“All You Need Is Love”

(1 Corinthians 13: 12-13, The Message) 12 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! 13 But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

I have always been intrigued by fog. I think it is beautiful, mysterious, and somewhat scary. It isn’t inherently dangerous — it’s just mist — yet it can pose a threat to those of us who pass through it without caution. This is the world in which we are presently living — it’s a fog. Our world is beautiful to look upon. It is a magnificent wonder, created by God for a specific function. It was never meant for our harm, yet it has become harmful because we have chosen to walk through our lives without thinking. We have thrown caution to the proverbial wind! Our lives, this world, even God Himself, are all mysteries that are gradually revealed as we navigate through it all. Yes, we are surely “peering through a mist,” but we aren’t blind…at least, we don’t have to be blind. We just have to slow down and think, pray, consider and observe. Eventually, the fog will lift. The sun will shine. Things will become clear. One day, we will have all of the answers. But…yes, BUT…until then, we must use caution — caution in our decisions, caution before we speak — because we have an enemy who is laying low, waiting for us to trip and fall. He wants us vulnerable and weak — easy prey.

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

It is when we become distracted, when we are not careful, that we fall, and we allow ourselves to believe that we are alone, left out in the fog, lost and afraid.

“Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing, Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness; So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another, Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Tales of a Wayside Inn

Such a sad insight into the loneliness that life can impose upon us. The thought that we are like ships in the night — in a dense fog — passing right on by one another. We are all in the same situation, just trying to navigate through the fog and darkness, through the pain and heartache. We are operating under the pretense that we are alone, yet here we all are…just a whisper away…close enough to touch. Yet if we are not cautious, we either collide or simply drift past one another. We become reduced to mere hazards and missed opportunities.

In this fog we are not left on our own. We may feel lost at times, but we must continue to trust God. He is our hope, anchoring us when we need to stop for a bit and think. “This certain hope of being saved is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls, connecting us with God himself…” (Hebrews 6:19). Above all else, He is love and therefore our inspiration to reach out to and love others. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) Nothing else that we do will ever matter without love.

In the density of life as we know it, let us remember that God is with us, and that we also have one another. We do not have to lose heart in rough conditions. We can choose to look toward the light of Christ in each of us. We can allow the love of God to penetrate the fog, so that we may see one another as allies, rather than happening upon one another in collisions of disagreement and opinion-driven anger. We can, and should, choose caution when we speak and act, using love as our guide, so that we can minimize damage and loss as we all try to just get through this mess. Then, when the fog lifts, we can be proud of what is revealed.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we need You more than ever, but help us to remember that we also need one another. Help us to LOVE, for LOVE is what You have commanded us to do…NO MATTER WHAT. Without it, we are just a bunch of annoying, dissonant sounds. Help us to instead be pleasing to Your ears. Amen.

“And the ground began to shake…”

(Matthew 28:7, The Message) “Now, get on your way quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He is risen from the dead. He is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.’ That’s the message.”

“That’s the message,” the angel said.  Such a simple message to relay, yet it was the first act of our most important role as followers of Christ…our Great Commission.  It’s why we live and breath.  And this message is a three-fold message of hope.

  1. “He is risen from the dead.” — Without the resurrection, God’s promise to us would not be complete.  Now, because Christ lives, we are in covenant with God our Father who has faithfully fulfilled His end of the deal.  Our hope is in this great and final victory over sin and death.  1 Corinthians 15: 55-57 reminds us: 55 “Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
  2.  “He is going on ahead of you to Galilee.” — Oh man I love this!  Yes, this was a message for the disciples who would be heading to Galilee, but…Galilee was Jesus’ home!  This is our hope…that our Lord Jesus is going ahead of us…preparing a place for us…in His home…our home…Heaven!!  (John 14:3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  And further still, we have hope in knowing that every path we take has been scouted out.  He has gone before us, and He sticks by our side…every single step of the way.  (Deuteronomy 31:8) The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
  3. “You will see Him there.” — This is our hope…our reward…that we will one day look upon the face of Christ.  We will see Him there.  Where?  Revelation 1:7 promises us:  “Riding the clouds, he’ll be seen by every eye…”  Whether your soul is at rest or still within your body doing work…no matter what you’re up to…every eye will see Him — face to face.  One of my favorite songs paints the picture so beautifully. 

