Hope’s Invitation

Hope begins in the dark, spilling forth rays of light from empty tomb. Casting its magic upon the desolate and barren.

Creeping tendrils of goodness snake their way through the shadows, erupting with resurrection’s dawning of grace. Of glory.

Hope springs from temporal to eternal in the twinkling of an eye, beholding the face of a Savior revealing salvation for the first and for forever.

Hope changes me with the Unchangeable. Unveiling and covering in one fell swoop of faith unleashed. Tearing the veil. Inviting me beyond, and near, and into the holy.

Radiant light releasing the power of sin and death, shifting kingdoms to rule or to fall in obedience to faith fulfilled. To promises kept.

Hope shares an ongoing conversation with my soul, beckoning me to believe. And to believe again. And still.

Hope abides, remembering and celebrating this thwarting of doubt, rallying beneath the standard of Truth.

Hope remains as I become. It grows, sometimes silently but always earnestly. Perseveringly. Drawing me to be. Inviting. Beckoning. Initiating and completing this process of belief, of becoming one with Christ.

He in me and I in Him.

Shifting, expanding, delivering me moment by moment.

Translating life into the language of my soul in ways for which I have no words, yet understand completely. Pausing to be wholly present in the here and now of my life as I look expectantly toward the future revealed by heavenly hand.

I rest in this calling to live, and to move, and to be in Him who is beyond all comprehension, yet determined to make His home in me.

I live in this hope.

And in this hope I am held.

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Believing Something Is One Thing

Believing something is one thing; living it is the miracle.

Slowing down.

Savoring the simple.

Noticing the moments compiling into memories.

Being here now.

It all stems from the belief that your something is the one thing you should be living with this very breath.

Instead of constantly searching for that ever-elusive defining moment, open your eyes to the wonder you are in. Right here and now, in this something surrounding you.

Redefine your ordinary.

Embrace the miracle playing hide-and-seek in your everyday.

Ponder the precious routine of rousing your children from slumber each morning.

Relish welcoming your husband home from work.

Enjoy sipping lemonade on a sunny summer evening or curling up with a mug of hot cocoa on a frosty winter morn.

Savor the simple and stop wishing away your days. For all too soon, they will pass and fade into the recesses of yesteryear, slipping like sand through aging fingers still reaching for the wonder.

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Today is your day to live.

Right here is your moment to shine.

Don’t wait for the significant to find you.
It. Already. Has.

Open your eyes to see it dancing before you in the form of muddied toddler hands wrapping around your legs, straining to squeeze the love out of life.

Watch it tango through the elementary school where your son’s third grade class thinks you’re awesome for bringing in those cupcakes with sprinkles.

See it waltz across the soccer field where you’ve devoted to coach that rambunctious group of middle-schoolers, all gangling arms and graceless feet.

Hear it dubstep through your house accompanying the late-night laughter of that group of teenagers who know they are welcome in your home.

Believe that every something is your one thing.

Your opportunity to impact lives. The lives surrounding you — wherever you may be.

The world needs you.

It needs your strength and gentleness. Your kind and faithful presence. Your being — being fully alive — in every second of the day. No matter how insignificant you may feel those seconds to be. No matter how much you may be longing for something more. Something bigger. Something beyond what you see in the present. For now, this is your gift and your calling. This day is your day to reach your full potential and purpose.

So step into this moment with gaping heart and arms flung wide to embrace whatever lies before you.

After all, believing something is one thing; living it is the miracle…

sand-castle-in-hand Every moment possesses its own kind of magic and what we do with it counts. It counts. (from Stargardener)

Persuaded by Love

His love never fails; it never gives up. It never runs out on me…

He is with us. He is with us. Always. Always…

He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane…. Oh, how He loves us….

Jesus, You found me, and You loved me first…

The same love that set the captives free, the same love that opened eyes to see, is calling us all by name…

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us…

And we have known and believed the love that God has for us…

Words of love songs and verses filled with agreement sweep over me, comforting my heart and calling me to a greater place of freedom and enjoyment in Christ… When I know and believe them, that is.

Being persuaded of God’s love is what causes me to walk in confidence.

