Kingdom Living

Cornerstone of Hope

Hope.

Hope seems to be unattainable at times. When the road of difficulty rises to meet me, where is hope? When things don’t go as I’d planned, where is hope? When the world writhes in pain around me, where is hope? When I’ve made a mess of things, where is hope?

Hope is here. Hope chases me down, turns me around, and lifts the blindfold showing me that Hope has been here all along. 

Once I’ve seen and experienced Hope, why is it so easy to wonder again how to find it? I was reminded today that it’s when I start trying to do things without Jesus, I am blinded to the work He has done for me. When I “trust the sweetest [most fragile] frame”, when I do something in order to add to Christ’s work of salvation (which is the ultimate thing to hope for), I am really hoping in me. I am hoping that what I do is good enough to complete what Jesus already did. There’s just one problem: that inevitably produces anxiety instead of hope because I begin to question if it really is enough. I need to remember that I don’t need to search for or manufacture hope; Hope has already found me – and that Hope is what I need.

There is a beautiful hymn that I recalled while thinking about this hope: “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less” by Edward Mote.  

My hope is built on nothing less

Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness

I dare not trust the sweetest frame

But wholly trust in Jesus’ name

 

Perhaps you can relate? What is something you have hoped for or have been hoping for? A better job, a family of your own, a better place to live, a better life? Maybe there are times when it doesn’t seem to matter what you do, that thing you’re hoping for always seems out of reach. Or maybe you thought you had it once and then the unexpected happened and everything crumbled. Or maybe you’re arguing right now, insisting that you did build your hope on Jesus but now here you are, feeling hopeless. What gives?

I suggest that you do as I had to do: take the time to truthfully examine whether or not you fully and completely gave all of that to Christ? Ask yourself (and be honest) whether you even once expected that by doing the “right” things, you’d have what you hoped for?  If you even once thought that, then there was some point that you didn’t “wholly trust in Jesus’ name”, just like me. 

Hold on! Don’t walk away just yet. You need to know that you are not without Hope! There is absolutely still Hope to be seen and experienced by you just as there is for me. The even better news is that all our doing (or not doing) doesn’t change the fact that Christ is still our Hope. He works every day, in a thousand ways on our behalf, though we may not notice.

When darkness seems to hide His face

I rest on His unchanging grace

In every high and stormy gale

My anchor holds within the veil

 

2 Corinthians 4:8-18 encourages us that even as we feel stressed and pressured, Christ who is called our Cornerstone (1 Peter 2:4-6, Psalm 118:19-24) never lets us be crushed or destroyed. We may face a challenge that threatens our vision of the Hope we have, but truly when we anchor ourselves in Jesus, He does not disappoint. In fact, when we are feeling our weakest, that is the best for us because it is then that we step aside and are able to let Him strengthen us. When we are chasing hope constructed by our own hands, we are too busy to see the Hope that has already walked into our lives: Jesus is our Hope! What’s great about this Hope that is ours is that it is not hope for temporary things that will change, age, or become obsolete. This Hope is eternal and is for a purpose that will long outlast today’s bad choices and tomorrow’s trial. 

Hillsong worship writers put it this way:

Christ alone, Cornerstone

Weak made strong in the Savior’s love

Through the storm

He is Lord

Lord of all

 

Jesus, your Hope and mine, has done the work of coming to us when we were unable to find lasting hope of any kind. He is able to strengthen you for what has been, and what’s to come. When you recognize and accept Jesus as your eternal Hope, the Father will use Jesus to build a life for you that isn’t threatened by the storms swirling around you. Rather, the life the Father builds for you will stand strong all the way into eternity with Him. 

Do you feel like you “missed” Hope or that you can’t find it? Stop right there and give it to Jesus. “Rest on His unchanging grace” – it is for you. He is Lord of all. You need not search any longer or try any harder – He is all the Hope you need.

 

Kingdom Living

Rediscovered Thanks

 

Being truly thankful every day seems to be one of the biggest challenges. My temptation is to forget the abundance I have. I tend to get comfortable with abundance and I forget to lead a lifestyle of daily gratitude. But this year more than ever I am learning how vital that daily gratitude is, and how it can sometimes be the only thing that helps me to move. 

 

How frequently do we take account of our abundance? This year I wanted to remind myself to be thankful every day so I followed Ann Voskamp’s example and started a gratitude journal. It is conveniently located right by my door on the kitchen bar counter so that I won’t forget to do it. Unfortunately, as I get busy or comfortable, inevitably I do forget about it. I find that sometimes I am so comfortable with what I have, that I don’t see all that I truly have.