“We Shall Behold Him”

The sky shall unfold

Preparing His entrance

The stars shall applaud Him

With thunders of praise

The sweet light in His eyes, shall enhance those awaiting

And we shall behold Him, then face to face

O we shall behold Him, we shall behold Him

Face to face in all of His glory

O we shall behold Him, yes we shall behold Him

Face to face, our Savior and Lord

The angel will sound, the shout of His coming

And the sleeping shall rise, from their slumbering place

And those remaining, shall be changed in a moment

And we shall behold him, then face to face.

And that, my friends, is the message:  He rose from the dead, He’s gone before us, and we will see Him there.  That’s our hope…a hope we so desperately need, as we are living in a world where evil is so common, so rampant, and so accepted.  We…have…hope! 

(Hebrews 6:18-20, The Message) 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…

But it doesn’t end with our comfort in knowing we have hope, because (like Mary and Mary at the tomb) we have been instructed to go quickly and share our message of hope.  We are His ambassadors to the world.

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18-20)

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, thank you for hope.  Through your word I am given every bit of strength, knowledge, wisdom and truth that I need to fulfill my end of the deal.  Until I see your face, I know that I have a job to do.  Help me to do it gracefully, boldly, and with the love and authority you have placed within me.  Amen.

“I Will Rise”

(Job 23: 13-14, The Message) “But he is singular and sovereign. Who can argue with him?  He does what he wants, when he wants to.  He’ll complete in detail what he’s decided about me, and whatever else he determines to do.”


I hear ya, Job. 

A few years back, this was where I seemed to be lingering.  I was going through a very tough period in my life.  I had lost one of my grandfathers to Alzheimer’s Disease, one of my grandmothers was placed in a nursing home due to the same condition, my other grandmother passed away after 3 years of suffering the aftereffects of a severe stroke, and my dad was also diagnosed with early onset, rapidly progressing Alzheimer’s…as well as another type of dementia.  This all took place in a matter of months.  My inner strength was already faltering due to miscarriages and negative reports from my doctor about the condition of my reproductive system, so when the bad news just continued to pour in, I pumped the brakes and literally said to God, “What in the world??”  I was in every kind of pain…physical, emotional, spiritual and mental.  I spent a lot of time crying…just spells of hard sobs that came from a deep place of anguish…and when the crying finally ceased, I fell numb.  One day I looked at my husband and I said, “I have stopped asking God for anything.  He just does what He wants, so why even ask anymore?”  I meant it too.  I hadn’t stopped believing, or praying even…I still spoke to God regularly.  In my hurt and sorrow I would sing, “Peace, peace, wonderful peace.  Coming down from the Father above.  Sweep over my spirit, forever I pray, in fathomless billows of love.”  I would tell God how much I hurt, and I wasn’t mad…just broken and defeated.  I was absolutely in a Job-like place. 

We are human, so we get into funks like that.  We want answers and resolutions.  We get very involved in the flesh and as a result our requests become centered around our own desires and ideas of what we think is best.  Our understanding is very limited and small in comparison to God’s omniscience, so it’s extremely difficult for us to see the master plan beyond what we are experiencing.  We are blind in many ways, and instead of trusting our guide, we instead try to feel our way around.  Then we get angry or upset when we bump into things and get hurt!  So what do we do then?  We just stand there in the safest spot we can find, still and useless…and pouty. 

Well I got tired of being the useless and pouty believer, just taking up space and fulfilling obligations.  I had to trust my guide, because standing still was making me crazy!  I thought I knew what was best and I was wrong…it was time to accept that.  In my human brain I thought things like, “How can Alzheimer’s be in God’s plan for someone’s life?”  Yet in my spirit, the Lord began to whisper His truths, the truths of His word, and it was brining me back to life.

