Let Hope Arise


The passage in John 11:17-27 tells the story of when Jesus found out his friend, Lazarus was dead. Had been dead for a few days. His sisters were lamenting and questioning his timing…

One of my former pastors and friend, Hilary Millikan penned this great post on hope based on this passage of scripture and graciously allowed me to re-post it here. Hilary is an exceptionally talented writer who gives us a great dose of “wow!” laced with humor. I hope you are encouraged by her words.

Let Hope Arise by Hilary Millikan

I had the privilege of writing and recording a message on Hope for the beginning of Advent at our church. Most of you know that hope is my main “lane” in life. There is always hope. But only because we have THE Hope. How filling it is to rehearse and articulate what we have lived and become convinced of in the Lord. May hope arise and re-arise for each of us…

Now hope… is tricky.

There’s that verse in Proverbs that says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when desire comes it is the tree of life.” So simple. So short. So catchy.

But anyone who has spent any time in the first half of that Scripture, who has lived out the carving of that first phrase is familiar with what a desperate, lonely, painful place hope can be.

The very presence of hope in my life means that I have unfulfilled promises, unanswered pleas, unhealed woundings. Especially right now, when my hope is basically on its “last leg.” The ropes that tether hope to my heart and keep it from flinging wildly away from my soul are strained because my everyday is now filled with unfamiliar and new “hopes” that I now have to navigate.

I hope my children come out of this pandemic emotionally unscathed. I hope this is just a cold and not something trying to kill me. I hope when I go to the store I don’t accidentally pick up an extra carton of COVID.

It’s hard to keep a “stiff upper lip” in my day-to-day, much less give any sort of trusting thoughts or faith-filled prayers to the deeper, longer-lived, farther away hopes. And as in this story, it is especially hard to hope when it is just plain too late.

I’m always struck by how Jesus asks Martha and Mary to trust Him even though Lazarus is ACTUALLY DEAD. There’s not much more to do here, nothing left to hope for. And yet, Jesus comes offering them hope–Hope in Me, can you trust Me, do you believe Me?

I don’t know how you’ve reacted to Jesus when He’s tried to touch your “too late” spot with His hope, but I’ve reacted much like Martha and Mary. “Lord,” they BOTH said, “if You had been here–if You had come when we called for You, if You’d answered us. You, Who we DO hope in, Who we DID hope in, because… You could have… I know You could have, if You’d been HERE where we are, where Lazarus was, where it was all going down, in that moment, if You’d been HERE WHERE I AM, then it wouldn’t have happened this way.”

The implication (at least in my heart) being, “But You weren’t. And I don’t understand why. I trusted You. I hoped in You. I put all of my hope in You. And You didn’t come when I needed You. It’s too late. You came too late.”

When things don’t go the way we had hoped, when things are so far away from what we believe would or should be true of our lives, it has a way of sometimes even making us question what is true of the Lord.

I remember a time when I just couldn’t reconcile the goodness of God with the gaping loss in my life. When I couldn’t put together this God that I had trusted my whole life and given my every moment with what had happened. How could He allow this to be? He could have stopped it. He could have fixed it. He could have… He could have… Why wouldn’t He… How can I trust a God who didn’t when He could have?

Jesus’ answer to Martha? Do you believe Me? Do you believe that I AM the life? Do you believe that I AM your hope? Not just something to hope in, but I AM hope itself? Do you believe this?Martha’s like “don’t come at me with all Your there’s-hope-in-the-end, it’ll-all-be-fine-in-Heaven stuff. That doesn’t help me NOW. That doesn’t help me HERE.”

Again, but before He has done anything, before anything has changed, Jesus stands before her and says, “Yes, but Martha… Do you believe Me?” Martha says, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are everything I hoped You were. You are God. You are my hope.”

The Lord asked me in my moment, “Do you believe Me?” And immediately my spirit cried out Yes! I believe You. I don’t know what to do with You, I don’t know how to trust You, but I know I believe You.

And it was enough.

Somehow the formation of what I DO believe quieted all the unanswerable questions that had caused me so much disbelief, and the faint whispers of hope began.

