holding faith

I was flipping through a catalog of Bibles and spiritual books the other day and the title of one book, Holding Faith, struck me. I didn’t read the description, so I don’t know who the author is, or what the book is about. I just keep retuning to those two words, looking at them from various sides. Holding faith. Two simple words with a world of possibilities…

Holding faith. Do I hold it close in for myself? Yes, I do. By holding my faith I am comforted and strengthened. By holding my faith I am able to do so much more than I ever thought possible. By holding my faith I am able to see and understand as God would have me see and understand. By holding faith, my faith grows and and I grow along with it.

Holding faith. Do I hold it close in for others? Yes, I do. I can hold faith for others when they are unable to hold their own faith. I can comfort them and help them find their strength again. By holding their faith, I can help them when they feel like they have lost their faith. I can offer God’s words and the reminder of a Brother, Jesus, who has walked the path of pain and suffering. What power is available to us when we turn to our God who is intimately familiar with all we face on our journey here on earth. By holding faith for others, I may help them understand as God would have them understand. And then return their faith to them.

Holding faith. Do I hold it out for others, those seeking to grow in their faith? Yes, I do. If I can help others see where God is calling to them, I hold faith for them. If I can share words that God has given me to help the Holy Spirit move and work in another, I hold faith for them. And then we can grow in faith together.

Holding faith. Do I hold faith for the world at large? Yes, I do. I actively seek to see the good in all people and situations. I see God at work in the kindness and generosity of people around the world. Doing and being so much more than we might expect, but certainly not more than God sees in them, in us.

Holding faith. Do I hold faith for the future? Yes, I do, I really do. By holding faith today, for myself and for those around me, both near and far, I am growing into the future God is offering us. A future of love and understanding, of caring and support. A future of faith.

sharing the love

“I will praise the Lord no matter what happens. I will consistently speak of all His glories and grace. I will boast of all His kindness to me. Let all who are discouraged take heart. Let us praise The Lord together, and exalt His name. For I cried to Him and He answered me! He freed me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:1-4 The Living Bible

This verse was part of the reading for my morning devotion today, and wow did it hit home. After my experience the last few days, it was the perfect verse and a reminder that it’s important to share these stories.

I’ve been feeling stressed and unfortunately my reaction to stress is to overeat. I know it’s not healthy, I know it’s not wise, I know in a way it denies my claim of faith – that I can rely on God to help me through anything and everything. But I felt powerless to stop. And finally two days ago as I was driving to work I reached my limit. I cried out to God, literally. People passing me may have thought I was crazy. I spent a good ten minutes talking out loud to God. I asked Him to help me understand why I couldn’t seem to rely on Him, instead turning to food for comfort. I reminded God, and myself, that I had asked Him to fill the God-shaped hole inside me. And that when He answered my prayer my life had changed drastically. I asked God to help me remember how much He loved me and wanted only the best for me. I offered Him my worries and my fears and by His grace I was able to leave them there. That day, the urge to eat just for the sake of eating was less and I felt encouraged.

Then yesterday as I was driving to work I realized I had left my phone at home. My first instinct was to proceed on to work as I don’t really need it, but then I thought about my mom. When she needs me, she always calls my cellphone. I decided to go back home to get my phone. I couldn’t leave her without a way to reach me, even if it meant I would be late for work. As I turned toward home, I felt the stress settle back around me. And that is when God helped me recognize the heart of my issue. I am my mother’s main support now. I’m glad to be able to help and do what I can for her, but I can’t do everything she needs, or even everything I might wish I could. And in that moment I realized that was my problem. I feel guilty for not doing more. My stress comes from feeling like I am failing my mother. But I give what I can, and I vowed in that moment to remember that God is there with me – and with my mother – and I do not need to do it all. I felt the stress begin to lift and as I rounded a curve in the road, God gave me the exclamation point to His reminder. The truck coming toward me had a sign below it’s license plate with one simple word – Jesus.

The rest of the day, my appetite was back to normal. I was comforted that my focus was back where it belonged and my stress was under control. God had heard my plea and answered me. He understood my fear and loved me even when I doubted His presence.

So now, you can see why the Psalm I read this morning prompted this post. I had to speak of God’s love and mercy and share how He is always near and ready to hear when we call..

thrill of hope

I saw a sign for a Christmas service the other day and it’s title resonated with me. It simply said “the thrill of hope”. I have been turning that phrase over and over in my mind – as well as singing O Holy Night! – seeking God’s message for me. Several thoughts have come out of my musings…

We use the word hope so often that it seems to have lost some of it’s power. Hope is a deep wellspring of anticipation for the future, a yearning for better days and better ways. It lives within each of us and waits for us to give it the least bit of encouragement. Picture the stray flower that seems to magically grow out of a sidewalk or driveway. There doesn’t seem to be any source of nourishment, any way the flower could survive, and yet it does. That is hope. There doesn’t seem to be a reason for hope, yet we hope. And that’s the beauty of hope.

The other thought revolved around the idea of a “thrill” of hope. With so many heartbreaking things going on around the world hope seems hard to come by, let alone a thrilling kind of hope. But in this Advent season, we need to remember that the world Jesus was born into was also filled with strife. If God could see a reason to hope for the betterment of human-kind in those days, why is today any different? Just imagine, God trusts us enough to continue to reach out to us, to surround us with love and offer us hope for the future. That’s what I call thrilling.

