We Are the People of Hope

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.” Pope John Paul II

Praise in the Park 7/10/2021

Last Saturday I had the privilege to participate in an event at a park in the town that has been my home for the past 24 years. It was a simple event, but one that I feel reflected the message the family of Christian believers have to share around the world. Believers who wanted nothing more or less than lift a message of Hope for trying times. It wasn’t a large gathering but it represented a small midwestern town’s group of believers from at least seven different churches who came together to spend time in worship, scripture readings, and brief testimonies of what a relationship with Jesus means to those who stood up to share. There wasn’t a drive for recognition of one church over another. There wasn’t a collection of money to be collected for a cause. It was simply some musicians, some songs, some ordinary people, and the proclamation of an extraordinary God.

This 1 hour meeting at the park was birthed out of a group of guys that my husband gets together with on the weekly for a time of Bible study. Once again this group isn’t just one church, different denominations, but a common unity of Love for Jesus and the desire to have more of Him in their lives.

A small clip of the gathering

I was asked to share a brief testimony of who God is to me as a part of a group of 5 people, all from different backgrounds. I said yes, but with shaky legs and sometimes voice. Because I know who I am in my own eyes, but I also know who I am In the eyes of Jesus.

One thing that kept rolling around in my head and heart as I prayed about what to say at the Park was the quote from Pope John Paul II. “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and Hallelujah is our song.” Or the modified version I kept thinking, “We are the people of HOPE. We have the cure for the brokenness of our World. His name is Jesus.” With so much going on in so many arenas of our world, it is easy to “abandon ourselves to despair”. When our news outlets focus on hatred, violence, sickness, poverty, etc. , it becomes easy to be consumed by the overwhelming floodgates of sadness and evil, BUT WE HAVE THE CURE! The price Jesus paid to show us His love by His life, death, and resurrection and the Hope we have of Him never leaving or forsaking us is a reality for the one who lives as a Child of God. His promise of the Holy Spirit living in us and the reality of it now fulfilled in our lives also speaks to the truth that “We are the Easter People”/ “We are the people of HOPE”, and we should not be ashamed to proclaim that truth. It is what our nations, states, communities, friends, and families need to hear. God is with us! He is with me. I can walk with Joy in good times and I can continue to walk with peace in times of sadness, because I have Hope. I have Hope here in my daily life of doing dishes, washing clothes, cleaning house, being a mom. I also have Hope in my daily life when tears are my drink and ashes of disappointment are my bread. Psalm 102:9. This life is not the only life I have. I am a part of the “Easter People” I have the assurance of life beyond my final breath in Eternity with Jesus, and the resurrection of things that have been dead in my life due to sin of either myself or others. Jesus makes all things new. That is the glorious HOPE! Hope of a man who testified on Saturday of the power of God that changed his life from a path of destruction to a life built secure in Jesus. Or the testimony of a woman whose life was broken by addiction, pain, and sadness to one transformed to a life of purpose and peace. And the testimony of a man who has known the sorrow of loss of a young child to cancer and the collapse of his marriage, to a life that knows the comfort of God who is close in the good and the bad. Then the testimony of a man who knows the reality of a life unable to rise above guilt and shame to a life of Grace given by the God who knows our weakness. Then of course there’s the testimony of little ol me, a mom, a grandma, a wife, a daughter, a friend. A woman who knows the HOPE of God that overcomes the heartbreak of life on an imperfect planet knowing this isn’t the end. Each day is another day of beginning when Jesus writes the story of our life.

Some of the band
God’s People

“So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture:

They kill us in cold blood because they hate you.
We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” Romans 8:31-39 The Message

We are the People of HOPE!!

Video of my testimony I gave at “Praise in the Park”

There Be Bears… No Match for Our God!

My neck of the woods that I live in includes around 30 acres that my husband and I own and 80 more next to it that is forestry land. It kind of gives the illusion that we are somewhat secluded when I look out my back window of my house. Earlier this spring my husband and I were taking an occasional evening stroll around the back half of our property. It’s wooded but he mows a nice path around it. This half is what butts up against the Forestry land. While back there we noticed some tracks, not our usual deer track and occasional scat. It was bigger. I noted to him that if I didn’t know better I’d think there was a bear in our woods. I’m a Missouri girl. I know bears are possible, but in my 50 years of living here and spending lots of time on back roads, walking in woods, and camping in state parks, I have NEVER seen a bear in the wild here in Missouri. We joked about how we must have either a really big dog running around or Big Foot is real.

Probably a bear and not Big Foot lol

Fast forward a week… The biggest rumor on the local Facebook pages are “pictures” of a bear spotted digging in someone’s trash about a mile from our house. Our possible Big Foot Evidence more than likely was that bear. Not a happy thought for me because as a lover of the “I Survived” animal attacks series. I had just watched an episode where a Grizzly in the Rocky Mountains had nearly killed a man hiking in the mountains. Needless to say, our strolls through the back half of the property have stopped for a little while.

