“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
It was for us, you and me, that Jesus endured the cross and rose again to life. Because of his sacrifice, we can be in relationship with the living God now in these last days on earth and forever in heaven. Never underestimate the power of his love and grace for us. No matter where we’ve been, what we’ve done, or who we think we are or aren’t, God created us, has a plan for us, and redeemed us through Jesus.
All we have to do is say “Yes. I want that relationship. I’m sorry for going my own way. Thank you, Jesus.”
My husband and I watched a Disney movie recently and noticed how often in this PG rated film four-letter words were spoken. I’m not surprised, just saddened by the way we’ve lowered our standards over the years and especially these past few months.
The Bible says,
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29
Using swear words is unwholesome.
Let’s be real, the world doesn’t care. And all of us are human. I’m sure we’ve all gone through a season of “unwholesome” or let a few words fly from our mouths that don’t benefit anyone. I know I have.
But maybe we could replace our thinking of four-letter words. There are plenty that would be more uplifting and would build people up. Here’s a few I’m learning to embrace.
REST – In this crazy, faster than the speed of light teched-out world, we’ve forgotten how to rest and what rest is for. God created rest. He worked to create the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Rest gives us time to process everything in our lives. It creates space for us to dream. We are refreshed when we take time to rest. What if that time of rest was not only for recuperation but for preparation? Beginning each week from a place of rest instead of thinking we need to catch up makes the dreaded Monday, a fun day. Snatches of rest during a day makes us more productive. According to Alex Pang, PhD., something he calls “deliberate rest” is a practice of highly successful people. Maybe God knew what he was talking about when he told us to rest on the Sabbath day and let the land rest every seven years.
LOVE – As the old song says, it’s what the world needs now. Hatred, violence, and fear run rampant in the absence of love. The Bible tells us that God’s perfect love casts out fear, and as followers of Jesus, we’ll be known by our love for others. Being truthful, kind, compassionate, and considerate in how we talk about and to each other as well as how we treat people shows love and changes our world. God IS love. Let’s embrace Him and show love.
MEEK – I’ll bet that’s not one you expected. Meek has gotten a bad rap as meaning weak, pathetic, or a doormat. But it’s true meaning is humble or gentle. Jesus chose humility when he came to earth. He didn’t answer accusations or defend himself when he faced betrayal and a mock trial. His meekness was actually him choosing to control the power he had, lay down his rights for something far more important (relationship with us – let your mind and heart grasp that), and treating people with kindness and gentleness when he had every right to mock or destroy them. If we choose meekness, we will be humble and gentle in our dealings with people.
HOLY – Set apart. Hallowed. Special. Everything of God is holy. He also calls us holy, because he created us in his image, and he calls us to hold holiness as something sacred. That means we honor God. Set him apart as the only God. There is none like him. He is to be praised. And we are to set ourselves apart from anything that doesn’t bring him glory and honor. We also need to honor ourselves and others in the way we speak and act.
HOPE – If one thing the world needs is love, the other is hope. I write and post about Jesus being our hope. He is our only hope, a living hope. No person, situation, government, money, circumstance, etc. can truly offer us hope. When we place our hope in things, we may be temporarily relieved, but eventually disappointed. People fail, things fall apart, circumstances change. God is faithful no matter what. Only Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
WAIT – We might feel like this could be a swear word. We’re used to everything from food to text replies happening in seconds. If our computer takes more than a few seconds to load, we fuss. Stop lights in my town are three to five minutes long (NOT exaggerating!) and people don’t want to wait. I’ve seen more people speed through red lights here than any other place I’ve lived. But learning to wait is good for us. It keeps us from making rash decisions, or saying something in a moment of anger. Waiting means we can let God secure better things for us in his timing than we could ever get for ourselves. We gain more patience as we wait and that makes us more pleasant to be around.
Those are just a few of my new four-letter words. Are there others you’ve been exploring lately?
