An Unshakeable Hope

A Sure and Unshakable Hope

What’s your definition of hope? How do you use the word hope in a sentence? If we’re unsure about the meaning of hope, a handy dictionary helps us check it out. According to the dictionary I am using it correctly. I often use the word as if it’s something I’m wishing for, daydreaming about, or planning toward.

I must admit when I look at the way I most often use this word that it sounds like it’s related to shallow things: I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow. I hope there’s sunshine tomorrow. I hope the store has my size in that pair of shoes that I really want. I hope the check-out line isn’t long. I could go on and on about the ways I use the word hope. The ways I use it to express desires sound quite earthly and weak. It’s quite “me” centered, but I want to ascribe to this word the value and weight that is due. Hope is what believers in Jesus cling to.

Do you struggle with having real hope, like I do? Well, a spiritual tune-up reminded me of what hope really is. I found that:

  • Hope is waiting on God’s promises.
  • Hope is trusting in His timing.
  • Hope is giving Him freedom to put together the puzzle pieces of my life in the way that makes the picture beautiful, whole, and complete.
  • Hope is letting God put me back together on those days when I feel like I’m coming apart at the seams.

We’re not to seek God to “get” something from Him. We’re to seek Him just for Himself. However, there are grace gifts we receive when we rightly place all our hopes and affections upon Him.

  • Hope stirs love.
  • Hope draws us closer to God.
  • Hope transforms.
  • Hope heals.

Jesus’ birth brought hope to this weary world. May the promise of O Holy Night be fulfilled in you and me. “A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices! For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!” Let the light of Jesus illumine your path, guide your way, and give you unshakable hope!

Where’s your hope today? Is it in who God is or is it in circumstances or yourself trying to keep everything together? How can you flourish in a place of hope? 

, , , ,
Advertisement

A Moment of Pain and Prayer

The eight-year anniversary of Mother’s death was Sunday. In so many ways it seems just like yesterday. There are some moments in life that stay etched in your mind and heart forever. That morning was one of them for me.

A yearly habit I established the year after her death was reading Psalm 119 in its entirety on the anniversary of her death. I read this Psalm out loud to her the morning she took her last earthly breath. This was sacred ground. God’s presence was palpable as I walked around her bedroom reading and praying this Psalm out loud. Even in the sadness of knowing she was dying, there was sweetness in the atmosphere as I prayed scripture over those most dear to Mother. This Psalm is packed full of prayers that we can pray for those we love. We can be sure God will answer prayers that are prayed according to the scripture, for God’s will is revealed through scripture.

What are some of the prayers I prayed for my Daddy, for my sister and her family, for me and my family?

  • That we would live life according to God’s ways that are given us through scripture.
  • That we would seek God with all of our hearts.
  • That we would not live duplicitous lives.
  • That we would not go astray.
  • That we would walk in purity.
  • That we would meditate upon God’s word.
  • That we would meditate upon God’s character as it is revealed in scripture.
  • That we would be women and men of prayer.
  • That we would understand the depth of God’s love for us, and that we would fully embrace, experience, and live from a place of Belovedness.

I know I prayed many more prayers from this Psalm that morning than just these. Actually, each verse of the 176 could be a prayer.

What’s God asking me to do today? He’s asking me to pray these requests again over each of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He’s asking me to pray these prayers often.

 “I long for more revelation of your truth, for I love the light of your word as I meditate on your decrees.” Psalm 119:48 TPT

What is God asking of you today?

We need others to walk through grief with us. Spiritual Directors are those who will lovingly and graciously sit with you helping you navigate the twists and turns of loss. God has equipped me as a spiritual director.  If you or someone you know needs this kind of person in their lives, please contact me at http://www.kristicoaching.com

In His Keeping-For His Time

A couple of months ago I wrote concerning what to do when the jolt of the unexpected shows up unannounced. It can be a wild ride.  I wrote from a deep place in my heart because one of those out the blue situations had just shown up at my doorstep. I prepared myself to deal with it, focus on God to get through it, and then get through it.

