Hope Restored-Put Your Confidence in the Lord

“It isn’t as bad as you sometimes think it is. It all works out. Don’t worry. I say that to myself every morning. It all works out in the end. Put your trust in God, and move forward with faith and confidence in the future. The Lord will not forsake us. He will not forsake us. If we will put our trust in Him, if we will pray to Him, if we will live worthy of His blessings, He will hear our prayers.”
Gordon B. Hinckley

I was on the brink of giving up.  Hope was slipping away.  It took all my strength just to get through another day.

I could not rely on others and my confidence in myself was gone. Friends became foes. Trust diminished with each lie. I was played for a fool and I became unwise. Discernment deconstructed,  I had no alibi. A broken heart, my spirit crushed. I diligently searched but could not find a lasting relief or peace of mind.

2015 was the year of anxiety, stress and fear. It was the year I became discouraged, distracted and too often misdirected.

I was in the woods when a wise man said I needed to learn how to “be” instead of always doing.  That concept was foreign to me and yet my life depended on it.  It was the key to breaking free from all the worry and stress that was slowly killing me.

The oppression I was under was real.  One minute it was silent and subdued. Then became boisterous, loud and rude.  It left me confused. My tears fell like a flood gate. No holding back. It was like a heavy blanket hovering over me.  A net which entangled my emotions until I could not break free.

Big headed and strong I pushed on until I found myself waddling in the mire of constant pain and brokenness. Repressed. Feeling helpless. Almost hopeless.

It was a Job-like test.

It was as if an enemy was on a secret assignment to try and test me in every area of weakness he could find.  Walls were broken and sins exposed.  This enemy had an army and used not only fiery darts but hand grenades, machine guns and atom bombs.

Listen people:  The enemy of our soul is real and he is on a rampage to steal our health, wealth and well being. We must realize it is a test of faith. We must cry out for mercy and grace.

Mow is the time to rise up and find our place.  Do not allow your hope to be diminished.  Hope is your lifeline during troubled times.

The Bible says we perish without hope. Hopelessness invades like an unwelcome house guest.  It wreaks havoc in the temple of our soul to wage a mighty war with the Spirit of God residing within us.

Like the devil himself–hopelessness comes in like a flood.  It comes to steal, kill and destroy.  And sometimes God allows it . . .

Last year was a hope test for people of faith.  Our houses were invaded with no stone left unturned. Men and women of God found their faith being tried like never before.

Perhaps it has been God’s boot camp preparing us for war.  The world is getting ugly with contention, strife and discord everywhere.  Hatred, violence, mayhem.  Chaos is rising.  Will we be ready when all hell breaks loose?

Through our own trials and tribulations God is quipping us to endure what is to come.  He is restoring our confidence and rebuilding our faith. We have to be broken in order to be rebuilt.  To gain new treasures we must first lose what we had.  To experience gratitude we must let go of expectations and learn to appreciate what we previously took for granted.

The Prophet Jeremiah was told to go to the Potter’s House and to get on the churning wheel so God could do a new work.  It is a painful but necessary process.  At times we get too confident in ourselves, our resources, our talents, our networks, our stuff.   We block our own blessings.

In our own little world when it is all about “me” how quickly we forget we are nothing but clumps of clay.  From dirt we came . . . We are nothing more than dust in the wind.

That’s when God says “enough” and teaches us hard lessons on how to put our confidence in Him alone. God reminds us of this when He gives and takes away. It is our trials and our losses that finally bring about necessary change.

Whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Now is the time to get your spiritual house in shape. Lift whatever is weighing you down.  Cast your cares into the sea.

The call for all of us at this crucial moment in time is to rise up higher.  We must survive our own personal time of transition in order to be ready for the future.  Easier said than done because to do so requires a new way of thinking.  The old ways wont work.  We must learn to discern and let go in order to survive and thrive in the days to come.

There comes a time when everything we think we know gets challenged.  We are forced to rethink everything.  God’s ways are not our own.  The shaking in our lives, in our families, in our hearts, in our bodies and in our souls is real–as real as real it can be. It is designed to break us and to set us free. God prunes us and shapes us into what He wants us to be.

