Hope Rising

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hope is a confident, alert expectation that God will do what He said He will do.

We are persuaded that God's way is redemption and that redemption, not suffering, is ultimate.
Hoping does not mean doing nothing.  It is not fatalistic resignation.  It means going about our assigned tasks, confident that God will provide the meaning and the conclusions.  It is not compelled to work away at keeping up appearances with a bogus spirituality.   It is the opposite of desperate and panicky manipulations, of scurrying and worrying.

And hoping is not dreaming.  It is not spinning an illusion or fantasy to protect us from our boredom or our pain.  It means a confident, alert expectation that God will do what he said he will do.  It is imagination put in the harness of faith.  It is a willingness to let God do it his way and in his time.  It is the opposite of making plans that we demand that God put into effect, telling him both how and when to do it.  That is not hoping in God but bullying God.  "I pray to God--my life a prayer--and wait for what he'll say and do.  My life's on the line before God, my Lord, waiting and watching till morning, waiting and watching till morning." (from Psalm 130)

...[Suffering] is...a powerful demonstration that our place in the depths is not out of bounds from God.  We see that whatever or whoever got us in trouble cannot separate us from God, for "forgiveness is your habit."  We are persuaded that God's way is redemption and that redemption, not suffering, is ultimate. 

The "bottom" has a bottom; the heights are boundless.  Knowing that, we are helped to go ahead and learn the skills of waiting and watching--hoping!--by which God is given room to work out our salvation and develop our faith while we fix our attention on his ways of grace and resurrection.
 Eugene Peterson


Monday, June 27, 2011

Giving thanks in the little things

These words have been speaking to me in an uncomfortable (but good!) way for the last several days: 
Only he who gives thanks for little things receives the big things.  We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts He has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts.  We think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly be looking forward eagerly for the highest good.  Then we deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, and we consider this lament to be pious.

We pray for the big things, and forget to give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if, on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
in Life Together

"To love at all is to be vulnerable"

To love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.  The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.  The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell. 

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Father, keep my heart open, soft, and, yes, even vulnerable. Help me not to close my heart and in so doing become "unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable."  As I keep my heart open to Your will and Your ways, help me to guard my heart, and to show Your love to those You put in my path.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Reminding myself of His sovereignty

This week has been difficult for me...my heart has been troubled and frustrated by an ongoing season of waiting.  There are several areas in my life that seem to be open-ended and in need of His completion.  I've been praying a prayer of relinquishment that a friend sent me, and I've been reminding myself once again of Psalm 46:10: 
"Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth."

Here are some notes by Jonathan Edwards on Psalm 46:10, as quoted by C.H. Spurgeon in his Treasury of David:
Be still, and know that I am God. The sole consideration that God is God, sufficient to still all objections to his sovereignty. 
Jonathan Edwards
I am God.
  1. In that he is God, he is an absolutely and infinitely perfect being.
  2. As he is God, he is so great, that he is infinitely above all comprehension.
  3. As he is God, all things are his own.
  4. In that he is God, he is worthy to be sovereign over all things.
  5. In that he is God, he will be sovereign, and will act as such.
  6. In that he is God, he is able to avenge himself on those who oppose his sovereignty.
Jonathan Edwards

A reminder I'm preaching to myself this morning: for those of us who are experiencing a season of waiting in our walk with Christ, daily confession is so important.  Let Him search your heart, listen to His voice, and obey the changes He asks you to make.  If you find that there is not unconfessed sin, then rest in His sovereignty...He is God, and He is working out His kingdom purposes in His children--those who believe in His son, Jesus Christ.  His ways are higher than our ways--thank Him and praise Him before the answers are clear.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

With all my heart I love You, Sovereign Lord. Tomorrow, let me love You even more.

When my son was only a few days old, I was listening to a Fernando Ortega CD and heard Jesus, King of Angels for the first time.  I began to play the song for my baby every night starting that evening.  It's six and a half years later, and I'm still playing it every night...tonight the words struck me new once more as I laid him down to sleep.

Jesus, King of Angels

Jesus, King of angels, heaven's light,
Shine Your face upon this house tonight.
Let no evil come into my dreams;
Light of heaven, keep me in Your peace.

Remind me how You made dark spirits flee, 
And spoke Your power to the raging sea.
And spoke Your mercy to a sinful man;
Remind me, Jesus, this is what I am.

The universe is vast beyond the stars,
But You are mindful when the sparrow falls, 
And mindful of the anxious thoughts 
That find me, surround me, and bind me . . . .

With all my heart I love You, Sovereign Lord.
Tomorrow, let me love You even more.
And rise to speak the goodness of Your name 
Until I close my eyes and sleep again.

Jesus, King of angels, heaven's light,
Hold my hand and keep me through this night.

Listen to Jesus, King of Angels here.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lessons from a Hike

*See below for an explanation of this picture
 It was a summer in the late 1990's (I can't remember the year!), and I was blessed to be on a 3 week missions trip to the islands of the Philippines. 

Our team was there to encourage the local missionaries and church members, so we often traveled in a van (sometimes riding on the top of the vehicle as the locals did) from village to village, where we met many wonderful Christian people.  At each town, we would gather in a one room wooden church to sing for the people, and our team leader or the local missionary would give a sermon (usually with dogs or chickens running freely through the church).  After the service, we would talk with the locals and play with the children.

