Tag Archives: Hope

One Word: A Year to Behold

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It’s December.

How did that happen? I wrote the first post about the seemingly simple word of “behold” nearly a year ago and I remember exactly where I was when it came to me.

On the toilet.

I’ll give you that it wasn’t a particularly romantic or spiritual experience, but that’s when the theme for my year came to me none the less. In discovering where the Lord has brought me this year though, I must start first with the view of where I was when He and I began this journey.

Last December I was tired. I hid a broken heart and a weary soul.  I felt as though my spirit was but a shadow of a girl I once was. I thought, at the time, part of my personality’s sobriety was adulthood settling in. That my lack of enthusiasm and imagination was simply, and tragically, the reality of being older and carrying the weight of life’s responsibilities.

Last December I was scared. Last December I was so scared people mistook me for being a strong and independent woman. Last December I was blind to just how big God was and just how close He would get. So when a faint voice whispered “behold,” I had no idea how vivid my sight would become 12 months later.

The vision of myself has always been that of a girl who is moderately good at some things, but not extraordinary at anything. I’m not a musician and I’m not an artist. I’m not a skilled problem solver and I’m not destined to be a world leader. The fact that I was never, not one single semester, a straight A student still haunts me. I’m athletic, but I was never a star athlete. I never had a boyfriend in high-school and I never dated in college either. My social resume of what the world would deem certifiable “accomplishments” has always been severely lacking. My self-perception, for as long as I can remember, has been that I am a disappointment to God.

But this year, the way I see God and His love, and the way that I know He sees me, has truly transformed me from the inside out.

In 2011, I beheld a God that is a fountain of grace that does not run dry. I beheld a God that sympathizes with feeling ostracized and misunderstood. I beheld a God that would not let me stand on the outside alone.

I beheld a God that loves me before I am able to prove that I am lovable. I beheld a God that wanted to give me good things before I was able to earn them.

This year, I beheld the God of the Bible that revealed Himself to me through dreams and the prophecies of friends.  I beheld a God of tenderness and I beheld a God compassionate enough to prune away strongholds that clung to me like deadly vines.

This year, I beheld a God that showed me that He remembered childhood prayers and answered them when it would mean that hope was alive and healing had come.

This year, I beheld a God that was, is, and will continue to be faithful.

This one word for this one year, has changed 25 years of misperception.

Beholding God, as He really is, has changed everything.

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Waiting on the Kingdom

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I used to be a waitress.

I can honestly say that I not only enjoyed it, but I miss it from time to time.  It’s one of the few things I have come across in my life that came very naturally and easily to me; I did it well. 

Waitressing, for me, was never really a job, it was an outlet.

Talking and listening to people feeds something in me that I can’t quiet describe. I jump at opportunities to serve people because I like to feel needed.  I like to do for people what they can not do for themselves and waitressing seemed to supply that environment for me.

I couldn’t have asked for a better setting either. Whitefish, Montana is one of the most breathtaking places in the United States.  Something about that place beckons people to come and be a part of it. It invites and then transcends every expectation.  And tens of thousands of people from all over the world flock there every summer to witness it for themselves. 

Rumors of its beauty, tales of its grandeur, and pictures that attempt to capture its essence compel people to go and see if such a place exists.  It demands, and rightfully deserves, to be experienced personally.

Waiting on tables of visitors that had just come from Glacier National Park always brought a smile to my face. They were exuberant.  The views there will do that to you.  The air will leave you feeling exhilarated. The breeze will woo you and the fragrance of wildflowers will intoxicate you.

Back to waitressing.

Tourist and locals alike seemed to always come into the restaurant after their adventures famished. Exposure to that much beauty is exhausting.  Many weren’t prepared for the altitude adjustment.  Others didn’t hydrate properly to compensate for the dry climate.  Still others didn’t prepare for the hiking to be quite as exhaustive and so they didn’t eat enough.

They all came looking for sustenance. They needed to be replenished.  They needed nourishment. They needed rest. It’s not that they couldn’t have gone home to cook for themselves, it’s that they didn’t have the energy.

Being a waitress reminded me a whole lot of church.

Isn’t that what people come looking for? A promise of God that will quench their need for assurance? A truth that will satisfy their hunger for hope?  A bench to sit and rest on with others who are travelling the same road?  And a waitress (or waiter) that will be happy to accept them, serve them, and bring them love enough for the next day’s journey?

We’re all waiters. We are all called to serve what we know: Grace. Freedom. Forgiveness. Joy. Hope. Peace. Life. Love.

Some of us are openers. We meet people before they have ever even heard of this place called church. We give them directions.

Some of us are scheduled for the mid-afternoon lull. We have the opportunity to pay careful attention to the customers who come in alone and stay long.

And some of us are closers. We’re there for the evening time rush.  We have seven tables instead of three.  We get to serve the customers with complicated orders.  And we’ll stay there as long as they haven’t paid their bill.

