Tag Archives: Jesus

Dori, Abe Lincoln and Jesus Rescue Me

Photo by bendus (Creative Commons)

Photo by bendus (Creative Commons)

What do Dori from Finding Nemo, Abraham Lincoln, and Jesus all have in common? Their words have become guiding principles in my life.

 Just keep swimming Dori

Finding Nemo is my daughter’s favorite movie, and this is her favorite part of the movie. Life is very hard for an epileptic, autistic, socially awkward ten year old girl. Whenever sadness begins to overtake her, I see a small smile cross her face. “I’m going to be like Dori and just keep swimming.”

Her perseverance inspires me. This quote exemplifies the strong spirit within Cynthia. When I come across hard times, I remember this quote and my daughter’s smile. Then I keep on swimming.

My concern is not whether God is on my side; my greatest concern is to be on Gods side, for God is always right Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln is probably my favorite president. His resilience in politics speaks to the passionate pursuit of a goal. His stirring Emancipation Proclamation changed the face of America. His courage to make the difficult decisions in the Civil War unified a divided nation. Abraham Lincoln always seemed to have the right approach to important questions.

But his words here remind us nobody is always right. Our arguments, assumptions, and beliefs should always be subject to correction and adjustment.  We must not forget our minds are busted and broken. Therefore, we should focus on knowing and aligning ourselves with the heart of God.

I will never leave you nor forsake you. Jesus

Sometimes life is lonely. We feel as if nobody understands what we are going through. Nobody cares. There is not even a shoulder to cry on. Jesus tells us these feelings are not the truth.

Instead, our God is fully committed to being there for us. When life falls apart. In our victories. When we’re scared. When we are literally on a roller coaster screaming and having the time of our life. God is with us. Always.

If God is for us, who can be against us? Apostle Paul

This verse in Romans 8 led to my salvation and the beginning of my faith walk with Jesus. I will never forget Doug Fox, the youth pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Hemet, California.

He read this verse, and talked about the amazing Creator. Doug said that God invented the idea of art with His sunsets. Indeed, He created the sun, the sky we see it in, and the Earth we stand upon to view the sunsets. And God creates a new masterpiece every single day. It is this God who is for us when we are in Christ.

I was sold. I talked with Doug and accepted Christ as my savior later that very day. When times are low, I remember this verse. God is FOR me.

We cannot become what we need by remaining what we are. John Maxwell

There is a part of me that is incredibly lazy. This same corner of my heart is entitled. I want and even expect success to come my way with minimal effort. “What do you mean I have to earn it?” cries the selfishness. “Don’t you know who I am?”

This arrogance will get me nowhere. As a writer, I’m no Steven King. John Grisham and I am not equally known. And here’s a sad reality check — the TV author turned detective Richard Castle has sold more books than me. If I am content with this, then I can continue my current path. If I want success (which may or may not include a bestseller), I MUST CHANGE. I MUST GROW.

Punch fear in the face. Jon Acuff

Stepping into something new is terrifying. Fear whispers in our ear:

You are not good enough.

You know you are going to fail. Why try?

Nobody cares what you think. Just shut your mouth!

Fear can be very convincing. It will stifle our vision and creativity if we allow it space. This is where Jon’s advice comes into play. We should never cower when fear speaks to us. Instead we should move forward with intention and aggression. Come out swinging. Punch fear in the face and move forward.

If we succeed, what a win! If we fall flat on our face, so what? Either way we have already won. We conquered fear. We put ourselves out there for the world to see, as we pursue our dream.

What quotes inspire you to move forward, no matter what comes your way?

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Not Always Hope, Not Never Hope, But Sometimes Hope

Photo Credit: blmurch (Creative Commons)

Photo Credit: blmurch (Creative Commons)

I have had a few people ask me why the name of this blog is Sometimes Hope. “If we are called to trust God all the time,” the question starts, “why isn’t your title Always Hope or maybe Keeping the Hope?” I even struggled with this a bit myself. After some thought, here are three reasons I can only Sometimes Hope.

Sometimes I Fall Down the Stairs

Recently I was going upstairs to get my oldest son. I wanted him to clean up the kitchen. I was about halfway up, and then I had a seizure. Not that I remember the seizure. I recall walking up the stairs, then a second later being on my back with intense pain on my shoulder and back.

Having a seizure in such a dangerous place was bad enough. My kids’ response was even more difficult for me to handle. They all apologized to me like it was somehow their fault I had my seizure. As if they could have prevented my pain somehow.

To know that my children feel guilt about any seizures I have makes me sick to my stomach. My kids have enough pressures in their lives. They don’t need to feel responsible for me having seizures. But they do.