At a time like this I think of Ruth who left 542122_4112023602133_1646423686_neverything she knew and was accustomed to in order to follow her heart. Her confidence was in the Lord.  She was willing to go where God said to go and to do what God said to do.  She didn’t know that it was a test of faith that led to her harvest.  She found provision, favor, love, a new life and a far greater hope than she had ever imagined possible.

Do not grow weary.  It is due season for all we ever hoped for to finally manifest. The harvest is ready and God has a perfect plan for our lives.  Putting our confidence in the Lord is the only way to restore and preserve our hope in these trying times.

 

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Hope in the Midst of Conflict . . . Lord Have Mercy and Help Us All

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It was killing my heart to watch how he treated my team.  It didn’t really matter how horrible and unprofessional he treated me.  But when it comes to my team–I am a mama bear.  I can go from sweet and kind to crazy woman about to lose her mind in a split second when pushed too far–and my limit was about to be reached . . . At times like this what would Jesus do?

It was one of those extremely difficult days.  I took a team to staff an event and we were working under a person who was nothing short of a bully.  His goal was to either make us or break us.  He singled out the ones who he thought he could badger or intimidate enough to make them cry or lash back just enough to get themselves fired.

I was in a really complex situation and torn between wanting to serve the client, hoping to keep the peace and wanting to represent at many different levels.

Mostly I wanted to avoid conflict but I knew I had to stand down and make caring for my team a top priority.

What should a leader do in that sort or situation?  Where does my faith overcome my fear?  What would Jesus do?

In hindsight I know I did everything I could to stand my ground and to keep my team from giving up.  I have seen too many others simply walk off from a job under far less difficulties or difficult situations.

But not my team.  We strive to have a good work ethic.  My team holds up under pressure. My team sucks it up and endures.  My team works hard.  My team represents.  My team gets through to the other side.  My team is a strong and resilient, it is an awesome team.

And all of this is not because of me.  I am not the one who leads–we all lead each other.  We know we are flawed and full of weakness.

Me?  I am just a gypsy, a vagabond, a scribe in search of a story.  I am just a teacher and a student of life.  I am just a girl who got to the end of her rope and cried out “Lord send me.  Lord use me.  Lord equip me to go and do whatever You would want me to do.”  A vagabond nomad with a really big heart.

I am scattered and often incapable of knowing what to do or how to handle situations.  I am easily stressed and too often it shows.  I know I am a mess at times and I am not ashamed to admit it.

That’s why I rely on my team, my God and my inner strength to get through whatever life sends.  I want/need a partner and a helpmate to keep me stay focused and to lighten the load.  I want/need a strong leadership team to catch the vision and to help me build this ministry.  I cannot do it alone.

I am so grateful that God has sent the right people into my life to help bring this work and this mission I’m on to life.  They, too, have caught the vision and together we have the hope and endurance it takes to rise up and carry on.

The Bible tells us that people perish without hope–and if there was just one thing I would want to say my ministry and my mission is all about it is in giving people hope.  That’s the focus of my writing and media work; it is the reason why I respond to disasters and it is the foundation I build upon when staffing an event, serving a client and finding a team to do the work.

Mostly, I am totally reliant on a power much higher than myself to get me though each event, each mission trip, each step along the journey of my life.

I am a “but for the grace of God go I’ kind of girl.  I am transparent and I talk too much.  I let my feelings show.  I often appear to be far less capable than I am.  I give in too easily and my heart often gets me in trouble because I want to properly care for everyone I meet–family, friend, lover, team member, client, man on the street.

I believe in scattering kindness and showing Christ-like unconditional love.  I may not always do that but I know I try.

20823_977810668897846_7253994179936529222_nMeanwhile, I realize I can’t be caretaker to the world.  I realize its a very fine line between healthy love and compassion verses co-dependency.  I have been on both sides of that coin.  And that’s why I need God’s strength and wisdom and comfort and peace and guidance and direction and help and discernment and confidence and wisdom and so much more every single day and especially in the work and ministry I do especially on days that put me around difficult people and complicated situations.

