Category Archives: Hope

The light that shines….

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It was dark the morning the doctor called in January, 2001.  I was 38, had 6 sons–ages 9 down to 1.5, home schooled, and my husband had been in his new job, in our new city, only 2 years.  Life was busy.  But that morning life stopped.

” sad to tell you.” “unusual cells.”  “mammogram, ultra sound, biopsy.”  the boys clattered around me, breakfast buzzing, diapers changing, charles putting on his tie.  i was in another time zone, inwardly screaming to be released back into the chaos of the day.

the destruction of my body and spirit has left deep scars even to this day.  i have never felt that i have been restored to the person before the scars and i know that is part of the plan.  scarred people, aware of the deep pain of this world, often see the scars of others more quickly and possibly bend the knee more readily.

Today I came across this story.  Another “Jill’s” story and how she is using it for good.  She calls her video “The light that shines,” and as I thought about that I thought of the verse in John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”  Today, if there is a shadow of darkness in your life, remember that it can never, ever extinguish the light of Christ in your soul.  If you feel fearful, different, ashamed, tired, imperfect, unimportant, unappreciated…turn to the light.  Do not walk any deeper into that cave.  Turn to the light.

This is the testimony of one lady who is shining light through and out of her darkness.  One thing I love is that this woman’s friend speaks not just of the struggles of the scars of breast cancer, but also about the scars of being “different” as a woman in any way. Watch the video:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/01/jill-brzezinski-conley-sue-bryce-breast-cancer-photos_n_2599843.html?ir=Women

Like a child…

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Definitely one of my most amazing, humbling “mommy” moments….Our 12 year old had been asking questions about God:  “How do people know God is answering their prayers?,” “How does someone know if their friend is really a Christian?” “How do you know all these verses in the Bible?”  On this particular afternoon, I sat on our den rug with the Big Book I love and many others that help me understand it.  He sat down beside me and began with his beautiful, honest inquiries of the mystery.  We talked…often my answer was, “You probably need to ask your dad (the most dear believer I know) that.”  There was a pause and with tears in his eyes, he said, “I want to know God like you and dad do.”

As I put this dear one to bed months later, I noticed his devotional on his bedside table, bookmarked to the day.  Picking it up, I asked if he read it every night.  He answered yes.  We read that day’s devotional together.  Then he said, “I usually read the devotional of the day as well as the one I read the day before…can we do that?”  After we read the previous day’s devotional, he said, “Want to know my favorite day?  It’s February 12.”   I turned to Feb. 12 and saw he had underlined a quote from God, “Let Me become the desire of your heart.” I told him I wished I knew God like he did.

“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.  Mark 10:15-16

Today…take your complicated problems to God with simple faith and He will bless you too. He is able to do even more than you ask.  Ask Him to cause you to desire Him above all else.

The ram….

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I keep thinking about the ram.  When the old man decided to obey God, he wasn’t thinking about rams.  When he took the first painful steps of obedience, he didn’t know a ram was beginning the climb on the other side.  When sweat beaded on his brow from the exertion of the climb-certainly- but mostly from his “yes” to God, he didn’t realize the ram was easily taking the heights as well.  When the questions blared in his own mind and then from his only son, he didn’t know the answers.  He kept climbing the staggering, uneven Way…knowing his God…but not knowing about the ram.  When, with wearying strength, he lifted the knife to kill his very heart, he had no idea the ram was right there, on the other side of the most difficult peak he had ever faced.  Then, “HE LOOKED UP.”  He “looked up”…and he knew what God had known all along…i keep thinking about that ram.  It’s something to think about…                                               Genesis 22

 

 

For my 30-day devotional on the life of Abraham, as well as notes from my battle with breast cancer, click “Bible Studies” under “Categories” to the right of this post.

Also, if you’d like to receive notices of my posts, you can click “Follow.”  I’d love to share this journey with you….

God’s “No”

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Apparent silence from heaven can seem so loud and painful at times.  When the marriage continues to be difficult, finances fail, health lacks, or childlessness continues, we wonder if God even hears our pleas.  Because of the sacrifice of Christ, we know He always hears us and has a plan for us, even when His answer is ‘no’ to our present prayer.  