8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.

    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.

9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,

    so my ways are higher than your ways

    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. 

(Isaiah 55: 8-9, The Message)

The truth is, we do not always know what He is doing through these things that happen…you know, the things we just don’t understand.  However, as hard as it is at times to walk in faith, there is peace when we trust Him.  Romans 15: 13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  We are not promised understanding; we are entitled to nothing.  Our faith is a work in progress, but it begins with trust.  Without that, our faith is dead.  In these days, which are likely the last, we are being watched by the world.  Our actions, reactions, and all of the words we speak in faith are being observed.  Let us be ever mindful that what we say we believe is what we must live

(Hebrews 12: 1-4) 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.


Prayer:  Heavenly Father, when I hurt, help me to remember that You have suffered the greatest anguish.  Help me to trust You, always, so that I live a life of joy and peace…reflecting Your strength and love to the world.  Amen.

“Promises, Promises”

(Psalm 119:147-148) 147 I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. 148 My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.

When the weight of life begins to fall
On the name of Jesus I will call
For I know my God is in control
And His purpose is unshakeable
Doesn’t matter what I feel
Doesn’t matter what I see
My hope will always be
Your promises to me.
– “Your Promises” by Elevation Worship

Because of humanity, because we are a mess, because of SIN…life is a guaranteed trial.  I don’t care what you say, who you are, or what you do…your life will not always be easy.  It just won’t!  We’ve been given many promises by God, and no, that’s not one of them…it’s just a consequence that we must endure for a time.  Into our lives, sin brings chaos and hurt, and there’s no stopping it sometimes, but as children of God we have been given all of the wisdom, power and authority needed to rise above. 

In every situation we have hope, but the thing about hope is that you have to take ownership of it and once it is claimed you then have to decide where to place it.  You can place it in other people, you can place it in your career, you can place it in your church and all of the “good” things that you do to support it, but none of the above will ever hold out for long.  People fail us, jobs and careers can be lost, and yes even churches fall apart.  Do as you wish, but there is only one placement for your hope that is sure to stand above the waters and that is God’s word. 

As a believer you lay claim on His word, by your faith, that it is true.  So…when you read it and meditate on it, you are ingesting THE TRUTH.  God’s word is filled with many things, all of which benefit our walks through life in some way, and every word is perfect and established.  Therefore, we have what we need in order to pilot our way through this expedition.  Through His word we have our history (which gives us His plan), we are given our commission (which is our purpose), and we have access to the countless promises from God (which give us HOPE). 

Without hope, purpose and plan fall apart.  2 Peter 1: 3-4 tells us, “3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” When we are able to place our hope in the promises, the “very great and precious promises” of God, we are empowered to fulfill the purpose and the plan set before us from the beginning. 

Gaining access to these promises does, however, require something from you.  It requires discipline.  You will have to read, you will have to meditate, you will have to actually CONVERSE with God, and you will have to make time for these things.  Yes, it is all easily accessible, but acquiring strength in spirit is a lot like building physical strength…you have to put in work.  It is a commitment, and what we all eventually learn about commitment is that sometimes it just doesn’t matter how you are feeling at the moment, or how things look through your natural eyes, because the foundation of a covenant is the promises that were made.  When the anxieties, hurts, and disturbances of life make you feel things that are contrary to the truth, if you will go back to the Word…to His promises…you will find that your Heavenly Father is deeply committed to loving you, blessing you, and ensuring that you fulfill your purpose. 

(Jeremiah 29: 11-14) 11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for the hope that is found in Your word.  Help me to remember it when my feelings take charge and my sight is skewed, so that I do not hinder my role in Your purpose and plan.  Give me strength to be more disciplined in my pursuit of You and my commitment to Your will.  Amen.

“I Will Trust in You!”

