Cultivate: Tilling for Hope

I don’t love cooking, but I do love eating a homemade meal. So I cook. In much the same way, I don’t love gardening, but I do love eating fresh, homegrown veggies. So I go to the farmer’s market. Ha!

However, there were a couple of summers that my gardener husband had time and energy to put in some raised beds full of vegetables. And that first year it flourished! We’d harvest dinner a few minutes before we started cooking. It was incredible! 

Maybe it was beginner’s luck? Because we never had such a bountiful load of tomatoes, peppers, and squash as we did that year. The bugs found us. The drought beat us. And the weeds–well, they got the better of us.

On a bigger scale, farmers know their crops require the water and nutrients available in the ground, so they till the dirt days before planting time so that the soil will be as soft and friable (easily crumbled) as possible. Tilling also pulverizes weeds that have popped up since the plowing. And, since weeds grow faster than crops, farmers want them gone so they don’t steal the good stuff their fruit-bearing plants need–and so they won’t crowd the crop. As Jesus said, those weedy thorns choke out the plants (Matthew 13:7, 22). 

And there’s our connection. We the field, the soil in which Jesus wants to plant His Word, can get overrun by suffocating, life-sucking weeds. It’s time to till the soil of our hearts so we can cultivate hope!

Pulling Weeds

All we have to do is look to Genesis 1-3 to see how quickly weeds can take over a garden. Only three chapters in, and weeds pop up. Weeds of doubt and pride and untruth worked together to choke out the trust Adam and Eve had in God.

Since then, the world has continued to be really good at weed growth. Weed varieties include, but aren’t exclusive to:

  • Sins that overtake our hearts and lives–others’ sin and our own. 
  • Distractions–like “the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth” (Matthew 13:22). 
  • “Weeds” that look to have potential so we put our hope in them–like other people, organizations, political movements, denominations, doctrine, or even (gulp) ourselves.

For Christians, the temptation is to hit our knees and start pulling at all the weeds. Everyday. All the time. But weeds are persistent and hearty, and they grow without any nurturing or effort on our part. So, we dig deeper, trying to get to the roots. We try harder. We get really tired.

Then JD Walt drops this, “The way to flourishing is not by trying to manage the weeds of sin, but rather to focus on the flourishing of the farm of the Word of God.”* And my mind is blown. “Of course!” I say to myself. When we’re pulling weeds, our eyes are focused ON THE WEEDS. The best way to kill the weeds? Focus on the seeds, the Word of God. Water them. Nurture them. Spend quality time with them. I mean, if we’re the soil, then let’s wrap ourselves around those seeds of the Word of God and enter into the symbiotic relationship where we give our all and the Word gives us Himself–all the love, all the peace, all the hope!

Photo by Zoe Schaeffer on Unsplash

Moses’ Weed Killer

When the main-man Moses steps onto the scene, the people of God–those promised to Abraham–have been enslaved by Egypt for over 400 years. After a series of miraculous signs and wonders, the Israelites are freed! They make it to Mount Sinai to worship the One True God and to receive laws that will equip them for this new way of living (Exodus 19-20). 

But, as time would quickly reveal, the people were out of Egypt, but the weeds of Egypt still grew in them. Generations of enslavement meant exposure and forced worship of the pantheon of Egyptian gods. It meant no rest or respect. It meant no free will or free thinking. It meant doing exactly what they were told and nothing more.

With their new found freedom, fear overtook the Israelites each time they faced a problem like hunger or thirst or the desire for a visible, tangible god–and it choked out all the good God wanted to do in them.

God’s Word, spoken to Moses and delivered through him to the people, became the weed killer. For forty years the Israelites weeded out the unhealthy habits that slavery had taught them. The Law planted in them a new hope in God. His Word gave them new focus and purpose.

For centuries the Law given to Moses on Mount Sinai gave shape to a nation, to a people meant to become the priesthood of God. But the law in front of them wasn’t enough to truly transform them. The Word needed to be in them (Jeremiah 31:33): Jesus, the Word (John 1:14). Jesus, the Spirit in us (1 Corinthians 3:16). Jesus, the greater Moses.

But Jesus deserves far more glory than Moses, just as a person who builds a house deserves more praise than the house itself. For every house has a builder, but the one who built everything is God.

Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later. But Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house. And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ.

Hebrews 3:3-6, NLT

Friends, our hope in Christ is the ultimate weed killer. When we fix our eyes on Him and offer up our bodies as living sacrifices, our focus, our posture, our inner workings change. 

  • Instead of swatting at the distractions and sins, we put our energy in remaining in Christ. 
  • Instead of putting our hope in a person–that they might change or save or fix us, we put our hope in Christ. 
  • Instead of putting our hope in an organization–that they might hold us together or turn things around, we put our hope in Christ.

Only Jesus can bear the weight of the burden of being someone’s hope. He’s the only one who can always remain faithful. Only Christ can constantly be truth and grace. Only He can fix and heal and transform. (side note: That’s not to say doctors and counselors and such aren’t good and right and needed. But if we put the full weight of our hope on them alone, they’ll crumble.)

