Tag Archives: hope

From Breslau, with love

“On the question of relating to our fellowman – our neighbor’s spiritual need transcends every commandment.  Everything else we do is a means to an end.  But love is an end already, since God is love” – Edith Stein.

God created us to live in community with one another.  We are all souls created in His image.  He uses others to guide us and light the path beneath our feet – a path that leads back to the foot of the cross, a place of love.  In Home, Daughtry sums it up well with, “The miles are getting longer, it seems, the closer I get to you.  I’ve not always been the best man or friend for you.  But your love it makes true and I don’t know why.  You always seem to give me another try.  So I’m going home, back to the place where I belong and where your love has always been enough for me.  I’m not running from, no, I think you got me all wrong; I don’t regret this life I chose for me.  But these places and these faces are getting old.  So I’m going home.” 

Last week I had the chance to speak with a mentor and friend from 35 years ago.  She is a woman of great wisdom, patience and insight who has a keen understanding of long-term investment.  In my formative years, she spent a lot of time imparting lessons on me that she knew very well I didn’t understand.  Nonetheless, she passed the information on with the determination to prepare me for my future, holding out hope that understanding would come.  Although my talents and gifting seemed light years away from coming together, she knew that time would pass quickly and seemingly in the blink of an eye, God would put those pieces together with dime-size precision.  When I look in the rear view mirror at that part of my journey, I see an assertive but confused little person, caught up in the fog of war, who lacked the ability to discern the Commander’s intent.  Having figuratively and literally been through war, she saw an enterprising pre-teen who would go on to do great things.

Our conversation was both intimate and inspiring.  As she did years ago, she repeated last week.  She filled my basket with more than I could consume in the moment, knowing that I would use it to feed the future.  Specifically, she reminding me that:

  1. Hope is a necessary virtue.
  2. Nothing here is ours.
  3. The Lord gives quiet assistance.
  4. My only cut card is love.
  5. We need time with Him to sustain working for Him.
  6. Do not concern yourself with what you may lose when there is so much to gain.

By the end of our conversation, I realized we were no longer the old lady and the girl, but rather two friends from different generations sharing similar experiences.  Her patience with me as a child taught me that there is something deeper than disagreement.  Her insights and experiences shared with me as an adult made me know there is something beautiful in connection.  Proverbs 3:13-18 tells us, “You’re blessed when you meet Lady Wisdom, when you make friends with Madame Insight.  She’s worth far more than money in the bank; her friendship is better than a big salary.  Her value exceeds all the trappings of wealth; nothing you could wish for holds a candle to her.  With one hand she gives long life, with the other she confers recognition.  Her manner is beautiful, her life wonderfully complete.  She’s the very Tree of Life to those who embrace her.  Hold her tight—and be blessed!” (MSG)

My reflection on the conversation drove home the notion that life’s journey is not a series of unplanned disjointed twists and turns, trips and blunders, setbacks and disappointments, triumphs and victories, and achievements and successes.  Instead, it is a highly planned, coherently organized movement of people, places, and things, designed to bring us back to Him.  God uses the bumps to slow us down and redirect us and the open-country road to build us up and encourage us.  Ellie Holcomb in The Broken Beautiful says it so well:  “I’m better off when I begin to remember how You have met me in my deepest pain.  So give me glimpses now of how You have covered all of my heart ache, oh with all Your grace.  Remind me now that You can make a way.  That Your love will never change, that there’s healing in your name; that You can take broken things, and make them beautiful.  You took my shame and You walked out of the grave.  So Your love can take broken things and make them beautiful.  You say that You’ll turn my weeping into dancing; remove my sadness & cover me with joy.  You say your scars are the evidence of healing; that You can make the broken beautiful.”

Life is not a linear, even-paced walk.  We will stumble into the valley as much as we walk on the mountaintop.  When the going gets rough and forward progress seems like an impossibility, God doesn’t just tell us to find a way.  He makes one for us.  He places teachers, mentors, and sponsors on our path; people who light the way, hold our hands, sing praises of encouragement, and show us that “it” can be done.  He places them there to soothe our misplaced aggression, bandage our bruises, lighten our spirits, and give us wings to fly.

Like my teacher and friend (and her mentor), we are all built to be blessings to one another.  So get going!  Soar high and generously sprinkle His love on everyone you encounter.  Be a Godly teacher, mentor, or sponsor and friend in your next human engagement.  Share your story of God’s love and grace with those you meet.  Do so and your actions will teach people this:  “I am Lady Wisdom, and I live next to Sanity; Knowledge and Discretion live just down the street.  The Fear-of-God means hating Evil, whose ways I hate with a passion — pride and arrogance and crooked talk.  Good counsel and common sense are my characteristics; I am both Insight and the Virtue to live it out.  With my help, leaders rule, and lawmakers legislate fairly; With my help, governors govern, along with all in legitimate authority.  I love those who love me; those who look for me find me.  Wealth and Glory accompany me — also substantial Honor and a Good Name.  My benefits are worth more than a big salary, even a very big salary; the returns on me exceed any imaginable bonus.  You can find me on Righteous Road — that’s where I walk — at the intersection of Justice Avenue, Handing out life to those who love me, filling their arms with life—armloads of life!” (Proverbs 8:12-21 – MSG).  Thank you, my friend!

