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Entries in Hope (15)

Tuesday
May222018

Upgrade Your 'Hope Rope'

My friend Pam Farrel always inspires me, because I know her responses to life are sifted through the grid of biblical truth. In this UPLIFT post, she speaks of the kind of hope only the Lord can give.  The ripple of my husband’s compassionate care of his parents impacted me as I tried my best to hold up our life and ministry as Bill held up his parents," Pam said. "We were both at the end of our proverbial rope."

As I (Dawn) have observed several friends and family members dealing with cargiving issues in recent months, I can attest to the kinds of stresses the Farrels are going through these days. But Pam's faith and hope point "true north" spiritually, as you will see in her story.

Pam continues . . .             

I was weary—tired to the bone, drop-dead fatigued, completely exhausted, “can’t take even one more step”, “leave it all on the field” beat.

It seemed we were caught in the perfect storm, and the ship of our life was being tossed about on a tumultuous sea of unending responsibilities.It was a year of up and down swells.

The positive included constant travel for our speaking, including large chunks of time spent internationally—which we love; but travel takes a physical and mental toll.

We also had multiple book projects in various stages, which are all wonderful blessings of opportunity—but these highs were also mixed with Bill having long absences from our ministry office as he drove back and forth through grueling Southern California gridlock traffic for months on end. He was commuting to care for his aging parents, one frail of mind, the other frail of body. 

His folks were fiercely desiring to maintain the independence of living in their own home—which put an ever-growing weight on the shoulders of my compassionate husband.

The Lord’s Life Line

I know that the Word has some prescriptions for handling weariness.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him (Psalms 62:5).

…“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest(Mark 6:31).

The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest(Ex 33:14).

Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work (Ex 23:12).

I knew I needed a day off for rest, renewal, revival, rejuvenation—and recovery!

I am a part of a wonderful networking group called Professional Women’s Fellowship, and they were hosting a one-day retreat at a lovely private estate. I knew that I needed to get myself there (despite a looming book deadline).

I went begging God to speak to me and give me some HOPE!

I love this getaway because they minister to a person body, soul, mind and spirit. During the hour-long quiet time, I stretched out under the shade of a large tree near the pond. As I laid down on my stomach, spreading my journaling Bible open before me, I couldn’t help but notice that I was already seeing God be the Good Shepherd of Psalm 23.

He was making me lie down in a green “pasture” that was “beside still waters.” So, I continued to pray through Psalm 23:2-3:

Lord,  “refresh my soul….guide me along the right paths  for [Your] name’s sake.”  

Riggings of Rest and Recovery

I flipped opened my Bible to the Psalms, as I nearly always gain a measure of refreshing hope there. My Bible landed at Psalms 55:22:

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken....”

Immediately, I thought,

“Wow Lord, that was fast! This seems the perfect verse for me, but exactly what does it mean to “cast my cares” on You? How can I get better at doing it? And what does it mean that you will “sustain” me? —because I REALLY need some sustaining power! I know that my heart’s desire is to be “righteous”, and right now living “unshaken” is what I need, because I can’t see the circumstances changing all that quickly. Lord, I am open to Your message to me from Your Word.”

I had a smartphone with me, so I connect to my Logos Bible software to help me dig a little deeper into the context, the word meaning and historical frame around this verse.

I prayed out my weariness, then looked up what it meant to “cast” my burden. I was to hurl my net out like a fisherman. God was inviting me to catapult my burdens on to his net. (And I was happy to hurl them!)

As I continued to study, what surprised me is the word used for "burden" can also be translated “assignment” or “gift”.

I remember thinking, “A gift? Really?” (It was interesting that this word “gift” can also be translated “lot” or “allotment”, and is the same word as many of us pray from The Prayer of Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4:10: “…Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border…”  which means to pray the equivalent of “God bless me by giving me the full allotment You have planned for me”).

I was beginning to see how the “burden” was how I was seeing the “blessing” of the responsibility, or allotment God had for me.

It seemed to survive, I needed a paradigm shift to a more heavenly viewpoint.

