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

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?

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

 

 

 

 

The Way to Live-The Way to Leave

 

In September of 2018 while on a spiritual retreat in Colorado, I peeked at Messenger. It was the kind of retreat where we were asked to put all technology aside, but I did happen to glance at my phone and saw something from my cousin, Greg. We lived 1000 miles apart which made keeping in touch difficult. Because it was unusual for him to message me, I knew it had to be something important. It was. He was asking for prayer. He had passed out in a restaurant which landed him in the hospital for testing. The doctors feared he had leukemia. The fear was confirmed.

Greg was a farmer. A friend has the right word to describe farmers: tough. Yes, farmers are tough. Greg had strength and toughness. But, he had something else, too: gentleness and a great capacity to love and spread joy. He poured out that love and joy to his teenage daughter, Sydney. He couldn’t bear leaving her. She’d already lost her mother 9 years ago. So, Greg fought hard for one and a half years. Two weeks ago yesterday, his final earthly battle was done.

I called Greg frequently during his stay at MD Anderson in Houston. His stay was long: eleven months. Our conversations were gifts to me. I remember one of his comments, “It’s a win-win, no matter what happens.” He said those words with joy and assurance. He could say them because he knew he had the hope of Heaven awaiting him. He knew that’s where he was headed, either sooner or later. Of course, he desired later, but he was entrusting it all to Jesus whom he loved and had given his life to years earlier.

God, through His goodness, grace, and mercy provided a way for me to attend Greg’s memorial service. Actually, God worked a miracle in order for me to be there. Yes, there was intense sadness for Sydney, Greg’s mother (my precious 90-year-old Aunt Nancy) and Greg’s brother, Mike. And, sorrow for all the rest of us who loved Greg. But, what we received from the memorial service gave comfort and even joy.

The pastor and shepherd, Rick, who’d spent much time with Greg, shared what Greg whispered into his ear one of the last times he saw Greg. Greg’s declared, “It is well with my soul.” How could Greg say that? He knew Who he belonged to and what he had to look forward to. It’s evident he’d surrendered everything which included his every breath to the keeper of his soul: Jesus.

Greg left the proof that he’d surrendered it all. This proof was included in the words he wrote that were read at the funeral: “Everyday God gives us is a blessing. When I’m gone I’ll be with him. What a blessing.” In these words printed on the memorial program, Greg again affirmed, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

This proof was also in the words of the two songs Greg wanted sung: “When I am down, and, oh, my soul, so weary, when troubles come, and my heart burdened be. Then, I am still and wait here in the silence until You come and sit awhile with me. You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains, You raise me up to walk on stormy seas, I am strong when I am on your shoulders, You raise me up to more than I can be.” And then the song Even If by Mercy Me “. . . I know You’re able and I know You can save through the fire with Your mighty hand, but even if You don’t my hope is You alone.”

Greg left us in a way that brought glory and honor to the One who made him. Greg’s hope was in Christ and him alone. He breathed his last breath knowing all was well with his soul.

Questions we must answer: How is my soul today? How will my soul be the day I take my last breath?

What we do right now in this very moment will determine the answer.

From Silence to Hope-Darkness to Light

 

 

 

Have you ever been in a meaningful relationship that went silent? I have. Sometimes this silence means the relationship has ended so we work through the “closure” knowing we must accept it and move on. We finally come to the place of knowing it was for the best. But, there are other times we just know the relationship is something of great value that needs to be resurrected so we wait, we hope, we pray, we believe. We want to also watch, but at times there’s not much to watch because of the physical or emotional distance that has resulted. It’s in that place that it is so easy to give up because of the deafening silence.

There was a time in Biblical history where everything went silent. This was an era of Silence. Ever since Noah, God had provided someone who spoke God’s message to others. Then it stopped – for over 400 years. However, if we do some historical study of this time period we see that a lot was happening. God was not inactive. He was at work. All things were falling into place, good and bad, preparing the way for the greatest miracle of all times to spring forth: the birth of the long awaited Messiah, Jesus. God broke through the silence and this breaking through changed everything. It’s because of this that we have hope that relationships that need renewing and remaking can really happen. God is the expert – he knows what needs to happen and when it needs to happen for rebirth to occur.

