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In the still of the morning, my small world is quiet and peaceful. The muffled whir of the washing machine and rhythmic inhale and exhale of my old, sleeping dog just behind my writing chair are the only sounds. A few breakfast dishes litter the kitchen counter and I ignore a freshly dried pile of darks perched on the couch.

Enfolding a warm cup of tea in my hands, I pause and whisper a prayer of thanks. For a new day. For family and friends. For safety.

Yet, my thoughts continue to focus elsewhere—returning again and again to the images I’d seen splashed across the television screen. People franticly veering left and right, desperate to escape a madman’s deadly rampage during a country music concert. Mental footage of homes laid waste by raging winds and water like a child’s broken set of Lincoln Logs. The eerie, glowing skyline of California only broken by charred remains of what had once represented the lives of hundreds of people. A human right’s activist gripping photos of a recent Syrian massacre in which babies gasped helplessly for elusive, life-giving air.

Suddenly, my peaceful morning transforms and I’m overcome with feelings of helplessness.  Hopelessness. Grief.

What hope is there for a world that destroys itself? For people brought to their knees by forces beyond their influence? For victims of the evils of terrorism and hate?

I’m reminded of a moment of vulnerability and, perhaps, even accusation when Lazarus’ sister, Mary, runs to meet Christ as he approaches her home. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Mary held Jesus responsible for her brother’s death. Why didn’t you come, Jesus? All of this pain—my pain—could have been avoided if only you’d done something.

Can you hear the unspoken words? Have you ever thought them yourself? Why, God? This just isn’t right.

But, the beauty in this story? Jesus wept.

He felt Mary’s pain. He felt death’s presence. He grieved the brokenness of a world meant for so much more.

The story doesn’t end there, though. With the trail of tears still wet on his cheeks, Jesus called Lazarus from death to life.

“Lazarus, come out!”

Healing cannot go any deeper than life reborn and that is what the Life-Giving God shouts out—to you and me. To the men and women crying out for hope. This isn’t the sort of Pollyanna, feel-good hope borne of positive thinking or some falsely produced, happily-ever-after emotion from within.

Hope is real, dear Friend, and His name is Jesus.

He sheds tears over the pain of His people, but He is powerful enough to break its chains.

There is a forever tomorrow.
There is refuge in Someone.
There is Light in the darkness.

Do you hear Him calling you today? “Child, come out!”

Blessings to you today,
Tammy

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And the Rock still stands. Solid. Unmoving. Ever-present.

The base of the purple-tipped mountains blurred softly along the undulating edge of the rising fog like the folds of a heavy curtain lifting ever so slowly to reveal the hardscape of Nature’s beauty.

It was only a glimpse. An impression captured on the way to work when, amidst the rush of traffic, I paused at a red light; the Father revealing a simple truth in the imagery of clouds ascending toward heaven.

Sometimes, in the practicality of living, I forget to remember the beauty around me. The living, pulsing artistry of day and night. Moments shared with friends and family. Memories hewn from joy, tears, loss, and celebration. I even forget to remember God’s beauty.

His faithful deliverance from sharp-edged difficulty. His all-embracing, doubt-replacing goodness when I’d given up on everything but merely surviving the day. His unmatched grace and forgiveness for a woman undone by the past and uncertain of the future.

And the Rock still stands. Solid. Unmoving. Ever-present.

A flash of red captured my attention and I shifted my gaze forward. Cars and vans carrying harried passengers in a rush to the next important place—work, school, daycare—hurtled by and I wondered how many noticed the lavender and pink blush of sun pushing the cold, clingy clouds aside to reveal the immovable, constant presence beneath.

I need reminders to alter my focus—like light that envelopes crimson sediment and brushes lingering vapor aside. Perhaps when I pause, I’ll notice Him being revealed in the unexpected and unplanned. In the movement of everyday ebb and flow. In percolating laughter and sympathetic tears.

It only takes a glimpse to notice Him.

 

Verse for Reflection

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Ps. 46:10

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I just keep saying I’m fine, but I’m not. This is a ‘will get worse’ as time goes by.

 Her heart spilled across the page, its pieces shattered in bits—bleeding hopelessness against the white of the paper.

When suffering settles in, an unwanted companion, and makes itself at home in the tender places of our hearts, how can hope stay alive? Is it even possible?

For the woman whose husband has both Parkinson’s and dementia…for the person struggling day after day with the hidden pain of depression…for the mother wondering if anyone understands what it is to lose the child she once held safe in her arms—He thought of you when He offered the invitation.

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“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Christ reminds us to come to Him when our burden is beyond bearing; when we fear collapse beneath the weight of painful circumstances and overwhelming emotion. But, He doesn’t call us to a list of do’s and don’ts or a religious experience—He invites us into relationship.

When we take on Christ’s yoke and follow His gentle lead—despite our suffering and regardless of our hurt—we walk step-by-step through the dark valley with Jesus. And, the all-powerful God bears the heaviness. When tears blur our vision and we stumble, He guides us. When anger fills our heart and we refuse to move forward, He gently pulls us close. When hope threatens our faith, He whispers, “Come to me.”

Feelings are real, but can lead us away from the One in whom we can find true relief, hope and rest. If we trust Him enough to believe He is our salvation, we can trust Him to be with us in the difficult.

 

Action Steps to Take When You Feel Hopeless

  1. Memorize scriptures that remind you of the truth when feelings twist the reality of your eternal hope. (Matthew 11:28-30, Isaiah 42:3-4, Joel 2:25)
  2. Find a support group, counselor, or trusted friends who will listen when you say, “I’m not fine.”
  3. Read books to inspire, encourage, or educate you about your area of struggle.
  4. Volunteer or get involved with a cause related to your struggle.