Jesus, Our Only Hope

Jesus tried to explain this tendency we all have of putting our hope in things besides Him when He addressed the Jewish leaders who balked at His claim of being God’s Son:

“Do not suppose that I will accuse you before the Father. The one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have placed your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me.” 

John 5:45-46 NET, emphasis mine

Whether we’re Jewish leaders of the first century or women leading families and businesses in the twenty-first century, we must refrain from putting our hope in anything but Jesus.

And it starts with recognizing who or what else we put our hope in. This was my lesson years ago when life as we’d known spiraled because of choices our son was making. In my middle of the night meeting with God, sobbing about how life wasn’t going as planned, God whispered, “Whose plan?” And from that moment on, He’s been unveiling all the ways I put my hope in the wrong places.

In that season, I was putting hope in our son to change himself as a result of consequences. I was putting hope in my carefully laid plans, in our youth director to turn our son around, and in church camp to make a holy difference. 

Hear me. All of these are good things. We need plans and our kids need consequences. We need adults who influence our kids for Jesus and mountain top experiences. But these aren’t our hope. Jesus–He is our only, true hope. 

Like those desert-dwelling Israelites, I’ve been learning these last dozen years how to recognize my natural tendency to put my hope in things besides Jesus. I’ve been walking the wilderness roads with God, dismantling old habits and learning new ones. I’ve been leaning-in to listen to God’s whispers because I loooooong to follow His way, not my own. But it takes effort–not striving in my own strength, but a holy intentionality–those “unforced rhythms of grace” I’ve come to rely on (Matthew 11:28-30).** 

Cultivating our hearts to be a fertile field for hope requires something of us. And maybe it means less effort and focus on the weed pulling and more attention on God and His Word in us. It helps to remember that if we remain fallow, unplowed and unplanted, the weeds will grow unheeded. They’ll rob us of the Word’s truths. They’ll choke out all the good Jesus has for us. 

To flourish for Christ, we need to make like a farmer and get ready for the planting by tilling the soil of our hearts with rhythms of grace that, while unforced, are built into our lives in such a way that they sustain the deeper life with Christ. And, as we do, hope will begin to sprout.

Heavenly Father, we, the field, desire to be plowed and tilled and sown with the seeds of the One Who Is Greater Than Moses. We’re tired of weeds that crowd our faith and kill our hope. We’re ready to bear fruit that matters today and for eternity. So we lay ourselves before You, asking that You would till the soil of our hearts, rooting out distractions and false hopes so that we are free to flourish for You. Lord Jesus, thank You for the parables that help us grasp how easy it is to lose the seeds of your Word that You’ve tried to plant in our hearts and minds. We confess our tendency of putting hope in our plans, in other people, and in places that were never created to bear such a load. Instead, we desire to fix our eyes and hopes on You. We want what You want, so we choose today to lay down our plans, our fears, and our doubts–and pick up faith. We put our hope in You! Holy Spirit, it’s so easy to take You for granted. As we read the stories of the Israelites as they failed over and over to love and obey God, we realize they didn’t have You dwelling within them. But we do! And that gives us so much hope because we know it’s not by our strength that we cling to the hope of Jesus–it’s by yours!! So, we put our hope in the Lord, and our strength is renewed. In Jesus’ name, amen.
(inspired by Hebrews 3:3-6; Matthew 13:1-8, 18-23; John 15:5; Psalm 92:12-15; Hebrews 12:1-2; Ephesians 6:16; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Isaiah 40:28-31)

  • Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.
    • *A quote from JD Walt in Seedbed’s Wake Up Call 10/12/22. He also asks his readers about the saying, “You reap what you sow.” If you sow nothing–what do you get? Nope, not nothing. You get WEEDS!!!
    • I loved this quote but never worked it into today’s post. So, I’ll share it here. It’s from a farming site, but I love the spiritual implications! “Fruitful gardening means learning to know what your soil needs each year.” (this site)
    • I raised my kids during the Veggie Tales heyday. And, all this writing about weeds has unearthed Larry Boy memories. If you want a smile or a fun (possibly cringy), toe-tapping tune that will stick with you for, say, twenty years, I offer you “The Rumor Weed” song.
    • And, of course our “Revival of Hope” playlist. I snuck another song in the mix, “My Hope Is in Jesus” by Hillsong Worship. It’s opening lyrics pull from Psalm 20:7, and the song paints the picture of how easily we put our hope, or trust, in things other than God. But Jesus is our hope!
  • Rhythms
    • **Unforced rhythms of grace are those practices we weave into our lives in a more rhythmic fashion–less forced, more flowing. One rhythm we could lean deeper into this week is to dig into one verse or passage or chapter of Scripture–not so much to glean information but to soak in its life-giving truths. If you need some suggestions: Psalm 92, Isaiah 55:8-13, or John 15:5-8.
    • One rhythm we can employ ANYTIME our minds wander or our hearts falter is to repeat this specific truth that quickly gets us back in sync with Jesus’ heart and mind: “Jesus, I belong to You.” (Many thanks to JD Walt for this aligning truth, which–I think–got started here and has been our rhythm since!)
  • And, as community, let us not neglect sharing God’s hope with others. Share your God-stories with people around you. Share this site. Share God’s Word. Shine His light into the world! 

