Holding onto hope in hopeless places

Our new house has stairs and that means I’ve been practicing a new and heretofore undeveloped skill—yelling up those stairs to my kids.

My voice lacks the resonant quality needed to get their attention most of the time.  After all, I’m competing with earbuds, closed doors, radios, their own conversations, iTunes, and the like.  So, they don’t always hear me.

There are other culprits also.  Like the distance from the front of the minivan to the back of the minivan and all the ambient noise in said minivan while I’m trying to talk.

Or there’s simply my son’s natural talkativeness.  He can’t hear me very well when he’s trying to tell me a story at the same time.

Whatever the culprit, I spend a lot of time as a mom just trying to be heard.

All of this has been nudging my heart a little with a question:  What gets in the way of me hearing God?

Busyness, distraction, noise, inattentiveness, me not taking time to listen—all of them are to blame at times.

But there’s something else, too.  Sometimes heavy-heartedness, sadness, and discouragement throw us into a pit of darkness, and it’s so hard to hear God’s voice in that place.

There are times God speaks hope to his people and  even though hope is truly what we need, we can miss His message.

This is where Israel was in the beginning of Exodus.  Slavery trampled on more than their physical freedom.  Over time, it had beaten them into hopelessness.

That’s when God sent Moses with these words:

I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel….
I have remembered my covenant….
I will bring you  out from under the burdens of the Egyptians….
I will  deliver you from slavery.
I will redeem you…
I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God…
I will bring you  into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. (Exodus 6:2-9).

The promises are stunning. The assurances are powerful.  These are the grandest, greatest, most extravagant declarations of God’s abiding love for His people and His determination to rescue them.

But they didn’t throw a block party when they heard Moses’s news, nor did they pack their bags and start planning for departure.

Instead, Exodus says:

“they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery” (Exodus 6:9 ESV).

They didn’t listen.

They didn’t listen because they couldn’t listen.  Their perspective had been damaged over time. God seemed distant and unreal, unhelpful and uncaring and words didn’t penetrate through  that wall of hurt and bitterness.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in places where hope is hard.

David had been there, too.  He wrote:

Look to the right and see; For there is no one who regards me; There is no escape for me; No one cares for my soul (Psalm 142:4 NASB).

What he needed was to know that someone cared for his soul.

Just like Israel, David felt abandoned, alone, and hopeless with no chance of rescue.  But there in the middle of that place of pain, he recalled the promise and the truth:

The righteous will surround me,
    for you (God) will deal bountifully with me. (Psalm 142:7b NASB). 

God’s people would  be there for him and God would come through for him.  That’s what David knew.

That’s what we need to  know, too, when we feel forgotten or abandoned, alone, or without hope.

God’s people  are there for us.  God will come  through. 

But we’re not just receivers of that message;  we’re messengers of hope to others.

How can we share about God’s love and keep sharing? Remind others of God’s promises and keep reminding them?  Speak truth in love and keep on speaking  that truth even when we’re ready to give up?

Some of us right now are loving  someone who is traveling through hard spaces: the valley, the wilderness, the pit, and that’s a messy kind of ministry.

We can be poured out and depleted when caring for the hurting. It requires deep compassion, supernatural patience, and near-constant trips into God’s presence for  our own renewal and refreshing.  Otherwise, we’ll be crushed underneath someone else’s burden.

Only the Holy Spirit can do that deep healing work in any of us.  Only the Holy Spirit can open blinded eyes and deaf ears.

So the pressure is off of us to make others hear or understand or change their minds.

Here’s what we can do: We be present with them in the pain.  We stick with them in prayer.  We keep holding onto hope, and we trust God do the greater work that He alone can do.

 

 

 

 

 

He is the endurance and encouragement we need

“Mom, I see the flowers we planted!”

We planted bulbs in November and by the very next day, my son started looking for signs of life, little green sprouts pushing up through the soil.  He’s been on the alert since then.

But I know how this works.  Those crocuses and tulips aren’t going to push their little green noses up through the dirt until about February.

He helped me dig each of the holes down and the dropped each bulb into its new earthy home.

He pushed the dirt over the seeds and he stepped down and we high-fived when it was all done.