(Psalm 105:39-41) 39 He spread out a cloud as a covering, and a fire to give light at night. 40 They asked, and he brought them quail; he fed them well with the bread of heaven. 41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out; it flowed like a river in the desert.


For the lonely, for the lost; when you struggle to believe; when you feel forgotten, discouraged and defeated; when your money’s run out and your hope is spent…

For the childless woman with a mother’s heart, for the widow, for the bereaved; when you wonder why; when sadness overwhelms your heart…

For the broken family, for the abused and neglected; when you’re numb and your faith is dead; when guilt and shame have crushed your spirit…

(Psalm 139: 1-5) 1 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. 5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.

…the Lord knows.

Sometimes you have to take a look in the rearview mirror, to gain some retrospective.  I’m sure if you were to ask the Israelites in the midst of their journey through the wilderness how they felt about life, they probably wouldn’t have had much positive feedback.  They were, in fact, dealing with crisis after crisis, misery upon misery (or so it seemed to them).  When their exodus began, they were exhilarated by their deliverance and the miracles they had seen take place in order to set them free.  They set out toward the promised land much like a child sets out on a foot race…full speed ahead.  However, we all know what eventually happens to that eager runner.  Thirst, exhaustion, discouragement and frustration all seem to set in at once.  That’s when he is faced with the choice to either dread the long road ahead and quit, or to look back on what he has conquered thus far and finish what he started. 

For the Israelites, there were MANY stops and starts as they navigated their way toward something that, at times, I’m sure was hard to believe or trust.  Looking forward, it had to be unsettling to see no end to the struggles.  Thousands of years later, here we are, children of God, dealing with the same issue.  Because we are human, because our vision is limited and we cannot see the entire scope of what God is doing in our lives, we have to depend on our faith to keep us moving.  Looking back on the trials, the Israelites were able to recount what the Lord had done to sustain them. 

A good friend once told me to record my prayers (both great and small) in a journal and to go back after a year or so and allow myself to be encouraged and amazed at just how many of them were answered.  It doesn’t happen, rarely ever, the way that we would have imagined or hoped for it to…the answer, I mean…because you know what?  Sometimes the answer is a no, or the dreaded, “we’ll see.”  In our impatience and petulance, instead of forging on in faith, trusting the Creator of the world, we let our human”ness” bring us to a halt. 

In our loneliness we say, “I’m forgotten.” 

In our financial distress we declare, “This is hopeless.”

In our loss we cry out, “I can’t go on!”

In our shame we whisper, “I’m worthless.” 

But the word of the Lord says this:  16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4: 16-18)


Prayer:  Heavenly Father, when I look back on my life I see Your hand in all things, the joy and pain alike, and because of Your faithfulness I will continue to trust in You.  Amen. 

Search and Rescue

John 3:16-17- For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.

 

Aren’t you grateful for God’s goodness and mercy? His forgiving nature? His unconditional love?

I don’t know where I’d be without it! He is gracious to me in the moments I deserve it least of all. When I stumble, He gently picks me up. When I stop moving because I fear the unknown, He takes my hand and walks along beside me. He knows just what I need when I need it, and never does anything to hurt me. Even His rebukes are soft and kind. There’s no better friend, deeper love, or genuine forgiveness in all the world; we need to spread that around!

So many areas in life are readily available to reveal to us our shortcomings and failures.There are plenty of people around that will somehow remind us of how we don’t measure up to their expectations. We’ll discover things about ourselves that we don’t care for on the regular. Am I right?

See… we’re all the same in that aspect.  We need encouragement. Understanding. Patience. Love. Relationship. Kindness. Purpose. As growing Christians, we have to be careful that we don’t focus on the “do’s and don’t’s” when communicating with the world. They need to hear about “Who and what’s.” –  Who loves them immensely, and what He did/does to prove that each day.

I discovered a few years back how quick I was to jump on a bandwagon when it came to “standing for truth.” Now, don’t get me wrong- I still VERY much believe in doing that. However, I remember hearing a pastor say this once, and it struck a chord with me, “When you want to say something, you probably shouldn’t; when you don’t want to, you probably should.”

