Living with Hope

1 Peter 1:6-9 NLT “So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while.  These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him, you trust him; and even now you are happy with a glorious, inexpressible joy. Your reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.”

These can be hard words to read when we are in the midst of a painful trial that seems to have no end in sight. Sometimes the trial blindsides us and we reel with feeling overwhelmed, unprepared and totally out of control. Maybe this trial was caused by the result of someone else’s choices and we didn’t see it coming. Other times, the trial is born out of our own poor choices and we are left stumbling through consequences that our own actions brought to our doorstep. We have all been there at least once in our lives. It hurts, we are confused and we desperately want Jesus to take it all away. It becomes easy to feel helpless and to want to throw our hands up and say, “forget it, what’s the use, God?”, especially when the trial we are going through is one that God wants to use to change us and move us away from destructive patterns and steer us in a new and healthy direction. Remember, that feeling helpless is NOT the same as being helpless. With God, we are never truly helpless. He is always close to us. We are not without hope because our God is the source of all hope. He never leaves us to face our trials alone.

The authors of the Life Recovery Bible (NLT) offer these words that bring comfort to the pain and weariness that the trials of life bring us. “The refiner would heat the gold in the fire in order to separate the worthless and impure dross from the precious and beautiful gold. The dross would be skimmed off until the refiner could see his image in the liquid gold. God uses the fiery trials and tribulations in our lives to purify and beautify our faith so that one day he will see clearly his image in us. This truth offers great comfort to those of us who struggle to make sense of a past marked by suffering. We can be confident that God will separate something priceless from the dross of our experiences.”

Imagine God looking down on us as he skims off the gunk and begins to see HIS image in us; something priceless. Oh, that I could see something priceless from the mess of my life experiences! I hope it makes you smile, that the God of the universe, Creator of galaxies, is so invested and in love with us, that he takes all the time necessary, with infinite patience, to allow us to feel the heat of trials, so that he can one day bring forth, for the world to see, the radiant beauty of our life testimonies; so that we can be a beacon of hope, salvation and love to a world full of his children who are hurting and need to hear a word of hope and see a life redeemed.

1 Peter 1: 3-5 NLT “Now we live with a wonderful expectation because Jesus Christ rose again from the dead. For God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children. It is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And God, in his mighty power, will protect you until you receive this salvation, because you are trusting him. It will be revealed on the last day for all to see.”


Why Are You Afraid?

We’ve arrived at the last recalibrating question in this 4 part devotional series, so let’s dive right in! Our question today comes from Matthew 8:23-27 (NLT): “Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!”

Why are you afraid? This is the question and it comes from The Quest written by Beth Moore.  We are all created in His image, but in unique and distinct ways. This is true with what we fear. Our fears may differ, but we are all afraid of something. Fear comes in many forms; fear of the dark, of being alone, of spiders and snakes. We fear the unknown and the known; strangers and sadly, even our own families. Some of my fears are not physical or tangible things; such as the fear of not being enough and that I will never be safe. Sometimes I fear the gifts God has given me – I’m afraid of feeling too deeply and being too sensitive; I fear discernment because of what I might see or feel or discover.  Sometimes we are afraid of being afraid! How fearful we anticipate being can keep us from ever doing the thing God placed in the essence of our being to do.  Fear, like sin, crouches at the door and desires to take up residence. Fear plots to rob us of any joy we find in life, in our callings, in our relationships; especially in our relationship with Jesus. Do we fear that He really doesn’t love us unconditionally? That there is that ONE thing we did, that just can’t be forgiven? Do we fear that He has favorites and we are not one of them? Do we fear that perhaps He isn’t enough and then we fear our own fear and our own unbelief?

Fear is a consummate robber, always watching, waiting, and pouncing on our insecurity, every drop of unbelief and every crumb of crumbling trust in God. Fear is a major hurdle for me personally. Until I began to look deeper into what was holding me back, and at what was keeping me paralyzed in a cycle of unhealthy patterns stuck on repeat, I had no idea how all-encompassing and crippling fear truly is for me, and maybe for you, too.