Let’s change the narrative, as we say these days, and start using some new four-letter words that build up and benefit others as well as ourselves.
A few months ago, a mysterious illness infiltrated my body. (No, not covid.) The signs were subtle at first. Some swelling in my ankles and aching in my arms. It rapidly progressed through my body and currently holds me hostage with severely swollen, aching arms and legs and sometimes debilitating stabs of pain. Test results are all normal. I have no other symptoms apart from fatigue and an occasional headache. The doctors are stumped. I am on a three month wait for a specialist.
Whether I am afflicted or healed, God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He has made every day, and I choose to rejoice and be glad in it.
As Jesus believers, we pray each day for healing, believing and claiming that by his stripes, I’m healed. And I believe I will be. It may not be today or tomorrow that my healing manifests, but it will be one day according to his plans. Plans I don’t understand, but that are always good.
So far, I’ve learned to trust him more. I’m learning to wait well. My mind is a battlefield, and I can choose to embrace God’s presence, hope, love, and joy, or I can believe lies and be filled with fear, anger, despair, and self-pity. Each day, and sometimes multiple times a day, I have the choice.
Days are better when I choose Jesus.
Today I watched the memorial service for a blogging friend of mine who went home to Jesus on December 30th. He wrote a blog called Unshakable Hope and lived with ALS for 24 years after the doctors gave him three to five to live. I met him because of this blog. He has been such a source of encouragement and faith building to me. As his two daughters shared some questions they asked him, and played his robotic responses while he was confined completely to a wheelchair with no voice and no ability to move, I was once again inspired.
Bill talked about the passage in Scripture where Paul asked God to remove the thorn in his flesh. He commented that our trials here are fleeting and temporary in light of eternity. Now as I wait on the Lord for healing to manifest, I am encouraged by this man’s incredible life. His wife, Mary, has been his caregiver all these years. Her grace and patience humble me. Bill reached tens of thousands of people through his blog that he wrote with eye recognition software. How can I live my life daily in this affliction so that it has eternal value?
How can I consider my current situation close to what he’s lived with? I only hope that I can live it with faith, grace, and unshakable hope like he did no matter how long it lasts. In light of eternity we live a fleeting moment.
Today is the only today we have. Tonight it will be gone, and tomorrow will come. What will we choose today?
I don’t know what the rest of my day or my tomorrows will be. We don’t even know how many tomorrows we’ll have. But today, I live for Christ in response to his love for me. No matter what comes, his love, his presence, peace, joy, and hope are beyond measure.
Will you choose him today? Whether you know him or you don’t, he loves you. He chose you. He has a plan for you.
In honor of my blogging brother Bill Sweeney. He chose Jesus.
“Long lay the world in sin and error pining; ‘Til he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. For younder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees…”
Adolphe Charles Adam and Placide Cappeau (French composers)
These words to a favorite Christmas hymn, “O Holy Night” keep ringing in my mind this week as we approach this last week before Christmas.
Our world is weary.
It’s weary because it’s been pining away in sin, offenses, mistakes, and brokenness. Lies, disease, natural disasters, violence top the headlines. And that’s only if you can believe the headlines. The media isn’t our friend.
But I love what this song reminds us of. That in the midst of sin, weariness, and despair, Jesus appears. He comes to say “You’re loved, special, worthy.” His appearance, life, and later death and resurrection speak to us of how worthy we are to him. The Bible says it was for the joy set before him that he came and died and rose again.
That joy is me and you. Jesus came so we can be with him forever.
With God, there is always a glorious, new morning breaking through. He doesn’t leave us in weariness and despair. And we can rejoice.
When Jesus first came, the world had been enslaved and God was silent after centuries of speaking, giving the people what they thought they wanted, and offering them life in him. After 400 years, Jesus showed up.
400 years! We’ve been through nine months of a pandemic and feel as if the world as ended.
But regardless of the length of time in waiting expectantly, today as we celebrate, Jesus is still the same. He hasn’t changed. His message of love and hope is still the same. And all we have to do is one thing.