Our flesh likes to jump on in there and put someone in their place when they’re doing something we have no problem with. There’s a sense of self-righteousness that kicks in and we can wrongfully justify that by telling ourselves we’re “witnessing.” But, go back and read the two verses at the top of this page… God so loved the world that He gave what was most precious and perfect to Him. And He did that, NOT to condemn the world… (Condemn- express complete disapproval, typically in public; censure; sentence to a particular punishment, etc.) but that the world might be saved through Him.

We all know there are consequences to sin. There is punishment. But, there is hope! There is salvation! That should be our focus, shouldn’t it? Of course! That’s the focus of the very One Who came with the power to accomplish such redemption! (Matthew 18:12- For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.)

If we could imagine but for a moment, a traveler lost in the wilderness- He took a wrong turn, made a couple careless decisions, ended up on a trail never intended to be walked. He’s scared. He’s cold. He’s hungry. He’s alone. He’s angry with himself. “What if’s,” “how come’s,” and “if only’s” torment his mind. For days he battles harsh temperatures and uncomfortable scenarios. He cries out for help. Screams in agony at the thought of never finding his way to safety and comfort.

Then, all of a sudden, out in the distance he hears a faint sound. He stands motionless and strains to listen again. There it is, a little closer. He realizes it’s a group of voices calling out to him. Someone has come to lead him out of this mess! He yells, “Here I am! Over here!” and within minutes he is surrounded by those sent to find him.

What do you think he’s needing right now? Does he need to be reminded of how foolish it was to wander off on his own? Should he be scolded? Belittled? Left alone? Absolutely not. He should be welcomed. Hugged. Provided warmth, consideration, empathy, and assistance. Most likely, he’s learned his lesson and is just grateful someone was sent at the right time to lead him out of the mess he got himself into.

The “world” is the same. They’re lost. Whether they fully know that yet or not, they know something is off. When we, “the search and rescue team,” if you will is sent to them, we need to offer them the resources that will help them and heal them. God loves them. He doesn’t want to condemn them. He wants to save them.

We’re here to tell them that.

 

Prayer: Lord, thank You for saving me! Thank You for loving me! Give me patience and compassion for all those surrounding me. Help me shine the light of Your love and salvation each day that I live. May everyone I encounter sense Your presence in my life and come to know You. Give me boldness, courage, and reminders to speak of the hope only You can give. In Your name, amen.

 

“Hope is the thing with feathers…”

(Romans 1:17, CEV) The good news tells how God accepts everyone who has faith, but only those who have faith. It is just as the Scriptures say, “The people God accepts because of their faith will live.”

A general definition of the word faith is, “complete trust or confidence in someone or something.”  Faith is not simply believing — it is a complete, active, ongoing involvement with God.  When we have faith in Him, we are choosing to stay connected to what we know to be true, rather than simply going on what we feel in the moment, and taking ourselves beyond what we can see (which, honestly, isn’t always a whole lot).  Faith requires something from us, and given our selfish natures, we aren’t always willing to comply. 

There have been countless times in my life when my faith has been tested.  A natural worrier, and somewhat of a skeptic, I have found myself confronted with genuine hurts and distrust in God’s process.  I have never once doubted His existence, because I’ve felt His presence too often to ever deny that He is real, but I have had my days where I struggled to hope in Him.  Looking back on those moments in my life when I was not fully trusting God, I don’t think I realized that my loss of hope was indeed a lack of faith.  But…that’s what it was.  Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see.” 

