31 Days of Hope

Hope {Day 21} – How to Hand out Hope

Sometimes I look around me and wonder if Christians really could have an impact on this world anymore.  It can be discouraging at times to look around and see our friends, our family members, our country, our world drifting farther and farther away from the Truth revealed to us in God’s Word.  BUT we don’t have to lose hope!

 

What triggered my thinking about this was just two short verses in Luke yesterday.  Luke 13:20-21says:

Again [Jesus] asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to?  It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” 

This world may be big, but the kingdom of God is POWERFUL!  Just like yeast seems so small and insignificant to the “large amount of flour” when making bread, anyone whose forgotten it in something knows that it makes ALL the difference. 

 

This verse says that the kingdom of God is like that yeast… it may seem insignificant at first but you just wait…. and wait…. and wait… and eventually, you’ll see an impact…in ALL the dough.

 

As God’s kingdom permeates this world, it can’t help but spread throughout the whole dough.  We don’t have to LOSE HOPE when we look around and see such pain and suffering in the world.  Rather, let’s HAND OUT hope and let it impact the entire world!

31 Days of Hope

Hope {Day 20} – Long Term Hope

This morning, as I read in Luke, I came upon this story:

On a Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years.  She was bent over and could not straighten up at all.  When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.”  Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

 

The story goes on, as typical for these kinds of stories, with the synagogue rulers indignant and ticked off that Jesus would heal on the Sabbath.  And then, of course, Jesus rebukes them basically saying, “you care more for your animals than you do for the needs of a person.”

Two main things caught my attention with this passage.  First of all, it was a Sabbath and Jesus always seemed to be doing things that the Pharisees didn’t like on the Sabbath.  But more, so this phrase caught my eye… and my heart:

 

EIGHTEEN YEARS.

This woman, had probably lost all hope of being healed.  Seriously, eighteen years… that’s a long time.  And going back to the other thing that caught my attention… this was a Sabbath… even if this woman knew who Jesus was and had any hope that maybe healing could be provided, she probably would have never thought that healing would come today of all days… it was a Sabbath.  I imagine, any hope that was there, was very small.  Yet, I do believe there was hope.

If there was no hope, then why was this woman who had suffered from an evil spirit for so long even AT the synagogue that day?  In my opinion, she had long-term hope.  Maybe, JUST MAYBE, SOMEDAY I will be healed. 

As I think about this story, I think about people I know and love and care about who have been suffering for a long time.  Whether the struggle is physical, spiritual, or emotional, as each day passes without relief, hope slowly fades.  “It’s already been so long,”  their minds protest.  “How could healing EVER come now?” 

Yet, God doesn’t call us to understand.. he calls us to trust him.  Our healing may not come today.  Our healing may not come tomorrow or next year, or even in this life time.  But even if it doesn’t, we continue to ask God to give us what we need to remain faithful and trust.  We ask God to help us to come into his presence, like this woman did, time and time again, knowing that in your time and in your way, you will call us forward and say, “My son… My daughter… you are set free from your infirmity.” 

God, please give us hope for today… and tomorrow…. and the next day… and the next day… and the next day… until THAT day:

 

“Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them,
nor any scorching head.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (Rev. 7:16-17)

31 Days of Hope

Hope {Day 19} – Made New

I’ve heard the stories again and again.

Each one so distinct and unique, yet, so similar at the core.

Something happened-

Many things maybe.

Something so horrifying it rarely,

if ever,

gets any attention in conversation.

Yet, it gets all the attention in the heart.

 

Neglect.

Rape.

Abuse.

 

The death of a loved one.

The death of a marriage.

The death of a friendship.

 

An eating disorder.

Depression.

Self-injury.

 

A monstrous mistake.

A horrific memory.

A crippling fear.

 

“I’m not good enough.”

“Will I ever change?”

 

The shame is too much.

The guilt is too heavy.

 

Forgotten.

Alone.

Afraid.

 

Whether it was “their fault” or not, the pain obviously runs deep as the story eventually flows out. But it’s not just “them.” 

 

It’s me

and

it’s YOU. 

 

We all have had those secret things buried deep in our hearts… those times when we seriously wonder…

 

Is there any hope?

 

Can God REALLY do anything with this messed up life of mine?!? 

