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.”


Something About the Rain

There’s something lovely about the rain, isn’t there? That moment when the first anticipated drops touch your face, hair, eyes.  Refreshing. It brings joy, despite a fully or partially cloud-hidden sun, trying to peep through. You know it’s there, the sun, but it’s hidden. It’s a bit mysterious to wonder what the sun might be up to up there, veiled from sight.

Or hearing those first drops on the patio cover in the wee morning hours; pattering, plopping; like a sky-song flowing down. So soothing, as I lie in bed. The blankets covering me, I am enveloped in warmth and safety, listening to nature’s lullaby.

Sometimes the dreary sky and rain damp air offers the unmistakable scent of clean; washed and rinsed; a sort of gentle, yet sometimes fierce and unrelenting, opening of the heavens; as if Creator is gifting a new start, a clean slate. All is well, the old is gone and here is the new.  Life giving water. Living water. Ancient and elemental.

The sound of the faithful pattering, dripping and beating of a good steady rain soothes and gentles the spirit and often my hectic mind, with nature’s rhythms; like an intentional chorus put on repeat. Truly one of my favorite sounds and scents.

Something about the rain dredges up childhood memories of wildly exciting, yet terrifying thunder and lightning storms, windows rattling and trembling. Such an electric feeling of exhilaration and fear, joy and safety; intertwining emotions that shouldn’t mix well together, but they do, when nature moves and does her thing. It is deep and wild. I love it.

Memories drift up of hot summer days, when a sudden rain storm cools and refreshes with the unforgettable scent of rain on hot sidewalks. That is childhood.

Something about the rain and wind and the slashing at trees, rose bushes and the apple tree reminds me that not everything in life is predictable and controllable. It’s not tamable and quieted and soothed, but roars and bucks and thrashes at the whim of the One who commands it. There is such beauty and raw power there. It is thrilling and terrifying; beautiful and fierce and unrelenting as it does the Creator’s bidding, yet it draws me in. Nature, all of it, in its pure undiluted elemental form, nourishes my soul like nothing else. It’s a God-gift I treasure and ponder. The mystery of it speaks depth to my soul. I will never get enough of it. There is just something about the rain…

Jesus with Skin On

Have you heard the expression, “Jesus with skin on?” There was a woman speaking to a group I was part of, who explained the analogy and it made a lot of sense.

When Jesus, who was fully man while remaining fully God, was born into this world, He literally had skin on, human flesh and blood. He knew, intimately, what it meant to be us. He understood and experienced everything we do; hunger, pain, the feel of sunshine on our faces, exhaustion, fellowship with others, belly laughs, belly pain, sadness, joy, etc.

Jesus also knew the deepest fears, sorrows, regrets, worries, and loneliness that humans experience. He created us in His image.

When I think of being created in God’s image, I think about how I am created to be like Him to my fellow sojourners, on this journey of life; to love people. To ask myself what He would do in everyday life situations.

What might that look like? Well, we see Jesus spending time with people who didn’t have it all together. They lied, cheated, were selfish, lived less than morally acceptable lives, were deeply hurt and outcasts from society. They were ill and in physical and emotional pain. They may have had mouths like sailors, drank too much and did things they regretted. They persecuted those who believed in Jesus and they rejected Him. These are those with whom Jesus spent a lot of time.

What did He do? He spoke to them and treated them as being made in His image. He healed them, fed them, listened to them, spoke truth in love, was with them when society rejected and shunned them. He didn’t tolerate the sin and pretend it didn’t exist. He called it out and forgave them. Most important of all, in my opinion, is that He saw them and their potential, and He LOVED THEM.

How might it look for us to be Jesus with skin on? Smile and acknowledge the existence of someone down on their luck, who might not be as clean as you prefer and might use words that offend you. Jesus loves them. Say hello to teens in the mall who glare and dress in ways you don’t like. Bring meals to those who are dealing with a job loss, illness or death in the family. Give someone your warm jacket or umbrella when they are stuck in the rain. Buy an extra burger combo or tacos and look for someone to bless. Listen to the one who’s hurting. Seek them out. It is ok to be with people who may not believe as you or don’t believe in anything at all. You can show them Jesus. He deeply loves them.

I have learned a lot about being Jesus with skin on from my two children, now 19 and almost 15. They have come from the little shopping center near our home, with stories of the homeless woman they talked to, who poured out her sadness over the loss of her husband. They were young teens and didn’t know exactly what to do, so they bought her whatever she wanted for lunch, listened to her and told her they hoped she would be ok. The woman cried because no one else had cared or even seen her. There is the time my daughter rushed home from 7/11, grabbed a backpack and filled it with non perishables from the pantry, water bottles, a gift card, blankets, a hat and other items she found in her room, and hurried out the door to go back and give it to a man she met who needed help.  That is Jesus with skin on.

It isn’t hard, but it does require us to look beyond the exterior picture we are seeing and find the one that Jesus loves so deeply. that He gave up His life for them, just like He did for you. My hope is that we all will find someone in our spheres to love on – to be Jesus with skin on.

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.”

What Are You Seeking?

John 1:38a says, “Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?”