In moments like this, I want to curse God and die, like Job’s wife suggested. Questions of His faithfulness rage in my soul, like Asaph in Psalm 73:1 – 2:

Truly God is good to Israel,
to those whose hearts are pure.
But as for me, I almost lost my footing.
My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone.

In this moment, I have a choice: to trust the past faithfulness of God, or to view my current circumstances as evidence of His character. 

Sometimes I Let Myself Slip

There are days when I choose anger and resentment. Once in a while, that choice lasts a week or longer. I just let go of my kind thoughts toward God. I rage and allow my hatred to fester.

If this is how God is going to treat me, screw it! I may as well live my life away from Him. It’s so much easier to just walk my own path. No worries about this Getcha-God bringing sorrow into my life for some unknown reason!

My anger fuels this desire to step away from the God I have known for over twenty years now. Because my life is not working the way I think it should work. Because I have pain and my children have guilt. So I walk away and make my own path, in small ways.

I go through the motions of my faith without allowing any connection to my spirit. I don’t sing the worship songs. I don’t pay attention to the sermons. I let my Bible gather dust. I refuse to pray to God for any reason, even if it’s just to thank Him for our dinner. Slowly, I slip away from God and reassert myself as the master of my own domain.

What I eventually discover terrifies me though. I was not created to walk the Never Hope life. It is a land of confusion with no signposts to guide the way. Some may call this weakness, but I am not able to make my own path without the guidance of my God. Put differently, the antagonist from The Avengers movie Loki had it right:

You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.

I Remember Whose I am

The moment always comes. Like Samson, who shook himself and realized he was without strength because his hair was cut. Like Peter, who heard the rooster crow and realized Jesus knew the denial would come. Like Asaph in Psalm 73:23-26, I realize what a fool I’ve been:

Yet I still belong to you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
leading me to a glorious destiny.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
he is mine forever.

I belong to God, and He is mine forever. Even when I fall down the stairs and curse God, I am still His treasure. When I consciously avoid any smidgen of goodness dropped down from heaven like rain in my life, I am still His chosen one.

So I hope again. Not always, because I slip and lose my way. Not never, because I am my Beloveds and He is mine. But sometimes hope.

We Did More Than Survive

Photo Credit: Photography by Julia (Creative Commons)

Photo Credit: Photography by Julia (Creative Commons)

Fifteen years. Fifteen. Years. I repeated the words slowly to myself about 10 am yesterday, as I realized it was our anniversary (insert pithy comment about a typical male here). Two thoughts come to mind when I ponder the last fifteen years with my wife: Boy have we grown up, and has it ever been eventful!

Growth

Our first year of marriage was nearly an unmitigated disaster. We were so convinced we knew how to communicate that we wouldn’t listen to the other speak. Now we have taught classes and mentored couples on effective communication techniques in marriage. We have seen marriages rescued by using these strategies.

We have grown in comfort with one another. In the first few years of marriage, there was a great deal of uncertainty and insecurity:

Does she really love me?

Will he be drawn to her – she is skinnier than I am?

What will he say if I make THAT purchase?

Will she defend me THIS time against her family?

Now, we are mostly past those insecurities. We know each other. We are known by each other. Fully accepted. Fully loved. Moles, farts, body odor, and everything else are nothing compared to this love.

Eventful

Over the last fifteen years, we have gone from wide-eyed twenty one year old babes, just trying to figure out the world, to now having the privilege of sharing what wisdom we have learned with our children and others.

I was working at a bookstore, and Barbara was decorating pies at Marie Callender’s. Now, I am a CPA consultant and Barbara is an RN. I was skinny, now I am comfortably filled out.

We were a family of three, with our oldest a toddler. Now we are a family of six, with our oldest nearing high school graduation and our youngest in third grade.

I hope our next fifteen years is just as eventful. One of the most wonderful things about being married to my wife is that she is always willing to jump into a new adventure. At times it is with a bit of trepidation, but she does it any way. I love that about her!

After fifteen wonderful years together, I finally start to understand what Paul spoke of in Ephesians 5 when he compared the relationship of Jesus and the church to a husband and wife. When Jesus looks as us, He sees only love. Moles, farts, body odor, and everything else are nothing compared to His love.

How do you see the love of Christ reflected in your marriage?

2013 – The Year to Overcome

Wish I could tell you that I am big into New Year’s resolutions, but I am not.

Wish I could tell you that I choose I key word or phrase to define what I want to accomplish for the coming year, but that would be a lie.

I usually view life more as a continuum, and see each moment as a chance to become someone better (or worse) than I was. But this year is different.

This year, my diagnosis of epilepsy in November has put me and my family in a bit of a crisis mode. The normal way of doing business just is not going to cut it. Something has to give.

