Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What I Learned on a Bad Day

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain." Heb 6:19

I sent the birthday greeting and talked up the memories as they slowly emerged to the forefront of my mind. I sent out a plea to pray as all the stressful situations rushed in for a front row seat. I tried to write but the past kept colliding with the present and all of it made the future look ominous. Fragrance of memory mixed with a present bitter scent just made my head throb. I stumbled around the rest of the day with no clear sense of direction. This all happened yesterday. As much as I looked for hope my greatest hope was that this headache would end as well the day.

This morning as I think on it, I realize hope never was gone. Hope isn't dependent upon me or anything I do. My actions and feelings do not determine it's presence or it's purpose.

Hope does not increase with my benevolent acts nor diminish with my grieving heart. It is a solid rock that holds me every day.

Why couldn't I see it or experience it? I decided to eat popcorn and watch movies (my default) and just kept waiting for tomorrow, like tomorrow would solve it all. And this time it did. My head cleared and my thoughts focused. But there have been days, months, even years when I just was waiting for tomorrow. As much as I knew in my head about hope, my experience blocked my view and couldn't convince me.

Our todays have endings and our tomorrows have beginnings. God only has one day that lasts for eternity. He does not separate by seasons, time, light or darkness. He did that for us. We grow, we change, we experience life. And it is all good. We learn, we get innumerable chances to get up again when we fall. We get to experience grace and faith and hope. In heaven we will not need any of them. A line I recently heard and took to heart . "There's no present like time."

"This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it."  Ps 118:24

Whatever today brings know that it is intended for our good. If hard, if lonely, if confusing, it is for a purpose, so rejoice not in the circumstance, but in Him. If happy, if healthy, if bright and sunny, rejoice in Him. The Lord has made it for you and given you a gift of a day. What else does He say about the day?

"... I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation."2 Cor 6:2.

That is today. Every day is today, no matter what kind of day that is.

So this is my hope, this is my rest and this is where I find my inner quietness, not in the exploits, not in my ability to hold onto positive thoughts or block out negative emotions, but to be convinced that Christ's hope is very, very secure.

OneWordCoffee Linkup

Thursday, January 21, 2016

A Companion of Sorrow
Sorrow is with me, lurking in the shadows of all the hope I infuse into my soul. It finds its way to the forefront and stares at me up close laughing, really laughing out loud. It stops me with its brazen visual reality and sharp tones that penetrate my senses. It catches me off guard as I sleep and trips me up when I'm awake. It calls to me with words that echo on every side telling me I will not win this one. It is the one most important to me, the prayer of more than half my lifetime, which has been whispered in reverence, shouted in angst, stammered out in tears, and pleaded in silence. It is the one that has driven me to my knees in brokenness and kept me believing. Unanswered prayer has kept me holding on to this hope.
It is not the answers but the longings, the unsatisfied, the prodigals, the hopeless, the crisis that cause me to grab this thing called hope. When helpless I am stretched beyond my own resources and I hope in His. When I can't believe in this world anymore I reach out and believe in Christ. Just acknowledgement of my need draws Him near. And when He is near it is not to just answer my prayers, it is to love me in whatever way will keep me thirsting after Him. He always fills and then empties. We inhale to exhale so we can inhale again. As I keep placing all my longings on Him,  He will take care of what concerns me.

Our heartaches are our lifeline to the heart of God,
            because our heart aches for His heart.

He gives us joy, but often it's mingled with the sorrow. Christ bore our sorrows and iniquities so He could relate to us. We must have sorrow and pain to give and receive hope to each other. So sorrow, yes I see you, I hear you, but I welcome you, for as much as you taunt me and haunt me, you are leading me to Christ and giving me hope.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

OneWordCoffee Linkup(Adding to Hope, Rest, and now Quiet)

No Other Sound

"If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.” Mk 4:23

Hot capaccinos and croissants filled our senses as I sat with a client in the pastry shop. Looking around and becoming aware of my surroundings, I suddenly felt a shift in my attention. The television was on in the upper corner. The sound was muted out with words streaming across the screen. Their radio station was playing music just loud enough to be distracting.  Pictures on a board behind the counter were flashing different menu items. People were walking in and out conversing. Just watching it all happen was causing me mental confusion and it took determination to focus on my own company. I was happy when we left.

A constant change of activity and scenery can sabotage hope.

I went from living in an ocean town in the eastern part of Massachusetts to the hilly western terrain of the Berkshires. Both are fairly quiet, the east being more suburban than its rural counterpart. For 5 years in between I lived right outside the city of Boston. Airplanes from Logan Airport muted out every other noise around me for the first couple of weeks. It was constant.
    "Oh, pretty soon you won't even notice", I was told.
They were right. Life filled up with so many things that the insignificant roar of jet engines could not be heard unless there was a given purpose to hear it.

I became a mother and a baby's needs and affections far exceeded anything else. Every sound I heard was immediately put in a perspective of protecting my child.

I quieted myself to every menial sound so I could hear what mattered most.

