Confess Hope

 

It’s that time of year again, the time when New Year’s resolutions begin to creep out your back door when you weren’t looking.

There’s grace for that.

I’m not a resolution keeper, but I’m not really a resolution maker either. I’m one of the breed of people who choose one word for the year. However, I egregiously fail at keeping rules of any kind, particularly when they encourage keeping words to a minimum. I’m like a window shopper who has restraint in buying but absolutely no restraint in trying things on- I’ll try this one, and this one, and this one, maybe this one, two of those…

My one word is almost always two, or three, maybe four, if any of you remember from last year’s Fearlessly Wrong post. This year I was able to keep it to two words. Clean and simple. If I were honest, though, it’s not really my doing. My words were chosen in that way the Holy Spirit has when you read or hear a text of Scripture and a few specific words reach into your body and grab ahold with an unmistakable fierceness that cannot be ignored.

As I led a retreat this fall, Hebrews 10:23 resonated in my ears, and for many days after the retreat ended:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Hope is a beautiful thing. Without it we fade and we wither. I have visibly watched this happen, when life crashes in and hope drains from a face…a mother who loses a child, a friendship abandoned, a marriage left out to dry.

Most of you reading this as Christians know the Truth that our hope does not fade and it never disappoints. Our verse in Hebrews tells us that it’s stable and sturdy, because it depends on the Maker, who is ever and always faithful. But let me tell you another story. A story of people that do not know Hope as we know Hope. Sometimes life rolls in and covers us like a flood, the earth shakes beneath our feet with family drama, long held back pain rises to the surface, and people do not know where to turn. Who helps when hope seems lost? Can you even imagine, my friend? A world with no hope, with shifting hope, with forgotten or disappointing hope?

Our Savior offers us something different.

He offers us an anchor of Hope (Hebrews 6:19)

A Hope unshaken (2 Corinthians 1:7)

A Living Hope (Ecclesiastes 9:4)

A Hope of Joy (Proverbs 10:28)

A Hope for Trouble (Jeremiah 14:8)

A Hope that does not shame (Philippians 1:20)

But they will not know if we do not confess it. God can work any way that He wants, but He chooses to work through our words very often. He puts Hope in us undaunted and pouring out. He helps us to reach across the table at the coffee shop and say,

“Let me tell you my story of Hope.”

How has God worked Hope in your life? What has He brought you through? What adventures has He taken you on? What rock has He set your feet upon in troubled times and in times of victory? What path have you journeyed on and discovered more of Him and less of wantonness?

This is confessing hope. God weaves His Word into our hearts and when we tell the ways in which He has helped us find hope or see hope more clearly, we help someone else see hope in the darkness and in the light.

Confess Hope

Will you confess it with me this year? Share with us how you confess hope each day in the comments below. Spur us on to confess our Hope boldly in the Lord. You can print the Confess Hope wall art below. Tack it up somewhere to be seen and remembered. Put it in a pretty frame and give it to a friend who could use an extra dose of hope this winter. Save it as your phone wallpaper. Share it at your family table. Print small copies and hand them out like little pieces of hope candy, from your purse or your backpack. Leave them in surprising places. Whatever you do…

Confess Hope

May the words roll off our tongue in the comfortable and the uncomfortable places, to share Christ Jesus, to share Hope.

“My Hope comes from the Lord…Maker of heaven and earth. Let me tell you a little bit about it…”

 

Click on the image to download the pdf file. Thank you to Jennifer Tinkey for creating this reminder for us!

Who’s up for an Advent Photo Challenge?!

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I Love My Shepherd and GraftedHeart are teaming up this Advent season to offer you a photo challenge! This is a fun way to express your faith, get into the Word, and be creative this holiday season.

There are several ways you can participate.

First, download the Advent 2016 Devotions, found at the end of this post, or receive them each day in your inbox by subscribing to the blog. (If you are already subscribed, you are good to go!)  The devotion for each day is about 3-5 sentences long. Short and sweet!

