Category Archives: Hope

Being in a Desolate Place

So they asked Him, “What sign then will You perform, so that we may see it and believe You? What will You do? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  John 6:31-33

It’s really wild that Jesus compared himself to manna in this red letter passage.   I think we don’t realize how incredible the miracle of manna was.  Picture the scene when manna first appeared.  There were thousands upon thousands of men, women and children in every direction.  They were out in the middle of nowhere, with no food in sight.  Remember that these were people who were accustomed to having markets where you could buy your next meal.  They probably had seen the many fields where food was grown, as well as the storehouses where it was kept.  So imagine how scary it must have been for them when reality hit them that they were in the wilderness and there was no place to obtain enough food to feed all of them.  We want to criticize them for whining to Moses and being faithless, but we have to remember how hopeless this must have seemed.

And that’s when God enters with the miracle of the manna.  Every morning, when the Israelites woke up, they found sweet wafers on the ground.  They could go and scoop up as much as they needed to fill their bellies for the day.  This was the bread from heaven.

So when Jesus said, “The bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world,” that was astounding.  He was putting himself on the level with the manna that miraculously appeared, tons and tons of it, every day, and kept the Israelites alive.  He said that just as manna was the bread from heaven that kept them alive, he was a source of life.  In fact, he was the true bread from heaven.  He was a better source of life for the whole world.  

The Jews had a hard time understanding what Jesus was saying.  They tried to make sense of it, but they knew his mom and dad, and didn’t see how he could to come from heaven, much less be some kind of bread.

And that’s a subject for a future blog.  But I really want to focus on Jesus’s statement about being like manna, because it can be so encouraging for us when we think about it.  Let’s look at the parallels between Jesus and manna.

The manna came in a miraculous way.  Jesus, born of the Spirit and a virgin, came in a miraculous way.

The manna came to meet an impossible need.  Jesus came to meet an impossible need. 

What is the need Jesus came to meet?  The need to be reconciled to God.  The need to resolve the hopeless problem of sin, which produces spiritual death in every person on earth.  (Eph 2:1, Col. 2:13, Rom. 3:23)

We all absolutely need the true bread from heaven that brings life.

And I want to draw a couple more encouraging points from this red letter verse.  First that it shows that Jesus’s power to give life is as great and miraculous as the manna that appeared out of thin air and blanketed the earth for as far as the eye could see.  There really is nothing that’s impossible for him.  Jesus had just said, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he sent.”  (John 6:29) When we see Jesus compared to manna, we can see that the sky’s the limit when it comes to exercising the muscle of belief in him.  As he said in Mark 9:23, “All things are possible for the one who believes.”

Second, I want to say that we all have times, like the Israelites, when we find ourselves surprised and horrified at the situation where we’ve landed.  It was very clear to the Jews that God had been leading them.  There were the plagues, which were obvious signs that God was working on their behalf.  There was the parting of the Red Sea.  There was the pillar of cloud by day, and that of fire at night, which showed them which way to go.  But then they ended up in a desolate location. When they followed Moses out of bondage, this wasn’t what they’d imagined.

It’s the same with our lives.  We have clear indications that God is leading us, shutting some doors and opening others.  And all of a sudden, we’re in this place that doesn’t at all look hopeful and promising.  We want to say, “Whoops, God, you made a wrong turn.”

Right now I do feel that way.  I feel like one situation I’m in is not where I was supposed to end up. 

But then I remember that Israelites were exactly where they were supposed to be.  They were on the path of their journey to amazing blessings.  And it would be the grace of the manna that would sustain them on their journey.

And I know that if we’re following Christ, we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be as well.  It doesn’t matter how desolate or hopeless it seems.  By his grace, we will have the daily bread to sustain us on the path of our journey to amazing blessings.  

Going back to the text of our red letter passage, the Jews asked Jesus what sign he would perform, so they could believe.  Jesus said, in essence, he was the sign. 

He is our sign as well. We don’t need things to work out for us to have faith.  We need to open our eyes more and more to who he is, and keep our eyes fixed on him.  May this be our focus today.

