Throw Your Cares Upon God!

While many tonight are marking the end of the year and celebrating the start of a new year surrounded by friends (or strangers) in an atmosphere of noisemakers and fireworks and loud music, I’m comfortably relaxing at home in my recliner. The calm and quiet of this evening has provided me with the opportunity to reflect on the past year. It’s been a good year. A blessed year. In countless ways. That doesn’t mean though that the year wasn’t without its problems. It had its share of troubles. For me and for you.

Today, on the final day of the year, not all is well and not all is perfect. Some of you are carrying great burdens. Some of you are facing major trials. Some of you are not in a celebratory mood. Your burdens are weighing you down. Though my burdens and concerns may not be as great as some of you, I too carry them into the new year…. The concern of a beloved family member in his illness… Disappointment… Important decisions to be made… Heartache for a close friend and her family… An unspoken situation which is affecting dear friends… Sadness… Anxiety… Weariness… Stress… A host of trials facing family and friends….

Though the year included grief, illness, sadness, and even though some of these troubles are left unresolved, my Hope is in The One who is able to carry my burdens. As a follower of Christ, I can trust the promises given by God to the people of God. If you’re a follower, you can trust those promises of help too. If you’re not a follower, if you haven’t repented of sin and turned to Him as your Savior, I urge you to do it now. Don’t enter another year, don’t go into 2020 without having made the choice to follow Christ. Choosing to follow Him doesn’t mean escaping all trials, but it does mean having the burden of sin removed and it does mean having access to the multitude of promises of God found throughout the Bible.

May 2020 be a year filled with the Love, Forgiveness, Peace, and Hope of Christ for you and yours.

HOPE NUGGET (1 Peter 5:7):
We are told to cast our anxieties (or cares) upon the Lord which literally means that we throw them upon Him. He is able to carry the burden for us AND He cares THAT MUCH for us!

The Pawpaw (Asimina triloba)

Its taste is described as a cross between a banana and a mango. Even though the pawpaw is the largest edible fruit native to the United States and can be found growing in the wild in 26 states, not many people have heard of or tasted a pawpaw. Last weekend at Lake Snowden in Albany Ohio, I attended the 21st Annual Ohio Pawpaw Festival with my husband and son. After several years of talking about making the 3 1/2-hour drive west, we finally coordinated our schedules and made plans to attend the first of the three-day event.

The festival far surpassed our expectations. Chris Chmiel, founder of Integration Acres, gave an informative pawpaw presentation and led a walkabout in which he helped us to identify pawpaw trees in the wild. We learned the proper way of opening and eating the creamy custard-like sweet fruit. We learned that pawpaws are very nutritious and high in Vitamin C. Did you know that George Washington’s favorite dessert was chilled pawpaw?

Many activities and booths were available at the festival where there was something for everyone. There was the Pawpaw Cook-off, the Pawpaw Eating Contest, sustainable living workshops, music, booths of all sorts – food, crafts, art, history, education, lots of activities for the kids and even a talk about Bigfoot sightings! In addition to fresh pawpaw fruit, we enjoyed eating pawpaw ice cream, pawpaw bread and pawpaw chicken adobo. With so many food booth choices, we didn’t get the chance to try pawpaw cotton candy, pawpaw cookies, pawpaw funnel cake, pawpaw burritos or pawpaw waffle-on-a-stick! Maybe next year!   https://www.ohiopawpawfest.com/index.html

If you would like to learn more about pawpaws, the book “Pawpaw: In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit” by Andrew Moore is highly recommended by my husband. A portion of the book’s description reads: “As much as Pawpaw is a compendium of pawpaw knowledge, it also plumbs deeper questions about American foodways―how economic, biologic, and cultural forces combine, leading us to eat what we eat, and sometimes to ignore the incredible, delicious food growing all around us. If you haven’t yet eaten a pawpaw, this book won’t let you rest until you do.”

Until last weekend’s festival, I had no idea that I was missing out on a delicious and healthy fruit! Because of that trip, we now have 2 pawpaw trees planted and growing in our back yard. We’re looking forward to the day when they bear fruit. My introduction to pawpaws reminded me of a time, decades ago, when I was introduced to Christ and made the decision to follow Him and to walk in His ways. If I wouldn’t have been willing to “taste and see” by putting my hope and trust in Him, I would have never fully realized His goodness. How about you? Are you willing to taste and see that He is good?

HOPE NUGGET: Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! [Psalm 34:8]

A Song of Thanks

Do you ever wake up singing in the morning? One day last week, I did. It wasn’t something that happened consciously, so I can’t take credit for it. It wasn’t even a day that I was especially excited about or necessarily looking forward to. That particular day meant that summer break for me had officially ended. The realization had come that we would not be together again as a family with our kids and granddaughters until Christmas break. It meant that once again I’d need to set my alarm clock and head back to my job with an inservice meeting in the morning. It was a bummer. All of it. “Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul….” I wasn’t singing when I lay down in bed the night before. Instead, I had been feeling sad because the summer months had passed by so quickly and I was anxious about the start of another school year.

God has a way of changing our outlook. He has a way of turning our sadness and our anxieties into joy. Sometimes He does so in unexpected and surprising ways, even when we’ve set our minds to looking at our situations negatively. Sometimes He needs to remind us of where our focus should be. Sometimes He uses a song to do that. “Thank you Lord for saving my soul. Thank you Lord for making me whole. Thank you Lord for giving to me, Thy great salvation so rich and free.”

It’s an older chorus which we used to sing years ago, a song which I usually don’t sing and which never even really comes to mind. But on that day last week, it came out of nowhere. It came as a reminder that I should be dwelling on all of the reasons to be thankful, especially of being thankful for God’s great salvation. When you wake up singing a song with that kind of meaning, your perspective changes. It just has to. And it changes the entire course of your day. And of the days that follow… Thank you, Lord.

