The Confusion of Hope

BibleverseaboutHope1“I have hope.”

What does that mean?

I’ve found it means a variety of things to different people. Sometimes people see hope as wishes, dreams, or preferences. Their hope is what they want to see happen.

Divine hope is different. It’s wanting what God wants. It’s trusting how God guides and provides. Divine hope requires and is rooted in faith.

We can struggle when we take our own preferences into our understanding of the hope God spurs and promises. We can easily get discouraged and disoriented because we believe God cares and is for us but then we experience pain and chaos. But God doesn’t want us to have a short-sighted hope. In Him, hope is eternal, which includes our yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows.

Hope anchors us. It stabilizes us long enough to let us take a breath when the storm rages around us so that when we have the strength to look around, we are not disoriented. We can find familiarity in our surroundings and take the next step.

Savoring Grace

I sat in my office and listened to a group of people sing. They were several rooms away, but their passion and God’s presence reverberated through the walls and soaked into my bones, refreshing and reminding me of God’s grace. What a blessing.

Your grace so free
Washes over me
You have made me new
Now life begins with You
It’s your endless love
Pouring down on us
You have made us new
Now life begins with You

Sweet Tea Time

exps15254_MRR143297A09_12_6bWe didn’t have much time, but it was enough. I picked up sweet tea for a friend and me, and we shared a quick but sweet lunchtime. We hadn’t been able to spend much face-to-face time recently but had kept up through texts. But here we were, together at last, and we shared the important stuff. Some laughter, a few tears, words of encouragement, and corrective truths.
When you don’t have time to get together, find time to stay connected somehow. When you don’t have time to get together, anticipate the time when you can see each other and share the important stuff. Investing in others is important. Letting others invest in you is important. Share life with authenticity and transparency. Invite others into your life. Abundantly pour into theirs.
My life is better because of my friends. My friends’ lives are better because of me.
Friends sweeten life.
Don’t miss out.

The Easy Hard Questions

7.18.ItWillBeHarderThanThink_848814452Some questions seem easy until we need to answer them.

“Why do you follow Jesus?”

Duh. I mean, that’s pretty easy, right? At least for someone who seems focused on following Him.

That’s what I thought.

I was asked to speak to a group of junior high students and share my answer to that question. I’d be one of several speakers, and hopefully, our combined answers would reveal to them that there are many answers to the question. Faith, as community-based and relationship-building as it is, is a personal journey.

And as I reflected on my journey throughout life, I realized the question I thought I could answer quickly and easily was a bit more complicated than a simple answer. Perhaps not as complicated as rich.

Rich because I had grown. Rich because my faith has been tested and refined (and continues to be). Rich because of struggles and discussions and experiences and real life. Rich because of the value that following Jesus has added to my life, to my identity, to my character, and to my worth. Rich because of the many relationships along the way. Rich because of who Jesus is.

Sometimes the easy questions become the hard ones, and the hard ones become a bit more easy.

Notice Your Routine

Wake-Up-and-Smell-the-Routine.jpgYou have similar routines to others. Are you noticing?

Sometimes we think we need to get out of our routines in order for things to change, for us to experience new people, for us to grow. But there is a lot we don’t notice in our routines. We get used to doing the same things in the same order at the same times. But we haven’t noticed all the details, all the people, all the opportunities.

Wake up to your routine. Open your eyes, your heart, your ears. Be willing to notice, invest, engage.

We sometimes want more when God is giving us many opportunities we’re simply not willing to see and grasp.

Today that can change.

Self Care versus Self Focus

selfcareIs self care selfish?

It can be, but it doesn’t have to be.

We can all justify just about any level of what we’d call self care. We can think about the analogy of needing to put on our own oxygen before helping anyone else with theirs on a plane. After all, if we die, how can we help anyone else?

If we’re not healthy, how can we help others become healthy?

But we can get so focused on ourselves that what we intend as self care becomes counterproductive. We actually become less healthy because we stress about ourselves and our care. Our intentions might be good, but that doesn’t mean the results will be good.

Focusing on ourselves for too long keeps us from living productive everyday lives that help others. Looking in the mirror keeps us from looking around us. Sure, we need to check the mirror. We need to regularly assess where we are and what we need to change, yet we also need to live with others and get reality checks from them. When we become too self-focused, our judgment gets skewed. What we think is best for us (and for others) doesn’t get filtered through enough perspectives and reality. And our goals of getting healthy in order to help others be healthy backfires. We end up hurting others and hurting ourselves.

It’s okay to be good to yourself, but it’s not all about you. Be good to the “we” in your life. When you live with healthy community, because you’re part of that community, you will grow in your own health, too.

Willing to Shift

SHIFTAre you willing to be shifted? Are you willing to be changed? Not in control of the change. Not changing with the wind, so unstable that you have no consistency.

But are you willing to be shifted and changed while also staying stable at the core?

There are certainties that form a core of truth and consistency. It’s not a core that you simply come up with on your own, that you decide to pack into a firm ball and make it what centers you. Well, you can try that, but wanting something to be stable and finding that it is actually stable over time are not the same thing. Instead, the core comes from a pursuit of truth over time. It comes with the humility of being willing to be shifted and changed, the willingness to invite pruning, correction, and refinement. The core is comprised of what proves itself over time.

And that core, as solid as it is, is small. Compared to everything else in life, it’s packed and mighty. It can get ignored. But it is essential.

It’s what you truly believe in, what you would die for, what centers not only your world but the world. When everything else gets burned away, it’s what remains. When everything else gets boiled away, it’s what remains. When everything else gets broken and blown away, it’s what remains. But the reality is that we rarely get the chance to experience a trial so severe that we can actually see what is left after such refinement. Or we get caught up in the twisting turmoil and are disoriented. We are typically faced with so much other stuff that the core is obscured and muted.

But the core is still the core. Everything else must be filtered and tested. And in the process, you will be shifted and changed.

It’s a good thing.