I also have experienced times in the midst of my darkest, farthest, not-sure-I-will-make-it-out-alive places, when the Lord’s words and promises, it’s like they hurt. There was a time when I was so desperate, so close to the edge of myself, that I told the Lord, Enough! Enough promises! Stop. I can’t take one more promise from You. I can’t take the presence of one more unfulfilled thing that I have to hold onto. I can’t… I can’t do it. I can’t hope. I’m like Lazarus, Lord. My hope is dead. And I’m not far behind it. I can’t hold on anymore.

I need hope to hold onto me.

Sometimes we say to our souls–like Martha and David and so many others–“oh my soul, trust in the Lord, hope in the Lord! Let hope arise!” And our souls respond.

Sometimes we are like Lazarus himself, where there is not even the option to hope anymore. Still Jesus stands outside the tomb of our heart and calls us forth. He calls hope to arise from places that feel long gone. Because, He has been there. That’s why He is our hope.

He has been to hell and back again. He has experienced the utter betrayal and abandonment of the Lord. He has born our grief, our sorrows. He has been unable to lift even His head. He has been to the unimaginable edges of His heart and life. He has asked God why. He has even heard nothing in return. He has been here. He knows this place. But more importantly, He knows the way.

He IS the way to hope everlasting.

He is the life to our long-gone places. He is the truth that makes that way. He is our morning star, a promise in the darkest of our nights that MORNING IS COMING.

He IS coming.

Though you be bones in a valley, though you be a body in a tomb, though you be grieving an unbelievable actuality, though you be living a hell. Do you believe Him? It is enough.

And may He who IS our Hope arise in your heart, in your situation, in your soul, outside your tomb, in your yesterday today and tomorrow. May hope arise.

“God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, just at the break of dawn.” Psalm 46:5

To hear Hilary’s podcast of this post click here.

I’m grateful for the influence Hilary has had in my life and my family’s life. She is a woman of great faith and wisdom, not to mention fun and quirky humor. Thank you, Hilary!

What the World Needs Now


HOPE. Lava bringing life

Life will never look exactly the same again. This season in our world has been one of:

  • fear
  • uncertainty
  • questions
  • opinions
  • contradictions
  • frustrations
  • accusations
  • loss
  • grief
  • weariness
  • isolation
  • and excitement.

Wait.

What was that last word? Excitement? How can anyone be excited in this season?

Because in the midst of all this, God’s plans can’t be stopped. He’s not surprised by this. He knew it was coming. His plans are always for us. For a hope and a good future.

Things may not look like we expected or planned. There may be shifts in our lives from certain activities to spending time with our kids; from the job we hated every day to a new opportunity we love; from comparison to companionship. We may be weary or grieving a loss.

But God offers us hope.

This is my prayer for you:

May the God of HOPE fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13

When we trust God, he fills us with hope, joy, and peace. That’s why I’m excited about what’s to come. In Jesus, there is hope, healing, comfort and a sense of peace no matter how things look.

Today, may you have a little of what the world needs right now. HOPE.

Meeting Face to Face – Part 3


My husband, Brendan, and I planned to meet face to face in Australia. We decided that I would fly there with my twenty-year old daughter for three weeks. After ten weeks of planning and waiting, the momentous day finally arrived. Passports in hand, Ashley and I embarked on our Australian adventure. Excited, nervous, heart pounding, I perched on the edge of an airport seat in San Francisco silently observing fellow travelers.

“Mom!”

Ashley’s voice cut through my distracted thoughts. I looked over and smiled at her exuberance.

“I can’t believe we are going to Australia!” She beamed, leaning towards me.

“Let’s take a picture. This is where is begins!”

We leaned in, heads together, tickets fanned out in front of us as Ashley tilted the camera this way and that to get the best shot of us at close range.

“Smile!”

“Now boarding American Airlines flight 3126 to Los Angeles with service to Brisbane, Australia,” a pleasant, barely perceptible voice sounded in the distance.

Deep breath. Big grins. This is it. And down the boarding tunnel we went.

We had chosen our seats purposely with an extra one between us at the back of the plane by the toilets (of course), hoping that no one would want to book the middle seat. And we scored!