Fall on our knees.
Acknowledge him. Humble ourselves and confess that we don’t have it all together, don’t know everything, and can’t figure life out on our own. When we come to the end of ourselves, he brings the beginning of new life.
A new and glorious morning…
I’m praying for you this Christmas. May we all be falling on our knees and experiencing the thrill of hope.
The end of 2019 promised new vision, strategies, success, and growth. My husband and I looked forward to exciting experiences the new year would bring. Only it didn’t come like we expected. Instead it came with grief.
God’s grief for the brokenhearted of the world—those who are weary in their perseverance through loss. His cries for those who have gone their own way into hurt, hatred, violence, and division—his children whom he loves that don’t want to have anything to do with him. I feel his grieving heart as I pray for our community, our nation, and our world.
I believe this year has allowed us to see and know who God is, and what’s important. Being forced to be at home, we’ve had time to spend time with God. We’ve been given a chance to reconnect with our spouses and children. Maybe we’ve learned how to work from home, setting our schedules to adapt to higher priorities. Conversation replaced hours previously spent watching sports or sitcoms. Many families have grown closer to God and each other.
Granted, nothing is what we expected. Disappointment and despair over job and family losses is real. But maybe the 2020 turmoil is what we needed to wake up to a different perspective. What if this year has actually brought more benefit than what we expected? When I choose to look at each day with gratitude, I’m suddenly aware of all we do have; all we’ve learned; new opportunities and strategies for change and growth. Maybe that’s what God has in mind. He’s our hope. Nothing but Jesus can bring us peace in the midst of these terrible storms. That’s what I’ve learned to cling to even more this year.
And that has brought excitement.
Looking forward with excitement as we celebrate Jesus in the weeks to come!
If you’re a book reader or have one on your list, you might be excited to hear of these Christmas deals!
I also have a limited supply of paperback copies of my newest release, When the Wind Blows, that were slightly damaged in shipping. You can receive a signed copy for only $7! That includes media mail shipping in the US. (takes about 7-10 days). These copies have minor flaws such as a bent corner or page or marks on the cover. Use the contact form to order. While supplies last.
AND as my Christmas gift to you, my biblical fiction, Rachel’s Son, about a woman named Rachel who’s son is killed in the Bethlehem massacre, will beFREE in Kindle version from December 23-27th for some Christmas reading. You know how the day after Christmas you don’t know what to do? Now you do! Merry Christmas to you.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12
This has been a year of hope deferred, hasn’t it?
We had expectations of how this year 2020—the year of vision and purpose—would pan out. I think it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that most of those plans for this last year did not happen as expected.
I wonder if that’s how the 400 years of captivity felt to the Israelites.
We’ve been through eleven grueling months, but they had to hold onto the prophecies and promises of God for hundreds of years. Palm on face here. I can’t imagine it. Can you?
But here’s the great thing.
Jesus—Emmanuel, God with Us, Prince of Peace, King of kings and Lord of lords—was scheduled by God to arrive. That plan had always been in place. God knew way ahead of time what he was doing.
And it’s no different today.
I have no doubt that God has a plan. It may not look like anything we expect. Just like the arrival of a baby in a remote town, placed in a cave manger with angels singing and shocked shepherds ogling. Not what anyone expected, right?
But it was a longing fulfilled to replace sick hearts whose hope had been deferred for centuries.
As we look forward to the next few weeks leading up to Christmas, we’re in the same place. Looking for hope. Longing for promises fulfilled.
And just as Jesus was that hope a couple thousand years ago, he is still our hope today.
There are a couple of differences.
We haven’t waited for hundreds of years—even if this year of 2020 feels like it’s stretched on for decades or centuries. And also, they didn’t know when to expect Jesus, but we have already seen him. We have the opportunity to not only welcome him into the world as a baby, but welcome him into our hearts and lives as our Savior, Lord, and King.