However, I hit a snag. I expected something to fall into place on my time table, which surely was God’s time table. I discovered, once again, it isn’t. Again, I am struck with this truth: Waiting on God continues to be one of the hardest things I face in life. What have I felt? Irritated, frustrated, confused, fatigued. I find I’m not alone in this.

As I accept the reality of the situation I have a choice to make. I can stay in a place of desolation or entrust all to God knowing He loves me and He really will work it all out for good. I choose to let go of what I’m holding onto so He can do His deeper transforming work in me. That’s what I desire the most anyway.

I want to become more and more shaped into becoming the person God desires me to be, whole and complete.  The way to get there sometimes includes having to go through the turbulent waters in the trial of waiting.

At least forty years ago my husband and I were in a difficult place of ministry. My heart had been deeply wounded by some people I thought were friends. I remember thinking, “How long, Lord? How long will this heartache last?”

I happened to be visiting some relatives and came upon a book in their home written by Andrew Murray. If ever I’ve known that God was there to comfort me, it was then. These are the words that jumped off one of the pages of that book. These words renewed my hope for being strengthened, healed, and brought through.

First, He brought me here, it is by His will I am in this strait place: in that fact I will rest.

Next, He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace to behave as His child.

Then, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.

Last, in His good time He can bring me out again—how and when He knows.

Let me say I am here

By God’s appointment

In His keeping

Under His training

For His time.

Today I dug out my old Bible where I wrote those words many years ago. I needed them again. Maybe they’re for you, too.

What place of waiting does God have you in, today? How can you apply the words of Andrew Murray to your life, today?

We know that those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31). Oh, Father, help us to trust You and wait well.

Surviving Turbulent Waters

I fell in love with the white sand beaches of Florida 40 years ago when my husband and I made a trip to Panama City Beach. We discovered other beautiful beaches too, but there’s nothing quite like these white sandy beaches that border the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Since discovering the awesomeness and wonder that come with the beauty of those vast bodies of water that give us sandy beaches, we’ve done an annual beach trip. We are now reveling once again in one of our happy places.

I’m an early morning riser who delights in sitting on the balcony which overlooks these gorgeous waters. There’s always so much to wonder about. This morning it was fun watching the orange floats, which mark the way for the jet skis to travel within, bobbing up and down. Those floats keep the jet-ski driver aware of where he can safely go.

 God has a good path for us to go on, too. It is a wise person who stays within the parameters God lays out. If we leave that space of safety, we will find ourselves in danger of drowning. As I watched the bobbing up and down of the buoys I imagined myself being one of them. What keeps the floats from going under? They are attached to a cable which is attached to a large and heavy object. As long as the float stays anchored to the cable and the cable to the anchor, all is well. However, there are two things that can go wrong: The cable can get weak and a strong enough hurricane that can dislodge the anchor.

Difficult unexpected things will happen in life. The storm clouds do come in. I visualize our faith being like that cable that connects the buoy to the anchor. It has to be periodically checked to make sure it’s strong enough to hold in turbulent waters. It’s like that in our spiritual lives: our connection with God is our faith in Him.  Our faith needs to grow in order for us to get stronger. This strength isn’t only for our benefit but it’s also for others in our life who need encouragement, help, and hope in their journey with God.

Is there a way to keep ourselves afloat, living above our circumstances when the unexpected storm comes? Absolutely! We stay attached to the Anchor! Our anchor is an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, unlimited-strength God. If we believe and cling to these absolute truths about God, we will not be defeated and lost at sea when turbulence shows up.

There have been times in my life when I felt like I was sinking but God held me up. Those difficult times have helped my faith muscle increase in size. What can we do to help ourselves stay strong when the storm hits instead of cowering down in fear, depression, hopelessness, and helplessness?

  • Daily meditate on the character of God. How do we know His character? We learn of it through the scriptures.
  • Be aware of what our thoughts and feelings are when hard times come. Is there fear? Is there sadness? Is there hopelessness? What attribute of God do I need to cling to during those moments? 
  • We can talk to God about what we feel. He knows all about it anyway. Conversation with God always strengthens us.
  • Seek God’s face through reading promises found in scripture. Memorize specific scriptures that you know are filled with words of strength, encouragement, and hope from our Abba Father who calls us his beloved sons and daughters.
  • Recall the ways God showed up in the past, and with faith expect Him to do it again. He will come through!

