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Archive for the ‘Hope’ Category

I just don’t know

In my fifty-something years of living, there is not four more hopeless words I have ever uttered.

This phrase speaks of indecision, resignation, confusion … even heartbreak, sorrow and hands in the air forfeit.

Have you said such words?

We all have. We have all walked through dark valleys, filled with fear and no hint at next steps, next decisions … not a hint at a light in the darkness.

We have all had hopeless moments … days … seasons … years.

After Moses died, the Lord spoke to Joshua, telling him that he would become the new Moses, the new leader of the Israelite people. In his speaking to Joshua, he spoke the following sentence (Joshua 1:9) :

“Be strong.
Be brave.
Be fearless.

You are never alone.”

Four more words … YOU ARE NEVER ALONE.

These four words are ones that speak comfort, promise, hope. They are, in essence, the anti-venom to our cry of I just don’t know

As you walk this day, this coming week and month and season … you are not alone.

When you feel attacked by people, or situations or forces beyond your control … you are not alone.

When you think you have hit rock bottom and there is nowhere to turn … you are not alone.

When sorrows, like sea billows are rolling, in you life, your heart … you are not alone.

When it seems there is just no light left in the dark tunnel … you are not alone.

you are never alone.

Everything around me seems uncertain
My weary heart can’t take much more surprise
I wish there was a point on the horizon
Something I could see with my own eyes

I need to tell you that I’m scared
I feel completely unprepared
And nothing’s what it was two weeks ago

But you already know
You already know
Everything I’m scared of
Everything I hope
You hold my tomorrow
And all tomorrow holds
You already know

I can’t seem to find the easy answers
Someday, I hope the suffering makes sense
I just need to know that you are with me
Even if you keep me in suspense

We talk so much these days
Because I have so much to say
You stay and listen to me closely even though

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Over the past year I have become a lover of that which I never thought I would like … podcasts.

They give my mind distraction from my own thoughts, my naval gazing, my perseverating. They entertain me, taking me away to far places, entertaining accents and soul-filling.

Recently my daughter introduced me to a podcaster who is soft-hearted, warm, hopeful and encouraging … and it’s not because her life has been all sugar-coated goodness!

One of the things she does, and does well, are blessings. When I hear her deliver a blessing I find it hard to listen without it penetrating into my soul and the effect is often a waterfall from my eyes (perhaps also because I have frequently been kneeling as I heard them, as was often the case when receiving a blessing in biblical days).

It got me to thinking this week,

where have blessings gone?

First off, what is a blessing?

We say a blessing before we eat a meal, before we take communion. It is a humble asking that what we intake is what God wants for us. It is also an acknowledgement of where our basic needs originate … from God. This is much like the blessing one might receive from another, before doing a new thing (such as getting married, moving away, going off to school or to work in missions).

A blessing is also a bestowing of good things (in OT biblical times it was often material goods, in NT times, it was more often spiritual benefits), grace, mercy, well wishes.

I think we all could benefit from an increased practice of offering and receiving blessings. It could be a beautiful reminder of God with us.

So, let me offer a blessing to you, as you read and as you move through this day :

Blessed are you, simply because you are a child of the most high King.
You, who arose this morning with a smile on your face …
Or a lump in your throat …
Or an ache in your heart …
Or … you needed the help of another to rise.
You are loved.
Blessed are you who sees a day before you filled with
joy,
family,
too much to do,
emptiness,
tough stuff …
for you will not walk this day alone.
You never walk alone.
Blessed are you who keep going,
keep showing up
at church
and in your marriages
and at work
and in your family relationships
even when it’s hard, you’re tired, you’re empty.
For He is here to fill you.
May you walk this day,
this life,
even though it is not straight or narrow,
even though it is not what you expected,
with hope.
I am your hope, says the Lord.
You do not walk alone.

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Where have all the good men gone?
-Bonnie Tyler

Being a child of the 80’s, lines from songs frequently run through my thoughts as events happen each day. Lately I have been hearing the words of Bonnie Tyler :

Where have all the good men gone
And where are all the gods?
Where’s the streetwise Hercules
To fight the rising odds?

… I need a hero

It has seemed as though those who have filled positions of leadership in our world have been … power-seekers, weenies, cowards. The idea of servant-leader has seemed to have gone the way of the dinosaurs and unicorns … the way of honesty, integrity and humility.

Interestingly, it has been across the world that my own hope in true servant-leadership has recently been reignited.

As Ukraine has been experiencing attacks, war, from the bear up North, Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been rising up from his presidential pedestal and into the bunkers with and for his people. His position as commander-in-chief of the army has seemed to be far more than the typical ceremonial role, rather, he would seem to be sticking with, supporting and even commanding his army (and the population). For some, his insistence to remain in Ukraine (as well as his wife and children) during this war echos of the insistence of King George VI and his family to not leave England during the bombings.

(*I am not in agreement with all that Zelenskyy says, does or believes … but, in these recent days, when his country is at risk of destruction, he is with his people)

The cynic in me wonders if he is for real, or if political spin doctors have been able to adjust the sun to put him in the most favourable light. I hope he is all that he appears to be, that his dedication to his people, his Ukraine, is sincere, authentic and true.

