Thursday, February 22, 2018

THE MOST CRITICAL Place to Go to Fill Your Hope Bank

I'll be honest this morning.

I've been a wee-bit-stuck in this study I've been digging into on HOPE.

Count it up to weeks with no routine..................maybe......................but that would just be an excuse.

Call it a lack of consistency in my life....................again, maybe.............but, again, an excuse.

Look at my schedule, and "busy" would define it................BUT, yes, an EXCUSE!

Reality is that it feels like my brain was put "on hold" with heaven's phone-system...and I've just been listening to elevator music. It's enough to put one to sleep, but not enough to inspire my next thought.

So, when that happens, I go back to the basics.

When "stuck" occurs in your life, persevering in the simplest of actions does make a difference. I've found this to be truthed-out. This is just an FYI.

I ran back through my previous blogs (where I've been is often my go-to-start).

HOPE's workable definition:  

Hope is waiting with confident expectation.

There is a quiet assurance in every hope package.

Where HOPE comes from: 

Hope is a gift of grace from our Lord, our ONLY reliable source for hope.

ANYTHING or ANYONE besides the Lord = a vain hope...or as the writer of Ecclesiastes puts it, a chasing after the wind.

Why we need HOPE:

We need hope, because life is filled with difficulty and hardship. 

Hope is the one ingredient that separates the victim from the victor.

How can I find hope in the midst of life's trials (I think I've shared two ways to begin)?

1.  Gratitude. Doing a thanksgiving-check on the smallest details of your life is where most research leads (secular or evangelical). Hands down, it is at the top of the charts for hope-building. 

(this has always been a favorite quote)

2. Gazing long at the regular cadence of life's rhythms. Those activities from heaven's hand that occur on a consistent basis, assure us that there is ONE in charge, who is working all things out. From the rising and setting of the sun, to the birth of a new babe, and the certainty of death, even of godly men (thinking Billy Graham here), we can clearly see that life is filled with changing seasons.

Can you hear the shofar being blown loudly in my brain? 

It just happened.

Because, at this point, I'm noticing I missed a HUGE place for finding HOPE. It's the place I should have begun weeks ago, and maybe I assumed it was insinuated (I should never assume). I'll introduce it with a little story.

Years ago, I read a book that was a huge encouragement as I walked through a hard trial. The introduction gave the author credibility, and her words had greater meaning. Her testimony began with the birth and death of two children after about six months of life. Yet, these young parents knew from the moment of birth, that life would be a waiting to die. The question this new mom asked is one we all ask during our struggles: "How?" "How do I get through this?" "Where do I find HOPE?"
The answer she received was a one word answer from one who had walked down their own hard road:  


Of course. 

Sufficient for the day, we all need manna to sustain. As the Israelite's desperation grew in the wilderness wanderings, God provided manna from heaven. We need it still today.
New each morning.
One. Day. At. A. Time.

Man does not live by bread alone.

Therefore, hope can not be sustained, but by every spoken Word of the Lord.

PS. If you read last week's blog and wonder how puppy did on the flight, he did GREAT. If you prayed, thank you!!! We were delayed just over an hour in Chicago, but little fur-ball settled right down on both legs of our flights and slept the whole way. What a sweetie!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Using the "Hope" Word Wrong!

This morning, I get on an airplane to fly away from my Baltimore children.

Getting on an airplane is not a new thing.

Hours in airports, and in the air, is not new, either.

Saying good-bye to my military family is certainly not uncommon (never easy, mind you, and little Brynley Joy is making it even harder).

HOWEVER, today, I'm flying with an 8 week, 4 day-old labradoodle puppy, named Jake.

I'm taking him to his forever home.

He's going to live with some dear people, where he will be smothered in love.

We'll be on the move for about 9 hours, minus delays, or any other issues.

For the last few days, as I've made arrangements for this little fur-baby, I've found myself using the word hope a lot.

I hope he will do OK in his little kennel under the seat for all those hours on two different flights.

I hope he will not whimper and cry.

I hope he will not disturb the people around me, and I become the most hated woman ever to fly the friendly skies of United Airlines.

I hope he will sleep.

