Monday, December 31, 2012

Hope for 2013

 It’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed my absence, but I have missed you. This season has been full to overflowing and I’ve been battling sickness through it all. Yet, it’s been a wonderful season filled with hope and I’m excited to share some with you.

With all that’s been happening in our world lately – wars, hurricanes, floods, shootings, and the loss of jobs and homes, many people are looking for hope. Is the answer more legislation, gun control, more government funded committees to study the problems? No, those only affect the symptoms of our problems. Those who hate will continue to hate, regardless of what weapon they use, spewing their anger on everyone in their path. No, what we need is to treat the source of our problems – the gaping wound we inflict on ourselves when we turn our backs on God.

We need to turn our hearts to God, seek His face, love Him, and obey Him. He is our only hope. The word study I’ve been doing on hope recently has reminded me of this fact. Using a Bible concordance, I am reading every verse in the Bible that contains the word “hope.” I chose to use the Message paraphrase of the Bible for its gritty, no nonsense wording, and even though it’s taking a lot of time, it is SO worth the effort. I’m getting a new perspective and stronger grasp on hope, despite the trials and heartaches of this life.

Let me share three favorites from just this morning, as well as a few others that have renewed my spirit to face this New Year. Perhaps you would like to begin your own word study and write the verses that mean the most to you in a journal. Respond to them in prayer – what questions do you have? What needs? What despair? Open yourself up to God; I guarantee you He will meet you wherever you are and bring you new hope and healing:

I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—
the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
and remembering, I keep a grip on hope.
Lamentations 3:19-21, Message

God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
quietly hope for help from God.
It’s a good thing when you’re young
to stick it out through the hard times.
Lamentations 3:25-27, Message
When life is heavy and hard to take,
go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:
Wait for hope to appear
Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face.
The “worst” is never the worst. Why?
Because the Master won’t ever
walk out and fail to return.
Lamentations 3:28-31, Message

Other favorites:
·         1 Samuel 2:8-10
·         Psalm 39:7-10
·         Psalm 119:81-88
·         Psalm 131:3
·         Psalm 143:7-10
·         Psalm 146:3-9
·         Proverbs 24:13-14
·         Isaiah 33:2
·         Isaiah 49:23
·         Isaiah 51:4-6
·         Jeremiah 51:41-48

 Savor these words of restoration. And lift up your head. There is hope for 2013!



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas: An Empty Place at the Table

Is someone missing from your table this year? Has someone you love passed away since last Christmas? Or is there a family member who lives far away or is serving overseas? Or has someone distanced them self from the family because of estrangement, rebellion, or a lifestyle in opposition to what you believe? Whatever the reason, it hurts to see the empty space they used to occupy. I know. It can dampen your holiday cheer and the joy of the season.

Almost every family is missing someone for one reason or another. Because of that, many dread the holidays, and yet, that is one of the main reasons why Jesus came. Jesus, the Son of God, came in the flesh to show us the Father’s love and to identify with our pain and aching need for relationship – with Him and with each other.

So do we just pretend there isn’t a hole in our heart from November through January? No. Here is what God has been speaking to me lately about this very thing; the four R’s regarding the one I miss this year:   

·         Remember
·         Reality
·         Release
·         Rejoice

First of all, remember the person that’s not there. If they have passed on or live far away it’s easy to talk about them with sweet longing, and it’s healthy to do so. If they’re not with you by choice, rather than doing an awkward dance around the elephant in the room, why not mention them in prayer, or speak lovingly of them? This may be a little harder in some cases than others, but it is healing and might help breach the gap widening between them and other family members.

Secondly, face reality with hope. Death, divorce, drugs, and heart wrenching experiences can take loved ones from our presence. We can’t deny what is. But neither do we have to give in to despair. There’s always hope for forgiveness, healing, or a change of heart - theirs as well as ours. So hold on to hope. We never know what wonderful blessings God might have waiting in the next breath.

Third, we need to release our grip on the one we love and our desire to control them or the situation. Release them to Christ and His good and perfect plan for them, and us. This is the hardest one for me. At times I realize I’ve been holding them so tightly to my heart that I’ve gotten in the way of what God wants to do in their life. So I pry well-meaning fingers from my loved one and release them to His care, again.

Finally, let’s rejoice in the people we are with this Christmas. Whether we’re with family members, church friends, neighbors, or co-workers, we have reason for rejoicing. Christ has come - bringing hope, peace, joy, and love to our world, to all who will accept Him. And that empty place at the table? Let Jesus fill it with His presence and embrace all who gather there. It’s time to celebrate!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Swingin’ With the Lord

I’ve been reading through old journals lately and even though this isn’t a Christmassy article (I’ll start a series soon), I want to share what I found this morning. I wrote this on August 7, 1985. God spoke to me all over again. I hope it speaks to you too.

“This morning on my walk I saw a woman pushing two little girls on the swings. I laughed and said, ‘It looks like you’re keeping busy.’

She said, ‘Yeah, it’s quite a project to keep them both going at the same time. You can be sure they let me know if they think I’m falling behind.’

It reminded me how much we’re like little children sometimes. At times I begin to look at God as my source of happiness, instead of my source of joy, salvation, and peace in all the storms of life. If He should fail to keep me happy and satisfied, no matter what the circumstances, I mistakenly think He is falling behind in His duty.

I need to realize during these times that He is not failing me in any way. My swing may not be going as high or as fast as I would like it to. At times He will call me to accompany His strength with mine, and pump for the sky. And when He lets my swing go still, it’s not because God has left me alone – He is still behind me. I can turn to look, and there He is. But my attempts to move the swing on my own will be in vain. So I wait.

I wait on the Lord to move me when He chooses; when the time is right. Will I do it patiently? Trustfully? He knows I need times of stillness to remember that only in Him lies my power to fly. Then, suddenly I will feel the thrill of His power pushing me forward once again, higher and higher.”

Today, whether you’re swinging high or sitting still, I pray you will be aware of God’s holy presence behind you. I pray for peace and gratitude in your heart either way. I pray the same for mine.