                       God’s “NO”

He whispers sweetly, “Yes,” when I kneel to pray.                  

Happy and at peace, I go along my way.

 

But when He says, “No, my dear, My answer’s for your best,”

I wonder, ‘Did He really hear?’ and I weep without His rest.

 

A loving God saying, “No” to me sounds cruel and unfair,

Why such a strange dichotomy, He seems truly not to care.

 

Fear, an unpleasant companion, becomes a consuming fire,

My eyes stray from my Champion, my situation grows more dire.

 

Increasingly desperate, emotions tighten their grasp,

My demand has made us “seperate,” His hand I long to clasp.

 

A little comprehension dawns–why His “no” was hard and fast,

The truth speaks from eternity, “It is for treasures that will last.”

 

His “no” is indeed a megaphone:  “This ‘bad’ I won’t make untrue,

Light on it I have shone, it’s out of love for you.”

 

So even though the “thorn” has stayed, He swears His glory to lift,

For a “no” to the very thing I prayed, has been the greatest gift.

 

Google Search: How to Worry…

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Well, I finally found one question to which Google has no answer:  How does one worry?  It’s just not in there….every answer given, all the pithy techniques suggested, all the medications mentioned are to help one STOP worrying.  For some reason an instructional site on “worry” doesn’t exist.  There isn’t a professional making tons of money telling us to repeatedly think unproductive thoughts, imagining the worst outcome possible.

Do you know how to worry?  I do.  My husband and I joke that as soon as the umbilical cord is cut, parents’ begin their life-long job of worrying.  The truth is, I was an expert at worry way before the first baby arrived, before the “I dos,” before the Friday night dates, the first rental, the final exams, and the freshman 15.  I never read it in a book and no one tutored me in worrying.  I just had what seemed to be an “inevitable knack for sustaining wearisome, anxious thoughts about things I may or may not be able to change.”  Let’s say it’s just one of my many talents.  Unfortunately, I often find the “what-if” and “if-only” thoughts sapping me physically, taxing me mentally, and dragging me down emotionally.  How about you?

Here’s the GREAT news…If you know how to worry, you already know the cure!   The Bible says, “Don’t fret or worry.  Instead of worrying, pray.  Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns.  Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.  It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”  (Phil. 4:6-7, The Message)

If we know how to worry, we know how to pray continually.  Worry becomes a habit, just as does anything we repeat over and over.  Instead of  trying to figure out what should happen, how things should go, what the timing should be, why not shape these worries into prayers by replacing them with petitions and praises based on all the promises that are “yes” in Jesus Christ.

Sometimes I’ll remind one of the boys about things he needs to take care of and he inspires my confidence when he responds, “Mom, I got this.”  When I’m trying to remind God what He should be doing through my worrying, I remember on the cross He said, “Jill, I got this.”

Wounds more than Words…

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I told her I had dealt with depression before too.  Or rather, it had dealt with me.  Unfolding crossed arms, she leaned closer and asked about the hands that had carried me through.  I told her they were scarred.  Our God, I shared, is the only God–among all those who claim to be–to point to His scars.

For Jesus said to Thomas, “Reach here your finger and see my hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.” (Jn. 20:27)     It was His resurrected body, yet He still had wounds.  Rather than hide them, He revealed them to His doubting friend as proof of who He really was.

“Doubting” friends often approach Jesus as Thomas did. They long to see the wounds in those of us who are resurrected with Christ. Perfect people and places are entertaining, but offer little in the way of new life Frequently, it is the very limp in our walk, the tremor in our voice, the path of pain which leads others to declare, as Thomas did, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn. 20:28)

My friend hasn’t yet made that declaration. Our mutual brokenness has been a bridge for me to begin to show her the Way. When some believe upon hearing the Word, others have to touch our wounds.

Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio

Real Hope in the Shadows…

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I’m sitting by the fire.  The house is quiet.  All the boys just grabbed up lunches, backpacks, projects and reports and headed out the door.  Sweet pastor-husband gave a peck on the cheek and a squeeze of the hand as he stepped out into the cold.  I clean eggs out of bowls, gather piles of laundry and start up all the ‘machines’ (I’m so thankful for the machines!)  I light the fire, collect my books, including the big one I love so much.  Just before I settle down to talk to God, I pour coffee into my “hope” mug, given me by a dear friend.

I love this mug.  Every morning I fill it and, with varying degrees of intensity, I think about the word on the front. It always brings encouragement.  Pastor-husband often fills it for me and whispers, “Start your day with hope.”

I think about my day: the plumber coming, school supplies to purchase, the three things I forgot at the grocery store yesterday to be remembered today, bills to pay, dinner, and hope.  “We are merely moving among shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it.  And, so Lord, where do I put my hope?  My only hope is in you.” (Psalm 39:6-7, New Living Translation).

I walk among the shadows and they clamor for my attention, my devotion, my hope.  They promise happiness and joy…the shadows of wealth, pride, beauty, health, control, & pleasures promise and promise and promise.  I’ve often believed them, striving, reaching, working to accomplish that which offers “the promised land,” only to find a shriveling soul and the echoing question, “Am I happy yet?”  I long for the garden without the fall, and in the end, “hope deferred makes the heart sick.” (Prov. 13:12)  The self-deception and the sick soul remind me that the True Hope is calling me.

And the mystery comes alive.  “Christ, in me…Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27)  As His kindness leads me to repentance, His presence brings me the fulness of joy I had turned from. His light casts out all the shadows.

I sit by the fire, His word in my hands, my “hope” mug beside me.  I think about the things we frequently “talk” about together.  I keep asking Him to give me women to share the real hope with, and He is answering in amazing ways.  I sit and wonder, will I be able to explain it to them?  Will I be able to answer their questions, build a relationship, draw them with love?  I’m nervous, I want to shy away, to make an excuse, to be devoted some other way…. ANY other way.  I want it, but I don’t.  And He shows me false hopes again…hopes in myself to “share the Gospel right,” to avoid embarrassment and to skirt failure.  His word reminds me again that it’s HIM in me, NOT me in me and I say with Paul:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,            

who according to His great mercy has caused us to be

born again to a living hope through the resurrection

of Jesus Christ from the dead…” I Pet. 1:3

I’m filled with true pleasure, great excitement, thrilling anticipation as I wait to see just what He’ll do!

Beginning to sink….

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Sinking.  It’s a bad feeling.  On the way down we feel ourselves begin to suffocate!  Sinking can only happen if we have stepped out onto the water, like Peter.  It is only experienced after one has actually been afloat…and then something happens.  The wind, pelting rain, isolation– everyone else stays in the boat, like ‘reasonable’ people, and we begin to falter.  We’ve all experienced it one way or another.  Income decreases, healing is delayed, relationships are difficult, pain continues, the way is lost in the midst of life, the storm stirs and sinking ensues…

Circumstances definitely rock the boat, but in the story of Peter’s sinking, it wasn’t the outside influence of the wind which caused him to begin to sink.  It was his response to the wind: Fear.  It could be any number of responses other than faith which tie a rock to our ankle and cause us to begin to sink: discouragement, self-righteous anger, resolve to take control, humiliation, apathy, pride.  The bottom line is that Peter doubted the One who called him to step out onto the liquid floor. I can definitely relate to Peter; even this morning as I sat at God’s feet, I laid my fears there, only to snatch them up again with the next breath. Experiencing the winds of life often brings some form of mis-trust of the Savior and I, like Peter, deny Christ.  There is a lot to learn from Peter.  But, the One to really observe in this story is Jesus.

Look at Jesus.  Look at His response to Peter.

The passage tells us, “And beginning to sink, [Peter] cries out, ‘Lord, save me!’  Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and took hold of him.”  Amy Carmichael, missionary to China, wrote on this passage, “How many seconds lie between a man’s beginning to sink, and his actual sinking?  A single second or less, I suppose.  How swift, then, was the movement of love!  And as He was, so He is.” 