This quote from Beth Moore in The Quest is an eye opening visual of the fight between faith and fear. “Fear and faith fight for the same space. Each is territorial…think in terms of your soul being a house and Fear and Faith are knocking at your door. Each desires to occupy expansive square footage in the house of your soul…Any square foot or inch where Fear abides in your life is the precise ground Faith exists to occupy. Fear and faith cannot be roommates. They will not coexist. The one assigned authority automatically elbows the other off the space. Fear can’t stand on a carpet of faith…if you find your fear, you can always know where to send your faith.”

I love this and am typing it in bold – “Write a question mark at the end of the Welcome on your doormat then decide who and what get to come into your house!” I have been taking this idea with me as I go about my day. We get to choose who and what we let into our house/soul.  We decide. We get to send forth our faith, to any space currently occupied by fear, and evict it.

Pour out the fear that has taken up residency in your heart, mind, and soul. It doesn’t have to come out in perfect sentences, because He already knows and wants you to tell Him. This is where the divine exchange takes place. Right here in raw and open conversation with Jesus. He is waiting to exchange your fears for faith, hope, love and joy.

Psalm 23:4 – Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.  Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.

Joshua 1:9 – This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Who Told You That?

This is what the Lord asked Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. It comes from Genesis 3:11a, “Who told you that….?” Please read Genesis 3:1-13 for a context refresher. In The Quest, written by Beth Moore, she asks us to allow God to ask it of us, as it relates to our belief systems, how we view ourselves, our self-talk, how we view God and what we really believe about Him.

I’ll be honest, this question makes me nervous. It requires more than trivial, surface answers. It begs to be taken to that deeper level that we often label as off-limits. Sometimes that level contains things we don’t want to look at or acknowledge, let alone start sifting through and digging up. Those things we keep hidden often shape our perceptions, attitudes and beliefs, causing us to act out, make choices (positive or negative) and form relationships.

I have looked deeper into some, but not all, of my off-limits places and done painful, difficult work to heal those wounds.  Many times pain, grief and anger preceded the healing, but the reward was worth the effort. As I thought about this question, “Who told you that?”, I realized I had not actually asked it of myself and it is a game changer!

What do you truly believe about yourself (good and bad) and God? Take some time to be honest with yourself, then express those beliefs to God and answer the question “Who told you that?”

I am absolutely a work in progress here, but I will share a couple of mine.

I am an overcomer. I still falter, but I know I am an overcomer though Christ who strengthens me. It is all Him! I truly began believing this when I went through breast cancer. It was one of the hardest things I have ever had walk through. It brought fear, despair, anger, confusion and exhaustion; yet hope, peace, joy and safety. God showed Himself faithful to me and my family, so extravagant with the hope He poured into me, so generous with bringing comfort and rest through music, nature and other people. The aching loneliness I felt drew me closer to Him. He was all I had to cling to and I found that He is more than enough. Who told me that? Jesus did. In His word, by all that I knew about His character and the gentle and miraculous ways He revealed Himself to me. I chose to believe what He told me. It is a choice.

For as long as I can remember, I have carried around vague, underlying feelings that I’m not enough, I’m not seen, I’m not valuable nor am I accepted. I am less than.  I never stopped to ask myself, “Who told you that?” I now know the answer is the Enemy of my soul. The same serpent that whispered lies to Eve has been hissing lies into my ear for years. I believed them. Bad things happened to me as a child and later as a young adult.  Those events led me to firmly believe those lies and entrench them into my core belief system. Yes, it left deep wounds and pain, but that is NOT what my Father sees when He looks at me. That is not who I am. Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV): “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

The Healer, Creator, Warrior, Redeemer and King, dances and sings over me. That fills me with awe, hope and joy. I am enough! I am valuable and worthy of being rejoiced over by my Father. Even as I type this, I am smiling! Who told me that? Jesus did.

What off limits place in your life does Jesus wants you to take a peek at today, with Him right by your side? I wonder when you dig a little, if you will discover who it was who told you the lies you may believe about yourself and God? Was it a family member? A friend? Was it your own self talk? An illness? Does your belief line up with the Word of God? If not, it is a lie from that same serpent that deceived Eve. Deception is always a thief. Take back what the Enemy has stolen from you! Will today will be the day you surrender that faulty belief system for the truth of God’s Word about you, your situation, His character? Trample on the head of that snake that whispers and hisses lies into your lovely head! It is written in Psalm 91:12-13 (ESV):

“For he will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.”

As you go about your day, challenge those faulty beliefs that you hold about yourself, your circumstances and God, by asking yourself, “who told me that?” If it isn’t Jesus and you can’t find it in His Word, then it isn’t truth.