When I was pregnant with my son, Ben, before I ever even knew that I was having a son, I held a secret hope within my heart — I wanted a red-haired, blue-eyed, boy.  I don’t know why.  It just came to me one day, clearly, that this was what I hoped for in my child.  So, it was no surprise to me when we found out that it was a boy, and even less of a surprise when the labor and delivery nurse said to us, “I see red hair!”  I guess I just always knew, and part of that knowing was trusting God’s strange, yet fascinating ways, and having an understanding of His love for me.  I didn’t know then that I would have only one child.  I didn’t know then, of the deep heartache that would be soothed by this simple fact — that God loved me enough to give to me so precious a gift…my made-to-order, one and only, boy.  This seemingly small thing has carried me through to the other side of many heartaches, much depression, and a whole lot of loneliness — all of which come with the letdown that is infertility and pregnancy loss.  This one thing taught me to trust the process…no matter how difficult it gets.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

-Emily Dickinson

Hope truly is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.  It lingers, like a mother bird on her eggs, never giving up — through rain and wind — fighting off predators…her wings a protection and covering over what she cherishes more than anything else.  Our dreams, our plans, our desires…they must all be sheltered under the covering of our hope, which only comes from Christ…and that hope is born from our faith in God.

Faith is no simple feat.  It is linked directly to our abilities to love God when we are hurt with Him, and to hope in Him when we can’t see the reasons or the outcome.  It is reaching out in the darkness, fully trusting that His hand is there to hold.  It is found in the remembrance of the victories and glories of the past, and knowing that through every single bit of it God hasn’t changed.  It is in these things that our faith is found, strengthened, and renewed. 

(Romans 10:17)  So faith comes from hearing, that is, hearing the Good News about Christ.

So you see, it all comes back to Christ — to the Good News that God so loved…SOOOOO loved…the world!  What more could He give?  What more could we ever ask?  And all that He asks in return is that we have complete confidence in Him.  And the reward?  We are welcomed and accepted into God’s favor as His beloved.  From grace to grace, and glory to glory, we have eternal hope.  Because we have chosen to have faith, we walk through every part of our lives as His own — with hope as our trustworthy anchor, holding us fast to the truth of God’s word and the Good News of Christ. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, when my faith is shaken and tested, help me to remember that I can trust You.  When my heart is broken, help me to remember that I can trust You.  When I don’t understand, help me to remember that I can trust You.  And I will praise You through it all.  And I will love You through it all.  Because I choose faith.  Amen.

“I Have to Believe”

(Psalm 77:19, NLT)

Your road led through the sea,

    your pathway through the mighty waters—

    a pathway no one knew was there!

“You either believe it, or you don’t.”  This was often my dad’s response when I would come to him with my deep, brooding questions about the Bible.  He would offer to me his explanations and wisdom, based on God’s word, and when I’d just stare back at him, both of us unblinking for long moments while I mulled it over — passing it all through the filter of my skepticism — he would eventually break the silence by saying, “Well honey, you either believe it…or you don’t!” 

When you’re tiptoeing through the hardest parts of your life, not knowing what to do next or how you’re going to make it through, it can be nearly impossible to truly trust God.  In the moment, when everything is fresh and the stress of it all is what fills your mind every waking moment, you can’t see anything except for your struggle.  This is the point when you have to get out of your feelings and let wisdom lead you into understanding.  You have to look to the things that confirm God’s faithfulness, because that is how your faith and hope in Him are reinforced.  So look back.  Look at God’s word and the many accounts of God’s provision and goodness to His people.  Think of the Israelites, of the many times that they were destitute and helpless, due to their own blindness and immorality — yet God still had mercy on them, and through His divine lovingkindness, His power and His might, He saw them through it all…parting and drying up waters for their safe passages, sending sustenance from Heaven when they were hungry, defeating entire armies before they ever had to raise even one sword in battle!  The list truly does go on.  So look back.  Look at your own life and remember the times that He has sustained you when nothing and no one else could — even when you did not deserve it! 

