Category Archives for "hope"

The Start Of Hope And Change

We’re back from Guatemala.

It was the adventure of a lifetime.

Thank you to everyone who guest posted while I was away.  I haven’t had an opportunity to jump into the discussions yet, but I hope these conversations stretched you.  Thank you also for your prayers for our family.

As you can imagine, I have a lot to process as I reenter life here in the States.  It could take me a little while to get through it.  I hope you’ll be patient, and I hope my pondering will stretch you.

Here are some thoughts from my journal.  I wrote them on Friday afternoon after visiting the small mountain-top village of San Antonio:

Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the wearyand increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  Isaiah 40:28-31

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Today, we drove up the mountain to the small village of San Antonio.  We came here last year, so our family knew to expect an extreme level of poverty.  Kids at the school were hungry, and some were quite dirty.  Many children were coughing – fighting some type of respiratory illness.

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It was sad to see children living in these conditions.  But I saw some glimmers of hope.  GO! Ministries has continued to serve food to the children five times a week.  This simple meal of rice, beans, and tortillas provides some nutrition which would otherwise be absent.  GO! Ministries built their first widow home here in March providing a much improved place of living for a widow and her children.  Another organization, Mission Firefly, has also been building better housing and a new cafeteria for the school in this small community.

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“Hope and Change” is a phrase that has become so cliché.  Politicians run on promises of bringing hope and change.  So often, our hope is shallow.  “We hope you like this.”  “We hope we get a raise or a new job.”  “We hope to win the lottery or to strike it rich someday.”  And so often, the change we desire is misdirected toward the wrong targets.

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I’m so thankful to see small changes in San Antonio.  It would be nice to see these changes taking place more quickly, but I’m learning (again) to operate on a different clock.  Guatemala Time is not the same as United States of America Time.  We live in a culture where we expect and demand promptness.  People are supposed to arrive on time or early.  But in Guatemala, it’s different.  If someone says 3 o’clock, it might mean 3 o’clock, but it probably means sometime after 3 – maybe closer to 4 or 5 o’clock.  Guatemala Time is slower, less hurried, and more relaxed.  It’s hard for Americans from the United States to understand time in Guatemala.

Similarly, I think we fail to understand God’s Time.  He operates differently than we want or expect.  If we pay attention and if we start taking notes, we’ll see that God always knows best.  He works upstream far in front of our short-sighted vision.  And he honors those who pursue and follow Him.

And so, it’s important to have hopes and dreams.  It’s important to work towards change and future vision realizations.   But it’s all for nothing if it doesn’t align with God.  So our number one pursuit should be to know God and to see His wisdom.  God’s wisdom will not fail – never!

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Matthew 6:33

If you want to win – if you want to succeed – if you want to see hopes for change realized, you must seek God with all you have.

What are you waiting for?  What is stopping you from seeking God with everything you have?

In the Middle of Crisis – Find Your Way to God’s Heart

Four years ago, our family faced a significant health crisis which resulted in my wife’s hospitalization.  This was a time which rocked our family’s world.

I remember going through all kinds of thoughts and feelings during this time.  I wondered how this crisis would impact our family and our marriage.  I questioned God – why would he let this happen.  I felt loneliness even as family members and friends wrapped their arms around our family.  There were times of hopelessness, but there were also moments and days of hope.

I recall praying that Leanne would know my love and commitment for her as she struggled to find wellness, and I prayed that she would look to God’s heart for clarity and comfort when everything around her didn’t seem to make sense.  (In a way, this was a prayer I needed as well through this time, and I’m thankful for many who were lifting me up during this crazy time.)  I had a strong feeling God would work the rest of the healing process out.

There are times in our lives when we will face times of crisis.  There will be many times when life doesn’t make sense.

It’s times like this when we need to remember God is simply calling us to find a way to His heart.  He is there for us during the peaks and valleys of life.  He’s with us in the mundane middle.  He is our Rock, our Fortress, our Refuge, and our Redeemer.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  Psalm 18:2

I have no idea what you may be going through.  You may be riding high on the good waves of life, or you may be trudging through the muddy trenches.  I pray you would look to God’s heart for clarity and comfort.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  Proverbs 3:5-6

This song by Phil Collins spoke to me as I contemplated this post.  It’s not a “Christian” song in itself, and the theology may not line up exactly, but it reminded me how God wants us to be connected to Him through the ups and downs of life.

How have you handled a crisis in your life?  What helped you get through the crisis?  If you are in the middle of a crisis right now, what gives you hope?

Opportunity Beyond Your Wildest Dreams

I had an amazing day on Tuesday at work. This is a day I don’t want to forget.

I was asked to speak in front of all the managers in our zone today at a special meeting. The meeting included 90 managers and supervisors from our New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania offices. My topic was developing my team.

I shared about the importance of spending time with your team members (especially through one-on-one meetings). I shared about the importance of showing appreciation to your team members (especially through hand-written thank you notes). And I shared about the importance of developing yourself.

The response was overwhelming. Our zone manager stood up at the end of the meeting to recap the meeting. During his recap, he thanked me and encouraged all the managers and supervisors in the room to join the Thank You Thursday Revolution!