Bear, a little too close to my neck of the woods…

Each morning when I get up I look out my windows towards the Forestry land and strain my eyes looking for a bear. Then as I contemplate my usual early morning flower and garden maintenance around the perimeter of my house, I think, “What if there is a bear in my yard.” I know the likelihood is slim and the bear is probably more scared of me than I am of him, but the thought goes through my mind. If I let it, I would find myself sitting in the confines of my house with the occasional dash to get into my Jeep to head to town. I would miss out on my usual summer enjoyment of Gardening, fresh air, and sunshine…

So this afternoon I found myself struggling with some anxious thoughts. Nothing about a physical bear. It was more about a “spiritual bear” or you could call it a “lion or tiger or bear Oh MY!” Anything you want to name it, it seems big and it seems ugly. As I was doing some house work and thinking about this “bear” I started thinking about a verse in the Bible about someone being afraid to go out because of a lion. Proverbs 26:13 says “A sluggard says, “There’s a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets!” The sluggard uses it as his excuse to lay around be immobilized. I picture this kind of “Ho Hum…” attitude that the sluggard has with an “oops… can’t go out the door” reply. But sometimes it’s not because we’re lazy that we let the possible lions (or bears) keep us from venturing out of our comfort zone. Sometimes it’s because we’re afraid. Maybe we’ve been bit before or watched one too many episodes of “I Survived my animal attack” to step outside our door.

Then it hit me, there was a young man named David that was faced by something ugly and intimidating, a giant and he didn’t cower in fear because he had already taken on a lion and a bear some time before he saw the giant. He didn’t end up the poster boy for the next episode of “when animals attack” He took it to the animals and killed them both. 1 Samuel 17 gives the account of David trying to convince the King he could take on this giant. “Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them… The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” Gutsy words, but He knew who His God was. David spent a lot of time with God, praying, singing, writing about Him. God later refers to David as a “Man after God’s own heart”. He knew his God and He knew his enemy was no match for his God.

The same goes for me and for you too. It really doesn’t matter what size our Giant has grown to or how intimidating his threats are. The truth is the same God who gave David the strength to kill a physical lion, bear, and Giant. Is the same God that fights for us. No matter how loud the anxiety shouts and the situations loom it will meet the fate as David’s opponents did. Because God rescued David from the hand of the Philistine Giant, He will rescue us from the hand of our enemy as well. Because as Jesus so poignantly displayed on the cross when He died and then rose again from the grave. He considers us to be “after His own heart” as well. He Loves us! Nothing can separate us from that truth.

My Redemption Story

“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!…” Revelations 21:5

Fifty years on Planet Earth gives a person a gift of great value, “Perspective”. When I earnestly started my relationship with Jesus back in the summer of 84 at Camp Sharon Church Camp, I felt like a brand new person. I deeply desired to make a 180 degree turn from the direction I was going to the direction Jesus would lead me. I had taken part in the start of My Redemption Story turning from spiritual death to spiritual life. I had no idea that God wanted to not only have me commit my entire life to Him and live in relationship with Him, but He was in the business of restoring or redeeming the things that I had chalked up to being broken forever. And from that point on until present He is still at work in my life redeeming and restoring the things that have been broken or lost along the way.

Forest Gump had it wrong, life isn’t just like a box of cherries. It is like a book, a book with MANY chapters. Or at least that is how I’ve been looking at mine. There’s the childhood chapter, the middle school chapter, the junior high chapter, the high school chapter, college, newlywed, new parent… all the way to where I am now. LOTS of CHAPTERS!!! Some of my chapters have been really enjoyable, others I am glad I survived and got to move on. There have been chapters where I have stood in awe of all the goodness of God in my life. There have been chapters I could not see Him or feel Him near because of the brutality of the storm. Chapter after chapter, and in these chapters there have been things that have happened that I’ve looked at as irreparable and broken.

This is where perspective helps out. When you live long enough to ride high on the good times and crawl through the tough, every once in awhile your remember a past chapter of your life that wasn’t so good. Mistakes were made, friendships lost, hearts broken, etc. but GOD!!! Some of these chapters “I” had the idea of how it should all be played out and my chapter should be written. You know how it is we want the perfect life, no conflict, perfect spouse, perfect kids, and perfect pets… One time scrolling through Facebook or Instagram should clue you in on this because we present our perfect world. But the truth is our chapters in our books are rarely what we thought they should be. Sicknesses happen, death occurs, hearts are broken, conflicts arise, messes are made and our chapter seems to be jumbled and confused. But standing on the hill of perspective looking back on my life I am seeing some things. Things that looked to be destroyed are turned around and as a matter of fact they are better than they were originally. That is how my Redemptive God works. When we allow the Master Author, God to write our stories the way He wants to write them the chapters always end in Redemption, He rescues us from the way it looks to be turning out, He pulls us out of our messes, He makes the broken whole, better than it was before. Our book of our life is an account of all the ways God makes all things new in our redemption story.