I hope he will go under the seat (he's gotten a few pounds heavier in the last few days).

I hope I won't be a nervous wreck.

I hope he won't miss his brothers and sisters too much.

I hope there will be no delays.

I hope the airlines will be gracious and filled with grace.

There are no trial runs for this.

Unknowns................well, unknowns are out of my control and, therefore, I feel that way.
That's the thing about the future and the unknowns.
Control is totally eliminated.

In this case, the word hope is being used improperly.

I've made a huge vernacular mistake.

I should never have inserted it in any of those sentences.

I can "wish" all I want.

I can "pray" for each of those things.

I can "desire" that everything fall into place the way I want.

But, to hope means I am putting my trust in an object that is unworthy of such a BIG WORD (even if it only has four letters).

That's a lot of pressure to put on one little cute fur-ball.

I went back to read my own past blogs.

If I'm truly hoping, there is an air of certainty, a settled sense of expectation, a waiting that involves, not an "if only," but an "already done."

When I hope for something that is to come, or about to happen, or is expected in the near future, I am putting my faith in something (more like, SOMEONE) that is BIGGER, FAITHFUL, and TRUE.

There is ASSURANCE that comes in EVERY hope package.

In an article on the psychology of hope, the author says this:

"Hopeful people share four core beliefs:
1. The future will be better than the present.
2. I have the power to make it so.
3. There are many paths to to future goals.
4. None of them is free of obstacles."

Another author insists, "to have hope one must have faith in something bigger than you, whether it is a higher power, a child, a loved one, a mission, or a cause..."

Both are dead wrong.

In and of myself, there is no possible power to muster up hope; and,
NO ONE can give me the assurance of hope....what a terrible, heavy sense of responsibility to place on a child, or a loved one!

There is only ONE TRUE, STEADFAST GOD, worthy of our hope.

His promises are sure!

One hymn writer, Edward Mote, understood this entirely, when he wrote,
"My hope is built on nothing less 
Than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus name
On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand"
(circa, 1834)

So, to this end, I pray...that by the end of today's journey, my heart remains at peace in the assurance of God's promise:

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Hope in Lament(ations)

I bumped into the prophet Jeremiah the other day in a little book in the Old Testament.

Somewhere in the middle of Lamentations, I remembered why I tend to avoid reading this piece of history.

It's five chapters of deep, mournful loss.

As a result, it is a HARD READ!

On the surface, if ever there was a book of hopelessness, this is it.

Jerusalem had just fallen into brutal, vicious, evil hands. To even think about describing what took place during this time of history, gives me chills. So, I won't. It's the absolute worst you can imagine!

Quite bluntly, however, Jeremiah elaborates on this devastation with utmost clarity.

He calls it like it is.

The eyes of the people are flowing with tears, finding no comfort..."weeping bitterly in the night, with tears on [their] cheeks."

Jerusalem's ruin is as "vast as the sea."

The city has become the place where souls are "bereft of peace" and "endurance has perished."

Her dwellers have "forgotten what happiness is."

Jeremiah cries out to the Lord, "Look, O Lord, for I am in distress; my stomach churns; my heart is wrung within me..."

Worse than the fall of Jerusalem is what appears to be the absence of God.

"I cry for help, and my prayer is shut out..."

"My hope from the Lord has perished..."

"I am filled with the gall of bitterness; and sated with wormwood..."

I think you have gotten a glimpse into the extreme loss of hope;
and, the words of the Weeping Prophet may resonate in your souls.

Like me, you may ask one question:

"Why would the Lord allow such a disheartening story to appear in His Holy Word?" 

One would think that Scripture would be filled with encouragement.

If the Lord calls us to endurance, steadfastness, perseverance...and He does!...wouldn't He, like a cheerleader-type-Life Coach, or a rousing TED talk speaker, or the writer of a weekly blog, desire to spur us on with words of positivity?

After all, surely the Lord, who knows all things, is aware of the research on the power found in positive thinking, right?

Yet, that's not the overall "look" of Lamentations, and it does not stand alone. There are other difficult writings that flow throughout God's Word.

That's one thing about our Lord, He doesn't shy away from presenting life "as is."