“We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 GWT)

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Filed under Faith, Hope, John, Red Letter

The Amazing Gift of Life


For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom He wishes. (John 5:21)

We can’t even begin to comprehend how incredible the power of life is. It’s  beyond miraculous that God brought animate existance out of nothing. Scientists can do some pretty amazing things these days.  But none of them can manipulate the elements in such a way to create life where there is none.

And Jesus had this power.  It drove the Jewish leaders crazy that Jesus made himself equal to God.  Here, Jesus told them the simple truth.  He could give life, just as God could.  It was a statement that rocked the world.

Below are some other verses from John that describe how Jesus has this power. The first two follow today’s red letter passage.

  • Truly, truly, I tell you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment. Indeed, he has crossed over from death to life. (V. 24)
  • Truly, truly, I tell you, the hour is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.  For as the Father has life in Himself, so also He has granted the Son to have life in Himself (v. 25-26)
  • The Spirit gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. (John 6:63)
  • I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10b)
  • Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies. (John 11:25)

Jesus had the power of life in three major ways.  He could create life.  (John 1:2)  He could heal, and raise the dead. ( (Matt 9:25 Luke 7:14 John 11:43) He could give people a new spiritual life, eternal life. (Col. 2:13)

So what does this mean for us? It means we come to Jesus as the source of what we so desperately need.  We remember that it’s more than reading our Bibles and attending church meetings.  “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40).

We come to Jesus to have life, when we’re feeling wooden and dull, like a wind up toy.

We come to Jesus to have life, when we’re dying inside for lack of hope.

We come to Jesus to have life, when we’re exhausted, and running out of steam.

We come to Jesus to have life, when we’re despondant, because sin is so powerful.

And Jesus gives us life, like a continuous spring, renewing us over and over again.

“Now we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this surpassingly great power is from God and not from us. We are pressed on all sides, but not crushed . . . We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body . . . Therefore we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day.” (Selections from 2 Cor. 4)

It’s December.  Over the past year, God has done some amazing things in my life, as I wrote in my last blog.  Yet there are also ways I am mourning.  There are broken dreams.  It seems appropriate to reflect on this right now, as a cold rain pounds outside, and the wind whips the stark branches of my trees.  (It’s even worse, because our floor, which we thought was fixed, is seeping water through its new planks! )

Sometimes we have to accept that the dream, as we saw it, wasn’t meant to be.  Sometimes, when we hear the December wind howl, we need to let it blow through us, instead of filling up our spaces with presents and feasts.  We need to feel the loss and emptiness, so that we can come to Jesus with a pure longing for renewal.

Isn’t that what the winter is?  A time when life seems to die, only to come again in the spring?

Isn’t that why a Son was given to us, a babe that we celebrate at this time of year?  To show that when things seem bleak, there can be amazing hope?

The birth of Jesus is God’s everlasting illustration of life. It’s like he created animate existance all over again.  It’s that miraculous.

As this year draws to a close, let’s reflect, not only on our blessings over the past year, but also on our disappoinments.  They’re real.  We can grieve the loss.

But the loss can also open us up to the renewal.   We realize that we need the life.  We come to Jesus.

And he gives us what we need.  Because that’s who he is, and why he came.



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Filed under Hope, John, Red Letter

When it’s Hard to Give it All

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”  Mark 12:41-44

What was the motivation for the widow to give her last two mites?  I would guess thankfulness, and reverence for God.

And I think her motivation could also could be desperation.  The widow had no where else to turn but God. When we reach the end of our rope, we are willing to throw in the towel and give it all.

You know, it would have been so easy for this woman to justify not giving.  She had bills to pay.  She needed to eat.  Surely God would want her to take care of those things first.

But Jesus commends her for throwing her last two pennies in the till.

What was Jesus feeling as he watched her give?   He had just come to Jerusalem, riding on a donkey and being hailed by the crowd as a king.  But it was a challenging time for him.  He went in the temple and saw it was full of “thieves,”  so he drove them out.  He had religious leaders on every side trying to combat him with verbal tricks and arguments.   He remarked on teachers of the law who just cared about looking good.  He knew he was going to die, and told a parable about the son who came to collect the landowner’s money, and was killed by the tenants.

And then he saw this widow who was giving her all.  Maybe he related to her.  He was also giving his all.  He was also at the end of his rope.  He saw how evil the land was, how everyone was serving God in the wrong way.  No one seemed to get it.