But as I surveyed my “gift” (my assignment) from God, it seemed too big for one to ever carry alone, so I kept digging, doing more word studies through the verse.

I read that God would “sustain” me—He would nourish, strengthen, and support me—and make me sufficient enough to handle this assigned “gift.” 

To me, God was whispering hope to my soul. Whatever my assignment was depleting, God would pour back into me—and more!

I was washed over with peace, relief and rejuvenating hope.

As a praise response, and to lock this refreshing word picture securely and vividly in my mind, I sketched out two hands, representing God’s caring hands. In one palm was my “gift” of cares and I placed myself in the other palm.

Both me and my assignment—both you and your calling—are held up by the Good Shepherd. We are in His sustaining, caring hands. God’s got us!

As the strong hands of a lifeguard are a welcome sight to someone caught in a tempest at sea, so Psalm 55:22 is a snapshot of the rescue God’s hands can give YOU!

Boats need their riggings and lifelines repaired or replaced on a regular basis to keep a sailor safe. You can tell a line is losing strength if it shows signs of wear and tear, fraying at edges, or corrosion.

Is your life showing any signs of needing to take time away to let God renew, refresh, repair or rebuild your lifelines of God’s reviving Word?

Pam Farrel is an international speaker, living on a boat in Southern California. When she is not kayaking to get her mail, she loves writing and teaching so others can find hope from God. Her newest book is Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Biblical Experience (by Pam Farrel, Jean E Jones, and Karla Dornacher, from Harvest House.) Learn more about Pam and her ministry at Love-Wise

Thursday
Mar292018

My Eternal Hope

Jeanne Cesena is a woman who speaks authentically of the power of hope. In this UPLIFT story, she shares a testimony of her personal struggle, and how the Lord brought women into her life to encourage her as she trusted the eternal God of hope.

"Today is part of my eternity that began the day I was saved," Jeanne says.

I (Dawn) wish more people understood that concept, and chose to live each day in view of eternity.

What a difference it would make if we understood God's hope is for today and forever.

Jeanne continues . . .

What are your life goals? What are your eternal goals? What are you going to do today for God?

The great evangelist Billy Graham said:

"For the believer there is hope beyond the grave, because Jesus Christ has opened the door to heaven for us by His death and resurrection.”

The verse that came to my mind when I heard Billy Graham had passed away and entered heaven was: “The master said, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant'" (Matthew 25:23 NLT).

Walking a daily life that is glorifying to God is no easy task. As we walk through our daily lives, we each make choices about what we are going to think, say and do.

Our daily learning steps are for us to work out our sanctification to be more like Him so others can see more of God in us, and see more of God through us. 

In our trials we have a choice to turn toward God. When we see others going through trials, we have a choice to get involved and show God's love to others. Or not!

A life trial: My story of Hope in My Despair

ALONE.

Where does a woman turn when her husband abandons her the night she come home from the hospital with her newborn baby girl?

Not knowing what is going to happen next can be very scary.

My husband brought me home from the hospital and initiated a disagreement, an argument, to get out of coming into the house to help with the baby. Things were not going well with him that night; he was doing drugs and drinking.

My life was not turning out the way I had planned it.

I carried my newborn into our house as my husband drove away. It was a very cold house.  The heating radiators had blown and it was below zero outside.

All I could do was climb into my waterbed with my beautiful baby girl. The water was heated—the only heat in the house. I held her close as she lay in my arms, and I kept reciting Romans 15:13 in my heart until I fell sleep:

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."

Community: Eternal Hope in Action

The next day, the women from my church and my mom came over to my house. They brought things for the nursery, for my kitchen and for my dining room, and they helped me with the radiators.

That was hope in action.

These women were listening to that still, small voice of God inspiring them to take action.

They had to listen, think about what God wanted to do, talk to each other, gather the resources, get organized and then actually DO SOMETHING!

As these women were listening to God, I was putting all my hope in Him. The women became the answer to my prayers and a great encouragement to me.