Recently in my place of quiet God reminded me of Isaiah 64:4, a scripture I’d memorized many years ago: “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.” Have you been waiting and longing for something to happen that has seemed impossible? I have. I have prayed, hoped, believed, waited, and wrestled with God. Now . . . some light is breaking through. God is allowing me to get a peek at what He’s been up to, however, all is not yet as it should be. But I will keep waiting, watching, and knowing that at just the right moment in time God will let me see what He’s been up to all along. In this “all along time,” I can trust he is doing some major repair work in me that is conforming me into more of the likeness of His perfect Son, Jesus. I can trust in the greatness and goodness of God in all things. He is working on my behalf and on yours. We can rest in Him, always being assured that it really is good. We must never lose hope in the waiting.

Gracious Father, enlarge our capacity for waiting patiently today as we pray “For you, O Lord, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God who will answer.” Psalm 38:15

Two thousand years ago God broke the silence. Through Jesus, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; a light has dawned on those living in the land of darkness.” (Isaiah 9:2) Where do you need a breakthrough of light today? Where do you need God to speak?

With My Whole Heart

 

It’s hard to believe that five years ago today Mother breathed out her last breath in what had been her earthly home for 80 years. I can’t imagine what that first hello to Jesus must have been like! But, one day I will, of that I am sure.

What a gift it was for me to be there the morning of her earthly good-bye. Because she had battled Alzheimer’s disease, there was joy to see her delivered from the suffering that this disease had wrought. That morning before her departure from us, I read aloud Psalm 119 to her. It was sacred ground. So, for the last four years I’ve re-read this Psalm on this day and written about what stands out to me the most at this time in my life.

The words that have spoken the most to me this year are the words whole heart. I’ve been reading a lot lately about whole hearted living so it’s no wonder that the words whole heart leapt off the pages. “O Lord, teach me how you want me to live! Make me wholeheartedly committed to you!” Psalm 86:11 “Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart.” Psalm 119:2 “With my whole heart I seek you.” Psalm 119:10

Giving my whole heart, my whole me to God is not as easy as I’d once thought it would be. There are obstacles to whole hearted living. Two major obstacles are not being authentic and perfectionism. When we put on masks covering up our true selves we end up hiding from God and living a divided life. A divided life makes it impossible to love God and others with my whole heart. Perfectionism is a dead end road. I have believed the lie that to be loved I have to be perfect. Of course it’s a lie! There’s no way I could ever be perfect. I am fallen, I have broken parts. We can believe that being perfect is where acceptance, love, and freedom is found. But it is not. It is bondage!

That bondage keeps us from living and leaning into our belovedness. It does not lead to anything good. I love what someone said about perfectionism in my Journey to Freedom group: “Perfectionism is not an option.” There have been times where I’ve deluded myself into thinking it was an option and even a demand from God. It is not. I am not perfect – I will never be. God knows that and He loves me no matter what.

I’ve been camping out a lot in the Beatitudes, Matthew 5: 1-12. I was delighted to find some amazing insights from Chuck DeGroat in his book “Wholeheartedness: Busyness, Exhaustion, and Healing the Divided Self”. He points out that Jesus’ way of ascent is the way of descent. Chuck writes:

  • “Blessed are the poor in spirit –We are blessed when we realize we are broken. This brings us to the end of ourselves. Jesus meets us in our brokenness. There is an invitation to come out of hiding.
  • Blessed are those who mourn—We are blessed to have a place where we can be present with God to let it all out through grieving and lament.
  • Blessed are the meek —We are blessed when we are humbled and allow our ego to be shattered.
  • Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness —We are blessed when we long more than ever for God.
  • Blessed are the merciful—We are blessed when we let ourselves be moved by and for the other.
  • Blessed are the pure in heart —We are blessed when we become whole by living in a place of holiness. We see God. Purity is about a state of well -being that leads to shalom. Shalom is a place of undividedness which is wholeness. Jesus puts us back together again so that our inner place matches our outer place.”

My mother is safely Home. She is now perfectly whole in every way. I’m not there yet. But for now, my desire is to live as fully as possible in a place of whole-hearted living where I can enjoy sweet communion with God and the people I love.

Resilience of the Pink Calla Lily

 

My mother died October 23, 2014, almost 5 years ago. The amazing people my husband works with sent a beautiful plant in memory of her death. I wasn’t sure what kind of plant it was, but it looked somewhat like a Peace Lily. I’d had Peace Lilies before and knew they were quite hardy. So, I just gave it water…..every once in a while. However, my care must not have been what was needed since the leaves started turning brown so I took it outside and just left it. I left it out of sight since I knew it was withering away. It’s beside our AC unit, so it couldn’t be an eye sore when it finally lost all of its leaves. That original plastic pot became weathered and now has broken cracked pieces in various places. It still out of sight, and out of my mind.

