Tag Archives: Hope

Equipped

Advent
November 30, 2017

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

  I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Being whole in Christ is being fully equipped for whatever God is calling us to do. I visited my nephew’s farm recently where his wife and I wandered through the wooded area behind their home while she took pictures. The ground, beautifully carpeted with autumn leaves, lay in thick flat appearing piles. She cautioned me to be careful as the presence of the leaves masked the uneven ground beneath. I told her my physical therapist advised me to practice walking on uneven ground, which I could not do before my recent knee replacement surgery. My metal knee provides far more support than the replaced knee. Although it is still wise to be careful, I am now equipped to deal with uneven ground. God’s grace provides the equipment we need to deal with whatever issues we meet in our journey of faith.

“My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”
by Edward Mote, 1797-1874

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

His oath, His covenant, and blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When every earthly prop gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for equipping all your children to be whole as we are wholly yours. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

We Have a Savior

Living in the Spirit
June 27, 2017

Scripture Reading: Genesis 22:1-14

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ He said, ‘Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.’ And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt-offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place ‘The Lord will provide’; as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’ –Genesis 22:9-14

‘The Lord will provide.’ The Lord did provide the earth and all that is in it, our very lives, and knowledge and talents to use the resources wisely if we so choose. Some believed over the centuries that after creation God stepped back to observe how we humans handle such gifts. Abraham, I think, felt a partnership with God and  from the beginning, sought and received God’s guidance through all of his life as did Moses, David, and the prophets. Jesus introduced a more particular understanding of God with us. Jesus’ followers seek to fulfill the vision of a Kingdom, the world, ruled by love, as a calling to be a part of his purpose.

‘The Lord will provide.’ Abraham speaks in the future tense. Was this event the point at which Abraham realized that the Lord’s provision is eternal? I must say in times like these when the world teems with fear and hate and divisiveness; we need a touch of such faith. We need the provision of hope when our personal and communal resources feel stretched to the breaking point. We need a Savior. Thank God, almighty, we have one.

Prayer: We thank you God for the gift of Jesus Christ who dwelt among us and dwells with us today and forever. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

Hope

Living in the Spirit
June 20, 2017

Scripture Reading: Genesis 21:8-21

When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, ‘Do not let me look on the death of the child.’ And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, ‘What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.’ Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.

 God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt. –Genesis 21:15-21

I heard a speaker once say that the difference between being poor and living in poverty is hope. Hope is what God planted in Hagar’s heart. Hope is the gift we are called to share with the hopeless. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs* states that humans must have their physical needs (food, clothing, and shelter) and safety just to survive. To thrive, we must know love and belonging, which are foundational to good self-esteem and finally self-actualization. Hope is a driving force in helping people sustain an upward climb through these levels of development.

The Save the Children organization recently released a worldwide study of the status of children and a separate piece on children in each state in the USA. They are both heartbreaking reports but provide important information we need to know. Oklahoma ranks 46th among states in tracked negative outcomes impacting the futures of children. Oklahoma’s bad rankings result primarily from its high teen birth rate and high infant mortality rate. They were the major problems in Oklahoma when I first became a social worker in 1969. We have made progress but far less than other states.

There are a lot of Ismael’s in the world today in need of necessities and safety and just as importantly in need of hope. We as followers of Christ are called to be distributors of hope. The many children in refugee camps around the world remind us of Ismael as do the children in classrooms in Oklahoma sent home on Fridays with a backpack of food because the school lunch program is believed to be the children’s primary source of nutrition.

Prayer: Lord, enable our ability to distribute hope as well as developing systems designed to help all become self-sufficient. Amen.

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs
**http://www.savethechildren.org/site/c.8rKLIXMGIpI4E/b.6115947/k.B143/Official_USA_Site.htm

All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.

I Can See Clearly Now

Epiphany
January 18, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 27:1, 4-9

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
   whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
   of whom shall I be afraid? –Psalm 27:1

We dealt with a lot of darkness in our lectionary readings so far, this week. There is a lot of darkness with which we must deal. The good news is that the light of Christ is always with us if we connect to it. An old 70’s era song runs through my mind which describes that moment in relationship with Christ when our hope in wholeness comes to fruition:

I can see clearly now, the rain has gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright, bright sun-shining day
It’s gonna be a bright, bright sun-shining day 

I think I can make it now, the pain has gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for
It’s gonna be a bright, bright sun-shining day*

I know nothing of Johnny Nash’s life story, but he clearly had an encounter with hope at some point. We need to encounter hope in all that we do. We need to share the hope that is in and through Jesus Christ with all those we encounter.

