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Entries in Hope (7)

Thursday
Apr132017

Gasp: A Relationship's Last Breath

Cythia Ruchti is a hope-lover, hope giver and hope promoter. In this Relationship UPGRADE, she offers hope for all human relationships (and our ultimate relationship with the Lord).

"Who sits sipping coffee when a dying man or woman lies on the hardwood floor of the coffee shop or the breakroom at the office?" Cynthia says. "Even people with minimal skills know that someone needs to start CPR, call 911, and ask, 'Is there a doctor in the house?'"

At first, I (Dawn) thought this sounded a little like the beginning of a mystery, but knowing Cynthia, I figured it was more likely a powerful life lesson. I was not disappointed!

Cynthia continues . . . 

With relationships—marriage, parent/child, friendships—isn’t that what we too often do?

We sit idly by, caring but not responding.

“That’s for the professionals.” As if that absolves us of the responsibility to act, to do something, even if our skills are amateur at best, even if all we know about CPR is what we’ve seen on TV dramas.

But sometimes the last gasp occurs before the professionals arrive on the scene.

And sometimes the relationship in trouble is our own.

It’s been said that the number one killer of relationships is neglect.

  • How many friendships would still be alive if years, distance, and neglect hadn’t gotten in the way?
  • How many parent/child relationships could be strong and vital, life-giving, if given more attention when they started to fade?
  • How many marriages list “neglect” as one of the reasons for their “failure to thrive”?

Although the following scripture specifically speaks to a community’s forsaking or neglecting their relationship with God, doesn’t it also give a gripping word picture of the way we handle distance in marriage relationships or friendships?

“For our fathers…have forsaken Him and turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the LORD, and have turned their backs. They have also shut the doors of the porch and put out the lamps…” (2 Chronicles 29:6-9 NASB).

What a poignant visual! Leaving a porch light on is an expression of hope. He will come home. She will return. We will be okay. We’ll get through this. It may be long into the night, but we’re going to make it.

In this incident in the Bible, the people had boldly extinguished all evidence of hope. Lights off. We’re done.

After decades of marriage, my husband and I still disagree. Shocking, isn’t it? But even when our disagreements reach what seem to be impossible impasses, neither one of us reaches to shut off the porch light, because hope lingers in our commitment to one another.

Most MARRIED couples can recite the list of relationship CPR (Caring enough to Proactively Resuscitate) instructions:

  1. Maintain frequent date nights, even if you’re empty nesters. Get away from the house and its responsibilities for a while to focus on each other.
  2. Set aside an extended period of time for a getaway at least once a year.
  3. Be intentional about what the other person needs, honoring him (or her) above yourself (See Philippians 2:3. Check out the Phillips version—“Live together in harmony, live together in love, as though you had only one mind and one spirit between you. Never act from motives of rivalry or personal vanity, but in humility think more of each other than you do of yourselves. None of you should think only of his own affairs, but should learn to see things from other people’s point of view.”)
  4. Learn and respect your mate’s love language.

What would that list look like if our connection WITH GOD is the relationship that’s been neglected, left gasping?

  1. Re-establish a regular time to leave all other concerns behind and focus on listening to Him.
  2. Make it a priority to create an extended time for aloneness with the One you love. A silent retreat. A day-long or week-long sabbatical from other responsibilities. Unplugging. Fasting.
  3. Set your own needs aside to concentrate on what God wants from you—worship, adoration, devotion…
  4. Learn and respect God’s love language—OBEDIENCE (John 14:15).

If your human relationships or your connection with God are gasping for air, what CPR measures do you intend to implement?

Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed-in-hope, an ever-lit porch light hope, through her award-winning novels, novellas, devotions, nonfiction, and through speaking events for women and writers. She and her grade-school sweetheart husband live in the heart of Wisconsin, not far from their three children and five (to date) grandchildren. Her latest novel is A Fragile Hope (Abingdon Press). In June, Worthy Publishing releases her book of encouragement and reflections called As My Parents Agehttp://www.cynthiaruchti.com/books/a-fragile-hope/.

Graphic: adapted, Click at Morguefile.

Tuesday
Sep272016

5 Ways to Hope When Life Hurts

Lina Abujamra is a pediatric ER doctor and she's seen a lot of "hurts" in life, but in this Attitude UPGRADE, she offers practical counsel for hope through the tears.