Featured Photo by me! Taken in Santa Fe, NM — at the their Farmer’s Market (ha! Of course!)

Cultivate: Plowing for Hope

One winter I had the inspired idea to plant tulip bulbs in the hard, red dirt of Oklahoma. I went into the project thinking I’d dig some holes, drop in some bulbs, and wait for spring. But what transpired was HARD WORK. 

My little spade proved quite inadequate, especially used by my scrawny-mom arms. I would ineffectively push and stab at the ground in my attempts to break through its solid crust. My husband came to the rescue with his full-sized shovel and put his whole self into getting that little plot of ground broken up enough for me to dig my holes. 

Despite this project being much more involved than I’d imagined, I kept the end in mind with each back-breaking scoop of clay-dirt. I really wanted blooming tulips in the spring–their colorful heads announcing winter’s end. So I didn’t give up.

While my tiny tulip garden is a fraction of the size of a farm, my experience has helped me not only appreciate farmers but realize that growing fruit and flowers is a process. And it all starts with the soil.

So, as we set out to foster the growth of hope in our lives, the soil of our hearts must first be cultivated by God. 

Plowing the Fields

It helps us to stop here and acknowledge that WE are neither the gardener, the sower, the seed, or the fruit. Friends, we are the field.* We are the dirt that must get broken up, softened, cultivated.

When farmers want to create a new field or revive a fallow, unused or unproductive, field, they start by clearing the land of trees and underbrush. Then the dirt work begins–with plowing. First, a plow known as the subsoiler “breaks the fallow ground at its depths, turning the field upside down. Then there is the disc, which breaks up the slabs of packed soil into smaller clods.”** What Larry could do with his shovel, farmers must do with really big machines. 

In this labor-intensive practice of getting land prepared for planting, the farmers and their tools put forth all the effort. The soil–it submits to the plowing, giving itself over to the work. Likewise, the Gardener does all the work on our hearts. We simply allow Him to do it.

Just as removing the hard, crusty layer of earth opens up spaces for better air and water penetration, I’ve felt God’s plow gently, yet firmly, chip away at my stubborn pride and plans. His plow is breaking open my heart that was once closed, guarded against disappointment. With each turn of the soil, my heart is freer–and I’ve noticed… 

  • how much more deeply I feel His love. Seriously, when I sit with Him or worship Him, there are days that I just weep with gratitude as His love floods me. 
  • how much more His Word penetrates my heart, making me aware of where I need His truth in my life. 
  • how my heart retains the nutrients of His Word–those verses that used to be so hard to “memorize” have started planting themselves and taking root in my being so that they are becoming part of who I am.

The more I give myself to the Gardener’s work, the more I experience His presence and preparations. Then on days when things fall apart, my heart is less likely to leap to my former habits of jumping into planner-mode as my way of coping. Rather, I can hope against hope that God is faithful. And present. And hard at work–even when I can’t see it. Even when circumstances seem impossible.

Hope Against Hope

We can look back to the Old Testament at Abraham and see a man who chose to follow God at all costs. When God said pack up and move your family–oh, and I’ll tell you where to go later–Abraham said yes (Genesis 12:1, 4). When God wanted to make a covenant with Abraham, God promised that Abraham would be the father to many people and nations–as many as the stars in the sky (Genesis 15:5). 

Abraham agreed to follow and obey this invisible God (v.6)–even though not one child had been born to him and his wife. He could have given up hope for a son, yet Abraham did not. In fact, Paul says, “Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations” (Romans 4:18 NLT). Because God said so. 

In God’s timing, Abraham’s son, Isaac, was born. And from him came Jacob, then the twelve sons who became the tribes of God’s nation–one of whom was Judah, the ancestor of Jesus the Messiah. So, friends, count the stars.*** We are numbered among them as Abraham’s descendants. 

Hope is defined as a feeling of anticipating a future that is better than the present.**** For Abraham, this hope for a future that was better than his childless-present proved fruitful because his “hope against hope” was not in his circumstances but in his most faithful God (Romans 4:18 NRSV). 

Abraham is noted as a man of great faith because over and over he put his hope in God (Hebrews 11:8-12). And God always proves faithful–so we have reason to hope.

Plowing Our Hearts

It’s for this hope that we can surrender our hearts to God’s work. We can trust He knows what we need. And what we don’t.

When a field is plowed, rocks and chunks of old trees hiding deep in the dirt are discarded–thus removing everything that would prevent future plant growth, giving roots space to dig deep and shoots freedom to grow upwards toward the sun.** Our hearts are no different.