Prayer: Let your light shine for us and through us in all our lives’ journeys. Amen.

From I Can See Clearly Now written by Johnny Nash see at http://lyrics.wikia.com/wiki/Johnny_Nash:I_Can_See_Clearly_Now

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Keeping a Promise

The-Promises-of-GodAdvent
November 23, 2015

Scripture Reading: Jeremiah 33:14-16

The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

People seem to not care about promises anymore or even telling the truth. I am tired of hearing leaders, political or otherwise, explaining away the falsehoods they spread to make themselves seem different, stronger, better than then really are. And what is in a politician’s promise anyway? The temptation is to not trust anyone or expect anything from anyone no matter what they say. Does that mean we also take the promises of God lightly too?

It is my experience that what God says God does. It may take more time than my patience allows, but at some point, I see God in something when I least expect it. God was, of course, there all along. God keeps God’s promises.

I guess, the question, we must ponder is this: If God promised to execute justice and righteousness in the land, why are we all trembling in fear of standing against injustice when we see it?

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
   and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
   and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

But let justice roll down like waters,
   and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Amos 5:24

Prayer: Lord, as we enter this time of Advent where we remember the world before you came to us as God with us, renew and refresh our understanding of your purpose that is now our purpose. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized 
Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council 
of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights 
reserved.

Dance, Dance

Jesus loveLiving in the Spirit
August 23, 2015

Scripture Reading: John 6:56-69

66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67 So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” 68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” –John 6:66-69

These are hard, hard words to digest. Eat my flesh; drink my blood. It is not surprising that many disciples turned back. Even the ones who stayed were less than enthusiastic. Where else could they go? Some turned back because they thought he was crazy. Some turned back because they understood what he was asking. Ever been there? I have. I have felt the hopelessness of situations that led me to the feet of Jesus because it was the only place I had left to go. I am not proud of that. I wish I had at all times the faith and trust and especially the hope in Christ every time I must face a challenge but I sometimes have weak knees even as I have experienced the power of God working in my life in similar situations.

I remember once coming home from a particularly disappointing day of failure at work. My soul was disturbed and I could find no peace so I tried an imaging prayer, I had been reading about where one imagined her or himself in one of the stories of Jesus. I chose the story of the woman washing Jesus’ feet with her tears. As I sat, in my mind’s eye, at Jesus’ feet feeling really sorry for myself, he reached down tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Let’s dance.” And he waltzed me off into the air turning and whirling like pros with our feet never touching the ground. Never had that happened to me before and never since but it was the most amazing way to refresh my hope and get me out of my self-pity. I now grin every time I sing or hear Lord of the Dance* particularly the chorus:

Dance, dance, wherever you may be
I am the lord of the dance, said he
And I lead you all, wherever you may be
And I lead you all in the dance, said he

Prayer: Lead us Lord, keep us from defeating ourselves, from turning away from you just as we begin to make sense of your mission. Grant us your peace of spirit as we strive to do your will. Amen.

*Lord of the Dance by Sydney Carter see at http://celtic-lyrics.com/lyrics/309.html
All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Hope in the Lord

hope_rises_Living in the Spirit
August 5, 2015

Scripture Reading: Psalm 130

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
   Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
   to the voice of my supplications!  

If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
   Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with you,
   so that you may be revered.  

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
   and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
   more than those who watch for the morning,
   more than those who watch for the morning.  

O Israel, hope in the Lord!
   For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
   and with him is great power to redeem.
It is he who will redeem Israel
   from all its iniquities.

I am not a patient person. When I wait on the Lord, I fear, I do not do it with as much hospitality as God desires or deserves. My guess is when I am waiting on the Lord to do what I want, the Lord is waiting on me to figure out what I want is neither just nor right for the situation at hand. At the point I perceive the fallacy of my way, God shows me a better way.

As one who spent most of my career facilitating long-range planning, I learned early that there are as many ways of accomplishing something as there are people charged to make it happen. I usually had clear vision regarding plans to address issues about which I did not have a personal stake and could help the people involved see the ways they could weave their diverse approaches into productive outcomes. It is often our personal stakes that foster impatience and the need to wait on God in the first place. Those personal stakes may be spot on. After all, the people who know the subject matter better than most are the ones working to address it. Implementing change to bring about justice, however, does not occur in a vacuum. Change would not be necessary if we all shared the same viewpoint on an issue. Implementing change demands our seeing the world from a broader perspective.