Yet he knew he had come to Jerusalem to die for these people.  Jesus was throwing all his eggs in the basket of God, just as the widow was.

But Jesus was taking it even one step further.  He was throwing the eggs of ALL of us in the basket of God.  He was giving his life, everything he had. with the belief that it was the only hope for the people he saw, and the people yet to come.

And so he was willing to walk through the dark valley, right into death.

Getting back to the widow, some of us would ask, “How could God want her to give her last two coins?  Why would he require that of her?”

We could also ask, “Why would God require the Israelites to face trials in the desert where they didn’t have water or food?”  Or, “Why would Abraham be asked to sacrifice his only son?”

God wants to see if we will still give to him when things are tough, when we’re down to our last two mites.

The purpose of these troubles is to test your faith as fire tests how genuine gold is.  I Peter 1:7 GWT

So when things go wrong and craziness is raging all around us, will we still give, or will we hunker down, circle the wagons, and hoard the little we have left to take care of ourselves?

Because I’ll admit it.  I’m an ostrich.  I want to hide and lick my wounds, not stick my neck out and give more.  I get paralyzed by my fears.

I am so thankful that Jesus showed us the way through the valley, that Jesus still went forward, still gave, at the hardest time.

And now, when it’s scary, when the way is dark before us, we still go forward, putting ALL that we have into God’s hands, with thanksgiving, with reverence, and with faith that He will bring us through.

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Filed under Discipleship, Hope, Mark, Surrender

A Cure for “Can’t”

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging.  When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”  So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.  “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.  The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”  “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.  Mark 10:46-52

In this passage, Jesus encounters a man who has an impossible problem.  He’s blind.  He CAN’T see, and hasn’t had any hope of being able to do so.

Until Jesus walks across his path.

And then he realizes there is ONE THING that CAN change his situation.  He has ONE HOPE.  Jesus, Son of David.

So what does he do next?  He doesn’t fumble about in uncertainty.  He shouts out.  He goes for it.

I can relate to the hopelessness of CAN’T.  In fact, I have come to the conclusion that living like Jesus is pretty much impossible.  It intimidates me.  And how about the apostles in the book of Acts?  They seem super human, traveling everywhere, making disciples everywhere, going through persecutions?  How can I be like that?

And then I realized that the apostles were normal people, just like I am, and the only way they did what they did is through the Holy Spirit.  Jesus was fully human.  The only way he did what he did was with the help of the Holy Spirit.

The same is true for us.  The Spirit every day will give us THE STRENGTH TO DO MORE than we think we can do.

… the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.  I John 4:4

But every day we will have to intentionally GIVE UP OUR OWN power.  We will have to shout out our need to God, not waffle about in insecurity.

“But wait,” I say.   “I’ve tried to do that, and so many times I’ve still failed.  On top of that, over the years, all kinds of wacko things have gone wrong in my life.  Things are too messed up.  I’m too messed up.”

I love this passage from “Healing for Damaged Emotions” by David Seamands —

“God is the great Alchemist who, if you will let Him, will turn all into spiritual gold.  He is the master Weaver who can take every damage, every hurt, every crippling infirmity and weave them all into His design — yes, even though their threads were spun by evil, ignorant and foolish hands!”

Even through failure, even through apparent chaos, God works His good, pleasing and perfect will.  (Romans 12:2)

It’s like this puzzle my daughter gave me.  There’s a way to put all the pieces together to make something beautiful.

Putting together the puzzle vase

Putting together the puzzle vase

Completed puzzle vase

Completed puzzle vase

God knows how to make something beautiful with our lives.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good.  . . For those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.  Romans 8:28

We are being pieced together into something holy,

And God isn’t fazed by our failures.  He who can transform the dead can certainly take the garbage of our lives and make it into something good.

So here is the thing.  Today, we CAN.  And in the times we can’t, God CAN.

Our part is to admit our need, remember our ONE HOPE and GO FOR IT!

You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.  Rev 3:17-18


Filed under Faith, Hope, Humility, Mark

Completely Astonished!

When things seem hopeless, prepare to be amazed!

When things seem hopeless, prepare to be amazed!

And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with great amazement.  Mark 5:42

This verse really got my attention.  Jesus did something here that completely astonished people.