As the Gardener has plowed my heart, I’ve become more aware of the obstacles to growing deeper in Him and closer to Him. Distractions, like the scrolling of social media or the lure of planning coffee dates every afternoon, can hinder my spirit’s connection with His. That’s not to say connecting with people on our phones or over a hot cup of tea is bad. But for me, I can fill up everyday so fast that I never spend a second of it with the One I love.

So, the more I surrender my heart to obstacle removal, the more room I have for God. Without all the distractions, I rest better in Him because I’m rooted in Him. My eyes are freer to fix on my Savior, and I am better able to align my heart with His. 

Photo by Miriam G on Unsplash

With God at the plow (not me!), the field of my heart gets softer. I become more willing to trust and obey Him with each decision and every uncertainty. And as I do, I get to see how faithful He still is–just as He was in Abraham’s day. 

Friends, we want solid, godly hope! We desire to grow and be fruitful for our Father. We long to become more and more like Jesus. But, if we forget that fruit is not the first step in the process but the final one, discouragement is sure to be borne. 

Instead, let’s think on all that must happen before the seeds are ever planted–let’s remember that this spiritual life we lead is a process. To bear the fruit we long for, we must start with the soil of our hearts. We must, ourselves, become the soil for the Gardener to plow, surrendering to His work of turning over the hard places and removing the obstacles. As we do, we’ll persevere in our practices and rhythms with hope. Because God is our hope.

Father God, You are the Gardener. We are the soil in which You toil. You plow up the hardest sections of our hearts, not to punish us, but to prepare us. To cultivate us. To free us. In your omniscience, You know everything about us–even the layers of our hearts that resist your presence and holy work. But, today, we surrender our hearts to You, trusting that with You at the plow, true cultivation will take place. Lord Jesus, You have firsthand knowledge of such hard, rocky soil. It’s why You spoke in parables about the soil being our hearts and the seed being your Word. You have always known that obstacles like rocks can block the roots of our faith from growing. You have always known that bad soil will prevent our faith in You from ever taking root. So, we confess to You all the distractions that keep us from rooting deeply in your love. We confess that we’ve allowed a hard shell to grow around our hearts out of fear. Today, we claim the promise that your perfect love casts out fear! Holy Spirit, we know that we need to surrender our hard hearts to God’s plowing so that You can penetrate with your work of healing, restoration, and sanctification. We ask that You would meet us where we are, helping us to trust that God is faithful and trustworthy. Help us put our hope in God! Jesus, we belong to You. And it is in your name we pray, amen.
(Inspired by John 15:1; Jeremiah 31:12; Psalm 139; Matthew 13:18-23; 1 John 4:18; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Titus 3:5; Isaiah 40:31) 

  • Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.
    • *Jennifer Dukes Lee said this in her book, Growing Slow.^ Last year I had the enormous blessing of going through an online course with Jennifer, a woman who wears many hats: writer, editor, mother, and wife of a farmer. So, her book pulls in all the farm imagery as a way to help us lean into this spiritual growth with patience and fortitude. She’s also an amazing follow on Instagram. In fact, she quoted her own book on Insta back in August: “God says you’re a field. He knows the lay of the land that makes you you. He knows exactly how to care for you, cultivate you, and grow you. As long as there is soil, God is always planting.” (It still inspires me!)
    • **A quote from JD Walt in Seedbed’s Wake Up Call (10/19/22). He also says things like: “Fruit is the end of the process, not the beginning. Fruit is not instant. It takes time. Fruit is not ‘produced,’ rather it is borne. And remember, we are not the fruit. The fruit is borne through our lives. Nor are we the seed. And we are certainly not the gardeners. We are the garden. We are the seedbed. …I see the sower as Jesus, the Father as the gardener, the Word of God as the seed, and the Holy Spirit as the waterer and the water.” In later posts of the same series, he brings home the idea of roots and shoots, language that has really stuck with me.
    • ***I have had the We the Kingdom album on replay for a couple of weeks now. Take a listen. You’ll thank me later. 😉 When you do, you’ll notice it has an incredible song entitled, “Count the Stars.” Hear it as God speaking over you. Just wow.
    • ****The Bible Project has a great video on biblical Hope. It gives an overview about hope’s use in the Old and New Testaments and helps us grasp how godly hope differs from the world’s.
    • And, of course our “Revival of Hope” playlist. (When We the Kingdom isn’t playing, this is!!)
  • Rhythms
    • We really do want to persevere in our rhythms. Be intentional every day this week to sit with Gardener God and ask Him to do His work on (and in) your heart. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you trust God and to surrender to the process of having the hard, rocky places of your heart broken up and softened–making it ready for the seeds of God’s Word to root themselves in you.
    • A rhythm that JD Walt has offered up is a simple yet imperative one if we’re to enter fully into this growing process with God. It’s repeating, “Jesus, I belong to You,” every chance you get. Then if you really want to jump into the deep end speak aloud, “Jesus, WE belong to You.” This little truth, planted in our hearts and minds, does its own work of rooting out lies and untruths that block our growth in God. We are created for community–we are part of the starry host of a family that God promised Abraham.
  • And, as community, let us not neglect sharing God’s hope with others. Share your God-stories with people around you. Share this site. Share God’s Word. Shine His light into the world! 