So, now he wants results.  He wants to see the fruit of our labors.  Let’s have some flowers already!  Let’s see the growth now!

Maybe he’s like most of us, wanting things fast, impressive, instant, and now.

But James wrote in his epistle:

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand….Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful (James 5:7-8, 11).

The farmer is in this for the long-haul.  He isn’t in it for instant results or some overnight turnaround.

He knows what the plants need first.  They need early rains and they need late rains, all before the precious fruit of the earth is carried in at harvest.

We need this.  We’re not overnight bloomers.  We’re ripening fruit, needing the early rains, needing the late rains, needing Jesus to be at work all before we can be pulled off the vine.

Sometimes perhaps we just give up too soon.  Sometimes we just get too frustrated, too  discouraged, too shaken up by our plans tumbled into disarray.

Things break. Conflict occurs. People disappoint. I disappoint. I forget.  I mess up. I lose my temper. I make the wrong decision and I forget grace. The schedule suffocates. The expectations of others weigh heavy.

Whatever the form of brokenness we face, it is broken, and here we are with the same-old, same-old choice.

Give up on the fruit.

Or this:

Be patient.

Establish our heart.

Remain steadfast.

This speaks peace to me.  This says that even when the fruit delays, even when the ground seems interminably hard, even when the winter lasts and the rains don’t come, even then my heart is rooted deep down in Jesus.

So, the unexpected doesn’t distort my perspective.

I am at peace.

The interruptions and the disruptions don’t toss me into fear.

I am at peace.

The conflict doesn’t knot me up in a tangled mess.

I am at peace.

We have patience.  We shake off the mess and get back up and try again because that’s what it takes to be steadfast; that’s what it means to endure.

When James said, “Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast,” he reminds us that the blessing isn’t for those who ran fast, grew tired, and then gave up.

The blessing is for those who remain. 

God blesses steadfastnessthe stick-to-it, never-giving-up, endurance of day-after-day obedience and faithfulness and growth.

here’s the good news: we don’t do this alone.

James finishes that passage with the reminder we need that God “is compassionate and merciful ”

He helps us.  He loves us.  He doesn’t expect us to conquer and hold fast all on our own.

This is what Romans says:

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,  that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 15:5-6 ESV).

He is the God of endurance and encouragement.

What we need on those days when we just want to crawl under the covers and give up, on the days we’re overwhelmed by the mess we’re in or the mistakes we’ve made, on the days when we think it’s just not going to  get better and we’ll never see any fruit…what we need is Him.

He is the endurance and encouragement we need to obey and then obey and then obey again, one step of faithfulness after another step of faithfulness in a long line of faithfulness over time.

Take heart.  Be encouraged.  The fruit will come.  The life will break through the frozen dirt and there will be beauty and harvest if we remain, endure, have hope, and do not give up.

Please join me over at (in)courage today!

WILL YOU JOIN ME?

Today I’m posting in an amazing community for women called ‘(in)courage’  to remind us of this:

Here at the start of a new year, may our prayers be simple and true: “Your will this year, not mine, Lord. Your will, not mine.”

Then, we open our hands to God, allowing Him to exchange His best plans for our faulty ones. We hold lightly to our own hopes, goals, plans, resolutions, and dreams for the year, and we hold tightly to the God who loves us so much He chose the cross.

I’m thrilled and honored to be sharing this message with the (in)courage community and I hope you’ll take a few minutes to click this link and join me over there today.  It would be a true joy to ‘see some familiar faces!’

You can click here to read the whole post over on the (in)courage page.  I’d be truly blessed if you’d leave me a comment on their site!  I’ll be popping in throughout the day to reply.

If you love the (in)courage site as much as I do, you can also sign up here to receive free daily encouragement from the writers of (in)courage, right in your inbox!

While I’d love for you to visit me over at (in)courage today, I ask for your prayers above all. May God be glorified and His people be encouraged by this message of hope in His faithfulness!

Thanks so much for the prayers and the help in sharing this message with others!

