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.

a93b02d6050dcecd8c68daf3992caeba

When the Questions Are for Us

In John 5, Jesus encounters a sick man lying beside the pool of Bethesda – waiting, waiting, waiting for healing to come. The man had been ill for thirty-eight years. Thirty-eight!

Jesus approaches him and asks what seems to be a silly question. Some might even think it cruel:

Would you like to get well?

Call me crazy, but that seems like a rhetorical question to me. A surprising question, even, considering the One from whom the words were uttered. And perhaps because of the seeming ludicrousness of the question itself, I have to pause and wonder just why Jesus asked the thing He asked.

It’s interesting that Jesus often questions people though He already knows their thoughts on the matter. Therefore, I can’t help but come to the conclusion that the questioning must be for us. A challenge toward introspection, an invitation to know ourselves more clearly – the deep, inner man and not just the shallow soul which gives pat answers of political and Christian-friendly correctness.

When asked if he wanted to be made well, the man did not answer with a simple “yes.” Instead, he responded with an excuse. The New Living Translation records his reply this way: “I can’t, sir,” the sick man said, “for I have no one to put me into the pool when the water bubbles up. Someone else always gets there ahead of me.”

Years of frustration are loaded in that answer. Thirty-eight years of sickness and weakness, inability and insufficiency. Thirty-eight years of longing to be first, just once, but somehow always being too far behind. Unnoticed and overlooked. Thirty-eight years of unmet expectations being the only consistent in life. Thirty-eight years watching others receive the answer to his heart’s longing. Thirty- eight years of having his hopes stifled by this constant companion called resignation.

I can’t, sir. I have no one to help me…

How fruitless his efforts to obtain healing on his own, yet still he lingered by the pool. Still he waited.

Enter Jesus… who sees and knows the depth of his need, the length of his sickness, the lifetime longing to be noticed, the desire to be first – just this once. The ache to have someone willing to help. Jesus sees him there. All of him. He sees the wrestling and the waiting and the loneliness.

And Jesus comes.

With compassion and purpose.

The Savior steps on scene with power to change our situation, despite the number of years of persistent trial.

Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk.

There’s a command and also a finality in the chosen words of our Savior here in this moment. It’s as if He is prompting the man toward new life: Rise up in your healing; pick up all signs of your commitment to continue in this old life; remove all comfort from the temptation to stay here in the place of helplessness and unbelief; and walk in the wholeness God has granted you.

Jesus simply told the man to move forth on his own in the power God had given him.

And the man did as instructed… and was immediately met by accusations. Faith works like that, you know. It’s immediately challenged by unbelief.

This particular man’s challengers were the religious elite.

Didn’t the man realize it was the Sabbath, and he was not to labor in carrying about his mat? Why was he breaking the rules?

… and why are we so quick to deny the gift of mercy while grasping judgment with both fists?

How is it possible that the work of healing accomplished by the grace of God becomes insignificant to those who live to make accusations? Thirty-eight years of illness miraculously healed, and they are worrying about bedding being carried across town.

How often do we find ourselves denying the greater good so we can continue clinging to the lesser?

The same Jesus who seems almost to instigate “sin” by instructing the man to pick up his mat on the Sabbath later finds the man again and warns him to “stop sinning.” This seems like an oxymoron, but Jesus consistently shows His concern for the souls of men is much greater than His concern for their adherence to tradition alone. He challenges the man to leave behind the former bonds and cease living in the habit of sinning so as to avoid something “far worse” than thirty-eight years of illness.

Bound by the ignorance of their religious piety, the Jewish elite were obliviously heading for something “far worse” in their denial of Christ. Perhaps they were the ones who would have profited the most from the same question asked of the sick man:

Would you like to get well?

Perhaps we would profit also.

How do we answer Him?

The question itself extends the hope.

Jesus’ questions are like that.

Our response holds either our belief or distrust. Our acceptance or denial of life.

The truth and power are available, extended by the same Savior who spoke healing into a man bound by illness for thirty-eight years. The same power is still at the ready.

And the same question still presents itself.

Are you willing to pick up your mat and walk?

868635.take-up-your-bed-bulletin-ad

Tangled

3386070-clew-and-tangled-ropes-hanging-on-dark-background

 

 

For those whose thoughts have been holding them captive, may you find release and know the peace that surpasses understanding…

 

 

 

 

Tangled
Thoughts twist ‘round and through
Motives mingled with impurity.
Emotions churn like turning tides
Struggling to conquer and subdue.
Guilelessness gives sway,
Tugged from shifting sand
While innocence gasps for breath
Beneath crashing waves of deceit.