I mean, if you look at the language, it is as powerful as it can be.  The word used for amazement is strong.  It’s more like being in shock than just a state of marveling.  And then, it says people were overwhelmed.  And then it qualifies the amazement as being GREAT.

We could say the people were flabbergasted.  They were floored, stunned, shook up.

When is the last time I was completely astonished?  I think it came close when my son was awarded best nurse in adult health care.  I was just amazed at how far he had come since his early years in school.   But when I look back, there are many things I SHOULD be completely astonished about:  my husband’s spiritual growth, the same for my oldest daughter, that we are living here in Auburn being effective for God, that Markeya got her dream job, that we’ve seen so many baptized, the growth of our ministry.

These are things that totally surpassed my expectations.

When is the last time I EXPECTED to be astonished?  Not often enough.

I came across one of my old blogs today.  It mentioned this story:

A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?”  Mark 9:17-19

How many people do I see as this possessed boy — impossible to heal, impossible to be saved?  How much do I limit God’s power, instead of expecting to be completely amazed by His power?

Prior to this, in Mark 5, a woman was healed who had been bleeding for 12 years.  It would have been so easy for this woman to be swamped in discouragement, lost to hope.  But it was her hope, her FAITH, that healed her, as she reached with expectation that in spite of doctor after doctor, failure after failure, just a touch of this Jesus’ cloak would make her better.  The power went out from Jesus.  He didn’t even command it.  It just went out, drawn by her faith.

This woman had the ability to believe in HOPE.  The kind of hope the Bible Abraham was commended for:  “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations.” (Romans 4:18)

I think of the contrast between walking by sight and walking by faith.

I walk by sight so much.  I see someone and the mess they’ve made with their life and I think, “They’re not going to make it to become a Christian.”  Something goes wrong and I immediately assume the worst about the future.

Ken read this verse last night at Bible talk —

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope . . . Romans 5:3-4

I realized that hope is being able to believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel.


And then I realized we should take it one step further.  Hope is the excited expectation of what this light can be.  Because this is the God who COMPLETELY ASTONISHES, who gives a NEW LIFE to a woman bleeding for 12 years, a child who has died, a man imprisoned by demons. This is the God who “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”  Eph 3:20

So I need to expect to be completely astonished more.

Do you know what usually astonishes me?  Bad news.  I was with a friend at a medical appointment a couple of weeks ago, and we we stunned to learn she had cancer.   A family member called me last night in tears about a sad situation, and it felt like it was out of the blue.

When that happens, I need to take strength in the light at the end of the tunnel.

They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.  Ps 112:7

It is the light of miraculous regeneration, of daffodils suddenly blooming when it seems that winter is our perpetual reality.


The power to hope is the same power that brings life from death.  I think we see in this verse in Ephesians 1 that hope, life and power are all tied together:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.  Eph 1:18-19

And when we see this, how hard is it to believe that we can be completely astonished by God?  When we reflect on our lives, and all He has done, why not have giddy joyful expectation of being flabbergasted by GOOD NEWS?

And when we do that, I think things finally click some.  Our Christian lives become more of what they are designed to be.



Filed under Hope

A Friend A Day #10 — Sweet as Honey


This is one of those days.

A day when I wake up feeling bleak.  When I feel discouraged because the moods came back on me yesterday.

That’s when it’s good to remember this story I read about David in II Samuel 23:

Once again there was a battle between the Philistines and Israel. David went down with his men to fight against the Philistines, and he became exhausted.  And Ishbi-Benob, one of the descendants of Rapha, whose bronze spearhead weighed three hundred shekels and who was armed with a new sword, said he would kill David.  But Abishai son of Zeruiah came to David’s rescue; he struck the Philistine down and killed him.

I’ve been blogging about David’s faith and boldness.  But this story is about a time when David got tired, and he didn’t have the energy to fight anymore.

Even David hit the wall at times.

And when that happened, God reached down and made a way for victory to still be achieved.

Today, since I can’t rely on my own strength and initiative, I will have to rely on God, to make my day work out so that victory is still achieved.

And the same thing is true of the people in my life.  I can be a positive force in their lives to some extent.  But there’s a wall.  I can’t get them where they need to go.