Next, post your Advent 2016 Photo Challenge pictures on social media using #Advent2016, #ilovemyshepherd, and #graftedheart. Here’s some examples of photos you might post on any given day.

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a hot beverage or a mug #Advent2016 #ilovemyshepherd #graftedheart
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someone you love spending the holidays with #Advent2016 #ilovemyshepherd #graftedheart
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wrapping paper #Advent2016 #ilovemyshepherd #graftedheart

Participate as much or as little as you can. If you do decide to participate by posting photos for every day of the challenge and use the hashtags above, you will be entered to win our New Year’s Eve Prize Pack! Check it out…

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Do the challenge by yourself, as a couple, as a family, or offer it through your church or group!

More than anything, we want this to be a stress-free activity to enrich your Advent.

We pray this Advent resource helps you to reflect on the heart of the season and the love of Jesus Christ in your lives and families, as you Make Ready for His coming!

Here’s the link! Looking forward to sharing together  –

Free and downloadable Advent Photo Challenge – Make Ready!

A New Year, New Words

Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
and those who love it will eat its fruits.
                                                                    Proverbs 18:21

There have been years I’ve done the New Year’s Resolution thing, years I’ve made general goals, last year I claimed my word for the year. It’s all good stuff. I have little opinions on whether any one method is better than another. To each his own.
But I do like to embrace anything that will help me drown the Old Adam. The more creative the better, because that Old Adam, he just seems to have a really hard time going down.
We all have some perpetual sins. Sins that sit and stay awhile, and create crotchety old men inside of young women. The Old Adam has his knuckles clenched around these sins, holding strong, screaming, “But I don’t want to change! It’s so hard. So…much…work…I like my sin. It’s cozy to some extent. It’s familiar.”
I remember Sharla Fritz talking in her book Divine Designabout this concept, likening our Old Adam sins to cozy sweaters that are really quite itchy and uncomfortable when we stop and think about them.
Words are like this for me. Language. I use so much of it, and sometimes, in all honesty, it’s not pretty. It’s not cozy, it may be easy, but sometimes my words leave a wake of sorrow in their path. Accusations, frustration and anger, ill-conceived mediation in the wrong time and wrong place. Words. They can do so much good, but wow, can they burn.
This year, I want new words. While searching vaguely around the Internet last fall, I found an image that stated this simple concept…
Make Each Word a Gift
Words are powerful. The Bible tells us in Wisdom Literature that they have the power of life and death. They can build up or tear down. They can destroy or give grace upon grace.
Many of my words are good. They share God’s love and mercy with those around me. But enough of my words scream Old Adam enough to poke me in the conscience and make me want to turn around, to face the other direction, and by the power of the Spirit to walk the hard path of change.
I want to make each word a gift.
So, while I was getting ready for the live streaming event and podcasts through Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, I decided to make myself a visual. Then I decided that it was something meant to be shared. So, I made a bookmark…one side has gift wrap and the other side has duct tape (all be it pretty duct tape). Sometimes, my tongue needs a reminder to just keep it zipped, but more often, I just need to invite myself to  make each word a gift.


Below are the fun bookmarks, in case you feel the hankering for a visual also. I cut strips of wrapping paper and duct tape the same length (9.5” x 2”) and stuck them back to back. I attached a gift tag to the top in order to make it more visual. Blessings on this New Year with new words!


(I found the concept of Make Each Word a Gift from Pocketfuel @ http://www.pktfuel.com/each-word-wallpaper-download/. I follow them on twitter because I love their images and phrasing of the Biblical message of Hope. Thanks, Pocketfuel!)

My New Year’s “Things I Don’t Do” List

My friend gave me a book recently, called Bittersweet:Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist. The book was really helpful to me during a really difficult period of my life. But…this isn’t a book review. 🙂 One of the ideas the author shared, in a later chapter of the book, was that she started a “Things I Don’t Do List.” The author talks about her struggle with comparing herself to everyone around her, trying to “measure up”, and do all things well. Oh boy, did this strike a cord with me.

