Friday, December 16, 2016

Hope for Aleppo

It's all over the news, and my Facebook feed, and it's consuming my thoughts.
I feel like there isn't a single thing I can do to affect the situation. And my heart is so sad.
Because, life is "normal" for me.
If I wanted to, I could live today as though nothing was wrong on the other side of the world.
And that feels so unfair!
On the other side of the world men, women, and children are suffering. They're starving, and hiding, and being attacked and killed. And I want to do something!
I want to be able to make the fighting stop. To make the warring parties live in peace.
Honestly, I want to convince them all to love Jesus and live in HIS kingdom.
But I'm just me.
And I'm here.
What can I do?
I feel like I can't even dare to hope.

And that, right there, is where God steps in and reminds me: Love ALWAYS hopes.

I don't see the solution. I don't know how peace will be restored and righteousness will reign. I cannot fathom how lives will be saved.
But I know God.
HE sees, and HE knows, and HE will work it out.
And because of HIM, I have hope. Because of HIM, I will always have hope.
Because God listens and cares and is able to do all things, in hope I will do the one thing I can do.
I will pray.
Will you join me?

I am signing off for a while. If God agrees, I'll be back January 2.
Until then, I wish you a very Merry Christmas.
Let us press on in hopeful prayer for our world, as we wait for HIM to come again!


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Love ALWAYS Hopes

But, what about the times when things don't go as you'd hoped they would?
When God does work out the situation, and it isn't the way you hoped it would be?
What does Love do then???

Can I just say, God continuously delights my heart - by bringing these lessons home?
Last week He opened my eyes to my irritability.
Now He's allowing me to experience unfulfilled hope.
And, YES! These unasked-for incidents really are delighting my heart. Because the questions I posed above are real. If Love always hopes, what is Love supposed to do when it looks like hope has failed?
Friends, God is helping me to understand.
And this is the conclusion to which I have come: Love ALWAYS hopes.
When God works out a circumstance, and the workings are not as we hoped they would be,
Love keeps on hoping.

Do you remember the definition of hope we looked at Tuesday?
It comes from the Greek word elpis, and means: to hope, actively waiting for God's fulfillment about the faith He has inbirthed through the power of His love. On Tuesday, we focused on our role in this definition. The active part. But as we consider today's questions, I want to focus on God's role. You see, at the center of it all, it's all about HIM. GOD will fulfill the faith HE inbirthed through HIS love.
I believe GOD is Love's source of hope - and the reason Love ALWAYS hopes.
I wonder if you can relate to my situation this week? I hoped something would happen. I prayed about it, dreamed about it, and - quite frankly - probably spent too much time thinking about it. In my prayers I acknowledged that God's will was my desire - and I really hoped His will would intersect with mine.
But, it didn't.
And I was faced with a decision. What does Love do when what it hoped for isn't fulfilled?
It was like God whispered the answer to my heart, Well, dear Karen, do you think it's a mere coincidence that I've got you studying "Love always hopes" this week? When what you hoped for isn't fulfilled, remember: Love always hopes for MY fulfillment. For the fulfillment of that which is inspired by ME.
Ahhh. With that statement, HE opened my eyes.
The thing for which I was hoping was a product of my imagination. My will. It wasn't from HIM. I mean, it wasn't a "bad" thing - this hope of mine. But it was inspired by me - not God.
Sometimes I get confused between the two. Do you?
So, God reminded me that Love always hopes for what HE wills. Because what HE wills is always good, and always for good. And I believe implicit in that hope is complete trust in God's heart, and total faith in His sovereignty. When the object of our hope goes unfulfilled, Love believes it wasn't God's will, and continues to hope for His fulfillment about the faith He inbirthed through the power of His love.
Love says, Oops! I was wrong about that one. Thank You, LORD, for Your patience with me.

And Love goes right on hoping. ALWAYS.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

What Does it Mean to HOPE?

So, I'm thinking about Love always hopes this week. (1 Corinthians 13:7)
One of the things my Precepts participation has drilled into me is to go to the source, rather than to rely on my own ideas. And when I do that, I typically discover that my own ideas fall dismally short of God's intended meaning.
My idea of hope was no exception.
And I think I'm a pretty hope-full person!
However, if I defined hope according to my own understanding I would say something like, Hope is trusting God to do what He says He will do, even when it looks unlikely. But when I looked at the Greek word used for hope in 1 Corinthians 13:7, I felt like my understanding of hope was embarrassingly passive.
Check this out:
The Greek word for hope in 1 Corinthians 13:7 is elpizo. It comes from elpis, which means "to hope, actively waiting for God's fulfillment about the faith He has inbirthed through the power of His love." I mean, I think I was on the right track when I said hope means to trust God to do what He says He will do. But the words "actively waiting" in this definition completely change the picture for me.
That is, I don't believe Love simply sits back and says, "Well, the situation may look bleak at the moment - but I am full of confidence that God will pull through for us." While it's good to say such words, I believe Love (according to the definition of elpizo) is a lot more involved. I believe Love prays for the individuals and circumstances involved in a situation. I believe Love speaks words of hope to those people who are also waiting for the fulfillment of God's plan. I believe Love is like a cheer-leader who comes alongside the discouraged and down-trodden and lifts them up with encouragement and Truth.
God's Word says Love always hopes. And I am convinced that means Love is a whole lot more than a bundle of positivity and wishful thinking. This study of love is showing me that Love is an action. A dynamic force which believes God and seeks to help others do the same.

