Thursday, August 30, 2018

How to Live with Hope - Here's What it Might Look Like...

I'm trying to cling to the last strings of summer, even though fall is my ABSOLUTE favorite time of year.

The "lazy days" of summer flew by for me (where did this phrase come from, anyway? - I don't remember experiencing any slow, lazy, summer days over the course of my life).

Lots of travel, wonderful visits from friends, near and afar, office work and writing new messages for five upcoming women's retreats hastened the passing of time.

However, there's no denying fall is beginning to dress herself in stunning colors, and douse herself in her early morning perfume (and, I'm breathing deeply of her scent).

I've had a hankering for zucchini bread, cinnamon apples, and pumpkin....anything.

Seasons are like that...they come and they go...and they always bring newness...and HOPE:

This summer I finally mustered up some CoUrAgE, rented a paddle board, and determined to learn how to SUP (this is another story in itself, for another blog, another time).

So, in squeezing as much out of what is left of our warmer temps, I've been trying to get out on our little nearby lake, as I can.

Sometimes I go alone.

Sometimes I join a friend.

So, just after posting last week's blog, I tagged along with one of my dear friends to the lake.

I'm still learning the finer skills of staying on top of the water; while she has it mastered.

I'm still sllllllllllllllllllllllllllooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww; while she can skim along at a more rapid, consistent pace.

She moves out; I meander about.

However, we meet up in the middle, and have opportunity for prayer time together.

Seriously, there is nothing better for the soul than "walking on water," while beholding God's ever-changing creation, then praising Him, and petitioning His favor.

My friend doesn't just succeed at the paddle board, she does life well.

I've watched over the years as a sequence of unfortunate events have resulted in one hardship following another.

Yet, I've also observed her simple joy, heart of gratitude, and abundant hope. 

I'm actually jealous FOR IT...

So, on our knees, in the middle of Echo Lake, I asked...what have I missed on hope as I've written my blog? If someone were to ask you about your HOPE, what would you tell them?

And, she had an answer (I knew she would).

It falls in line with the idea of filling up on the Promises of God, but takes those Promises one step further into the realm of FAITH. After all:

I've known the value of declaring the faithfulness of God's good promises...

But, my friend's response, while simple, stunned me.

Her advice for living in hope, when the hard is all-consuming is this:

Live as if it is so, until it is, even if it isn't.

So, I have pondered this statement all week.

I've walked with it.

I've filtered Scriptures through it.

I've nestled my heart into it's TRUTH.

It's a Biblical statement.

I don't see it in print anywhere in the Bible as is; but, it is there...albeit, between the lines, and plumbed down in the cave of Hebrew and Greek words (I know (right?), there it is again...words).

I saw it first in Habakkuk.

As with Esther, God was standing in the shadows, and allowing an evil King to muck up the lives of God's people.

Where was God amidst destruction and violence? Habakkuk really wanted to know...

At least with Habakkuk, God was talking...and, He told Habakkuk to write down His divine communication (vision/oracle), and to run with it (2:1-2). What did Habakkuk write?

The righteous shall live by faith.

This faith grows bigger over time, and the believer grows, and continues to live, from faith to faith to faith (see the verse up at the top).

The Apostle Paul tells us that is how his faith grew.  He simply lived by faith.

Then, he tells us this, God counts that kind of living as RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Look again at that statement above (from my friend). That's what faith does. It looks at the Promises of God, and lives out life, walks the walk, makes decisions as if, what God says is so (because it is), even when it isn't yet so...until peripety (see last week) swings open the door and the Reversal of Destinies walks through... Then, what God has said is!

This is living by faith.

It is "reckoning" and "counting" that what God has said He will do is already done. So, I simply live like it is.

And, over the course of time, the current season of hard will begin to dress herself in spectacular array, and the scent of her coming will be a sign of the change to come.

After all, new seasons bring change...and hope!

So, live by faith.

Live as if it so, even if it isn't, until it is...

Thursday, August 23, 2018

A New Word that Makes A Story Worth Telling - and, it brings HOPE!

The word-nerd is coming out in me today. 

You may not be one. In fact, you may not be slightly interested in words, at all. 