What I CAN do is bring them through prayer into God’s presence, His beautiful powerful radiance, where EVERYTHING is possible.

God is so good.  His presence is so sweet.

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!  Ps 119:103

And it’s always available to me. 

Yes, I have the moods.  But I am so thankful that this week I also had sparks of energy and motivation.  I blogged, “Why not assume action?”

And I took action. 

I invited Alan and Yesenia over to dinner on the spur of the moment and we ate stir fry and talked about Mars colonization and our ideas to make the world a better place, and had a great visit.  

I took my computer to the coffee shop to do some of my work from there.  I saw three women there visiting and having coffee, who were still in their workout clothes.  I asked them where they worked out, and we had a good conversation!  I made some new friends!

I mentioned to Ken that there was a classical guitar concert we could go to, and so we went.  Ken brought along one of the young campus students from Brazil, who plays the guitar.  It was his birthday, so I made him some brownies.  It was nice to get out and enjoy the music, and the company.  We hoped to make some friends among the Auburn Guitar Society, but it was crowded and it didn’t happen. 

The only thing we were able to do was have a nice chat with the freshman girl sitting next to us, who was there because of her music appreciation class.  She told us how she is from Macon, and coming to Auburn is her dream come true.  She wants to get a degree in speech pathology.  All of the guitar music in the concert sounded the same to her.  So before she left, we invited her to church.  She appreciated the invite and asked about the church. 

The rest is in God’s hands.

I’m taking action as I can, but whether I do a lot or hit a wall, it is still God who will bring victory.

Know also that wisdom is like honey for you: If you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.  Prov. 24:14

Proverbs says the same thing in chapter 23: 17-18 — “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord.  There is surely a future hope for you,  and your hope will not be cut off.”

My hope will not be cut off.  If I am WISE , I know God, and value the right things.  And in knowing God, I know that there is something better coming, the reward for those who earnestly seek Him.

It is just in focusing on the wrong things that I lose hope.

When you sit down with a ruler . . .  Do not crave his delicacies,  for that food is deceptive. Prov 23: 1, 3

Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness.  Prov. 23:4

God is the source of goodness itself.  He has the treasure upon treasure.

But who is wise?  Who can see that?

I was reading Luke 14.  It has great illustrations of focusing on God, and not valuing the wrong things.  Jesus encourages his disciples to take the most humble seat at a wedding banquet, For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

And I’ve read it so many times, but I read it again — “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”

Who will see that God is so much more important than anything else?

In Luke 14, most did not.

Jesus told the story:  “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’  But they all alike began to make excuses.”

I’m inviting people to the banquet, and few seem to see what I am offering.

I am offering HOPE.

I am offering the God who will swoop in and rescue us when we hit the wall.

And by ourselves, we all hit this wall, over and over again.

That is why we need the sweet presence and goodness of God.

He will give us comfort and inspiration.

He will set us on the path to true victory.

So let me do what is counter intuitive.  Let me go out and just do what I can, even though it doesn’t feel effective.  Let me hit the walls and get tired, and feel like I am failing.  Let me only invite the girl sitting next to me.

God will succor me and build His kingdom.

But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.  Luke 14:13

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Filed under A Friend A Day, Diary, Hope

One More Rep!!

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Gal 6:9

A couple people have read that verse to me lately.  And it’s good, I have a case of the end-of-the-year fatigue, the kind where I wonder what all my effort was for.

I need to keep on doing the right things, the things I believe so fervently in.   I can’t give up!

My illustration for this is the exercise class I’ve started: Pure Barre.  People ask me if I like it.  I tell them I don’t like it at all when I’m doing it.  It’s like taking one muscle group and torturing it as much as you can, and then move to the next muscle group.

These women doing Pure Barre look happy.  I do NOT look like this when I exercise!

These women doing Pure Barre look happy. I do NOT look like this when I exercise!

But after I’m done, I like it.  I feel good, and I’m glad I stuck it out.  Even if I only stuck it out because no one else in the class was quitting, so I didn’t want to quit either!

And this is the perfect illustration because so many times during Pure Barre I want to quit.  It starts burning.  My muscle starts to shake.  I just want to stop.  (By the way, getting your muscles to shake is the goal of the class.  Bizarre.)

