Questions

Dear Friend,

Yesterday was a long, dark Sabbath. I confess I felt as though there was no point at all in observing the Sabbath. God seems to have abandoned us.

If this teacher truly was sent from God, why would God allow such an awful ending to his life? Why cut him off before he had accomplished his mission? What about all those promises God made us?

Or perhaps this wasn’t the one we have been waiting for. Or perhaps… perhaps God has changed his mind.

I was just beginning to hope this man could change the world. Could change our lives. MY life. We couldn’t help but hope, as we listened to his words. He was introducing us to God in a completely new way. At least, I thought I was beginning to see God in all this.

But where was God on Friday?

My friend, I think you’ll understand the dark places my mind is going to. Any hope that had begun to flicker in me was snuffed out on Friday.

 

Friday

Dear Friend,

I hardly know what to write. Yesterday was such a terrible, black day.

You remember the man I’ve been telling you about? The teacher who claimed to be from God? He’s been executed. He’s dead.

Everything happened so fast. He was arrested sometime during the night, and apparently there was a mob and a sham of a trial, and the next thing we knew, he was hanging on a cross out there on Golgotha.

Strange things happened yesterday–and just at the time he died. Unusual darkness. An earthquake. Some trouble at the Temple (the details I’ve heard are unbelievable, impossible, so I still need to find out what the truth is about that incident). And some people are telling wild tales about ghosts walking the streets of the city.

Whoever or whatever he really was, his death seemed to shake heaven and earth.

But all that’s left now is this heavy, hopeless sadness. Evil wins. Again.

 

 

What do you talk to God about?

We make choices—although not always the best choices—when we decide what to talk about and with whom to discuss what’s on our mind. With whom do you discuss your financial concerns? What about emotional trauma? Who are the people you trust to hear you? Family or relationship issues, conflicts at work, dreams for the future, problems with your kids, health issues, political views—all subjects are chosen and filtered, depending on who it is we’re in conversation with.

What do you talk to God about?

I’ve been thinking about this lately because last week I came across a quote from Charles Spurgeon that I can’t forget.

And then this morning, I read Luke 12:6-7, words of Jesus telling us that God doesn’t forget about one little sparrow and His children are so much more loved and cared for than sparrows that He even keeps track of each hair on my head. He must care about the smallest detail of my life—things even I don’t pay attention to.

Yes, I pray about “little” things. I’ve asked Him to remind me where I put something I’ve temporarily “lost,” or I’ve asked for the energy to get through a meeting, or I’ve thanked Him for a beautiful morning sky. Small things in my day. I believe Psalm 37:23 that says He delights in the details of our lives.

The Charles Spurgeon quote, though, prompted me to ponder my belief in God’s power to do the big things.

Of course I believe God is omnipotent. He can do the impossible. Of course I believe that.

I say that… But do my conversations with God show that I believe it?

Spurgeon wrote about God’s greatness. Look at the wonders of the earth, the heavens, the universe. “You may expect great things from Him who made the heavens and the earth… He who made all these things is great in power; therefore, ask something great of Him, when you come before Him in prayer.”

Ask something great of Him.

When I do ask Him for something great, do I have secret reservations? (Ah, but nothing’s secret from God.) Do I doubt He’ll do something spectacular? Do I think He’s limited by earthly boundaries, limits, and realities?

I’ve had to ask myself these questions.

At her brother’s graveside, Martha heard Jesus say to her, “If you believe, you’ll see the glory of God.”

If we believe, what great things will we ask of Him? And what glorious things might we then see?

 

Writing. New strength. Hello again.

A writer’s work is never done. I think forms of that proverb have been used to describe many jobs. And true to the proverb, just when my first Hope Knows book is about to be released, I’m shown a much better way of writing one chapter.

Yes, it happens all the time. Writers go back to what they’ve written and revise, revise, revise. We’re never “done.” We always see a word, a thought, a paragraph that must be deleted, added to, or tweaked. Mark Twain wrote that once your article is finished to your satisfaction, that’s the time to begin writing. By that time, you’ve finally sorted out exactly what you want to say and how to say it.

Today, I’m thinking about a chapter on finding new strength. I have occasion right now to need and seek new strength, a power beyond myself that I haven’t known before.

I did include one chapter on that subject in my soon-to-be-released book, Getting Through Today. This morning, though, I feel as if I should rewrite that entire chapter. I know more about new strength today than I did two weeks ago, because I’ve experienced it.

However, the book’s already printed, waiting for its big debut.

So I’d like to pass this on to you here: If you’re also needing new, beyond-yourself strength to get through today or this week, I’d like to offer three Scriptures that have taken on even deeper meaning for me:

Hebrews 12:1-2:  “Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion…”

2 Timothy 4:16-17:  “No one came with me… Everyone abandoned me… But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength.”

