I replied, “But my work seems so useless! I have spent my strength for nothing and to no purpose.”

Isaiah 49:4

It is easy to lose hope when our work seems meaningless. It is built into our DNA to make a difference. We want our days filled with purpose and our lives to mean something beyond ourselves. I believe that desire is a gift from God.

Difficulty arises when we weigh what we do on the scales our culture provides. Bigger, better, louder, showy are all measures of the significance of our work. But when it is hidden, smaller, quiet and unseen it can feel useless. And hope begins to falter.

The second half of Isaiah’s observation is crucial to maintaining hope. He says it like this:

“Yet I leave it all in the Lord’s hand; I will trust God for my reward.”

Isaiah 49:4

So many times I find myself enjoying the most common tasks, finding fulfillment in quiet moments and unseen efforts. Until the little voice in my head questions if this is really all that purposeful? And then my hope quivers and quakes. I begin to wonder…am I really making a difference?

In those moments of doubt, I remember the world’s reward comes at a cost. A cost of lost hope, continual striving, devastation of my soul. And so I place my hope in the reward the Lord provides. I leave the results to him.

Does your work seem meaningless and without purpose? Who do you trust for your reward? What would it mean for you to trust God for reward rather than the world around you?

“For my people have done two evil things: They have abandoned me—the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!”

Jeremiah 2:13

On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.)

John 7:37-39

When life provides unexpected challenges, we respond. Sometimes we respond with faith and other times we respond with disbelief. It is when our faith wavers and we turn away from the fountain of living water that we lose hope.

The Lord’s words to Jeremiah always cause me to catch my breath. It is one thing to turn away from the fountain of life, but then we go one step further and look to things that cannot provide us with refreshment. It is the equivalent of trying to hold water in a cracked cistern. It just doesn’t work.

If you lost hope or your hope wavers, check your water supply. Are you accessing the fountain of life or have you traded the purest, freshest source for a poor substitute? Where do you go for life-giving refreshment?

Hope. Elpis. Confident expectation.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.

Proverbs 13:12

Hope – looking forward with confident expectation – is a necessary element of successful living. What causes you to lose hope? What puts your hope on hold? If hope is the light that illuminates tomorrow, what causes it to flicker?

Join me this week as we explore what scripture reveals about maintaining our hope even in the midst of difficulty.

Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?

Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts.

Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends.

Those who despise flagrant sinners, and honor the faithful followers of the Lord, and keep their promises even when it hurts.

Those who lend money without charging interest, and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent. Such people will stand firm forever.

Psalm 15

David sets it out plainly in this psalm. Is there anything keeping you from worshipping today with a clear heart?

Remember, change and growth aren’t easy. But you can be easy on yourself. Take a break from the negative self-talk and embrace the process of growing.

Have a great Saturday!

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

1 John 4:9-10

Although the history of Valentine’s day is shrouded in mystery, it is the day of the year set aside to declare love for that someone special.

Listening to the nightly news on February 13, I learned of Loveland, Colorado. It surprised me that every year hundreds of thousands of Valentines are sent there in advance of February 14 to be stamped with a special “Loveland” message. Boxes of red, pink and white Valentines were individually stamped and then sent on to their final destinations. That’s a lot of work for a Valentine.

I love the message of love we received from our Creator. When the time was right, he sent his son, Jesus, to buy our freedom. That’s an initiation of love that requires my response. Today, I celebrate and receive his unconditional love for me.

I celebrate not only God’s love for me, but all the people in my life who love me so unconditionally. This Valentine’s wish didn’t go through Loveland, but it’s filled with genuine gratitude for all those who fill my life with joy, love and laughter! And a special shout out to my readers! You fill my life with joy in a way I didn’t know was possible! Thanks for reading!

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind…

Mark 4:35-36

The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and taught. Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone.

Mark 6:30-32

Solitude. Not only did Jesus spend time alone, he taught the disciples to do the same. One of the most difficult disciplines for me to develop is spending time alone without feeling guilty. I fret about all kinds of things. Am I missing something? What if someone needs me? What if someone doesn’t like that I’m alone? Will my approval ratings drop if I am not immediately available?

