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..
My blog is 7 years old today. I remember when I started it.. I really did not know what a blog was or if I could write anything that people would want to read. So here we are way down the road.. and I am still writing.. and there are some of you who benefit from what I share.. I am thankful to the Lord for providing me with the words and ideas for the last 7 years.
The month of March is significant in many ways.. my dad died 10 years ago this month and I got married on March 30th..15 years ago.. to the love of my life after waiting many years to meet him:) God is so good. My son-in-law’s birthday in March as well. It is a significant time for me.. endings and new beginnings. They always go together.. often things need to end so that new things can begin and it can be painful while it is happening. Steve and I are in a new season right now and the transition has been challenging. After 7 years of job disappointments for both of us and a long period of unemployment.. we are finally in a more stable place. The things I hoped for during that time have not happened.. but God has been sovereign over all of it. He has taken care of us and provided for us during this long pruning season. I look forward to the fruit that will come from this time.
The road of life is unpredictable and uncertain.. we hope for stability and the ability to see way down the road and know we will be safe.. that is natural for us. The truth is this life is not going to provide that.. our certainty and safety is only in the Lord.. not in our circumstances. He leads us and we follow.. knowing that He is ahead preparing things is very reassuring… we are in His hands and He will never forget us. In our world that is shaking daily.. where all the news is bad and frightening.. we have our God and our real life is in His kingdom.. Someday we will experience it fully and the things of this world will fade away.. Right now we can only live a day at a time.. or maybe an hour at a time.. trusting that He is with us and for us!
” Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.”
I cannot remember who first told me that.. but I imagine it was over 30 years ago. I did not understand it the way I do now:) God is at work in every circumstance and will use every single experience for good. Yes, I had trouble with that one ( Romans 8:28) at first, but now.. it is very real to me. Every difficult and challenging trial I’ve experienced has been training for times when I can sit with another person and encourage them.. the reason? The more hard things you go through in life.. the more you have to offer others who are hurting. When people come to me for counseling I often say ” you really cannot shock me because of all the life experiences I have lived through” usually that turns out to be true. God does not waste anything.. He uses it all to help us understand and help others.
It feels really good to realize once again that He is always training me to be more understanding and compassionate. He is preparing me to see into the next broken heart that sits in front of me and needs healing. How does He accomplish that? I am not sure.. I do know that He stretches me and finds those places that need changing and as I agree with Him.. He begins a deeper work of transformation.. It is awesome.
I don’t know about you.. but I want the full measure of life that God has for me ( John 10:10) and I realize that often comes through trials and tests. Somehow we don’t learn as easily when things are going smoothly..in reality that is rare in the life of a Believer. No.. it is not all trials and suffering, but we are never promised an easy life here. What we do have is His promise to be with us.. His Spirit to guide us and strength for the journey.
So if things are difficult right now.. remember He is doing something deep inside your heart.. preparing you for the day when you will share what you have learned with another person.. when you will encourage someone who has a broken heart or is struggling with pain and suffering . You will become a source of life to them.. bringing hope and healing.
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.
This is one of my very favorite scriptures ( from Isaiah 61) Jesus read this in the temple in the book of Luke.. It describes perfectly what He came to do and what He allows us to do with Him.. Amazing!
My last post was a month ago. I wrote on endurance because that was the word that God gave me and it was the process I was in.. learning to endure. I am still in this situation that requires endurance… and since I wrote about it, I experienced the need for it at a deeper level. That is often the way it is.. we can be aware of something that God is teaching us and before we know it.. we are forced to go deeper into the process. So what comes after endurance? I am not sure but my best guess is more endurance..perseverance..trust…faith…longing…doubting..hoping..returning to Him over and over again as things continue to be difficult.
The biggest challenge to me is my own negative thinking.. will God really come through? or will things continue to move in a bad direction.?. in reality sometimes things do get worse before they get better. In the past I have experienced that.. a period when it seems like all is lost and then suddenly God does something unexpected and changes things.. often this happens at what appears to be the last minute.. Who really understands God’s timing anyway? If you were to ask me about my circumstances.. I would say that the last minute has already happened. Apparently that is only my perception and not God’s. He sees the bigger picture that we cannot see and when we feel like we cannot continue.. He enables us to move ahead and to persevere.. in His strength, not our own. He is working deeply in our character.. making us more like Him and removing those things that prevent us from staying on the path.
All of this leads me to believe that we really don’t understand the ways of God. His plan is a mystery and so is His timing. We are to wait and pray and trust even when it seems like all is lost.. I have to admit that I used to think that my most difficult days were behind me.. that this season of my life would be easier than the things that happened when I was younger.. I know better now.. the word easy is not in the Bible and He does not promise us an easy life.. But we are promised an abundant life.. Now there is food for thought.. We are to live fully in the kingdom of God here knowing that someday we will see more clearly.
Eugene Peterson puts it this way in the Message:
“Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.”…….. John 10:10
Today was a day when I heard God whispering… at least that is as close as I can come to describing what happened. It is as though God spoke clearly using only a few words and not really making any sound.. not even a whisper. This has happened to me in the past, but not frequently. I was just getting up and opening the curtains to let the sun shine in. My mornings are somewhat of a battle ground these days.. I can feel worries that were there when I fell asleep creeping back in.. today was different because I heard God say ” enjoy your day.. I am taking care of you” It was as clear as a bell!