Featured Photo by Wai Siew on Unsplash
^affiliate links with which I may earn a bit

Hope Revival

Even people who don’t typically keep up with the NFL (National Football League) have more than likely heard about the recent collapse of Buffalo Bills player, Damar Hamlin. The night Damar’s heart stopped beating on the football field, everyone present and watching on TV stopped. Right where they were. With bated breath. Praying and hoping that he would live. Even after the ambulance took him away, few moved. Or spoke. Tears flowed from shocked and saddened eyes. And entire teams knelt to pray. 

What was fun-and-games one minute became, in the next, a hallowed coming together of humanity, knitted together by the thread of hope.

Damar lives! Because of quick acting trainers and medics, his heart was revived soon enough that his brain and body were revivable, as well. 

As I’ve thought about this entire experience–from watching Damar collapse, to witnessing the players’ reactions, to feeling my own connection with a man I don’t know–I marvel at the power of hope.

No one gave up on Damar that night, and despite rivalries and all the things that could divide players and fans, our hope for Damar united us. 

Since that night, I’ve found myself pondering the way a flicker of hope can revive us individually and flow through us corporately. Damar’s story is his own, but because of his connection to a team, a city, and a league, his story is also collective. As a result, his revival of life has done a work of revival in many others.

Likewise, a believer’s hope collapses under the weight of cynicism and despair. But hope can be revived–in each of us and all of us.

Dousing the Flames of Hope

I suspect that in the coming year of looking at hope, we will see the concepts of cynicism and despair creep into our conversations consistently because they sit opposite of hope, constantly threatening to douse its flames. 

Like Pandora and her opened box of evils, we get beaten down by the despair of every discouraging, pain-inflicting life experience, pounded so hard that a hopelessness sets in until we believe there is no way forward, no chance for healing, no purpose in the pain.

Like so many, we can look out on the landscape of our country’s politics, racial divides, and economic stresses until skepticism begins to erase all signs of positivity in our minds and hearts. If left unchecked, such negativity settles into a belief that no one and nothing is good, then cynicism taints every thought, word, and action we make. 

Despair and cynicism–Danielle Strickland calls them opposite sides of the same coin.** And, they want to put out the flames of our hope. 

Dying Embers of Hope

Sometimes our cynicism presents as apathy–an attitude of not caring, a sleepiness of sorts. Like watching a fire die out a little at a time till the orange embers turn black. And cold. Our slow cooling happens each time we accept situations and people as they are. My own inner cynic is tempted to believe THIS is the state of the Church–that there’s no changing it. It is what it is. But, that’s not very hope-filled. 😉

Photo by Wil Stewart on Unsplash

Just the other day I lamented to a friend who lives in another hemisphere the state of the Church in America. She zealously encouraged me with her own story and observations as a former-European-now-New-Zealander. 

She told me that growing up in Northern Ireland was probably something like living in the U.S. Bible Belt–lots of churches full of Bible-toting people. But when she moved to London, she experienced the opposite–a secular, Postmodern (post-Christian) culture. Lots of gorgeous, but empty churches. Very few believers pursuing a faith in Jesus. 

Her move to New Zealand revealed a comparable Postmodernism, but with an added layer: a heightened value of hard work and holidays. Added together (long work days/weeks + extended vacations), their culture and lifestyle leave little room for faith and church. However, people who are part of the Church in New Zealand are experiencing a great spiritual awakening!

She explained that Europe (and Europe-like countries) are a generation or two ahead of America in the “gospel cycle:” 

First Generation = gospel-centered
Second Generation = assume the gospel
Third Generation = forgot the gospel
Fourth Generation = no gospel

She sees Europe, and New Zealand by extension, as coming out of that Fourth Generation, birthing a new First Generation. In both places, those who have remained in the Church through all the losses have been purified by long decades of refining. They have emerged from a century-of-slumber awake and on fire for Jesus.  Though small in number, they stand strong in faith and are excited about Kingdom living (and building) here on earth. 

Her word of hope? America will get there too. Right now American Christians tend to either feel so comfortable in our church-going that we’re actually asleep to the gospel (assuming it). Or we find ourselves in the process of God’s refinement, slowly waking up to the reality that our culture is forgetting the gospel–even in the Church. And, depending on location, there’s no gospel at all.

American believers waking up within the Church are simultaneously experiencing the trauma of loss due to the heat of the Refiner’s fire and the work of the Spirit’s revival within us (Ephesians 5:14; 1 Peter 1:7). We feel the pain, but the hope reminds us God is at work! 

Reviving Hope

Wherever you are on the spectrum of hope, whatever your Church experiences, and however you may feel about the word, hope, the one constant thread in all of it–for all believers–is Jesus. 

