Month: June 2021

  • Fix Our Eyes

    If you’ve ever studied the human eye, you know that it is complex and absolutely fascinating. It’s also a well-known fact that we humans are incredibly visually oriented. We LOVE looking at the world around us! This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just how we’re wired. Most of us (when we’re awake) are constantly looking at some-thing somewhere. We look at art. We look at nature. We look through a camera. We look at our kids. We look at our phones and social media. And most of us naturally turn our eyes to the loudest thing demanding our attention at any given moment. The result of this instinct is that as we mature, if we don’t learn how to set intentional goals of where to look and why, our eyes will wander toward the shiniest object in the room, simply by default.

    I teach piano lessons, and for 14 years now, I’ve had a front row seat in the learning process of countless budding musicians as they sharpen valuable life skills such as focus, coordination, and the power of perseverance – not to mention achieving big goals of being able to play amazing music whenever they want to. One of the things all new students struggle with is learning how to read music and knowing where to look

    Being around pianos every day for my job, I can recognize that they’re really a beautiful instrument. The clean lines and sharp contrast of the black and white keys invite us to come touch them, and the colorful melodies that sing from within can be mesmerizing. It’s no wonder that my students find themselves watching their hands as they learn to play music. We want to see the action! (and those beautiful keys.)  

    But there’s a problem with too much of this – when reading music, most of the information the student needs is actually on the page of a book right in front of them. When they take their eyes off the page for too long, they actually disconnect from the source of information telling their fingers where to go next. I often explain to them that it’s like riding a bike or driving a car – if they stare down at their hands, they’ll actually miss out on where they’re going and probably crash!

    We all need to practice the skill of keeping our eyes fixed ahead on what’s most important and trust the rest to take care of itself. In fact, where we look is so important, that in Psalm 33:18, David makes a point of telling us where God’s eyes are looking: 

      … the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His loving devotion. (BSB)

    God, the maker of heaven and earth, the one who made everything, could choose to look absolutely anywhere! His creations are beautiful, delightful, and endless. So where then, in all of creation does He choose to look? David says “the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him.” His eyes are on us. His beloved children. 

    Think back on a moment in your life, big or small, when you felt seen by someone. Maybe someone caught your eye from across a room and smiled at you. Maybe there was a surprise party by your friends or coworkers for your birthday or a promotion. Maybe you felt truly seen on your wedding day. Or maybe you are the one doing the looking, stealing glimpses of your children when they’re playing or sleeping, your heart overflowing with love towards them. Our eyes are windows into connection with the world around us, but especially with the ones we love most. 

    What a simple yet profound concept to be seen by God. YOU are what He wants to look at! He looks at you whether you have your makeup on or not. He looks at you on your best days, and also on your worst days – when you’re crying, and when you feel like a failure. He sees it all, and He still chooses to look on you with love and hold you close. 

    When we begin to understand how much He truly loves us and sees every hair on our heads, we can relax and lean into His unshakable love and kindness. We don’t have to perform to earn his attention – we already have it! Being seen and loved by God provides us with the space we need to breathe, to release anxious thoughts, and to trust in His power to care for us. It is in this space that we find hope. You can lean into that space anytime, even right now, by closing your eyes, taking a deep breath, and imagining God’s eyes looking at you with loving kindness. Spend as much time here as you need.

    The truth we need to remember is that where we fix our gaze is a choice. Have you stopped to consider lately where you are looking? Where is your gaze fixed, both mentally and physically? Are you looking back into God’s kind eyes? Or are you constantly judging others and looking at them for comparison to determine your own value? Are you focused on worry, fear of the future, and negative thoughts? Are you looking to your bank account daily to define your sense of worth or security? 

    We all experience these temptations because we’re human (I know I do!) Where we spend the most time looking can give us a glimpse into our hearts and what we deem is important. But wherever you’re looking today, the good news is that we always have a choice, each day, to redirect our gaze. 

    Let’s practice turning our gaze back to the Lord, whose eyes are already on us; and just like a piano student learning to read music, we can train ourselves to look up and ahead, following God’s example by fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:2) and our source of hope and direction for today and everyday.

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  • Hope Set High

    “Don’t get your hopes set too high.” I can still hear my mom’s voice gently teaching me at a young age how to manage my hopes and expectations. She was great at planning fun things for me and my brother growing up and on several occasions, she told us about fun family outings or vacations ahead of time so we could prepare and share in the excitement as a family. Now, she would only do that if she was 98% sure that things were going to go to plan, but sometimes if she suspected there was even the slightest risk of disappointment, she would remind us “not to get our hopes set too high” until we were 100% sure. It was a way to help us look forward to something, while still being at least a little prepared in case something didn’t work out. As a parent now myself, I see the wisdom in that, since sometimes life gets messy and we can’t always control the outcomes (try as we might). 

