Day Eighteen: When Things Crowd In

31 Days Relishing Hope

At our house, we’ve been going through closets and drawers getting rid of all the stuff we don’t need anymore. Each kid had clothes in three different sizes. The garage is full of toys that aren’t getting played with and my husband had multiple pairs of dockers. He only ever wears jeans and shorts. We’ve been reaching past and stepping over this stuff for years. Why?

As each new room changed into an easier place to live, I wondered what took us so long? Why were we ignoring all this stuff in our way? I’m usually a purger. I love donating and throwing things away. It’s fun!

But just a few years ago, we put all our earthly possessions in storage for a year and lived without them. We only had our clothes and a few favorite toys for each of our kids. When it was time to pull all the stuff out of storage, we had mixed feelings. There were things we loved and were so excited to see again. There were things we forgot we had and wondered why we’d kept. And then there were things we didn’t bother putting in the moving truck. It was a little confusing.

To add to the confusion, we had lovely friends hand down wonderful things to us: toys, kids furniture, clothes. I really didn’t feel qualified to make decisions about what to keep and what not to keep, because I had been out of the “stuff” game for a while. So we gladly accepted the things offered to us and made them apart of our lives and closets and garages.

I think a similar thing can happen in the hope game. When we haven’t been actively hoping and asking God where to invest our hope, we will gladly accept the thing handed to us. All these hand-me-downs can crowd in and we can end up spending most of our day reaching past and stepping over them all day long. Like our wonderful hand-me-downs from friends, we need to make real decisions about what to keep and make apart of our lives. And pass on the things that aren’t for us to invest in.

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Day Sixteen: One Way to Kill Hope

In the morning, over that first cup of coffee, wonderful ideas for my day start to flood into my mind. Does this happen to you? Sometimes, it’s starts as a slow trickle. Sometimes, it’s a crazy tsunami. And then before my feet even hit the floor (because that first cup is always in bed), I am overwhelmed with the sheer volume of things to do.

What I have had to tell myself is, “Calm the heck down.” It all doesn’t have to happen in one day. I often think if I can see to do it, I should get doing it right away. What I’m learning is that I can make a plan to do it first. It doesn’t have to happen immediately. This is probably a no-brainer for you, but this has been a recent life-saver for me.

My usual strategy looked a little like this: Get a good idea. Hit the ground running. Make everything happen as quickly as possible, putting all normal things like eating, cleaning, and shopping aside. It sounds so crazy, but, honestly, I didn’t realize I was doing this to myself. I knew that I often found myself overwhelmed and drained of hope for that good idea, but I didn’t realize I was working in an emergency mode.

My mantra for this year has been, “Only emergencies get to be emergencies.” That means that unless it is a real emergency, we do not have to put the rest of our life on hold. It has also meant that we have had to decide what we want our lives to be about: where we want to give our time and resources. And it has meant saying, “No.” I didn’t know that sometimes saying yes to a good thing would unnecessarily send us into that emergency mode. We would have to rush out the door, after just arriving at home. Hit a drive-thru to get dinner. Do a load of laundry at midnight so that we would have clean clothes for the next day. Have you been there?

This is one of the quickest ways I kill hope. It is very hard to hear the whisper of hope, when you are shouting demands at yourself in your head. It is even harder to relish in that hope, allowing it to fuel you in the very thing you are trying to do.

This is day sixteen of a thirty-one day series, you can find the other posts here.

31 Days Relishing Hope

Day Fourteen: One Who Stands in the Thick of the Whole Thing

31 Days Relishing Hope

Today at work, I spoke with a very angry person. She was tired, frustrated, and couldn’t find a solution in the options I was giving her. Through our multiple conversations today, she repeated one phrase. “Do you understand what I’m saying?” She would try to explain one way, and then another.  Then she would repeat it again. It got to the point where I thought, “Well, do I understand her?” So I tried to listen even harder. In between the words that she was literally yelling at me, I started to hear hurt and weariness. I couldn’t change the options I had to give her, but I could hear her out. Stephen Covey said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” I really had no replies left, so I  just listened. I even left some lingering silences just to make sure I understood all that I could.

Isn’t that what we all want in those hopeless moments in life? Someone to understand us. Even in the hardship of that phone call, my fellow co-workers started rallying around me to give their support and find her a solution. (I think they could hear how loud she was.) The better I got at communicating my empathy with her, the more her anger dissipated.

In this life, there will be plenty of times when things look hopeless. Times when solutions are hidden so deeply behind bad news and inconvenient life options, that we don’t even want try looking anymore. Been there. I’m sure you have too. But we have a steady and unchanging hope in Jesus. In Matthew 12 it says,

“Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen.
He is my Beloved, who pleases me.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
He will not fight or shout
or raise his voice in public.
He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out a flickering candle.
Finally he will cause justice to be victorious.
And his name will be the hope
of all the world.”

In his book, Disciples Indeed, Oswald Chambers puts it this way, “Jesus Christ reveals, not an embarrassed God, not a confused God, not a God who stands apart from the problems, but One who stands in the thick of the whole thing with man.”