When we turn to God and wait patiently for God to open our hearts and minds to a better way, we will find our hope in God’s love is well invested.

Prayer: Lord, help me to see and remove the log in my own eye limiting my vision toward understanding your way in working with others. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Them Bones

Them bonesEastertide
May 22, 2015

Scripture Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all round them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, ‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’ Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.’ –Ezekiel 37:1-6

Many years ago I participated in a Bible study based on the story of the raising of Lazarus. I have long sense lost the study material, but the study itself was truly burned into my being. It address the question of whether we were, for all intents and purposes, dead like Lazarus rotting in his tomb and just going through the motions of living.

The people of Israel living in exile were, by and large, just going through the motions of living. I imagine that is what it must be like for all the refugees scattered about the world today. People fleeing Iraq and Syria, people on boats stuck in the Mediterranean and Southeast Asia trying to escape from terrorist. Some hope must still exist among them though for they are people fueled at least by the will to live.

What about you and me? Those of us who live and move and have our being in the midst of plenty, in relative security, seem to be going through the motions of living also. Why?

Ezekiel’s well-known vision is designed to foster hope. The spirit of God is still moving in the world, unseen, but actively engaged in reconnecting the people of God with purpose and a future. There is more to life then obtaining the latest electronic gadget or acquiring the latest thing in fashion, cars, or homes. Being loved and loving are the key ingredients to joy and self-worth.

Prayer: Lord, enable us to love you and love others to the extent that our love is mirrored in the ways of the peoples of the earth. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Hope for Tomorrow

Hope for tomorrowEastertide
May 21, 2015

Scripture Reading: Romans 8:22-27

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. –Romans 8:22-25

If you live in Oklahoma, you get a real-time education in meteorology whether you want it or not. I know a whole lot more about hook echoes and super cells than I ever thought possible. Just yesterday evening I spent time watching as a huge super cell cross southern Oklahoma. Tracked for 27 miles, it destroyed much in its path, primarily in open country with few structures. The buildings lost in its path were just as important as the ones destroyed in urban areas, but there were not so many and so far no injuries have been reported. Living in tornado alley also provides real-time experience of hope as does living in the path of hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and other natural disasters.

 I love the third verse of Great is Thy Faithfulness, which I think captures the essence of our scripture today.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!* 

At times, it seems the whole world is in the path of super cells of evil not related to nature. Some are the consequences of our own actions or our ancestors’ actions. Some result in damage to people who are innocent but have the misfortune of being in the path of evil. Most are designed to shatter hope. We worship a forgiving God who has also willingly sent God’s son to show us how to do faith in the face of such evil and whose dear presence continues as our guide and advocate. Our hope is built on nothing less**. 

Prayer: Lord, give us the strength we need for today and the bright hope we need for tomorrow to serve you as you have called us to do. Amen.

*Great is Thy Faithfulness, words by Thomas Obediah Chisholm see at https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/19

**First line from The Solid Rock by Edward Mote see at http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/The_Solid_Rock/

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Being Hope

Being hopeLent February 22, 2015

Scripture Reading: Mark 1:9-15 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’ — Mark 1:14

John’s arrest must have been a bitter blow for Jesus. John was a mentor, cousin, and friend. Perhaps the arrest was the catalyst for the start of Jesus’ ministry. He surely had been working in some capacity with John before the arrest but he now moved onto center stage.

It is hard to watch one’s society imploding, crumbling inside itself as external pressures seem to be insurmountable. John had become an irritant to King Herod, chastising him for his personal misdeeds, and soon Herod would simply have John beheaded as a favor to his wife. Living in such a situation leads to hopelessness and futility. Yet this relative and friend of John’s, this Jesus, responds to the arrest by declaring the good news that the kingdom of God was near.

How do we apply that lesson today in parts of the world where there is little or no hope left? How do we bring hope to our own inner-cities where poverty and lack of opportunities stifle wellbeing? How do we live out being the hands and arms and heart and legs and feet of the Body of Christ in our world today?

Take a few minutes to ponder these questions and then literally write down at least one, maybe two or three, things you can do today that will bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to a hurting world. Perhaps it’s checking on someone who is alone and snowed in. Perhaps it is writing and sending a check to an entity bringing hope to the world, perhaps it is gathering all those shoes you no longer wear and taking them to a ministry that distributes shoes to people on the street. Now do it.

Prayer:  Lord, enable me to be that part of the Body of Christ that you have called me to be and to do the tasks that are associated with it. I understand I cannot do everything, help me realize and actualize that I must do something. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.