October 31, 2011

Finding Hope in Second Chances

I thank God for second chances
To take this life and all its messes
To slow me down, and turn me around
And make something blessed.
(from the song “Second Chances” by Colleen Reske)

Have you ever said something and then immediately wished you hadn’t?  Wished that you could just suck the air back in and the words would come along with it, and no one would ever have heard them? It would be nice if it worked that way, but of course it doesn’t. Once those words have left our mouth, they are out there for the world to hear.

But usually it isn’t the whole world who hears. It’s one person, someone you care about, and you’ve gone and done it again. Blurted out a reaction to a situation instead of thinking through your response.

And all you can do now is apologize. Yes, apologize. Don’t backtrack, don’t make excuses. Simply look this person in the eye and say, “I’m sorry”, whether it is a child or a spouse or a friend or a parent. It’s not always an easy thing to do, but it does get easier with practice. (Am I giving myself away here?)

Several things happen when you offer up an apology. First, you are clearly admitting your frailty as a human being.  Also, you give the other person an opportunity to do something even greater, and that is to offer forgiveness.

Receiving forgiveness is like getting a second chance. You can mend your fences and move on. And now you have the opportunity to work on your new way of speaking. That is, to think before you speak; or, as my mother likes to say, “Engage brain before opening mouth.” I love that one!

God is the best at giving second chances. He gives us a do-over when we mess up. When we come to him in our disgrace and our shame, we are showing Him our human frailty (with which He is quite familiar). When we ask for His forgiveness, it is immediately given. What a gift! And even greater, He forgets about it.

As humans, we can offer forgiveness, but the truth is we can never fully forget. Our God doesn’t work that way. He wipes our slate clean, and in our freedom we are ready to go forward again.

Is this to say that we should never think about our words or actions? Of course not. The humans with whom we share our lives would not be as understanding as God.  We must be accountable to ourselves, while always striving to please God.

There is hope in second chances, and we must try live the way God wants us to live. And truthfully, that simply means doing the very best we can.

October 27, 2011

Song of Hope

Sometimes even when there are no words, there is a song. Many times throughout my life, when a friend would encounter a certain situation, a line from a song would come to mind and sometimes I would sing it out loud.  It caught people off guard but it also let them know that I really understood what they were feeling.

In this season of my life, I love contemporary Christian music. So much of what is written speaks of our human condition and how God is bigger than all of our problems. When we have lost hope, we need to come to Him. When we are weary, sad, lonely or brokenhearted we need to come to Him.

There is a song for every life situation we experience, and often a song will come on the Christian radio station right when I am in need of reassurance or encouragement. I realize I am not alone in this experience. Somehow the song of hope we need to hear is playing for us alone.

I learned the other day that the angels never sing. How can this be? Who hasn’t imagined the angels with their harps of gold singing in the heavens in perfect harmony?  In the Bible text I find that they shout praises, they worship and praise God, but nowhere does it say that they sing.

I always hoped to sing with the angels when I got to heaven. I think that would be awesome! They spend their days endlessly praising our Lord. “I can only imagine” how wonderful that would be.

On this earth, I experience my greatest joy when I sing for our Lord. Many people tell me they feel closer to God when they sing, as if a direct channel of communication opens up between them and God. You know He hears you and is pleased - even if you sing out of tune (honestly!)

We find hope in this encounter with God.  You don’t even have to sing. Just lift your heart to Him and tell Him you love Him. And believe me, your heart will be singing.

October 26, 2011

Hope in the View

Have you ever flown on an airplane at night, and looked over the vast darkness until you could see a cluster of lights? Realizing this was a town or a city, have you ever imagined the lives of the people living in those tiny houses down there?

I think flying gives us a perspective of how God sees the world. He sees it in great, vast sweeps of time, and He can know what is happening in every life in each and every tiny house, all at the same time.

When I was a young mother, flying over the heartland to visit relatives in Wisconsin, I looked down at those little houses and imagined there was a mom inside taking care of her children just as I was. It was mind boggling to think of this scenario repeated millions of times in millions of homes across America, and indeed, throughout the world.

One night several years ago, I had an incredible experience with ‘God View’. In the middle of the night, when I was in twilight sleep where one is neither fully awake nor fully asleep, God showed me the world from His perspective. For a brief moment, I saw all of existence in a single thought; heard all of creation praying simultaneously, and felt the presence of the multitudes. The experience was quite overwhelming, and though I could not absorb it all, I will never forget how it made me feel.

It is somewhat perplexing for me to understand why God would show me how humanity cries out to Him. I am grateful for the experience and humbled at the vastness of His understanding. I lived this only for a moment, but God hears this cacophony endlessly.

Though the experience was unnerving, and difficult for my earthbound spirit to comprehend, this occurrence was an incredible privilege. The hope I discern through this experience is that God really is there. He is here. He is everywhere. And He hears our call to Him.

Many years later as I have explored in my heart what God means to me, I am drawn to the Hebrew word for God, Yahweh. Originally translated as YHWH, without vowels, these people felt His name was too sacred to speak aloud. I like to say His name softly, as a breath. Yahweh. Breathe in, and breathe out His name, Yahweh, and feel His closeness. You can always remember, He is as near to you as the air you breathe. 

October 25, 2011

Nature's Perfect Peace

If you have come searching for hope, I welcome you to my blog. Within these pages we will share our thoughts and our hearts as we embrace the lives we live in this imperfect world.

Life has not always given me sunshine and flowers. Well, they were probably always there but I haven’t always looked for them. I have lived seasons of darkness and despair, but no longer do I dwell there. I choose now to live with hope, to search for peace, and definitely take time to stop and smell the flowers!

Nature is the balm that soothes my troubled spirit. When I walk in nature, I feel immeasurable joy. All that I need to know is the next step, rhythmically placing one foot in the front of the other. Soon tension falls off my shoulders and I feel a song begin to grow in my heart.

The sights, sounds and smells in a woodland forest or a meadow ignite all of the senses. Walking through a garden is a delight. We see the myriad colors, touch velvet petals and smell the fragrances of leaves and flowers. These are medicine to combat our hectic lives. It must be intentional. Our fast-paced world doesn’t slow down for us to breathe. We must make the time. It is critical for our health and peace of mind.

Even a walk through your neighborhood can restore a more natural rhythm to your life. This time of year, you can walk just about anywhere and crunch your way through fallen leaves. Somehow that never gets old. The change of seasons is earth’s natural rhythm, and we would do well to recognize the consistency of the natural world. Though there are slight variations, we can count on daylight and darkness, and the steady forward march of the seasons.

Nature doesn’t hurry, so take your time. Be intentional. And remember to breathe.