HOPE THAT DOESN’T DISAPPOINT

By Lisa Huddleston

“At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs, who think, ‘The Lord will do nothing, either good or bad’”  (Zeph. 1:12).

A couple of friends and I have been having an ongoing conversation about expectations.  One friend feels that her expectations are often too high, and therefore she struggles with frequent feelings of disappointment.  The other expresses an unwillingness to hold any expectations of seeing God move—again to avoid painful disappointment.  Being the yoyo that I am, I tend to bounce back and forth between these two extremes—neither a soaring optimist nor a complete Doubting Thomas.  Despite struggles with skepticism and even, at times, despair, I can’t help letting my hopes rise, because I know that God can do whatever He chooses to do whenever He chooses to do it.  Therefore, all things are always possible all the time and that keeps me salivating over hope like one of Pavlov’s dogs.  Will it happen this time?  Will I see Him at work today?  Is this the moment I’ve been waiting for?  Like my big, brown Lab, Mary, I pant with anticipation and leave drops of drool in my wake.  Try as I may to adopt a cool “whatever” attitude, I just can’t seem to give up on hope.

And why would I want to?  Well, as my dear friends have addressed, it sometimes hurts to hope.  To build up expectations that when dashed allow you to fall flat on your face.  To look foolish when the plans you’ve made don’t seem to be coming true.  To appear naïve in the smug face of sophistication as you hear the words “I told you so” and “God helps those who help themselves.”  To risk your reputation by expressing the mustard seed hope that faith really can move mountains and that you really can rely on God’s timing and His plan.  Hope can make you feel ridiculous—especially when it causes you to go against the common sense of the majority.  Hope can be tough to handle.

Yet, without hope, without expecting God to move in our lives, what do we have?  Only one weary day after another.  No expectations.  No purpose.  No aspirations.  Just one foot in front of the other—if you even bother to get off the couch.  Yes, hope deferred makes the heart sick (Prov. 13:12), but if our hope is in God it is assured.  It is an “anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Heb. 6:19) and an essential part of our faith in Him (Heb. 11:1).

I’m not advocating radical foolishness and random steps off cliffs.  No, God has much to tell us about wisdom and discretion, about counting the cost and discerning the spirits that lead us.  But, I also know that He calls us to live our lives in active hope which is a good definition of faith.  “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Rev. 3:15-16).  Hope matters.  It is an essential part of faith and a motivating factor in accomplishing the good works to which we have been called. 

Are you hoping for something today?  Is it from the One who is faithful to lead you without error?  Stretch out your hand to take hold of it.  Crane your neck to catch its glimpse.  Take a risk, push through your fear of failure, and let hope lead you to higher heights.  No longer lukewarm and complacent, but in hopeful reliance on the One who calls you forward.  His hope is secure!

RUNNING ON EMPTY

 

By Lisa Huddleston 

“… but be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

My Low Fuel light has been on for days, and there’s nothing but fumes left in my tank—and it’s only eight o’clock in the morning.  How did I let myself get in this condition again?  I know that I’m basically an introvert who doesn’t handle stress and back-to-back activity very well.  I’m happiest on days when I can take my time, drink my coffee, read my Bible and other books, spend time writing, exercise in the afternoon when my studies are over, and then shower before my husband gets home.  I love cozy visits with friends—especially intimate one-on-one discussions curled up on the couch with coffee cups in hand.  I love my weekly trips to church for worship, Bible study, planning, rehearsals, and so on—especially when everyone is happy, and there aren’t many meetings involved.  But, too much activity runs me straight into the ground.  I know these truths about myself.  Yet, somehow my calendar seems to fill its pages while I’m not looking and then obligate me to keep its promises.  And before I know it, I’m back to running on empty.

Some of my friends are the complete opposite of my personality.  They are outgoing, extroverted people who build energy by spending lots of time with lots of people and running from one appointment to the next.  They get cabin fever if they are trapped at home for “a whole day!”  “The more the merrier” is their motto, and they don’t understand why I don’t share their joy over lunches with ten of our closest friends and spontaneous trips to spas or shopping malls.  Honestly, girls, I love you.  I just don’t have your energy.  But, lately I’ve noticed that even some of my more outgoing buddies have seemed a little exhausted by the rush.  Refueling seems to be a topic that everyone can relate to—at least once in awhile.  Therefore, wisdom begs the question:  “How do you refuel when you’ve let your tank run dry?”

