Monday, November 28, 2016

About Hope

Yesterday was the beginning of Advent and as a symbol of that we lit the candle of hope on our Advent wreath. Hope, along with salvation and eternal life, is the greatest gift given to me by God. Before Jesus came into my life and heart, I lived decades in utter hopelessness. Not just the kind of hopelessness we talk about when we talk about a heart separated from God (which is not to be thought of lightly). I’m talking of a hopelessness that exists when all the hope is squeezed out of an innocent child’s heart from years of verbal abuse and molestation. That heart is then made infertile beyond the ability to nurture even a bud of hope in the years of mental, physical and sexual abuse that follows. Lastly the heart itself dries up when the last good thing—the love for my child—is violently ripped away from me in a single moment. That is my picture of utter hopelessness.

But now with God’s grace I am a lighthouse of hope shining into the darkness. Hope emanates from me like the rays of light from the lighthouse. God took the dead heart inside of me and made it come alive again like he did with the dry bones in Ezekiel 37. He has healed my life and restored in abundance all that was taken, beaten out of, and stolen from me. I am strong in his power and have been placed in my community to shine my light of a life miraculously renewed.

I stand as God’s symbol of hope to anyone who has been hurt, abused, or afflicted with depression or grief. The hope that God pours out of me has it foundation in my own experience and the glory of God’s grace and blessing. Hope is the energy that keeps me going in the tough times and fuels my celebration in the good. Hope is the legs I stand on—the certain hope of God’s promise and his presence in my life. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Root of Gratitude

It's times like these when I am amazed at how many different ways preachers can preach the same basic message every year around this time. How many different ways is there to express how we are to be thankful to the Lord our God for his inconceivable grace? That's the question I put to God this week. Below is his answer. Apparently there was at least one more. Enjoy!

The Root of Gratitude
Touched by your Holy Spirit,
Hope swells this humble heart in
Admiration of your selfless generosity.
Nothing compares to your extraordinary
Kindness—for in your compassion you look beyond my
Sin-ridden soul and lavish me in the
Grace of your own sacrifice.
I can’t comprehend, nor ever repay you for, the wondrous
Victory your cross and empty grave confer on me.
I can never fully express my gratitude. 
Not a moment passes when I am not in awe of my
Great Redeemer, God and King.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Me, God, and Politics

While I speak about political matters in this post, this is not a political statement or argument, but rather a deeper look at me and my relationship with God in the midst of all the political controversy.

It’s been a long devastating week for me. But for you to understand why, I have to tell you about the events leading up to it. I have long been disappointed by the leaders of this country. In my mind, even if a rare person of integrity took office, the system has been so perverted by human pride, greed and the pursuit of power that it wouldn’t make much of a difference. Standing firmly by my personal policy—give me someone worth voting for and I’ll vote—I never registered to vote. That all changed when Mr. Trump won the Republican Party nomination. Something inside of me was violently adamant that he could not win. I felt I had to vote against him to know I’d done all I could to prevent his winning the election. To be transparent here, I voted third party because I believed my candidate to be a person of integrity and I also find Mrs. Clinton almost as reprehensible a person as Mr. Trump.

I spent weeks researching all the candidates and their platforms because if I was going to vote, I was going to do it the right way—I was going to vote for someone and not against someone. When I woke up last Wednesday morning to find that Mr. Trump had won the election, the news hit me so hard I became physically ill. The next few days, I talked with a mother who, because of the election results, will be losing her family’s health insurance next year. I heard from friends from the African-American and the LGBT communities feel threatened by the outcome. A teacher pointed out that the President-elect is a bully and asked how she is supposed to explain to her kids that bullying is wrong when their president is one. I’ve heard from women who have been sexually assaulted who feel as though they have been assaulted again by the outcome. After some soul-searching, I realized that Trump’s self-absorbed, narcissistic personally directly mirrors that of an abuser from my past. When I looked at or heard Trump’s voice, I was seeing and hearing this person from my past. The thought of someone like that once again having some kind of control over my life terrified me.

I took all of this to God. How do I get over the hurt that’s been rekindled? I admitted to God all of my unkind, un-Christ-like thoughts and feelings about our President-elect. First God released me from the chains of abuse I unknowingly put back on these last couple of months. Then he reminded me that even at their worst time, the Israelites who were in exile in Babylon had hope—For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:11-13. My hope for the future doesn’t lie with Mr. Trump or any other government official. My hope is in Jesus. No matter who is in the Oval Office, Jesus loves me and is looking out for my best interest. He has plans for me to deepen our relationship and work through me to bring his message of hope and grace to the world. He also reminded me that it my responsibility to pray for the leaders of my country, whether I like them or not—First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4. I have seen prayer change hearts—those praying and those being prayed for. I may not like personality of the man who was elected, but God loves him and Jesus died for him. The least I can do is pray that he Spirit move in him.

To all those who have been disappointed with the election outcome— Mr. Trump is just a man. God is still God. He still rules and is still on your side. Lean into God’s loving embrace and know the security of his grace and power.

Monday, November 7, 2016

More Important Than Voting

Is anyone else worn down and frustrated by all the political bickering that has occurred in this last week before the election. The hype would have us believe that no matter who we vote for, whoever wins, we will end up being swindled out of our livelihoods and led down the path of destruction. Candidates attacking each other and twisting facts to make themselves appear the better choice and their opponents seem like immoral, greedy, self-serving crooks—is it any wonder I’ve lost complete faith in the leaders of our state and country.

Despite all of this, we are going to vote tomorrow and someone is going to win and someone is going to lose and I’m praying. I’m praying that God’s will be done. I’m praying for the candidate who wins that he or she would be blessed by God with wisdom, patience, courage, and with a clear sense of responsibility to and for their state/country and the people who reside within those borders. I’m praying that God will work through our newly elected leaders to facilitate peace in a world at odds with itself. I’m praying because it is the most powerful and positive thing I can do in this election and in the days to follow and it is God’s will:  I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Please consider praying with me that God will bless our leaders with integrity, a sense of responsibility to the people they represent, and the courage to face and overcome the shady side of bureaucracy and self-interest that they will encounter on a daily basis. Remember that they are not God. They are not our saviors. They will make mistakes and they will be give into temptations just like we do. They are the human beings that God has allowed to be in office in the coming years and they need our prayer support even more than our votes.