Tag Archives: hope

i know the plans



Is your future filled with hope? Pray that God will give you peace in place of your disasters.

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Roxie Pockets on her best behavior, smiling for the cameraLast week I was buzzing through my local Piggly Wiggly; it’s one of those stores that’s kind of old and worn out, but small enough that everything is easy to find and fast to check out of. I was chugging through the aisles, my head full of ideas for my new business, grabbing my groceries, moving quickly but feeling mellow.

As I checked out, I made some small talk with the cashier, saying I don’t remember what. As I picked up my shopping bag and headed for the exit, I heard a voice say “Ma’am?” from the customer service desk. Not sure I was being addressed, I looked up and saw a PW worker looking at me. I smiled at her, to indicate I was ready to listen, and she said, “Thanks for smiling.” I was surprised, laughed a little, stammered ‘thank you.’ She continued, “Not a lot of people smile anymore. It’s really good to see someone smile.” I thanked her again, a bit more graciously and continued walking to the parking lot.

It’s surprising to me that this was noticed and commented on, but perhaps it shouldn’t be. I live in a former manufacturing town. The car companies went bankrupt or moved their plants elsewhere and the jobs went with them. This city has never recovered. Life is hard for many people here. Many are in survival mode. Many have never recovered–and I can relate.

Why was I smiling? Partly because I was excited because of my new business, but that was because I had hope. I feel more hopeful about my life than I have in a long time. That might not sound very spiritual, but was this woman simply responding to my smile? I think she spoke up because she saw beyond the smile to the hope that the smile sprang from. And that means she was responding to Christ in me, the hope of glory.

You never know when you are being a minister of the Gospel. But you minister more and more the more you can carry Christ’s presence with you into the world.

remembering your first love

“Remember then from that you have fallen…” Rev. 2:4

candlessqAs I touched on yesterday, Jesus is referring to the love the Ephesians had “at first” in this statement. Jesus isn’t telling the Ephesians to remember the wretched things he saved them from—he’s asking them to remember the amazing love they were gifted with when they first became believers!

The radical thing about this statement for us modern folks is that this isn’t about revisiting the sins of the past, or how wretched we were before we were saved, but rather to dwell on how Christ broke into our lives, how his glorious love caused us to return to him in love, and how God’s glory became manifest in the reordering of our lives. In other words, the negative things are only helpful and important as contrasts to the positive things. This is the reason why the gratitude movement has such resonance in Christian circles—we have forgotten that love calls out what is good, lovely and right in the beloved. Remember Philippians 4:8?

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Meditation on the lovable, the beautiful, the truth-filled builds up those same attributes in us. This is even more the case when we are in love. When we know ourselves to be loved, love builds into the beloved more lovable attributes. We become what the lover sees in us.

The book of Ephesians is one of my favorite books of the Bible partly because of its encouraging language, so for me it’s particularly apt that Christ was addressing his comments in Revelation to the church in Ephesus. In the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul outlines more benefits to remembering our first love:

16I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great might20 which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come; 22 and he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23 which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all. – Ephesians 1:16-23

What is the point of remembering? In this passage, there’s an emphasis on hope and what is to be ours in heaven—“the riches of our glorious inheritance.” Once again, this is an overwhelmingly positive message. There is an inspirational quality to the way this message is given. It is meant to lift us out of places in our lives that feel stuck, or downtrodden, or without justice. It is meant to convey what is true: that God overcomes all.

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God. –Ephesians 3:14-19

What is Paul’s earnest prayer would happen to us as believers? “To know the love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge.” Isn’t this pretty backwards to the way we often think about our faith? We approach our Bibles as a quest for knowledge, rather than as a love letter from the beloved. Paul even indicates that he is most concerned with the hearts of the Ephesian believers—not their minds, their theology, their order of service. Many of us think that knowledge will set us free. It’s not, truth sets us free, and that’s a person, Jesus – which means we have a relationship with truth, which means it’s a heart thing. Love sets us free.

Remembering our first love—in beauty, truth, hope and returned love—is what keeps us close to Jesus and prevents us from becoming lukewarm Christians.

When was the last time you spent time remembering the love you had at first for Christ?

On practicing gratitude


Last night at my house group we got into a discussion on hope. Hope is a difficult virtue for me to understand. I am naturally wired for faith, I have been coming to a greater understanding of love, but hope is still tricky. I can describe its characteristics–buoyant, bright, anticipating, open, wondering–but its essence eludes me. Perhaps bright and buoyant things can’t be grasped so much as entered into….and I am a world-class grasper and grappler.

I have been wondering lately why it is I find goals de-motivating. Did I fall short so often as a child? Were my goals unreasonable? I spend a great deal of my life plodding, moving from one thing to the next, completing tasks but taking no great joy from them.

Then there is this blog. I haven’t written for some time. I’ve wondering about switching focus with it, wondering if I just have too much to do to make time for it, if it really does anything other than make me feel momentarily better about my life. I want to write, but I get stuck in the day-to-day plodding, burrowing my head so far into my “To Do” list that I never lift it to reorient myself.

Today I discovered WordPress’ ebook on 365 topics for bloggers. That’s a topic a day, by date. I downloaded it and started paging through: “Start your blog with the first sentence of your favorite book,” “write about how you respond in a crisis,” “your house is on fire–what five items do you grab?” The topics aren’t me, but something inside me stirred and prompted: “This is possible.”

What is possible? To write every day for a year? To set a goal and keep it? To think and write outside of the “To Do” list? To feel something kindling within that’s related to an aspect of my life? I’m not sure what is lighting up inside me, but it’s bright and open and anticipating….and hopeful.

Lord, let me find my way to hope in you through whatever channel you provide. Let me see and be inspired by the brightness, the light, the joy, the Presence you saturate this world in. Amen.