Persevere Through Hope

Don’t give up. Have you ever heard those words and thought, “Sure. Fine for you to say, but you don’t know what I’m going through here.” I’ve been on that path right beside you. I know how it feels. You know – like if you had a towel. you’d throw it in. There are many reasons not to throw in the towel or call it quits or give up on that thing you know is worth the effort.

When my grandson Tyler was in preschool he wanted to carry the basket while shopping with my daughter. As each item was added to that little red basket, the weight got heavier and heavier. My daughter observed this and offered to take the basket herself, but he said, “No, I’ll persevere.” It was a significant burden for a little guy, but he insisted on carrying the load until they reached their destination – the checkout, the relief station, the completion.

If we could define the storybook life, we would all fill up our baskets with perfect health, sports without injury, relationships with no rejection, scrumptious food with no calories, kind acts, no bullies, all fun and pain would be absent. Even though full, our baskets would be a light as air, as weightless as happiness.

That isn’t how it is though. Life is a contact sport and sometimes it can really beat us up. We live in a fallen world full of sadness, sickness, baskets that grow heavy with burdens. But we are implored to not give up. In fact, Hebrews 10:36 spells it out for us. “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” If you read that entire chapter you will see that people lived with conflicts, insurmountable afflictions and they suffered greatly. “I’ll persevere.” became their mantra.

Maybe you never feel like giving in. You might never reach the saturation point and wonder how you can go on. If you’re that person, reach out to others who need your courage. The word encourage means to instill courage in others. Be the person who touches the heart of the hurting.

If you are on the edge of giving up and questioning how you can take one more step, here’s your answer. Yes, you can. It’s called hope. 

H
Help someone else. Do something for another person, expecting nothing in return.

O
Organize your private world – this might take some thought and effort but this is powerful. Organize your private world means thinking through and writing down what is important to you. You don’t have to love writing to jot down what you want your life to look like. Organizing your private world also includes getting rid of clutter in your living space that blurs your focus and becomes a distraction. A little bit of clutter is a byproduct of a full life, but when it becomes a distraction. A little bit of clutter is a byproduct of a full life, but when it becomes too much, it’s a burden, not a blessing.

P
Pray. You knew this was coming, but I can’t apologize for bringing it up over and over. You can even pray, “Lord please remove burden, but if you choose not to take it, at least lift the weight.” The more prayer you put in your basket, the less room there is for all those burdens. If you want to know the benefits of prayer, read James 5.

E
Embrace opportunities. This might sound impossible because when we feel defeated, we don’t recognize opportunities. Opportunities aren’t always seen with human eyes, they are often seen only with the heart. Sometimes we have to remember where we are in our life journey. “Focus on what you have not on what you’ve lost. Capitalize on what you can do, not on what you cannot.”

So here we go. Hope to continue. Hope to persevere. Hope shared with others. Hope to last a lifetime.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

 

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Love might not look the way we envision it.

What does love look like?

Yesterday, in my quiet time I read Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Nothing in that verse says anything about love, but it bible crown of thorns and heart image 2feels like love, doesn’t it? The path of life … filled with joy … that comes from God – who is the source of joy. “If a person pleases God, God will give him wisdom, knowledge, and joy.” Ecclesiastes 2:26 And there’s always “God is love.” 1 John 4:8

“Have you ever wondered … what does love look like? We look at lacy cards with calligraphy and hearts and we say, that’s love. We unwrap a gift in silky paper and we say, that’s love. We open a box to find a treasure inside and we say, that’s love. All those things look like love, and they beautifully represent all we come to think of as love, but what if love looked like none of those things?

 

Sometimes love:

  • Gives up the one day you planned for yourself, to visit someone who no longer has freedom to go wherever they choose.caroling at carveth 2015
  • Spends hours outside in biting wind and blowing snow to plow your driveway and six others too.
  • Provides respite care for parents who never have a day off from caring for special needs children.
  • Prepares a home cooked meal for someone who is unable to think about what their family will eat.
  • Gets down on the floor to play with kids when you’d rather stretch out in the recliner and watch TV.
  • Writes a letter, card or email to someone who needs to be cheered up.
  • Sits all evening with someone at the hospital or all day at a chemo center when your list of things to do keeps growing
  • Hugs someone for no other reason than to say, “I care.”
  • Donates your entire stash of loose change saved for a special occasion, to a neighborhood youth group.