No matter what the virus or election or protests bring, Jesus is our hope.
And he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)
An author friend of mine from California writes great blog posts about hope. I swapped with her this week since we both share our findings of hope in our world from opposite places in the nation. I pray you’re blessed by her wonderful post this week. You can read more of her posts, and see mine this week on her site at www.carolshope.com.
Blessing in an “Annus Horribilis”
By Carol Nicolet Loewen
In a speech marking the 40th anniversary of her succession, Queen Elizabeth II referred to 1992 as an “annus horribilis,” a horrible year. Many of us would say the same of 2020.
Our country is in the midst of an ever-expanding pandemic as we wait and pray for an effective vaccine. We have isolated, masked, attended church, family, and business meetings on Zoom. We are hitting new highs for COVID-19 hospitalizations and are cautioned against being together with family members for Thanksgiving and Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa holidays. Fires and floods have taken lives, homes, animals, property. And our election results are still in question, with the media quick to step in with their interpretation before waiting for the final electoral vote in December.
We need hope. And out of that hope we need love that goes beyond our differences.
I heard a statistic recently that more than 80% of Americans–whether Democrat or Republican, Christian or non-Christian, church-goer or non-church goer–say they have no friends who see the world differently than they see it, politically and theologically. We prefer to stay in our own comfort zones rather than deliberately choosing to know and learn to love someone who is “unlike” us. And nothing divides us like fear. Fear of loss … of control, safety, rights, freedom, health, power, economic stability, and on and on.
We look for affirmation, security, and love in a variety of ways, many of which are not only unproductive, but potentially dangerous.
The sexually abused daughter who grows up to become promiscuous, believing physical intimacy is the way to gain security through the approval of men.
The son who has never been able to please his father, continues to push himself, trying ever harder to get an “atta boy”. He becomes a workaholic who is almost an absentee parent.
The tycoon who thinks his business success will buy him security.
The perfectionist who continually beats herself up because she could have “done it better,” never satisfied despite awards and recognition.
The rioters and looters who attack and destroy businesses of those they claim to defend.
What we’re looking for is a blessing. “Blessing” is defined as God’s favor and protection; a special favor, mercy or benefit. Three thousand years ago, God gave Moses a blessing for the people of Israel, which my lovely mother sang at my wedding. It still carries deep meaning.
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26
Only in the blessing of God do we find unconditional love which remains constant, not because of who we are or what we do, but because of who HE is.
“Thy love is uncaused and undeserved. Thou art Thyself the reason for the love wherewith we are loved.” (A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 97)
God has chosen to delight in me. What an amazing, life-altering fact! I don’t have to earn His love. I can’t. I simply need to receive it, bask in it, find my security in it. And when I am secure in His love, I am able to love others and fear begins to evaporate.
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. I John 4:18
So then how can I GIVE a blessing to others? In a video, an impatient man is given a pair of “all-seeing” glasses. People who before were irritants or interruptions are seen through a new lens—recognizing one needs a hug, a woman just lost a dear friend, a man lost his job. Seeing their pain, the man responds very differently than before.
I pray for eyes to see and ears to hear, so I can bless those around me … with a warm smile, a listening heart, a “thank you” to store clerks, health care professionals, and others. I want to intentionally affirm those I love and those who need encouragement.
I have needed a blessing these past weeks. Have you?
What choices will you make this week to receive and give the blessing? I’d love to interact with you at carolshope.com.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17b-19
Carol Nicolet Loewen writes of hope from the depths of her own loss. She resides in San Jose, California with her lovely second husband and their dog, Paige. Marrying a wonderful man at age 36 and losing him twenty years later taught her to value every moment, that we can survive loss, move ahead and even love again. It also allowed Carol to experience God’s faithfulness during the hardest time of her life. She is working on her first book, a historical novel of hope set in Bolshevik Russia, and loves to connect with her readers at carolshope.com.