I leave you with this scripture. I pray it soaks into your heart and accomplishes that for which it was sent. His word never returns void. You are loved.

Romans 8:37-39 (ESV):

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


Complaints. We all have them, don’t we? Some complaints are minor, daily life annoyances that come on strong, but fade quickly, such as; irritating drivers, long lines at the Starbucks drive thru, internet annoyances and teenage attitudes. Then there are those other complaints. The ones that stem from something deeper than mundane irritants; like unmet expectations, disappointments, loss, festering, soul deep wounds, simmering anger, injustice, illness and the list goes on.  Personally, I have experienced all these deeper complaints and some are still ongoing.  The feelings of frustration, anger and resentment that well up from these complaints can easily taint every interaction, every experience and every relationship. Our filters get off kilter and life becomes skewed. This is a hard and debilitating way to live.

Recently, I came upon this jewel.  It leaped off the pages of my Bible, like it had been waiting between the closed pages for the perfect time to reveal itself. I read it and gulped in a breath, and read it again. It spoke to my heart.

Habakkuk 2:1

I will climb up into my watchtower now and wait to see what the Lord will say to me and how he will answer my complaint.

I love imagery and so I sat still, closed my eyes and visualized myself actually climbing up into a watchtower. I noticed as I ascended, that things began to change. I wasn’t looking at the landscape in the same way, because my perspective was changing as I went higher up.  Mind you, the complaint was still the same, the geography of the problems hadn’t changed; however, the way I saw them, did change. In the watchtower, I am safe, secure, protected. I have a 360 degree view of the terrain. I see how the landscape melds and molds together, how certain things have to happen and have to “be”, before other things can exist. If there is a mountain, there is often an uphill climb that must take place, before one can reach the pinnacle, just as there is then a descent, sometimes into a valley or depression, that must be traversed, before coming into a wide open place; a space that is a bit easier to walk; safer, restful perhaps…

As I saw more of the surrounding land, I realized it was quite beautiful, how it all ran together in a sort of harmony. Rugged and dangerous mixed in with lovely, breathtaking, restful places; places that were safe and easy; places that were dangerous and even treacherous in spots. It all worked together, somehow, to be beautiful. Never minimizing or mocking the pain, the hurt and the loss that life and situations bring us, but focusing on a different perspective; like a tapestry that takes shape and becomes lovely, when all the threads are woven together just as they need to be; even if the process is long and tedious and often unclear.

I believe God wants us to bring all the hurt, rage, fear and injustice straight to Him. He already knows.  When we lay it before Him, and go up into our watchtower and wait for His answer, He gives us a new view; His divine perspective. Yes, the problems are still there; yes it still hurts and frustrates and enrages, yet…when we get just a glimpse of the full picture, when we look behind and see where we have come and remember all He HAS done, it gives all that lies ahead a new hue; a new filter through which to view our current complaints. He is with us. Always.

I picture the watchtower and the idea of going up into it, as a symbol of leaning into Jesus and getting closer to Him. There is safety there in Jesus, our watchtower. As we lay all the junk out before Him, saying “Well, here You go. This is all of it. I’m tired of trying to make it on my own with this stuff. I have no idea what to do with it, why You have allowed it, but here, please take it.”, that release allows Divine Perspective to come in. It allows it to heal, mend and counsel; to comfort, love and change the view of the landscape, to one of hope, healing and transformation. It takes time and patience and will produce a whole new level of trust. I have found immense comfort and even joy, yes joy!, when I head up into the watchtower and wait. Peace is always there. Beauty will follow. When I see from a Divine perspective, I become aware that nothing has been wasted. It was all necessary for what is to come, to unfold. Alpha, Omega; beginning and the end.

Heart Words

Psalm 27:8 – My heart has heard You say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”

Challenges. Distractions. Life; with choices to make, priorities to set, goals to reach. Is life what makes some days hard to get through? Maybe no calamity befalls me or mine, maybe nothing life or death happens in a given day, but sometimes it does. Some days I feel a little hollow, disappointed, irritable; short changed, overlooked and misunderstood. I find myself spending time, probably too much time, pondering these hollow, worn out feelings, wondering who, what, why, when, how and where they are coming from and how to get rid of them.

