Friday, November 20, 2015

Hold Onto Hope

Tonight these two kiddos of mine sat curled up on the floor watching a movie. There is a parade of stuffed animals lined up alongside them, “set up like it’s a movie theater.” They’ve even made their own movie tickets and sold popcorn.

She begged for a Christmas movie; she’s over-the-moon excited about the holidays. So we’ve popped in Elf (one of my all-time favorites).

The TV screen lights up their faces and their faces light up my heart. I want to keep them little, safe and protected forever. I want to change the world before they enter it on their own so they know something different than what we are facing today.

People are scared and hurting, and when those people have no hope, it is a combination that often leads to more hate, pain and fear. The news tell us of the atrocities happening all over the world, every day. Across social media, people fling accusations of whose fault it is and offer suggestions on how keeping others out will ensure protection. Don’t let them in because they’ll cause pain and death.

My soul aches for this hurting world. I want to do more, and I feel like God has called me to do more. But at times I also feel too small to do anything to change such a large problem.

So I have been pouring over His word and praying. I ask Him to . . .

show me how I can be His light and love to those I know and those I don’t.
use me for His glory.
heal this broken world right along with the brokenness in me.
give me wisdom to know how to help.

In His tenderness towards me, He has spoken to me in the quiet moments, “Keep praying, love deeply and Never. Lose. Hope.”

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassion never fails.” Lamentations 3:21

I let His light shine through me by always holding onto hope.

Hope grounded in knowing that God’s love is so deep and wide that He willingly gave up heaven to come down to us. He took on human form and allowed his body to be broken so that He could heal all of our brokenness.

And as we approach the Christmas season, I am reminded that this hope was born in the smallness of a baby. I may at times feel too small to make a difference, but God uses our smallness to reflect His infinite love and grace.
I don't know how to stop the spread of hate and evil. But I know how to love deeply and I can hold firmly to the hope that will never disappoint. I can love more, fear less. I can offer others the grace and kindness He lavishly offers me.
So as we approach Advent and Christmas, remember and hold onto the hope we have in Him.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Light Will Not Be Overcome

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it."
John 1:5

My son, my oldest — the one who tries to be brave and strong for me and often reminds me he’s almost double digits — he recently confessed that he's still afraid of the dark sometimes.

I understand him. Sometimes the darkness can seem scary to me too.

The headlines loom large on Friday. They shout of a world that seems to be coming undone at its seams. Shattered lives broken apart by evil, and people across the globe mourn. 
I understand that fear can take root if we let it.

I FB message back and forth with a girl who reminds me so much of myself. She types out fears. She has read that the danger is creeping closer to home and that scares her. I encourage her not to give into the fear, to remember we have hope. 

I understand her too though. If the headlines are our truth, then darkness is knocking on our door.

Yet this weekend as those who wear the mask of darkness take credit for instilling terror, I can still trace God's fingerprints and His Light.

I am reminded that greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world, and that darkness does not have the last word.

As darkness settles in on Friday, I snuggle with my kids, pull them close, listen to their giggles and feel a love beyond words.  

I am reminded that there is still innocence and goodness, and that our God has a Father's love for us that is far greater than any other.

As darkness settles in on Saturday, I stand in a church full of believers as we raise our voices and prayers to the God who promises that nothing is wasted.

I am reminded that we are His hands and feet, His light to a hurting world. I am reminded that where two or more are gathered, He is there and there is power in prayer.

As darkness settles in on Sunday, I sit in a condo flooded with warmth and laughter, friendship and love, sharing stories and dinner. 

I am reminded that darkness and fear will not win when we hold onto hope, joy, each other and most importantly, our Savior. 

So each day as the sun goes down, I remember that there is nothing to fear because my hope is firmly set in the One who created the light. And light will not be overcome by darkness for He is the light of the world.

While the world may seem like it's falling apart, I put my faith in the One who I know holds it all together.

Lord, help us to be your light and love to a hurting, broken world. We lift up those who mourn, and we thank you that you are close to the brokenhearted. In Jesus' powerful name, Amen!


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Living Life Together

I recently watched the movie Burnt. It was alright, not worth the theater price, but I liked the underlying theme. In one scene a character remarks to Bradley Cooper, "there is strength in needing others."

The line has stuck with me. The movie is not Christian-based, far from it in fact. But if you can get past the frequent f* bombs, there are a few good take-homes and I believe there is Biblical truth in that statement.