Bible Verses For Those Who Mourn

  • Psalm 23:4 ESV
    Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
        I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
        your rod and your staff,
        they comfort me.
  • Psalm 30:5 ESV
    For his anger is but for a moment,
        and his favor is for a lifetime.
    Weeping may tarry for the night,
        but joy comes with the morning.
  • Psalm 34:18 ESV
    The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
        and saves the crushed in spirit.
  • Psalm 46:1-2 ESV
    God is our refuge and strength,
        a very present[b] help in trouble.
    Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
        though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea
  • Psalm 73:26 ESV
    My flesh and my heart may fail,
        but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
  • Psalm 119:50 ESV
    This is my comfort in my affliction,
        that your promise gives me life.
  • Psalm 147:3 ESV
    He heals the brokenhearted
        and binds up their wounds.
  • Isaiah 53:4 ESV
    Surely he has borne our griefs
        and carried our sorrows;
    yet we esteemed him stricken,
        smitten by God, and afflicted.
  • Lamentations 3:31-33 ESV
    For the Lord will not
        cast off forever,
    32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
        according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
    33 for he does not afflict from his heart
        or grieve the children of men.
  • Matthew 5:4 ESV
    Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
  • 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ESV
    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 ESV
    But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.
  • Revelation 21:4 ESV
    He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Rules About Pumpkins and How God is Enough

We have this long-standing family rule. My husband tells my daughters every year at the pumpkin patch before we scramble onto the tractor for the hayride out to the fields:

“You have to pick a pumpkin you can carry….yourself.…as in Mom and Dad aren’t carrying your pumpkin for you.”

They nod their little blond heads in understanding, but when my kids hop off the back of that hay-covered wagon, their eyes scan the fields for the site of the perfect pumpkin.

And perfect typically means more than just deep orange (not green) and no rot (if they could find one without dirt on it, that’s a bonus).

Perfect usually means “big,” too.

Sometimes, like this year, one unique child will search for half an hour in that field only to pick the tiniest of all miniature orange pumpkins.

Inevitably, though, another child combines rolling, scooting, dragging, and bent-knee carrying complete with huffing, puffing, grunting and groaning to transfer her chosen pumpkin onto the tractor.

Or they’ll blink large, beautiful blue eyes in my direction and ask, “Mommy, can you help me carry this?,” hoping that somehow Mom missed hearing Dad’s speech this year.

Bigger is better.  That’s what they think sometimes.

I need more, more than I can truly carry, more than enough, more than can fit, more than is comfortable…..

As our kids grow,  their chosen pumpkins often grow, too.

Perhaps it’s time to amend the rule because “what you can carry” seems like a dare to choose the largest pumpkin they can maneuver out of the field and onto the tractor.

I take this dare at times, too.

Because I feel needy at times, that’s why.

In need of energy, of supply, of vision, of joy, of inspiration, of affection, of deliverance, of encouragement, of peace….and yes, of even more and more than that.

Scripture promises us this—The Lord is our Chelqi—-our Portion.  It’s one of His names, part of His character, the implicit promise dependent not on what He does or has done, but on who He is at the very core of His being.

That’s what it says in Lamentations 3:24:

“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I have hope in Him”  (NASB)

and Psalm 73:26:

My flesh and my heart may fail,
But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (NASB)

and again in Psalm 16:5:

The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup;
You support my lot (NASB).

He is our Portion.  He is Enough.  He is exactly what we need, how much we need, at the exact moment we need Him.

We needn’t try to fill our arms with more than we can carry, fearful that He’ll give us what we need today, but not tomorrow.

In the wilderness outside of Egypt, God rained down supernatural manna for the Israelites six days a week, enough for each day with extra to set aside for the Sabbath once a week.  And He told them this: Gather enough for today.

Just for today.  Trust me for tomorrow.  I’ll provide again.

Some of them tried to stockpile and store, thinking their own personal planning and feelings of security trumped God’s instruction.

But He meant it…daily bread.  This much, and no more, is perfect.  Trying to live off yesterday’s harvest leaves us with rotten manna, worm-filled bread, starvation for sure.

So, tomorrow and every single day we return for fresh filling and fresh provision, a perpetual looking to the Lord our Portion for all that we need.

And He is ALL we need.  We trust that He isn’t stingy or absent or moody and inclined to provide one day, but not the next.

We don’t gorge ourselves in the fields of life, choosing other methods of filling our void and our emptiness, lumbering back to the tractor with our arms filled with everything that looks so perfect, but never fully satisfies.