All shifts are equally important, all serve a necessary purpose.

So whether you open, close, or keep the old company in the corner booth after the lunch hour, never forget you were scheduled for your shift for a reason.

Put Down The Pen

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Something has become abundantly clear to me as of late: I am not as creative as the Creator.  And what’s tragic is that I often think I am more creative than the Creator.  Take the last three years of my life as an example.

January 2008 single handedly turned my life in a direction I never anticipated. As I sat looking out the window of a 747 on a Denver tarmac, trying to stifle the panic attack I felt beginning to suffocate me, a young woman sat down in the middle seat and entertained my weak attempt at “shooting the breeze.”

When we landed in  Virginia, we had exchanged stories and email addresses.  She worked for Compassion International and by the time I made it back to my dorm room for my final semester of school, I decided I wanted to work there too.

The day before I was supposed to walk across the graduation stage, I received a phone call and an offer to be one of Compassion’s first interns. I accepted without thinking twice or asking really logical questions like “Where will I live?” “Will I be paid?” and “How do you get to Colorado Springs?”

A far cry from my original plan which included pursuing corporate America, a high-rise loft in some thriving metropolis, a diversified stock portfolio, and a lucrative marriage by the age of 30. I wanted to be some sort of business prodigy; the young-gun who had impressive insight and a jaw-dropping intuition when it came to market fluctuations and global trends.

My original plan was hardly original. That story has been written. That part has been played. A lot. 

 But perhaps my plan’s biggest pitfall was that there was only one central character: me.

I am discovering that when you hold the pen and attempt to write your own story, you forget a lot of details. You pass over people and places that may not change your destination, but bring a lot more color to your pages. You think linearly, in chronological order. You color inside the lines and try not to smudge the ink. You follow story-writing rules and include only one conflict, climax, and conclusion. Afterall, who’s got time for more adventure when you think you’re running out of pages?

But the truth of the matter is that we’re not the story-writers. We do not hold the pen. We have the privilege of playing the part we have been given.  We are beautiful illustrations; unique creations of God’s brilliant imagination.  And into each one us, His characters, He places pieces of Himself for us to show to those who read us. 

We are carriers of hope, promise, and mystery.  We are enchanting, captivating, and contagious. Not because of anything we’ve done or the story we’ve written, mind you, but because of Who’s we are and the part we play.

How do we play our part?  Be available. Be willing.

Trust the Author and Perfector of your faith to take you on a journey towards the center of His heart and in that place, you will come alive.

Put down the pen and play your part.

Here’s to 2010

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I’ve gotten into this odd, slightly dangerous, habit as of late. Whilst driving, I tend to spend more time looking in my rearview mirror than I do through my windshield.  I realize that it’s beneficial to glance up, on occasion, to make sure no one is tailing too close and such, but focusing there isn’t really the point either. After all, the rearview mirror is small and narrow for a reason; what lies behind was once ahead of you. So when looking back, you shouldn’t see any surprises, only small reminders of where you once were.

Staring at the rearview mirror doesn’t do much to prepare you for where you’re headed either. If I would just focus on the road in front of me, I would catch the speed limit sign so I wouldn’t need to be paranoid about being caught by the “Po-po.” If I paid attention to what laid in front of me, I would see the “Warning: Construction Ahead,” “Detour,” and “Caution, Sharp Turn,” signs.  I wouldn’t be caught off guard because I would have seen the warnings and had time to make adjustments, change lanes, or even exit if needed.

Driving forward, but looking back is remedy for not getting very far, very fast.

2010 was a year that gave me a run for my money on a lot of levels.  For so many reasons, I would like to forget much of it. But as a new years dawns, the Lord has made it clear that is was a year of preparation; a season of pruning, reprioritizing, and general maintenance.  A thorough check up on the affections of my heart that have been misplaced. The fears that mistakenly dominated my faith.  And the seemingly infrequent, but perfectly timed, views of landscape that refreshed me long enough to keep driving towards the unknown.

So while 2010 felt like I was stranded on the shoulder much of the time, watching so many pass me by with ease and enjoyment, I know now there were just a few screws loose, the “check engine” light was on and the oil needed refreshing.

There’s no need to focus on what lies behind me anymore. It is where I once was; no longer where I am.

So here’s to 2011: May our eyes be fixed forward and our hands steadily resting on faith and grace. May our tanks be full of hope and courage. And may our rearview mirrors stand as reminders of deliverance and not destination.

The Shadow of Agony

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Despite the brutality of truth and amidst the harshness of daily reality, grace, peace, hope, redemption, and salvation wait to receive those who humbly surrender self-reliance and willingly accept the divine intervention of faith.

To those who have had no agony Jesus says, “I have nothing for you; stand on your own feet, square your own shoulders. I have come for the man who knows he has a bigger handful than he can cope with, who knows there are forces he cannot touch; I will do everything for him if he will let Me. Only let a man grant he needs it, and I will do it for him. (Chambers)

 

It’s Who We Are, Not What We Do

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I had a brain wave the other day.

