc. Basically we cannot run out of chances with Him. So how do we navigate this road which often feels like it is full of potholes? I can’t claim to have all the answers.. but I do know that we live in a world where the Lord is constantly redeeming things. I also know that so many of the heroes of the Bible did really unbelievable things.. in fact if we were in charge we might say to them.. ” that is it.. no more chances.” Fortunately we are not in charge and that is not how God sees things.. He does not run out of grace and mercy.. even we take a wrong turn He will steer us back in the right direction.
So choosing is an awesome responsibility .. God knows that through our choices we will see Him more clearly.. even the bad choices. He knows that we will learn to seek Him more deeply as we choose.. if we desire to follow Him throughout our lives and He does not have a list of consequences we can read before we decide. Choices are deeply entrenched into our life.. we are walking by faith and not by sight. Choices tell the Lord we trust Him even if everyone around us thinks we are crazy.. Choices knit us to Him in a way that rules and regulations never will. We are given freedom.. lots of it.
Really the only thing we can do is pray and seek Him and ask Him to stop us when we are moving in the wrong direction. Then we can shut out of the voices of well-meaning people or how- to books and leap ahead in the direction that is right for us. Once we realize that if we fall He will catch us.. We can ask for courage and turn away from fear as we move forward..
I hope this year is one filled with hope for you as we move into 2017.. may you choose wisely as you follow our amazing God.
If you wander from the right path, either to the right or to the left, you will hear a voice behind you saying, “You should go this way. Here is the right way.” ( Isaiah 30:21)
For the last few days I’ve been aware of this sense that I need to tell my story.. I used to do this when I had the opportunity to do it in women’s groups. Those seem to be gone, yet I still need to tell my story … I know that other people’s stories bring me such encouragement. So.. the last ten years have been extremely challenging.. I graduated from Seminary in 2006 and started my counseling practice that same year. My prayer was that the Lord would provide through my husband Steve. I knew the counseling was more a ministry than a business and I was hoping for a release from financial problems. That really never happened.
Steve has worked.. but all the jobs have been temporary and even those opportunities dried up. The country went into a recession and he got older. We have been in this unemployment prison for over 3 years and there is no release date posted.. God is keeping that to himself at the moment. It has been extremely difficult. We have been hopeful and then the hope was gone.. like a roller coaster ride of emotions. I am facing another birthday next month and wondering how we will make it through the rest of our lives. We have no house to lose or any savings to lose.. maybe that is better than watching everything disappear. It is lonely and I never expected these years to present this type of challenge. The uncertainty is huge and unfortunately it triggers lots of fears and insecurities.
But.. God is in this.. He is allowing it.. He knows all about it and it is not punishment or abandonment. I have been able to work for this entire time.. I learned that He is my source.. I can only do counseling because His spirit is in me and guides me. We are still married and even though we have arguments..they never last long. My own emotions have been hard to manage.. but my husband is very forgiving and loving. I have been blessed.. watching him continue to try for jobs week after week.. to remain hopeful month after month. His unconditional love for me when I have been angry and frustrated has been amazing. Our marriage is stronger.. our faith is stronger. We are relying totally on the goodness of God as this trial continues.
Life does not always turn out the way we want it to.. there are many surprises and disappointments. God is the same no matter what happens. He is good and He is faithful. He does not leave us or forget us. Our only hope is in Him.. trials remind us that there is no where else to go. We cannot lose Him even if we lose everything else.
This morning God reminded me of this scripture from 2nd Chronicles… it is a favorite.
“But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the LORD’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the LORD is with you!”
This is the word that keeps coming to mind “This is my command–be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” I hear this verse in my head and believe that it is His word to us in these times.
The world does not feel like a safe place. We have access to so much bad news and we hear about tragedy that we never imagined could happen. Our hearts are heavy as we look around and realize there is so much we cannot change in our own lives and the lives of others. At the same time, there are things that we can do and they often take courage. It is surprising how much courage is involved in our decisions. Just stop and think about something that you want to do, but somehow fear is keeping you from moving forward. What do you need ” courage “and God wants to give it to you. If His command is to be strong and courageous then we have to trust Him to provide strength and courage.
Courage often means stepping out and making a decision that others think is foolish. God may be calling you to do something they cannot understand. He is asking you to follow him and not the voice of reason or logic. He is asking you to do something that only you know is from Him. He is leading you down a road that no one sees except you. Often He leads us forward into a new adventure and it looks crazy to other people. At times He tells us to stand still and wait ..that may look even more crazy to others. In our culture waiting and standing still patiently are not very popular. In the kingdom of God it is the opposite. “Now stand here and see the great thing the LORD is about to do.”