Through the darkness comes a marvelous Light responding:

“YES! THERE IS HOPE!  I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW!

No matter what mess you’ve gotten yourself into… no matter what anyone has done to you… no matter how much sin has messed up your life and messed up your heart, I can, and will, through Christ, make something BEAUTIFUL out of your life! 

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

 

Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

 

Isaiah 43:19 See I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Things
by Gungor

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll even find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all
All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground at all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

 

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

31 Days of Hope

Hope {Day 18} – Back to Square One

As I continue to explore and discover hope, there are many things I could say and I even wrote an entire blog post for today already. However, I decided that instead of posting it, I just want to direct you to this blog post that I stumbled upon earlier today written by a woman named Myra.   May it encourge you and remind you of the HOPE found simply in delighting in Jesus’ love for us!

Finding My Way Back To Square One 

My prayer today is that as we go back to the basics… as we open God’s Word, as we seek him in prayer… as we share with others what God is doing in our lives…  that we can find HOPE for whatever we face. 

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 Dear Jesus, help us to find hope by delighting in your great love for us.  When life gets confusing and complicated, remind us to come back to the simple truth that You love us and are more than enough for us.  In Jesus’ Name, AMEN!

31 Days of Hope

Hope {Day 17} – LIGHT Part 2

I was hoping to put this up yesterday in continuation to Day 15’s discussion about LIGHT but after fighting with my computer for entirely too long yesterday, I gave up.  Thankfully, I was victorioius over my computer today and have this song, or the startings of one, to share: (Click the triangle to play.)

This prayer asks God to let his light shine in our lives… to give us a little hope.  Sometimes when God shines his light into the dark places of our lives it’s scary, but there is freedom when we step into the light.

I hope you enjoy.  Maybe eventually it’ll get some verses and be a full song. 🙂  But for now, here are the lyrics for the chorus:

Break through the darkness
Break through the night
Break through the shadows
Lord, shine Your light
In the deepest places of fear and shame
Lord, shine Your light again.

31 Days of Hope

Hope {Day 16} – I AM

Well, we’ve hit the halfway point.  Sixteen days ago I set out to blog about hope for 31 days straight and I’ve been amazed at what I’ve discovered along the way:

I’ve discovered how to give hope, even if that means just being present.

I’ve discovered a wide range of situations that leave us searching for … from the unexpected death of a loved one to loneliness and everything in between. 

I’ve discovered God’s Word as it reveals hope again and again and again and various people throughout Scripture that anchored their soul on hope. 

Most of all, though, I’ve discovered and rediscovered and rediscovered the same lesson I learned on day 1 WE NEED HOPE.

 

You want to know where I discovered this lesson the most?

 

In your responses. 

 

This all started out as a simple challenge to myself… a challenge to write for 31 days straight… a challenge to explore the topic of hope… a challenge, more than anything, to be real with myself.  I didn’t know if anyone would read these, and didn’t really care whether they did or not.  Yet, as this journey has continued, I’ve come to realize that God had much bigger plans in this 31 day adventure than I could ever have imagined.  I can’t even begin to count the Facebook comments, e-mails, text messages, and conversations I’ve had with people over the past 15 days related to these blog posts.  This tells me that something, or rather Someone, bigger is at work.  It confirms that we all are searching in many ways.  It shows that God desperately wants to fill our longing hearts with hope… even if he has to use the random blabberings of a young intern in NY whose just trying to figure it out for herself.

 

So, whatever your situation is today that seems a little “hopeless”, take heart.  First of all, you’re not alone.  Look around you… the people you walk past each day are probably searching for a little hope as well.  And thankfully, as we search together, we don’t have to look very far, because

God knows we need hope and says,

“I AM.”

31 Days of Hope

Hope {Day 15} – LIGHT

It seems as if I have two parallel themes running in my life right now.  For 15 days straight I’ve been blogging about HOPE.  At the same time, God has been showing me a lot about LIGHT.  I call them parallel themes, because hope and light seem to have a lot in common.  Often we describe times of hopelessness as “dark” moments in our lives.  So here are some thoughts about LIGHT which, I pray, bring hope as well.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

LIGHT.