With eyes wide open to truth, I am held by the firm grasp of reality when illusions are calling me to buy into the lie that life is somehow much less than God claims. Too often, I succumb to the belief that God has deserted me, or at the least, is disappointed in me and has moved from my side. Hence, I feel unloved. Unsettled. Uncertain of so many  things.

Myself, most of all.

It’s disconcerting how easily I am disconcerted when I forget how deeply Father loves.

I have a feeling I’m not alone in my natural inclination toward spiritual amnesia. How many times have you been duped into believing God’s love is somehow less than His Word professes it to be? I daresay we have all been sharers in this truth distortion at one time or another.

The good news is, there’s always a standing invitation to embrace reality. Verse after verse of Scripture assures us of God’s faithfulness and unconditional love. All four gospel messages portray Christ’s love in action. Story after story shows sinners showing up at the feet of Jesus. And being loved by Him. Just. The. Way. They. Were.

Even when the rest of the world scorned them.

Even when they scorned themselves.

Jesus never once shied away from sinners. Instead, He embraced them. Forgave them. Changed them.

Because that’s what real love does. It transforms the one who has an encounter with it.

 The next time you’re tempted to keep your distance from a God who lives to bridge it, I challenge you to do otherwise. Instead of holding back, I dare you to take that first step toward the One who welcomes sinners, especially when you feel as chief among them.  And if you’re struggling to remember that God’s love is present with you in your present state, I dare you to crack open the Scriptures and put an end to your spiritual amnesia. Take a long look at Romans 8:38-39, and allow yourself to be fully persuaded:

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Be of Good Courage

Most of my life I have not lived brave, but I have wanted to.

As I read the above words penned by Angela Thomas, they resonated deeply within my heart. For as much as I wish I were courageous, I’m not nearly as bold as I would like to be. As much as I desire to run headlong into the battle with sword at the ready, the truth is I allow any number of things to make me hesitate. Things like insecurities, fears, distractions, labels, interruptions, responsibilities, expectations, deception, duty, disobedience, excuses, lack of self-control, the common, the ordinary, and the overall feeling of somehow being less than.

Less than what I would like to be.

Less than the courageous daughter whom God calls me to be.

And as I lean into the lies, the chains slip silently into place, subtly wrapping about my wrists and ankles until I am held captive and immobile in the face of fear. Caught in the very web Satan has woven about me with words that make me question the truth.

Because living brave begins with Truth.

Interestingly enough, according to the Bible, the truth is that bravery is not an option.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid nor be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9, emphasis mine)

Perhaps courage is not an option simply because God knows that without it, we would fail to implement any other spiritual practices. It takes courage to be in the world yet not assimilated to it. It takes courage to love your enemies and to pray for the very ones who persecute you. It takes courage to fear not. It takes courage to love one another at all times. It takes courage to walk away from the known and familiar and venture into a new way.

Make no mistake about it, a life of faith is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for those who think they stand in their own strength. For God calls us to rise up and be strong in good courage. And if there is such a thing as good courage, that makes me wonder if there is not such a thing as bad courage.

The longer I thought on it, the more I became convinced that not all men of courage are men of good courage. Some run toward danger because they care not for life, while men of good courage run toward danger to preserve life. Their love overcomes their fear as they rise to the challenge again and again, battle after battle, because they believe love is worth the risk. This is the goodness of courage at its finest.

This is the goodness of courage that comes from being strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. This is the courage that it takes to believe God will overcome every obstacle in my life and raise me to walk boldly before the throne of grace because of HIS goodness, and not at all because of my own.

Good courage begins and ends with truth.

And if I believe that a person who follows hard after God can become brave, then I must believe that I can be that person. I must believe that His Spirit will turn the tide of deceptive words meant for my demise into a wave of victorious truth, freeing me to walk in courage as He wills. And as I believe, I step into truth. A truth that exchanges those lies – word by word – and allows God to rename me. Bold. Intrepid. Daring. Dauntless. Valiant. Fearless. Noble. Confident. Steadfast. Resolute. Secure. Adventurous. Overcomer. Courageous.

Brave.

Brave enough to turn the “I want to” into an “I will.”

Brave enough to be free.

Brave enough to be fully me in Christ.

Brave enough to live this day in good courage – with sword held at the ready.