He is enough.  His provision is perfect in our seasons of fatigue and sorrow and desperate need .

Charles Spurgeon said it this way:

It is not “The Lord is partly my portion,”nor “The Lord is in my portion”; but he himself makes up the sum total of my soul’s inheritance.  Within the circumference of that circle lies all that we possess or desire.  The Lord is my portion.  Not his grace merely, nor his love, nor his covenant, but Jehovah himself.”

Oh yes, sometimes I think what I need is rest.  I need peace, Lord bring me peace.  God, give me joy.  Father, provide for this need.

But it’s not that He gives me a portion; He is my portion.

It is God Himself that I need, all that I need, everything that I need, and He is enough for me.

Originally posted September 27, 2013

Living in a Neighborhood 101

Living in a neighborhood is new for us.

My kids have lived  their whole lives in a house on a busy street where cars sped around corners and it wasn’t safe to get your mail out of your mailbox,  much less bike ride or walk to  a friend’s house.   We had neighbors on one side of our yard, but an empty, wooded lot on the other side.

There was no communal place to play.  No sidewalks.   If my kids wanted to see friends, I arranged a play date and drove them back and forth.

When I wanted to  take a walk, I drove into town, unloaded the stroller, walked my son down Main Street and back, climbed back  into the minivan to drive home.

Now, though, we’re slipping into something new: Neighborhood life.

Friendly dogs pop over to  our house for random visits and we say hello to “Abby” the red-haired retriever and “Bruno” the little black and white fellow with the stubby tail from next door.

My daughter rides her bike for the first time pretty much ever and we take walks and wave to  people we know and even those we  don’t.

We call out to others about the beautiful weather when a summer’s evening feels unusually cool and we are blessed with extra tomatoes out of the abundance of a backyard garden nearby.

I feel held accountable to keep up with the garden weeds, even in the heat of July, even when I’m busy, even after a summer rain shower that makes everything grow like a jungle overnight.   No more calling it quits in my yard the first time the temperature hits 90 degrees.

After a week or so in our new house, my husband actually had to explain some neighborhood-life  tips to our kids.

  1.  You don’t have  to  ring your own doorbell when you get home from being outside.  This is your own house . You can just come on in.
  2. Don’t just invite yourself over for dinner at a friend’s.  If they are ready to eat dinner, come on home.

We’re all learning and adjusting a bit.

Maybe learning to  live in a neighborhood is a lesson for all of us.

Maybe it doesn’t come naturally, this staying close, being held accountable,  giving and taking and sharing and caring.

After all,  even Jesus’s followers didn’t always know what to  do.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Great!

But, who is my neighbor anyway and do I really have to love ‘that guy’?

The disciples surely had some growing to do in the neighborhood-life department, too.  They weren’t alike and perhaps didn’t have that much in common outside of Jesus.

They were fishermen and a tax collector, a zealot, and Nathaniel sounds to me like a well-educated skeptic.

Some were related by blood, some were friends, others were outsiders.

And, as people in close  proximity are wont to do, they fought over superiority and responsibilities and decisions.

What drew them together wasn’t their “sameness.”  It was  simply going where Jesus was going, following where Jesus led them,  working together as a team to  minister as Jesus sent them out.

They were fellow-travelers and “bunk mates.”  Surely, they had to learn to be each other’s neighbor along the way.

In the Old Testament, Ruth declared her never-ending,  stick-to-it loyalty to her mother-in-law Naomi like this:

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God (Ruth 1:16 ESV).

This is what she promised :  “I’ll go with you.”

There can’t be many sentences in this life more powerful than that. 

Not just “I’ll pray for you” or “I hope you have a nice trip” or even “I’ll watch your stuff until you get back.”

Not that.  This:  I’ll pack my bags and put on my walking shoes and I will  go with you.  

The disciples traveled together.

Ruth and Naomi traveled  together.

Who is  traveling with you?

Stacey Thacker writes,

The presence of a friend can encourage us to not turn back in grief, but to look forward with hope (Fresh Out of Amazing). 

We all need a little  whisper  of hope today and we all know someone who needs us to whisper hope to them.

None of us can traipse along as fellow-travelers with every single person we meet.  We’d be drained and exhausted.