Sure there are moments and days when I would much rather give people a piece of my mind than a bit of my heart but on those days I become even more determined to push through and carry on.  On those days my greatest prayer should always be simple and clear: “Lord have mercy and help us all . . . “

Hope for Happiness and Embrace Love When You Least Expect It

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hope9Deep down inside (at that gutsy place where hopes and dreams, fears and feelings collide) one thing is forever certain:  We all want love and we hope for happiness.

It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’ve been, how many times you’ve loved or been loved–the bottom line is this:  We strive for perfect love and we yearn for happiness.

Reality says there is no such thing as perfect love because we are imperfect people.  We are broken and full of baggage. But imagine, just for a moment, a love so pure it overlooks all that.

What if someone loved you the way that God loves you–flaws and all?  What if age was just a number, love was color-blind and soul attraction was purely based on the potential we find in ourselves and in others–especially when we connect with the one person who we enjoy being with above all others.

What if we found love right where we are?

Its very difficult to love someone just as they are but the best love actually does that.  The best love looks for man or a woman who loves God enough to let Him do all the fixing or the convicting or whatever.  The best love trusts God even when it cannot trust itself or the one it loves.

The best love looks for a kindred spirit and knows how rare it is to find one.  The best love is mad love, passionate love, compassionate too.  The best love wants not what is best for me but what is best for you too.

Sometimes we carry so much baggage and pain we think we can never love or be loved again.  We build walls to keep others out.  We tremble at the thought of failure.  We refuse to take the risk.

Or maybe we wait for that perfect person who doesn’t really exist because the expectations we set are just too high.

Perhaps we stand at the edge of our of our tomorrow waiting on a boat that never breaks the shore.  Or we settle for less than God’s best or we get comfortable in whatever seems safe and simple.

Meanwhile the clock on the wall keeps ticking and we waste precious days, even years, lonely and alone.

This is not the way God intends for us to be.  There really is a perfect partner out there somewhere just waiting for the right time and the right reason to show up–even when least expected.

Stop searching and you might find what you are longing for.

Pray.  Pray hard.  Without ceasing.  Proclaim “due season” and believe it.   Expect a “suddenly” to occur an when it does be grateful.  Smile. Be happy.

What if we found happiness–not just in the other person and not in the sudden attention but in the person we become, in part, because that other person sees things that have been neglected or forgotten for too long?  What if that person brings out the best in you?

Have you ever listened so closely to your lover’s heart beat or their breathing and then suddenly realized you both were totally in sync?  That kind of closeness comes maybe once in a lifetime at best.  If you ever find it–it will take your breath away.

Sometimes we should simply give thanks and count it all a blessing without second guessing.

Always remember God can turn anything for good for those who love and trust in Him.

On Hope and Easter Beyond the Cross

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IMG_6558We all long for hope.  It is the one thing that helps us carry on.  But sometimes hope defies us.  Sometimes hope seems hopeless.  Sometimes hope eludes us.

The hardest thing is to hope for something unseen or to gaze upon a reality that defies everything your soul says is Truth.  When something you wholehearted believe in or commit your life to suddenly disappears, appears to be false or is torn away–how do you find the hope to carry on?

Sorrow, grief and bitterness are the hardest crosses to bear.  And yet out of our pain and suffering comes a steadfast perseverance and the kind of faith that can never be shaken.  Life experiences make us stronger and give us the wisdom and the compassion which enables us to help others and to find purpose in our own path.

Want to be more Christ-like?  Consider how He suffered.  Out of our own experiences only can we truly relate to others.

In Haiti, just a few days after the earthquake, I met a college student from Canada who came to volunteer.  He was not a first responder or a medical student.  He didn’t know if he had any skills that could be used.  He only knew he had to be somewhere where people were suffering just as badly as he was.  It was his only way to get past his own pain.  His younger sister had recently died in a car crash and he was totally lost without her.  Haiti and helping others helped to heal his wounds.

