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-FinalWhat 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-jarWhat would happen if you let yourself line up with your true calling and purpose?

© 2013 MereWhispers.wordpress.com

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

When Words Fail

today i cannot find them
they disappear before i catch them
escaping my thoughts
like puffs of dandelion dust
fleeing in the wind
scattered letters
overtaken
divided
loosened from their core and
tossed by tempests of
too
much
hurt

piles of letters upon letters
fragments eluding containment
refusing to come together
evading arrangement
defying any semblance of order
much like the thoughts of my heart
disjointed emotions
fleeting feelings
ceasing to make sense
refusing to
complete
the
whole

encouragement falls by the wayside
gasping for breath with each
crashing wave of grief
too many tears
that fill and weigh heavy
smothering
choking at hope
loosening light
exchanging joy for mourning
in this reversal of roles that
taunts
kingdom
living

i am undone
but not in awe
i am consumed
but not with the promise of abundant life
not lifted by the winds of praise
but overwhelmed by the aching of
bending to these breezes of brokenness
ceasing to live
i merely exist
struggling to be something more
than
simply
raw

What do you do when words fail?

Where do you turn when the only place you long for is a solitary place away from the demands of others? Away from the crushing weight of daily living that is filled with sorrow and emptiness? When no clear thoughts can be formed in your mind, let alone lived out in your days?

In short, what do you do in the face of so much hurt?

Try as I might, I can’t come up with that answer for you.

To fill your ears with incessant chatter seems pointless; indeed, it seems that it would only heap hurt upon hurt. Even to flood this page with Scripture verse after verse, though filled with the truth of God’s promises, may only cause you more frustration than hope.

So today, I will join you in this struggle for words, and I will remain silent. I will sit and listen and pray that my presence in your pain somehow brings a bit of comfort to you.

When words fail, love remains.

If nothing else, may you trust in that truth for your life today.

il_fullxfull.310112483

Chalkdust and Butterflies

One evening while I was pulling weeds from the flower beds, my youngest daughter pulled out the sidewalk chalk and began to sketch designs upon the cement patio. “What should I draw?” she asked.

“Oh, I don’t know,” I replied, “How about a rainbow?”

With that small incentive, she began to color across the rough canvas. Soon a small rainbow took shape with a stick-figure family standing beneath it. As I finished my work, I walked over to join her. Sitting down beside her, I picked out a few pieces of colored chalk and began to draw a large butterfly. Our imaginations and hands worked together as we filled the cement canvas with bumblebees and dragonflies, flowers and a giraffe; we even made a pond complete with cattails and a duck. For the better part of two hours we shared in conversation and creativity.

As the evening drew to a close, the gray dullness was filled with bright splashes of color and design, and our hearts were full from spending “girl time” together. It mattered not that our mural was obviously the work of amateurs (as best exemplified by the dolphin turned sea monster). To the two of us, it was a venue of shared laughter and love.

During the night, the rains came.

The next morning, there was no sign of our artwork; not one stroke of color remained. All was wet and gray.

But my heart was still filled with rainbows and butterflies and the sound of my daughter’s giggles and words of encouragement as I very “un-artistically” sketched and colored beside her.

Although the cement canvas is now bare and empty, the mural of my heart remains full of color and life from the memories made that evening, and therein lies the true beauty of it all.

For life is found in coloring the moments as they come. Filling the blank canvas of our days with splashes of brilliant hues. Adding rainbows of promise to the seemingly hopeless situations as we remind each other that our Father is Lord over all. Scattering butterflies of belief into the hearts of friends who need a dash of color or a sprinkling of faith.

The true joy of living should not be judged by how artistically or gracefully one maneuvers through life, but rather, by how blatantly carefree one is in splashing color upon another’s soul. Unaware of fingers smudged with chalkdust. Oblivious to each other’s less-than-perfect sketching abilities. Not confining ourselves to the grayness of a present situation, but instead, inviting others to join us in transforming the gray hardness into a softened and colorful world… in spite of it all.

Regardless of rains that may fall in the night.

For tomorrow, another opportunity will present itself. Another day will stretch before us, inviting us to fill its canvas with the wonder of living the moments.

So let’s face each day with a bucket of chalk and a heart set to delight in filling it with color and love. But mostly, let’s delight in the joy of companionship that makes it all worth living.

27762_118930414798038_1551392_n

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.

DSC_2035

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