But we can’t  set off all by our lonesome selves  either.

Instead, God draws us to the right people and we choose to follow His lead.  We whisper the words to them….or maybe they whisper to us:  “I’ll go with you.  We can be neighbors.”

How our hearts long for home

Way back in September, my son screamed and kicked as I carried him back into the house after his sisters climbed onto the big yellow school bus.

He still struggled some mornings well into the spring,  especially after spring break.

This morning, partway through June, he once again stomped around the house with his chin tucked down to his chest and his arms criss-crossed after the girls walked out the door.

All this morning I tried to explain summer break to him, painting it as vividly as I could.  This is the very last day in the school  year.  The girls will get to be with us more and we’ll  have adventures together and time at home with each other.

But he still grumped around for at least 30 minutes because that didn’t make sense to him.  The “Promised Land” of summer was closer than he ever realized, but still too far away to be real.

I  sympathize with him.  I know what it’s like to long for the promise fulfilled and to be oh so close, but not quite there yet.

On Monday, I  walked through our soon-to-be new house and signed off saying it’s fixed up the way we want.

Then I drove back home to our current house, dug out yet another item I had already packed in a box,  and continued the waiting for word of our closing date.

So, longing for what’s right around the corner but not being able to fully relax and celebrate?  I’m right there with you, son.

This insatiable longing for what is to come makes me wonder, though, why I don’t ache more often for “home.”

All of us should be longing for heaven.  It should be a deep stirring within us because absolutely nothing we achieve or receive on this planet will fill up that gnawing need for eternity with Jesus.

Before He died, Jesus comforted His disciples with these words:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also (John 14:1-3 ESV).

Our heart’s truest desire should be this: to be with Christ in that place He’s prepared for us.

We can live like Abraham, who was willing to  abide in tents because “he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, who designer and builder is God”  (Hebrews 11:10 ESV).

He didn’t need a palace, a mansion, or a luxury condo.  Instead, he was satisfied with a tent because he had heaven in mind.

And those other ancestors of faith looked forward also.  The Bible says, “They desire a better country, that is,  a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:15).

Isn’t this what we desire, too?

When we  hear the news yet again:

Divorce.   Abuse.  Neglect.  Death.  Cancer.   Pain.  Injustice.  Starvation and famine.  Poverty.

Don’t we ache with the way this doesn’t fit?  It’s not right?  This isn’t God’s best?

And that’s when we remember to cry out:  Come, Lord Jesus!  We long for you so!

We long for heaven.  This yearning for the eternal is deep within us and it should drive who we are.

It should stir us to PATIENCE with the now when God asks us to wait because we keep looking forward to His promises fulfilled.

It stir us to  ACT.  Stand up for what is right.  Pursue righteousness.  Offer mercy.  Live justly.  Because the Kingdom of God is  something we can live now in anticipation of perfection in heaven.

Eternity doesn’t begin for Christians after we die.  Eternity begins the moment we accept Christ as Lord.  I’m already living in my “forever with the Lord” and that means pursuing Jesus’s presence here and now.

And it should stir us to PRAY:  To come before Him with hearts crushed and broken by sin and evil.  We seek the hope that only Jesus can bring: the assurance that this isn’t all  there is.

He is indeed preparing a place for us.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4 ESV).

“This world is not my home; I’m just a-passing through.”

Green pastures don’t happen by chance

My son would like his Batman house back.

We’ve been packing in waves here in preparation for our move.

Several  months ago, I started putting books and toys into boxes that we wanted to keep, but didn’t need right away, and then we hauled all of that to a storage facility for safe-keeping.

Then, the weekend before we listed our house for sale, we made another storage blitz and that’s when we packed up his Batman playhouse.

This was no problem until the day he pulled down his superhero toys and  he had Batman and Robin and Green Lantern and Superman…..but no superhero lair to put them in.

I’ve tried to explain the process of moving to him and he understands bits and pieces of it, but when you’re three and you know you have a Batman house but your mom can’t pull it out for you to play with, that’s fairly tragic.

There’s one thing he knows for sure, though.

His Batman house will be at the new house for him, and he is holding onto that promise.

If we drive by the new house or stop in for an inspection, he reminds me, “My Batman house is at the new house.”  Right, mom?  Then I can play with it.”

