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Posts Tagged ‘hope for the future’

This is a Christian–one who dares to act as if God tells the truth.”  –Pastor Mark Bates

Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it.

His life reads like a Hollywood movie–the culmination of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, forced to seek refuge in a distant land, and then offering his life in place of the soldiers who pierced his hands and feet…suffering for the sins of those who pressed a crown of thorns on his head…pronouncing words of forgiveness to a discarded, frightened man bearing the shame of Golgotha.

But, this is not a child’s fairy tale or a superstitious myth dreamed up to explain the unexplainable.  This is Biblical truth; the great love story of God rescuing His people from that great enemy, Sin. The beautiful giving of His life for those willing to risk belief.

Yet the world threatens to overcome…to overwhelm…to overpower belief.

A young man just beginning to live takes his own life–desperate for relief from consuming depression, a child’s small bones ache from arthritis, a next-door neighbor submits to another round of chemo and hopes she’ll have enough energy to play with her children tomorrow.

But there is a story much bigger than our smaller stories–these lives of struggle and prayer, tears and hope.  It is His story–one recorded for us–that tells of the Lion and the Lamb…the Beginning and the End….the Resurrection and the Life.

And while the world threatens, He promises to give abundant life (John 10:10)

…to provide freedom (John 8:36)

…and to love us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3).

I dare to believe–to act as if what God says is true. Won’t you? Let us encourage one another to hold to our faith, dear Friend, even when we doubt.

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Anzac DayPhotos flashed across the large, mounted screen as people slid somberly into their seats. A copper-headed toddler pretending to fish…a lanky teen posing for a Kodak moment with his family…a soldier with his young wife and newborn child.

A brave, broken-hearted father stepped up to the podium to share stories from the young man’s life. And between tears and laughter, he spoke of the moments that made his son. Casting a line into the icy waters of a shimmering, Colorado river. Sharing the gift of laughter with family and friends. Contending with the relentless enemy–Depression.

The father’s pain—palpable and raw—struck at my core as I considered the struggles my own dear ones have battled. The what if’s invaded my thoughts and I shuddered in understanding. Two weeks later, the reality haunts me and I pray God will protect those in His care from the pain of the dark.

Depression is real. Depression steals. Depression debilitates.

If you’ve lived in its shadow—you know. If you’ve seen a loved one experience the dark—you know.

But, there is always hope in Jesus. Consider these words, Friend.

A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
    he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”

This is what God the Lord says—
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:
“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand. (Isaiah 42:3-6)

Rest in this truth…find freedom from the emotions…rely on His promise. He will hold your hand every step of the way.

livefreethursday-smFriday Link Up

 

 

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woman-570883_1920I vividly remember standing beneath the wooden doorframe of my bedroom–terrified of the imagined evil lurking in the five inches of space beneath mattress and covers. I stood motionless…weighing the options. The risks? Certain punishment if I refused to quickly locate myself beneath the warmth of sleep-inducing blankets or—to my impressionable mind—possible capture by whatever monster or boogie man lurked beneath the confines of a seemingly innocent piece of furniture.

At the tender age of four or five, Shadow had become a thing of nightmares and illusory power.

Too often, though, it seems our fear of Shadow follows us into adulthood. While disguised in more grown-up form, we still tremble at its existence and our thoughts are filled with untrue or unfulfilled imagery that leads us from a place of comfort into the obscure illusion of “What If?”

The “What If’s” come in many shapes and may be different for each of us.

What if…my husband leaves me?

 What if…my child dies?

 What if…I’m really never happy?

 What if…this wound refuses to heal?

 What if? What if? What if?

 

Oh, dear One, the Shadow of What If is—and always has been—a robber of joy and imitator of truth designed to obscure the Light of Hope. We fight each dark pursuer—out of breath and in need of relief. Somehow, we’re certain a jab or swing in the Shadow’s direction will ensure some sort of relief. So we listen to Oprah…read books by Dr. Oz…try the newest diet trend…anything to help us battle the dark, elusive threat that is our greatest Fear.