HOPE NUGGET: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. [1 Peter 1: 3-4a]

The Hands of Time Don’t Move in Reverse

Many years and untold hours were spent with this view before me. When I walk by on a day like today, the fields stand empty and silent. But I am reminded of those past times here…watching, cheering, clapping, laughing, shouting instructions (hopefully not too often), consoling and encouraging upon defeat or rejoicing in the victories with an “atta-boy,” high-five or pat on the back.

Those were the days. The days that you thought (though you knew better deep down) would never end. Busy, fun, exhausting, meaningful days. Anyone reading these words already knows that life goes whooshing by, just about as fast as a hard-kicked soccer ball toward the net. Unlike a good soccer player who blocks the ball, none of us has the ability to slow down life. As much as we so desire. As much as we may try.

The best advice from those like me who have already experienced numerous seasons of life, is to enjoy each season while you’re there. Don’t look so far ahead that you miss out on the blessings in the here and now. I remember sharing this sentiment with one of my sons at a time when he was becoming impatient about “getting on with life” while in college.

As much as we all would like to have the power to turn back time, at least a bit, it just won’t work. The hands of time don’t move in reverse. Whatever season of life you are privileged to be in right now, make the most of it. Enjoy it. Love and serve God and others. You won’t have this moment again.

Hope nuggets:

*Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (Psalm 90:14)

*Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realize they were big things. (Robert Brault, author)

Suffering Saints

The intro verse to this blog of Hope is: “…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:15)

Peter wrote his letter to offer hope and encouragement to fellow suffering believers during a time of great persecution under the Roman Emperor Nero. Peter suffered; he was persecuted. He was beaten, jailed, threatened, and eventually executed.

Time will tell if current generations of Christians will face sufferings and persecutions similar to the experiences of those first-century Christians. If we do, or even if our faith is strongly challenged by others, we should be reminded of what Peter spoke of in verse 14 of the same passage: “even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled.” 

Verse 15 goes on to give important instructions for a godly response in making a defense of the Hope in us…“yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

The hope that we have in Christ should be evident enough to others that we are asked about it. Then when we are asked, we should be prepared to answer gently and respectfully. By doing so, our conscience will be kept clear, we will be seen to have good behavior in Christ, and any accusations made against us will be unfounded and will bring shame to our accuser.

Hope nugget (key verse of 1 Peter): “….so that the tested genuineness of your faith…may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  (1 Peter 1:7)

Sacrificial Love

This past weekend, our family spent an afternoon at the movie theater watching “Toy Story 4.” It was an enjoyable day and if I were to do a movie review, I’d give it a two-thumbs up! On the drive home, my husband pointed out that a strong pro-self-sacrifice theme was woven throughout the story. I won’t share any spoilers, but recommend that you go see it for yourself.

It is easy to draw an analogy between the self-sacrificial content of the movie and the self-sacrificial life of Christ. While the characters in Toy Story are imperfect and flawed and develop self-sacrificing and other positive characteristics over time, Christ is the ultimate and perfect example of sacrificial love. Christ went as far as to lay down His life even for His enemies. That means us. We were all at enmity with God. Separated from Him by sin. The gulf was wide and impossible to cross. Good works couldn’t do it. Religion couldn’t do it. Our righteousness (never mind, it is as filthy rags) couldn’t do it. The perfection of Christ as the Son of God gave Him the ability to take our place as a sacrificial substitute. Even when we were His enemy. Even though we didn’t deserve it. The cross offers Hope. To all. You can hang your hat on it.

Hope nugget: For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.   (Romans 5: 6-8)

Why the blog title? Why…Hope?

Hope. With it, comes a sense of peace, rest, contentment, joy. Without it – fear, anxiousness, sadness, uncertainty. A number of years ago, I was approached by a youth worker at a local youth shelter where I was employed in the classroom. The shelter was a temporary and emergency placement for dependent or delinquent youths ages 10 through 21. The youth worker was aware of my involvement with a young adults Christian ministry and asked if our group would be willing to volunteer in ministry to the shelter residents. This was the beginning of a very busy and rewarding time for the young adults Christian group. Within the same facility, though separate, was the juvenile detention center. After several years, the ministry at the youth shelter expanded into spending time and interacting with youth who resided in the detention center which was made up of alleged delinquent or adjudicated youth, some facing very serious charges.

The intention and ministry of the young adults group was to build relationships with the youth while sharing the love of Christ. You can imagine that most of the youth there faced many uncertainties and difficulties, some self-imposed, others through no fault of their own. Many were hopeless. Too many had not experienced the genuine love of family, but found themselves being bounced from one placement to another throughout their young lives. Our mission was to offer them hope. Not a temporary or fleeting hope that would leave when we walked out the door or upon their release from the shelter or detention facility. We offered eternal hope, the promise of hope from a God who loved every single one of them. A hope that they, as I often told them, could “hang their hat on.”

Hope nugget: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. (Romans 15:13)

Hanging My Hat on Hope…

Throughout the seasons of life, each of us wears different hats at different times, sometimes multiple hats at once. Life is busy. It’s complicated.

None of us journeys through life without experiencing moments of joy and blessings. Neither do any of us get through without facing times of stress, sadness, fear.

At times, it can be easy to lose sight of hope.

Hope, though, is always available. Hope is a gift offered to all. Hope is God-given.

This is a blog about having Hope at all times, in every moment, in every circumstance.

It’s a blog about everyday life and The Reason to always have Hope.

So, do you hang your hat on Hope?

A Hope nugget for you:

“…in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3:15)