    Getting our hopes up is a natural tendency all throughout life. We hope we get what we want for Christmas, we hope that we’ll do well on our final exams in school, we hope for a job that is fulfilling and pays the bills, or to take that dream vacation. Yet as life twists and turns, we learn to manage our expectations and adjust our hopes to match the reality of the possible outcomes. You might not get exactly what you want for Christmas, but it’s the thought that counts. And the job may not be as fulfilling as you had hoped, but it pays most of the bills. 

    You’ve probably heard the expression “Plan for the worst and hope for the best.” I think it perfectly reflects our pragmatic acceptance that life will have its high points and its disappointments, and we will experience both. 

    The risk of this practical outlook is that sometimes we try to manage our expectations of God the same way we do the rest of life. We start to hold back parts of our heart, wary of disappointment. We hesitate to pray expensive prayers and downplay our expectations, just in case things don’t work out the way we imagined or hoped. Without even meaning to, we can end up placing our hope in the outcomes that our limited imaginations can conceive, instead of God himself, who is our ultimate Hope. 

    The thing is, God isn’t “practical” as we understand it. He doesn’t need to plan for the worst possible outcome, He is Lord in every outcome. His view is unlimited, His power unmatched, and His imagination is infinitely better than ours. He will blow our minds with what He can and will do for us. We don’t need to temper our expectations with God–He is able to do immeasurably more than anything we ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20-21) 

    Romans 12:12 encourages us to “Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” (NLT)

    Biblical hope is based on God’s unchanging character and unwavering faithfulness to keep His promises. When we remember the true nature of God, His faithfulness, love and power, we experience true hope and can have confidence in it. 

    Remembering who God is also makes it possible to be patient in times of trouble. It allows us to more readily trust that God is working in all things, and that regardless of the circumstances or their outcomes, our hope stands secure. 

    Prayer is the common denominator in both confident hope and patience in times of trouble. Talking to our Heavenly Father bolsters our confidence in Him and broadens our view to see things from His eternal perspective. It allows us to hope as we might never have before–not merely that things will work out just how we imagined, but hope that no matter what, we are safe and secure as in God’s Kingdom. 

    When I first started my career in radio, I felt called by God to step out in faith and apply for a full-time morning show host position. It came down to me and one other candidate and I prayed earnestly that I would get the job. I could envision every detail of what having this job would look like, and was excited and hopeful that it would all work out at least close to how I imagined. Instead, the other candidate was chosen and I was hired for a different position in the marketing department, with the opportunity to do some training to work part-time on the air in a different role. It was not at all what I had envisioned, in fact it felt like a total side-step to what I thought were my goals at the time. But in taking the marketing position, I learned skills and gained invaluable experience that I otherwise would not have. I got to be close friends with my supervisor, a friendship that has blessed me beyond words. And I still got to be on the air part-time which as it turns out, suited my family schedule even better! From my limited perspective, I never could have imagined all the blessings that were waiting for me. All I could do was pray and lean on my hope in God. 

    That is our role in hope, to pray and lean into God. He does all the rest. We don’t have to plot or plan or engineer our fate, we need only to pray hard, and lean on Him. Then, instead of feeling stuck in the waiting, we begin to look for where He is working. We can believe that He is in every detail, working things together for good. Even if an answer to prayer seems long in coming, do not give up hope. God is still there. It is through our times in prayer that we find communion with Him that allows us to see the bigger picture and trust that He will use even the hard times to ultimately bless us and shape us to be more like Him.

    So lean in hard sister, don’t give up hope. Take heart and be confident that God is faithful and keeps His promises. Our Heavenly Father does all things well, so set your hope high on Him, keep on praying, and let God do the rest.

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  • Confident Hope

    At the beginning of last Fall, my family found ourselves needing to find a new place to live. The house we had been renting at a low price for the last 9 years was being put up for sale and we had to move. The housing situation in our area was a bit precarious, with high rent prices and even higher sale prices, so we weren’t sure what we were going to do. With housing prices that seemed out of reach and not very many houses on the market to begin with, our situation didn’t seem to have a good solution. We were faced with a situation that we certainly did not know how to solve–all we could do was pray and hope in the Lord to bring us the right place to live in the right time.

    Sometimes we are afraid to hope…to let go and trust that everything is firmly in God’s grasp. Hope can be difficult when we live in a broken world that is filled with disappointments. But hope, true hope, is found in trusting in the Lord. Though hope in the things in this world may have brought disappointment, we never have to fear putting our hope in the Lord.

    In you, Lord my God, I put my trust. I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame, but shame will come on those who are treacherous without cause. Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”

    Psalm 25:1-5

    Psalm 25, in the words of King David, says that those who hope in God will not be put to shame. Usually when we hear the word “shame” we think of humiliation or embarrassment, but “shame” in this verse refers to being let down or disappointed, meaning that if you hope on the Lord, He will not let you down. Some translations use the word “wait” or “trust.” In other words, no one who waits, hopes or puts their trust in the Lord will be let down. He is SO trustworthy–we never have to fear placing our hope on our Lord!