We need to be open and receptive to the conversation God wants to have with each of us—to listen, learn, change and take action!

When I meet with individuals and couples, I often discuss some common communication techniques that are helpful. Here are two:

1. 1-800-God

This concept seems to have the most impact. Just like when your phone rings, no matter what emotions you are experiencing, you can choose to say a happy "hello."

You also have a change of focus. You are now listening to that voice coming from your phone. Then you have to listen, and think about what that person is saying before you speak or do something.

We can apply this concept to our everyday life.

Stop, connect with God, listen, then speak and do.

2. Represent Unconditional Love

When people look at us, they are looking at a representation of how we lived, what we have learned and our life experiences.

So we need to:

  • know how much God loves us,
  • be continuously filled with His love, and
  • seek to share this love by application of God's words through our thoughts, words and actions.

We can start by asking ourselves:

Today, what am I supposed to learn from God through this? And what should I do?

Jeanne Cesena is a strong woman, her strength built through many trials and a growing reliance on the Lord she loves. Enduring threats, abuse, abandonment and psychological struggles, she has come to see the Lord as her hope and healing. Jeanne ministers with her husband with Blended Step Families at Rock Church San Diego and is also a wedding planner and event/conference coordinator for churches and businesses. She is married, has three children—including a "bonus baby" at age 40—and has a powerful message to women about God's redeeming power.

 Graphic adapted, courtesy of Skimpton007 at Pixabay.

Thursday
Mar222018

Hope for a Better Future

Shonda Savage Whitworth speaks words of hope from her own life experiences and the Word of God. In this UPLIFT post, she reminds us of a wonderful truth—God redeems tough situations for our growth, others’ good, and God’s glory.

“Before my son’s conviction, like many people, I thought of prison as being a dangerous place filled with angry men who fight with one another daily,” Shonda says.

“But now that I’ve that experienced the penal system through my son’s incarceration, my perception has changed.”

While I (Dawn) have always prayed for the persecuted church, in recent years because of various encounters, the Lord has moved me to pray for His children in prisons (Hebrews 13:3). I believe with all my heart the Lord redeems people and situations for His glory, and Shonda gives us two encouraging examples.

Shonda continues . . .

There are dangers in prison and there are angry people who live there. However, I’ve learned through my son and by meeting other families who have incarcerated loved ones, that most people in prison are a lot like us.

All throughout biblical history, the Lord demonstrated to us that He does not withhold a future for people who have a darkened past when they surrender their lives to Him, whether that was their own doing or brought on them by others.

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 NLT).

Let’s briefly look at two biblical heroes to see how God gave them better futures in spite of their past.

Let’s imagine their lives written as MODERN-DAY HEADLINES and stories.

1. Convicted Sex Offender Promoted to Second-in-Command

Joseph, a convicted sex offender, was released from prison and promoted to second-in-command after accurately interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. The Pharaoh’s cupbearer, a former inmate with Joseph, remembered that Joseph had the God-given ability to interpret dreams.

Summoned to appear before Pharaoh, the Lord gave Joseph the meaning of the dreams and instructions on how to spare the land from famine. Therefore, Pharaoh appointed Joseph to be second-in-command of Egypt.

Joseph arrived in Egypt after his brothers kidnapped and sold him to slave traders. While serving as a slave to Potiphar, Joseph became a trusted manager. Joseph allegedly took advantage of his liberties and was accused by Mrs. Potiphar of inappropriate behavior.

Joseph testified that Mrs. Potiphar seduced him, and when he fled she kept his cloak. She testified thatWhen he heard me scream, he ran outside and got away, but he left his cloak behind with me” (Genesis 39:15 NLT).

The courts sided with Potiphar and sentenced Joseph to prison, though more testimony indicated this was a wrongful conviction.

Joseph was known for saving Egypt and the surrounding lands from seven years of famine, including the brothers who betrayed him.

Before his death, Joseph said to his brothers, You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people” (Genesis 50:20 NLT).