“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”John 3:8
When my last book was in its finishing stages, I sensed a stirring in me to write a sequel. I’ve never been a series writer, and haven’t considered it before, but the wind blew this mysterious woman into the end of When the Wind Blows, and I knew I had to tell her story.
Her name is Tyrina Lousie Duvall, and her story isn’t easy, but it will offer hope and healing to someone.
It’s interesting how book ideas materialize. No sooner had I thought about the mystery woman, than I realized Bailey Crenshaw, a twenty-year-old character in When the Wind Blows would need a book of her own as well. So a third book in the now series will follow Tyrina’s story. The two characters will end up being intertwined so how could they not both have a book? Besides, some who have finished When the Wind Blows want to know more about how Jessica’s character has changed too. She’ll pop in here and there in both books.
But the two new books, Where Blows the Wind – Tyrina’s story and Winds of Change – Bailey’s tale (the current working titles that may end up changing) were added to a list of books I’ve already started. I’m pretty sure the word I sensed from the Lord was prolific writing. Wow. Here we go!
Faith’s Song, based on the best friend of Sara Matley in A Deadly Silence, walks with Faith when she receives devastating news and can’t seem to rally her faith to handle it. How will she deal with the ramifications of this shocking news?
And then there’s The Fisherman’s Wife. Simon Peter is impulsive and brash, spending long hours fishing in often stormy waters. When Jesus calls Peter to follow him, how will Abigail handle another one of Peter’s crazy plans – this time to leave her for an undefined time? A couple of readers mentioned that they hoped I’d write more along the lines of Rachel’s Son. Here you go.
Bed and Breakfast isn’t what it seems. Two activist inventors clash in a contemporary romance when they each believe they have the perfect answer to create housing for the homeless. Can they combine their talents and innovations to alleviate one of the world’s worst problems?
And that’s not all! The list continues…oh, my!
On the back burner is Silk Stalkings, Out of Egypt, a possible yet-to-be-named sequel to Voices of the Past, and a couple of middle school series featuring Perry Trotter and Justin Case.
Not to go crazy or anything about book writing, but Beyond the Miracle: When the Fairy Tale Meets Reality, the continuing saga of my Aussie husband, Brendan, and me is also in process.
That said, let me take a survey. I”m curious. Of the books I’ve mentioned here, what would be your first choice? Anyone who responds will have their name entered in a drawing for a signed print copy of A Deadly Silence. Let my know in the comments below that you submitted your vote.
Thanks for participating! From my desk chair of piled notes, proof copies of books, and computer manuscripts, I thank you. Thank you for reading, commenting, voting, and following! It means so much.
One morning this past week, I set off on a morning stroll as I often do. Clouds showcased the rising sun against a splendid blue background. When I reached the point where I usually turn around, I pivoted to return home, and a stunning rainbow gracing part of the sky surprised me. It had been behind me, but I didn’t notice until I turned around.
How many times do we miss something beautiful because of our perspective or position?
As I walked home, the rainbow grew until it arced over the entire sky. I encountered four people on my way back. None of them had noticed the rainbow.
The first one was running. I said “hi” and barely got the word “rainbow out as she smiled and ran on. I don’t think she even saw it.
The second person walked by with a smile.
“Did you see the rainbow?” I asked, pointing to the sky.
She turned around and gasped. “Oh, my! It’s beautiful. No, I didn’t see it. I was headed the other way first, but it wasn’t there. Now look. Thank you for pointing it out to me.”
“God’s promises,” I said.
“Yes. I think every time I see a rainbow that there is hope.”
I agreed and wished her a great day.
As I continued on, the rainbow grew in clarity and intensity. I praised and thanked God, not only for the gorgeous sight, but also for every challenging and difficult thing in my life and the lives of my family. Without the flood, there wouldn’t have been a rainbow–the sign of God’s promise that he would never wipe out the earth again.
Yet, many things are wiping out our lives right now, right?