A few weeks ago one of those unexpected and shocking turns came. It jolted me. Even though I sensed God’s hand and direction in all, I found myself moving to dread, fear, and distress. But then I remembered a promise I put to memory years ago from Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

As I cling to this promise, the dread, the fear, and the anxiousness cling less to me. His strength is securing me.

How about you? What turbulent waters roar around you? What are you doing that keeps you from going under or swept away? What keeps you safe, secure, and serene?

A New Look at Sabbath

Growing up, going to church every Sunday was a common practice. I loved that this was a rhythm that was deeply engrained in me. Even though I didn’t have a deep understanding of what the Biblical word Sabbath actually meant, I now realize we practiced its essence. Sabbath is a time to stop and rest. It’s a time to enjoy God, enjoy being with like-minded people in our faith community, enjoy a family meal, enjoy a nap, and anything else that was life-giving. This change of pace and shifting of focus is a gift from God that provides a way for our souls and bodies to be replenished. God knew we needed this. He established a day of Sabbath from the beginning of time.  It demonstrates God’s loving care for us. When I was growing up it was easy to set apart that day to rest and recharge since there was no cable or satellite TV, no retail stores beckoning me to shop (they were closed) and no internet. It wasn’t complicated to practice “Sabbath”.

Times began changing dramatically in the 90’s . . . but, our souls have not changed. The reason for Sabbath has not changed. We still need the weekly rhythm of practicing Sabbath which provides a way for our souls to be restored and replenished for another week. God knows our human limitations. He says in Jeremiah 31:25 that He will refresh tired bodies and restore tired souls.

A few years ago my husband and I discovered how easy it is to fall into a trap that was depleting us of joy when we allowed technology to steal peace and joy from us on the day when we could be filled up with things that satisfy. We never gave up our weekly habit of going to church, but we’d lost God’s original intention for Sabbath – a day set apart so that we can be reminded of who and what is most important, particularly our relationship with Him. The reality: you can do Sabbath. Here are some tips:  

  • Pick a day. It doesn’t have to be Saturday or Sunday. Our preference is Friday evening through Saturday evening, but you can choose what fits you and your family best.
  • On this day, with God’s help, let go of anxieties and worries that are taking up space in your hearts and minds. Give the mind a rest from troubling thoughts. This makes room for delighting in the peace, joy, and love of God.  Gwen Smith of Potter’s Inn ministries suggests writing down those things that are sucking life and energy from us and putting them in a little box she calls a Sabbath box.  
  • Take a rest from work and any kind of technology that is life-draining instead of life-giving.
  • Do something fun and playful. Allow for spontaneity.
  • If Sunday is the day you practice Sabbath, then enjoy celebrating Creator and Redeemer God with your faith community.
  • Take longer periods of time for contemplative and reflective practices such as silence and solitude, reading and praying the Scripture, journaling.  There are numerous ways to delight in the presence of Jesus. Linger in this sacred place as you enjoy time with Him soaking in His love, grace, goodness, and peace.

 I remember three years ago being in a listening group discussing ways to practice Sabbath. For most of us our Sabbath Day was always on Sundays. However, for this particular group, Sundays were a work day and that was not going to change. We realized being a legalist about the particular day had to go. Freedom came to us as we discovered that the Sabbath rest can be celebrated on another day of the week.

God desires that we become more whole in body and soul. That means He’s okay when we take our Sabbath rest on a different day than Sunday. It’s out of His care and love for us that He established the weekly rhythm of Sabbath. We’ve been intensely blessed through making this part of our Rule of Life. It’s one of the most transformative things we’ve ever done.

Rhythm > Balance

We all know music will not be pleasing to the ear if a steady beat and rhythm are not established. The composer knows what tempo is right for his/her composition. They desire to draw you into to their music. When the rhythm fits the music and it flows in an ordered way, the music draws a person into it, bringing the listener delight.

