Finding Hope in Hope

Welcome to June!

May was a magnificent month on so many levels. May brought sad endings, happy endings, fresh starts and new beginnings on my path throughout the month. Memories were made through milestone moments, love was shared and doors were opened.

May was also a tough month. Doors slammed closed on yet another round of hope, justice fell through a manipulative chasm, and loneliness ensued within a black hole of solitude.

June is here, and a new month is a new opportunity to mark a new round of optimism and hope… by choice, of course.

It is a choice.
It’s always a choice.

Within every given ending, start, beginning, milestone, anniversary, reminder, closed door, chasm
or black hole of circumstances, hope is a choice.

Do you hear that?
Hope… it’s a choice.

It’s a choice you have to make, and it’s a choice I have to make, too.

Don’t ever give up on it.
Don’t ever let the darkness overcome the light.
Don’t ever…

Choose hope.

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.
~Romans 15:13 (NIV)


What is your hope for June?
What is the darkness needing to be overcome by the light?
I’d like to pray for you, and I’d certainly appreciate your prayers for me, too.


 

When I’m Not Really Happy for You…

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Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

This is the continuation of an earlier post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating.


Where you have envy and selfish ambition,
there you find disorder and every evil practice.
~ James 3:16

The Comparison Trap:  Week Four, Day One… Some of my reminders and my takeaways from the daily devotional include:

In today’s devotional, Sandra mentions a book called, I’m Happy for You (Sort of…Not Really), by her friend Kay Wyma. Gosh, the title sums up so much of the comparison trap, doesn’t it?

We want to be happy for Heather’s pregnancy announcement, Laura and Jim’s vacation plans to Hawaii for their wedding anniversary, Morgan’s promotion at work, Rob’s big pay raise, Mark’s surprise trip for Jennifer, the news that Karen’s daughter got the lead in the play, the fantastic new home Scott and Kim are building…the names are different in your life, but you know these people. Celebrating with them without letting ourselves dip a toe into the waters of comparison can be tough.

Sandra reminds us that CHOOSING “to celebrate your friends’ good news (and it’s a choice) is the quickest, most powerful antidote to envy.

I’d really, really love to have my friends choose to deeply celebrate my blessings with me, and I am sure they’d really, really love to have me choose to celebrate with them. The envy and selfishness that creeps between our thoughts and our choice to celebrate out loud with others can put us on a path of disorder. 

Make the other choice…the one where we bless others with words which celebrate their lives with them.


 

Seeing Broken Bits Multiplied into Blessings

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Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

This is the continuation of an earlier post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating.


Andrew spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small
barley loaves and two small fish,
but how far will they go among so many?”
Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.”
There was plenty of grass in that place, and they
sat down (about five thousand men were there).
Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks,
and distributed to those who were seated
as much as they wanted.
He did the same with the fish.
When they had all had enough to eat,
he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are
left over. Let nothing be wasted.”
So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets
with the pieces of the five barley loaves
left over by those who had eaten.
~ John 6:8-13

The Comparison Trap:  Week Three, Day Three… Some of my reminders and my takeaways from the daily devotional include:

For me, this is one of the most powerful devotions in the Comparison Trap study, so far.

I’ve been going through some things in my life… things that are uncomfortable, and circumstances which have pushed me to limits I didn’t know I had. I find hope in the Scripture above, even though the expectant hope and personal application I’ve found in it is somewhat outside the context of the verses.

Here are the three things which stand out the most to me:

  1. “Here is a boy…”  He’s a boy. Not a pastor, teacher, business man, or anyone who might stand out to others. He’s a boy.
  2. “Let nothing be wasted…,” said Jesus. I’ve always known He told the disciples to gather what remained, but I’ve never consciously read those words to the point that they’d stand out, even though my study Bible is an older New International Version (the same as the Scripture above).
  3. God provides, and He turns what we have to offer Him into blessings.

So here are my main takeaways from the three aspects which stand out to me:

  1. I am the boy. You are the boy. Whatever we have to offer Him, he can use. Am I willing to recognize that even a small offering can be a blessing? That He can use it for the good of others? That my faith can grow when I am willing to share the gifts He’s given me?
  2. God wastes nothing.  I’ve said this so many times to myself, and I’ve written about it, too. Yesterday, in a weepy breakdown, I just kept repeating this over and over to myself, and here it is in the Scripture today. He’s going to create a way for the broken bits and pieces of my life to be multiplied, shared, and gathered, because He is the One who commands that nothing be wasted.
  3. He’s ready to multiply my faith and turn it into blessings for me and for others. We don’t know the attitude of the boy who offered up his lunch, but we do know what was done with it. I need to keep reminding myself that this life isn’t just about me and my weepy circumstances; it’s about how He can and will use those circumstances for His good if I’m willing to lay them at His feet.