I also met a paramedic from the Bronx who had been on the scene dragging people out of the World Trade Towers as they fell.  His last rescue barely made it onto the street by just a few feet.  He told the story of how he fell to his knees and punched the roadway until the cement tore through his knuckles and then he screamed at God–both thankful he had been spared and full of angst at what he had just experienced.  In that moment, he decided to recommit his life to God and to spend the rest of his life responding to disasters and helping others.

Not every story is this traumatic but every life story does have its share of shock and pain and suffering–and it has its moments of joy, and peace and hope.  Hang onto the hope.  It is what will free you from the past.  It is what will allow you to find the joy and contentment of the day.  It is what enables you to enter the future with dreams and plans and promise.

Hang onto hope the way the early followers of Jesus did–especially the faithful women who stood at the foot of the cross for three days until He emerged from the grave and presented Himself to Mary.  Yes . . . he arose.  Even though one denied Him and another had to actually touch the nail holes in His hands–He gave them tangible evidence that their hope was not in vain.

Signs of hope are everywhere but too often we don’t see them. It takes a special eye–a discerning eye.  It takes an eye and an ear and a heart that looks for signs.  It takes  a person who is acutely aware of their surroundings–one who is on a mission to find the good in every situation, the potential in every person and the joy in everything.  There is hope and promise for those who choose to believe.  There is purpose and healing for those who rise up from their sadness and suffering and then use that experience to reach out and help others.

This to me is the greatest message of the cross and of Easter. If we look only to the cross instead of the Resurrection we stay stuck on our redemption rather than our calling to walk out our salvation.

We already know the long-told message that Jesus was a threat to the government and to the religious leaders of His day and how His own disciple sold Him out for a sack full of silver and how He went to the cross and died for our sins so we could be free and reunited with our Creator–but do we ever contemplate or find the hope of our own Resurrection Sunday as a chance to rise up and become more Christ-like in the way we walk and talk and impact others in our daily lives?

For the disciples and those who followed Jesus to his death, the challenge was to have enough faith to believe He would rise up from the grave–that the tomb couldn’t hold Him.  For those who experienced a risen Lord, the challenge was to share the Good News.

IMG_6570For me, having the vision to see beyond the cross is to accept the calling to walk out my salvation and to share hope and Good News to others.

You get to choose what Easter means to you.

This Easter contemplate the hope of what Jesus did for you on the cross but don’t leave him hanging there–look at how He rose up and made His presence known to those who would carry on His teachings and do as He did on earth.

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” LUKE 10:2 (NIV)

IMG_6263Will you be satisfied in knowing Jesus died for you or will you be among the few who rise up and take that message with you by committing your life to being a modern day disciple going out into the world to fulfill His great commission of sharing the gospel and planting seeds of hope into the lives of others?

Walking out your salvations means the choice is always up to you.

Where Hope Resides

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10296344_253602898166084_3708167197644919007_oHope lies deep within your gut.  It is that thing which rises up and drags you to your feet. It forces you to move, to believe, to smile, to ponder, to trust and to breathe.

Hope may wait but it will not wane . . .

Hope will eventually force you to take action.

Hope is full of the unknown. It is that gumption which leads you to the most unexpected places at the least expected times.

Hope holds the key to your inner longing–the true desire of your heart.

Hope has the answer but you must dig deep enough to find it.  When you latch onto it fully it begins to move and shake as things suddenly begin to work together without your control or orchestration.

There is no problem too big for hope.

Hope takes on a life of its own.  It sends you on adventures and causes you to tap into emotions and potential you never knew you had.

The coolest thing about hope is the way it spreads.  You think the hope you find is there just for you but in reality it is for others because it touches lives and leaves a heart-print.  Hope has a ripple effect as it positively impacts everyone and everything around you.

Everyday we should strive to catch a little bit of hope.  It sustains us like the air.  Without it, we perish.

Hope can cause us to do things we never thought or dreamed of.  I know because I’ve lived that kind of hope.

On January 12, 2010 I saw a report on the news about a horrific earthquake in Haiti. My gut burst with compassion and intercession and sadness and, yet, my mind was trembling with hope.

