2018: A Year For Hope (Week 5)

I recently re-read one of my older blog posts and thought it very appropriate for the subject of this blog series “2018: A Year For Hope”.  So today … we’re going back a few years to what was originally posted as “Teathered To Hope“.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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HOPE:  a) to wish for something with expectation,  b) a desire accompanied by confident expectation.

I started blogging about 3 years ago and was greatly enjoying posting hope-filled blogs in which I shared my testimony, a few funny stories, and talked through challenges faced.  But then I got too busy with other things for regular posting.  I let my hope-filled blogging slip, and that wasn’t the only thing I let slip.  My attitude took a fall, and instead of ‘hoping well’, I was doing other things well.    Complaining.  Groaning.  And worse.

About the only thing I know for sure about boating is that unless you want to get wet, the general idea of being in a boat is to stay out of the water.  And the general idea of casting anchor is to keep you tethered to a select and stable place.

After a little time passed, the voice of condemnation spoke up (rather loudly in fact) telling me how hypocritical it would be to blog about hope when it seemed as if I was scraping from the bottom of the barrel most days.   So I put off blogging for a month, then three, and ultimately I allowed that voice of shame and condemnation to silence me altogether.

Hebrews 6:19
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hebrews 6:19

Of course, the voice of hope was also calling out my name all those months of silence – but I wasn’t really listening.  I was way too busy hanging out with my old and familiar friends jealousy, envy and pity.

Truth be told, about the only thing I know for sure about boating is that unless you want to get wet, the general idea of being in a boat is to stay out of the water.  And the general idea of casting anchor is to keep you tethered to a select and stable place.   How grateful I am that my hope in God and in the promises of God (His Word) is the anchor to my soul!   Or perhaps more accurately, God’s hope, living within me by the power of the Spirit of God, keeps me anchored to hope.  Eventually, I looked away from my circumstances, caught a glimpse of the eyes of my Father, and let Him fill me again with hope for better days.

“With your very own hands you formed me.  Now breathe your wisdom over me so that I can understand you.  When they see me waiting, expecting your Word, those who fear you will take heart and be glad.  I can see now, God, that your decisions are right; your testing has taught me what’s true and right.”  (Psalms 119:73-75)

Well, obviously I’m blogging again.  Not because my life is now without challenges, but because through the challenges of the last few years I have learned a few things about hope.

1)  that hope is not a feeling, it’s something I choose
2)  that I have to seek out and maintain (as in guard & protect) hope on a daily basis
3)  that real hope (strong, unshakable hope) comes from God

I think Romans 15:13 says it best.   Only the God of hope can fill me with what is required to have hope.  The kind of hope that is an anchor to the soul.

May the God of hope fill  you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

There have been some tough days these past few years.  But bless God, I am getting better about staying tethered to that anchor of hope as though my very life depends upon it … because it does!

Today, again, I choose hope!

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All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author
and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.

2018: A Year For Hope (Week 4)

What are some of the lies the enemy tells you?  A friend of mine asked this  last week to a Facebook group.   The answers are honest, revealing, and familiar to us all.

You can’t outrun your past. | You are not enough.
You will fail. | You are unlovable. | You are a fool.
You will never succeed. |You’re too (insert insult here).
You are ugly. | You are stupid. | No one wants you.
You never finish what you start.
It’s too late.

I see a common thread … all intended to short circuit the promises of God.  They are all intended to strangle out the voice of HOPE.

Why is it that the voice of fear always seems to be so much louder than the voice of HOPE?  And at the end of the day, isn’t that really the only weapon the enemy of our soul uses against us?   “Did God really say that”? he asked Eve in the Garden of Eden (meant to instill fear in the credibility of God, or in best case the accuracy of her hearing).  “If you are the Son of God” he touted to Jesus in the dessert.  If we did a root cause analysis for every challenge or attack against HOPE, I think we would find fear is at the heart or origin of it.

The voice of FEAR always seems to be so much louder than the voice of HOPE.

She had almost forgotten about it, but something a friend said recently brought it back to her remembrance.  It was so long ago that she had last held it in her hands. Just the mere thought of seeing it again stirred up so many emotions – the disappointments still cut deep.

And yet, here she was.  Up in the attic, opening one dusty box after another to find it.

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It was as she remembered, although the felt exterior was worn and perhaps a bit moth eaten. 

Her breathing became fast and shallow, and her hands trembled a bit as she slowly began to lift the lid.

Can she?  Dare she?  