Clearly these are not healthy thoughts. But it’s equally clear that time alone is healthy.

I am most successful spending time alone when I silence all the voices inside that would want me to do otherwise. And it is in the alone, the silence that I am refreshed and renewed.

Why don’t you give it a try?

As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. 

Matthew 14:13

Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.

Matthew 14:22-23

Sometimes we need to be alone. And sometimes we need to be alone without anyone knowing we are alone.

Spending time alone was essential for Jesus. He went off by himself when he heard that John the Baptist had been killed. He spent the night alone before he chose the twelve disciples. He went into the hills by himself to spend time praying. He knew that he needed time alone to refuel and come back stronger.

I want to be able to do that. I want to leave the crowds behind, FOMO on the shelf and revel in time of quiet and alone to be recharged and come back stronger.

Do you struggle getting alone? What makes it difficult to leave the crowds?

Someone once said if you ever stop growing you are dying. I guess that’s true. Can you be at a standstill for long periods of time? Or does decay sneak in undetected and begin to break down the foundation of who we are?

So a couple of weeks ago, I was with friends. Being an external processor, I shared some angst I was feeling. We discussed different solutions, offering suggestions on how conversations might be formulated. After one rehearsed conversation, my friend said, “That would make me really mad.” I said, “yeah, me too.” And then I realized we weren’t talking about the same thing.

She noticed that the content of my imaginary converstion was passive aggressive and that kind of interaction would be upsetting to her. It would be to me too.

I said, “I feel worse now.”

She said, “I didn’t mean to make me feel worse.”

I said, “It’s okay. I need to feel bad a minute.”

And she was right.

The conversation I rehearsed in my head, rather than being direct and loving, was passive agressive. That bothered me.

A few days later I was having a different conversation with a different friend. Again anticipating a difficult conversation, we rehearsed scenarios. At one point she paused, tilted her head and said, “You seem afraid. Are you afraid?”

“Yes. Yes. I am afraid. Afraid that if I am myself I won’t be accepted.” And there was the faintest flicker of light on the horizon of my mind. I saw that the two conversations connected.

There are times I look to the people around me to fulfill my core longings. Without realizing the subtle shift, I pull away from the Table of the Lord and moved toward the table the world sets.

And then dysfunctional behavior takes over. I am afraid others might not like what I say, do, think – so I withhold what I really want to say and convey through passive words meant to push you aggressively in the desired direction.

Today I confess that I’m not there yet. I haven’t achieved the maturity I look toward. Paul’s words are my anthem today:

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Philippians 3:12-14

Be encouraged! Growth is a process and, while we want it to be linear, it is more often an upward spiral. We spiral around back to the same issues but just a bit more mature than the last time. If we are alert and willing, we can always take one more step in the direction of wholeness.

Be patient! God isn’t finished with you yet!

It was a random Saturday morning and we were meeting my daughter and her children for a casual breakfast. Dave and I arrived first, ordered and settled at a table.

We saw them first as they parked the car and unloaded the girls from their carseats. The oldest turned toward the coffee shop and noticed Dave and I through the plate glass window facing the parking lot. We waved and she paused just a moment. Then her countenance changed. Her little legs picked up speed and she moved toward the door with new purpose.

As she entered the coffee shop, she cried out with complete abandon, “It’s my GRANDMA!” Running across the room, she threw herself into my arms, hugging my neck.

That is what it feels like to be chosen! She chooses me every time she sees me with squeals of delight. Her thoughts toward me are pleasant. She asks every day if she can come to Grandma’s house. She believes being with me will be better than anything.

Scripture tells me that God is delighted with me as well, he rejoices when he thinks of me, he sings joyful songs over me (Zephaniah 3:17). His hand of blessing is on my head and his thoughts toward me are many and pleasant. (Psalm 139:5, 17-18)

This is what it feels like to be chosen by the One who created you. This is what it feels like to be complete in Him.

And it can be yours!