Jesus saved Peter.  He called Peter to experience the height of the joy of faith and obedience.  He also let Peter experience the fierce wind, the severe rain, the rocking waves. Jesus had not changed between Peter’s joy and fear, Peter’s focus had.  So it is with me, and maybe you.  When I choose to focus on the wind instead of Jesus, I begin to sink.  As my ankles begin to get wet, I am reminded I have only one sure life boat.  Jesus.

David, King of Israel, tells us over and over about times he felt he was sinking.  Every time David doubts, he, like Peter, cries out to God.  One particular time is recorded in Psalm 60.  David’s people are experiencing defeat– ‘the wind,’ so to speak.  David cries out to God, “Save with Thy right hand and hear me.”  Charles Spurgeon comments on this prayer saying that God begins the business of saving even before the prayer is finished.  Immediately.

A bit earlier in the Bible, a short story in 2 Kings tells of a borrowed axehead dropping into the river and sinking.  The servant who had borrowed the axehead is distressed.  He asks for help from God’s man, the prophet Elisha.  Elisha threw a stick into the water and God caused the axehead to float so that it could be recovered.

If God is so concerned with a borrowed axehead sinking and causes it to float, just think what He can and will do for His own who begin to sink.  An axehead, David’s army, Peter, a man, a woman, me, you.  He reaches out His hand to save.  Saving is His business. He is not too slow and nothing is too small.

There is hope in His outstretched hand and His loving heart.

My dreams true in You…

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While out walking today, thinking of things I have hoped for in life that failed, dreams I dreamt that never came true… I thought, “want what is” and I began thinking how God has used unrealized dreams throughout my life and in the lives of others for His glory.  Once home, He gave me this poem…(unfortunately, because of the blog site I use, I cannot format it as I want, but it’s a quick read, even though it looks long!  Sorry!)

a little girl,

eyes so wide

a great big world,

all mine

a young girl,

full of energy

so much to see-

so much to be

dreaming big

on my own,

of life and love

and things unknown

what will i do

what will it mean–

make an impact

keep dreaming dreams

making a living

striving for life–

doing big things

and doing them ‘right’

when will it happen

who will he be–

the one i desire

to love and to marry

things go along

but not as I imagined

trying to be strong

as disappointments happen

a woman half way

dreams have been shattered,

all that i longed for

didn’t seem to matter

but i never imagined

something so grand,

life i never dreamed

led by Your hand

for through all the dreams

that never came true,

there was more than i hoped

in discoveries of You

no shadow of turning

all promises true,

i found more than i longed for

as i traveled with You

it was all too weak–

the dreams that i dreamt,

for this life full of meaning

instead of just spent

now one dream

so beautiful and true–

an amazing life

lived in You

all that’s unrealized

the dreams gone untrue

have been the path

for dreams true in You.

Thank You, Jesus

jdh

*Bible Study/devotional coming late May–great for summer:  Dreams True in You:  The Life of Joseph

Beware of falling rocks…

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Driving home from Birmingham this week, I noticed a road sign, “Beware of falling rocks.”  Hmmm…what does one do with such a warning?  Should I pull over and park and look up for falling rocks?  Should I slow down so that I can swerve and miss the rocks?  Or should I speed up, trying to outrun the potential avalanche?

Sometimes we are tempted in life to worry about ominous falling rocks.  The temptations usually come in the form of “what ifs.”  “What if our child never turns back to the Lord,” “What if our finances continue to be a struggle,” “What if I can’t make amends with that friend.”    Such worry is as useless as the warning, “Beware of falling rocks.” There is no action step we can take, nothing positive in wondering, “what if.”

What ifs can paralyze and cause us to “park, stopping any progress in our walk of faith.  Or our fears may cause us to be so cautious that we never step out and dare to live fully for God.  Or maybe our “what ifs” make us so afraid of failure that we run at full speed, accomplishing the urgent at the expense of the eternal.

Jesus said, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or drink, or your body, what you will put on.  Isn’t life worth more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not worth much more than they?  Matthew 6:25-26

As I thought about all my worries, God reminded me to look up, not for falling rocks, but to look at the birds and to thank Him.