"Wouldn't it be nice if we could take a pill to make the pain go away? But things are never that simple," Lina says. "Some days feel like torture, and it hurts."

Oh, yes, I (Dawn) have looked for that magical bottle of pills; but Lina says there is real hope—we just have to know where to find it. (This article is longer than the usual UPGRADE posts, but I think this is a message so many of us need to hear today.)

Lina continues . . .

Motivational speakers try to teach us to use positivity to overcome our pain. But I've found myself in places in my life where no amount of positive mental thinking will work me out of my pit of despair.

Hope is more than a positive mental attitude. God has given us far more than positivity. He's given us His Son who demonstrated victory by rising from the dead. He's given us His Spirit to enable us to live out the Christian life the way He lived out His: victoriously and triumphantly.

Yet so many of us are failing. I'm embarrassed to tell you how often I've crumbled under the pressure of pain. This crumbling reveals itself in a variety of shapes and forms of my life: misplaced anger, inpatient frustration, whining and complaining, and once in a while, the pit of self-pity and even a few potholes of despair.

But this is not the end of the story.

It was a seven-mile walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus, and on that day the walk felt like an interminable journey of sorrow. (Read Luke 24:13-27).  The two disciples were weighed down by their pain. They had expected God to do the impossible. They had expected the Messiah to take over the world.

Suddenly a man came walking up alongside them. The man was Jesus risen from the dead, but the disciples had not been given the ability to recognize him yet.

They told Him what they were talking about: "Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him" (vv. 19-20).

But the worst was yet to come. The disciples then uttered three fatal words of defeat that were the nail on the coffin of their pain: "But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel" (verse 21).

We. Had. Hoped.

Have you ever uttered these three words of hopelessness, not knowing that victory was already on the way? Have you ever misinterpreted the most painful event in your life without any idea of the miracle God was already working out on your behalf?

I can't keep track of the times that I've given up on God and twisted things around in my head and assumed that my pain was final, that I'd been defeated, while all along God was walking right next to me, preparing the victory for me. You too?

The disciples on the road to Emmaus had put a period were God had put a comma.

They had written off the Lord when God hadn't even started yet. They had sunk into despair when hope was on the way.

It's easy to talk about the life that is unshaken when everything is going well.

People flocked to Jesus when he fed the 5000 and cure diseases. It was at the cross that everyone fled. That's what pain will do. It tests our mettle. It crystallizes what we really believe.

Anyone can boast in the Lord when their dreams have come true and their prayers have been answered. The challenge is to stand strong when life is hard, to hope when hope looks dead.

There are four things I know for sure:

  • Pain exist.
  • Pain has a cause.
  • Pain can be treated but it's far better to treat its cause.
  • Pain doesn't have to define you.

We can talk about the resurrection until we're blue in the face, but the way to show if we really believe it is by watching how we respond to the pain in our lives. When it comes to using the pain in your life as fuel for godliness, here are a few tools you can use for victorious living.

Five Painkillers You Can Use:

1. Lighten Up on the Clichés.

Clichés are nothing more than old-fashioned tweets. Pithy quotes might motivate us for a minute, but their effect is short-lived. What we need is life change.

What I long for is the transformed, powerful life that Christ promised us. We need upside-down, inside-out radical living that no litany of clichés will produce, but is rightfully ours in Christ Jesus by faith. The more of God's Word that we hide in our hearts, the more it will give us strength when we need it the most.

2. Let Go of the Blame Game.

When a kid comes into the ER with a cut, families get caught up in how it happened and whose fault it was. The truth is that it doesn't matter who did what. There's a cut, and it hurts, and it must be fixed.

When Adam and Eve sinned, Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent, but the fact remains that all of us humans are still suffering because of today. Instead of blaming each other, Adam and Eve should've acknowledged the wrong and accepted God's mercy, then adapted to their new normal outside of Eden.

When Job went through his painful trials, his wife begged him to blame God and his friends blamed him for his own problems. Unlike Adam and Eve, Job was innocent and had done nothing to deserve his pain, yet the blame game was just as much a part of Job story as it was for our first parents.

Blaming someone else for pain is natural and gives us a temporary sense of control. It might even help us come up with an explanation for the pain. But it doesn't work.

What works far better than the blame game is recognizing God's sovereign control over our lives.

It's understanding that God didn't find Adam and Eve in the garden to shame them but rather to cover them. It's accepting Christ forgiveness for sin. It's extending that same forgiveness to those who seem to be the cause of her pain.