Fear grips her and won’t let go.  She can’t breathe.  Slowly she fits the lid back into place and places the box with it’s precious contents back into storage.  Maybe another time.

“Oh my soul, you are not alone. There’s a place where fear has to face the God you know.

One more day. He will make a way. Let Him show you how you can lay this down. You’re not alone”

~ Oh My Soul, Casting Crowns

 

It can be terrifying to risk change.  To dare to dream, even if it means to risk failure … again.  To dare to love, even if it means to risk rejection.   To dare to trust, even if it means making yourself vulnerable to disappointment.   To dare to HOPE … hope that the promise of God is actually true … even if it means ….

 

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untitled –  a work in progress, PHTW 1.15.18

Well here is the thing my friend. All the promises … ALL the Promises … ALL … every single one is TRUE! (2 Corinthians 1:20).   And it is from a position of knowing that, that’s ‘the place where fear has to face God’ ... AND FEAR WILL BOW!

As you listen to this song (and I hope you do), imagine yourself lifting up your hands … perhaps lifting up a certain situation or need … perhaps empty hands, empty of hope but ready to receive HOPE. Lift your hands and lift your heart in surrender to the One who loves you. He is faithful and will show you how to move forward into all that He has for you … a life that is limitless and free from the chains of fear.

 

 

 

If you have been following along, above is the initial sketch for the word picture along with it’s progression to the current state in the larger picture.   There are components of this piece that are going to be revealed as this blog series continues, so please keep coming back to watch the image in my head/heart come to life on paper.  
What do you think would be a good name or caption for this particular word picture?
Also, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments about any of the word pictures in this blog series, or any other of my posts.  My prayer is that they will speak something unique to your heart/spirit, and I would be honored to know how they move or impact you.
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All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.

 

2018: A Year For Hope (Week 3)

She closes the door and leans up against it, but it does no good. She can still hear the cutting rants of her stepson as he shouts to the world how much he hates her, how he wishes his dad never married her, and begs her to go away and leave them alone. Sometimes she thinks it might be better if she did leave, as her rejection by the kids has created a chasm between her and her husband as wide as the Grand Canyon. They married three years ago. She thought things would be better by now, that they would find a way to work things out together … as a family. She slumps to the floor and softly weeps.

Behind-the-veil glimpses like the one above and those shared in the prior week’s reveal and remind us that we all experience trials and hardships, pain, and disappointments in life and to varying degrees.

Broken homes
Harassment
Family conflict
Financial strain
Loneliness
Unhealthy environments
Abuse
Loss
Addiction
Betrayal
Health issues
Abandonment
Peer pressure
Strained relationships
… and the list goes on…

And it is during the absolute darkest moments of these trials that the enemy of our souls is quick to whisper (or sometimes shout):

“It / he / she will never change”.
“You will never change”.
“There is no hope”.

While praying about the content of this post, my spirit ached for those weighed down by these types of heartaches while my mind recalled my own darkest days. A dysfunctional and abusive upbringing.  Abandonment.  An abusive marriage. Years of nightmares. The hard work of healing and restoration. In those days, hope seemed evasive and there were seasons when by all appearances hope just flat out left and moved to another country altogether!

But you can’t experience HOPE until you know how deeply and completely you are loved.

And what exactly is “hope” anyways? If you ask Google for the meaning of hope you get the following:
1. (n) A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen
2. (n) A feeling of trust
3. (v) Want something to happen or be the case

And according to Wikipedia,  hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large. As a verb, its definitions include: “expect with confidence” and “to cherish a desire with anticipation”.

As accurate as those descriptions of hope may be, they pale in comparison to Bible-Hope. Bible-Hope is a better kind of hope, for Bible-Hope is tied to a promise of God, or a truth found in the Word of God.

 

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untitled –  a work in progress, PHTW 1.15.18

But you can’t experience Bible-Hope (hereafter referred to as HOPE) until you know how deeply and completely you are loved. Why? Because if you don’t know-that-you-know-that-you-know that you are deeply loved by God, you will never be able to trust (confidently reply upon) Him or His promises.

 

An old song comes to mind … one that brought me a lot of comfort during some of my darkest days.  I pray you will listen to it with an open heart, and let the Lord speak to you of His deep and all consuming desire to cherish you, treasure you, and love you completely.   “You Can Belong To Me”  by Joanna Carlson.

