Thursday, December 22, 2016

Peace is a gift..

Let there be peace on earth.

Such a simple request.

The search for peace can lead people from country to country, to God or away from Him, from one partner to the next.

And yet, peace is a gift. Not the peace the world gives but true peace. (John 14:27). The night Hope was born Love took on flesh and brought Joy into the world to bring us Peace.

Peace comes from Christ. 

The power of stillness is found deep within the soul. Looking around causes confusion which leads us away from peace. Those concerns that cause anxiety and stress need to be turned over to Christ. Wholeheartedly and completely. No hanging on in hopes of trying to work it out yourself. Present your requests to God with thanksgiving and a peace that transcends all understanding is promised to you. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Let go of striving and experience His peace this Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Are you feeling the joy?

The night Hope was born Love took on flesh and brought Joy into the world!

Are you feeling the joy? 

After a dark night of the soul the dawn of joy is such a relief.  My husband and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary this week. We've had our share of ups and downs over the years. Two stillbirths, one miscarriage, two live births, moving from the US to Russia, and then Russia to Belize and having all of our belongings stolen in the last move....what a journey it has been.

December 13th is our wedding anniversary. It is also the date that our first son was stillborn back in 1985 on our 4th anniversary. Sweet and bitter mingled over the years. Remembering the date brings us face to face with the realities of life. Part of that reality means facing death, facing heartache, facing fears. hoping for the best and accepting whatever comes our way.

Getting married at age 18 was a challenge. Armed with high school diplomas, optimism, and our love for one another we set out to conquer the world. Looking back on that rainy day in Wichita, Kansas I can see how young and naive we were.

It is only by God's grace that we have gotten this far.

As Christmas draws closer may you find reasons to rejoice. The wise men needed His star shining brightly in the heavens to point the way toward Him. Today just look into His word. Listen out for His voice if you're facing a dark night. His joy will come in the morning! I don't say that as a cliche. I say it from years of experience. Each storm we have faced has been followed by a rainbow. And each night is followed by daybreak. Although the night may be long, lift up your head and look to Him, and He will make your joy complete!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Where is the Love?

Loving unconditionally is hard work. 

Loving for a lifetime is a daily lesson in humility. 
It always amazes me how rapidly people on the Hallmark channel fall in love and resolve all their differences before the movie ends. 

A family misunderstanding that leads to years of estrangement. A rebellious child who runs away each time he's challenged to make a change in behavior. Arguments, hurt feelings, all resolved in 90 minutes so we can get to the happily ever after part, the part that makes us feel good inside. Sometimes leaving us wishing for the life those fictional characters are living instead of being stuck with life on life's terms. 

Where is the life of love for us real people, with real issues, and real relationships?

Each day in the counseling office, in the news, or on Facebook I hear about the pain that humans cause each other. Families, schools, workplaces, churches, and governments are filled with hurting people who hurt other people. 

And yet, It doesn't have to be that way...

Fortunately, the night Hope was born Love took on flesh.

He lived a life that forever models sacrificial unconditional love for all mankind. A life that revealed a perfect love that removes all need to fear. 

His standard of love requires making choices. Hard choices. 

Real love is difficult to find. Difficult to live out. Real love is an effort that reaches to the highest degree. Unconditional love doesn't ask, "what have you done for me lately?" Love in the highest degree seeks to meet the challenge to love in and through the hard times. 

May we each make the choice to love better, to love to the highest degree, to the end, one day at a time!


Thursday, December 1, 2016

When It Hurts to Hope

What do you do when it hurts too much to hope? When you feel tired, broken, and empty?

The psalmist in Psalm 42 has an answer for a soul that is bent over by the weight of the world…praise.



How do you give praise when you’re ready to declare emotional, physical, and spiritual bankruptcy? As a worship leader who is at this very moment battling with fatigue in all aspects of life I’m wondering how do I lead others to a place I’m struggling to reach?

Last year I wrote my first Christmas song and the opening line is, “Hope was born in a manger”. Hope is not something we can manufacture on our own. Hope was birthed through God’s choice to sacrifice His Son to redeem a broken world. Our true hope is found in the arms of the God of Hope.

When you’re too tired to pray, too broken to believe it will get better, and too empty to hold on to hope, don’t give up on God, simply acknowledge where you are in this moment. In this moment I cannot pretend to have it all together. I am clinging to words of hope I’ve read in His word. I know that God is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18). I acknowledge my brokenness. I know that God desires to give me rest from the burdens I have been carrying (Matthew 11:28). I acknowledge my need for rest. I know that God is already aware of how much I need Him. So like the psalmist I acknowledge my emptiness. (Psalm 42:1-3)

Many years ago I heard that if your body doesn’t get enough to drink it can send mixed signals to the brain. You might think you’re hungry when you’re actually thirsty. So it is in times of brokenness. When we are overwhelmed with life we think we need to shut out the world, including God. We have a desperate longing for hope but we look for it in things that don’t completely satisfy the true need. Meditating on the negative day after day and night after night…eating tears for food as the psalmist confessed in Psalm 42:3 is draining. We need a way to break out of the cycle of despair.  If you’re hungry for Hope take a drink of Living Water. Call out to God, spend time in His word, push through what you think you need, and partake of what you really need.

As I climb out of the pit I’ve found myself in, I’m using these five tips to praise my way back to Him:

1. Listen to praise music
2. Make a list of God’s characteristics
3. Read scriptures that relate to hope
4. Journal
5. Make a gratitude list

I’m not advocating that you ignore your feelings. I work as a counselor and regularly encourage people to feel their feelings and work through their issues. I’m acknowledging that for myself, the way out of brokenness is to spend time in His presence, the way out of tiredness is to find rest in Him, and the way out of emptiness is to fill up on Him. He lives within the praises of His people. Praise Him for Who He is and thank Him for what He has done in the past and ask Him for restoration of the soul.  I know that the God of Hope hears our prayers. And that knowledge is fanning the flame of hope in my heart right now!