Hope?  What hope could be gained or given at such a terrible time?  What hope could I possible find or share?  What hope could survive the worst natural disaster in decades?

How could I be of value in a place like Haiti especially in the wake of a disaster?

Unsure, I began to pray until I felt a quickening response in my spirit,  That’s when I heard a voice whispering “Wherever there lies a will, there also is a way.”

Like a shot of adrenaline–I knew I must get busy and act on that prompting.  I wanted to latch hold of those sparks of hope so I could carry them with me as I went.

But how could I?  Without a passport?  Without medical skills?  Without search and rescue experience?  I was without even the foggiest idea of how to get there or how I could possibly help.

And yet my gut kept telling me to go.  And so . . . I went.

I made three calls to friends who could tell me what to do.

Within less than a week I was packed and heading to Haiti.  Everything just fell into place.  My media skills were used to help document and share the work of hundreds who came to assist.  I spent a month with first responders and medical teams all over the world.  I fell in love with children who smiled and laughed and whose eyes lit up in spite of the damage and hardship they endured.

My heart broke for the mama’s who bore the suffering on their shoulders and rationed off bits of bread and sips of water to keep their children alive even when they went without and grew more fragile by the day.

The colors in Haiti brought hope.  Bold, beautiful artwork overwhelms the soul and it is everywhere you look.  With that much color–sadness cannot breathe.

Haiti is like a canvas filled with tropical plants, seas and mountains,  brilliant sunlight and magnificent color from the murals along the city streets to the Caribbean cottages on the waterside to the clothes the people wear.

1888466_230130450513329_2394279386585164531_nMore than anything, Haiti birthed in me the heart and soul of a missionary.  I finally realized I could go anywhere and do anything as long as I followed my gut, trusted in God, listened carefully to the voice of hope and then followed it without fear.  Faith over fear is the secret to a full and fruitful life.  Find hope and let it lead you.

 

Its a New Year and a great time to set a new course.  May we dwell on possibilities and ignite the fire of hope in our lives.  My greatest desire for everyone in 2015 is to find that place where hope resides, to visit it daily and to share it with others.

The Voice of Hope

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Thanksgiving came and went without a word.  I had nothing but my faith and a desperate mother’s prayer to keep me hanging onto hope and clinging to a long-awaited promise I found nestled deep into a prophetic bible verse I stumbled upon more than 30 years ago:  Isaiah 54.

It was the bitter sweet assurance in that passage that enabled me to endure as a single parent and that keeps me hanging on whenever I worry about the well-being of my children who now are far too old for me to have much impact on the way they live their lives.

According to Isaiah 54:  I was called as a forsaken woman (and no one wants to be forsaken), then told that the Lord, Himself, would be my husband and finally, it is written that “great will be the peace” of my children.

When I read this I was so enthralled that I went out and had Isaiah 54 inscribed on my license plate and suddenly found myself sharing the promises found in that verse with an assortment of pain-stricken, broken-hearted and abandoned women at stop lights, in parking lots and wherever my license tag was seen.  Later, I found myself telling others about the promise that my children would be full of peace even though the peace in my own home, heart and children’s lives was nowhere to be found.

And now–Yes, even now, although I’ve found peace and serenity–I can’t help but wonder why my youngest child has not been set free, delivered and healed?  Where is her promise of peace?  Why must she run so fast, so far and so hard?

What peace is there when a mother cries herself to sleep knowing her daughter is out there somewhere, lost and alone in the cold?  Entrapped and entangled in the darkness?  Smitten with addiction?  By choice it seems, her shattered dreams–are they merely dust gone forever with the winds of time?

Or is there still hope?

10347567_276494332543607_1821273560741791740_nThere has to be hope, even when it seems impossible to cope.  Hope must emerge like a flickering candle in the dark.  It has to light the way less we disappear in the darkness never to return.

When a parent let’s go of hope–what’s left?  Nothing.

As for me I will cling to hope and wanting what’s best for my loved ones until my last breath.

Christmas came and still no word.