Psalm 89:17:  “It pleases you [God] to make us strong.”

God is delighted to make us strong! Today, put yourself in the 2 Timothy picture: with Jesus, our champion, standing with you!

In the last two weeks, I’ve been changed by these promises.

That’s the Spirit of God using His living Word to mold my life. His work, too, is not yet done!

***

Hello again to my cyber friends. I am back, after a hiatus of two years during which I was working on putting the Hope Devotionals (which appeared here throughout 2015) into book form.

One book turned into four. Yes, amazing. That’s typical of what God does. He keeps going beyond our expectations. And because all of our hope is grounded in the living Word of God, it keeps growing and growing—and we never come to the end of it. We’re always discovering more reason to live with great expectation.

The first book, Getting Through Today, will be available by the end of this week! It can be ordered directly from the publisher at www.jpvpress.com. (If you pre-order now from the publisher, I’ll sign it if you make the request.)

Once all the details are in place, it will also be available through Amazon.

 

See a more detailed preview of all the books by clicking on the Hope Knows Books tab above.

And… Live with great expectation!

Elaine

A word for a pilgrim’s heart …

“I love the Lord because He hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” Do I hear shouted amens around the world? That’s from Psalm 116:1,2, a psalm with some of my favorite passages because they describe my life. I’d love to quote them all here, but I won’t … I often am brought to tears by the chapter.

Death wrapped its ropes around me…I saw only trouble and sorrow…

Then I called to Him.

How kind the Lord is! How good he is! So merciful …

Let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me…

And so I walk in the LORD’s presence as I live here on earth!

***

All of that to preface a story that fits well with our series on hope.

Five friends were vacationing in Maine back in October. One of the ladies gave each of us a gift before we ended the week. She had purchased small pewter scallop shells, each imprinted with a single inspirational word. The words were all different; we drew our shells at random.

Yes! A scallop shell. I’d just finished the edit of a book by a pilgrim who walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain (Stuck in the Weeds, by Paul Stutzman), and from his experiences I’d learned that a scallop shell is the symbol of pilgrimage on the Camino. I liked the idea of a daily reminder of who I am in this world, and so I’d been looking for a scallop charm to wear on a chain. This little pewter shell cannot be put on a chain, but it does the job of reminding me, lying on my kitchen windowsill, looking up at me each day with its Word.

Well… well. That’s about all I want to say about the last two weeks since Thanksgiving. Holidays. (When I say “holidays,” does that conjure up stress and emotional turbulence for you?) Called for jury duty. A computer that one day decided to go on strike. Illness. Oh, my. As my mom used to quote, “The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley (go often awry).”

That’s from a poem by Robert Burns, written way back in the 1700s. He was ploughing, and his plough destroyed a mouse’s nest.

Ah! doesn’t that happen to us? Just about the time we have things in life arranged comfortably … then something ploughs through. A plough breaks everything up. Turns everything upside down. The poet’s line concerns the mouse, but it could be describing us: “Oh what a panic is in your little breast!”

Yes, my plans for the whole month of December 2015 have been ploughed through…

So … as you have probably noticed … we are not yet done with our hope meditations!

But back to the scallop shell.

The word carved into it is RELAX.

Now, when I drew that shell, I was delighted it was a scallop shell since I’d been looking for one. And that word on it? Well, okay, the word was nice. But I was pretty relaxed at that time, and I didn’t think much of it. I was just happy to have a scallop shell to remind me I am a pilgrim.

Now, though, RELAX is going to be my Word of the Year.

At the end of two weeks of turmoil came a short little blurb a local businessman asked me to edit. The subject was on choosing a Word of the Year instead of making New Year’s resolutions. One word. A word that requires you to both change your thinking and your behaviors. A word to think about and put into practice every day of 2016. I’ve never been a resolution-maker or keeper…but a word of focus and action? That intrigued me.

And here’s my word on my kitchen windowsill! Looking at me every day. Carved into the symbol of who I am!

Yes, every day, this pilgrim is determined to relax. I think back over all of the hope we’ve discovered this year. All the promises given to us by our Creator, our Father, the one who saved us and saves us every day.

The one who the psalmist spoke of… This God, our God, who makes it possible for our souls to be at rest as we walk in the presence of the Lord every day.

Why would I not RELAX in the journey ahead, knowing who is walking with me and has made all these promises?

The scallop shell will stay on my windowsill for next year.

And the word is now carved on the heart of this pilgrim.

How kind the Lord is! How good He is to me!

And lest you think this is all coincidence…

Yesterday I got an email from a friend in another state. She knew nothing of the scallop shell or the suggestion of a Word of the Year. She knew only that the last two weeks a plough has gone through my life.

Her email included this line: “I will pray for both of us to relax in the Lord…”