Working in a ministry setting, you hear a lot of jargon about “doing Kingdom work.”  Whether you work in a church or for a ministry organization, the emphasis so often is on “doing God’s will,” or “fulfilling your calling,” or my personal favorite, “reaching the world for Christ.”

Let me clarify by saying that all of these motivations and missions are great. Truly. I think that they are all admirable. I have quoted all these mantras myself at one time or another. But do you see all the action words in those statements (“doing,” “fulfilling,” and “reaching,”) were dependent on the person carrying them out?  It seems as though the focal point of our personal missions and messages are… off.

My point is this: How often does our doing of ministry get in the way of us being a ministry?

I’ll use myself as an example. I work for Compassion International. We are literally acting on the mandates and commands of Christ to look after the widow and the orphan, the hungry, the poor, and the afflicted. We are doing the work of God.  And when people ask what I do and I have the privilege of telling them about our ministry, they all respond with “Wow, that must be so fulfilling/rewarding/satisfying.”

And yes, it is. Without a doubt. But my work does not satisfy me completely. What I do does not fulfill me and bring me total peace.

What does bring me joy, peace, and hope though, is remembering that I am the work of Christ.

Beth Moore spoke at Catalyst earlier this month (more posts to come on that soon) and something she said shook me to the core.

“I’m miracle material.”

And I am. Everyone is. If anyone was without Christ and has now been saved by the free gift of His grace, through faith, than we all are miracle material. For we all have been rescued from death and freely given a new and righteous life. Is that not miraculous?

We are the object of His affection and His heart’s desire? Is that not miraculous considering where we have come from, the things we have done and the people we used to be?

Perhaps this is elementary to many, but I can not get over it.

I am a miracle.

You are a miracle.

We do not have to do His work, we only have to be His work.

A Year in Review: A Series of Reposts

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August 2009

It’s amazing to me, when people are honest and open, there is a discovery of burdens that so many carry alone.  But when you allow yourself to be vulnerable, what you find is that you are not alone at all.  You are actually in the company of brothers and sisters who are fighting the same battle, bearing the same weight, and sawing their way to freedom from the same chains.  I’ll give you just one example.

Emily Rogers is my friend. Tall, dark hair and eyes, and the most contagious and fantastic smile you’ve ever seen.  She has a fervency for life that is captivating and totally inspiring. When you’ve been around Emily, you walk away different.

Emily is also wonderfully transparent and she verbalized today a battle that I have been losing; a struggle I didn’t know I had to fight.

She said that despite the fact that she has ”trusted” the Lord, she had become apathetic towards whether or not He will answer her prayers or satisfy the desires of her heart. *the desire of her heart is to be married; to have a man in her life that pursues, cherishes, and leads her* 

“I trust Him with who I already am, what I already have, but not necessarily with I want; I don’t anticpate that  He will fulfill my desires that because He hasn’t yet .  Being apathetic is easier than being disappointed.  I don’t wait in hope.  Instead, I assume nothing and then when it inevitably doesn’t happen, I’m not upset.”

*blank stare* I thought she had read my diary.

She went on: “But I think I’m realizing that my mind set couldn’t be further from faith lived out; what I say and how I feel do not align.  I don’t get excited when a boy calls because I automatically assume the end, so I blow it off before it has even begun. But I don’t think… no, I know, that that is not what He has called us to. He has called us to an excited anticipation, a hopeful waiting, an expectant faith.”

Her eyes brimmed with tears, and mine soon followed suit.

How did we get here? When did we stray from all that we know is right and true? And why have we become contented to stay in this seemingly safe place?

I know that Emily’s desire (and my desire for that matter) is there because God purposefully put it there.  He placed it there specifically because in His timing, He will fulfill it. He will bring to her a man that loves the Lord above all else, that seeks her good, and will commit to love and lead her until the Lord calls them home.  And when this comes to fruition, God will get all the glory, honor and praise because it will be made clear that He had them, individually, in the palm of His hand as He orchestrated, ordained, and appointed each step they took until they were brought together.

Because that is how big our God is. That is how beautifully mysterious He is. Because that’s how much He loves us.

Philippians 1:6 is one of my favorite verses and it says: “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

I love this verse because I think that, when we draw close the Lord , when we are wholly surrendered and ask that He would change and make out hearts what He wants them to be, our desires become reflections of who He is and what He wants.. 

Soooo, I think that me and Emily’s desire for marriage is a direct reflection of God’s desire for our future–that we would not be alone but that we would be the help-mate to a man after His own heart, that He is preparing for us. 

And so if Philippians 1:6 is truth that we can claim, and that the work/desire that the Lord instilled us is in process and will someday become reality, than we have every reason to hope. We have every reason to wait in anxious anticipation and expectant faith.

Because if we can trust Him with our eternity, we can trust Him with our now.