Inwardly, you may be groaning…

I dare you to stick with me to the end. I find this new word I’ve been introduced to (through the vehicle of the commentary I’m reading on Esther) absolutely fascinating

By the end of this blog, I hope you find it fascinating, too; AND, above all, it will point us  to the HOPE of PROVIDENCE.

By way of introduction, I would make this statement: authoring a book is not easy. 

A few weeks back, I used a quote by Earnest Hemingway, “There is nothing to writing, you just sit down at a typewriter (in our case, computer) and bleed.”

That’s my approach to writing.

I am also one of those who writes to know what is going on up there in my brain. 

I write for order.

I write to corral the wild horses in my head. 

There are a lot of good authors; but, to be a great author requires a sense of literary skill and style. 

Great authors utilize literary tools for effectiveness. 

By virtue of this, great authors put exclamation marks on their stories.

Their points are clear, written artistically, structurally, fluently, and, with literary efficiency. 

The Lord God is a great writer. 

He whispered the words to Esther’s story via an un-named author, perhaps Mordecai (for the sake of this blog, we’ll say it is), that we might fully appreciate the HOPE we have in the unseen hand of a Sovereign God.

As mentioned last week, the entire theme of Esther is wrapped around this fact:

God is the I Am who reverses destinies. 

He is Yahweh, Reverser of Expected Outcomes.

I know God is a great author, because to prove this somewhat unknown aspect of His character, God moves Mordecai’s pen, using a literary device that I’ve been unaware of until recently (it is, actually, a very fun word to say, and make us sound smart when we use it). 


Peripety, in Esther, is the hinge on which the door of Providence opens.

Peripety is the “sudden and unexpected change of fortune, or a reverse of circumstances (particularly in a literary work), that swiftly turns a routine sequence of events into a story worth telling…” (WordBook Dictionary App)

Peripety is the pivot point, that moment when everything changes; highlighting the new thing the Lord is about to do. 

Most narratives place the peripety at the scene of highest climax: that moment when the protagonist of a story (our hero, or heroine) confronts the antagonist (the enemy). 

Yet, this is not so in Esther. 

The pivot point of Esther, the hinge on which the door of Providence began to open, had nothing to do with either the heroine, or her sworn enemy, Haman, doing ANYTHING. 

The peripety of Esther takes place in chapter 6, when in verse 1, we are told: 

“That night the King could not sleep. And he gave orders to bring the book of memorable deeds, and they were read before the King.”

Chapter 6 contains the first of many reversals to follow… On the very day Haman goes to the king to seek permission to kill Mordecai, Haman ends up not only not killing Mordecai, but has to publicly honor him in the King’s name. How humiliating for Haman… After all, he thought this story was all about him...a soon to be written book, titled Haman

Things change from this point forward - a fast-paced sequence of reversals follow - not because anyone had really done anything to this point.

Esther had stood in a doorway, praying for the scepter of grace to be extended. Yet, that one action was not responsible for any turn of events, at that point.

Esther had hostessed a banquet to “honor” the King and Haman, but nothing had come from that yet, either.

But with an insignificant, ordinary event, a sleepless night (this happens to me way too frequently, so maybe I'm being set up for "periphery?"), the tables began to turn. 

I loved what Dr. Karen Jobes said in her commentary:

By separating the pivot point of the peripety in Esther from the point of highest dramatic tension, the characters of the story are not spotlighted as the cause of the reversal. This reinforces the message that NO ONE IN THE STORY (emphasis mine throughout), not even the most powerful person in the empire, is IN CONTROL OF WHAT IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN. An unseen power is controlling the reversal of destiny, at all times. The Greek translation makes this implicit truth explicit with the statement, “The Lord took sleep from the King that night” (LXX of 6:1, pers. trans.)

That gives me shivers.

We never know what ordinary event may begin to turn the tables on our problems that strip HOPE. 

We can’t be certain of how the very thing that frustrates us the most might be used of God to start swinging open the door…

…But, Esther's story teaches us to HOPE in the unexpected.

…to HOPE in the normal, and the ordinary, and the mundane of every day activities.

…to HOPE in something as daily as eating a meal. HOPE at ALL TIMES, and in ALL WAYS, and in ALL THINGS, because there may be a “BUT GOD” just around the corner. 

That's the lesson of peripety.

Now, how does that not fascinate you? 

Don’t shivers run up and down your spine?

Don’t goose bumps appear on your arms?