I have perfectionist tendencies to say the least, that have gotten better (I think!) with 4 kids, graduate school, and life happenings that leave me well aware of the complete lack of control I have in most things. However, when I became a pastor’s wife I had a sneaking suspicion that this would be just one more role I would be lacking in. Surrounded by expectations, mostly of my own making, most days I felt a bit harried, under appreciated, and outside the Body.

Again, maturing in my Faith has done a lot for me. Letting God’s Spirit fill where I lack, knowing full well I am completely and utterly a sinner, but completely and utterly forgiven- that’s a beautiful thing. It causes me to pause and say, “Thank you, Lord, for always being enough.”

All that said, the “Things I Don’t Do List” sounded just like a good idea of celebrating doing what I do well, and leaving some stuff out that just isn’t me, and that’s O.K.

Things I Don’t Do:
1) Make delectable potluck dishes… It’s a fact. I can cook, I love having people at my table. I just can’t get it together for a potluck. I bring chips, multigrain. Yum.

2) Act as my husband’s secretary… I don’t take messages. I know it may seem easier, but I will forget because a baby will need their diaper changed or someone will hit their sister or a youth group member will share about a life changing event. I just am no good with messages.

3) Ask my children to be completely quiet in worship… I don’t believe in this. They are loud children. Sometimes I wish we were quiet people, but that’s not our strength. I will ask them to be respectful of others, participate fully, and give their whole heart to worship. They will not always sit and stand at just the right time, they will ask lots of questions and I will remind them to ask more quietly, and they will belt out “This is the Feast” even when they don’t know all the words.

4) Read less… I love books. I love them like no one’s business. I carry a book around for stolen moments of quietness. I’m not going to judge myself for spending time reading. 

5) Debate my educational choices with strangers…we make the best decisions we can for our children, regardless of other’s opinions. We take the church into account and society’s general opinions, but beyond that, it’s us and God, and moving in the direction we feel He points us.

6) Eat mediocre chocolate…I need to stop wasting my calories. I love dark chocolate, good wine, yummy food, and good friends to share it with. 

7) Hide my testimony… I come from a lot of dark and difficult places. God has brought me from the pit. Redeemed it. Made it Holy. Given it purpose. It’s meant to glorify Him, nothing more, nothing less. May it be so.

What would be on your “Things I Don’t Do List”? I’d love to hear your thoughts, silly, serious, or anywhere in between!

 

Oh Christmas Card…

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.       Luke 2:19

I love Christmas cards. I love receiving them, I love giving them. I like gold foil and nativity scenes and family photos. I look forward each year to getting the letters that tell, however brief, our friend’s stories, of their life and their year. 
Each year we also receive a few Christmas miracles. They come in the form of cards that look like this:
 
 

Now, sometimes these cards contain little presents and those are wonderful too. This year they made the difference in getting our kids some of their special requests for Christmas. But really, that’s not my Christmas miracle. My Christmas miracle lies in that this card exists at all, and that someone went to a store and looked for it.
 
Someone stood in front of a card rack and searched for a card 
just for their pastor. 
Someone read through generic cards and decided 
that this one was it. 
Someone wrote a note thanking my husband and our family 
for faithfully serving.
Every Christmas congregational life touches my heart in a new way. I look at my harried husband, crafting sermons, leading services, checking on shut-ins, and eeking in all the extras for Christmas, and then I look around at people and wonder if they notice. Not notice him, or me, or anything earthly. But do they notice that our God is a God who came to them, just for each of them, and it’s a struggle in this world to bear the load of a thousand people who don’t know and don’t care. 
Then the cards come. It goes a long way in a pastor’s heart to hear that what they do makes a difference in someone’s life. That just by being them, by being faithful, by representing a God of Love and Comfort, people have been touched and it has mattered. It goes a long way in my pastor’s wife heart to not be the only one telling him that. 
 
So thank you card companies and thank you members of the Body. Your Christmas card has a special place in our lives and a special place, treasured in our hearts.