 

Sometimes lBreathe it all in Love It all outove looks messy. Sometimes love is inconvenient. Sometimes love looks nothing like how we’ve defined it. Let’s be clear that God’s ways are higher than our ways and we don’t always understand him, but Psalm 145:17 assures us that “The Lord is just in all his actions, and exhibits love in all he does.”

In our humanness, how often do we become so absorbed in “my dreams”, “my time”, “my growing list of things to do” and ask “When is it my turn?” I caught myself thinking that just for a split second a few days ago and God transported me back to kindergarten where I heard my teacher say, “Do one good turn daily.”

 

This morning, I read in Matthew 12:34 “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Do one good turn daily. What do you think? Is there one thing you can do today, that looks like love the way God defines it?

Lord, weTyler and Katelyn by train station all live entrenched in busyness. Thank you that I have the capacity to live a full, productive life. I don’t take that for granted, Lord. I know it’s because of you that I have breath. Please make me mindful of others and infuse me with your version of love. Give me your heartsight to see people through your eyes and recognize their need. Thank you, Lord that you can use the smallest ‘one turn daily’ to shine your love in a dark world. Remind me that I belong to your family, Jesus, and I represent you. Thank you, Lord, for Proverbs 19:21 that says, I may have many ideas in my head and plans in my heart, but it is your purpose that will stand. Today, is yours Lord. I surrender my ideas and plans to live your purpose.

What does love look like? Maybe it’s not what we think.Tim covered with snow

Are you compassionate?

I have to admit I grew up hearing the word ‘compassionate’. It was a common word in my house, my father was a pastor.  But I never really thought about whether ‘compassionate’ is a word anyone would use when describing me. I’m going to shock you! I am not a naturally compassionate person. Some of my friends? Compassionate! Individuals who devote their time, money –in short, their lives to rescuing the less fortunate? Compassionate! People who are genuinely sad when misfortune comes to another person? Compassionate! I admire those whose hearts are naturally compassionate. I, on the other hand, have to work at it. Maybe you do too. Does that make us incompetent in performing acts of compassion? Of course not!  We can still show compassion and be an effective actor, even if we have to work at it with a little more energy than our compassionate friends. Remember this:  Practice doesn’t make perfect.  Perfect practice makes perfect. – Vince Lombardi

For those of us on the quest to practice compassion, here are 10 Ways to say ‘I care’!

1. Make a phone call. I hate making phone calls, so I’ve learned to have phone number lists available to make the task easier. Written out, phone books, directories, online contacts, stored in my cell phone – wherever I can find the number when needed.

2. Send a real card. In four sentences, you can express care and concern. You can also express great joy and congratulations. Did you know that even when an event is good, there is opportunity to be compassionate? Have sources for addresses handy, a supply of stamps, and something to write your thoughts on. I have received written notes of encouragement on a torn sheet of paper, and sweet words written on a torn off piece of a cereal box. Not kidding!

3. Go to your favorite coffeehouse or retail store and buy a small gift card. I’ve found some for $5 that are inexpensive enough that the person receiving it doesn’t feel obligated to ‘pay you back’ but still expresses compassion.

4. Take a meal, already cooked – or take a meal ready to cook. For this, I use an aluminum pan and put in a roast, potatoes, carrots, onion slices, and seasoning. Bake it or not bake it – depending on the situation. Add frozen vegetables in a cook-in bag. Take a long a pre-packaged salad that has the dressing inside.  My best friend is famous for making a pan of lasagna and home-baking chocolate chip cookies.

5. Buy a gift certificate from a place that delivers hot food to the door. Mail or take the certificate and a printed copy of their menu.  This is more difficult if the person lives where ‘home delivery’ is limited to the newspaper.

6. Visit in person. This can be tough. We are all busy – compassionate acts don’t know that. Especially if a person is confined to home for long periods of time, they crave personal visits, even if they are short. When you visit, the most important gift you can give is your time, a few funny stories, and a persistent smile.

7. Offer to babysit. Talk about inconvenient! That would mean …. Yes, it does. Practicing compassion is very inconvenient and means we use time we would rather spend doing anything else than watching noisy, rambunctious, messy kids.