Those tragic situations can turn us to God if we let them. I think he often allows them for our benefit. He knows where our bottom line is; where we will finally fall on our face before him and cry to him for help. Only he can bring the rainbow times out of crisis.
The third and fourth people I met were a couple who had been walking and talking in full view of the rainbow, which by that point had become a double one. A light drizzle showered us even as the sun shone brightly around. When I pointed to the rainbow, they were surprised they hadn’t even noticed it, but were so glad to have it brought to their attention.
“God’s promises are true,” I said to the husband as his wife pulled out her phone to snap a picture. He smiled and pointed one finger to the sky. “Yes,” he agreed.
I wished them a beautiful day and left them still admiring the handiwork of God.
When I returned home, I saw a post from a man whose blog I’ve been following for about eight years. He just celebrated his 60th birthday after being diagnosed with ALS at the age of thirty-six. No one expected him to live for more than a few years, but his faith has inspired tens of thousands of people all over the world. You can read his post and story here.
A rainbow moment.
God is good. Even if he allows bad things. We may not understand his ways or his methods of showing us who he is, but we can trust that whatever he chooses, it will produce something beautiful, colorful, and remarkable in the end.
What is your rainbow situation?
My newest book, When the Wind Blows, has rainbow moments for the six main characters who are thrown together when a hurricane sweeps through Southwest Florida. It will be available on Amazon on October 20, 2020 and offered for FREE the first five days. If you want to get in on the action NOW you can use the contact form or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you a FREE PDF copy so you can be one of the first to read and review (if you would be so kindly inclined).
At our previous church in California, we hosted a week-long day camp for Vacation Bible School each summer. Every day, we would lead kids in chanting that VBS was F-U-N, and at the end, VBS was D-U-N. But one of the songs we sang that year, Nothing is Impossible, continued to play in my mind. God proved those words to me over and over during that year’s VBS, and I want to live according to that truth every day.
As the VBS traffic directors for the first time, my husband, Brendan, and I really didn’t know what we were doing. We certainly had tremendous help from the previous director; we had the notebook containing all the guidelines for what to do and expect; and we had abundant encouragement and support from our VBS director. Still, as VBS drew closer, a bit of anxiety began to stack up against the peace I felt during the previous couple of preparation months.
Within thirty minutes of arriving on Monday morning, I had a meltdown. My walkie-talkie wouldn’t work; I was on the wrong channel; people had questions for me, but I had no answers – AND cars we were supposed to be directing continued to steadily stream in while I struggled with my equipment and fought back frustration tears.
Our director and her team were wonderfully helpful. They provided me with working equipment, showed me how to use it and prayed for me. Then she said something like, “Laura, VBS is going to happen. Cars will park and kids will arrive no matter what we do or don’t do. God is in control, and He will make it happen.” It clicked. Something I had known in my head shot straight to my heart, and I was able to grasp and actually believe it. What a relief!
Then I recalled how at prep day, one of the guys had talked about the “nothing” he felt he had to offer. Like the widow with two small coins (Luke 21:2), or the boy with a meager lunch of bread and fish (John 6:9). I could relate. I felt like I had nothing to offer. No real grasp of the job I would be doing and not enough people to help us do it, but I could offer the “nothing” I had and let God make the impossible happen.
And He did. Each day that week, God brought unexpected people to help us, and he gave us the ability to do our job. He even gave us some new ideas that were helpful. The week turned out to be—believe it, or not—easy, or at least relaxed, even in spite of some unforeseen traffic situations.
In the years since then, I’ve attempted to live in that place of believing that NOTHING is impossible for God to make happen – in myself, in my marriage, in my family and in every aspect of life’s daily challenges. I think we can all agree that this year of 2020 has needed the hope that God will make good things happen, and nothing is impossible for Him!
No matter what the remainder of this year brings or looks like, we can be confident that God always has possibilities ahead for us. He promises that when we put our hope in him, we will not be disappointed even if circumstances bring pain, or people let us down. With God all things are possible.