 

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The traveler strode across the desert sands; the heat of the sun burning through the thin fabric draped around his body. Ignoring the grit of dirt in his mouth, the Rabbi considered His divine assignment.

Ah, yes. The woman.

While Samaria was the most direct route to Galilee, many Jews avoided the area by heading into the Jordan Valley. After all, the land was polluted with the unclean. People of a mixed ethnic group. People who worshipped differently. People devoid of the Law. People like the woman.

Determined, Jesus continued into the heart of the unclean land. Perhaps he paused briefly to pray. Or, Christ’s pace might have quickened as he anticipated a life-altering conversation. Settling wearily on the rim of Jacob’s ancient well, Jesus licked parched lips. A Samaritan woman, approaching the well, shifted her gaze when she noticed the man.

“Will you give me a drink?” he asked, indicating the clay jar in her arms.

“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman.”

Clinging to the safety and comfort of societal norms, the woman nearly dismissed Jesus. Didn’t he realize Jews didn’t addressed people like her? Tainted blood. Lowly gender. A girl with a past.

Still, the man persisted—his words washing over her with a promise to fill the empty spaces of her soul. A soul as dry as the insides of the clay jar she carried.

“If you knew the gift of God…whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:9-13)

Oh, the beauty of Christ who loves us as we are. We may consider ourselves unlovable. Stained by our sins. Unworthy of God’s offer to be washed…filled…restored to a spirit life overflowing with his presence.

But, Jesus sees us and compassionately says, “Ah, that woman.”

He invites us, dear one, to drink deeply of his abundance.

Ever loved. Ever accepted. Ever changed.

Go ahead, Friend. Take the cup from his hand; it’s spilling over with the promise of a life lived in Him.

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Having a God-sized dream isn_t about me living big. It_s about God living big in me

 

I wish I knew my God-sized dreams. I have no idea what they would be and it’s not because I am already living them. I feel useless for God and His kingdom and like I don’t have an impact on other lives.

My heart dropped as I read her words. How many of us have wondered about our purpose? Struggled to discover meaning in our lives? Asked God to give us a God-sized dream and felt disappointed when our prayers seemed to disappear on the wind?

Years ago, when my children were small, I felt much the same way. I allowed ill-conceived thoughts to embed themselves in my spirit. You aren’t accomplishing anything. You should be doing something bigger…something more for God.

 I began entertaining lies as truth and discovered discontentment grew where joy used to live.

Like this dear one, I misunderstood. Having a God-sized dream isn’t about me living big. It’s about God living big in me—whatever that looks like at the time. Each of us was designed intentionally with unique gifts, talents, and abilities that we might participate in God’s mission—that those who are lost might be found. (Luke 19:10).

That’s the beauty of the Church. Each one who follows Christ has opportunity to participate in fulfilling God’s mission for others by living and loving right where we are—regardless of age, stage, or occupation.

In loving others, we live for Him. In loving others, we make a difference. In loving others, we discover our God-sized dreams.

Blessings,

Tammy

Questions to Guide You Discovering Your God-sized Dream

  • In what area(s) has God given you a passion?
  • Do your friends and family consistently take note of your abilities in certain areas?
  • If doubt and fear weren’t issues, what would you pursue?

 

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Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. -Romans 12:15

 

We must be willing to feel the heart beat of other's in our chest. This is what love does. (1)

 

One wedding and two suicides. From celebration to lamentation. From dancing in the sunset to mourning alongside two of my dearest childhood friends as they grieve the senseless loss of their young men living—and then dying—on the edge of manhood.

I long to ease the ache in the hearts of these dear ones; to smooth the hard edges of the emptiness that once was filled by the laughter of young men. Soul soothing words fail to trip off my tongue and I stumble in my awkward attempts to offer comfort and hope.

While I’ve experienced the pain of death separating me from another, I haven’t lost a child to the nightmarish reality of suicide. This grief? It’s consuming—like a fire threatening to devour everyone in its path.

And in our pull-yourself-up from the bootstraps culture where grief is an inconvenience and lament is looked on with suspicion, I’m suggesting something radical.

Let’s step into lament. Let’s join those we know who are hurting. Let’s choose to walk willingly into the fiery furnace just as Christ did when three of his children were tossed like kindling into a human-sized oven.

People are lamenting everywhere around us. The woman just up the street whose husband has left her with three children and a cancer diagnosis. The forty-seven-year old mother of teenagers fearing the worst as her husband struggles to survive the aftermath of a stroke. The young couple aching to hold a baby in empty arms after yet another miscarriage.

Grief is uncomfortable. Stepping into another’s pain is painful. Yet, if we are to love like Jesus we must be willing to feel the heartbeat of others in our chest. We are meant to join others as they walk through the fire. That’s what love does.

Who are you going to love today?

 

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If you’ve ever found yourself doubting God’s goodness or wondering if your faith can withstand the hard of your circumstances, then I hope you’ll find some encouragement today.

I understand, Friend. Just a few years ago, I grappled with my faith. Fought and wrestled with God about the overwhelming, painful reality of all that was beyond difficult. Mine was a faith at risk of being abandoned.

For close to three years, I alternated between fighting for and against my faith. The beliefs I’d held since girlhood stood withered and emaciated beneath the scorching heat of personal trial and all that came with it. Anger. Grief. Disillusionment. Doubt.

You may be in that place now. Your soul may feel as though it’s bleeding and if that’s the case, dear Friend, let me encourage you to do battle to remain in Truth. It may take times of wrestling in the dirt before you rise up–your faith strengthened and doubts replaced with hope.

I hope the following video brings encouragement as you walk through the hard of your journey.

 

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