Are you struggling with circumstances that make no sense? Are there things in your life that you never anticipated? Are there more questions than answers? If so, then you are not alone. Many of us are in the same situation and God is with us. He is asking us to trust Him. He is growing our faith and He is deepening our relationship with Him. He is our shelter in the storm.. our safe haven. Let’s pray for strength and courage and trust that He is more than willing to give it to us.
I love the movie ” Finding Nemo” because it is all about courage. Remember this part?
I promised I’d never let anything happen to him.
Hmm. That’s a funny thing to promise.
Well you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him.
It makes sense doesn’t it. Courage involves risk and without risk life is not worth living..
Today I was realizing in a new way that God is truly ahead of us on the road of life. He is paving the way for us and He knows exactly what will happen to us and when. His perfect plan is unfolding a day at a time and He continues to lead us as long as we want to follow Him and trust Him with all our doubts and fears.
These worries and anxieties spring from our desire to be in control and to understand the way God does things..something that is impossible. He tells us that “his ways are not ours.” Yet we continue to use our finite minds to understand the finite. We can’t do it.
So as we follow Him and He asks us to do things that seem risky, we can remember that it is part of the larger story that God is writing for our lives. He doesn’t explain why to us..He asks us to follow His lead and to join Him in what He is doing. Later He may reveal how it all fits together in ways we could never imagine.
I have developed a fondness for the mystery of our faith. When God gives me even tiny glimpses of how all of our stories intersect and the great plan He has for each of us.. I find myself amazed over and over again.
Our great God has everything under control..our part is to trust and obey. To seek Him and to believe in His goodness even when we see through a glass darkly. He will not fail or abandon us. He is for us and with us during every dark season and promises to bring us out into the light again.
Live fully today trusting Him to unfold your future..He is already there.
“I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.” Isaiah 58:11
False evidence appearing real. I found this to be very helpful in conquering fear. In fact I had it on my wall for a while.. to remind myself of that truth. We often choose to stay in fear because it seems to be so real and so threatening. It keeps us from taking risks.. from moving forward into unknown territory. It is a good tool of the enemy to keep us in bondage.
If you remember the story of the Israelites in the wilderness.. it was fear that kept many of them out of the land of Canaan..fear and unbelief made them wander for another 40 years before they could enter the land. In fact all the spies that gave a bad report..those who failed to trust that God was their defender.. never lived to see the land of milk and honey again. God blessed Joshua and Caleb (the only two spies who believed Him) with a wonderful assignment. They were to enter the promised land claim it for the glory of God.
Nothing much has changed since that time. We still encounter giants in the land..we still refuse to believe God.. and some of us die without receiving the blessings God has prepared for us.
So..remember what fear really is. Don’t look at the giants and don’t believe bad reports that say God will not or cannot do what He says He will do. Take risks with Him..go forward with Him..trust in His goodness. Let’s enter that promised land that He has prepared for us.. the land of milk and honey. In that land we are sure to find both the abundant life and streams of living water. What more could we want?
“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
It’s really the bigger picture. Since I am a big picture person, my heart longs for this. I’m always looking for patterns and signs that more is going on than what meets the eye. God never fails to give me what I am longing for. He is more than willing to expand our vision..to reveal things that we could never see without Him.
A key for me is being alone and being quiet. Sometimes I wake up at night and suddenly I see a situation in a new way. God is always looking for those windows in our lives that will allow Him to communicate truth to us. Our world is addicted to activity..God is not. If you look at the gospels, Jesus often found solitary places away from the crowds..time to receive from His Father. He modeled something important for us..something very counter-cultural.
The Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts in a quiet voice..it doesn’t take much to miss it. At the same time He is eager to reach us..it doesn’t take much to receive from Him. Setting aside time.. with no agenda..no preconceived ideas.. an open heart..a quiet place..a willingness to wait. Try this on a regular basis and you will be surprised at how much bigger the story gets. It is an antidote to worry and anxiety. Our small stories are often filled with fear and unhappy endings. His story is filled with good desires, hope, promises, and an amazing ending!
“With many stories like these, he presented his message to them, fitting the stories to their experience and maturity. He was never without a story when he spoke. When he was alone with his disciples, he went over everything, sorting out the tangles, untying the knots.”