So, I endeavor to “set aside” time for Jesus each day and fix this dilemma. I will read my Bible these many minutes or read X number of chapters and pray for this amount of time and then all will be well. I will start with thanksgiving, move on to confession and praying for all the needs of others, then I will pray for God to orchestrate my time and talent and use it for His good and glory.  That is the formula.  Right? There is absolutely nothing wrong with focused Bible study and structured time with God. Isn’t that what “everyone” says is the way to do it? So why is the formula not working? Why is the simmering, brewing frustration still there? Why is the discontent and irritation still bubbling and buffeting my heart and my spirit? It is a vague, foggy sense of something being off; like a miniscule rock stuck in your sock that you can’t quite find, but is so bothersome that it becomes the only thing you focus on, but never quite find.

With French Roast and some creamy foam in my favorite “ I LOVE MOM” mug, I found my spot at the patio table, with my Bible and all the necessary accompaniments at hand…and sat there. Nothing. Huh. As I sat, I noticed birds darting all over my yard, so content going about their business, exactly as God designed them to do and exactly how He created them. They sang. They squabbled. They moved on. They came back at a better time, to grab an open spot on the feeder. They didn’t sit and feel sad that they didn’t get the ideal spot on the feeder. They were creative in how they forced themselves into a space that at first glance, didn’t look possible.

This brought to mind Matthew 6:25 – “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? …But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Seek first the kingdom of God. Seek. How do I do that? My careful formula isn’t easing those feelings and isn’t filling those voids. And the formula isn’t always genuine. Ahhhh, there it is. Genuine. Real. Raw. Unscripted. These words are the exact opposite of formula, yet pierced my heart. I long for these words to be real in my relationship with Jesus. As the light breeze flipped the pages of my open Bible, Psalm 27 shows up. Specifically Psalm 27:8 – My heart has heard You say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” My Father is asking me to come and talk to Him and my heart is leaping at the chance to do that! Nothing needs to be scripted, plotted or planned. There is not a wrong way to come before my Daddy in heaven. He said, “Come and talk with me.” That speaks of intimacy, closeness, trust and desire to be fully known. This is what I really want, deep down inside of my essence, to be known in all the goodness, ick, loveliness, confusion, humor, talent, fear, failures, victories. Wouldn’t it be lovely to just be sometimes and not need to have a constant dialogue pouring from your mouth? When my son was younger, he often told me I use too many words and it exhausts him. It was funny and still is, but wow… that is truth right there! Too many words. How lovely, peaceful and restoring to be in the presence of my Father and not have to say words? Isn’t that what the heart is all about? Not words, big solutions and hour long flowery prayers, but presence, depth and intimacy that doesn’t always need an audible voice? Deep calling to deep; deep restoring, healing and transforming deep. I think I am finding my answers as I write this out. Yes, life is going to happen and I can’t do a thing about it. The balm that I need to soothe and let go of those hollow, disappointed, irritable; short changed, overlooked and misunderstood feelings is not going to be found in a rote formula and in getting the amount of time spent doing x,y,z just perfectly. No. My Father showed me His formula this morning on the patio in my everyday life, with my dogs nosing around the flower beds and birds scolding and singing. He asked my heart to come and hang out with Him for a bit and share what’s up. So, I will and I won’t say a word.

Praise in the Ordinary

What is praise? The dictionary gives it these definitions: the act of expressing approval or admiration; commendation; the offering of grateful homage in words or song, as an act of worship: a hymn of praise to God. What is worship?  Reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to.

I have had many opportunities to praise and worship the Lord Jesus Christ over the past several years. There are so many circumstances, health issues, family crises that He alone has brought me and my family through; not unscathed, but scarred, healed, grateful and thankful; forever changed in profound ways because of His intervention and miracles, His perfect timing, extravagant love and omnipotence. Those situations and circumstances will forever be etched into my mind, burned there. Those life situations are now an intimate and intricate part of who I am; they make up a deep part of my relationship with Jesus. Not easily forgotten or minimized, these profound supernatural interventions are part of my personal story, that I get the honor of sharing with others, with the hope of introducing them to Jesus, their savior and deep lover of their souls. These kinds of circumstances and situations are so obviously and wondrously worthy of all praise to God our Father, Jesus Christ our Savior, Holy Spirit our comforter, because we know like we know, like we know, that but for Him, there was no hope.