For people, having faith can be difficult, because we are so limited by our humanity — by sin, selfishness, confusion, emotions.  This is why we have God’s word.  It guides and directs us when we feel lost.  It is a reminder to us of His omnipotence…His divine power.  The Israelites did not always trust God, and they always paid a tremendous price for it.  They made things so much harder on themselves than they had to be, because they simply got stuck in the moment.  Don’t make those same mistakes in your life.  Don’t allow circumstance to dictate your faith.  Instead, look back.  Remember His goodness and let it build your faith and garner hope.  Remember that your hard times are often pathways that are leading you into a new season — a pathway no one knew was there! God is brilliant in so many ways, showing off His glory and allowing us to see Him in all of His majesty, but remember that He is always working behind the scenes in our lives.  We cannot always see things the way that God does, fully and entirely, but we can and should place our faith and hope in Him.  Give Him the credit He is due…and trust Him.  Like my dad always said, “You either believe it…or you don’t!”

(Psalm 77:11-12, NLT)

11 But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;

    I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.

12 They are constantly in my thoughts.

    I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, I choose to trust You…NO MATTER WHAT.  I realize that I am limited, but in You I have the strength that I need to carry on when things are hard.  I look back on my life and remember the many times that You have carried me, and I know that I am safe with You.  I am covered.  I have hope.  So I trust you, Lord.  In all things, through all things, I trust YOU.  Amen.

“Be Still, My Soul”

(Psalm 62: 5)

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,

    for my hope is in Him.

Noise seems to be a way of life these days.  We are quite the chatty society, I must say.  Everyone has a remedy, an opinion — always something to voice.  We stand at the ready to defend and argue our points of view, and we have grown so accustomed to this way of life that we don’t know how to be quiet anymore.  Silence is now so foreign to us that it makes us feel awkward, afraid, and wary.  There is no noise, so there must be something wrong…

Have you ever been in the waiting room of a hospital?  Maybe you’ve sat there waiting for the birth of a child, or maybe you’ve paced the floor while someone that you care for was in surgery or in the emergency room.  No matter the situation, if you’ve been there in one of those waiting rooms, then you know that it can be a very long and agonizing experience.  You just want to know what is happening, how your loved one is faring, and what the outcome will be when it’s all finished.  All of the thinking and worrying often lends to an even longer time-frame, or so it often feels, and what do we do when we are nervous and waiting?  We get noisy.  Very rarely have I been in a waiting room that was completely silent.  There is usually a television playing quietly in a corner.  People are either laughing, crying, chatting nervously, or some combination of the like.  The truth is that our inner noise almost always translates into outer noise.  We seem to know no other way of coping with the uneasiness that comes when we have to wait. 

However, there are times in life when we have to go against the grain of what feels natural to us.  It may feel like the logical thing for us to spend our prayer time speaking to (and sometimes at) God, but there is most assuredly a time for silence.  One of my most cherished passages of scripture is Ecclesiastes 3, which tells us that there is a time and a season for every concern of our lives — even silence. 

1 For everything there is a season,

    a time for every activity under heaven.

2 A time to be born and a time to die.

    A time to plant and a time to harvest.

3 A time to kill and a time to heal.

    A time to tear down and a time to build up.

4 A time to cry and a time to laugh.

    A time to grieve and a time to dance.

5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.

    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

6 A time to search and a time to quit searching.

    A time to keep and a time to throw away.

7 A time to tear and a time to mend.

    A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

8 A time to love and a time to hate.

    A time for war and a time for peace.

Finding the discipline within ourselves to hold back our sentiments and musings, to just be silent and still, can sometimes feel impossible.  We get caught in the cyclone of thoughts and emotions that hits us when we let our thoughts run wild, and instead of holding onto the anchor of God’s truth, our HOPE, we let go and let the storm fling us around among the noise — our noise — until we land in a heap, still bewildered, still waiting.  Holding onto Him can be hard for us, because we forget that our strength comes from listening to Him, and that listening is much more than just being silent on the outside.  We have to quiet the inner tempest as well.  Every part of us has to submit to the calm and hush.

…all that I am…

It is in these moments when we are truly quiet, truly trusting in Him, earnestly and actively seeking His voice, that we find our hope — our peace.  Silence is more than just being quiet.  It is fully surrendering every part of ourselves, from the inner workings of our minds to the outer manifestations of what we reveal to the world.  He sees it all, He wants it all, and He waits for us to trust Him enough to take the time to hear Him. 