Join the Walk of Faith

This week, I was on travel to make a presentation at a regional training conference.  The conference was in a bustling metropolitan area on a coastline with a mountain range to the east.  My morning view from the hotel was beautiful as it overlooked the sea.  However, my travel to the government facility that hosted the training was typical of an inner city commute, mired by heavy traffic.  Unfortunately, mass transportation was dangerous and insufficient and HOV lanes do not exist.  Crosswalks were not plentiful, which caused work-bound pedestrians to cross lanes of traffic at unsafe points.  Other onlookers seemed somber and appeared to stand still as if they had no place to go and no specific time to be there.  It turns out, they didn’t – no job, no home, no money, and little hope.

The pollution trapped between the eastward sea breeze and the gorgeous mushroom spectrum mountains created an early haze that took six hours of solar pressure to release.  The slow ride gave me plenty of time to see, even through the thick and opaque air, the appearance and expression of financial and spiritual poverty.  Matthew 26:11 tells us: “You will always have poor people with you, but you won’t always have me.” (GNT)

Upon my arrival at the training facility, there were long lines of people seeking applications, interviews, and appointments to gain relief from their plight.  Some will receive relief and an opportunity for a better life through escape.  Others will not.

I waded my way through the people and entered a space that had a familiar feel; one with fresh, well circulated, floral fragranced air that was absent the gazes and scents of indigence.  The circumstance created a sterile environment with a sense that all was good in the world.  Meanwhile, I was separated from hungry broken souls only by a double reinforced steel door and 100 feet.

Thankfully, God is the bridge of peace between the sturdy and the splintered.  The faux purity as well as the perceived sepsis can only gain true life through His unconditional love.  Uniquely, His love multiplies as it is divided.  To keep it, those who have it, must share it.  He sent His son as proof of His love, an act greater than any earthly father would contribute or any human son would sacrifice.  John 3:16-18 tells us “This is how much God loved the world:  He gave his son, his one and only son.  And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.  God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was.  He came to help, to put the world right again.  Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under a death sentence without knowing it.  And why?  Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.” (MSG)  In This Man, Jeremy Camp sings: And we just don’t know the blood and water flowed and in it all He shows just how much he cares; and the veil was torn so we could have this open door and all these things have finally been complete.  Would you take the place of this man?  Would you take the nails from his hand?

So what is our part?  I know that handing out greenbacks to every person in tattered clothing may not be the answer.  Taking every beggar into our homes may not be the long-term solution.  Moving to the slums of India may not be what we have in mind.  But there is so much we can do.  We can: smile and acknowledge the presence of as many human beings as possible; engage others in conversation while withholding judgment about how or why they got to where they are; educate ourselves that there is no hierarchy in humanity; pray, pray, and pray specifically; donate to a food pantry, or take a mission trip to volunteer our trade craft.  There are many means we have to let Jesus’ light shine through our eyes, mouths, and hands.  Jeremy Camp in Healing Hand of God tells us: I have seen the healing hand of God, reaching out and mending broken hearts.  Taste and feel the fullness of His peace, and hold on to what’s being held out – The healing hand of God. 

I reversed my ride amidst the neon signs of destitution and despair (homeless families sleeping on the street, badges of prostitution and drug use, hungry youth rumbling through trash, boarded up businesses, and constantino wired homes).  Yet I know there is hope.  I see it in the soup kitchens in churches, in the changed lives of the neighbors who are now sharing among each other the little they have, with the medical personnel who give some of their time to provide free treatment, and among those who take the time to speak to the faces of deprivation around them.  All of these are acts of love and give hope to us all.

The return car ride brought about this cascade of thoughts:

  1. God is love and love brings hope
  2. Hope breeds joy and Joy brings smiles
  3. Smiles show happiness and happiness encourages
  4. Encouragement shines lights and lights illuminate paths
  5. Paths diverge but narrow ones lead to Him
  6. He is God, the great I Am

How can we join the walk of faith of another?  By spreading the love of God.  We can’t do it if we don’t engage.  However, if we listen, ask, encourage and inspire, we can spread spiritual wealth.  When was the last time you held a conversation with the face of spiritual distress or financial hardship?  It has not been recent enough for me.  Please, join me on the walk by starting today.  What you say can make a positive difference.  Hawk Nelson tells us in Words:

Let my words be life.  Let my words be truth.  I don’t wanna say a word unless it points the world back to you.  I wanna speak your love, not just another noise.  Oh, I wanna be your light.  I wanna be your voice.  Let the words I say be the sound of your grace…