So, can you imagine my shock when in May green leaves started sprouting up out of that years-old pot of dirt! A lot of leaves!! Then, much to my surprise a gorgeous pink flower popped out. I knew it was not like the flower from a Peace Lily. I had no idea what kind of flower it was, but after investigating, I discovered it was a Calla Lily. This flower was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen in my life. That Calla Lily flower popping out on May 30, 2019, was a God-gift to me. This flower came at a time when my heart was sad as I was remembering the two year anniversary week of the death of my sister, Kimberly, as well as another sad event of the previous year. That Calla Lilly continued to bloom. Not only was there one flower, but many.

God spoke much to me as I watched something come alive that I thought was dead. He used this plant to remind me that just because I saw and thought something dead didn’t mean it was. Why? Because God is the life-giver, the life re-newer, the life-sustainer. Nature is held in His hands and so am I. So are you. We are never ever separated from Him who breathed life in us. His breath still breathes into us every day. This is what matters. As long as there’s breath in our body we can rest assured that beauty and vibrance is still there that can pop out every day. There’s never a reason to give up.

When I can’t sense God’s movement in my life, He’s still moving. He’s still loving, He’s still making, He’s still forming. And, He still says, “It is very good.” Kristi, too, can say, “It is very good.” So can you.

What good things do you need to thank Him for today? He is there and He is not silent. You can definitely thank Him for that!

Celebrate Today

 

 

Two years ago today, we celebrated with family and friends the life of my fiery, bigger than life, beautiful red-headed sister, Kimberly. This service was not called a funeral. We never spoke of it in that way. It was a Celebration of Life service.  The burial took place during the morning hours, the Celebration in the afternoon.

We celebrated Kimberly’s life, but more than that, we celebrated the life of Jesus in her. He is the One who spoke life into her. He was her joy and her strength. We chose songs to sing that meant the most to her: The God of Angel Armies, Great Are You Lord, Holy Spirit You are Welcome Here, and No Longer Slaves to Fear. These are all songs related to the reasons we can celebrate life even when walking through dark shadowed times.

Kimberly focused on living bravely, in a celebratory fashion, so beautifully right up to the moment she left this earth. She is one that lived well and died well. I can’t help but think of the second verse of the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr:

Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace.

Taking, as He (Jesus) did, this sinful world, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right, if I surrender to His will.

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life.

And supremely happy with Him

Forever and ever in the next.

What is the will of our Father God? He desires that we celebrate something about life every day. How do we do this?

The key is living in the present. Living in the present embraces the truth that in each day there are moments to enjoy and even relish. The enemy of living present is living in the past. We do this by wishing things were still as they used to be. We long for those “good times.” But living in the past is dangerous because there were bad and hurtful things there, too. We can get stuck there wrestling with the “whys” and “what if’s”. Kimberly could have dwelled on many whys and what if’s, but she determined to live in the present.

So what kinds of things can I celebrate in the day I have? This is something I’m working hard on. How can I find those things? It’s about awareness. It’s an awareness that finds ways to celebrate the fact that I am alive and breathing. Kimberly never wanted to have to walk around toting a can of oxygen with an oxygen tube in her nose, but she surrendered to it beautifully and was she ever thankful!! She could breathe easier! She could still do life! She was tickled pink that the technician gave her enough tubing attached to the tank so she could walk all around the house. She rejoiced in how nice and kind that technician was in setting it all up in her house. She even said, “I’ve got to contact the company he works for and tell them what a great job he’s doing for people.”

I remember my father-in-law in his prayer before each evening meal saying, “Thank you, God, for this another beautiful day.” Is every day full of beauty? Well . . . maybe not, but, yes, there is much beauty around me every day. Sometimes I’ve just been unaware. Living in the present, even in the midst of pain, I’m discovering these things of beauty that I’d missed before and they are taking me to deeper sacred places in my own soul, in my relationship to God, and with others.

Sometimes it’s even seeing “old things” in a new way. As I experience delighting in seeing these new things and giving thanks to the One who gives good things to enjoy I’m beginning to celebrate life in ways I’d not known before. I’m more able to soak up and enjoy the goodness of the Lord and others in this place of joy. All of a sudden God creates in me a playful spirit full of gladness and freedom to be me as He truly intends.

What can you celebrate today? How are you going to celebrate?