One thing that has really helped me lately is I Corinthians 10:13.  I did a study of it yesterday, looking at the Greek words.  I’ll put the whole verse below, and then break it down.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not allow you be tempted beyond your ability. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can be able to endure it.

Overtaken: “of that which when taken is not let go; metaphorically, of affections or evils seizing on a man.”

So temptation feels like something has hold of you that you cannot get rid of.  It can be an overwhelming FEELING, a strong emotion that takes over.  It seems hopeless.  You feel powerless and trapped.

This is certainly true for me.  I can be swept away, held hostage by such powerful feelings, I can’t even remember how to fight them.  My first reaction is to hunker down against the onslaught, to seek relief somehow.

But God is faithful:  God will NOT let us drown in our temptation.  He cares about our miserable plight.  I love how Ps 19 words it –

The ropes of death had become tangled around me. The torrents of destruction had overwhelmed me. . . I cried to my God for help. He heard my voice from his temple . . . Then the earth shook and quaked. . . because he was angry. He reached down from high above and took hold of me. He pulled me out of the raging water.

Allow: to permit.  The big point here is that the chaos of temptation isn’t being unleashed on us, God allows it.  He controls the force of the temptation, and how much reaches us.  Even through it feels overwhelming, God really does not want to give us more than we can bear.

(Beyond your) Ability: the Greek “dunomai,” which has the same root word as dynamite, the word for strength and power.  Thus, we’re not just talking about the facility to deal with temptation, we’re talking about the strength and power to address it.  God makes sure that the temptation isn’t more than our portion of strength.  This also implies that we DO have strength.  There are things we absolutely CAN do, even though we feel like we can’t.

That is why the Pure Barre has been a great illustration for me. As my muscles scream, I think I can’t do the isometric reps any more.  It seems too painful.  But then I find that I can!

Provide : create, fashion.  God doesn’t show us a way out that is already there.  He, the Creator, actually creates a way out for us.  How cool is that?

Way out:   escape, result; “the (successful) way out” which also goes on to what is new (desirable).  In other words, it isn’t just getting away from the temptation, it is moving towards being in a better place.  We aren’t just running from Satan, we are growing, becoming more holy, maturing through discipline, just as we were designed to do.  It is the same word as is used in this passage:

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.  Heb 13:7

Able: This is the same word, “dunomai,” that was used earlier.  God isn’t helping us to escape the temptation.  God provides a way for us to have the strength and ability to deal with temptation!!!

Endure it: to bear by being under (a thing placed on one’s shoulders).  So it is the sense that we can shoulder the heavy weight of the temptation.  Just like I found my body is capable of exercising more than I thought, we can carry the heavy overwhelming emotions more than we thought, we can endure those tough situations more than we thought.

But again, it’s not making the situation go away, it’s not running away from the situation.

It’s the ability to do one more grueling rep, and then another one.

The strength to share with one more person, serve one more time, think one more positive thing, instead of succumbing to fatigue and discouragement.

The fortitude to pray when we’d rather retreat; to pray and pray until we get some relief, just as Jesus did.

It is so much better to think we can endure something, that we are strong enough, than to feel that we have to run away and escape.  When I exercise, if I push through, there is such a sense of accomplishment.  I did it!  What do you know, I am strong!

God wants the same for us.  He wants us to be victorious. He wants us to know that with him, we can do anything.  Nothing is impossible!  Good things are coming, if we’ll just keep doing the reps.  And as we keep doing the reps, even though it seems impossible to go on, each day, through each trial, He’ll CREATE a way so we can do one more, and then one more again.

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Filed under Hope, Make Every Effort

Someone Moved My Cheese

I am in a funk.  I feel weepy.  I am angry.  “Someone moved my cheese.”  Ken and I were the happiest we have been, and now I am afraid things are changing.

God, what can you show me that will help me?

“He (Jesus) said to them, “My anguish is so great that I feel as if I’m dying” . . . he fell to the ground and prayed that if it were possible he might not have to suffer what was ahead of him.  He said, “Abba! Father! You can do anything. Take this cup [of suffering] away from me. But let your will be done rather than mine.”  (Mark 14:34-36)

Jesus had an anguish of soul so great, he had trouble finding the strength to stand up under it.  His attitude was to ask for change, but if change didn’t come, he vowed to have the integrity to endure whatever God had for him.