There’s another kind of rhythm that brings delight to the soul and to our God. It’s called a Rule of Life. In Latin, rule, is “regula.” It refers to a trellis that supports a grapevine, for instance. The trellis supports and guides the vine so that it produces more fruit. This rhythmic pattern is actually a way of living that helps us further develop our inner life that brings more joy, sustenance, freedom, and peace.   A rule of life is not legalistic at all. Developing a rule of life is one of the most positive things you can do.

You often hear people say, “I need to get my life in balance.” Living life in rhythm is greater than balance. It’s virtually impossible to live a “balanced life”, but we can live in rhythm. You may be asking the question, “How do I do this?”

To begin, think about your deepest and best desires and longings. Do your habits, behaviors, and attitudes support those desires and longings? Do your habits, behaviors, and attitudes bring life and help you flourish? It’s important that these practices are life-giving. Too much of life is life-draining.

Second, think about what helps you grow into becoming more of the person you know God designed you to be. What are practices and habits that will develop you into that person? Remember the trellis metaphor, it supports and guides the plant so that it grows, flourishes, and thrives.

Next, keep this rule of life as simple as possible. It needs to be sustainable and life-giving to you. Like the trellis supporting the vine, the rule of life supports and guides you.

A rule of life enhances and is applicable to every area of life:  Spiritual, Emotional, Relational, Physical, etc. But for now, let’s first think of your spiritual life. What are some daily and weekly life-giving rhythms you could establish or enhance? Good daily rhythms could include times of silence, reading, maybe a walk or other exercise, ect. Weekly rhythms: church and life group attendance, coffee with a close friend, discipleship or accountability groups.  

Please understand: Having a rule of life is not about goal setting, New Year’s resolutions, or achieving something. It’s about knowing who you are in Christ and becoming who He designed you to be. It’s not about achieving but about becoming.

Annie Dillard says, “How we spend our days, is of course how we spend our lives.” Our daily pattern of life matters and it shapes us.

Some questions to ponder:                                                

Does my current “rule of life” (my current way of living) draw me closer to God? Are my current daily habits transforming me into one who can genuinely reflect Jesus to others?  How would writing a rule of life help me to live life more abundantly? The exhausted life is not the abundant life.

Remember: “A good rule can set us free to be our true and best selves. It is a working document, a kind of spiritual budget, not carved in stone but subject to regular review and revision. It should support us, but never constrict us.” Margaret Guenther

In my next blog, I’ll share more details about my Rule of Life and why it is so important to me. Living this way is one of the best things I’ve ever done!

God’s Protection-Building Faith

My husband and I took daily one-hour walks during the months of the COVID 19 lockdown. These walks helped us not go stir crazy, allowed us to wave and smile at real people in our neighborhood who were also needing some fresh air to deal with the agony of being stuck indoors. It gave us a sense of being able to do something normal.

There were times we took our walks solo. It was on those walks that I began noticing some things I’d not seen before. One being a large prickly pear cactus growing in a neighbor’s yard. I was stunned at this sighting! I am a native Texan who spent a lot of time in New Mexico where it’s common to see prickly pear cacti growing wildly in open spaces and in yards. I discovered there’s only one variety of traditional looking cacti that grows in Tennessee. It’s the Texas Prickly Pear. It makes me proud seeing Texas as the adjective describing this type of cacti! Since then I discovered another Texas Prickly Pear growing by a mailbox on a road I take weekly on my way to church. Both these are now in bloom: one with yellow flowers and the other with red. They are stunning!

Every time I eye the one of these unique beauties, I remember a run-in I had with cacti. It was when I was 10 years old and attended a week of camp at Plains Caprock Camp with a group of girls from my grandmother and granddaddy’s church in Floydada, Texas. This camp is located in the Blanco Canyon and was my first adventure of being away from home for a camp experience.  I wasn’t too fearful since I already knew some of the girls and leaders I’d be spending the week with and I knew my grandmother wasn’t too far away if I needed her. Since the camp was located in a canyon I’d been warned to look out for rattlesnakes. Fortunately, I didn’t find one nor did one find me. However, Prickly Pear cacti were everywhere. It’s part of the beauty. And, they’re big enough that you’re not going to run into one or at least you’re not supposed to.