So, have hope that when Jesus sees you collapse under the weight of doubt and despair, of sleepiness and cynicism, He runs onto the field with Holy Spirit power in His hands, ready to revive you (Acts 1:8). And a great cloud of witnesses surrounds you, praying that you’ll wake up, that a Jesus-anchored hope will do its reviving-work within you (Hebrews 12:1).

As you zoom out of this picture we’ve painted today, notice that Jesus does this work of revival for you, for your teammates… 

And, for your opponents. Because as hope revives, it unifies.

Photo by Hans Isaacson on Unsplash

When everything in us is burned away in the Refiner’s fire, hope remains. Hope flickers to life within us, redeeming everything in its path. And as its sparks fly, those around us catch flame, spreading like the best kind of wildfire–its light pushing out despair and cynicism until a crowd emerges on fire for Jesus, united and driven by this burning hope within–because Jesus. Is. Our. Hope.

Father God, what hope there is in knowing that You never grow weary, that You are always with us ready to infuse us with your strength and power, and that You desire hope to abide in us because of its reviving and unifying power. How good You are to give us this mental picture of someone being revived back to life as a metaphor for what You do in us spiritually. Lord Jesus, what hope it gives us to picture You as our CPR-giver, pumping our cold hearts full of your warm, life-giving power. Thank You for the promises that You are always with us, that nothing is impossible for You, and that those who hope in You will forever be renewed. These truths about who You are fan the flames of hope into roaring fires within us. Holy Spirit, what hope we have each time we remember all these truths–help us never forget. And, help us to recognize the lies that come with despair and cynicism. Remind us that they pretend to have a power that only Jesus possesses and that HOPE IN CHRIST can crush their attempts to defeat us every single time. Holy Spirit, You who come in tongues of fire, ignite within us the flames of hope revived. In Jesus’ name, amen.
(Inspired by Isaiah 40:28-31; Isaiah 41:10; Luke 1:37; Matthew 28:20; 1 Peter 5:10; Acts 2:3)

  • Resources
    • When it comes to digging up truths about a subject, like hope, I grab all sorts of tools. The big shovel is for Scripture–and I’ve had fun uncovering various uses of the word in Hebrew and Greek. Smaller, yet useful, hand tools scrape through other people’s experiences and stories. Then I love sifting through the sands of songs, poems, Instagram posts, and anything else God puts in my path. Here are three I can recommend if you want to do some of your own digging:
      • **Danielle Strickland’s book The Other Side of Hope.* Literally, one side of the book is her story and journey with hope, and the other side is more theological. I’ve just finished this book, and wow! I’ve come away with a much more comprehensive look at how despair and cynicism impact our ability to hope. And the light is beginning to dawn on how much our identity is wrapped up in who God is (or our perception of Him) and how all of this impacts our hope.
      • N.T. Wright’s book Surprised by Hope.* I’m still listening the the audio book, which is fun because it’s British! But it’s also deep and full of theology. I’m still intrigued and learning a lot!
      • And, of course our “Revival of Hope” playlist. I have many songs on this list that I love, but the song, “Revival” by Judah and the Lions–wow. So unique and such a BIG topic (control). So, it’s not a song about hope specifically, but it’s message, “If dying means revival,” really resonates. I’m discovering that so much of this life in Christ means dying to self……..
  • Rhythms
    • Rhythms thus far in our Hope journey: listen to the songs on the playlist, asking God to speak through them, to awaken within us a deeper desire to know His brand of hope; intentionally turn our thoughts to Him when despair and all its relatives demand our attention; ask friends for help.
    • Now we can add: allow ourselves to enter God’s refining fires–however that looks–with the hope (the knowledge!) that the process will ignite within us flames of revival. And that those flames will spread till our Christian family burns with the hope of Christ! Friends, never underestimate the life-giving power of one spark of hope.
  • And, as community, let us not neglect sharing God’s hope with others. Share your God-stories with people around you. Share this site. Share God’s Word. Shine His light into the world!

Featured Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash
*affiliate links with which I may earn a bit

Hope Redeemed

Turn the news on, and we hear story after story that seemingly affirms what we’ve suspected: the world is out of control. Invasions, crime, political divides, corruption, and religious failures scream to our fears, “There’s no hope!” Add to this list our personal burdens–family conflict, financial strain, failing health–and it’s no wonder we’ve become the anxious, hopeless generation.

I watch people’s responses to such stresses and situations. Some choose to stick their head in the sand and pretend life is rosy–”no problems here!” Others have spiraled into cynicism, believing that no one and nothing is any good any more. Still others cling to an optimism that circumstances will get better, much to the dismay of many who can’t see how anything will ever change.

My own responses vacillate among all of these, depending on the day or season. But as I dwell more in God’s presence and Word, a holy unrest has been boiling up in my being–a type of “there has to be a better way” feeling. And as I’ve begun researching Scripture and books about my word of the year, I believe I’ve landed on what I’ve been longing for: a deep, abiding hope. Not in myself. Not in circumstances. Not in people or systems or knowledge. 

But a hope that can only come from God.