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes, “Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise—making the most of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).  How do wise people, wise believers specifically, walk?  First of all, Paul tells us to “pay careful attention.”  In my case, that means I need to do my best to spread my activities out.  Obviously, it is not always possible to avoid busy days, but to the best of my ability, I should schedule some down time in every day that I can. 

Next, wise people make the most of the time they are given.  Again, this is a very personalized concept.  If you are a person who thrives on action, you may make the most of your time by spending it in unflagging activity and service for others.  You recharge as you go.  However, if you are more like me, you may make the most of your time in solitary meditation and thoughtful pondering refilling the basin from which you may pour yourself out for others. 

Either way, knowing your own personality and individual needs will help you to serve as God has designed you and will enable you to make the most of your days.  “So don’t be foolish” by trying to be someone you’re not—an extrovert with too much time on her hands or an introvert who is worn out trying to keep up with the rat race.  Rather, “understand what the Lord’s will is” (Eph. 5:17).  He has made you to serve in the way He has designed you.  No apologies needed and no false pride required. 

Running on empty?  How can you refuel?  Seek His guidance, be who He made you to be, and let Him fill you with His Spirit.  Your weary self and your wary friends will thank you.

FIRST BREATH

 

By Lisa Huddleston

First Breath

 

Every morning

I breathe in the air of a new day

Full of possibilities

Full of opportunities

Full of expectations

and worries

and fears

and dreams.

“Deep breath,”

He says,

and I try to breathe–

Pulling in the air as I rise to the surface of the day–

Knowing that someone

loves me and wants my best.

Every day,

as if nothing yet had been done,

sighing and believing,

I breathe.

CHOOSING HIM

 

 

By Lisa Huddleston

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you” (Matt. 6:3).

As a rehab doctor in a veteran’s hospital, my husband treats soldiers who have recently returned from the war in Iraq as well as veterans from past wars.  Not surprisingly, many of these men and women have been through some terrible traumas and not only have physical injuries to deal with but emotional scars, as well.  What is surprising to him is how differently people respond to their wounds.  Some soldiers are stoic about their pain and keep their nightmares to themselves. Some wear their wounds on their sleeves and continue to live in angry bitterness.  Some give up and turn to drugs or alcohol to dull the memories.  And some incredibly grow stronger.  It is this last group that interests me most.  Why do some people experience the same trauma, loss, and suffering as others, but they never give up?  In fact, they actually grow from their experiences and go on to do amazing things—even to help others who are suffering.

It would be grossly presumptuous on my part to say that I understand where these men and women are coming from.  My traumas are puny in comparison with what they have endured.  Yet, they have been big enough to cause me pain—divorce, leaving friends behind, deaths of loved ones, miscarriage, and so on.  Life is hard for us all at times.  Some crumble under the weight of it, and others grow stronger.  Therefore, my question remains—what makes the difference?   Why even as a child did I feel that each event, even the painful ones, provided a lesson to be learned and to be used?  Is it simply a matter of personal fortitude?  That would be presumptuous.  No, I can be as big a weenie as the next guy.  Is it wholly due to personality traits?  No, I see both survivors and victims in all personality types.  Is it found in other characteristics:  gender, race, age, education, wealth?  Again, the obvious response is no.

No.  The answer to my question seems to lie in believing that there is a greater purpose to life than personal welfare and physical well-being.  Not a delusion of grandeur, but a spiritual perception that there is something more—that this world is not our final destination and what happens in it is in some way a training ground for what will follow.  It is the heartfelt belief that God has a plan for each one of us and for the world as a whole.  Nothing happens only by chance.  Nothing is beyond His redemptive reach or outside of His control.  He sees, He knows, and He will not let us suffer in vain.

As my title implies, I believe that we always have a choice:  to give in and live as a victim to the pain and suffering of life on this planet or to choose to live in His victory and strength.  Even as I write these words, I confess that I am not often up to such a positive choice.  Without His reaching down to lift me, I could not even choose to seek Him.  But He does reach down!  The knowledge of that truth fills my heart with joy.  Yes, “each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:34).  But “consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18) and rejoice.  Let the knowledge of that glory change you now and forever.  For your benefit, for the benefit of those around you, and for the glory of His name.  It makes all the difference in the world and in the world to come.

