HOPE HAS A NAME

I love the word Hope. It’s such a powerful word; pregnant with promise. I don’t think people can live without hope. And the God of the universe, the God who created us and knows us so intimately, knew this. He is a God of hope and He longs to 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)

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to literally overflow with hope?

There was a time in my life when I felt like I had NO HOPE. Even having grown up in a Christian home, and knowing a lot about Jesus, I had never encountered Him in a personal way. I knew my baby faith had something to do with a “personal relationship with Jesus”, I just didn’t quite get the “personal” part. I did not KNOW HOPE.

I believe that there are many people that know a lot about doctrine… maybe even a lot about the man, Jesus, but they don’t really know Him.

And that was me in my early twenties… searching for something to hold on to… something to anchor me as the waves of life buffeted my soul. It was a very dark, fearful time. I searched for hope in relationships.  I searched for hope in a bottle and pills. But the waves of life continued to toss me deeper and deeper into that miry pit of despair.

Have you ever been there? If you have, you know what an unpleasant season it is, and you know that without hope, it’s nearly impossible to keep going.

BUT GOD… the God of Hope… is a relentless pursuer of His children, and He knew how much I needed Hope, and He knows how much YOU need Hope, so He sent Hope down! You see, Hope is a person, and His name is JESUS.

Just like God sent the beautiful star of Bethlehem to guide the Magi to encounter Jesus, God sent beautiful people into my life to guide me back to Hope.

My heart’s desire became to know Him better.  Yes, to know the reality of His presence within me. I committed to pray Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1 as my own personal prayer.  

 “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give me the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that I may know him better. I pray that the eyes of my heart may be enlightened in order that I may know the hope to which he has called me…

Did you catch what is said? “Know the hope…” Not NO HOPE, but KNOW HOPE!!! Yes, His desire is that we would KNOW HIM, our Hope of glory. (Col. 1:27) 

Do you KNOW HIM?

If you do know Him, He may be calling you to know Him in a deeper way. He wants you to KNOW HIM as your HOPE. Scripture says in Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Jesus is the answer to whatever “seemingly hopeless” situation you may find yourself in. Let HOPE ARISE! Let’s Speak Life into our circumstances!

  • If you are feeling weak, hear HOPE declaring, “My grace is sufficient for you; my power is made perfect in your weakness!”
  • If you’re feeling disconnected, hear HOPE calling to you, “Abide intimately in Me, your True Vine. Cling to me for I have chosen you …”
  • If you’re feeling bound in sin, hear HOPE saying, “I AM your Deliverer! I have come to set you free!”
  • If you are feeling lonely, hear HOPE saying, “I AM your Friend that sticks closer than a brother. I will NEVER leave you nor forsake you!”
  • If you’re feeling unsure… uncertain about life’s path, hear HOPE saying, “I AM your Good Shepherd leading and guiding you along paths of righteousness.”
  • If you are feeling fearful and anxious, hear HOPE saying, “FEAR NOT! My perfect love for you casts out all fear!”
  • If you are feeling sick in your body or mind, hear HOPE saying, “I AM Jehovah Rapha, the Lord who heals you.

Yes… Hope is a person. His name is JESUS!

This Christmas season may you rejoice in the fact that Jesus, our Hope, like an anchor for our souls, is holding on to you and longing for you to reach out to Him as He reaches out to you. He came down… for you.

Grit & Grace

When I was a kid, I received a rock tumbler as a gift. I was so excited to put a handful of dull, rough stones into the barrel drum for the ride of their lifetime. The directions told me that within one to two weeks the rocks would look quite different. They would be changed. They would be dazzling as their inner beauty would be revealed through the process of tumbling with water and grit.

It’s probably been about 40 years since I tumbled my little rocks, but I recently received a beautiful glass vase filled with unique rocks that had spent a substantial amount of time in a rock tumbler, and seeing the stones displayed in the vase made me think of something.

Life is a little bit like a rock tumbler. We have all walked through difficult circumstances, struggled through trials we would not have chosen, and encountered people who rubbed us the wrong way or wounded us with abrasive words or actions. These things have undoubtedly changed us.