    “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

    Romans 5:5

    Now that doesn’t mean that as a Christian you will never be disappointed. Instead, it means that as you wait actively on the Lord and hope in Him, not in what He will do for you, but confidence in who He is, then you will not be disappointed. Sometimes we make the mistake of focusing on the thing we want or need most, instead of focusing firmly on the Lord. We can actively participate in hope through our prayers lifted up to God, asking Him to teach us His ways and to guide our hearts toward His will.

    The Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary describes hope as “the eye of faith which looks forth clear and fixedly into the future.”

    While we didn’t know where we would land or how it would be possible to make getting a house a reality, God knew. We trusted in the fact that God already knew our future and had it all under control. We may not have been able to see it yet, but He could. He knew how our situation would all work out and He was actively bringing it all together for our good. We had faith that God would take care of us and we didn’t need to fear (although, I must admit it was still stressful at times for this “must-plan-everything” gal!).

    So, we actively stepped forward in faith and took the steps that we knew to do, and God led and guided us to just the right house. In His loving kindness, God provided all we needed to make buying the house a reality. Things came together in ways that still blow my mind when I think about it! It had God’s fingerprints all over it!

    Sometimes we must wait a long time for what we hope for to happen. It can be difficult to always see where and how God is working in our lives and in our situations. Even in these times, we can have confidence in who God is and that He is indeed working on our behalf to bring about good in this world and in our lives. Biblical hope is an active waiting with confident anticipation.

    In Psalm 23, King David is appealing on behalf of all of us in his prayer, that we might not be ashamed of our hopeful expectation, by the delay, or the denial of what we ask–that as we wait on the Lord in worship, trust in His love, seek and experience His presence, and look ahead to salvation in Jesus, we will not be put to shame.

    Maybe you have been waiting in hope for a long time for that job, a spouse, a child or a realization of a dream. If you are weary in waiting or lacking in confident hope today, I pray that you will hear these words prayed thousands of years ago by King David, that were prayed for you as well, and be encouraged. Even if you are unsure on how God is working, you can be confident that He is a God who loves you more than you can even imagine and has wonderful and amazing plans in store for you! Hold on to hope in God and His promises–it doesn’t disappoint!

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  • Strength for the Weary

    It’s 10:30 pm and for the first time since sunrise, the house is still, peaceful and quiet. I can feel the muscles in my shoulders slowly start to let go of the stresses of the day as I melt into the corner of the living room sectional couch that fits me like my favorite sweatshirt. The day is done, or at least I’ve done all that I am going to do. Another long day down, with another long day tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. 

    We all experience weariness at some time or another, whether from life’s circumstances, events beyond our control, or just running ourselves ragged. Day-to-day stuff like job demands, kids sports schedules, appointments, and day-to-day responsibilities and obligations can eat up any margin we may have had in our daily routine. Life left to its own devices can exhaust our physical and mental strength and make us feel weary. And it’s all too easy to rely on our own strength and ingenuity when we are working hard to keep all our plates spinning. Even youths (the people we would least suspect of being weary) get tired and weak when they are running on their own strength.

    But in Isaiah 40:29-31, we are given the antidote to weariness…HOPE!

    He gives strength to the weary and 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 faint.” 

    Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength! Renewing my strength sounds fabulous, but what does it look like to hope in the Lord? In Hebrew, the word for hope is quavah and is defined as the anticipation of a future that is better than the present. Biblical hope is not based on circumstances but on trusting in God’s character. Helping the weary and helpless is part of God’s character!

    In the same way that God was faithful to save the Israelites in the days of Isaiah, He is faithful today to work on our behalf. Hope is being confident, knowing that God’s character does not disappoint and He never abandons us. When we lean in and hope in the Lord, it allows Him to breathe new life into our lungs. His Spirit stirs in our hearts and we can begin to imagine how it just might be possible to have a better day ahead. Even when we are powerless, we miraculously find the strength to stand, and then to step forward by His strength and power!

    We can tap into that power by doing what Jesus did: spending time with God. In His presence, we are renewed, our strength is restored, and we become more and more like Him. In the presence of His Spirit, He brings order to our chaos.

    Spend time with Him, pray to Him, bring your cares and worries and fears. Lay them at His feet and He will give you His perspective and wisdom about what is truly important.

    I can imagine Him whispering in our weakness…

    Your power is limited, but mine is infinite.

    Your perspective is shortsighted, but I can see the whole big picture in one view–have hope!

    Your heart can only take so much, but I am here and can carry it all for you.

    I love you infinitely more than you can fathom.

    You may stumble and fall but I will pick you back up again. Over and over.

    You don’t have to be perfect because I am and my grace/love/favor is enough.

    You don’t have to struggle and strive to engineer your future. I know every step you have taken and will take and I have great plans for you.

    Stop pushing past your limits. You don’t have to manufacture strength, instead draw near to me and my presence will give you strength and peace.

    Spend time with me, learn to recognize my voice and how I move in the world. Get to know me and I can lead you through anything.

    Stick close to me, have hope and together we will SOAR.

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