Also, after I spoke, I headed to the back of the room where I was seated. Our HR Manager who was running the meeting put a picture of my book on the screen and asked me to share about my book. I was totally surprised. I stood up at the back of the room and explained about my passion for missions, for running, for writing, and for my faith. I explained that the book was an intersection of several of these interests.

After the meeting, managers repeatedly came up to me congratulating me on my book and thanking me for my talk on team development.

The opportunities to share about my book in front of all the managers and to share personally about it after the meeting were a clear reminder that it is so important to be prepared for the opportunity to share the reason for the hope I profess. God is good!

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… I Peter 3:15

When I started in the workforce 20 years ago, I felt certain that God would use me. Tuesday was a reminder that God is working through me. He’s giving me opportunities I never imagined.

What we are doing matters! Don’t doubt it. God provides opportunities beyond our wildest dreams.

When have you seen an opportunity beyond your wildest dreams?  How did you respond to that opportunity?

Helping Everyone Starts By Helping Someone

“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.”  Ronald Reagan

Many complain that things need to change.  We know people who are unemployed.  We see people who are struggling to put the next meal on the table.  We live next to people who are facing an uphill health challenge.  We hear about people who have strained family relationships.  The list goes on.  People are hurting.  People are struggling.  People are simply trying to make it through the day.  They are hopeless.

This is true all around you and me – even in the opulence of America.

What’s the answer to all the hurt, struggle, and hopelessness?

The ultimate answer is Christ.

I guess I could end the post here, but I believe God can use each of us to make a difference in this world.

There are things that we as individuals can do.

So why don’t more people get involved to help out?  Perhaps, we feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people who need help.  Maybe, we don’t know where to start.  Or, we think someone else or even the government is the answer to the hopelessness.  Maybe, we just don’t care, or we don’t believe it’s anyone’s responsibility to help those who won’t help themselves.

What if we looked in the mirror?  What if each one of us looked next door to see how we could bring hope to our hurting neighbor?  What if each of us took action to help someone in need?  What if we took responsibility to help someone?

I think we could actually see a tidal wave of change.

If each of us was willing to help someone else, we can help everyone.

What do you think?

 

ADVENTure Day 6

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Last night, our family spent some time decorating for Christmas.  We set up the tree.  We hung the stockings.  We put up the window decorations.  And we set up the Christmas Victorian Village.  Later this weekend, we’ll decorate the tree with ornaments, and we’ll set up our Nativity.

After 17 years of marriage and many years of parenting, we have developed systems for setting everything up.  As the kids have gotten older, the process as definitely become easier.

Our time of decoration is part of how our family prepares for Christmas, and it reminded me of something worth pondering today.

How are we preparing for Christmas?

And more importantly, how are we preparing for the second advent?

The Bible reminds us that we do not know the hour or the day when Christ returns.  If we are a Christ follower, I don’t think this is something to get worried about, BUT it’s a reminder of the importance of being ready at all times.  This may mean having our own spiritual houses in order, and I think it points to the urgency of sharing the message of Christ with others who don’t follow Him yet.

As you head into the weekend, I hope you’ll ponder this thought and decide on an ADVENTure action (or activity) that seems appropriate.  Don’t wait!

 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”  Matthew 24:36

 

ADVENTure Day 5

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Where has all the hope gone?

Seriously, if you watch the evening news or read the latest news websites or blogs, it’s easy to get discouraged.  There are shootings in schools.  There’s a mess in Washington, DC.  The local sports teams are struggling.  The weather forecast is bleak.  It’s bad news followed by more bad news.

Part of this is amplified by a news media that stalks on the misfortune of others.

And part of it is related to our own failure to recognize the positives and to stand up for stories that bring encouragement.

The whole story of Advent is meant to be a positive uplifting message.  God did not send his Son into our broken world to bring more despair and depression.  Christ came to be a shining light and a beacon of hope to this world.

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  John 8:12

ADVENTure Activity:  Go on a hope hunt.  Find places in the world where hope is shining brightly.  Share your discoveries in the comments.

ADVENTure Question:  What gives you hope today?  How has hope helped you overcome despair?

ADVENTure Day 4

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What are some things that younger people can do better than older people?

Younger people have more energy than older people (generally).  Younger people are more flexible and more athletic than older people.  Younger people tend to learn faster than older people.

Now flip the question.

What are some things that older people can do better than younger people?

Older people tend to have more wisdom than younger people (thanks to life’s experiences).  Older people tend to make better financial decisions than younger people (again thanks to the lessons of life).  Older people can do a lot of things better than younger people.

Now here’s another question.

What is something that requires audacious hope?

Finding a cure for cancer requires audacious hope.  Fixing the national debt requires audacious hope.  Bringing people out of poverty in countries like Guatemala requires audacious hope.

Another question.

Do you think it’s easier to have audacious hope when you are younger or when you are older?

Many people might say that audacious hope comes easier when you are younger, because you have not been “tarnished” by the realities of life.