I am not foolish enough to sit here and tell you that 2013 will be the year that I conquer my epilepsy, because that is not up to me. There is too much guesswork. The right medication. The right dosage. The right timing. The right positioning of Saturn in comparison to Venus.

I can decide how to respond to my epilepsy though, and starting today, I am not going to be overcome by it. I may continue to have 3 seizures every day for the rest of 2013 (God, I pray it’s not so). These seizures will not rule me.

I will not be overcome by this circumstance, no matter how much it just plain sucks.

Many years ago, God used Romans 8:31-39 to draw me into a saving knowledge of His Son Jesus Christ, and tonight He is using it to draw me back into a full assurance of His good intentions toward me. It’s a long passage, so here is just a snippet of it:

If God is for us, who is against us?…But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Won’t you join me? What do you need to overcome this year?

Now Comes the Hard Part

We’ve been talking about thinking small to respond to the enormous tragedy that happened in Sandy Hook a few weeks ago. I took a break to focus on a few other topics, but wanted to finish that series tonight. If you thought sincere love and hospitality was a challenge, wait until we read what the Apostle Paul tells us next in Romans 12:14-21 –

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Lots of words here, but there are two themes here to tease out: how to respond to evil & how to respond to what others are experiencing.

How to Respond to Evil

Of the two themes, this is by far much more difficult and unnatural for most of us. Quite simply, Paul says that our response when others sin against us should be to love them.

To bless them.

To feed them.

To clothe them.

To give them a drink.

To shower them with the favor of God, that same favor we don’t deserve either.

Some days, I wish Paul wrote a different passage. Or I think he didn’t understand what I was going through. Then I remember his experiences:

He was stoned.

He was whipped thirty-nine times, five times.

He was shipwrecked, three times.

And yet he is the one who told us to bless not curse those who persecute us. He who understands far better than nearly all of us what is means to experience evil, and what it means to be persecutes. Perhaps it’s time for a gut check?

How to Respond to What Others Are Experiencing

Paul tells us to rejoice with those who rejoice, to weep with those who weep. I believe he was just giving us some examples, and that list could go on:

Laugh with those who laugh.

Mourn with those who mourn.

Be confused with those are confused.

Be hurt with those who are hurt.

The big idea is to stop insulating ourselves and living separate lives. We were never meant to live apart from community. All the way back in the garden, we see God saying “It is good…It is good…It is good.” Then He sees Adam alone, and “It is NOT good.” We were not meant to be alone. This speaks not only to marriage, but community.

Three questions to respond to:

1)      How well do you respond to evil?

2)      How well do you live in community?

3)      How can I help you respond better with either one?

God Doesn’t Really Mean…Wait, What Does it Say in the Greek?

As a Bible college graduate, I learned early in life that sometimes the best way to gain deeper understanding of Scripture was to review it in the original language. It’s also a nifty way to try and avoid obedience. “What does it say in the Greek?” then was a commonly heard phrase in my dorms, as we young men tried to establish God in our own immature image rather than allow the Holy Spirit to mold us. This phrase comes back to me as I consider Thanksgiving. As is often the case, it seems that God expects more of us than American culture would lead us to believe. We are not expected to be thankful for one day, while engorging ourselves on turkey, pumpkin pie and sundry wondrous foods. See what I mean here in I Thessalonians 5:16 – 18

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Surely you understand why it would be wonderful to hid behind a poor translation with these verses. Always doesn’t really mean always, does it? I wonder if continually is in the imperative voice, because that would make it mean something different that always? All circumstances sounds a bit difficult – could it be this actually is mistranslated, and means something more like most circumstances?

Alas, I know enough Greek to be dangerous, and here’s what I know: always means always; continually means continually; and all circumstances means all circumstances. So then, the question becomes a different one – how in the world are we supposed to rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances, and pray continually?  In honor of Thanksgiving, I want to focus on rejoicing and giving thanks. I have a few ideas that I am going to list below that are sure to stir up some rejoining and thanksgiving in your heart, but I’d really like to hear your thoughts here too. Please comment on this post, so we can encourage each other to live lives that are honorable to God.

  • Remember back-handed grace
  • Read Ann Voskamp’s blog religiously
  • Recognize how rich we all are as Americans, even if you don’t feel that way
  • Look very deeply at your children and see them as the gift from God that they are
  • Step outside, look up, and consider how creative our God is, that He came up with the very idea of clouds, and sky
  • Two words: Tim Hawkins
  • Look at old family photos, especially when you or your kids were young

Okay, now it’s your turn – what are the best ways for you to find thanksgiving and rejoicing in your life?