I wish each of you the thrill of a hope filled Christmas. It may not be the kind of hope that others can see, like the fragment of soil that supports the flower in the sidewalk. But like the flower, may you allow it to nourish you so that you too can blossom and share that thrill of hope.

a.c.t.s.

Adoration… Contrition… Thanksgiving… Supplication…
I was introduced to this approach to prayer several years ago. I love the simplicity. It helps me remember that my prayers don’t need special words, don’t have to be fancy.
Adoration: a way for me to recognize and praise God’s greatness.
Contrition: acknowledging my mistakes, the wrong things I have done, and the right things that I have failed to do.
Thanksgiving: expressing my appreciation for God’s boundless love and gracious gifts.
Supplication: asking for God’s help – for others and for myself.
Or as I tried to explain it to my grandson: “God is great”, “I’m sorry”, “thank You” and “please help”. 🙂
The other day at work, I took a moment to pray. It was a busy morning in a crazy week – not just crazy at work, but at home and at church too. I started an ACTS prayer and had no problem with the adoration. Yet when it came to the contrition, I got stuck.
You see, I realized at that moment that I had been failing to trust God. I truly believe the saying “if God brings you to it, God will bring you through it”, but my stress over decisions I had made and things I needed to do showed me my lack of trust. I know that the things I am currently doing are a true call of God. And I know that, after prayerful listening, I am being called to new things. So if I know that God has brought me to this place and these tasks, why was I worrying about how I would accomplish them? After some time and reflection, I came to realize that it was because I had stopped looking at God and was focusing instead on the tasks. And like Peter, when he took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the water, I was floundering. I felt like I was the one who had to do all the things ahead of me. I lost sight of the fact that God is the one that would be doing the work, I was only to be the hands, the feet, the voice, that people would see, and hear, and feel.
I’m a bit ashamed at how slowly I come to this realization, but now that I have, I am able to complete that prayer…
“Merciful God, You are the source of all I need. Forgive my lack of trust, forgive my attempts to take on Your role. I am grateful that You have brought me to this time and this place. Strengthen me and guide me as I follow the path You alone have called me to. I love You!!!
Amen…

grace happens

The dictionary defines grace as a “gift of God to humankind: in Christianity, the infinite love, mercy, favor, and goodwill shown to humankind by God”.   But it is also refers to a “generosity of spirit: a capacity to tolerate, accommodate, or forgive people”. How blessed we are that God does not rely on our generosity of spirit before He gifts us with His infinite love.

Imagine what our lives would be like if God had waited to until we were deserving before He sent His Son to us. Speaking for myself, I can guarantee I haven’t reached the point where I deserve that ultimate gift. But God in His wisdom and mercy knew we would never reach that point on our own, so He sent us the greatest gift, Jesus Christ.  Not because we deserve it, but simply because God loves us so much that He doesn’t ever want to be separated from us.

How blessed we are that grace happens when we least expect it, in ways we don’t expect, in places we may never consider.  Just like Jesus’ birth in a stable. Who would have expected the Savior of mankind to be born in a small town, to unknown parents, with no other witnesses but the stable animals? And who in Jesus’ day knew that the death of one man, however much Jesus meant to them, would have such a widespread and long lasting impact on the world.

Grace is a gift…unearned, unasked, undeserved. Time together, a touch, a smile, a helping hand extended – these are all gifts we can share with each other. And we would do well never to underestimate the impact those actions can have on others.

the answer

It’s been said that you shouldn’t ask a question unless you already know the answer. Perhaps it should be that once you know the right answer, the questions really don’t matter as much. There is a song written by Shane Barnard, The Answer, inspired in part by Ephesians 1:5-6. It contains this compelling line… “I have found the answer is to love You and be loved by You”. What if we accepted that as the answer to all our questions? What if when we are stressed or worried and asking, “What do I do now?” we answer ourselves – “Love God”. When we’re scared and uncertain of the future, asking, “What will happen to me?” – we answer, “Be loved by God”. What if we let go of our worries and fears and just trust in God’s love. Time after time, we see examples of how well that works, but to do it all the time, in all circumstances? Even for the more laid-back, go-with-the-flow people that’s quite an undertaking, but for the individualists and control freaks among us it’s a major challenge.

Perhaps this Lenten Season rather than giving something up, we could take something on – learning to trust that God’s love truly is the answer…

faith journey

We talk about faith journeys all the time,  but how would you describe a faith journey to someone who has never heard the phrase? I thought I’d start with the dictionary… Encarta World English Dictionary defines faith as “trust in God: belief in and devotion to God; a set of beliefs: a strongly held set of beliefs or principles”.  And they define journey as “a trip somewhere” and “a process of development: a gradual passing from one state to another regarded as more advanced, e.g. from innocence to mature awareness”. Interestingly they use faith journey as an example.

I like that – a gradual passing from innocence to mature awareness. How better to describe what happens as we face the challenges of our lives?  Not overnight, but gradually. Slowly but surely, little by little we learn to see beyond ourselves and develop our belief in God. When we learn to rely on God as we face these challenges, it is our faith that matures.

When we share our faith journeys with each other, we all benefit.  As we move into the season of Lent, we have the opportunity to hear the story of the greatest faith journey of all time. There are so many lessons we can learn from Jesus’ journey to the cross. Who better to teach us the value of holding on to our belief in, and devotion to, God during difficult, frightening, even life-threatening times than Jesus. He has faced all we have faced and so much more. Because of His life and sacrifice, we know that there is nothing in our own lives that we have to face alone. Jesus has walked this path before, and willing walks it with us today. What a blessing!