His God-breathed Scriptures are filled with hard-stuff.
His Word is often unfiltered and R-rated.

So, why? Why is it there in all of its UGLY reality?

God delivers His story to us in harsh honesty, because there is hope to be found in the midst of what appears to be horrific hopelessness!

After a good deal of pondering, it struck me that the theme of Lamentations isn't at all what shows on the surface.

Surprisingly, it is filled with signs of confident expectation...and, at times, we have to read a little bit more between the lines to find it.

Of course, the most quoted part of Lamentations surprises us with wonderful poetic words of hope. There is nothing subliminal about this:

But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
The Lord is good to those who hope in him,
to the soul who seeks him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the...the Lord.
Lamentations 3:21-26

Another, more underlying message of hope is this:

When life is at it's worst; when we are completely at the bottom of a pit; when tough-stuff is all-consuming; God is on the move to do His best work.
There in the hard, the scene is being set for miracles to occur.
It's there, that the Lord has our full attention.
It's in that place, that we have no where else to look but up, and we won't be disappointed at what we see!

"I lift my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of Heaven and Earth (Ps 121:1)..."

It's there, in the fire, that gold is purified.
It's in the worst times, that the best lessons are learned.
It's in discipline, that perfect love is quite often revealed.
And, it's in the midst of the storm, that we find our safest shelter.

This is the HOPE in the midst of despair...

Don't be fooled by appearances.

Maybe...just maybe...when all seems lost is when we really are at the point of found.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Finding Hope

There's lots of white space below this line...I've not been home for several weeks, and my normal routine is a little "off," which tends to throw everything out of whack (you know what I mean), a lot of white space seems intimidating at the moment.

I don't feel obligated to fill it, not by any means...


I have a whole lot of thoughts about "hope" written down in my journal,


only one little thought of great magnitude on my mind (at least it's been of great magnitude to me over the last couple of days).

The essence of HOPE is found in experiencing the ordinary, often taken-for-granted, rhythms of life.

That's it (period).

Because the sun rises each morning, I know that my HOPE is not in vain.

Because that same sun sets (and, so often ends my day in brilliant reds, purples, oranges, yellows), I know my HOPE is secure.

Because seasons are predictable, I know new seasons will follow current ones.

Because the grass withers and the flowers fade during winter, doesn't mean that they won't spring to life again come warmer weather.

The stars are always in the sky.

The sun will never entirely disappear.

Each night the moon will rule the heavens (and I guess yesterday it was a super blue blood moon - but I missed it)...

The oceans will always ebb and flow.

The earth will always spin on its axis.

Planets will always revolve around the sun.

Because God ordained these things when He spoke them into existence, the promise of eternity is settled in the hearts of those who are His followers.

"I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart... I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be happy and hopeful, and to do good while they live."
Ecclesiastes 3:10-12

Yet, one of the most critical components in fulfilling "happy and hopeful" in our hearts, even in the midst of hardship, is that miraculous new life is evidenced daily (of course, it is also "appointed for man once to die," and we experience the joy and heartache of both).  The writers of Lion King, so aptly described it as..."the circle of life."

Yet, it's in the consistency of this circle that hope is uncovered and found in overflowing measure.

Because there is no question about its certainty, I am convinced even more in the absoluteness of the promises of God.

Two days ago, when my newest grand-treasure slipped rather quickly into the world, the immensity of the miracle, once again, took my breath away. Her first cries griped my heart, and I knew I was smitten. She is perfect in every way in the eyes of this family.

In the rush of the moment, in the overwhelming blast of emotions that followed, it did not get past me that not just new life had been born, but the Lord, also, gave birth to a NEW MEASURE OF HOPE.

Yet, how many times, have we experienced the ordinariness of the regular rhythms of our world in which the Lord has seen fit to reveal Himself, in order to renew our hope, and merely blinked?

In the awe and wonder of those little moments, stop and allow the Lord to do what He longs to do in your soul...............fill it with HOPE!

Hope in the future is built entirely on the ordinary, day-in and day-out, consistent cadence of God's distinctive hand at work.

Let's look for it...