By the grace of God, I am not the same person I used to be. I considered how life’s circumstances, which surely could have made me angry, bitter, and resentful, allowed me to emerge into the person I am today when I surrendered to the process. I pray I have become more like Jesus, the Rock in whom I take refuge.

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)

And just like those rocks in the tumbler are not alone, we’re all in this thing called “life” together. We can learn from each other, refine each other, and help each other to shine for the glory of God. Some of us may be like granite, strong and resilient, and others of us may be more like sandstone or shale, still tough, but weathered and fragile. And that’s okay. As believers in Jesus Christ, we can fully trust in the foundation we share, Jesus Christ, the Chief Cornerstone. He has chosen us individually and collectively to be His dwelling place!

…you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)

Take refuge in the One who gives grace upon grace as you journey through the grit of this life. He is faithful to transform us for His glory!

Sacred Ground

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I recently visited a place where I had a powerful encounter with God seven years ago.

It had always been one of my favorite psalms, but when a friend challenged me to consider the truth it contained for myself, I wrestled with God.

Every single moment you are thinking of me!
How precious and wonderful to consider
that you cherish me constantly in your every thought!
O God, your desires toward me are more
than the grains of sand on every shore!
When I awake each morning, you’re still with me.

Psalm 139:17-18 (TPT)

It can be easy to believe that God’s amazing love, attention, and purposes are for everyone else, but what about for me? What about for you?

I picked up a handful of the warm sand and let it sift through my fingers.

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“Really?

Really, God?

You think about me?

You love me?”

And with tears rolling down my face, I looked up and saw what is pictured above. The water was gently flowing through the rock wall towards the beach where I sat.

And God spoke to my heart.

“Jenny, the walls you have built up inside your heart are coming down, and I am going to pour so much love into you. You will not be able to contain it.”

That moment alone with God on that little beach was one of those pivotal life moments for me. It was a holy moment with the One who loves me most. Out of my lament to know Him better, He spoke and deepened His presence in my life. That encounter gave me momentum and encouragement to keep walking my faith journey.

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Last week, as I stared out over the water where the Lord clearly spoke to me about His immeasurable love, memories of that momentous day filled my heart with such joy all over again.

Have you ever experienced His presence in a personally powerful way?

Like Moses when he came upon the burning bush, that place is sacred ground to me. It’s truly a special place where I have met with, and heard from, the One who loves me in spite of myself.

Do you have a meaningful place where you like to go where you find it easier to hear from God? Let me encourage you to revisit that sacred place. If you can’t physically do so, take some time to remember that place and that holy moment. Because when you take the time to meet with God, you can expect Him to come and minister to your heart. He draws near to us when we draw near to Him. He rewards those who diligently seek Him. May His glory fill the temple… of your heart.

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New Life

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In an attempt to feel the sun on my face and breathe some fresh air into my lungs, I headed outside to do some raking. In beds behind our house, lives a row of hostas. I wasn’t sure if they had started to awake from their winter slumber, but knew the thick, heavy blanket of leaves eventually needed to be removed. As I started to pull the leaves away with the rake, I noticed the fresh sprouts trying desperately to push their way up through the heaviness. There was so much new life underneath!

 

God spoke to my heart.

 

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During these days with so much heaviness in the news and talk of death and despair, God was reminding me that we have so much to celebrate. Perhaps we just need to be willing to assist others in removing the heaviness of discouragement and anxiety that’s suffocating them like a weighted blanket and remind them of our Life-Giving God!

God is always speaking… “LIFE”, but I’m certain I’m not always listening. Oh, Lord, give me ears to hear and eyes to see! Help me to take notice of Your movements in my life!

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Five years ago a very dear friend recommended a book entitled, Windows of the Soul by Ken Gire. It was a timely read then, and it’s proving to be that again as I started to reread it last week. The last chapter I read starts with this beautiful poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Earth’s crammed with heaven,

and every common bush afire with God;

but only he who sees takes off his shoes;

the rest sit around and pluck blackberries.