Habits rise and fall,
Tumbling in and out,
One after the other.
Each struggling for firm footing
To become
King of the Mountain
On the playground
Of my soul.

Fears
From the past
Accelerate doubts
For the future,
Cutting off hope
For the present.
Despondency is captor’s name,
Indifference, my bedfellow
As I surrender to this
Self-imposed confinement.

Breath of Heaven,
Send Your wind.
Rattle prison doors
With Voice that named the stars.
Awaken truth to
Stir these bones long dead.
Sprinkle Your stardust of mercy
Upon this wayward life.

Raise me to joyous heights
As I dare to trust,
Dare to dream
Once more.
Sweep through the chaos.
Tug my heartstrings
Toward Your presence.
Work Your magic and
Untangle me.

rope-heart

Capsized

This is not like walking on water. Peter asked to come. He chose to step out of the boat. Not me. I was on a journey only to find my boat capsized and my survival instinct fighting its way to the surface.” (from Just Adela)

Capsized.

Upset.

Overturned.

Upended and careening.

All leading to this spinning wildly out-of-control.

One minute life is going along fine; all is smooth sailing. With the suddenness of one phone call, disaster hits. Storms of gale force strength unexpectedly spring up, overturning our boat, sending us careening headfirst into disproportionately large and terrifying waves.

Engulfed and enraged, we cry out in panic.

“I didn’t ask for this!” our terrified hearts argue.

Oh, I saw you walking on the water, Lord, but unlike Peter, I am content to watch from the safety of this boat. I’m okay to just go along for the ride. I don’t want to get my feet wet. I don’t want to struggle against drowning in this ocean of hurt surrounding me. These swelling seas threatening to swallow me alive.

But here we are nonetheless.

Flailing to rise above the surface in this ocean of sorrow.

And though we can see the Savior’s face beckoning us through the waves, He seems so far from reach.

Sinking. Sinking. Slowly slipping further and further beneath the surface of this suffocating grief. Wishing to simply fade away with the next wave, yet still instinctively fighting for survival.

Overwhelmed, yet not quite willing to be overcome completely.

Holding out for a glimmer of hope.

Holding onto the promise that is Christ.

Trusting beyond what our finite strength seems capable of owning. Uncertain and questioning. But believing still.

Here. In this chaos where all seems lost and hopeless.

It is here, in the very powerlessness of me, that I am rescued by the Divine.

Pulled from the waves to walk with You. Tucked once more in the safety of Your embrace.

Rescued and raised to live beside You in this moment of hurt as You bear the brunt of this raging storm.

Unhindered by the howling winds. Undaunted by the desperate child clinging so tightly to You.

You stand victorious.

Secure.

Shielding and sheltering the one who trusts in You with such miniscule faith.

Constantly, forever enough.

Here, in this ocean to which You have called me.

stormy_sea_by_alexlinde-d3y6mgd

 

 

Pandora’s Box or Alabaster Jar?

What would happen if you declared your wants? What would happen if you let yourself line up with your true calling and purpose? (Elora Ramirez)

That statement got me to wondering. What would happen if I gave voice to my wants? Would releasing them be akin to opening the lid on Pandora’s Box, or would it more closely resemble pouring the contents from an Alabaster Jar?

Perhaps it all stems from the desire behind the opening. The reason for the wanting that stirs within my all-too-often restless heart, pacing the lengths of its confines, hoping to one day be released to explore freely. Yet terrified with the very thought of freedom. So used to the cage it calls home; so comfortable in its captivity.

What would be the consequences of pouring out the wants of my heart? What would compel me to do so?

Is it merely a curiosity like Pandora’s that moves me to lift the lid? Or is there more at stake?

pandora According to Greek mythology, when Pandora’s Box was opened, evil hastened to escape while hope hesitated. Buried beneath the weight of the awful, hope remained at the bottom of the box. Too slow to flee its confines. Or perhaps so used to bearing the weight of darkness it forgot how to spread its wings into flight when the crushing heaviness was lifted. Regardless, in her hurry to restrain the evil unleashed, Pandora closed the lid. And effectively closed off hope.

I can’t help but wonder if perhaps I don’t do the same thing with the desires and purposes God has placed within me. Oh, sometimes I may be just curious enough to crack the lid, but when what first escapes appears as the ugly painfuls, I panic. In my anxiousness to stem the flow of hurt, I slam the lid on what I have determined must certainly be contents of only selfish wants and unholy desires threatening to swallow me whole. Much the same as Pandora, I also effectively imprison the presence of hope, separating it from my life. Separating it from the world around me.