It’s Personal

Just this week I sat in a doctor’s office, yet again, lamenting my lungs and their unwillingness to work properly. Tired of the cycles of sickness and fatigue, even more exhausted with not having a name or treatment for what’s going on, I felt myself slipping into despair. Tears flowed. And my thoughts spun negatively into all the superlatives of “always” and “nevers” that only keep me in the cycle of cynicism.

Awaiting test results, I tried clearing my mind in the moment to call on God to help me pull myself together, to stop my mental and emotional spiral–but I’d lost control. So I cried some more.

Then my phone dinged. A group text from my long-time prayer partners asking how we could be praying for one another. My weeping started up again, but this time from a source of gratitude because I was sure God was reminding me that He was, indeed, right there with me. And so were my praying friends. 

I quickly typed out a message asking for prayer, and within minutes my heart rate returned to normal, and peace flooded my mind and body. I was able to process my situation and what the doctor was doing objectively, at last; I rested in the process, asking God to lead the way.

So now I wait. For test results. To see if infection is setting in. But not without hope.

It’s Collective

As I’ve been talking about my word of the year with a few friends, I’ve been surprised by their reactions. One completely pushed back, saying she was sick of hearing about hope. It turns out her workplace shoves the not-so-God-kind-of-hope down the throats of their employees. The word itself elicits quite the negative, visceral reaction in her.

Another friend told me she’s on her own journey with hope because most of her life she’s been afraid to hope. I took her to mean that out of self-preservation, she coaches herself not to hope so that she won’t be hurt. As she reflected on this way of living, she admitted that she gets hurt anyway…

I have a couple of friends who seem to have lost all hope–in anyone or anything–because life has been so hard for so long. As an outsider looking in, I wonder if this loss of hope is tied to their inability to see a way out of present circumstances. Without a “light at the end of the tunnel,” despair sets in for the long haul.

I’m part of a denomination that has been feuding for decades over key things like Scripture, its relevancy and authority. As the schism has become wide and irreparable, the long-familiar feeling of anxiety in our churches tempts us now to fall into the dark pull of despair, as if there’s no hope at all for us or our future.

How about our world? Throw a pandemic and its growing list of ill-effects into the hot mess of war and economy and violence and injustice, and you can very nearly hear the collective sigh of every person on the planet–how will things ever get better?

Despair hovers over our families, work places, churches, governments, nations, and planet like a dark, black cloud that suffocates all life. 

But. 

(There is a but!)

But, despair doesn’t have to win. Without succumbing to circumstance-based optimism or ostrich-like behavior, we can overcome despair with hope.

Redeeming Hope

It all starts with God. And these verses:

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
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 be faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31, NIV

This is my Word of the year. These verses prophesied by Isaiah thousands of years ago still speak a truth to my heart, to each of our situations, and to all our collective challenges. God never grows weary!!!! He never tires of our worries or complaints; He’s never worn out by our constant need for help nor our failure to seek Him when we need it. He is always strong, always present, always ready to give us wisdom and strength.

And all we have to do is put our hope in Him.

My physical WOTY, sitting on my desk. 🙂

So, instead of hearing the word hope and rolling our eyes because it sounds like we’re just tossing a wish out into the wind, we let the Creator of the ends of the earth be our hope. 

Rather than thinking of hope as a watered-down version of a desire that we don’t actually think has a chance of becoming a reality, we can turn to the One who has promised to always hear us, stand with us, and be our hope.

And, instead of avoiding hope because we’re afraid of disappointment or so tired of its overuse, we step into the presence of the Almighty with our hands held wide open, surrendering our will for His. Because Jesus is our hope.

For Today

I don’t have God’s way of hope figured out, but I’m all in, ready to learn and experience everything about His hope. So, for today, I’m choosing to wait on God with a hopeful expectancy that He is at work in ALL of this because I already see that His way of hope is not based on a feeling or situation. Because, to be honest, my lungs still hurt. 

It’s enough that today, despair doesn’t win. It’s enough to see the pinprick of light waaaaaay down at the end of the looooooong tunnel–because I know that light is Jesus.

It’s enough that today, I know hope isn’t about me or another person or anything but God. So, today, I praise God for redeeming hope–for being our strength and the One who gives us new mercies every single day.

Father God, our hope comes from You! What good news–and what hope we have just in knowing that we don’t have to be (in fact, can’t be) the defeaters of our own despair. You are! Thank You for Jesus–the One who overcame death so that we can overcome so much in life. Thank You that as we choose to put our faith and hope in Your love, we delight You and find our strength in You. Lord Jesus, because of You–your life and death and resurrection–we have hope for our future. A future in eternity with You AND a new tomorrow here on earth because in You we find our hope and way forward. Thank You for forgiving us when we treat hope like wishful thinking that worries You won’t come through–or for putting hope in other people or systems or even ourselves. Thank You for being our light in the dark. Holy Spirit, how grateful we are that You pray for us when we can’t pray for ourselves, that You prompt our sisters in Christ to pray for us, and that You remain faithful to be our power to overflow with God’s hope. We pray that You would continue to be our guide and teacher today, tomorrow, and into the year as we surrender our hearts and minds to You and the hope of Christ. In Jesus’ name, amen.
(inspired by Psalm 62:5; Romans 8:22-25, 26-27, 37; Psalm 147:11; Isaiah 40:28-31; John 1:5; Romans 15:13; John 14:26)