 

 

If you have been following along, above is the initial sketch for the word picture along with it’s progression to the current state in the larger picture.   There are components of this piece that are going to be revealed as this blog series continues, so please keep coming back to watch the image in my head/heart come to life on paper.  
What do you think would be a good name or caption for this particular word picture?
Also, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments about any of the word pictures in this blog series, or any other of my posts.  My prayer is that they will speak something unique to your heart/spirit, and I would be honored to know how they move or impact you.
_____________
All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.

 

2018: A Year For Hope (Week 2)

“I hate my job”, he mumbles to no one particular.  “It was the best way to put food on the table when the kids were small, but then there was a mortgage to pay, and college after that.  I didn’t mind so much when Barb was there to come home to – but she’s long gone now.  I’m old and I’m tired.  I feel trapped in a life I don’t want anymore”. 

“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” — Winnie the Pooh (Pooh’s Most Grand Adventure)

All of us have areas of disappointment in our lives, places where we feel old and stuck.  Vacant landscapes where hope blew away like dry leaves on a windy day.

What if it wasn’t too late?  What if you could become unstuck?  What if hope returned?

“Now I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King
I wish I could bring so much more
But if it’s true You use broken things
Then here I am Lord, I’m all Yours”

(Broken Things, Matthew West)

 

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January 2018

This section of “Broken Things” by Matthew West has playing in my head for the last 3-4 days, even waking me in the middle of the night.

My prayer is that you let those few short lines remind you that is never too late.  You are never too old.  You don’t have to stay stuck.  God is ever willing to transform your life, or more specifically, He is ready, willing and able to transform (remake/reinvent) every part of it that you are willing to surrender to Him.

“No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame.”  (Psalm 23:3)

So the question becomes, can you trust Him with your hope for something better?

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All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.

 

2018: A Year For Hope (Week 1)

He wakes at 5 am, gets in a quick workout, and starts the workday by 7:30. He works hard and makes enough to keep the bills paid, sometimes with a little extra at the end of the month. His friends know him as a kind and well-adjusted guy, someone who has weathered some tough storms in recent years but emerged OK on the other side.

But there are things that he doesn’t talk about. Areas of his life so parched and dry that the aching for fulfillment eventually got to be too much for him.

He built a wall, to keep the emptiness contained.
He built a wall, so he could function.
He has routines, and the busyness keeps him distracted.
It keeps the ache at bay.

“He has besieged and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship. He has made me live in dark places, like those who have long been dead. He has walled me in so that I cannot get out; He has weighted down my chain. Even when I cry out and shout for help, He shuts out my prayer.” (Lamentations 3:5-8, Amplified)

The blue light of the alarm clock mocks her, chiding her for being awake at this hour. She rolls over and pulls up the blanket even higher. She tries to push it away, but the emptiness from the other side of the bed swallows her. Finally, she gives in and her tears silently absorb into the pillow.

“My soul has been cast far away from peace; I have forgotten happiness. So I say, “My strength has perished and so has my hope and expectation from the LORD.””(Lamentations 3:17-18, Amplified)

Question:
What happens when you play a country song backwards?
Answer:
You get your wife back, your dog back, your truck back ….

 

The whole of Lamentations, Chapter 3 reminds me of a country song. It tells a miserable story of trial and disappointment, of deep pain and questioning.

We all have experienced the gut wrenching pain of loss, disappointment, and loneliness. We have all built walls, and wear facades so others won’t see what we’re hiding behind them. Maybe his walls are tall and mighty, built over many decades. Maybe hers are new and still fragile. Some people have walled off huge sections of themselves, while others portray an illusion of openness while managing to tightly guard their innermost selves under lock and key. We all have lost hope at some point or another and can relate to the Lamentations of Jeremiah on behalf of the people of Israel.  What a terrible feeling that is – to have reached a place of non-expectation in or from the LORD.

But what I find most remarkable about this passage of scripture is that even in all of the pain and hopelessness, there is a pathway back to hope.

“But this I call to mind, therefore I have hope. It is because of the LORD’s lovingkindnesses that we are not consumed, because His compassions never fail. They are new every morning.”   (Lamentations 3:24, Amplified)

 

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January 2018

How does one do that? How does someone have no hope (vs 18) and have hope (vs 24) at the same time?

I think the answer is hidden in seven little words, for immediately following the declaration of hopelessness in God, the writer calls to mind the lovinkindnesses (plural) of God  …

… and hope revives!

 

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All sketches and watercolors posted on this website are the sole property of the author and are for exclusive display on the website PuttingHopeToWork.com.