When was the last time someone asked you what you wanted, besides the barista in your favorite coffee shop? I mean really asked you and wanted to hear the answer? Close your eyes for a moment and picture Jesus, sitting across from you, looking intently into your eyes, asking (insert your name here) “__________, what are you seeking?” How would you answer Him? Would you, in a panic, try to use your arsenal of Christian-ese, to impress Him with a lofty, holy, righteous answer? Would your mind go blank, because maybe you aren’t sure what it is you are seeking? Like me, you might want to blurt out, “I’m seeking You, Lord!”, but are we really? We may deeply wish that He was always our deepest desire, but if we are completely honest, sometimes He isn’t.  He is not impressed or fooled when we answer Him with what we think He wants to hear. Jesus can handle our honesty and already knows the real, raw, nitty-gritty answer.

What are you seeking? Is it to feel safe? Wanted? Accepted? Do you want to be known and seen? Are you seeking rest, because life is hard and you are worn down? Are you seeking a soul-mate or a good friend? Healing? These are all good things to seek; human things that humans need, desire and crave. Jesus knows this and doesn’t reject us for wanting them. The thing is, Jesus use these worldly, human desires to bring to us what He knows we seek most. It’s Him. Even if you don’t know it, feel it or believe it, it has always been Him.  In Jesus, the void is filled. In Jesus, we find meaning and value, safety and rest, healing, joy and peace, a best friend and an eternal soul-mate. I think that sometimes our most powerful testimony, is that what we were seeking, we ultimately found in Jesus.

So, what is it you are seeking? What does your soul crave? Tell Him and trust Him with the desires of your heart. I truly believe that whatever it is that your heart and soul seek, above all else, will ultimately be found in Jesus. Always. He is enough.

Psalm 38:9 (HCSB)

Lord, my every desire is known to You; my sighing is not hidden from You.

Psalm 27:8 (ESV)

You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”

Jeremiah 29:13 (ESV)

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.

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.”

Where are you?

Life is filled with questions on a daily, sometimes minute by minute basis. Sometimes, for me, questions make me prickly and feisty. I don’t always like them because sometimes, the question I’m being asked forces me to think or re-think my point of view or assess my current thoughts, actions, ideas. It makes me take a hard look at where I am.

I recently started a Bible study by Beth Moore called The Quest. The very first week, Ms. Beth asked four “recalibrating questions” that have the ability to transform our walk with Jesus and to greatly increase our intimacy with Him, our prayer lives and boost our trust. They are designed as an opportunity for us to talk to Him, to be as raw and real with Jesus as we are willing to be with Him. According to Ms. Beth, “These divine questions have the potential to recalibrate and reignite a walk with God that has gotten off track, stuck in a cul-de-sac or has lost steam or our interest.” These questions are actually questions that God Himself is asking us and are found in the Old and New Testaments.

So, here is a challenge to you, if you are game, over the next four weeks:  find 5-10 minutes per day to take the question God is asking you and answer Him. You will get out of this, as much as you put in.  Journal the answers, pray it out, meditate on it; however you are lead. We are all in different seasons, so do what you can and trust that God will respond back to you, as you pour out your heart to Him. He is faithful. He loves you. Your voice in His ear is beautiful music.

I hope you will find healing, hope and intimacy with Christ, as you honestly talk Him and answer the question below. Remember, He already knows the answer. He wants intimacy with you. Not who you wish you were or dream about being; not who you compare yourself to or act like you are when others are watching you.

Question #1! Here we go!

This question comes from Genesis 3:9 (NLT) “The Lord God called to Adam, ‘where are you?’” If you need a quick context refresher, please read Genesis 3:1-9. In the Bible study, Ms. Beth asks us to switch places with Adam and let this divine question, from the very mouth of God, land on us. I firmly believe He is asking us this question over and over again. Hear Him ask you…

“Where are you, child?” Are you in a relatively good spot right now, with things humming along like a well-oiled machine, all the parts of your life working pretty well? Is your family, your job, ministry, hobbies, all moving forward at a good pace? If this is where you are, tell Him and rejoice and be thankful for that blessing! Pour out your gratitude and tell Him about all your hopes and dreams for what is to come.

“Where are you, child?” Are you in a valley that seems a bit monotonous and, dare I say, boring? Does life seem to be plugging along with the same-old/same-old things, without much excitement? He sees you in this place that appears to be a long and predictable holding pattern. Tell Him about it. Tell Him your desire for something new and exciting. Talk to Him about giving you bravery and courage for what is coming. He can give you peace and patience that you need for this season.  Remember, He is ALWAYS working on your behalf; organizing, shifting, and setting good things in motion.

“Where are you, child?” Maybe your season is one of pain, disappointment and heartache and you wonder if He is even there or even cares. Maybe it feels as if He has forgotten you, and your desperate prayers seem to float and drift, never landing at His feet. If this is you, tell Him! He reads your thoughts and knows every hurt and every wound. He can handle whatever you pour out to Him. Tell Him all of it, the raw, the ugly, the desperate; all the anger and deep disappointment. Nothing touches you that has not first been sifted through His hands of love, goodness and healing. It’s ok to turn the question around and ask God, “where are You?”

Now, go and get with your Father! May this scripture from Psalm 139 encourage you and powerfully remind you how very known and loved you are!
Psalm 139:3-5 and 17

You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You both precede and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God! They are innumerable!