In the middle of the trip, we went to a Wycliffe Bible Translator compound, which was an oasis to us.  The grounds were simple, but well kept, and after the oppressive heat, the large shady trees and the coolness of the stone floors and walls of the buildings were delightful.  There were missionaries there from around the world--I remember specifically people from Switzerland and America, and they were so kind to us.   

We were at the compound to begin the part of our journey from which I would learn the most. There was a helicopter pilot based at Wycliffe who flew us in groups of 3 or 4 into a little village so high in the mountains that trucks and vans could not get to it.  You either had to fly in or walk in to this village, because the roads leading up to it were narrow and dangerous.  We got to do both—we flew in by helicopter, and walked out a few days later, up and down muddy, often slippery, trails. 

A bridge that we crossed during the hike-can't believe we walked over this now.
Throughout the physically demanding 10 hour hike from the village to the nearest bus stop, I found that the best way to keep going was to watch the heels of the hiking boots in front of me.  If I looked beyond the boots to the trail in front of us, I could get discouraged about how far we had to go, and if I looked behind me, I could get discouraged about how little ground I had covered. If I looked beside me, I would see the narrowness of the trail or the steepness of the incline below me. So, for the majority of that long hike, my focus was only on one thing—the mud-covered boots in front of me.  What a feeling of accomplishment when we made it to the bus stop at the end of our hike!

I’ve often looked back at that trip with mixed emotions. It was very complicated in many ways. The unfamiliar culture, an oppressive heat, and the traveling conditions all proved to be difficult at times.  On the other hand, the kindness of the people, in spite of their poverty, always comes to the forefront in my memory, and seeing firsthand the plight of so many in our world was priceless in changing my world view. 

 But the most important lesson I learned was the one from the hike. Focusing on the boots before me got me through a lengthy and physically demanding hike.  Someday, my journey here will be done, but as I've experienced the inevitable difficulties of life on this earth, the principle in Hebrew 12:2 always comes to mind:  “…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of [our] faith…”, and I remember the muddy boots from that long ago hike.  

*These beautiful children were at a tiny church in one of the remote mountain villages we visited.  They had never seen light skinned, light haired people before, and they kept running their fingers through our hair in amazement. I also have a vivid memory of one of these little boys literally scampering up a banana or coconut tree to get the fruit. :)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

An evening walk

Enjoyed the contrast of an old tree and queen anne's lace on a walk this evening.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

He makes me smile.

All I did was ask my son to stand so I could get a picture of him with the Florida panther-- he added the ferocious roar himself just as I was clicking the camera.  ;)

Gotta love the aviators, too. :)

By the way, if you're in our area and enjoy nature, the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary is worth your time.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Thoughts on God's will...

Recently I read Elisabeth Elliot's book, God's Guidance: Finding His Will for Your Life.  There is so much good in the book,  I decided to highlight a few paragraphs that especially stood out to me.  Elisabeth Elliot has such clear, simple faith.


On God's timing 

When I review "all the way which the Lord my God hath led me"(Deut. 8:2)...I realize that nearly all of my trouble with finding out the will of God came because I wanted it too soon.  I like to plan.  I like to have things mapped out well in advance, and uncertainty of any sort puts me on edge.  Perhaps it is for this very reason God has often asked me to wait until the last minute, right up to what looked like the screaming edge, before I found out what he wanted me to do.  My acceptance of his timing was a rigorous exercise in trust.  I was tempted to charge the Lord with negligence and inattention, like the disciples in the boat in a storm.  They toiled frantically until the situation became impossible, and then instead of asking for Jesus' help they yelled, "Master, don't you care that we're drowning?" (Mark 4:38 PHILLIPS) They weren't perishing, they were panicking.  It was not too late.  Jesus got up and merely spoke to the wind and sea.

On that other occasion, many centuries earlier, when the power of God to command water was what was needed to lead his people, the priests of Israel actually had to get their feet wet before God did anything.  Why does he put us to this kind of test? Probably to give us the chance to make a conscious act of faith, often a specific, physical act, a move of some kind toward him. "And when ...the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water.....the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap..." (Joshua 3:15-16 RSV)

 On discerning God's will in light of our relationships 
(p. 82)

I have said earlier that God often isolates a man in order to reveal himself.  It is when alone that a man most clearly recognizes God for who he is.  But it is in relationship with his fellowmen that he comes to know himself.  Seeking the will of God as though it had nothing to do with anybody else leads to all kinds of distortions. 

 On God's will in light of our circumstances 
(pp. 86,87)

Circumstances are without a question a part of God's will.  "We know that to those who love God, who are called according to his plan, everything that happens fits into a pattern for good." (Romans 8:28 PHILLIPS) This is a sweeping statement. But if God is in control of the big things, he has to be in control of the little things.  He "pulls strings through circumstances," Jim Elliot wrote.  It is a normal assumption of faith that he will use circumstances to nudge me in the right direction.

But we have to use our heads.  I hope that, in studying the divine principles, we have not forgotten the importance of the human principle of common sense.  The intelligence we have is a gift from God; the circumstances in which we find our selves he controls. Obviously, we have to bring our intelligence as well as our faith to bear on those circumstances.

"I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.  Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle." (Psalm 32:8,9 RSV)