2. Murderer Turned Fugitive becomes Government and Religious Leader

Spared from death as an infant, Pharaoh sought the death penalty for adopted grandson, Moses, for his role in the murder of an Egyptian task master.

It was reported that “after looking in all directions to make sure no one was watching, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand” (Exodus 2:12 NLT).

Fearing for his own life, Moses fled to the wilderness where he lived for 40 years as a fugitive. After the reigning Pharaoh died, the Lord summoned Moses to return to the land where he was born to lead the Israelites out of slavery.

After a miraculous parting of the Red Sea and safely crossing into the wilderness away from the pursuing Egyptians, God instructed Moses on how to establish the Israelite government and establish a house of worship for the Hebrew people.

Moses became known for writing the first five books of the Old Testament and was called a friend of God as the LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend” (Exodus 33:11 NLT). 

Hope and a Future

When anyone—including inmates and their families—gives their heart to the Lord and repents of personal sins, that person become a new creation in Christ Jesus. With that surrender, there is the promise of a new life and the hope of a better future in Him on this side of eternity, just as demonstrated in the lives of Joseph and Moses.

Therefore, what if we, the people in our society, begin to look at the lives of those who are incarcerated as in training and in preparation for a better future?

What if we begin to partner with the Lord to help inmates and their families realize they have a hope for a better future?

Shonda Savage Whitworth is the founder and president of Fortress of Hope Ministries, Inc., offering hope to those whose lives have been impacted by incarceration. Shonda connects with others through her personal experiences and testimony of God’s faithfulness in her life. You can read more stories about Shonda’s unexpected prison family journey on her blog.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of TryJimmy at Pixabay.

Sunday
Jan212018

Encourage Others With Hope

In this Spiritual Life UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson invites readers to encourage their hearts with hope in God but not to stop there!

Confusion. Chaos. Deep wounds and pain. Disappointments. Betrayal. Again and again we face overwhelming circumstances.

And if it were not for the Lord, we would be overcome.

My sister Pam struggles with many trials, but she shines for Jesus as He continues to do a mighty work of grace in her life.

After a recent fresh struggle she texted me, “In darkness is hope.”

Her words struck me hard and made me cry, because I know how deep darkness has entered her life since childhood. But I’ve also seen the light of hope in God and His Word bring her peace, wisdom and joy.

Not too long ago, we celebrated the life of Martin Luther King Jr. The Reverend said in his final sermon in 1968, “only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.” Our greatest hope can come alive when we need it—and when we need the Lord—the most.

Words by the writer of Hebrews and the Old Testament Psalmist have become two resources of hope for me in recent days.

In Hebrews, we read, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and steadfast” (6:19a). Believers were encouraged to “take hold of the hope set before us” so they could be “strongly encouraged” (6:18b).

God’s kind of hope “does not disappoint us,” the Apostle Paul said, because “God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5).

The need for hope goes back to the Garden of Eden, when the Lord gave the first two human sinners hope for salvation (what is commonly called the Protevangelium in Genesis 3:15). God's promise gave them great hope, even in the midst of their punishment for sin.

Throughout the Old Testament we sense the deep longing for the Messiah, the Promised One, to come. It was a cry of hope in God, and we hear that heart cry repeatedly in the psalms (Read Psalm 2; 22, 45; 72; and 110).

The cry for hope is loud in the psalms. Listen to the Psalmist’s prayer of lament and allow your heart to feel the pain.

“My heart is in anguish within me … fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me” (Psalm 55:4-5)

But listen too to his honest plea for help and his assurance of God’s presence and help in the midst of his struggles.

“O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth.… I cry to you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my refuge….” (Psalms 54:2 and 142:5).

The Psalmist confidently proclaimed God as the source of his hope; and we need to point our hearts toward God and His Word too.

We need go beyond our own need for hope to encourage other people to place their hope in the Lord.

It’s wise to encourage hope because:

1. Hope brings spiritual and emotional rest.

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him” (Psalm 62:5).

