Finding Hope in Amazing Grace

In my Bible study this morning, I was led to sing a hymn. It was Amazing Grace.

The fourth verse brought special meaning to me in this early hour:

“Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come;tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”

The last few months have been a bit of a challenge in one particular area of my life—we all have those times, don’t we?

…thing is, it’s been an unexpected area, with predictable yet unexpected antagonism. I have standards—we all do—and those standards have suffered repeated violations which continue to interrupt the productivity of my time, my heart, my vision, my experience and even my ethics.

I’m being vague, I know. Please extend a bit of grace to me for my intentionality. There are others involved, and some caring discretion is needed.

Toils and snares

Grace has been what has brought me through them in the past, oh so many times… Grace is what will bring me through them now.

The book from which I was reading also recommended reading Romans 5:1–5. Well…that was a completely awe-filled thing to suggest!

Let me share those verses with you (from the New International Version), and understand that I’ve added the bold words, because they stand out to me and propel me forward:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”

Do you see the AWEsomeness of His Word? Oh, it is simply incredible!

Each day is a new day, and I needed to sing out those words this morning, and I needed to be directed to read some of my favorite hope-filled verses this morning. My Heavenly Father and my incredible Savior knew what I needed, and with an open Book, a voice and a precious Word, my cup was filled. My daily bread was gathered. The table was set before me.

I am grateful to always find hope in His amazing grace.

 


 

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Finding Hope in Milestone Memories

A friend of mine recently crossed through a milestone moment—the anniversary of the death of her husband.

There’s no shirking the emotions that milestones like this bring about. Three years into her life change is nothing to gloss over, nothing to forget, nothing to celebrate…

…but there has been…

The lost days, the altered plans and the shattered dreams are beginning to yield to the blooming opportunities, new days and optimism she’s finding as she steps out of the losses and toward her new hopes. She’s grown, she’s gotten stronger, and she’s marking her milestone memories with plans for an unknown-yet-hope-filled future. That’s something to celebrate, even if the milestone moment and losses are not.

We all have these milestone moments. All of us. They are those days on the calendar or in our heart that cause us to withdraw and just think. They are our “would’a, should’a, could’a” moments that will always be a part of us.

But it’s what we do with them that counts toward our joy and our internal peace.

When we are walking through them knowing that the hard losses can still help us find our way to a future of something bigger…well, it’s then that our milestone moments are worked for good.

 


 

The Quest for Life’s Purpose & Meaning

CT.4-5
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.


Jesus replied:  “Love the Lord your God with
all your heart and with all your soul and with
all your mind.” This is the first and greatest
commandment. And the second is like it:
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
All the Law and the Prophets hang
on these two commandments.
~ Matthew 22:37-40

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

As Christians, we often wonder what our purpose in life is meant to be. We wonder where God might be leading us… how He might be calling us… what He would want us to be doing with our life on this side of eternity.

Seeking and searching for those answers can lead us toward love, peace, joy, and hope, and they can lead us into darkness, depression, addiction or hopelessness. There is often a great struggle to find our purpose.

The Bible is the powerful Word of God.
It full of His words to us.
It is full of instruction.

Authors have made millions speaking at seminars, workshops, writing self-help books, and promoting their latest and greatest methods for figuring out our lives. Truly, the answer to finding our purpose can be summed up in these four Scripture verses.

The answer is:  Love God and love others.

Sandra reminds us that, “when we choose to honor and celebrate one another, we are honoring and celebrating someone precious to God.”  She goes on to say that, “Doing so serves us well by cleaning out envy and jealousy, but Jesus reminds us that it also serves God well.”

Jesus is the one who spoke the words of the Scripture above. He calls us to love God and to love others. This is His purpose for our life, and when we are willing to embrace it, we will be filled with the Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Not only will we be filled, but we will also be a part of filling others.

It is a beautiful thing to “love others well by applauding their accomplishments and celebrating their skills.”

It is a beautiful thing to be loved by God, to love Him, and to love others.


 

Finding Hope in the Woman in the Mirror

FruitSpirit.Mirror.HS

I’ve struggled most of my life with looking in the mirror.
The woman I see staring back at me has usually not been the same woman I am.
The one staring back often feels as though she’s just not good enough.

Three years ago, my journey took a new turn. With that turn, part of me was lost, but part of me was also found. I had decisions to make and a path to walk. None of it would be easy. The reflection wasn’t friendly, but what was reflected became bigger than my own reflection.

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I wear make-up, and I like to wear make-up. My husband and boys tell me I don’t look much different without make-up as compared to what I look like when I do wear it. I disagree. The mirror seems to prefer mascara, eyeliner and lipstick.

The mirror tells me I’m a little “soft” and that I carry a few extra pounds;
the camera shows me that I’m squishy, and it’s more than just a few.

The mirror shows me that my skin is beginning to show its age;
my heart and my love of adventure don’t agree.

The mirror reveals the increase in my graying hair, my stray lip hair and the dark spots here and there from tanning way back when.