The battle was on as guilt, shame, sorrow and the pain of failure rose up and tried to strangle me.  I recognized the fight so I clenched my fists and fought off the fear with punches of faith and whatever scriptures I could must up and shout out loud.

This battle has been raging for years.

Whenever it comes, I dig in.  I get up when I fall.  Helpless describes the feeling because I know I cannot fight for her freedom only for my own peace of mind.

Regrets come and go but I refuse to flirt with them.  They only bring me down and try to trap me.  If only I could turn back time.  If I could take back spiteful words.  Fix the brokenness.  Heal the pain.  Start over again.  But I can’t.  Its too late for that.  I can only pour out love.  Move forward.  Trust and hope for better days to come.  Seek God’s mercy and grace–for her and for me.

Serenity says we must find the courage to change the things we can, to accept the things we cannot change–and we must seek wisdom to know the difference.  The Book of Proverbs tells me that wisdom is more precious than silver or gold.

I want more wisdom Lord.  More faith, more hope, more love.

I want to totally trust that Your hedge of protection Lord, is big enough and secure enough and strong enough for my child.  I want to believe that Jeremiah 29:11 also applies to my daughter–that You have a perfect plan for her and that when she finally cries out You, God, will hear and answer her.  And I must keep believing that she will eventually cry out.

hope2My birthday came in December 30th and still no call.  Nothing but silence.  The silence hovered like a dark cloud.

Those who don’t know will never understand so I stopped trying to explain it years ago.  Cut her off they say–shut her out and turn away.  But how can a mother ever cut off her own flesh and blood?  It isn’t in me to do so.

 

I do not and will not support her lifestyle but I will forever love her and desire to simply hear her voice and know that she’s OK.

My greatest hope will always be for her to find her greatest potential in life.

It was 10:52 pm on New Year’s Eve 2014 when a call finally came and I was able to finally breathe a spectacular sigh of relief.

“Hi, Momma,” was all it took to end 2014 with a smile and to renew my hope in God’s promises regarding my children.

Hope for the New Year

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As we enter into 2015–let us begin again with hope.  Let’s make it more than a resolution that will surely fade in three or four weeks.  Let’s turn it up a notch and share it with the world.

Let’s make sure our hope and the hope we profess and promote is more than some sugary sappy sermon or a superficial “feel good” thing we say but never surrender ourselves into doing–or more importantly being.  Shallow hope does more harm than good.  The world needs real hope because hypocrites scatter false hope and trample on the dreams of those who once believed.  Genuine hope manifests–it doesn’t deceive.

hope3This world is full of suffering, sadness, false hope and deception.  Shine a light and light a fire.  It is up to us–you and me, the hopeful ones–to be hope for the hopeless.  We must set our sights on becoming hope–not only for family and friends, not just for those within our limited circle of influence, but also for others near and far and especially for those who have no one else to give them the hope, the love and the confidence that life and faith and hope has given us.

What good is hope is we fail to pass it on?  Hope, like light and love, has to be shared in order to reach its fullness.  If we hoard hope for ourselves, we diminish its potential.  We become vessels of selfishness and greed.

My simple hope for all who read this is this:  May you reach a new level of hope and faith in the days and weeks and year to come.  May the New Year bring whatever you need most and in your gratitude and abundance may you share with others.

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Happy New Year Everyone.  Take what you need and pass it on because no matter what you lack or how difficult life seems to be–there is always someone somewhere who has it a whole lot worse.  Focus on your blessings.

 

 

 

 

Thanks, Giving and Hope: A Lesson from the Book of Jonah

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T1455965_451521738293088_560271442_nToo often we dwell on the “thanks” but forget the about the “giving”.  Thanksgiving is both.  It is entering an attitude of gratitude via sacrifice and thanks.

We prefer the thanks and omit the sacrifice.

Over the past week I’ve gained new insight.  I am no longer thinking about the simple token thanks we give to family and friends throughout the holiday season.