2. Hope anticipates God’s response.

Job longed for God to grant what he hoped for (Job 6:8), but the Psalmist prayed with assurance: “Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God” (Psalm 38:15).

3. Hope enables confidence in God’s sovereign care.

“For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth” (Psalm 71:5).

4. Hope in God’s unfailing love delights His heart!

“The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (Psalm 147:11).

There are, of course, many other reasons hope is a worthy focus for us and those we love. Pam Farrel wrote about many of them in her book, Discovering Hope in the Psalms: A Creative Bible Study Experience, which I recommend.

Why would we NOT encourage more hope? Be proactive. Think of at least one person you can encourage with God’s kind of hope TODAY.

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Kareni at Pixabay.

Thursday
Jan112018

My Hope Is Built On . . . 

Everyone talks about "dreams" these days, but Susan K. Stewart says we need to be careful when we dream and consider where we're placing our hopes. In this Spiritual Life UPLIFT, she tackles the topic with a personal story.

“I plan to go to UCLA and major in screenwriting,” the high school freshman announced.

She then laid out her plan, including what classes she would be taking in high school and community activities that will help her preparation for her goal.

Ah, plans. Yes, I (Dawn) have placed my hopes in so many personal plans, and even in people who might help me accomplish my goals. And I've learned, the hard way, exactly what Susan is about to teach us.

Susan continues . . .

“Wow! That’s wonderful,” I responded. “It seems to me you just might make it.”

When this confident young lady left the room, her dad said, “I want her to major in something that will give her a real career.”

“What!?” was all I could stammer. “What’s wrong with her goal? With her determination, she has a good chance of success.”

The response was, “Look what happened to Aunt Shirley.”

Aunt Shirley is a divorced family member who was a successful writer before the divorce, and was now struggling to make ends meet with two part-time jobs.

Has that ever happened to you? It has to me.

Why do we do that?

Compare someone’s (or our own) dream with another person’s failure.

Sometimes we sabotage our own hopes. We listen to our own negative talk.

  • “It can’t happen."
  • "I’m too old."
  • "I’m too young."
  • "No one else has ever done this before.”

Other times we have our hope in the wrong thing: education, another person, fortune, ourselves.

All of these sources of hope will fail us.

An archaic definition of hope is “trust, reliance.” Most often we think of our hope as the anticipation of something. We also build our dreams on what we or others are going to do for the fruition of that expectation.

If hope is in fact trust rather than dream, maybe our hopes are dashed because we have placed our trust in the wrong place or person.

We are told by Paul that Christ Jesus is our hope (1 Timothy 1:1). Not our dream or expectation, although we surely look forward to the coming of Jesus. Christ Jesus is where we place our trust; who we rely on.

We are told by Peter to “prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13).

We are to TAKE ACTION BASED ON OUR HOPE (trust) on the GRACE of Jesus Christ.

When our expectations are based on hope from Jesus, we can’t sabotage them.

This requires taking those dreams to God before making all the plans on our own to-do list.

For years, I’ve had a dream of a having a specific book published. For years, my hopes have been built up only to be knocked down. This year I asked God, "Why?"

He impressed on me that I was trusting in my own plan, not the dreams He has for me.

I laid my desire aside. Even though a number of people gave me reasons not to, it was the right thing to do. I’m now trusting God’s vision for me rather than mine.

I’ve placed my hope in God’s dream.

When our hope—remember, that means trust and reliance—is in the Lord, no one can take them it away from us or talk us out of it. We will be able respond to negative self-talk with “God told me to do this and I trust him.”

What is your hope is built on?

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

~ Edward Mote (1797-1874)

Susan K. Stewart—when she’s not tending chickens and donkeys—teaches, writes, and edits non-fiction. Her passion is to inspire others with practical, real-world solutions. Susan's books include Science in the Kitchen; Preschool: At What Cost?; the award-winning Formatting e-Books for Writers; and her most recent book, Harried Homeschoolers Handbook. Learn more about Susan at Practical Inspirations

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Daniel Reche at Pixabay.