3. Get Off the Self-pity Train.

Self-pity is defined as a self-indulgent attitude concerning our hardships. The problem with self-pity is that it believes it has been wronged. It's an attitude that dislocates the Christian from a sovereign God Who is behind every detail and circumstance.

Charles Spurgeon once said, "God is too good to be unkind. He is too wise to be confused. If I cannot trace His hand, I can always trust his heart."

The biggest lie that Satan will throw your way is the God doesn't care about you anymore, and self-pity slowly feeds that lie. God does care about you (1 Peter 5:7). The self-pity train can kill you if you don't guard against its lies with the truth of God's Word. It's time you jump off that train and run toward grace.

4. Bury Your Past at the Cross.

Paul killed Christians before he became a Christ-follower. Yet God used Paul to write the bulk of the New Testament and to build the church. How did Paul deal with his past? His solution was to bury his past at the foot of the cross (Philippians 3:13-14).

It's time to get rid of the Rolodex of sin. Failure is the best teacher you'll ever find. Learn from it, then let it go.

Your past might be part of who you are, but it has no power over you. Use it to rejoice in God's mercy and grace and move onward and upward. Use it as your platform to highlight God's love and grace and watch God use your past to change your world like He did with the apostle Paul!

5. Leave Your Fears to God.

Pain and fear are often inseparable. What is it that you are afraid of? God's plan isn't to hurt you through your pain but to shape you through it (Proverbs 25:4).

Like a perfect Potter, He works and reworks the clay until it seems good to Him (Jeremiah 18:4). He molds the clay until reflects the beauty He is after.

This process is called sanctification. It's God's work in you through your pain to make you more Christlike. It's a work God started the moment you gave your life to Him and is committed to complete when you finally see Jesus face-to-face.

There comes a time in your life when nothing will do but God Himself—when only the Lord can make sense out of your pain and confusion. Only He can rescue you. Only He understands the depth of your pain.

When the disciples on the road to Emmaus had lost hope, Jesus rebuked them (Luke 24:25-26). Life is never as hopeless as we make it out to be. We are never as alone as we feel. Things are never as unclear as we think.

If we look at the facts too long without a measure of faith, we will sink into despair, and the only way to build our faith is through the living Word of God. When you look at the painful facts in your life to the lens of God's promises, you will find hope for the future.

Few things will change our world like our resolve to hope when it hurts too much. Few things will radically transform our world like our resolve to believe God when everything screams against Him.

Hope has a way of showing up when we're not looking for it. When it does, anything can happen.

Which of these "painkillers" could increase your hope today?

Lina AbuJamra is a Pediatric ER doctor, author, and speaker. Her passion is to apply her life-saving, decision-making, and hope-giving skills from the Emergency Room to rescue and recover people from spiritually deadly situations. She has written three books: Thrive: The Single Life as God IntendedStripped: When God’s Call Turns from Yes to Why Me?; and Resolved: 10 Ways to Stand Strong and live What You Believe. You can connect with her daily at livingwithpower.org.

This post was adapted from Chapter 9 in Lina’s book, Resolved: 10 Ways to Stand Strong and Live What You Believe (Baker Books, 2016).     

Thursday
Jun232016

Breathe Life! How to Upgrade Hope

Pam Farrel is a pro when it comes to applying biblical truth to the tough situations of life. In this Relationship UPGRADE, she inspires us to "breathe life" and hope wherever we can.

"God is a specialist at breathing life into seemingly hopeless situations," Pam Farrel says.

And there is the secret. Although Pam is a relationship expert, the best "specialist" in hope is the Lord, and Pam encourages us to tap into that power source.

Pam continues . . .

My grandmother scarred her lungs rushing into a barn on fire to rescue animals. As an elderly woman, she needed her oxygen tank to breathe life into her.

In a similar way, God wants us to be those who breathe life into difficult moments—and sometimes into difficult people!  

The Lord, Himself, is the breath of life:

 “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being”  (Gen 2:7 NKJV).

 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.  And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else" (Acts 17:24–25).

God wants us to be more like Him, more of a life-giver.

In Deuteronomy 30:19-20, God’s heart is evident :

"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."

This “choose life” principle can be extended to apply to all kinds of situations: the seeming death of a dream, the spiraling downward of the life of someone you love, a business on a decline or in any situation that feels stuck or hopeless.