 

The chapter ends with this beautiful Prayer of Transcendence.

 

Thank You, God,

For Your hand that reaches to me,

touching my arm, tapping my shoulder,

telling me to pause and to look and to listen

at all the windows of the soul.

Help me to see something in those windows,

something of heaven in every earthly event,

something of the divine spark in every human soul.

Please, dear God, give me grace to stand, shoes in hand,

before all that in some way bears Your glory,

for I don’t want to spend my days

just sitting around

plucking blackberries…

 

I want to be a good steward of this challenging season we’re all walking through. I want to be a life-giver; helping to uncover and reveal all the beautiful life beneath the current heaviness.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

Isaiah 61:1-3 NKJV

May we always remind each other of the many things to celebrate and encourage each other to stay in the Light of God’s Presence where we can flourish and grow! He is closer than the mention of His Name, and we are all in this together!

May your hearts be filled with praise today!

 

 

 

Magnify the Lord With Me

IMG_5823As I meditate on Psalm 34 this morning, one word is jumping off the page…

“MAGNIFY”

“Oh, MAGNIFY the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together. I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They that looked to Him were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed.  (Psalm 34:3-5 NKJV)

Magnify means to glorify, praise, and worship, but it also means to increase or enlarge the importance of something… or Someone. God is infinitely large, but we can make Him quite small in our own eyes if we aren’t careful. Too often we magnify our circumstances and make them bigger than our God.

Our world is currently magnifying a situation to the extent that a pandemic of fear and anxiety has been birthed. I want to challenge myself and my friends to consider this question. What are we magnifying today? What are we teaching our children to magnify? Fear is real, but it’s not from God.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind.”                  (2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV)

I sought the LORD, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears… 

Let’s magnify the Lord, who delivers us from all our fears! Don’t let fear paralyze you, but recognize it as a sign that you are likely listening to a lie as some level in your heart. Magnify the Lord and let Him magnify (and expose) the lie so you can replace it with truth and know that He will deliver you from all your fears.

God is completely aware of what s going on in this world He created! Let’s choose to trust Him and allow Him to use us to lovingly remind others that He is able to bring peace in place of panic and faith instead of fear. Let’s be like Jesus in a world that so desperately needs to know Him.

 

The Healer of the Broken

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This morning as I sat at the table thinking of all the last-minute Christmas preparations and wondering where to begin, my daughter, Faith, who was lying on the floor in front of the Christmas tree looking at our old porcelain nativity set, said,

“Mom, this one is broken.”

She was referring to the donkey, whose ear had been broken… again. And I thought to myself, “How fitting that the Lord would remind me of why He came.”

Jesus said this about the Father. “He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted”           (Luke 4:18 NKJV).

I love our old nativity set from Walmart. We’ve had it for many years, and as I got down on the floor to assess the damage, I found myself reflecting on years past. You see the donkey is not the only one who has succumbed to brokenness. Like many of us, the Wiseman have had a really rough journey! One broke his hand one Christmas, and then his whole forearm the following year. Another one of the sojourners actually lost his head, but they’ve been made whole again with the help of some Tacky Glue.

Tacky glue might work fine at fixing broken porcelain, but let’s face it; it doesn’t work too well on human hearts. But I’ve got some good news to share with you! Jesus came to heal broken ones… you and me.

And He Himself existed and is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. [His is the controlling, cohesive force of the universe.]
(Colossians 1:16-17 AMP)

This Christmas, if you’re struggling, disappointed, crushed in spirit, depressed, unraveling at the seams, please know that Jesus longs to wrap you up in His everlasting arms and hold you together. He came to heal your broken heart.

May the presence of Immanuel, “God with us”, be very tangible to you today

…and every day.

 

Merry Christmas!

~ Jenny

So Many Reasons…

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It’s been one year since the Lord challenged me during worship. The familiar song was playing, “Ten Thousand Reasons” by Matt Redman, and I found myself singing the words, but not really thinking about them, rather distracted by the details of life that had followed me into the sanctuary that morning.

