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…

Conversations

More Than Stars

image by Dino Reichmuth

Come here and sit with me, Precious One.

I climb up on The Father’s lap, glad to rest there. I am always so comfortable sitting with The Father. I know I am safe in His strong arms. I can feel my body already begin to release the tension that has been building in me. These days have been tense. Difficult. But here on The Father’s lap, I have peace. Turning my face up towards His, I see Him staring into the night sky. 

Pick a star,” He says to me as if it were like selecting fruit from the produce section of the grocery store. “Any star,” He reiterates. 

I stare wide at the sky, looking for a star to catch my eye. I finally find one and point, wondering with so many stars, how The  Father will know which star I’m looking at. Without hesitation, He smiles and tells me that I picked a beautiful star and tells me it’s name. Like a proud Creator, He begins to tell me what is unique to that exact star I picked from the trillions in the sky! I am amazed at His greatness.

Then turning towards me, He smiles and asks if I know how many stars there are in the sky. This feels like a familiar conversation, like maybe Abraham had a similar conversation with The Father…

 

“I have no idea how many stars there are. I know I can’t count them all. It was hard just picking one.” 

The Father nods knowingly and asks another question, “Do you know that I know the name of every single star that I’ve ever created?

“Yes, Abba, I do know that. I know that you know the names of all the stars that are young, those that have died, and every star in every galaxy. Your greatness is amazing and overwhelming to me, too vast for me to comprehend!” 

Still smiling at wide-eyed me, The Father draws me closer to Himself and begins to tenderly tell me the reason for all this set-up: 

 

Do you know that you are even more valuable to me than all those multitudes of stars? I knew your name before you were born. I counted out the days for you before anyone ever thought about you. I see you and know you better than anyone ever has or ever will. I knew who you would be as I knit you together in your mother’s womb. I have seen every moment of your life. Even these tiring and difficult days, I have seen. I know all of it, but none of it is able to break My promises to you. I still have a wonderful plan for you. I still have victory for you, Precious One. Even in these hard and painful days, I see you and know you and what’s more, I know the great things still in store for you. 

You are amazed that I know the multitudes of stars, but do you not know that you are more precious and important to Me than all the stars in the sky? You know My greatness is even more than the stars can convey, know also that I Am able to always keep My promises to you. You are My child and nothing in all of creation can shake My love for you. Nothing can have victory over you because I am the One who fights for you. I will give the victory to you and bring you out of these hard days and those yet to come.

 

I snuggle up closer to Him and rest my head on His chest. Good tears gently run down my face. Peace floods my soul. The Father puts His strong arm around me as if to make His Words stick to me.

I know He is for me.

I know He is able to do anything.

I know He is great enough, strong enough, and all-of-enough for me.

I know that His love for me will never end and that is enough for any difficult day I face.

Conversations

Ouch!

I fell down and skinned my knee.
Sitting here in the dirt, crying, and bleeding.
It looks like just a small scrape. I didn’t break anything. I’m not in the hospital. Nothing fell off. I’m not dying.
So why does this hurt so much?

The Father kneels down to my level to examine the damage. He takes my bruised and bleeding knee in His hands while He speaks gently, with sympathy for my pain.

“It hurts, Daddy. It hurts a lot!”

“I know precious one. I’m here. I will help it heal. I will make it better.”

“I don’t want it to hurt more. This hurts so much. Can’t you just heal it with a wave of your hand and the command of your voice? Like you did when there Jairus’ daughter was raised back to life? Or when the Israelites needed to cross the Red Sea and you parted the waters? Or like the time you healed that guard’s ear after Peter cut it off? Can’t you just heal like that?”

With tears still flowing freely, I search the Father’s face for agreement with my plan for a miracle. Looking up at me, I see tears rolling down His cheeks as well.

“My precious daughter, I am weeping with you. I am hurting with you. I know this does not feel good and that you are worried about experiencing any more pain. My heart breaks for you because I don’t want you to be in pain at all but there may be a little more still as I clean this wound. It is necessary for proper healing. But I am here. I am with you. Hold tight to me. I promise I will be gentle as I clean this wound. I will pour my grace on it as a balm. I will bandage it up so you can heal. Even through all of this, I Am with you always. I Am right here. Hold on to my hand; squeeze it tight; cry. I know what is best for you, even when it hurts. You will see. In the end, it will be better than before.”  

When I was a child and had a scrape or a splinter, I didn’t want my mom or dad to use rubbing alcohol or even touch the site of my injury because I was afraid that it would hurt worse. But if they just left it alone, and didn’t clean it out it would have become infected and that certainly would have been worse. As good parents, they knew that the wound had to be cleaned and bandaged for the best outcome. So they would clean my wounds. Sometimes it would take both of them – one to calm me and one to do the work. When it was all over, I started feeling better. The only evidence of the pain before was a slowly scabbing wound. The Father does the same with the wounds no one can see…His healing work has only just begun.