In the end, it makes a story worth telling!
(and the Lord God is a master at it!)

We call that REDEMPTION.

Praise the name of Jesus.  Our Yahweh, who is the reverser of destinies.

Our Great Promise Keeper.

The Awe-mazing Author of our very own stories.

Watch for peripety in your own life!

Expect it in the unexpected. 

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Seven Lessons for Finding HOPE...With One More Thrown In

As I sat this morning to write this blog, I knew I needed a review of what has been settling in my heart regarding HOPE.

Bay and I just finished a wonderful weekend on retreat with our FOCUS Ministries board of directors.

It was a weekend of spiritual renewal and worship...

...of "Sabbathing" (see last week's blog).

It was a weekend of encouragement, of fellowship, of rest, and much laughter.

AND, it was a weekend of re-fueling HOPE within...along with a prayer of leaving that place to be a more purposeful HOPE dispenser.

HOPE is what I've been studying since January (and, I'm not tired of looking for new insights yet).

What a journey!

The lessons have been many. I've learned to dig deep to mine my HOPE:
1) to run to the anchor of my hope: Jesus, the solid rock on which I stand;

2) to pound on the door blocking my hope with God's amazing promises (I write those promises out and pray them back to the Lord as a reminder to me of His faithfulness at all times);

3) to "make friends" with the struggle (this includes, acceptance and surrender); remember:

4) to pray with fasting; this process is a tremendous source of power, strength, and wisdom in the midst of hardship

5) to lean on the Providence of God; He is always standing in the shadows, even when it seems He is M.I.A., working all things for GOOD (because He is good)

6) to keep my eyes focused on things above; heaven is our ultimate hope...but seeing the then, always keeps the now in perspective.

7) to claim my identity; I am royalty; I have an assignment on earth (sometimes that assignment needs to be realigned with God's purposes); and intimacy with the King of Kings is my ultimate source of comfort.

Right major considerations on finding HOPE when it is waning.

We, frequently, have to work to find the wonder of God's word!

There is one more lesson on HOPE I'm contemplating.

I've always known I'm a word-nerd.

To find good words, I read.

All of us find our words from another source.

I make certain my sources are rich in TRUTH. (Here's a secret: as I grow up I want God to be my ventriloquist, and I, His mouthpiece...I guess that makes me His dummy...hmmmmmm....well, I'm OK with that!)

After studying on my own, I really enjoy reading commentaries (so, yes, I'm more than just a word-nerd). I found a great one on the book of Esther.

Written by a woman, Dr. Jobes, dispenses insights that have kept me convicted, and to be honest, on-my-toes theologically.

The HOPE found in Esther has not been her focus.

The theme she has centered on is what I've found interesting, and worthy of one more consideration for finding more HOPE. It's the idea of:
Reversal of Destiny  
(often referred to as Reversal of Fortune; or Reversal of Expected Outcomes)

I expect one thing to happen....but the tables get turned and just the opposite occurs.

The whole concept is woven beautifully into the structure of the book....

...and, it is built into every fiber of the BEING of the Lord God!

It is a part of His innate character. My God is the Reverser of Destinies.

Jobes' declares this is the lesson the Lord wants me to learn from the book titled Esther:

There is always a surprising "BUT GOD" just around the corner.

My God is a God whose greatest joy is to Reverse Expected Outcomes for my good and His glory.

Just when it seems things can't get worse - YAHWEH SHOWS UP!

(for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His Purposes) 

It may not always be the way I anticipate; but, His ways are higher than my ways (Is 55:8-9)....ALWAYS!

It may not happen in our timing; but, His timing is PERFECT...ALWAYS!

I may not always see it in the now; but, I can be assured to see it in the THEN...and, the THERE.

This aspect of God's character is just one of the BRIGHTEST LIGHTS shining at the end of my dark tunnel.

This aspect of God's character often sits in obscurity, because my enemy would like for me to forget it. So, he subtly blinds my eyes to this important part of God's nature. It sits in an obscure little book, hidden in plain sight, in the midst of our Old Testaments. However, this truth remains:

I may not see Him working through the trial, but He is definitely at work in it! 
Big difference...

Jobes believes that's why Esther is included in our Bibles.

I frequently need this reminder...we all do...when life puts us in a place of stuck.