But then that one line…

“For all Your goodness I will keep on singing, Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find.”

And at that moment, the Holy Spirit pricked my heart, and inquired of me.

“Will you do that? Can you list 10,000 reasons?”

On that day, September 23, 2018, I resolved to begin listing a minimum of three things a day for which I am thankful.

Some days are full of such obvious things, and my pen fills line after line in my journal. Other days, I struggle in choosing to be thankful. On those hard days, it is ultimately my choice to “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forgot not all his benefits.” (Psalm 103:2)

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Over the last several months, I have consistently heard God whispering,

“Lift up your eyes… Open you eyes…”

What are you looking at? What am I looking at? I believe there is so much beauty, so many opportunities to be loved by God, and so many people He is wanting us to notice and love, but we’re missing them.  We’re too distracted, too hurried, too overwhelmed by the cares of this world and all the lies we are bombarded with on a daily basis.

It’s so hard to hear from God when we are too busy listening to the clamor of the world. It’s too hard to lift up our eyes and see His hand at work in our lives and all around us when we are too busy looking at our phones. It’s too hard to receive His immeasurable love when our hearts have been hardened by the trials of this life and the uncertainty of what’s around the corner.

Do you want to know what’s around the corner?  HE IS! God is there. “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8) What a precious promise!

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I took this picture on the way home from dropping my kids off at school this morning. I have some uncertain things I am facing. We. All. Do. And I have been a prisoner of fear in the past, but this morning as I was driving and praying, God reassured me that even when we cannot see what’s around the bend, He’s already there and we can trust Him.

So “lift up your eyes” and fix them on Jesus, the Author of your story and mine. (Hebrews 12:2) Let Him “open your eyes” to things you have been missing and fill your heart with so many reasons to keep on singing… maybe even 10,000!

 

His Eye is on the Sparrow

IMG_2929Sitting outside having coffee with Jesus is one of my favorite things to do. The beautiful songbirds are singing their praises. The wind chimes are making music as the breeze blows, and there is a peace that I can’t quite explain.

I am so thankful.

Thankful for the wonderful memories made with my family over the last week. Thankful for how God invites us to draw near to Him every moment of every day. Thankful that nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Thankful that He encourages us to come boldly before His throne of grace to receive grace and mercy in our times of need.

And we are all in need, aren’t we?

On Saturday, Faith discovered a brand-new baby robin that had fallen from its nest. I was actually quite shocked that it had survived the fall. There was no way for us to get it back up to the nest some 20+ feet above us, and so she scooped the naked little thing up in her hands, and with tears in her eyes asked me, “What can we do?”

The very first thought that came to mind is the truth Jesus shared in Matthew 10:29-31,

You can buy two sparrows for only a copper coin, yet not even one sparrow falls from its nest without the knowledge of your Father. Aren’t you worth much more to God than many sparrows? So don’t worry. For your Father cares deeply about even the smallest detail of your life.”

He cares deeply about the smallest details of our lives! How amazing is that?

So today, whatever detail you are worrying about, whatever situation seems hopeless or impossible, whatever has you gnawing your fingernails off or keeps you up all night long, lay it in the hands of the One who holds all things together.

Go head… open those clutched white knuckles and trust your situation to the One who cares so very deeply for you.

 “Look at all the birds—do you think they worry about their existence? They don’t plant or reap or store up food, yet your heavenly Father provides them each with food. Aren’t you much more valuable to your Father than they?  So, which one of you by worrying could add anything to your life?” (Matthew 6:26-27 TPT)

Faith is certain that little bird will find her in Heaven one day, land on her shoulder, and thank her for caring.

If you have a few minutes, strengthen yourself in the Lord, and listen to this song. Be encouraged, my friends. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me… and you.

 

Working with Dad

 

My kids have always loved going to work with their dad. There is something special about being with him that brings them so much joy! It’s like there’s no other place they’d rather be! They just love being near their daddy!