With every picture, every scene, every sound, our minds are programed to form some kind of response. And my mouth is loud and sometimes I think my voice should be heard. How exhausting and oh, how much trouble I have caused to my own hurt!

Hope resulting in rest and producing a quietness are needed to be woven together to develop a strong core in this ever changing culture we live in. It is not in slogans and catch phrases, although they are a means to remember, but it is in the daily, moment by moment inner relationship with Christ. Words will never change me inside. Christ in me and my heart's desire to hear and act on the most important issues of my heart will.

Jesus says to Martha in Luke 10:42 "...Only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her".

Mary quieted herself to listen. Without learning to be quiet I will hear every sound and will not discern what is important. Between intention and invention, desire and inspire, we need to hear the
sound of hope.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Rest of the Story

"Having Our Perspective Enlarged". God gave me the acrostic for hope and hope continues for me in 2016. In shifting places where my feet can slip and my vision can be blurred, there hope has held me and stabilized my waters. The end of hope is always rest.

I recently received the greatest compliment by two people. I never would normally take this as such encouragement, but in it's context I found such rest. "You are so human" were the words. Really? Isn't that like, no big deal -- same as everyone else -- just the way I came -- no effort required? Wow! It hit me, no effort required. I don't have to work up, live up, or step up to be loved by God. Heb 4:1-11 talks about entering into His rest. Just walk right in. That takes obedience! He's done it all for me. What hope!

Sometimes a movie ends with more questions than answers. It leaves me thinking and analyzing for days after. I'm looking for the rest of the story - the what-if and how and why of it all. The subtle, underlying message or moral that is hidden beneath the surface. As much as I love a puzzle, may it be written, drawn or narrated, strain and stress spent on solving it can be exhausting.

I think of the food we eat and all of the processing and enhancing it takes to bring the flavor and aromas to our senses; to lure us to ingest that which otherwise would be unsavory. Behind all of these fillers and preservatives lie the nutrients. We didn't create them. They were put there for us. We need them to maintains proper function.

Every life has a story to tell. Mine is unique to all others, as is yours. The story is not yet finished. I won't be told how it will unfold but I am meant to find the rest that is available to make it worth telling. The purpose of God is there. I don't create it. I seek it.

In your story pursue and find the "rest" of the story. It will take you to His story. It will give you hope.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The War On Hope

I close my eyes. I am standing at the edge of the seashore. The air is hot. The tide is coming in and the water is rushing between my toes and over my feet creating a wide girth of sand around them. I feel unstable as I dig my toes in deeper to maintain balance. The water of the Northeast is icy cold.

It is 8:00 in the morning and I am there for swimming lessons. I am about 7 years old. I never completely surrendered to the water. To this day I still fight it, while claiming aloud "One day I will".

I've been hearing a lot about war these past few weeks. I saw "The War Room". I've been reading about spiritual warfare and I taught a first grade Sunday School class about the weapons of temptation. The news is always about war somewhere. It is a subject of no escape. It's on every plane of life.

Ever since I was a small child I have tried to avoid conflict. As much as I try it always finds me. I love peace. I intentionally make waves with no one. I try to see the best in all people. I see their battles and want to help fight them, while so many of my own I still choose to avoid.

What I am learning -- again...

War started in heaven long before creation in the heart of an angel.

"How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High." Is 14:12-14.

Salvation is the end of the war for the soul.

"If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Rom 10:9

Every war starts within a single heart...

"What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?" James 4:1

The war that needs to be won first is the one within myself.

" So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh". Gal 5:16

Many heroes of war are walking around believing they are casualties, still walking in the fear of it, living in the death of it and experiencing the lie of defeat. Thousands of victims are in counseling centers and on medications to help deter the effects of the unspeakable experiences of war. The common civilian has no idea of the torment of memories and pain inflicted on earth's battlefield.

But I ask the question, why does hearing truth about my freedom continue to send me back to bondage instead of releasing me into the reality of the victory?

Every time I retreat hopelessness grows. (Job 6:11)

No one wants war on any level. The only legitimate reason for it is to establish truth. As long as people disagree about the definition of truth, there will be war. So within me where I face my conflicting issues, I must decide what is the truth. What do I believe? Then I make a decision.

Waters are deep and I can drown. At the brink of the shore I feel both the push and pull of the water. I must weigh out the risk. Do I retreat or submerge? Each has its consequences.

Fear is real - a necessary innate response to a precarious situation. Skill and obedience in the midst of fear is courage.

Christians have spiritual battles daily. The Spirit and the flesh share space and though the soul is sealed for eternity the object is to stop any furtherance of the Gospel being revealed. Satan never releases his hold on you willingly. His aim is to keep you in a state of fatality while he knows you are a conquerer.

 I need to settle the truth in me first in every conflict. End the war in me so I can have peace with God even in the midst of trouble around me. Fight the enemy with truth.

Every time I seek Christ's perspective hope enlarges my borders and frees me of my pain. (1 Chron 4:9)

Letting the Word of God have dominion is my goal. I will not perfect it in this earthly body, but I can make progress and keep facing the waters.