At times I’ve contributed to food baskets or helped deliver food and gifts to families in my community. For years I made it a point to sponsor at least one angel off a tree at Christmastime and tried to teach my children to do the same.  And surely I’ve filled my share of shoeboxes for Samaritan’s Purse and others.  But this year I am seeing something deeper and different . . . a level of giving and thanks that goes beyond my own traditions.

I am now catching a vision of a much deeper truth–a thanks that is attained only through sacrifice.  The sacrifice is the giving.

“But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of Thanksgiving:  I will pay that which I have vowed.  Salvation is of the Lord.”  Jonah 2:9 (KJV)

1378177_680064178671718_424292218_nI’ve discovered that words of thanks without sacrificial giving and without supplication is shallow and insufficient much like a sugar-coated sermon to make us feel good but without any power to substantial save souls or change lives.

What good is giving thanks out of habit or in an effort to do what is expected?  Real thanksgiving has to come from the belly, for the pit of the soul, from the innermost crevices of the heart.

Sure we can get away with superficial thanksgiving–the giving without thanks or the thanks without sacrifice but is it enough?  Is it sufficient when it comes to demonstrating a thanksgiving that resonates to the heavens?  I think not.

So the real question is your level of thanks!  Is your celebration focused on family and friends or is it thanks and giving unto God?  Are you satisfied to go year after year without deepening your understanding or strengthening your relationship with God?  Will you spend another year feasting on turkey and partaking in parades and charades that make jolly memories but lack the depth of a spiritual encounter? Will you miss a chance to magnify and honor the Lord?

For me, this year, God is more important than my superficial holiday traditions.  When Jonah cried out from the belly of that whale, he not only repented of his wrongdoing but he vowed to complete what he started; and to submit unto the Lord.

How often do we find ourselves in trouble and then we bargain with God making promises we fail to keep?  How often do we vow to make Jesus the reason for the holiday season and find ourselves bowing to social pressures, family traditions or overdoing ourselves through hospitality and lavish spending? Why substitute inferior celebrations for true acts of thanks, giving and unconditional love?

Do this and we miss the meaning of thanks and giving.  Do this and automatically take the Christ out of Christmas.

Sure I’ve always found Thanksgiving to be a great time to celebrate God’s goodness, to pour love out to family and friends–even strangers.  We eat hardy and celebrate the start of another holiday season.  We pray and give thanks out loud.  One year I even sent “Thank You” cards to a dozen or more people who had made a huge impact on my life.

But that did not challenge me or cause me to experience the degree of giving and thanks that I am just now beginning to understand–a thanks that forces me to wrestle with human understanding and a supernatural mercy and grace.

Have you ever experienced the kind of thanks and giving that only comes from a powerful revelation like what Jonah experienced in the belly of that whale?  Or how about the midnight praise that shook the earth and opened prison gates?  How about your own path to salvation?

Today my pastor preached on Thanksgiving from the Book of Jonah.  I initially thought: What an odd place to bring out a new truth about giving and thanks!  I had previously studied Jonah but today I realize something was amiss.  It is this:  Before Jonah was delivered from the whale, he gave thanks.

In the pit of that ghastly circumstance, wallowing in sorrow, shame and guilt and knowing he had run from God and disobeyed and was undeserving of a second chance–Jonah gave thanks.

Just four chapters long, we see four ways of relating to God:

  • Chapter One–Jonah runs from God;
  • Chapter Two–Jonah runs to God;
  • Chapter Three–Jonah runs with God;
  • Chapter Four–Jonah runs ahead of God.

And don’t we all fall into one of those four modes every day and in every situation we encounter.  The question is what do we do?  How do we handle our circumstances and shortcomings and failures?

When our circumstances scream louder than the thanksgiving within us–what do we do?

hope2We can wallow in our sorrow or worry and wait for help that we sometimes don’t even recognize when it comes.  We can cry and scream and shout.  We can doubt.  Or we can refer to Bible stories that show how the breakthrough comes through praise and thanksgiving.  Jonah voiced his thanksgiving from the belly of a whale and God was quick to respond.  Three men in a furnace of affliction were not even scathed by the fire because they praised God anyway and Jesus was with them.