But what about the ordinary days, when nothing earth shattering happens, no crisis raises its horrible head, no blindsiding tragedy leaves us reeling and completely off balance? What about the days that we can call “good days”? This is something I have been giving a lot of head space to lately. What about those good days? Do I only practice praise when I’ve been delivered from a tragedy? God is worthy of my praise all the time; daily, no matter what that particular day will bring. What do we praise Him for, on a day with no tragedy, no arguments, or close calls? We praise Him for that very thing and everything else.  I want to be so thankful and mindful of Him and all the small, barely discernable ways that He is caring for me, organizing and weaving my life together, that I can’t not praise Him; just for life and another breath; for another day to sit outside on my patio with delicious coffee and the Finches at the birdfeeder, the dogs investigating the yard, the sun or rain, a gentle breeze that stirs my hair or a wild wind that is full of excitement! Praise is never wasted.  Never. I find that when I practice active praise my attitude shifts, I become aware of all He has done for me. It makes me content and happy and at peace.  I praise Him for the ways He directs my path and keeps me from harm that I am completely unaware of. Maybe I am 5 minutes late getting out of the house today, because He timed things perfectly for me to miss a terrible accident.  Absolutely praiseworthy. Maybe I have to run back to the grocery store for a forgotten item, because there is a woman outside the store that needs to feel seen; that I am supposed to smile at, buy her a sandwich and pray for her.  Praise to Him that I could be used by a mighty God to be His hands and feet to a fellow sojourner in need. Praise to God that He created so much natural beauty at the duck pond near my house, that it takes my breath away. Praise to Jesus that if I slow down, I can feel His touch in the sun and breeze on my face. Praise to the Creator who delights in painting beautiful landscapes, sunrises and sunsets, just so He can delight me and bring me joy. Praise to the One who knows me so intimately, who knows that some days I need to just sit by a warm fire, under a blanket, with my purring cat, and just be and He arranges that just for me.  To me, this is praise in the ordinary and I want to be a praising woman. Can you and I look around today with fresh eyes, aware that all around us are wonderful praiseworthy things and amazing praiseworthy people, created just for us by our Father, for our delight and our joy? Can we take a few minutes and praise Him and thank Him for the ordinary blessings He lavishes on us? I think that would delight Him to no end!

Just some truth…

Good morning friends, old and new! As I sit and drink my lovely coffee this morning in my quiet house, listening to snoring dogs and calling birds, some thoughts are hovering on my mind and heart. As I settle them in and begin to absorb and ponder them, I know that these truths are definitely a reminder for me; but I also wonder, if maybe, you need to hear this, too.

God loves you. He made you, He knows everything about you and loves all of it. Every single inch. Your weaknesses and struggles are not driving Him away from you. He is there always, as close as your next breath. Go ahead, inhale. You are seen and known; you have God’s undivided attention. You have tremendous value and purpose. You are here for a reason; you are not a mistake or a random happening. There is a path carefully laid out for you. It for you and no one else. The heart of the Father knew exactly what He was doing when you were created to walk that path and make a difference to those in your sphere. You are needed. Do you know that there are conversations happening, in heaven, about you? You are always on His mind, engraved on His hands and His heart.

Those places in your heart that hurt; the place in your soul that has been so wounded, has not gone unnoticed by God. He saw, He knows and He grieves. If you give it to Him, He will take it and redeem it; He wants to do that for you. Don’t you know that is why He came? For you! He can restore and transform those places that seem too lost, too broken, too ugly. Those places will become places of beauty in His hands. The secret hurt isn’t hidden from Him. He knows all about any anger and hatred; injustice, bitterness and resentments; failures and victories and joyful A-ha moments. He was and is there for every single moment. You are not alone.

He looks on you with eyes of love, compassion, joy and mercy. You are His child. Talk to Him. He loves to hear our voices; like melodies and harmonies in His ears. To our ears, the song may sound dreadfully out of tune, but the sound of your voice, my voice, is like incense to our Father. It is a thing of beauty when we speak to Him and He responds; deep calls to deep; Spirit speaking to spirit. It is a holy communion, because even when we do not have the words to speak, His Spirit is there and He knows. He hears. He understands. No big words, wild gestures, loud voices are needed with your Father. He is there in the silence when there are just no human words. Sometimes just speaking His name is enough.

“The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17