Seek to breathe life by simply asking:

  • What would bring life to this situation?
  • What would bring life to this person?
  • Who has the skills, talents, time, and/or energy to resuscitate or revive this circumstance (or person) to bring life?

Most recently, our family saw this “life-giver” philosophy change a situation that seemed beyond hopeless.

My father-in-law is 86 and he had fallen. He was being released from a convalescent home, but he was not strong enough to function in his home—and my 86-year-old mother-in-law was too feeble to give the kind of care needed.

We had a full speaking schedule and it is our sole income, and thousands of people in our audiences would be impacted if we cancelled, so it was near impossible for either Bill or me to be the caregiver. (We were willing, but it felt impossible.)

However, we knew both mom and dad would be more comfortable if the caregiver could be someone they already knew.

Our youngest son, Caleb, came to us and said, “I believe God has called me to breathe life into Grandpa’s situation.”

Caleb was a recent graduate from an engineering program, and he had three weeks available to use before moving to another state for his Master’s program. Caleb was football player and had just completed building a block home on the mission field—so he was strong enough to carry his grandfather. Also, because Bill’s father was an aerospace engineer, the two already had much in common.  

Caleb moved in, was trained by all the health care professionals, and began to rehab his grandfather. In addition, those two engineers redesigned doorways and gates, a patio, a desk and a wheelchair to make them more user-friendly for Dad. 

Caleb is such a workhorse that when he wasn’t caring for grandpa, he rebuilt the patio, a ramp, a gate and several other areas of their home to help give Dad independence and access.

In just two weeks, Dad went from what appeared to be death’s door, to stronger mentally and physically than we had seen him function in several decades.

Caleb breathed vibrant life into the situation!

Who can you breathe life into today?

Pam Farrel is the author of 45 books, an international speaker, and relationship expert who seeks to breathe life into people’s most vital relationships through the ministry she runs with her husband, Love-Wise. Today’s blog is adapted from her newest book, 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman: Success At Keeping It All Together.

Graphic: adapted, courtesy of Jan Schultz, Webdesigner Stuttgart, Unsplash.

Tuesday
Mar152016

Women Who Love Lavishly

With her book Fantastic after 40!, Pam Farrel encouraged me years ago as I entered my "seasoned" years, but this Relationship UPGRADE is a message for women at any age!

"Women who know how to love lavishly, heartily, fervently, faithfully and artfully are women people want to be around," Pam says.

That phrase "love lavishly" captured my (Dawn's) heart. What woman doesn't want to know how to love lavishly?

Pam continues . . .

As we learn to love lavishly, over and over again, we will find it changes us; and as we look into the mirror, we'll find we like the woman looking back in our reflection.

Let's take a closer look at love through the eyes of three angel reminders: Faith, Hope and Love.

1. The Angel of Faith

Women who love lavishly have an ability to see the potential, the positive and the promise—not the problem.

Hebrews 11:1:

"Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality [faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses" (Amplified).

Faith is like a post-dated check. We can't get our hands on the money yet, but we know one day we will.

In the same way, a woman of faith sees the promise as good as reality. Her faith helps her function in the realm of "what can be."

Your vision is focused by faith-colored glasses, and those glasses help you look better too, my dear!

1. The Angel of Hope

Hope can be hard to nail down. What does hope look like? What does hope act like? What would be a working definition of hope?"

When I am trying to grasp a big picture principle or wrap my mind around a difficult-to-understand truth I often will read about it: (1) in context of the entire passage of scripture it is in and (2) look at many translations or paraphrases of the Bible of that same verse.

Galatians 5:5-6 says:

"For we through the Spirit by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love" (NASB).

In The Message, Eugene Peterson interprets these same verses this way:

"Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit, for in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love."

Women who love lavishly have a hope that waits expectantly.

  • Hope is the feeling you had as a kid on Christmas Eve, the day before the last day of school, or the morning you went school shopping for that fresh box of crayons and new outfit for the class picture.
  • Hope is excited about life. Hope is enthusiastic. Hope is energetic.
  • Hope throws confetti before the parade begins.
  • Hope sends out the party invitations months before, or sometimes years before, the celebration will be held.
  • Hope holds on and holds out for life's best.
  • Hope looks for the creative way to keep a promise of love.

3. The Angel of Love

Love is easy to define and hard to live out. But at least God provided a model for us (Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:4-5; 1 John 4:9-11; John 3:16)

Love is always others-centered. Love chooses to give rather than take. Love is the fuel injected into another's dream.