Yes, baby, it will be there.  Not yet, but soon.

This moving is a journey of preparation, stages and stages of letting go and moving on.

It will all  be fresh and new and exciting, but it’s also an adjustment at times .

After all, he’s only known this one little house for his whole little life and he’s happy right here.

And he’s innocently unaware of most of the change on the horizon, just happily accepting the boxes stacking up and the repairs we’ve made.  Mostly, he simply trusts us and keeps holding on to the hope and the promise that he’ll be playing with his Batman house again soon.

And I admire that about him.

I take it to heart as a girl who chafes against change and holds onto the old and familiar with all her might.  I love how he sets his heart on hope, focuses his vision on the good, and trusts those who love him enough to lead him.

That should be me.

That should be us, trusting our Shepherd, the God who loves us so.

Not worrying over the journey or fretting over the unknown, but enjoying the beautiful unfolding of His perfect plans for us.

In Psalm 23, it says,

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.

I love to think about those green pastures and still waters, but I’ve never considered before how the shepherd prepares nourishment, rest, provision, and blessing for his sheep.

He doesn’t just meander along, stumbling upon some green grass periodically.

Oh, here’s a little place to rest.  Who knows when we’ll find such a place again!  Enjoy, sheep!

Instead, Phillip Keller, the author of A Shepard Looks at Psalm 23, writes:

Green pastures don’t happen by chance. They are a product of tremendous labor, time, and skill in land use. They were the result of clearing rough rocky land, of tearing out brush and roots and stumps, of deep plowing and careful soil preparation, of seeding and planting special grains and legume, or irrigating with water and husbanding with care the crops and forage that would feed the sheep.

The Shepherd plans and prepares the future for His sheep.

Max Lucado puts it this way:

“Hence, when David says, ‘He makes me to lie down in green pastures,’ he is saying, ‘My Shepherd makes me lie down in his finished work” (Safe in the Shepherd’s Arms).

Wherever we find ourselves,  God has prepared us for what we face….and prepared for us hope….and prepared for us calling….and prepared for us rest.  

He prepares these green pastures and He prepares “a table before me in the presence  of my enemies” (Psalm 23:5) because He knows there are times of rest and times of opposition.

He prepares good  works for us to do here on earth (Ephesians 2:10) and is even now preparing our eternal home (John 14:3).

Scripture says:

The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.  Deut. 31:8 ESV

God does both.  He goes before us, preparing the way for us and preparing us for the way.

And He walks alongside us, never abandoning us along the way, always leading us to our home in Him where we can find rest in the work He’s finished.

 

 

What caterpillars remember and I sometimes forget

There’s always a rebel.

This cup of caterpillars arrives in the mailbox and I set it up high so we can watch them grow.

And do they ever grow.

Within a few days, they start scaling the walls of the plastic cup and demonstrate their acrobatics by clinging to the lid and hanging upside down.  First one caterpillar, then another.

Every year, this one lone caterpillar delays.  All four of his roommates hang over his head and tuck themselves right up into a chrysalis.

The rebel caterpillar enjoys the food down below, munching at leisure, no more competition for the bug buffet.

Sometimes we wonder if he’ll ever climb on up there already!!

But inevitably he does.  One morning, he pads his way up to the top and drops himself upside down just like the others.  He wraps himself in the brown chrysalis and waits for the change.

Now all five of them hang in their mesh butterfly house, waiting to emerge.  Mostly they rest there, perfectly and completely still.

They look dead.

Totally, completely devoid of all life.

But we move their home just slightly and we see one caterpillar wiggle and squirm inside the chrysalis.

A sign of life now and a sign of life to come.

Could it be these insects know more about hope than we do? 

That even in a season of waiting, a time of rest, a moment of seeming-death, still they cling.  They submit to the dormancy for the beauty that is to come.

Maybe they know there is something more.  That hope and future God promises us, that’s why they climb on up, that’s why they hang themselves right upside down.

Because of what is to come.

And in the middle of the death seasons, the long waits and the God-mandated resting, sometimes we forget this.  We can abandon all hope of future, of promise, of new life and the return of joy.