 

Even in this month that is a reminder for us to be grateful, if we pause for just a moment, doesn’t it feel like this is perhaps a counterfeit effort we make? If we only give thanks but once a year, at one meal, we are out of practice and studies show that we are living with less peace and happiness. But perhaps you didn’t need a study to tell you that. If we make a list of all the things we want to have or be or do it would likely be a long list and probably would leave us at least a little tired. That list communicates what we don’t have and aren’t being. On the flip side, if we make a list of every small thing we could possibly be thankful for, right down to blades of cut grass, ducks crossing the road, the giggle of a young child, the text from a friend that made us smile, or the music we enjoy, that list has a different effect on us. There is contentment in that list and that gives us a sense of rest. Doesn’t it?

 

My kids and I have somewhat of a “game” that we play: when someone is expressing a lack of thankfulness someone will call out “Tell me three things you’re thankful for!”. It is truly amazing how that little reminder produces a huge shift in our attitude. In an instant we go from stressed to small giggles. 

 

I’ve needed those giggles in my own heart this year. Sometimes there are some really tough things in our lives – things we would never have thought we could or would endure. This season has been harder than I expected. I was trying to voice thankfulness for what I have, but it was counterfeit. It was thankfulness on the surface but had an undercurrent of discontentment. I felt my words feeble in comparison to the weight of disappointment and grief running wild through my mind. My gratitude was weak in chaotic battle with my grief instead of confidently rooted. 

 

I feel The Father reaching out for me, spreading His arms wide, calling me to give thanks from the depths and to come rest in Him… but I’m waiting for the pain to be over, for the depths to stop drowning, for the hustle and bustle and world spinning around me to quiet…

 

The Father knows I won’t make it on my own. Grabbing through the darkness, down to the depths where I’m sinking, I feel His hand take hold of me and I hear His soothing voice speak:

 

Light shines out of darkness. I know these are hard times but my faithfulness and sovereignty is not established by your deeds nor is it shaken because of them. No matter what you do or have done, I AM still here and I AM able to use it for more than you can see right now. I waste nothing – not the good nor the bad. I AM already working and though you cannot see the end from the beginning, you can trust that I care for you too much to leave you here. My desire for you, my dear child, is good, not bad. I AM your good Father and I want to give good things to you. I am not here to take or demand things from you. I know this doesn’t feel good right now little one, trust me, I have not finished my good work in your life yet. Turn your eyes to see me and your ears to hear my voice. You will make it through because I AM here with you. See? I AM carrying you when you can’t lift your foot to take a step. Listen to my voice and not the lies binding your heart in heavy chains. I have long since unlocked those chains and thrown them off. Let me lift you, carry you, until you can walk again on your own, right beside me. I love you dear one, as I have always and always will. You are My precious child and no one and nothing can come against you that I AM not right there with you to win the battle and help you through. So come now, rest in me. Remember Who’s you are. Remember my real, deep, strong grace that is constantly and consistently sufficient.

 

For today, I am steadied again. I can see more clearly again. As gratitude tears roll steaming down, I find the real words of thanks that I had been missing. Thankfulness begins to spill forth with my tears… Thank you Father for these reminders … gradually drops become small streams, and then rivers of grateful joy pouring forth all the things coming to mind: the smells of the season, my favorite seasonal drinks (cider…yumm), kindness of the truest of friends, smiles on my children’s faces, fall leaves and cooler weather, music to soak in, planning new traditions, choruses of people singing, festive lights chasing the darkness away…

Kingdom Living

No Fear

I have struggled with fear or worry on some level for a long time. Unfortunately it has been an influencing force in me far too often. In fact, I have for much of my life thought that around this time of year, fear seems to take the mountain and rule unchecked (any fellow “fraidy-cats” like me?) The other day my daughter asked out of the blue if more kidnappings take place on Halloween. I had to think for a minute about why she could possibly be asking that question and then I realized: this is fear creeping into her mind. So we talked about it – two people prone to fear over faith.

I asked both of my kids to think about what amazing, seemingly impossible things had God done for them. We listed out several things from successes with school, to health and the provision of free things that we didn’t expect to get (a lesson on grace for another time).

We also thought about numerous examples in the Bible of amazing things that God did in impossible or terrifying circumstances: Sarah got pregnant at an impossible age, the Red Sea was parted so Israel could escape Egypt, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo survived the fiery furnace, Daniel came face-to-face with hungry lions and didn’t have a scratch, Noah’s family survived a world-wide flood, David faced a real giant and won…so many examples of the strength and protection of God!

 

I wonder if Jesus was thinking about these demonstrations of God’s might throughout Israel’s history when he was defying fear and napping in the middle of a hair-raising storm? Mark 4:37-40 recounts the story of Jesus sleeping in a boat about to be capsized. The disciples were terrified. Their imaginations were most likely running wild with tales of sea monsters that could swallow them whole! They thought they had every reason to be afraid. Yet, here was Jesus completely unafraid, in fact, he wasn’t even awake! Jesus surely knew all the same stories – how is it he could sleep so soundly? What the disciples apparently forgot was the fuel of their faith. Jesus knew who held them: the Almighty Creator, the Father, The Great ‘I Am’. Jesus knew the One who had defied physics (because He created physics) and parted the Red Sea. He knew the One who prevented three men from being burned alive. He knew the One who told the giant fish to spit Jonah out on shore. With a God this mighty who loved them, what horrifying thing could possibly happen to them that would render Him unable to take care of them?  Jesus knew that even in death He still could trust God and place his hope firmly in His Father’s love and sovereignty.