Then all the disciples abandoned him and ran away. (Mark 14:50)

Someone moved the disciples’ cheese for sure!  They had found what they and their ancestors had been seeking for years!  They had  the Messiah, the one who offered hope, the one who had the words of life.  It was the best of times.

And then it was taken away.  Their hope was crushed.

Both of these examples in Mark 14 remind me that life is counter-intuitive.  What Jesus’ feelings told him he needed was not the same as what God felt was needed.  What the disciples felt they HAD found didn’t go the way they thought it should.

In the same way, I think that I should be able to find “IT,” the place in spiritual growth where I will be happy.  I don’t realize that this happiness is predicated on a set of circumstances — being surrounded by the right people, being able to share my faith effectively, feeling in sync with my husband, being able to build the church according to my specifications.  I don’t realize that if any of these things get shaky, I get shaky.  I don’t realize that the things I think make me happy are really what are holding me back.

It’s only God that can make me happy.  It’s only having my roots so deep in Him that will give me stability.  It’s not my circumstances.

Things are not going as I feel, with everything in me, that they should go.  I am a person who relies on my intuition.  There are times this is very helpful.  But there are also times when my best intuitions lead me astray.  This is one of those times.

Here’s something else I was moved to read —

On that very day, when the enemies of the Jews expected to overpower them, the exact opposite happened: The Jews overpowered those who hated them. . . . No one could stand up against them, because all the people were terrified of them.  All the officials of the provinces, the satraps, the governors, and the king’s treasurers assisted the Jews because they were terrified of Mordecai. . . The other Jews who were in the king’s provinces had also assembled to defend and free themselves from their enemies. They killed 75,000 of those who hated them . . . ”  Esther 9:1-3, 16

I told the story of Esther to my kids all the time as they were growing up.  It was one of Celeste’s favorites.  I usually think that the end of the story is Haman being killed, and a new law being passed so the Jews can defend themselves.  But this week while preparing the Sunday school lesson for kids’ kingdom, I read the last chapters again and saw a different part of the story.  The Jews, assisted by the Persian officials, killed huge numbers of their enemies all over the empire.

That is something counter-intuitive as well.  When the Jews heard about the original edict instructing everyone to kill them, they never would have envisioned that they would end up being victors in a huge way.   They must have felt hopeless and trapped.  They were a people in subjugation.  There was no way out.

And that’s the way I am feeling — trapped.  It is so good to read examples of God working in unexpected ways to take care of His people.  It reminds me that there is something much bigger at play here.  It reminds me that my feelings can deceive me.

You know, in the book, “Who Moved My Cheese?” the main characters have to change their paradigm.  I need to do that as well.  I am so thankful that God gives me words that will help my heart to have hope when my feelings tell me otherwise.







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Filed under Diary, Favorite, Hope, Surrender

Living with Open Hands

open hands

I’m learning to live with my hands wide open.

Open to receive the gifts God is giving me, the grace upon grace, the “unwrapping of love,” as Ann Voscamp puts it.

Open to trust the narrative of my life, that it is the best possible scenario; that even though I want some things to be different, God is working what is best for me, conforming me to the image of His Son. (Romans 8:29)

Open to believe that God will answer me with awesome deeds of righteousness. (Ps 65:5)

Open to give myself to others, not hiding behind walls or holding back, but generously and vulnerably pouring out my heart.

And as I’ve worked on living with my hands open, I’ve realized what a closed person I am.

I am amazed.  I thought, after years of being “open” with others, telling them my deepest thoughts, that I was an open person.

But then on vacation my son in law gave us personality tests for fun, and when he read me my results, it said my trait is to be a private person.  No, I thought, I’m not that.  But then I started to remember the videos my mom took of me when I was in my 20’s.  I looked so wooden and stilted.  I always held back.  I never wore my heart on my sleeve.  I was never effusive.  I was very cautious and reserved.

And I remembered that I am an extreme editor of my actions.  Many possibilities are inside of me, and I consider them, evaluate them, worry over them until only a trickle of something comes out.  It’s like a constant funnel.  A clenched fist.