It’s Holy Week.  Last Sunday, we waved those Palms and we sang, “Hosanna!”  Today, I prepare my heart for Good Friday to come, for Communion and remembrance and meditation on the cross.

I read this morning:

Jesus “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV).

Jesus knelt in that Garden and He prayed, “not my will, but Yours be done” despite the pain, and the humiliation, the torture, and the death because of the joy to come.

He submitted because of resurrection hope.

And we have this.  That empty tomb is our hope, too.  Our God, who defeated death and the grave, has a plan and a purpose, a hope, a future.  We are never alone.  We are fully loved and redeemed, forgiven and set free.

All that is dead can become life in His hands.  All that is broken can be beautiful.  All that is lost can be found.

He can make all things new.

Even the impossible becomes possible with Him.

That is resurrection joy.

Those caterpillars don’t abandon hope of life.  They don’t linger in that tomb of a chrysalis.  In due season, they push right on out and stretch and dry those wings so they can fly to freedom.

Jesus didn’t die on that cross hopelessly uncertain of the future.  He had his sights set on Sunday morning and the “joy set before Him.”  That’s why He endured that cross.

But we sometimes lose hope.

 

Just like the demon-possessed man who “for a long time …had not lived in a house but among the tombs” (Luke 8:27 ESV). 

He lived life in the tombs.  Maybe the sorrow felt more comfortable than the joy?  Maybe death felt less painful than life?

He preferred the grave.

And then there’s us

In seasons of waiting, maybe of sorrow, perhaps even of death, do we abandon ourselves to the bitterness and make ourselves cozy among the tombs?

Or do we cling to Christ because of resurrection hope? Do we hold on for dear life to the Savior who defeated death?

Do we hide away in the shadows and settle into the despair or do we run like crazy into His arms when He calls us out of darkness and into light?

So I remember what the caterpillars have known all along: even what seems like death is truly just waiting on new life.

Hold on tight, dear one.  He brings new life.  He brings beauty.  He brings you wings so you can soar.

Originally published April 14, 2014

Bible verses on hope #Advent

verse-on-hope

  • Job 14:7-9 NASB
    “For there is hope for a tree,
    When it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
    And its shoots will not fail.
    “Though its roots grow old in the ground
    And its stump dies in the dry soil,
    At the scent of water it will flourish
    And put forth sprigs like a plant.
  • Psalm 31:24 NIV
    Be strong and take heart,
    all you who hope in the LORD.
  • Psalm 33:18
    But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him,
    on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,
  • Psalm 33:20-22
    We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, LORD,   even as we put our hope in you.
  • Psalm 39:7 NIV
    “But now, Lord, what do I look for?
    My hope is in you.
  • Psalm 43:5 NASB
    Why are you in despair, O my soul?
    And why are you disturbed within me?
    Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him,
    The help of my countenance and my God.
  • Psalm 71:5 NASB
    For You are my hope;
    O Lord God, You are my confidence from my youth.
  • Psalm 71:14 NASB
    But as for me, I will hope continually,
    And will praise You yet more and more.
  • Psalm 119:81 NIV
    My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
    but I have put my hope in your word.
  • Psalm 119:114 NIV
    You are my refuge and my shield;
    I have put my hope in your word.
  • Psalm 146:5 NIV
    Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.
  • Psalm 147:11
    the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.
  • Proverbs 10:28 NASB
    The hope of the righteous is gladness,
    But the expectation of the wicked perishes.
  • Proverbs 13:12 NASB
    Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
  • Proverbs 23:18 NASB
    Surely there is a future,
    And your hope will not be cut off.
  • Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
    For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
  • Lamentations 3:25
    The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;
  • Romans 5:2-5 NIV
     through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
  • Romans 8:24-25 NASB
     For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
  • Romans 12:12 NIV
     Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
  • Romans 15:4 NIV
    For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
  • Romans 15:13 NIV
    May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • 1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV
    And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
  • Ephesians 1:18 NIV
    I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people
  • Colossians 1:27 NIV
    To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
  • 1 Timothy 4:10
    That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God,who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.
  • Hebrews 6:198-20 NIV
     God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
  • Hebrews 11:1 NASB
    Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
  • 1 Peter 1:13 NIV
     Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the graceto be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.
  • 1 John 3:3 NIV
    All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.