As I was thinking about advent yesterday, I kept coming back to the story of Simeon and Anna in Luke 2.  If you remember the story, they were both older individuals who were waiting for the Messiah.  After nearly 400 years of silence in Israel (between the Old Testament times and the New Testament times), Simeon and Anna had an audacious hope that the Messiah would come in their lifetimes.  I want this kind of hope.

Many think that advent is all about getting ready to celebrate Christ’s birthday.  This is okay, but I think there’s something far more important about the advent that we now celebrate.  We should celebrate advent as a reminder to have audacious hope for Christ’s return – the second advent.  We don’t know the hour, the day, or the year when this will happen, but we can be confident in our hope that it will happen.  This is the kind of hope we need to have and that we need to share with others.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required,Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.  For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.  She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.  Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.  Luke 2:25-28

ADVENTure Activity:  Go visit a nursing home or an elderly neighbor.  Share hope with them.  Then take time to listen to them.  Grab their wisdom.  Ask them about hope.  Share your experience in the comments.

ADVENTure Question:  Answer the questions in the post above.

ADVENTure Day 3

HOPE

Did you ever stop to think about your role in this whole hope thing?

Seriously, you are a vessel of hope.

At Christmas time, people around you are going through all kinds of things.  While the Christmas season is supposed to be a happy and joyful time, it can actually be very painful to those who have lost love ones or lost contact with people.  Christmas can be a reminder of what someone doesn’t have – friends, family, relationships.  Christmas can also be a time when people dampen life’s realities by spending more money than they have on things they don’t need.

This is your big chance.  You can bring hope to someone this holiday season.

You Help Other People Everywhere (H.O.P.E.)!

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.  I Peter 3:15

ADVENTure Activity:  Find one way to bring hope to someone today.  Don’t wait for tomorrow.  Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity.  Jump in and sprinkle hope into someone’s life today.  Let us know how it worked out in the comments.

ADVENTure Question:  Is Christmas a happy time or painful time for you?  How can you be better prepared to share hope with others?

ADVENTure Day 2

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Yesterday, we kicked off a new ADVENTure series, and we talked about hopes and expectations. I hope you took advantage of the ADVENTure activity.  Did you create a list of all your hopes and expectations for this season? (If not, take a few minutes to make your list – see yesterday’s post for more instructions.)  It can be easy to be overwhelmed by our lists.  We want to accomplish so much.  It’s not that our hopes and expectations are bad, but they can cause us to have blinded vision to what is really important.

Today is an important day in your ADVENture.  Today, you must make a big decision about where your hope will lie this holiday season.  You can hope to get everything done – your Christmas shopping, your Christmas baking, your Christmas cards.

I’d like to challenge you to refocus your hope.

Put your hope in the Lord.  The prophet Isaiah reminds us (see below) that those who put their trust in God will find new strength.

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  Isaiah 40:31

ADVENTure Activity:  Take a look at your list from yesterday.  Separate you list into three categories – Me focused hopes and expectations, Others focused hopes and expectations, and God focused hopes and expectations.  Now select one of the hopes and expectations (preferably from the God focused list).  Write down three actions you can take this week to move closer to this hope and expectation.

ADVENTure Question:  How is your life different when you put your hope in God?  Share one of your action items in the comments.

Don’t forget to sign up for the weekly Stretched newsletter.  Check out this post to find out how to sign up.

ADVENTure Day 1

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Over the next twenty-five days, I want to make this season of Advent an adventure for you and for me.  Each day, I’ll provide a little reflection, an activity of some type to help us make this season more ADVENTurous, and a question for us all to ponder together in the comments.  I hope you’ll jump in and go on this ADVENTure with me.  It should be fun, and I hope it will help us prepare for this holiday season like never before.  So here goes, ADVENTure Day 1!

Today marks the beginning of Advent.

Many Christians use this time to prepare for Christmas.  Maybe you are opening the first door on your Advent calendar this morning.

Many churches around the world are lighting the first candle in their Advent wreath today.  They will be talking about hope.

Before the first Christmas, the people of Israel were hoping and expecting the arrival of Messiah.  If I understand it correctly, they expected the Messiah to arrive as a mighty warrior perhaps riding on a white horse.  They expected the Messiah to instantly take over the government and to rule with authority and power.  They hoped it would happen soon.

Many of us have hopes and expectations for this season.  We hope it will snow.  We hope to get that special present from a special someone.  We hope we have a chance to catch our breath during the busyness of this holiday season.

I think hope is healthy.  It keeps us looking forward instead of dwelling in the past.  Hope pushes us to dream bigger.  Hope teaches us to expect the unexpected.

On this first day of ADVENTure, let’s take time to hope!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

ADVENTure Activity:  Take time today as a family (or as an individual) to make a list of all your hopes and expectations for this holiday season.  Remember the rule of brainstorming – no idea is a dumb idea.  Write everything down that comes to mind.  We’ll revisit this list tomorrow.

ADVENTure Question:  How did you celebrate Advent as a child?  Did you celebrate Advent?  Share one thing from you list of hopes and expectations.

Don’t forget to sign up for the weekly Stretched newsletter.  Check out this post to find out how to sign up.