Even with “ideal” seating arrangements, how does one make oneself presentable and (hopefully) attractive after hours of dragging luggage through airports, undressing and redressing at security stations, and flying for thirteen hours during which pseudo-sleep is the only option for rejuvenation? It appears that it can be done. I’ve witnessed countless other travelers emerge from those skinny toilet stalls, toss their only slightly mussed, but beautifully coifed hair and saunter down the equally narrow airline aisle looking as if they had just been in a salon and were ready for a cover page photo shoot. THAT is what I want to look like when I arrive to meet Brendan! I wryly and somewhat covetously mused, as I watched one such woman return to her seat. I admit, that I secretly rejoice, in a relieved kind of way, when I see another crazy haired, bleary-eyed disheveled woman like myself. At least I’m not the only one.

But I so badly wanted to look my best considering what my arrival in Australia meant! To that end, I strategically mapped out my plan for end-of-flight beautification rituals to make me at least presentable to the man of my dreams. Face washing, clothes adjusting, deodorant, reapplying make-up, hair arranging and of course, teeth brushing (since our first real-life kiss was a highly anticipated part of this encounter) all made the top-priority list, but I also paused to consider whether I may vomit as a result of my travel sensitivities and nervousness rendering all of those preparational activities null and void thus requiring a do-over. This planning occurred between scrutinizing my individual flight screen, mapping the details of our final hours (I felt like my heart was a kid asking “are we there yet?” every five minutes), and observing people line up near the bathroom. I realized I was perhaps psychotically spending way too much energy stressing over when to make my break for the toilet, which actually should have been quite simple as I was less than four feet away. Nonetheless, I figured too soon and I would require a double overhaul—too late and I might miss my chance altogether. Ashley slept in irritatingly peaceful repose, draped partially over me and the middle seat, obviously ignorant of my inner turmoil.

Then came the attendant serving breakfast and I elated over the fact that I hadn’t yet made my move for the bathroom. Gladly appreciated, the meal would kill some time, distract me and wake Ashley. Well done, most important meal of the day!

My usual love of reading just couldn’t manifest during that last hour before our descent. I ate as slowly as possible, spent as much time in the lavatory as reasonably acceptable, and now squirmed excitedly like a two-year old. I packed, unpacked and repacked my carry-on bag and purse six times; took out a book, exchanged it for a magazine then returned that in lieu of chapstick until Ashley snapped me out of it with an authoritative, “Mom! Chill.”

I almost burst into tears. My emotions played pinball and were racking up points. Tilt! This day that had taken forever to arrive, now loomed just down the aisle and out the cabin door; once we landed of course. Overwhelmed with relief and timorous energy, I practically shook. Questions pummeled me. Would Brendan love me in person as he did in our email/Skype world? Would he find me attractive? Would I bore him in real life? (That seems like a crazy question…what possessed me to think that?)

“Would you feel weird about taking pictures of our first meeting?” I queried Ashley cautiously.

Her initial expression revealed that it didn’t thrill her, but she was an awfully good sport and answered that she would.

I sent Brendan a text. “We’ve landed.”

As if the trip itself wasn’t long enough, we then endured another hour going through customs; longer for me because I brought my “oversized item” guitar that required pick up in a special baggage area.

We made it through the inspection of bag sniffing dogs, interrogations by the customs police holding our declaration slips and the pushing/pulling of overloaded luggage while we juggled carry-on bags, backpacks, purses, pillows and a guitar. It looked as if we were immigrating not simply visiting.

The last corridor stretched out like the runway we on which we had landed. At every corner, my heart paused its beating (forgetting to breathe again) while my thoughts raced crazily in figure eights. What will he think? Where will he be? Will I recognize him; will he recognize me?? Will we hug or kiss or stand and stare awkwardly? Or would we mimic the movies of old, running to each other and falling into each other’s arms with a swooping spin around?

And in all of the commotion, I didn’t want to forget about Ashley. That she would feel left out or awkward concerned me. I kept a close watch on her expressions while I struggled with my emotions. Finally, I wondered what Brendan would be wearing, and then we saw the crowd waiting for arriving passengers.

I scanned the multitude almost frantically, afraid I wouldn’t find him, but then I saw him. His smile captured my heart once again.

“Yep! He’s the one,” I rejoiced with deep conviction.

In that moment, I did forget Ashley. Throwing my arms around Brendan, guitar still in hand, I hugged him fiercely. It’s a miracle I didn’t knock him unconscious with the guitar. And he kissed me right then; the rightest kiss every experienced by two people. A wonderful, safe, semi-passionate kiss that settled him forever in my soul. Finally, I had arrived home in the arms of this Aussie man on the other side of the world.