The mirror is like a friend who is brutally honest…you know…the one who tells you what you need to hear, not necessarily what you want to hear.

The mirror shows me what is on the surface, but — if I stay to look long enough — it shows what is often hidden.

The mirror.

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For Christmas this year, my husband surprised me with two wall decals. He got me the kind that press on, but are removable if one ever wants a change. One was small, and it went up right away, but the other one came in a big roll, and — since shortly after Christmas — it has laid on the floor in our library with a few soft stuffed animals pressing on it to make it flat. MANY times, he has asked me where I’d want it to be put on the wall, as he was VERY ready to stop stepping over it and get it up “for me.”

It was big. I just didn’t know where to put it. Most of the walls in our house are textured, so I just kept saying I didn’t want him to try to put it on a textured wall until I was sure I knew where I wanted it.

About a week ago, I told him I finally knew where I’d like it to be placed. When I told him the location, he questioned me multiple times. He was pleased that I had finally made up my mind, but he doubted the wisdom of my decision. Against his own preference, he decided to honor my wish, and he diligently pressed the letters onto the surface for me. We’re both in agreement now.

The photo you see above is where it now resides.

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In our master bathroom, there’s a folding, three-way mirror I designed and made when we renovated the room a few years ago. These wall decals now hang on the middle section of that mirror. They were a perfect fit, and I think they truly were meant to be there.

You see, the words now stuck on that mirror are the fruit of the Spirit. When I look into that mirror, what reflects back at me is not just me, but what He is leading me to be as I submit to being in step with the Spirit who resides in me.

“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control;”

~
excerpted from Galatians 5:22-23 of the NASB

In John, chapter 15 of the Bible, Jesus tells us He is the vine, and we are the branches. The branches grow from the vine and draw their life from the vine. The branches, then, have the ability to bear fruit. His fruit. Perhaps we’ll delve into this vine/branches/fruit topic more in the future, but for now, I want you to know something…

In Him, through Him, and because of my walk with Him, the woman I see staring back at me is becoming more like what He calls me to be.

I’m still a work in progress, but the seeds of His Spirit within me are sprouting and bearing His fruit.

I am struggling less with the mirror, as what is reflected is greater than just my own reflection.

 

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Finding Hope in the Year of Trust

Romans 1513.TRUST.Copy

So, we’re just over a week into 2014. How are you doing with your resolutions?

As you might have read in my last post, I resolved not to make resolutions. My desire has been to follow the Spirit’s leading to make changes in my life and to not depend on a calendar to make the decision for me.

Instead of resolutions, I’ve resorted to spending time in thought and prayer to see where the Lord might be leading me. Doing so has led to naming my years and working on His leadings whenever they occur.

“Trust” has been repeating itself to me over the last many weeks. Pastoral messages, verses that stand out in my reading, blogs that seem to jump out at me, conversations with family members, even billboards (yes, really!) have all been communicating simple messages of trust to me. My quiet time and prayer time have confirmed to me the need to work on my walk with the Lord in this area, and I feel it is where He would desire my focus.

2014 – The Year of Trust

It’s official!

In 2013’s Year of Hope, Jeremiah 29:11 became my key verse.

Jeremiah 29:11:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV)

There were aspects of 2012 (the Year of Obedience) which I needed to leave behind me and others on which I needed His help in building a future during 2013. The wonders of the Jeremiah verse made me smile with expectant hope every time I read the words, so it worked its way into my heart, my head, my memory and my hopes for 2013.

After a lot of prayer, some reading, some translation reviews and quite a bit of study in the Greek text, I am feeling good about my key verse for 2014 to go along with the Year of Trust. It’s another verse which seems to be making me smile with expectant hopes.

Romans 15:13:
“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.”
(NIV)

You see, it is the “God of hope” who offers us the ability to hope expectantly, because time and time again, He IS ALWAYS and HAS ALWAYS been shown to be true to His promises. He inspires hope within us, and He provides hope for us.

The joy and peace which fill us come from knowing and understanding — but not always fully understanding — how He has worked together our past to bring about blessings in our present. Knowing His character and His promises brings about a deep joy and peace within the depths of our being, because we can TRUST in Him to continue to do the same for us in our future.

Do you overflow with hope?
Do I?
Yes and no to both!

It is IN HIM which I desire to trust so greatly that it will be HIS joy, HIS peace, and HIS hope which overflow from me due to the work and the wondrous power of the Holy Spirit who resides in me. I feel as though 2013 was a year in which I felt a lot of this — and one in which I demonstrated some of this — but it is an unfinished work, because I still lack a level of trust in His promises.

I will always be an unfinished work on this side of His Heavens, and so will you. He will never be finished with me, but I desire to do my part in seeking Him and in trusting Him by knowing Him even more.

No matter what our circumstances may be, we live for, serve, love, are disciplined by, are blessed by, are shaped by, worship, praise and walk with a God who is so much bigger than any of it.

I need to trust that.

I need to trust Him.

2014 is the Year of Trust.

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