The Bible gives the account of an army commander in the times of the prophets of the Old Testament. Through a series of events this man named Naaman went to the prophet Elisha with a request for Elisha to heal Naaman of leprosy, a disfiguring skin disease that leaves irreparable damage and at that time almost always ended in a long slow death isolated from friends and family. Elisha told Naaman to go and wash in the Jordan river seven times for God to heal him of this disease (a great inconvenience). Naaman eventually did what he was told and the Bible records this result, “…his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.” 2 Kings 5:14 NIV. Looking at my wrinkles and dry skin on my 50 year old body points out to me what a miracle this was. God did not just give Naaman skin to match the body of whatever age he was. God gave him “New Skin”, “Skin of a young boy”.

It may take some time for us to see the redemption and restoration of some of the chapters of our story. It may take us walking through some inconvenient steps to walk in obedience to God before we see the results. But our God is the God who “Makes all things new” and in time even the chapters of our life that we would rather have locked away in the corner of the recesses of our faintest memories (or honestly forgotten forever would suit them best) God has every intention of taking that horrific thing and giving it “New skin”, a “new chapter in our book”. A chapter that when we get to see how it turns out leaves us standing with our jaw dropped in awe at the God who has not only done miracles in the past, but is still working them in our TODAY! Because He is not finished writing our Redemption Story until we stand before Him face to face in Heaven someday. We can be assured of that and know that the God who started our story won’t stop until He finishes it and everything He finishes is NEW and GOOD!

Testify

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

(Ugliest couch on the planet. The source of many fights on the way to church about how we needed a new one but couldn’t go into debt to get one. Thank God for the lazy boy recliner couch we have today. (Paid cash 😉) )

Our local church started their Sunday School classes up again today, something that COVID had put on hold for almost a year now. The lesson was on Sarah, Abraham and the angelic visit/ announcement of the coming supernatural pregnancy and birth of Isaac to a couple who were well past their 80’s. Sarah’s once laughed about possibility became her provision from God with laughter of joy brought to a heart sadden by infertility for years. A promise that looked to be forgotten, realized in God’s miraculous timing and in God’s miraculous ways. In the teaching I was reminded of God’s miraculous provision and God’s miraculous ways in my own life.

(One of our first cars. Used car made up of 2 different cars but so very dependable. I was just happy it had air conditioning,Car before that one didn’t. We’re driving a 2016 Jeep Wrangler now that we purchased because it’s just plain “fun to drive” )

It’s easy to forget, sometimes, the good things that God has done, especially in seasons of difficulty. I’ve spent many times writing in this blog about God walking with me in difficulty either of circumstance or of mind (my thought life). But I neglect to every once in a while just lay out the testimony of God’s Goodness to me in my life. Because the truth of the matter is, without the Goodness of God towards me where would I be? Not anywhere near where I am now. Though I have had trials, I have also had a blessed life, and I would do good to give thanks for that daily, hourly or more. Fixing my eyes on the One who is always with me and does cause all things (the hard, sad, and bad included) to work out for my good. Because I love God and am called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) The truth of the matter is He is no respector of persons and He is more than able to do that for you as well. Paul sums life up pretty well when he said “I know what it means to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty…” Philippians 4:12 We all get a taste of a little of both at times. The problem I have is my “squeaky wheel gets the oil”, or I tend to see the things I’m going through and tend to, wallow in the disappointment. Then I forget…

(First house- 1 bathroom, 3 kids (at the time)
We Ended up in a much bigger house with 4 bathrooms for our growing family of 4 kids. Got it for $85000 less than the owners originals asking price at an auction a huge blessing. We couldn’t have afforded it if we had to pay what it was really worth. )

Sarah in the Bible probably did the same thing. Years of waiting, wanting, crying, pleading, heart break… Only to find herself way on the other side of the childbearing years with a promise reminded and then fulfilled. When she laughed at the promise from her heavenly visitors, God didn’t say, “Well… you missed your chance. I’ll show you for laughing at me…” Instead He blew her mind and Abraham’s too with a fulfillment so outrageous, laughing for Joy while holding their son would be the only appropriate response. And here’s the deal… God didn’t just do that yesterday for them. He has done it today for us. He doesn’t change and He’s not surprised by my own struggles to take Him at His word at times. I think He gets a kick out of blowing my mind too. Because in that moment, I testify. I tell of His goodness that has brought me to a place of blessing. I tell of His presence that never leaves me alone in my time of need. I tell of how God took a small town Missouri girl, Gave her a smoking hot husband 😍, four kids, a grandson, a nice home, a Jeep and a good life. Not a life absent from trouble. But a life that is abundant with His grace, joy, peace, and freedom in the midst of the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. God is good! Let me testify!

(My youngest 17 years ago. Breathing troubles when born ended up in the NICU for 7 days. Turned out it was just acid reflux. i.e. (God took care of him) He’s a 6 ft tall rugby playing, drummer, lifeguard, Junior in High School. Healthy and strong 😉)
(Family 2021. Together on Easter Sunday. Attending church celebrating the Goodness of our Resurrected Lord)