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Thanking You in Advance

Years ago, I worked as an office manager for an insurance agent. One of my responsibilities included sending out letters with enclosed forms that needed to be signed and returned by the policyholder. Along with the items sent was a self-addressed, stamped envelope in which the insured could place the necessary forms and return them at his convenience. Without fail, the closing on each informative letter ended with the words:
Thanking you in advance.

I was thanking the policyholders for fulfilling the request, even before they had determined to respond. I was not simply wishing they would complete and return the required forms, I was fully expecting them to do so. And I was even willing to stake a stamp on it. In short, I was applying faith in the customer to do what was needed.

In similar fashion (only on a much larger scale), we are called to place our hope in God. In Hebrew, a definition for hope is tiqvah: hope; expectation; something yearned for and anticipated eagerly; something for which one waits.

Having hope is not just yearning for something, it is yearning with the expectancy of seeing the fulfillment of that for which you are hoping. It includes a built-in anticipation of results, even though there may be a season of waiting before said results are seen or experienced.

Hoping in God’s intervention includes a thanking Him in advance mindset. Cultivating a heart of gratitude while the storm is still raging, praising Him in the midst of the problem, and trusting that the envelope containing the signature of God’s deliverance is on its way to you.

Regardless of the need, setting our hopes on God is always the answer. Believing that He will respond to each circumstance with just the right remedy is a surefire bet. Even when there appears to be no possible way for anything good to come out of your present situation. God is not beyond creating a way of escape, nor is He powerless to produce the means to bring forth His glory in the most disheartening of times.

So go ahead and pour out your heart to God. Write those letters with the petitions that you long to see fulfilled. Tell God of your brokenness, your dreams, your heartaches, your desires. Ask for His intervention. And above all, be certain to thank Him in advance for His response. Then place it all in one, big burden and forward to heaven’s communication center (See 1 Peter 5:7 and Hebrews 7:25).

And while you are waiting, remind yourself of God’s faithfulness in not only meeting your needs, but exceeding them in ways that are sure to bring about cause for thanksgiving as you see His glory revealed. Hold onto hope, dear one, even as you wait with anticipation for God’s will to be done. Here in your life, even as it is in heaven.

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For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. ~Jeremiah 29:11

But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. ~ Romans 8:25

Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare that I will restore double to you. ~Zechariah 9:12

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  ~ Romans 15:13

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil.  ~ Hebrews 4:19

Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord.
~ Psalm 31:24

Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.  ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

God IS.

Only God knows how it all turns out,
and for those who belong to Him, it turns out well.

How comforted my heart was when it stumbled upon those words earlier today. Especially when this week has been one filled with phone calls and emails bearing discouraging news on so many fronts. Relationships being stretched to their limits, precious saints being persecuted by very real threats and dangers, trying circumstances causing frustrations and fears to rear their ugly heads. Doubts rising in attempt to thwart any vestige of hope. Yet in the midst of it all, God is.

And that is truly the key. The hope.

God is.

Regardless of what circumstances might lead us to believe, life is not out of control. It is firmly held within the Father’s care. He is very much aware of everything concerning you and me. And while we may be tempted to believe that He must surely have been caught off guard by the current situations glaring at us with such hatred and intimidation, God is not surprised. Not in the least. He is fully aware. Of. It. All.

Those people we love who are suffering, God is there with them. Loving them in ways we cannot see. Moving behind the scenes, shifting kings and kingdoms to do His bidding.

That daunting situation that appears to have no end in sight, God is already there at the finish line with arms outstretched in victory.

Those temptations that seem to suck us in time and time again, God is powerful enough to overcome them. And gracious enough to forgive us when we fail.

Those relationships that cause us so much frustration, God is intervening beneath the surface, wooing and drawing hearts continually.

In each and every situation, one variable is constant: God is.

The simplicity of hope found in that statement is truly profound. So profound that it seems too simple. And so we interrupt the measures of grace, adding a complexity to life that we were never intended to live. Instead of steadily breathing in the trust that God invites, we hyperventilate, overdosing on worldly wisdom in attempt to try and make sense of the divine with our limited capacities. Grasping for reasons, we let loose of faith and slip further into despair.

The truth is, we will not always understand why things happen the way they do. But we will always have opportunity to believe.

God is good, my friends.
God is aware.
God is in control.
God simply IS.

And He has gifted us with the ability to trust that  for those who belong to Him, it all turns out well.