We are created for community, and most of us long for that authentic connection with others. We have a desire to be truly known, and we want to believe that even at our worst we can be loved and accepted.

However in this broken world, we also know that living life with others can be both rewarding and heartbreaking, joyful and painful, exciting and scary. Most of us have been hurt at the hands of others, sometimes unintentionally and sometimes intentionally.

I have dealt with the wounds inflicted by others by keeping people at arm's length, trying to control the relationships I have, or a variety of other ways to protect my heart and avoid future pain. When I'm honest with myself though, I know that these attempts are based in fear and fear-based choices reflect a lack of trust in the One who places each relationship in my life for a purpose.

We are created in God's image and His character - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - is one of perfect harmony and community. We are built to walk through life together, to love others deeply, to give and receive help and to reflect His light to others.

It is in doing life together, imperfectly, that we allow God to work through us. We can only be His hands and feet here on earth if we open ourselves up to others.

So I am learning that being strong doesn't mean proving I can do it on my own. Anyone who knows me can agree this isn't an easy lesson. I can be very bullheaded and try to prove I don't need help.

But as the character in the movie pointed out - strength comes in needing others, loving despite the price it may cost and having authentic relationships.

Thankfully the strength to do that is rooted in love, God's immeasurable love for us. His perfect love has the power to cast out fear, ground us in truth and enable us to freely and selflessly love others.

We are only able to love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

Thursday, November 5, 2015

I Will Trust in You

There are moments where I need God to show up in a special way, to speak to my heart like only He can do. In these instances, sometimes I play a Russian roulette game with my music playlist on shuffle. I'll ask God to choose songs for me that I need to hear. Now, I'm not sure if this is a biblically-rooted request on my part. But I do know that God sees my heart and desire to be comforted by Him instead of things of this world, and that He loves me.

So I made my request for Him to speak to my heart. And through the melody and words that statically played through my little iPhone speaker, the Lord reminded me of His truth and character. Through tears and thanksgiving, I sang along with the artist and offered up her words as my own prayer in response to His love.

Here are the words He spoke to my heart through the lovely voice of Lauren Daigle:

"Trust In You"

Letting go of every single dream
I lay each one down at Your feet
Every moment of my wandering
Never changes what You see

I’ve tried to win this war I confess
My hands are weary I need Your rest
Mighty Warrior, King of the fight
No matter what I face, You’re by my side

When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!

Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead You have not seen
So, in all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less

You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation; the rock on which I stand

Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go, You’ve not already stood

I struggle with wanting things my way, as I'm sure many of us do. Yet I've learned (and I'm still learning) that God's way is always better. I can waste too much time fighting against it or trying to forcibly control the outcome, but it never works. Instead, it often causes unnecessary pain for me and others.

Thankfully, through His infinite grace, the Lord always shows me that allowing Him to work out His plans for my life is the best option. He does know what lies ahead and He has good plans. I can trust Him with my life and all of my dreams for the future.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Welcome Rain and Healing

I wake up to the sound of rain drumming it's beautiful beat on the windows. It's a welcome sound that we've been far too long without. I snuggle deeper into my warm comforter and listen to the soft sound that breaks the quiet of my home.

These quiet mornings are a rare gift, and I lift a prayer of thanks. I'm learning to love the stillness and rest that haven't always come natural to me. I fill my hours, my days, my time and my mind. At times out of the simple enjoyment of friendship, community, and exploring, and at times because I avoid being alone with the hard thoughts. In these past years of pain and loss, there has been sadness and hurt that I can try hard to avoid.

But I am learning the joy and peace that can only be found in the stillness, in the quiet times with the Lord. He beckons me to rest in Him, to let it go and let Him restore, revive and heal the broken places I want to hide from others and more honestly, from myself.  There is no loss or hurt too big that God cannot redeem. I only need to be afraid of facing the broken places if I didn't believe in a God who is able to do exceedingly more than I could imagine.

And I do believe in the God who is bigger than anything I face, the God who is in the business of healing, and the God who's very being is love.

As I listen to the rain, I feel the familiar tug of hope and joy on my heart. I am reminded how God's grace makes all things new. Just as the rain outside washes away the dirt and brings life, His love and grace wash clean the stains life has left on our hearts and makes all things new.

"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." Isaiah 43:19

He makes all things new. All He asks of me is to trust and love Him.