Because I have forgotten about faith in God. I have forgotten about the treasure He has buried within me. That precious, little gem called hope.

What would happen if I trusted God’s love enough to overcome any wrong desires I may have? What if I believed He had given me something of value that needs to be emptied into this world? Something pure? Something begging to be unleashed not merely from a piqued curiosity, but from a heart overwhelmed with gratitude?

What if the container I hold in my hands is not the dreaded Pandora’s Box of evil that I fear, but a beautiful Alabaster Jar waiting to release His glory?

Unfortunately, the common denominator of opening either Pandora’s Box or the Alabaster Jar tends to be what stays my hand from lifting the lid — the judgment that is sure to be companion to them both. Am I willing to risk the exposure? The pointing of fingers? The criticism? The misunderstandings? The taunts and ridicules that are certain to come?

And let’s not forget about the breaking itself. That cracking open of a seal that has been fused tightly for years. The shattering of all that holds and keeps my carefully constrained composure intact. Not to mention the tears which will most likely accompany this breaking as waves of regret, conviction, pain — and yes, perhaps even a bit of hope — wash over me.

Am I really willing to approach Jesus with whatever happens to be released in my moment of raw?

Am I willing to trust Him with me when I’m exposed and vulnerable to everyone?

Once the seal is broken, there’s no turning back. Once the lid is lifted, there’s no stifling the outpouring. Whether a sweet aroma or a rotting stench, there’s no stopping the fragrance from escaping… or from affecting those present.

What will it take for me to brave declaring those wants edging me toward my true purpose? To trust that there is a sweetness behind the longings, and not just the uglies of selfishness?

MaryBeth-Final

What will ultimately compel me to lift the lid and trust Him for the glory to be revealed, even if it has to first conquer the makings of a Pandora’s Box in me?

Will I hold out for the hope that lingers deep?

Or will I sit with hands clenching lid tightly closed, forever confining the beauty that could be?

Forfeiting the grace that could be mine…

Forfeiting the glory that could be His…

alabaster-jar

…What would happen if you let yourself line up with your true calling and purpose?

Soul-Weary

You sent abundant rain, O God, to refresh the weary land. There Your people finally settled, and with a bountiful harvest, O God, You provided for Your needy people.  – Psalm 68:9-10

O Lord,

I am weary.

I am weary of all the hurt.

I am weary of the phone calls bearing bad news.

I am weary of the relational stress with others.

I am weary of the many needs surrounding me.

I am weary of being weary.

This present heaviness goes beyond a sense of tiredness and settles in the depths of my soul, causing it to sigh with exhaustion.

Yet, You promise to reign Your presence in me. Here in my tiredness. To refresh the weary places of my heart. To bring new strength when I am spent. To revitalize my spirit with a fresh breath of Your own.

How I need Your God-breath to sweep in with its gentle breeze and whisper, “All is well.”

Here in my weariness, I will look for You.

And I will wait.

In this parched land, I will settle my soul and listen for Your whispers.

Looking for the clouds of rain in the distance, I will hide my hope in You until the mist of Your Kingdom springs up in this wasteland. I will flee to the refuge of Your salvation – to the calming springs of Your presence. And there I will stake my dwelling. I will stretch out the ropes of my tent and lay claims to my inheritance as Your beloved.

When the dust of “too much” kicks up its storms, I will hide beneath Your covering, entrusting myself fully to Your care.

And here I will stay until this storm passes.

Until the weary turns to wonder at the sound of Your great name.

IMG_3112

 

Giving Voice to the Voiceless

When I awoke to find the following link on my facebook wall this morning, it stirred me to share its message. Although its content is one of heart wrenching sadness, it is reality for thousands of women across the world. Young women like my own daughters. The very thought of my girls experiencing anything so harrowing unsettles me to the core, prompting me to be a voice for those who weep in silence. Alone. Resigned to their lives of captivity. Today I share a cry from Bombay Teen Challenge, a ministry that is effectively reaching into the darkness of one of the largest red light districts in the world. Bringing the hope of Jesus Christ to those who sit in the abyss of Satan’s domain. Giving voice to the unheard cries of daughters, and sisters, and mothers. Rescuing captives; Bringing light to the darkness. One life at a time.

images

Beautifully, yet hauntingly written, today’s post is a call to awareness. More importantly, it is a call to prayer and action. May you become a voice for the voiceless as you find your place in bringing hope into this world.

http://bombayteenchallenge.org/2013/07/lane-14-4/#sthash.GdwJlIPp.dpuf