On the first day during free time, we did some hiking. We hiked up a small hill that took little exertion for a 10 year old.  Coming back down should have been easy but it was steep enough that it put me in a too-fast stride so I fell and started rolling. When the downhill roll came to a halt, I was left with only some ugly scrapes and scratches on my arms and legs, but nothing else! I’ll never forget looking back up at the path I’d just rolled down and seeing all the cacti with barbed needle like bristles that had not touched me. I’d just experienced my first miracle. God was watching out for and protecting this little girl at her first camp. The nurse cleaned and bandaged up the bloody scratches. I had the option of calling my grandmother to come and get me. I mean this was a rather traumatic experience! But, I chose not to.

This encounter with the wildness of nature taught me some things about the intrinsic nature of God and my own nature.

  • God has a “will” and his “will” will be done. His desire was to protect this little girl from being assaulted by cacti needles. He wanted me to stay at camp. He wanted me to hear the Jesus stories and the missionary stories. He wanted me to play and have fun with my friends.
  • I learned some things about myself. I found an adventuresome spirit inside of me that is full of courage and strength. I could overcome fear. Why? Jesus was with me.

I am no longer a young girl. I have passed the young woman season, the middle aged season and am now in the last season. The funny thing is that I still have to work at pressing  forward through times of fear that show up in new planned out experiences or unexpected life events that show up out of nowhere. But two things I know: Things do work out according to God’s plan and will. Therefore, I will be okay no matter what comes, and so can you. I will rest in the truth that I am a woman of strength and courage because of who I am in Christ . . . and so can you.

Where have you seen miracles in your life, big or small? What did that do for your faith? How does that help you press forward with more faith?

What unexpected life event are you dealing with right now? How are you handling it?

It All Adds Up, or Does It?

 

 

 

I taught elementary school and remember the words used to teach subtraction. We use words like take away, decrease, reduce, and fewer than to teach the concept.  Before we learned subtraction, we learned addition. Addition was easier to teach than subtraction. We all like the idea of having more than having less.

There’s another kind of subtraction that happens which has nothing to do with math. It has to do with life. We have experienced reductions of all kinds since the tentacles of the COVID 19 began wrapping its ugly and vicious arms around us in different ways, some large, some small. Our lives have been altered.

How do we lessen the tight grip those tentacles have around us?  We can loosen that grip through addition. We make sure we add right things into our lives. The plan is different for each of us depending upon where we live and our season of life. Even our personality and spirituality play a part in the “adding” back.  I was delighted when told that my Yoga class had opened back up! Sure there was a bit of fear, but those fears were alleviated after I observed and experienced the precautions taken to keep us safe during this workout.

I had four summer trips planned. That was reduced to one. That “one” was the just right one. Blessings abounded!

As Jesus followers we are always in a place where we can make additions that make us more whole, complete, and joyfully satisfied. “Make every effort to add to your faith virtue and to virtue knowledge.” 2 Peter 1:5. Adding virtue (moral excellence and goodness) leads to virtuous living which shows itself to be authentic as we bless others through gracious acts of goodness.  Adding this kind of knowledge refers to a knowing that brings wisdom and discernment.  If we don’t see faith, virtue, and knowledge increasing then we are not maturing. We are underdeveloped. Our quality of life will be diminished.

Where do you see yourself today? How are you adding into your life the right things that will prosper your own well-being as well as the lives of others? What reductions have actually been good? Which ones have caused harm or great distress

Quieting Our Souls

We’re all walking out our own story in this outbreak of COVID-19. The most important question for me today: How am I walking it out? Maybe you want to ask that question with me.

Am I walking it out knowing Jesus is with me? Am I concerned for others, even those outside of my immediate family? Am I ready to share? Would I let go of something I’d like to hold onto if someone is in need? Am I praying more than I’ve ever prayed? Is my soul worshipping God as I pray? Do my prayers include those who were already fighting intense battles of all kinds before this virus crashed in like a tidal wave? I hope so. In a way, I think those dear ones may need our prayers more than anyone else. They need to know they are not forgotten.