8. Be the respite caregiver. There are homes close to you where someone is caring for an elderly parent or dependent child 24/7 and they need a break. They won’t ask, but if we offer they will accept our gift of compassion.

9. Send email – not just include them in your regular distribution. Send it to them personally, express your understanding of their specific need.

10. Be empathetic. In fact one of the keys to compassion is being able to walk in the shoes of another person, to be absorbed by what they are feeling, and identify with whatever their situation is. Empathy allows us to act appropriately.

Compassion is tough, especially for those of us who are not naturally compassionate. We need to invest more of ourselves into the mindset of compassion.  It takes time we’d rather spend doing something else, and it takes effort to think of ways we can meet the need of another person when we see it. If you’re like me, most of the time the need has to be spelled out for me in slow, deliberate sentences because I-just-don’t-get-it.  But once I understand it, then I can act. Maybe that’s how you are too.  So now you know 10 ways you can show compassion the next time there’s a need.  Oh wait a minute … I think I’m getting a call to action right now.

 

Tell it to someone who cares

Tell it to someone who cares.

How often have your heard those words spoken?  How often were they intended to warm your heart and give you confidence? Right! Most of the time, when you hear, “Tell it to someone who cares.” the literal meaning is, “Nobody cares.”  It hurts when nobody cares, especially when we’re hurting. Then there are times when ‘Nobody cares.” is a GOOD thing.

It’s Friday – let’s do a little comparison shopping down the Care Aisle.  Let’s put the heavy stuff in the bottom of the cart. What are some things that cause your heart to feel like a ball of mercury in your chest? Illness of a loved one or yourself, financial concerns, car trouble, broken relationships, lost jobs, too many commitments, flood damage, problems with co-workers, computer issues, children’s school performance, your own performance . . . heavy, heavy burdens. All those situations lying in the bottom of the cart are worrisome, real, and drag us down.  To these we don’t want to hear “Tell it to someone who cares.”  In fact, hearing those words would send us further into the abyss of despair.

Now let’s go down the Who Cares Aisle and dredge up a few items that react like helium in our chest instead of the heavy mercury.  You’re late to exercise class, forget to stamp a card and it comes back, wear one black sock and one blue sock, forget to comb your hair (or ‘gasp’ put on make-up), sing off key, find a typo in your personal blog (yah, like that never happens), run out of milk, run out of gas, totally forget an appointment, show up for an appointment two weeks early – and nobody cares!

See? It makes a difference when we hear, “Tell it to someone who cares.” For the heavy burdens, we need heavy lifters; we might need the backhoe and the dumpster too.  I once read this quote and even though I don’t remember where I got it, I have remembered it.  “Friends divide our sorrows and double our joy.” I don’t know if that’s it exactly, but that’s what I got out of it. I started reading the book of Luke because out of all the books in the Bible, it seems like Luke has the most stories with the happy endings. True, it has the most treasured Christmas story, but it has so many more truths than just the one about Christmas. Luke is a book of forgiveness, hope and happy endings.  If I had time right now I would outline some of the happy endings …. But here’s the thing – Tell it to someone who cares, means something when our difficulties and burdens are too heavy to bear.  First, take them to the cross and lay them down. Literally – stack them up. Take them one at a time; acknowledge, admit, define, vocalize … give it to someone who cares.  God cares and he gets to decide anyway so unburden and let it slide.  1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Seek out a trusted friend and talk through the trials – divide your sorrows. Sometimes the best therapy in the world comes from our friendships – that come to us free of charge.

Now about all those other things down the Who Cares Aisle. We all do things that seem at most devastating and at least embarrassing during the day. Believe me.  I’m not minimizing how demoralizing embarrassing moments can be. I’ve had many and know just how that feels.  Here’s the best advice anyone ever gave me about those things down the Who Cares Aisle. Learn to laugh at yourself. Admit mistakes, learn from them, and go on. Be the best bouncer on the planet and learn what it takes to bounce back after making a mistake. There is not a one-size-fits-all, but there is a one-attitude-fits-all.  Have an attitude of gratitude and start there. See if that helps make us better, not bitter.  See if gratitude changes the way you view the world today. Philippians 4:8-9 “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. —put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”