However, while Esther is filled with examples of God's hand reversing the expected, it is just a microcosm of the whole of Scripture. Esther's redemptive story helps us to remember the greatest personal reversal I will NEVER deserve.

This theme of reversal of destiny is woven throughout the book of Esther. However, the reversal of destiny is a major theme in all of biblical theology, spanning the entire Bible. God’s plan to redeem a people from death is a reversal of expected outcomes for those He saves. Therefore, the cross of Jesus Christ is the pivot-point of the greatest reversal of destiny that spans all of history.
-Karen Jobes-

The God who loved us that much will surely continue our story of redemption, of His reversal of our destiny, until "that day..."  It is FACT!

Let it fill you with HOPE!

The Lord is in charge of your story...and, it matters to Him how it turns out.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

To Kill the Heart...

I made a promise last week to share one more lesson on HOPE that I learned as I've studied through the book of Esther.

I even wrote the blog.

I spent a considerable amount of time on it.

However, it will sit unpublished for now.

Something else is on my heart...and, the prerogative of a blog-writer is to make last minute decisions, especially if one uses the writing as a processing tool.


That means this jumbled mess of words is being written for me...

I've been reminded that my life is regularly driven by that task-master, THE TO-DO LIST.

Sadly, even the things I do for enjoyment end up on that list to be checked off at the end of a day.
  • My early morning quiet time with Jesus...(oh, ouch!)
  • Horseback riding with my husband.
  • Lunch, or coffee, with a friend.
  • Gestures of service.
  • Long walks up the forest-service road.
  • More recently, early-morning paddle boarding on our little nearby peaceful, calm lake.
  • Entertaining guests in our home.
When THE TO-DO LIST takes over, everything about my life is seen through its lens.

My brain silently cheers me on:  "Get 'er done! Get 'er done!"

But, that's OK, right?

After all, Scriptures say, those who don't work, shouldn't eat...

There's value in being busy, especially for the Kingdom's sake...

In general, I've managed busy well.

I'm notorious for spouting off my TO-DO LIST.

More than once, I've had a loved one say to me, "I just asked a simple question; I didn't need your TO-DO LIST."

That's indicative, though.

In that moment, I am THE LIST.

When asked  how I am, I simply say, "Busy!"

It's an acceptable answer.

Most of us wear "busy" like a badge of honor, according to author, Brene Brown.

Yet, it's a wrong answer.

That's not what's being asked. "How" is about what's going on inside me. "Busy" is what's going on outside me.

Yet, what's going on outside me, affects me to a great degree what is on the inside.

Too much busy-without-balance creates anxiety.

Too much busy-without-balance robs me of my joy; and, it causes me to lose perspective.

Too much busy-without-balance can put me on the couch for a couple of days.

 It did last weekend. I can't swear to that being the problem, but there was fairly good indication of it.

I needed to slow down; and, the Lord helped me do so, with some strange outward physical symptoms.

Not long ago, I read a book, that had a little aside note on busyness. I jotted that note down and went back to re-read it last night.

Apparently, in Mandarin, the word for busyness is comprised of two pictographs.

The first is a picture that represents the word for "heart."

The second phonetic element represents a word that can mean: to lose, disappear, perish, flee, kill, and, by extension, can also mean "to have none, or, there is not..."

By virtue of this fact, when I say I am busy, this is my literal answer:

"Oh, I'm just killing my heart... You?"

Or, "I'm losing heart this week..."

Could be I'm saying, "I have no heart today..."

Now, I'm sure when the Chinese write the word, or speak it, they don't think in those literal terms, just as we don't when we say, "I've been incredibly busy lately." However, it's pretty symbolic don't you think????????

And...not just symbolic. It has the potential to be prophetic.

What's the answer?


Sabbath removes our addiction to busyness.

Sabbath creates an inner calm that restores the heart.

Sabbath puts God back on the throne and in charge, because our busyness is simply a way for us to "stay in control."

My busyness is my way of feeding the idol-of-self within me...that need to manage my life, my way...

I needed the time on the couch this past weekend to remind me I've moved away from "Sabbathing" well.

What is Sabbath?

Nothing more than an inner attitude of the heart that surrenders TIME (which I tend to think I own) to the Lord.

Sabbath is nothing more than an "invitation to intermission."