A fist of fear.  A fist of self protection.  A fist of numbness to the overwhelming pain of the world.  A fist of unbelief, because the things I want so badly seem impossible, so I shut down faith and hope.

A fist I am now striving to keep open.

A personality change I am trying to make.  I identify so much with the way Voscamp describes her former self, “discontent and self condemnation, the critical eye and never satisfied.”  I always see the one thing that needs to change instead of the many things that are going right.

So I list the things I am thankful for, the vivid sunsets against the vast Auburn sky, the endearing conversations with my friends, the insights I have that are like a new lease on life, the good things to eat like crisp brown baked chicken and the first fresh apples of fall.

I slow down and TRUST that I am in the place I am supposed to be, with the people I am supposed to be with, in the circumstances I am supposed to be in.

I talk to people, and I picture that I am holding open the shutters of my heart, the shutters that keep wanting to squeeze closed a little more, and be safe.  I let the warmth out.  I let myself care.

And I pray that God will enlarge my heart, that he will enable me “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.   Then He can work in me immeasurably more.

Tom Brown said in his sermon last week that God broadens our hearts and lives to allow more people to come in.   He quoted Isaiah 60:22,  “The least of you will become a thousand, the smallest a mighty nation. I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly.”

God wants ALL people to be restored to him.  As I read in the ESV version of Acts 2:39, “For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 

This is my dream, that this ministry would become a tree where all the birds could come and roost in its branches.  (Mark 4:32)

tree of birds 2

So let me open my hands and heart wide, not clenching my fists.  Not shrinking back, which is defined as, “the timidity of one stealthily retreating.”

I am beloved.  God is faithful.  He is working.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  (I Cor 13:7)  Love is the epitome of OPEN, where all things are possible, and there is no need to fear.  That is the seed I want to plant for the future

O Increase My Love  (Romanian Hymn)

I pray, O Lord Jesus, my love you’d increase.

That I, like you, Jesus, might offer men peace.

My soul wells with longing for lips with Your grace

and eyes of compassion for each searching face.


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Filed under Favorite, Having the Right Heart, Hope, Love, Self Worth, Things I Am Learning

Let Goodness Remain

Good in the world

I was in a conversation with a nonbelieving friend last week, and he mentioned a t shirt he saw.  It said something like, “Love Your Neighbor — and that includes blacks, whites, gays, racists . . .” (etc.)  My friend asked, “What does that mean?  It’s not like they’re going to have a crack head into their house, or anything.”

My friend is so cynical.  He can’t believe that someone might be good enough to really give to an “undesirable.”

I had a denouement the other day.  I realized that I haven’t been leaving the impression with people that God is good.  I’ve been stuck on communicating to them the things they should do.  I keep thinking of the things that are wrong and need to change.

In my interactions with others, I want to leave them with the knowledge that  God is good.  When I am gone, I want my grandchildren and those I love to have this as a strength against the discouragements of the world.

So I’ve started working on this more.  I’ve started being more cognizant of the impression I am leaving.  It’s easy to talk to people about the problems of the world, the things that need to change.  But if I hold onto the inner core of truth that God is good, all my interactions are different.

Yesterday I trying to have a devotional while I was at the mechanic getting my car worked on.  Not being able to think too deeply with all the distractions, I read through James and I Peter.  I love reading these books because I can see first hand the heart of the writers. With Jesus, it’s someone else’s account (inspired by God, of course).  But with the letters, I can hear straight from their mouths what they are thinking and feeling, what is important to them.

And how does James start out his letter?  “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds. . . ”  He’s talking about having literally ALL joy.

What does Peter say first? He gives exuberant praise to God!   “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 

These men are so enamored with the goodness of God.   Note some other things they say.  I am listing just a few —

  • Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.  James 1:17
  • Mercy triumphs over judgment.  James 2:13
  • But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  James 3:17
  • The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.  James 5:11
  • Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. I Peter 2:2-3
  • But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  I Peter 2:9
  • And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.  I Peter 5:10

campfire in the snow

The world is a cold place, but we have the warmth of God’s goodness.  Let us share it unceasingly, leaving a legacy of beauty and hope.


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Filed under Abundance/Greatness of God, Beauty of God, Hope, Things I Am Learning