But in so much of the struggle we rely on ourselves—forgetting the promises of scripture. Psalm 23 reminds us that even when we’re surrounded by a darkness so deep it casts death’s shadow, He is there! Even in the most frightening of times or the loneliest moments he guides…protects…comforts. He is the one who will manage our struggles and wage our battles.

Our futile attempts at Shadow boxing can cease. No more useless jabbing or dodging. Let’s give the battle to the Champion of hearts and souls—the giver of life, conqueror of death, and victor over sin and its effects.

 Suggested Scripture and Questions for Reflection

Read Psalm 23.

What dark valleys has God guided you through already? If your journey is taking you through a place filled with Shadows are you relying upon the Shepherd—or self? I know I struggle with this–vacillating back and forth.

As a gentle reminder to yourself about God’s abounding faithfulness and protection, reread Psalm 23. This time, replace each “me” with your name and “my” with the pronoun “her”.

A David Psalm (MSG)

23 1-3 God, my shepherd!
I don’t need a thing.
You have bedded me down in lush meadows,
you find me quiet pools to drink from.
True to your word,
you let me catch my breath
and send me in the right direction.

Even when the way goes through
Death Valley,
I’m not afraid
when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook
makes me feel secure.

You serve me a six-course dinner
right in front of my enemies.
You revive my drooping head;
my cup brims with blessing.

Your beauty and love chase after me
every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God
for the rest of my life.

 

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Standing on the outside, looking in…the screen joins bold color with life as sharp as glass.  I can’t bear the pain in the cries of women mourning over bleeding children as smoke from the rockets spreads across cities.  Still,  the truth of those lives…that reality…that brokenness cannot be hidden in the grey and black of destruction.

And then, I turn the channel.  My stomach recoils at the world’s mess and I wonder when He will make it right.

Standing on the outside, looking in…the familiar sound of her voice travels from one tower to another and I smile at her German practicality.  My dear auntie has cancer–again–and I feel heat and tears mingle as I glance into the corners of her life.  I can see them, though she has quietly swept them into a forgotten corner–fear of the unknown…a sense of aloneness…the looming question of  ‘Why’?

In a moment, there is only the hum of the dial tone and my heart aches for the trial she–and so many others–battle until they fade away.

Standing on the inside, looking out…I begin to feel the hard edges of the day tear at the tender places of hope, joy, and peace.  And  I am reminded that this world, this reality, and these trials are temporary.

Dear one, He is doing more than we can know or even imagine.  One glorious day, Christ will return and this world will know the true Peace Maker.

And even now, when we can no longer rely on our bodies for health or our loved ones for understanding, He is with us.  He never leaves us.  He always understands the ‘Why’.  And His strength remains forever..even as we fade.

If the hidden places in your life and mine are full of grief, emotional or physical pain, or misgivings about the shattered world around us then let them shout for His mercy and restoration in a “thirsty and weary land” that we might see His boundless glory displayed in our small lives.

 

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It’s been a challenging, up-and-down, I-don’t-think-we-can-get-through-this sort of year.  As I read through my blog posts, notes, and emails my heart rate increases and a sense of apprehension settles over me.  remind myself–aloud–God has been with you through it all.

God was with me when I learned one child had been abused.

God was with me when another child was diagnosed with a life-long illness.

And before that?

God was with me when my husband was deployed in Afghanistan and I was raising four children at home.

God was with me when my daughter was born prematurely and then had to be resuscitated.

One heart wrenching, faith growing, I-don’t-like-this-plan-Lord sort of year.  Before that?  One year of struggle…another of joy.  Time kept moving, bringing with it moments of joy, celebration, grief, and sadness.  And through it all I was never alone.  

Maybe you are experiencing a challenging, up-and-down, I-don’t-think-I-can-get-through-this sort of year…or month…or moment.

Friend, remember!  “I (God) will never leave you nor forsake you, for (He) is with you always even unto the end of the age.  (Matthew 28:20)

 

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