Yes, I believe that is what HOPE looks like through the eyes of Love. And I pray God, by the power of His Holy Spirit, will enable me to be Love to the world around me.
Starting with the world that lives in my home.


Monday, December 12, 2016

Love Hopes


Friday, December 09, 2016

Change My Heart

Well, if you ever want to know if there's an area in your life which needs transforming - just ask God to shine a spotlight on it.

And prepare yourself to be convicted!

Because this week as I have been contemplating Love is Not Irritable, Wow! Have my eyes been opened!!!
It started with the test I took right after recording Monday's video devotion, and it's been going strong all week. God's Spirit has been drawing my attention to every little thing which I allow to irritate me. And I long to be refined by Him. To be able to say that Love defines me - and I am not irritable.
I remember when this Irritable Mother journey began, and I was known to fly off the handle and yell at my children, and go through my days angry and frustrated. I am sooooo glad God has changed my heart and taken me from that way of living. But with a spotlight on Love is Not Irritable this week He has shown me I am, in fact, still prone to irritability. Though I may not be yelling outwardly, I have heard internal groans and complaints - which I know are not prompted by Love.

In some ways I feel like I'm outside weeding the yard.
You know how that goes, don't you?
What you see at first are the big weeds which you are eager to pull. But once they're gone, you notice the medium sized weeds which were apparently being covered by the big ones. So you pull those out, too. And just when you think you're finished - you take another look and see all the little weeds which were covered by the medium-sized weeds. And though you know most people probably won't notice them there, you can't leave them. Because they'll likely grow to be big ones, too. So you get down on your knees and work to get those buggers by the root.
That's where I am today. On my knees, before my Father, asking Him to change my heart. To remove the root of irritability. Because even though no one can see my thoughts, I want everything about me to be defined by Love.

This expedition through the Love Chapter is proving to be a beautiful thing. I invite you to join me next week as I discover another lesson.


Tuesday, December 06, 2016

This is a Test


Did you have a chance to watch my video devotion yesterday?
If you didn't, go ahead and watch it now. That way - this post will make a lot more sense.
I'll wait for you.

OK. Here we go!
Not even five minutes after I recorded that video, God gave me the opportunity to have my real desire to be like HIM tested. (HE doesn't waste time!) I put on my coat, grabbed my purse and notes for my talk, and went outside to get into my van.
Only, when I stepped into the garage, I saw that the van wasn't there. With a semi-disappointed sigh, I proceeded to the driveway to get Brian's car - realizing he must have taken the van to run his errands.
The disappointment came from the fact that I'd put a CD in the van which I wanted to listen to on the way to Grand Rapids. But, whatever. I knew it wasn't the end of the world.
However, when I got into the car my feelings began to go south. That is, I saw that the gas tank was getting close to empty. (And the van had a full tank of gas. I had made sure of that earlier. So I would be completely ready to go - when it was time to go. NOW I had to stop at the gas station on my way out of town. *grr*)
In my mind, I began nagging at Brian. I mean, he knows I like to have a full tank of gas when I am making a trip. Surely he would have been reminded of that when he got into the van and saw a full tank. Gee, would have been nice if he'd filled the tank in his car before he took "MY" van. (And then, maybe he could have noticed the CD and put that in his car, too. *hmpf*)
All this - before I'd even started the ignition.
Then it came. That familiar nudge of the Holy Spirit - reminding me of what I'd spoken some five minutes earlier. I think it went something like, "Lord Jesus, make me more like YOU." Yet, here I was, growing irritable because I was going to have to go five minutes out of my way to fill up a tank of gas.
I scolded myself, Really, Karen???
And then I started to sing,
Change my heart, O God. Make it ever new.
Change my heart, O God. May I be like You.
You are the Potter. I am the clay.
Mold me and make me, this is what I pray.
Change my heart, O God. Make it ever new.
Change my heart, O God. May I be like You.

Turns out, I didn't need that CD after all.
God had a different song in mind for me.


Monday, December 05, 2016

Friday, December 02, 2016

Spicy Uno

So, my absolute favorite part of Thanksgiving Day was actually Thanksgiving Night.
We'd had a very enjoyable afternoon with a small gathering of family and friends, and I was ready to be joyfully contented with it. But then Elizabeth invited a few more of her friends over and they decided to play Spicy Uno. And she invited Brian and me to play, too.
I love that Elizabeth lets her old parents play with her and her friends!
I'm telling you, for the amount of laughter and raucousness which went into our play-time, I felt completely vindicated for the dessert I'd eaten. Totally worked it off, I'm sure.