EXPERIENCING GOD

By Lisa Huddleston

“For we are His creation—created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”  (Ephesians 2:10)

I’ve seen a miracle this week.  No, I haven’t seen handwriting on a wall.  I haven’t seen the lame get up and walk.  And I haven’t seen the dead come back to life.  Okay … maybe technically what I’ve witnessed hasn’t been an actual miracle, but then again maybe it has.  Let me tell you as much of the story as I know and leave it up to you.

A young mother, who is a former member of our church, lost her second child this past Saturday.  It had been a difficult pregnancy, and both babies had been born extremely prematurely.  Baby John lived only a short while, but his sister Hallie fought hard for a couple of months.  This past Saturday, she was released from her struggle, and her parents handed her back to the Lord.  I am certain that their hearts ached as they realized that they were not going to receive the miracle of healing for which they and so many others had prayed.  Knowing that they now live in Texas and assuming the depth of their grief, I was surprised to learn that the Kinsers were going to be in our church this Sunday morning and that Kate, the babies’ mother, wanted to speak to our congregation.  Frankly, I was a little concerned about it thinking it might be too early for such a public venture.  But soon after hearing about their plans, I received an email from Kate that changed my heart.  She wrote to ask if my daughter would be willing to sing a special song during the worship service.  She had heard Sarah sing “The Servant Song” a couple of years ago and said that she had been hearing it in her head ever since John’s death.  I was amazed, because as I talked it over with Sarah, I realized that “The Servant Song” had already been scheduled for Sunday’s service nearly four weeks ago.  And Sarah was on the scheduled rotation for the Praise Team for that very day.  God’s tender care for this family overwhelmed me! 

And that isn’t the whole story.  Every song that had already been chosen for this weekend speaks words that will minster to this couple and to anyone else in attendance who has ever experienced a loss of his own.  We will begin by singing of God’s sovereignty and holiness in “I See the Lord.”  Then the choir will sing about God’s sacrificial gift of His Son in “For God So Loved the World.”  Then I am scheduled to share an original song that God woke me up singing one morning, “Giver of All Things,” that reminds us that all things—good and bad—come from Him. (Was this song given for the Kinsers?)   Next the congregation will respond to Him by singing “I Give My All.”  I can’t help thinking that He is telling us all that He knows how we feel.  He knows how bad it hurts to lose those we love.  He knows, because He hurts with us.  And He’s letting us know that He knows by preparing a personal and caring time of worship in which Kate can share her heart.  He prepared this time ahead of Hallie’s passing.  He was not surprised by her early birth or her early death, and He is in control.  Again … I am amazed by His tenderness.

Does this count as a miracle?  I’m still not sure, but I do know that we haven’t yet heard the whole story.  I am looking forward to what Kate will share.  I anticipate that it will be covered with fingerprints of His love and will confirm the supernatural involvement of His Holy Spirit. He goes ahead of us to show us the way!  We are His creation, and He has prepared the works we should walk in—and they are good.

Jesus told His disciples, “Your heart must not be troubled.  Believe in God; believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you.  I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.  You know the way where I am going” (John 14:1-4).  Hallie and John Kinser know the Way.  They have already discovered the place prepared for them.  And the tender preparations of our Heavenly Father for their parents show us that we can know the way, too.  And I mean really know Him.  Jesus is the Way—miraculously simple and amazingly personal.

Have you discovered the Way?  Do you know the touch of the One who holds all things in His hands?  If not, I pray that you will find Him today.  Or if not today maybe this Sunday in the tearful words of a mother’s testimony of love.

GIVER OF ALL THINGS

By Lisa Huddleston 

Giver of All Things

You, O Lord, are worthy

To receive glory and honor and praise

For You, O Lord, are the 

Giver of all things

 

When we are hungry, You fill our need

When we are thirsty, You quench us

When we are hopeless, You are the way

When we are lonely, befriend us

 

You, O Lord, are worthy

To receive glory and honor and praise

For You, O Lord, are the

Giver of all things

 

In the darkest of nights, You give me light

In the deepest of pits, You reach for me

In the joy of the morning, You are my song

In the journey of life, sustain me

 

You, O Lord, are worthy

To receive glory and honor and praise

For You, O Lord, are the  

Giver of all things

Of all things