I LOVE LIGHT.  It may sound a little weird, but it’s true.  I dread winter each year with short, dark, dreary, days all bundled up inside.  The first thing I like to do each morning is turn on all the lamps or lights possible in whatever room I’m in.  If it’s ever a sunny day, the blinds get opened to let as much light in as possible. 

 

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I LOVE LIGHT.

 

…well … most of the time.

 

There are some things though that, at first glance at least, I think I’d rather leave tucked away in the dark closet that never gets opened.  I think we all have those things… the ones that are just fine staying in the deep dark shadows, because it seems easier to deal with that way, right?  Things like fear… like shame… like guilt and sin and failure.  Those can just stay hidden or at least in a dim room where you can’t REALLY tell what they are…. just that something’s there. 

 

But in reality.  As much as we REALLY want to just keep those things in the dark, at the same time, our hearts also deeply desire the freedom found when those things of the darkness are brought into the light. 

 

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Ann Voskamp put it this way in a blog post:

I know the terror of telling the truth… I am far more scared of secrets.  Because its keeping secrets that keeps us from being real.   From fully being alive.

It is true: I am terrified to be real.  But I am far more terrified to be false.  Which would mean I cease to be.

It can be painful at times for the things of the deep dark places of our hearts to be brought into the light… but only then can we find healing and hope. 

 

God doesn’t desire us to live in darkness.  Instead he says:

You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to go, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)

And in Isaiah 42:16 he says:

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them, I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.  These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. 

I find it interesting that the first part of this passage talks about unknown ways and unfamiliar paths.  The process of letting God shine light into the dark places is often uncertain… which is what makes it scary.  But I love how it then says… he will turn darkness into light, making the rough places smooth and through it all… OUR GOD WILL NOT FORSAKE US!  It may not be an easy process, and probably will involve some pain, but God never leaves.

 

I’ll close these random thoughts about light with two quotes that Ann Voskamp had in another one of her posts. 

“Never fear shadows.

They simply mean there’s a light shining somewhere nearby.”

~Ruth E. Renkel

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—
so why should I be afraid?”

~Ps. 27:1

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31 Days of Hope

Hope {Day 14} – Hope Amidst Loneliness

Here’s a poem I wrote quite a while ago about those who find themselves struggling with loneliness and the hope found in God’s Word.  I randomly stumbled upon it earlier today and thought I’d share.

 

ALONE

An empty box of tissues
Beside a pile of ones filled with tears
A drenched pillow nearby
Held in clenched arms

 

alone.

 

Sounds creek in the night
Making one jump in fright
”What-if”s and “How’ll”s
Wreaking havoc on the brain.

 

alone.

 

Oh Sleep, please won’t you come.
Please free me from the pain.
Toss this way
Turn that

alone.

 

Sleep finally comes; rest resists
A peaceful night of slumber
Anything but!
Nightmares torment. Again,

 

alone.

 

Tear-stained pages of a Book
So sacred. Completely true.
Provide a glimpse…
Hope?

NEVER ALONE!

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So do not fear, FOR I AM WITH YOU; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, YOU ARE MINE.  When you pass through the waters, I WILL BE WITH YOU; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned… For I am the Lord, your God…. you are precious and honored in my sight and… I love you.  … Do not be afraid, for I AM WITH YOU. (Isaiah 43:1b-5a)

Listen to me… you whom I HAVE UPHELD since you were conceived and have carried since your birth.  Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He. I am He who will sustain you.  I have made you and I WILL CARRY YOU; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. (Isaiah 46:3-4)

31 Days of Hope

Hope {Day 12} – Hope and Contentment… the Best of Friends

Tonight at the wonderful Philippians Short Course Bible Study at First Trinity we were studying chapter 4.  It’s a wonderful chapter which I strongly suggest everyone read.  (You could even do so right now by clicking here.)  Anyway, in summary here are a few things covered in that chapter:

  • vs 4 – Finding JOY in the Lord
  • vs. 5-7 – Finding PEACE to replace anxiety through prayer
  • vs. 8-9 – Finding TRUTH to fight the lies Satan gets us to believe.
  • vs. 10-20 – Finding CONTENTMENT in Jesus rather than our circumstances.

You may be starting to wonder what all of that has to do with a blog post that is supposed to be about HOPE. 