Many years ago I read a Christian classic, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. This classic has shown up on a required reading book list for The Soul Care Institute that my husband and I are a part of. It is good to be reading again about the life of Bro. Lawrence. I am reminded, through his life that my whole day can actually be God centered. It’s really possible for any person to practice the presence of God all during the day.

This pandemic has quieted our immediate surroundings – at least there’s less traffic and noise. But anxiety, stress and even panic have not quieted, and this is impacting our souls. Our souls long to be quieted. Our souls long for rest, hope and peace.

What an opportunity to give our souls what they long for. God’s presence in us and around us aids us in this soul posture. What an opportunity for me and for you to frequently set apart daily times to focus our gaze upon Jesus and pray like we’ve never prayed before.

We have the time.

Even Brother Lawrence, in his earliest days of his love journey of walking with Jesus, struggled with “wandering wild fancies that would invade his mind and take violent passion of the place of God.” During those times he kept calm, proceeded to rid his mind of the distractions, and returned to his commune with God.

Be blessed, dear ones, and stay close to the heart of Jesus. “Seek the Lord and His strength. Seek His presence continually.” Psalm 105:4

 

 

 

 

Rest for Your Soul

 

There’s a study I was introduced to years ago called Journey to Freedom. The man who wrote it, Scott Real, knows we all have hurts, habits, and hang-ups. He knows some of us can end up with addictions. The study couldn’t have a better title. Living in a place of daily freedom is a journey and it takes effort. But, oh, it’s worth staying the course.

I’ve done this study, personally, and now I’ve led Journey groups four times. I always discover new insights about myself as I put forth the effort to live in daily freedom. Many times what I learn is not from the book, but from the other participants. Something different about the format of this study is that we do an “emotions check-in”. This is not your ordinary way of opening up a study before delving into the material studied that week. But, it is where we need to begin each week in order to move forward into doing inner work that is not extrinsic, but intrinsic. Starting out this way doesn’t leave much room for hiding. No one is forced to share, but if the personal desire is for transformation, then individual sharing will happen.

Just a few days ago our group met. Attendance was low so there was more time for sharing about the emotions we were aware of and then to elaborate if desired. We use Chip Dodd’s emotions chart. He believes there eight core emotions: Hurt, anger, sadness, guilt, shame, loneliness, fear, gladness. It seemed one other participant and I had all eight emotions going on at the same time. I must admit it felt good to share what I was feeling in a safe and confidential place. And yes, I elaborated a bit.

This is a group where there is no fixing and advice giving. But, as one beautiful woman shared from her own life, I heard words I needed to hear yet again: Rest in God. It’s the antidote for anxiousness that comes from the core emotions of anger, guilt, shame, and sadness. I was feeling all of this that day.

So, I’ve rested in God. What does that look like for me?

  • I find a place of quiet space for at least 20 minutes each day. In that space I practice silence, solitude and stillness.
  • If I feel tension in my body, I focus on deep breathing. A physician’s wife many years ago told me what a cleansing breath that relaxes looks like: I inhale slowly from my diaphragm and slowly release that air. I should allow at least six seconds for that good exhale. I do this 3-6 times. My tension shows up in my shoulders. This helps relax them.
  • I express to God how much I love Him. I sense His amazing love for me in this place. He tells me I am Beloved. I make sure to not have any kind of distractions from technology during this time.
  • As much as is possible, I focus on enjoying the stillness with my constant companions: The Holy Trinity.

In this place I find strength, hope, calmness, and always Divine love that will carry me and change me more into becoming the woman God intends me to be. There’s no place I’d rather be during these moments than resting and abiding in that love.

“You will be delivered by returning and resting; your strength will lie in quiet confidence” Isaiah 30:15

What about you? Do you need to rest in quietness with Jesus? How much do you need that quiet rest in Him today? If this place of quiet is not something you make time for, would you be willing to begin with just 5 minutes a day? What would that look like? When would be your best time?