OK. Now that I've piqued your interest, let me tell you how to play Spicy Uno.

Everyone begins with seven cards and play proceeds just like regular Uno.
BUT, there are a few additional rules.
*Anytime someone plays a "6," everyone has to slap the discard pile. Last person to put their hand down has to take two additional cards from the draw pile.
*If another person plays a card identical to one in your hand (same color AND face-value) you may play your card (quickly!) regardless of whether it is your turn, or not. But you have to play it before the next person takes their turn - or you sacrifice your move. (Play resumes just as if it had really been your turn. Yes, that means several people may get "skipped." Too bad!)
*Every time it is your turn, you must play a card.
If you don't have a play-able card in your hand, you have two options.
1) You may pick a card from the draw pile. However, if it isn't play-able you have to draw another. And keep drawing until you get a play-able card.
2) You may ask for "help". When you ask for help, other players may offer you a card from their hand - face down - for you to accept, or not, without looking at it. The card they give you may be play-able, or not. (This is where you find out who's on your side, and who isn't. This is also where things get very interesting because you can team up to prevent others from winning!) If the card you accept is not play-able you must pick from the draw pile until you find a play-able card.
*AND, when a "Draw 2" card is played, the person to whom it was given may lay another "Draw 2" down, causing the next person to draw 4 cards. Unless, of course, they also have a "Draw 2" to lay down - which would cause the next player to draw 6 cards. And on it goes, until nobody has a "Draw 2" to play. (This is also a time when you may ask for "Help!" Another player might give you a "Draw 2" to get you out of a mess. But, keep in mind, just because you ask for help and everyone knows you want a "Draw 2" doesn't mean somebody will give you a "Draw 2". You could be accepting a fraudulent card and end up drawing 2 or 4 or 6 or however many cards the total has reached. It's a risk you take!) Additionally, within the line of "Draw 2" build up, you are allowed to up the ante by playing a "Draw 4". At this point additional "Draw 4" cards may be added, but you may not revert to "Draw 2". So, yes, if - for example - Draw 2 + Draw 2 + Draw 2 + Draw 4 + Draw 4 were played before anyone couldn't play another card, some unfortunate soul would be adding 14 cards to his/her hand!
*One more thing. If you get caught not saying "Uno" when you only have one card left to play, you must draw seven cards.

And there you have it. Complete guidelines for spicing up that old deck of Uno cards you may not have touched for a few years. So, grab your kids (Even if they're "older" - actually, this game works better with older kids!) and get ready for a fun time.

Let me know how they like it!


Thursday, December 01, 2016

Be the YOU God Made You to Be

I have profound friends.

That is, I have friends who make profound statements.
Like, "I'm not going to beat myself up over that."

OK. Here's the context:
We were in Precepts Tuesday discussing our final lesson on spiritual gifts, sharing the "big thing" we learned that will stick with us. My friend spoke of realizing what her gift is - and what it ISN'T. She said she has come to understand that when she is in a circumstance which calls for something she cannot do, she's going to recognize God has not gifted her in that way and, "I'm not going to beat myself up over that."
I thought, Wow. That is some wisdom right there!
And we took a short, worth-while rabbit trail talking about our tendency (Especially women!) to compare ourselves with one another and become disappointed with who we are NOT.

Have you been there, too???

That evening, those words of wisdom came to my mind again.
I was with that same profound friend at an Advent Tea where I was speaking. We were walking around before the program began, admiring the tables which ladies had beautifully set-up and decorated. As we marveled at a particularly charming center-piece I said to her, "That right there is something I could NOT do. Not my talent!"
I mean, I can appreciate beauty and creativity with the best of them.
But to think it up, and put it together? Not gonna happen!
Then I turned to her and said, "And I'm not going to beat myself up over that!"
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good...All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines...But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, everyone of them, just as he wanted them to be.

~1 Corinthians 12:7,11,18
You see, the thing is - when God equipped us with natural talents, and when He gave us our spiritual gift(s) at salvation, HE knew what HE was doing. God made you uniquely YOU. And HE only made one ME. (Am I hearing hallelujahs coming from my sons' rooms? *wink*) There is no reason for us to wish we were gifted like - or had the talents of - someone else. Because if God intended for us to be someone else, HE wouldn't have made US.
Are you with me?
God gave us spiritual gifts for the common good - for the edification of the body of Christ. So, let us operate in our gifts (and let us use our natural talents in that operation) to bring glory to God and to advance the kingdom. Let us celebrate and encourage one another in our roles, without envy or resentment. And let the LOVE of Christ flow through us as we do the things HE calls us to do.

Full disclosure: Writing these thoughts is a whole lot easier for me than putting them into practice. (Comparison and feeling "less-than" are snares for me.) But by the grace of God and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I am going to give it my full effort.
Will you join me?