Love seeks to understand, give compassion, guidance or boundaries—whatever is necessary for the person who is the recipient of love to reach her God-given potential.

Lavish love is like infinity; it just keeps extending all that is good, kind and true forever, not because a person deserves it, but just because it is right to be loving.

Which role of an "angel" is easiest for you? Which is hardest? Select one—faith, hope or love—and think of a creative way to express that action to someone in your world this week.

Pam Farrel is a challenger, cheerleader and coach. With her husband Bill, the Farrels are international speakers, and authors of more than 40 books including Pam's newest, 7 Simple Skills for Every Woman. Other books include: Men are like Waffles, Women are like Spaghetti; Woman of Influence; 10 Best Decisions a Woman Can Make;10 Secrets to Living Smart, Savvy and Strong; and Becoming a Brave New Woman. The Farrels are relationship specialists who help people become “Love-Wise ."

This post was adapted from Chapter 7 in Fantastic After 40!

The angel in the graphic is "Angel of the Heart," by Susan Lordi for Willow Tree / Demdaco, 2000.

Tuesday
Jan132015

Are You Flirting with Burnout or Action Addiction?

Joan Webb encourages women to breathe. She knows the stress our constant struggle for perfection can do to harm us, as she notes in this Attitude UPGRADE.

“Have you dreamed of slowing down,” Joan says, “but keep hearing your internal-bully whisper, ‘There’s no stinkin’ way you can do that!’”

      

Oh my. Joan, you’ve nailed one of my (Dawn’s) personal struggles. And you are pointing us to our true source of help.

Joan continues …

Perhaps you’re one of many in service-related careers or ministries who are on the fast track to burnout.

Just in case you wondering, here’s a good definition of burnout. 

Burnout is the type of stress and emotional fatigue that occurs when a series of (or combination of) events in a relationship, mission, way of life or job fail to produce an expected result.

Awareness is an important step in changing this self-defeating lifestyle of overworking, overdoing, over-helping and over-committing.

The following questionnaire can help you identify your need:

  • Do you have a difficult time relaxing?
  • Are you crankier than you used to be–even though you try hard to keep it to yourself?
  • Do you rush from one project to another?
  • Are you tired on an ongoing basis?
  • Do you feel increasingly depressed, anxious or hopeless?
  • Are you increasingly angry and don’t know why?
  • Do you spend less time with friends and family or in doing what you previously enjoyed?
  • Do you work hard and long, but accomplish less?
  • Is life (and/or your ministry) becoming a drag?

If you answered “yes” to several of these, you may be headed in the opposite direction of real life.

I know the prospect of changing is frightening and overwhelming, yet there is a way. Really.

The Bible says, “He [God] gives strength to the weary … those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:29, 31).

I felt positive that my commitment to hard work would bring me what I desired and was flabbergasted when I ran out of energy, enthusiasm and faith. Disillusioned, I asked: “Is there any hope for renewal?”

“Yes, Joan! Assured my loving Creator. “Though you stumble, you’ll one day soar on wings like an eagle, run and not grow weary, walk and not faith. Trust Me. I’ll renew your lost strength.”

I didn’t feel it or foresee it. I didn’t even have the strength to believe it, but since I couldn’t do it anymore, I stopped trying and left my stuff with God.

Miraculously, when I stopped striving, God took over.

There is HOPE … in the Lord.

(1) Admit your need.

(2) Ask God for guidance and insight.

(3) Seek help and resources.

(4) Take active steps to reshape your thoughts and behavior.

Then show someone you love (preferably a healthy, supportive person!) your responses to the questionnaire, above. Get honest, and then don’t back down.

God honors truth-telling, even if that truth—the reality facing you—feels negative.

There is life on the other side of burnout!

What do you do, where do you go—who do you seek—when you’re experiencing burnout? Have you sought the Lord, the source of hope?

Joan C. Webb is a speaker and author who has written thirteen books including The Intentional Woman (co-authored with Carol Travilla), The Relief of Imperfection: For Women Who Try Too Hard to Make It Just Right and a four book devotional series for children. As a Life Coach who specializes in working with writers and communicators, Joan helps set people free to become who they were designed to be and from what holds them back. For more information about becoming an intentional woman, visit Joan's website.

Note: Part of this post is an excerpt from It’s a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life, p. 24.

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net