It is time to stop doing... cease striving... rest, remember, and create space for the Spirit of the Lord to restore my soul...

And, you know what?  I might even refuel myself with more HOPE to dispense to others.

There! This blog really was about HOPE in the end...

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Need Hope? Maybe You Need an Alignment Assignment!

Review: Since January, I've been studying HOPE, which has had me traveling several winding roads. At this juncture, the book of Esther is my focus for unearthing hope when God seems most distant.

I ended last week with this thought:

Truth is that the bigger the difficulty in my life, the more I need God's direction; the harder my situation, the more I need to meet it head on with hard-sacrifice. 

This was Esther's story. She NEEDED a plan...a way forward... She NEEDED grace (in a HUGE way). Yet, for the life of her, the Lord seemed significantly SILENT.

He always does when we are in pain.

So, we need our heart to align with what our head should know is TRUTH:

We also need to pivot from one way of thinking to another...from whine to solid assurance.

When we start to make this mental shift, the following happens:

1. We discover an ability to reconcile ourselves with our problems...

2. Reconciliation allows us to see the light at the end of the tunnel...a light we call HOPE!

The answer, as we learn from Esther's story, is prayer and fasting.

Fasting was pivotal for Esther. With a three day fast, Esther found deep inside, three things she probably didn't know she possessed:


Conviction (laced with wisdom from above)


Yes, these are three character traits we all need when life is out of control, and there seem to be no answers on hand.

Esther discovered they were untapped resources until she fasted...

Like Esther, I've been there.

I've needed the critical-three (and, it's been more than once in my life).

Like Esther, I've engaged in seasons of prayer and fasting (hence referred to as P & F).

Granted, it hasn't been easy, but in light of the problems that loomed, it wasn't difficult.

What I NEEDED was greater than what I LACKED.

The sacrifice was worth it...for the result.

Sacrifice in the now is always worth what is gained in the then.

Granted, it doesn't change the trial.

At the end of my fast, the problem was still ever-present and looming large.

What had changed was what was in me.

As I went back and reflected (journals really are wonderful tools), these were the practical benefits I had taken note of:

P & F created space for God to move in my heart. Someone had told me "God is a filler, not a forcer." He will not ever force Himself on us, but He does long to fill us when we seek Him.

P & F reminded me of how big my God IS (present tense)... Sometimes we just simply forget that God isn't who we think He is; He is so much bigger! As a result, P & F eliminates my Spiritual Amnesia. The size of my suffering reduces significantly in His Presence. The ability of His POWER is revitalized.

P & F revealed just how many idols warred for the throne of my heart... All kinds of impurities rise like dross to the surface of my heart. Fasting has a way of revealing all the junk I've shoved into the back of the closet of my soul. As it resurfaces, I get an opportunity to deal with it...confess it...make it right before the Lord.

P & F put me on the same page as the Lord. I found this quote written in my journal, though I didn't write down who said it (so, if it's someone who reads this, please claim it):

One reason... it (P & F) is so that it activates a chain reaction where we see God's kingdom manifest on earth. This sequence is what I call agreement, or 'alignment assignment.'

This is HUGE... Do you see what is being said here? When we come into agreement with God, we are aligned with His perfect will on earth, just as it already is in heaven. In Esther's case, God was able to use a common Jewish girl (who had been stripped away from her homeland into captivity: seemingly unqualified, fearful, doubtful, questioning) in ways she never thought possible.

When we find our assignment, as we align with God's will for us on earth, we find the purpose God created us to fulfill...AND, in that He is most glorified!

Alignment assignment - I LOVE THAT PHRASE!

P & F moves me, then, into the place of Romans 12:1-2.  In this place, I faced a solemn moment of intentionality, placing myself whole-heartedly under the mighty hand of God.

Here, our lives become all about Jesus; less about us. Just the way it is intended to be.

Each of those highlighted points dispense a GREATER, DEEPER HOPE for the heart. However, when I find my "alignment assignment," it SOARS!

Nothing dispenses more hope than ascertaining a purpose in the midst of difficulty.

Finding a possible reason for the "stuff" we are going through often produces more STEADFASTNESS in hope.

 BUT THERE'S STILL SOMETHING BIGGER & MORE WONDERFUL (at least I think so)...and, oh, my...if we learn to leverage it as we pray and fast, well....That's for next week... (smile)