I felt a warmth and a sweet presence right there near the window and I knew.. it was the Lord. How I had been longing for a word of comfort from Him.. this has been a very hard season and in truth the last 10 years were incredibly challenging. I have questioned my decisions over and over and wondered if I took a wrong turn or something. I prayed and cried out and it seemed as though God was pretty quiet.. He brought encouragement through the Bible and sermons and other people.. but I needed to know that He was close by.. His words are staying with me and I am clinging to them as I type this.. I knew it was the Spirit of God speaking.. the comforter.. the one who knows exactly what we need.. at the perfect moment He makes sure we know that we are not alone and that He is with us in the trial..we are not forgotten.
I am sharing this with you because I want you to have hope today.. don’t give up even if you have been waiting a very long time. God has heard the cry of your heart and He is taking care of you even if you don’t feel like that is true. Those words He spoke are not only for me.. maybe you need to hear them.. ” enjoy your day, I am taking care of you.” Such simple words but so filled with hope. He wants us to enjoy this life.. in the middle of the storm.. in the midst of uncertainty..when we don’t know what will happen tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year. He is at work in the silence.. in the doubts..in the fear..in the unbelief..these things do not change Him. When it is time.. the season will be over and something new will happen.. He will come for us.. to rescue us and restore us and renew us.
Thank you Lord for speaking to me and my prayer is that you will speak words of comfort and hope to each person who is reading this post. Lift them up on wings of eagles.. carry their burdens.. renew their strength and remind them of your presence..
Here we are again.. can you believe it? Just two more days before 2015 is over. This is a time for looking back and for looking ahead. God gives us this window of time to reflect after the busyness of Christmas and before the beginning of 2016.. For me it is a little more intense than I would like since my birthday is New Years Eve. I literally start a new year of my life when January 1st rolls around. I am reminded of how fast time passes and how long I have lived. When you are young it is easy to look ahead with some excitement.. as you age it is a little scary. My body is wearing out and I am fighting to stay healthy and strong. My grandchildren are growing up and I want to be here as long as I can to see them as adults and hopefully to see their children.
As I look back on 2015 I see moments of great faith and moments of failure. I remember the days when I felt like He was so close I could touch him and I remember the days when I wondered if He even knew I existed. Yet I know that God made me the way I am.. He knows my pain and He appears in the middle of my brokenness to remind me of His sovereignty over my life. I imagine that you can relate to my struggles and I want to encourage you..to remind you that God knows our hearts.. He knows what makes us dance for joy and what breaks our hearts into a million pieces.
Looking back I see things that I am grateful for.. ways that God has moved to change me and to guide me into a deeper place with Him. I see healing in my life and in the lives of those around me. Some of us received gifts that we were waiting for and some of us are still waiting. This morning as I visited with a friend and saw how God was giving her a wonderful blessing that she had been longing for I was struck with a thought that I knew was from Him. He said ” I am in the delays”.. when we wait and pray and hope.. He is in that season with us. We are not forgotten or set aside. He keeps our desires close to His heart and at the right time He delights in surprising us with the very thing we hoped for.
So.. let us enter this new year with confidence in the Living God…our Creator and our Provider. Our hearts can rest in His presence trusting that He will come for us.. He will rescue us.. He will heal us and He will shower us with blessings in 2016.
I love this picture of us… pilgrims on the path following the Lord as He leads us forward. One of my biggest struggles is discerning the path.. probably because I always have ideas and I tend to be impatient. So.. I go back to Him.. praying for direction and when I sense the” peace that passes all understanding”, I know I am on track again.
I don’t tend to share details about my personal life on this blog.. but I thought I would today. Ten years ago my husband and I were living on the campus of Golden Gate Seminary. This week was the beginning of their last year ..the seminary is moving to a huge office building in Ontario, Ca and it will basically become a commuter type campus. This is very different from what it has been here in Marin County. I feel a sense of loss as they move on.. remembering so many things that happened there. Steve and I had a chance to meet and eat lunch with Henry and Marilyn Blackaby. What a wonderful treat God gave us as we got to know this amazing couple.. so humble and fully dedicated to His purposes. We were impacted by that experience in ways I am only now realizing.
For the last nine years..since we moved off campus, we have struggled to stay in our area and to continue to stay on the path that the Lord has for us. I have a small counseling practice and Steve has worked temp jobs. It has been incredibly challenging. During that period, his sister died of pancreatic cancer and my Dad passed away as well. My mother’s money ran out and she lost her sight. These are a few of the losses we have experienced.. there were many more.
We have seen God’s faithfulness over and over.. His deliverance and His provision. We continue to seek Him daily.. asking for guidance and courage to continue. Ten years ago God was preparing us for a journey that we could never have anticipated.. He was asking us to follow Him through jungles, mazes, and dangerous waters.. We went forward with Henry Blackaby to the altar ten years ago and said Yes to Him.. He has tested us and we have come out of the fiery furnace smelling like roses. He is our rock and our sanctuary.. our refuge and our hiding place and we will continue to trust Him with our unknown future.
Do you remember the story in Daniel chapter 3? It is one of my favorites.. The three men in the fire.. showing their trust in God. The king was astounded at their faith…let it be so for us Lord!
“Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.”