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me.  (John 10: 27-28)

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, part of being human is that we sometimes go with the way of the world, rather than relying on Your voice.  But…Your word says to trust You with all of my heart and to never lean on my own understanding — my own ways.  So help me, Father.  Help me to listen to and know Your voice.  Give me the patience and the diligence to just be silent in Your presence, so that I can follow You, holding tightly, with my all, to Your hope.  Amen. 

“Call Me Ishmael”

(Genesis 21: 8-18, NLT)  8 When Isaac grew up and was about to be weaned, Abraham prepared a huge feast to celebrate the occasion. 9 But Sarah saw Ishmael—the son of Abraham and her Egyptian servant Hagar—making fun of her son, Isaac. 10 So she turned to Abraham and demanded, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son. He is not going to share the inheritance with my son, Isaac. I won’t have it!”

11 This upset Abraham very much because Ishmael was his son. 12 But God told Abraham, “Do not be upset over the boy and your servant. Do whatever Sarah tells you, for Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted. 13 But I will also make a nation of the descendants of Hagar’s son because he is your son, too.”

14 So Abraham got up early the next morning, prepared food and a container of water, and strapped them on Hagar’s shoulders. Then he sent her away with their son, and she wandered aimlessly in the wilderness of Beersheba.

15 When the water was gone, she put the boy in the shade of a bush. 16 Then she went and sat down by herself about a hundred yards away. “I don’t want to watch the boy die,” she said, as she burst into tears.

17 But God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, “Hagar, what’s wrong? Do not be afraid! God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Go to him and comfort him, for I will make a great nation from his descendants.”

Did you ever feel like God is doing so much for everyone else…people all around you are buying houses, getting promotions, getting married, having babies, buying new cars, and going on vacations…meanwhile you’re over here scraping the bottom of the barrel, lonely, and standing by, just waiting for your blessing?  Maybe you’re patient about it, and you understand that these things take time, but maybe you’re the one whose feelings are kind of hurt because you don’t really understand.  You’ve been obedient in every way, yet somehow you still feel left out and rejected.

If you’ve been pushed into the wilderness, like Hagar, you must remember that this was God’s plan for her.  What she had to endure had to take place in order for her son’s life to unfold according to God’s perfect plan for him…and for generations to come.  God never promised that we would not have trials.  In fact, He allows quite the opposite.

(Jeremiah 29: 10-13, NLT) 10 This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

We are fallen, therefore our sin brings us into struggle and heartache, yet in our brokenness we are still counted as His.  Seen.  Heard.  Purposed.  Loved.  We may toil through difficulties, but they are part of something.  They usher us toward the greater portion…toward the river of refreshing…toward revival and hope!  It isn’t rejection when we face the stuff of life that hurts us, it is God’s love being shown through discipline.  We are being prepared.  Our individual experiences and journeys may look very different from one another, but keep in mind that we don’t always see the inner workings of each other’s lives.  Some of us may seem like an Isaac, born to the right family with the blessings in hand, and some of us may feel more like an Ishmael, pushed into the wilderness.  No matter your circumstance, you cannot allow yourself to make these comparisons.  You must instead focus on your own path that has been laid before you.  Regardless of how hard it is to navigate at times, you have God’s promise and His word to see you through.  If you are thirsty, it is only for a time.  If you are hungry, it is only for a time.  Your struggle and your suffering will pass. 

(Genesis 16: 11, NLT) And the angel also said, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the Lord has heard your cry of distress.

…He hears you, Ishmael. 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, sometimes I get lost in comparing my life with others’ lives.  Help me to stay focused on what is ahead, knowing that Your plans are greater than what I can perceive, even when “the struggle is real.”  I am so thankful for this reminder today that You hear me, and that if I will simply look for You, I will find You, and You will rescue me.  Amen.