 

As I think back to this conversation with my kids about this “scary” time of year in light of what Jesus has taught me, it doesn’t seem so scary any more. What is there really to fear? There are certainly some ugly images that can fill our minds with frightful thoughts perhaps much like those the disciples had in that storm. But all of those frightful thoughts are just a noisy storm stirred up in the absence of love. Love does not create or perpetuate fear. In fact, perfect love drives fear away. That is why Jesus could rest and defy fear – He was secure in the knowledge of God’s perfect love for them. This is real faith. That same love is ours as well.

We don’t need to hide in fear or run away from a world that seems to emphasize fear at this time of year. We know the same Almighty God that gave Jesus the power to make the terrifying storm instantly still to silence! The love the Father has for us is the same love. The confidence He gave Jesus to sleep in the midst of disaster and the power to instantly still the storm is ours as well. We can confidently walk through crowds of “scary” faces and neighborhoods of haunted houses defying fear just like Jesus and instead carrying peace, the light of Christ, and the love of God to everyone we meet. We have no reason to fear because the Father, who’s hand we hold, loves us perfectly and completely. Out of His perfect love comes all that we need in order to stand firm, unafraid, as lights in the darkness.

Kingdom Living

Banquet at The Father’s House

My most favorite memories are those around the holidays. Every gathering with beloved friends and family lights me up inside. Yes, there are some sad memories around this time, but the sweetness of good “old” memories and being surrounded by people I love overrides the bitterness of sorrow. I started imagining what a holiday gathering might be like at The Father’s house.


“Is there anything I can help with?” I ask The Father. He is making all the final preparations for our feast and there are lots of other people there helping as well.

The Father welcomes me in and gives me a big hug before inviting me to participate with Him in preparing for the feast (kids always want to help).

You can help set the table, daughter.” He gives me a purpose, and points me to the gold and silver dishes and utensils we will be using for our feast. 

I finish setting the table just in time for the food to start coming out. Finally, the table is fully set and the food is bountiful. There isn’t a single favorite missing! Turkey, ham, lamb, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and mashed, green bean casserole, casseroles of every kind, corn (we need a reminder), bread, even homemade cranberry sauce (don’t judge – my Grandma had the best recipe and I loved it!), and the list goes on! Drinks have been poured. We’re all ready to dive in.

The banquet room is warmly lit. Not from a fire, but by the glory radiating from The Father. The room is intimate, but big enough to hold all the people I know and love and the people they know and love and so on. Dimensions are a weird thing at The Father’s house.

The head of the table comes to His seat – Jesus. Looking at The Father, Jesus expresses His thanks for the feast we are salivating over and then proceeds to carve the turkey. He serves each person Himself before sitting down to begin eating from His own plate.

Conversations around the table are sweet and the food unimaginably good. I stop for a minute to listen – it sounds like the whole room is singing. Though all the conversations are different, the song that is being made from it all sounds melodious! It’s not overwhelmingly loud either because no one has to yell to be heard. I realize I’ve been smiling since I got to The Father’s house. I pause for a moment to take it all in. The glow of the room. The beautiful decor. The “background music” from the humming conversations. And all these wonderful people. I look over and see The Father looking at me with a smile on His face.

All of this is for you, my beloved one. I am glad you came to sit and fellowship with me. I love watching you enjoy all that I have provided.

My heart is full (and my stomach too). 

But it’s time for desert and coffee! Not sure how I could fit more into my stomach, but this is one of the best times of fellowship.  I pull the comfy chair up next to Jesus who is sitting by The Father. Coffee steaming on the end table, dessert in hand, we talk for hours. I listen again to old stories I know, but there is always something new The Father tells me in those stories. Jesus patiently listens as I pour out my heart. I tell Him everything on my mind but nothing phases Him. He listens intently as if He didn’t already know all these things I’m talking about. And when I finally give Him space to speak, His voice and instruction are gentle and loving. I always learn so much from Him.

I’m grateful to be sitting right here, right now. There’s nothing better than feast-day at The Father’s house. I don’t want to say good-bye or good-night. I want to hold on to this beautiful thought. The Father reminds me that there are even more wonderful things, things beyond my imagination, in store for me in eternity.


This small imagination of mine surely pales in comparison to what it will really be like when we finally get to feast at the banquet table in Heaven. Would you sit for a moment and imagine with me? What does your perfect feast have that mine doesn’t? Who is at the table with you? One thing is certain, God The Father, and Jesus His Son will be there welcoming us with open arms and it will always be the best feast ever.

 

And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken. And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land.
– Ezekiel 34:23-24,26-27