Sandra Stanley asks, “What did it do to the boy’s faith to watch Jesus turn his small offering into a blessing for so many others? What could it do to your faith to watch God do the same with what you can offer?”

She goes on to encourage us to fight the feelings that our little bits could never go far enough, and to instead, trust God to make our bits astoundingly more—immeasurably more, even.

In my weepy moments and in my joyous ones, it’s important for me to remember that He commands nothing be wasted, and that what I have IS less important than what I do with what I have. The impact is made when I’m willing to offer up what I have for Him to use.


 

You Don’t Know My Heart

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Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

This is the continuation of an earlier post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating.


But the Lord said to Samuel,
“Do not consider his appearance or
his height, for I have rejected him.
The Lord does not look at the things people look at.
People look at the outward appearance,
but the Lord looks at the heart.”
~1 Samuel 16:7

The Comparison Trap:  Week Two, Day Four… Some of my reminders and my takeaways from the daily devotional include:

The Scripture verse for Day Four has to do with God’s coming appointment of David as the future King of Israel. God directed the prophet Samuel to where he should go to find this King, but God did not outrightly inform Samuel who would be the chosen one.

Before Samuel even had begun his review of Jesse’s sons, God cautioned Samuel with the Scripture verse for today. Samuel was a great prophet, respected by many and led by God, but even so, Samuel only knew what God revealed to him, and God reminded Samuel that He, Himself, did not see people the same way the world did.

We can’t see what’s going on in other people’s hearts, but God can. He knows.

The flip side to this is that other people can’t see what’s going on in our own heart, but God can. He knows.

We are so quick to judge others, but we judge them based on what we see from the outside as we try to look into their heart. In real time, we aren’t capable of seeing their heart before we start to make our judgments. Our judgments so often miss the mark, and we can cause a lot of damage with our presuppositions toward others.

Sandra takes us into the intentional game of grace-giving… of making up a justification to take the bite out of our initial reaction to being cut off by another driver because he might be rushing to meet his just-about-to-be-born baby; of gawking enviously at the enormous engagement ring which might just be a family heirloom; or eying up the big, fancy SUV which may have been bought for safety’s reasons after a scary car accident.

Instead of looking at others from my point of view, could I look at them from my choice of view? Am I willing to change my perspective, since I really have no clue what might be going on in some else’s heart? There is a choice, and it can make an impact on others.

It can be uncomfortable to be on either side of this trap of comparison.

You’ve been there… you’ve been on one side at some point, and you’ve been on the other side at another point in your life. Sometimes we eye someone up just wondering (with scrutiny in our own heart) what the real story is. Sometimes we know someone is eying us up (with scrutiny being reflected in their glaring eyes), and we just want to scream, “You don’t know me or my circumstances!”

God knows their whole story, and He knows ours. He knows our heart… no matter which point of view we CHOOSE to take. Be cautious in comparison.

 


 

Transforming the Web of Comparison

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Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

This is the continuation of an earlier post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating.


Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—
his good, pleasing and perfect will. 
~Romans 12:2

The Comparison Trap:  Week Two, Day Two… Some of my reminders and my takeaways from the daily devotional include:

Sandra Stanley just jumps right in and hits Day Two’s devotional hard as she warns us about the tangled web that awaits in comparison:

The struggle with comparison is really a struggle with lies.
It’s a lie that we don’t measure up to those around us.
It’s a lie that what others have diminishes what we have.
It’s a lie that the pretty photos we see of our friends’ accurately depict their everyday reality.”

It’s imperative that we renew our mind. Before we can renew, we have to be willing to admit that culture often swings us in a way that is contrary to the path on which God would lead us. Once we’re willing to admit this, we’ve got to make the choice to do something about it. This is necessary if we’re really going to be serious about renewing our mind.

Sandra defines renewing our mind as an ongoing process of identifying the lies we believe and culture bombards us with, and then replacing those lies with God’s truth. We’ve got to get into the Word to do this. It’s imperative.

One of my favorite parts of the Comparison Trap study and devotional book has been the daily Scripture reminders. For those of us going through the study, we’re finding they make us think!!

One of the struggles I hear from women is that they want to know more about where God is leading them and why He’s got them on this particular path at this point in their life. I ask Him the same questions, and I often feel as though He’s trying to transform me… to really transform me, my mind, my choices, my perspective, my obedience, my submission to Him, my hopes, my journey and my relationship with Him.

When I’m more in tune with Him, I’m more in tune with where He might be leading me. Being more in tune with Him is best accomplished through a relationship with Him. That’s best accomplished by spending time in His Word to hear His truth.

I’ve written about this verse before during a time I was searching for authenticity and searching for His leading through some of my own challenges in needing to be transformed.
You can read about it here.

Romans 12:2.Pattern from Death Valley
This photo and artwork belong to me. I took the pic on a trip to the salt flats of Death Valley a few years ago, and while I was dwelling in the desolate beauty of the land here, I couldn’t get this verse out of my head.