Daddy & his boys

They get filthy, and sometimes they get hurt, but it’s all worth it to them. They have learned so much and been so inspired by laboring at his side, watching how he does things, and then imitating him. They are free to make mistakes and try again. They trust their dad to coach them well.

Today as I watched the kids helping, I sensed the Lord whispering to me,

“This is what I desire for you, My child. I want you to be so full of joy and freedom as you partner with Me in My work. Yes, it may get messy as you enter into other’s lives, and you may get hurt, but in light of eternity, it’s so worth it! Listen to My voice, and let me coach you to love.”

I don’t know what God is calling you to partner with Him to do, but if He’s in it, it’s something amazing! It may be seem difficult… maybe impossible, but He delights when we trust in His strength. He is faithful to complete what He starts. Perhaps He’s just waiting for you and me to be willing and available to get our hands dirty.

On this Father’s Day weekend, which I know may be difficult for some, remember that you have a Heavenly Father who loves you beyond measure! He longs to be near you and remind you of how special and valuable you are to Him. He sent His only Son, Jesus, to pay the price for your sins so you could be with Him forever! There’s no other place He’d rather be than walking and talking with you. He longs to guide you along right paths for His name’s sake. And when you walk through the valleys of this life, He will comfort and protect you. He is a Shield around you and the Lifter of your head.

That’s some priceless truth! I’m off to work with Dad!

My Shield and the Lifter of my head

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

(1 Corinthians 15:58 NLT)

Present Risenness

The Lord reminded me of something this morning. It was 7 years ago today, on Easter Sunday morning, that He gave me the opportunity to stand in front of more people than I have ever stood in front of before, and share why my decision to place my faith in Jesus Christ for my salvation was the most important decision I have ever made.

As a young adult, I spent several years embracing the shallow promises the world offered, and within no time, I found myself in a pit of despair and darkness. I was depressed, fearful, lonely, enslaved to my sinful lifestyle, and poisoned by self. I may have had some physical life left in me, but spiritually, I felt dead.

But God, in His pursuit of me,  orchestrated the events of my life so perfectly, and I met some wonderful people who reintroduced me to Jesus, the Jesus I had learned about growing up. And the resurrection power of God flowed down from Heaven and lifted me out of that darkness and into His marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)

The Lord had so faithfully revealed Himself to me over the years that followed and had more recently been answering my prayers to “give me the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that I may know him better…  that the eyes of my heart may be enlightened in order that I may know the hope to which he has called me, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,  and his incomparably great power for us who believe. ” (Ephesians 1:17-19)

I realized what had been missing from my relationship with God was a sense of His tangible Presence. I knew God was everywhere, but my awareness of His Presence was weak. I was no longer content just knowing about Jesus. The greatest desire of my heart was to experience His presence.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. (James 4:8)

…He rewards those who [earnestly and diligently] seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

By His Spirit, the eyes of my heart were enlightened to His present rissenness IN ME.

I remember the object lesson the Lord gave me the day before that Easter service 7 years ago. I wasn’t quite sure what He was speaking to my heart, but rather than dismissing it as some random thought, I pressed deeper into His abiding Presence and just listened.

I had been cleaning underneath my kitchen sink, and came across a crusty, hard sponge. The Lord reminded me that that’s how the world leaves us… dry, hard, used up, with the life sucked right out of us. But when we accept Jesus’ invitation to come to Him, the Living Water, He fills us up and saturates us with Himself.

Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. (John 7:37-39)

Yes! He is the Life Giver!

When we walk in the fullness of His Presence, and the trials of life come and difficult circumstances threaten to squeeze life from us, what overflows?

THE PRESENCE OF JESUS! His Life… His Hope… His Peace… His Love…

On this Resurrection day, as we celebrate Christ’s victory over sin and death, I want to remind you that the Resurrection is not just some historical event that we should celebrate once a year. The Resurrection of Jesus should be something we celebrate everyday, because He’s alive… IN US! 

Do you know Jesus? If you don’t , please let me tell you about Him. I would love to share with you how He changed my life.

Happy Blessed Easter!

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