 

However, as I was driving home just now, I began to realize that “CONTENTMENT” and “HOPE” are very much alike.  Maybe hope grows out of contentment or contentment comes from hope or maybe neither, but in any case, many similarities appear.

 

Take a look at what Paul says here in Philippians 4 about being content:

… I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know that it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength. 

Just like contentment, we learn to find HOPE no matter what the circumstance.  Hope doesn’t come FROM the circumstance.  Most of the time, if we look at our situation, we’d probably find more despair than hope. So while hope doesn’t come from the situation, we can find hope IN the situation. 

 

Paul states here that he found “the secret” to contentment, and it comes in looking to Christ for strength.  The same is true of HOPE… we have to look to something, or rather Someone, outside of our situation in order to find hope. 

 

Verse 19 tells who that Someone is:

And my God will meet ALL your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Despair, the opposite of hope, comes when we start to think that there’s no way out… our situation is too big… to hard… too much… my needs are too many or too great.  In reality, when we can’t find contentment or we can’t find hope… it’s because somehow our circumstances have blinded from seeing God’s provision.  We start to let our minds wander and think, “Well, maybe God isn’t enough for me.” Our situation can, at times, keep us from realizing that our God is MORE than enough for us.  He provides ABUNDANTLY.

 

When fear and anxiety attempt to rob us of contentment or hope… we can focus on “whatever is true.” (vs. 8 ) And this my friends is true:

OUR GOD WILL TAKE CARE OF US! 

 

Provision.

 

Contentment.

 

HOPE.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Gracious God,

We thank you for the promise that you will provide for ALL our needs.  We thank you that you’re not giving us just enough to survive, but that you provide abundantly, that You are MORE than enough for us.  When the situations and circumstances of our lives blind us and fill us with anxiety, give us strength and bring us back to truth.  We know from Your Word that in that place of truth… in being honest with you in prayer, your peace will guard our hearts and our minds.  That is our prayer tonight, Lord… that you would protect our hearts and minds from despair as you point us to Hope Himself, Jesus Christ.

It’s in His name we pray,

AMEN!

31 Days of Hope

Hope {Day 11} – “The Rest of the Story”

I remember moments sitting in the car as a little girl when mom would suddenly reach over and change the radio dial from whatever station it was on (normally one of the Christian radio stations) to KFDI, the country station in Wichita.  She didn’t turn the station because of the music really;rather, mom knew that at the top of the hour, KFDI would broadcast the news and weather forecast.  Normally, as soon as mom got the information she wanted, the station would switch back, but sometimes it would get left and we’d end up listening to Paul Harvey giving us “The rest of the story.” 

 

Being that it’s Day 11 of this journey to discover and blog about HOPE for 31 days straight I was starting to wonder if I’ll have enough to write about for 20 more days… I couldn’t even think about what to write about today.  Then, suddenly as I was praying with a friend on the phone tonight, a new thought about hope emerged and it has to do with “the rest of the story.” 

 

The concept of battles in life has been on the forefront of my mind especially with Pastor’s sermon series about battling in prayer.  Tonight as I battled in prayer with a sister in Christ for another sister who’s struggling, I suddenly had a renewed sense of hope in the situation: 

 

I believe we can find hope in the midst of whatever battles we face because WE ALREADY KNOW THE REST OF THE STORY!  It’s kind of like reading the end of a book first.  We know the outcome but still go back and read the whole book wondering how the plot twists and turns to get us to that point.

 

In the battles of life, we may not know how long the enemy will fight.  We may not know the suffering that will take place in the midst of the struggles, but we do know that Jesus has ALREADY secured the victory for us!

 

John 16:33 tells us, “In this world, you WILL have trouble, BUT TAKE HEART! I have overcome the world.”

 

We have an overcoming Savior.  Jesus already battled the greatest battle ever fought on the cross.  He fought against the enemies of Sin, Death, and the Devil, and overcame.  And as we share in his suffering, we also share in his victory!

 

So when we find ourselves in the battles of life, we can find HOPE in the fact that we already know “the rest of the story.”  And though we may not know the twists and the turns ahead of us, we do know our outcome is secure in Christ. May that provide REST IN the story!