So, if you find yourself in one of those hopeless moments where anger is your language and solutions are nowhere to be found, please remember our hope is standing with you. He will not fight or shout or raise his voice in public. He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle.

Day Thirteen: When All Around My Soul Gives Way

31 Days Relishing Hope

Here’s some old school hope in the form of a hymn. I automatically sing along in my head, but even if you don’t know the tune, the words are encouraging. It’s easy to dismiss hymns, either because they are too familiar or are written in older language. It helps to think of the words as a prayer. Most of the old hymns, like this one, end on a really triumphant note so I like to think about joining in with all my brothers and sisters, past and present.

When I was in college, I got to attend Urbana, the YWAM missions conference. My favorite memories were of the worship services, singing along with over twenty-thousand brothers and sisters in the arena. Because there were people from all over the world, we sang familiar hymns in many different languages. It was a life changing experience. I knew that there were thousands of other believers all over the globe, but to see and hear them in one place was incredible! It was a small glimpse into what we get to enjoy in eternity. So when you get to that last verse, try to imagine the millions who have gone before, joining in with you.

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.

On Christ the solid rock I stand,

All other ground is sinking sand;

All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils his lovely face,

I rest on his unchanging grace.

In every high and stormy gale,

My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, his covenant, his blood

Supports me in the whelming flood.

When all around my soul gives way,

He then is all my hope and stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,

O may I then in him be found!

Dressed in his righteousness alone,

Faultless to stand before the throne!

Day Eleven: Hope from His Mysterious Plan

Day Eleven: Hope from His Mysterious Plan. 31 Days Relishing Hope

 “I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself.” Colossians 2:2

This last week, our family went on a little vacation to Southern California. We started our trip with a lovely stay in the mountains with some dear friends. Years ago, God assembled this random little group and I can’t begin to explain what happens to my heart when we are together. Back in the day, we would meet every Monday night in our living room in Los Angeles. We would bring all the joys and struggles of our days and lay them down at our Father’s feet together. For hours (not kidding), we would pour our hearts out to God. Have you had a friend advocate for you before the throne of Grace? I count these as some of the most precious gifts I have ever received.

During the time that this little group met, we were all doing the hard things of life. There were big changes, health issues, missions and ministry. To be quite honest, there was a lot of heartbreak and a lot of seeming impossibility. As we would come together to share what God had done, our stories were not usually the big, miraculous happenings that we were hoping for. Instead, they were a steady stream of faithfulness that looked much like the group He had knit together.

In Colossians, Paul says, “I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself.” As we walked together through the hard things, we caught glimpses of Christ. There was the knowledge that we were never really alone and the ability to do the very hard things, because dear ones were praying strength into the weak places. With every act of encouragement and sacrificial love came a better understanding of how God loves. And, even though, we wanted a different kind of answer to our prayers, the one He was offering was the very plan He has for us all. Himself.

Day Nine: Life Lessons from Helen Keller

Nine Life Lessons from Helen Keller. 31 Days Relishing Hope

As an expert on hope, Helen Keller has a lot of lessons to teach us about life. Here are nine lessons on our ninth day of Relishing Hope.

1. On Reality:

So my optimism is no mild and unreasoning satisfaction. A poet once said I must be happy because I did not see the bare, cold present, but lived in a beautiful dream. I do live in a beautiful dream; but that dream is the actual, the present,—not cold, but warm; not bare, but furnished with a thousand blessings. The very evil which the poet supposed would be a cruel disillusionment is necessary to the fullest knowledge of joy. Only by contact with evil could I have learned to feel by contrast the beauty of truth and love and goodness.

2. On Inspiration from Others:

I remember an hour when I was discouraged and ready to falter. For days I had been pegging away at a task which refused to get itself accomplished. In the midst of my perplexity I read an essay of Stevenson which made me feel as if I had been “outing” in the sunshine, instead of losing heart over a difficult task. I tried again with new courage and succeeded almost before I knew it.

3.  On Struggle:

I can say with conviction that the struggle which evil necessitates is one of the greatest blessings. It makes us strong, patient, helpful men and women. It lets us into the soul of things and teaches us that although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.

4. On Work:

As my college days draw to a close, I find myself looking forward with beating heart and bright anticipations to what the future holds of activity for me. My share in the work of the world may be limited; but the fact that it is work makes it precious.

5. On Pessimism:

If I regarded my life from the point of view of the pessimist, I should be undone. I should seek in vain for the light that does not visit my eyes and the music that does not ring in my ears. I should beg night and day and never be satisfied.

6. On Going at Life:

From Browning I learn that there is no lost good, and that makes it easier for me to go at life, right or wrong, do the best I know, and fear not.

7. On Encouragement:

Who shall dare let his incapacity for hope or goodness cast a shadow upon the courage of those who bear their burdens as if they were privileges?

8. On Physical Pleasure or Material Possession:

Most people measure their happiness in terms of physical pleasure and material possession. Could they win some visible goal which they have set on the horizon, how happy they would be! Lacking this gift or that circumstance, they would be miserable. If happiness is to be so measured, I who cannot hear or see have every reason to sit in a corner with folded hands and weep.

9. On Hope and Confidence:

Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.