In the Lion’s den there was no fear and Daniel was delivered. When the inmates began to praise and give thanks in their prison cell the gates broke open and they were set free.

What God did for others He will do for you.  Thanksgiving is the key to a breakthrough victory.

 

 

 

Signs of Hope

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In difficult times people look for signs.

We seek signs of goodness, signs of hope.  Signs to inspire and signs to help us cope. Some search for signs of the prophetic while others are fully satisfied with simple reminders that God is with us in the here and now.

God sightings are daily reminders.

A “God sighting” can be a magnificent sunrise or a sunset that only the artistic hand of God could create.  A God sighting might be a smile or a hug or a nod from a stranger or a phone call from a lost loved one or a sudden email from a special friend.

A few weeks ago I volunteered at an art festival in downtown Titusville.  At the end of the day I was tired and hungry and longing to get home and rest.  Suddenly I remembered, I technically have no home  . . .

No place of refuge to truly call my own.

All summer I had been feeding and working with the homeless in my community and even taking some of them with me on projects out of town.  All the while knowing “but for the grace of God go I” and realizing deep onside that I am they and they are me.  For the past six months I’ve been just a car and a friend from those same woods and scary streets.  Just me practicing outreach and love while trying not to let fear overwhelm me in and gain power over my own state of affairs.

Perfect love casts out fear.  I am grateful for God’s perfect love and provision and for family and friends who practice who practice God’s mercy and grace.

I’ve been house-sitting for friends and my time for moving on has been well overdue.  In reality, I have no place to go and no means of getting there.  I have no steady income and no funds for securing my own place.  Yes, I still have family and friends who will take me in but I always feel more of a burden than a blessing and that is a feeling I’ve grown to know and despise.

How did I get in this spot?  I can recite the sequence of events from college professor to three years of health problems and finally a surgery and lingering lack of energy to depression and stupid business decisions to this and that now this . . . on the edge of homelessness.

These painful thoughts caused a tear to roll down my cheek.  I was so engrossed in my problems that I almost ran off the side of the road but there in the median (almost hidden in the grass) I saw a glimmer of hope springing forth from an unlit sign. Just as the dusky evening was turning into darkness, I got what I needed to get myself back on track.

10394578_249021031957604_432796219402425125_nIt was amazing that it even caught my eye.  So timely and so badly needed that I caught the next u-turn and went back.  I pulled my car to the side of the busy highway, grabbed my camera and crossed oncoming traffic by foot just to get a closer look.  I was absolutely certain that the sign was meant for me.  It was the God sighting I needed at the precise moment necessary to bring me back to a place of confidence and hope.

A God sighting is timely, personal and powerful.  It is something that has mega-meaning–often to you and no one else.

God sightings are everywhere but we see them only when we seek them.  To find a true God sighting requires thought, patience and a keen eye.  We might see them but take them forgranted or not recognize them for what they truly are.

A God sighting might be a wrong made right.  It could be a Word of knowledge or perhaps, an answered prayer.  They come on like a light bulb or they slowly unfold.  Some are accompanied with great fanfare and hit us like a lightening bolt.  More often they are slow and simple:  A little lifting of the veil or defogging of the roses in our glasses so we can see things more clearly.

Its our nature to search for something good to help offset the bad.  Just as we force a smile when we are sad or speak positive proclamations over our difficult situations until a breakthrough manifests.

Stinking thinking adds doom and gloom but a good word spoken out loud has the capacity to change the atmosphere.

Where good abounds we yearn for even better.  We long for anything that confirms our faith–anything that brings us hope.  We seek inspiration, edification, insight, empowerment–a steadfast and unwavering confidence through whatever reminds us that we are highly favored Children of the King.

We relish reminders that God is good and greatly to be praised.  We benefit greatly from sudden reboots of vision–God sightings and signs that give us the energy needed to revive our zeal and keep us in the race–the race of living life to its fullest.

If you want to improve your faith, take time to see the signs.  God sightings abound as daily reminders of goodness and mercy, of promise and hope.  Don’t miss out.