It is interesting that his stand with his people reminds me of another leader. One whose entire life was dedicated to his people.

It is in Jesus that we see the ultimate model of servant-leadership. His existence was born out of need of the people … us, you and me. His birth is in direct response to our need of redemption. He not only came so that we could live, but he did so knowing that we could only live if he were to die.

He is our example of a hero.

In how he lived his life, we are given the example of leadership. Not just leadership such as one who leads a nation, but as individuals who live with the power of the Spirit within up … prompting us to be examples of honesty, humility, integrity … even when there is no one looking.

” … whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:43-45

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I awoke early, in the dark, to a dusting of snow on the ground, the sliver of a moon shining brightly. It was a glorious awakening. As I sat down with a steaming hot cup, facing East, the grandeur of Mt Baker already being illuminated by the dawn’s earliest light.

Ahhh! A smile spread across my face.

I inhaled peace, hope, joy …

Joy.

Exhale …

Joy comes in the morning.

Words of comfort by the Psalmist (30:5).

And it occurred to me that every morning is not so glorious. I mean, would joy come when it’s dark, starless and pouring rain for the fifteenth day in a row? I know how I would greet such a morning and it wouldn’t be feeling peace, hope or joy. I would scowl, turn my back to the firmament.

Maybe it, maybe this joy that comes in the morning (after a night of weeping) is dependent not on who offers it, but how willing I am to receive it? How willing I am to greet the day as a blank slate, as gift like a wrapped box with a golden bow, held out to me by the God of the universe, the God who created all things. And all I have to do it stop wiping the tears of the night before and hold out my hands to receive it … to receive the joy that is there regardless of my mood, my feelings, my perspective regarding rain.

Joy … it’s there in the morning.

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yup … I just used this image …

Wanna laugh?

I think that laughter is always the best medicine … except maybe in funeral homes, though …

As my mum, brothers and I sat around a table with a funeral director, organizing the final farewell for my dad, the director offered to play a music CD at some point. It was then that I got very … honest. “There is nothing worse than ‘canned’ music at a funeral. We do not want that.” All heads pivoted in my direction, eyes wide. I immediately knew I had, perhaps, been a bit too direct in the manner I responded. The director looked down and said, “but, I specialized in CD playing at school for funeral directing.” An awkward silence filled the room, followed by uproarious laughter. It felt so good to laugh in the midst of mourning!

I love a good sit down with cat and dog videos … seriously the best way to waste time and turn a bad mood into good.

Working in a high school, there is often laughter during the work day. What is fun is how students will either misspell or misuse words when they are writing assignments or on tests. In a Christian school, confusion between the words Gentiles and genitals makes for great conversations and laughter.

Then there are errors in church bulletins. Such as, some of the following :

“Applications are now being accepted for 2 year-old nursery workers.””The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.”

“Next Thursday, there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.”

“At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be ‘What is hell?’ Come early and listen to our choir practice.”

“Announcement to the Moms Who Care ladies group: There will be no Moms who care this week.”

“Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It is a great chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Don’t forget your husbands.”

One of my favorite stories that makes me laugh hard every time I read or hear it is the story told by Dave Barry (click on link … it is SO worth it!) about a journey into his colon. Nothing like a colonoscopy story to give one a good ‘ol laugh til you cry moment.

People, I don’t know about you, but my need for laughter, for good ‘ol belly laughs, with tears pouring down my face has increased exponentially over the past couple of years. There has been so much to bring us down, to make our moods sombre, to steal our hope … to divide us. But laughter … it soothes the soul, lightens the heart and brings people together.

I hope this helps to give a smile to your day.

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The night is lit by the stars and moon and my how they put on a stellar show sometimes. The night sky is not static, it changes with the days and seasons providing an original performance every. single. night.

“When I observe your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars …”

Psalm 8:3

I find it impossible to look up at the dark night sky, illuminated by the moon and stars, and not thank God who created it all. It is an unnecessary beauty, for beauty is not needed for it to fulfill its function. Yet, God, in his wisdom and grace gives us this nightly display.

You know what I find interesting?

The light display is more glorious when the backdrop of the night is more inky black. It is, in actuality, the inky darkness that enables the moon to shine most bright.

And so it is when darkness seeps into our souls and minds. When sorrow, or grief, or sadness, or fear, or anxiety, or depression, or loneliness, or heartbreak or … you name it, for we have all been visited by a time of darkness … when the dark stops by and stays, when the shadows cast eerie images and feelings … that is when the little glimmer of light shines brightest, in the forms of connection, hope, delight, beauty, joy, good news.

While watching an episode of Call the Midwife (season 9, episode 8), recently, the monologue caught my attention … stayed with me into the next day :

Welcome the darkness, embrace it as a canopy from which the stars can hang, for there are always stars when we are where we ought to be, amongst the faces we love best, each with our place, each with our purpose, as fixed and familiar as the constellations.
The darkness is beautiful, for how else can we shine?

Ecclesiastes 3:11 reminds us that God makes everything beautiful in it’s time.

As we look up to the night sky, as we are treated to the beauty, may we not just thank God for the moon and stars, but also for the dark backdrop, from which their beauty shines best.

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