  • Throw back to last week — I found the VHS recording of our 1983 ballet of Pandora’s Box. The recording and performances are far from award-worthy, but it was fun to watch what had only been a memory for decades. I posted a few “screen shots” on social media this week…if you’re curious.
  • Resources
    • So, it’s early in this hope journey. I don’t have many resources to recommend just yet. But I will say two books I’m into right now percolate constantly in my mind and heart, and their effects already surface in my writing though I’ve yet to quote them. You’ll definitely be hearing more about them in the coming weeks–if not months.
      • Danielle Strickland’s book The Other Side of Hope.* Literally, one side of the book is her story and journey with hope, and the other side is more theological. And I’m so grateful for both!
      • N.T. Wright’s book Surprised by Hope.* I’m telling you, I couldn’t be more surprised by the content, direction, and depth of this book. But if I’d read the subtitle with more attentiveness, I’d have been better prepared…
      • And, of course our Spotify playlist, “Revival of Hope.” Did you spot the new add this week? Hint: It’s the last song on the list. So good.
  • Rhythms
    • As I read Scripture and the two incredible books I shared above, I’m already awakening to ALL that I don’t know about hope. Sitting in the doctor’s office, allowing despair to consume me, I had a bit of an aha. THIS is one of those moments I need God’s kind of hope. So–what if–one of our hope rhythms is to intentionally turn our thoughts to Him when despair and all its relatives demand our attention. And, just as I learned this week–many times we need friends to help us find our way back into the light of hope. Look to God. Ask friends for help. Amen!
  • And, as community, let us not neglect sharing God’s hope with others. Share your God-stories with people around you. Share this site. Share God’s Word. Shine His light into the world!

Featured Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash
*affiliate links with which I may earn a bit

Hope Remains

She busied herself in the garden, tending to the tender new shoots under the gentle spring sun. But her thoughts betrayed her, harkening back to the forbidden box she’d hidden under blankets and bedding. 

What’s in that box? Why am I not allowed to open it?

Curiosity. A gift from the god of gods that felt more like a curse. It niggled constantly in the back of her mind until it broke loose, demanding to have its way.

I could lift the lid just enough to peer inside. What harm could come from that?

Looking around and seeing no one, she sprinted to her room, threw off the coverings, and grabbed the box. She paused, thoughts still tormenting her in their do I or don’t I tug-of-war. Curiosity gave the final pull, and she lifted the lid.

With no warning, the box jolted open and terror enveloped her. Whisking and whooshing around her, dark cloud-like figures cackled with glee in their freedom. Dropping her head to the floor under the weight of such evil, she despised herself and very nearly gave in to Despair. That is, until she heard a gentle hum and saw a light emanating from the box.*

Heart pounding, Pandora crawled nearer. Peering into the box, she saw Hope remained.

“Pandora’s Box,” by Charles Edward Perugini. Credit: Wikipedia/Public Domain

A Hope-full Solo

I’ve had quite the journey with the Greek myth of Pandora and the idea of hope since 1983, the year I danced my one and only ballet solo–in Pandora’s Box. My fourteen year old self took the role of Hope with great pride and determination, thinking I’d somehow earned this spot and deserved to end my dance career in the spotlight.

But as the years have gone by, I’ve learned that such pride leads to folly–and falls. Despite my naive assumptions, however, that particular dance opened to me a beautiful curiosity about hope.

Early on I claimed the gift of hope as my own, allowing its influence to seep into stressful situations with positivity, into dire circumstances with a faith-filled attitude that God will work it out. And as I mature in my faith, I continue to learn how to hold onto hope even when worry and fear beckon me toward despair.

So as I step into 2023, it is with great eagerness and anticipation that I claim hope as my word of the year. Hope and I have danced together for over forty years, yet my spirit hints to my mind that what I think I know…it’s only the beginning. 

The Hope Chorus

For all the years that I danced in the chorus (or, ensemble) of ballets like The Nutcracker, longing to be the elegant Snow Queen fluttering among us snowflakes, my solo-moment as Hope failed to fill me with the satisfaction I’d expected. In fact, as I look back on that experience, I realize a deeper truth was planted in me–I’d much rather be part of the ensemble. Part of the group experience. Part of a community where we all work together toward the same goal.

Photo by Jess Zoerb on Unsplash

So, even though my fingers may be the ones to tap out these weekly posts, I don’t see myself as a soloist. I see myself as part of the troop, all of us eagerly doing our part to shine the light on the only One who deserves the spotlight. This, my friend, is an invitation to you. Will you join me this year for a dance with Hope? We’ll delve into its meanings. We’ll dig into its implications. We’ll even dare to allow it to enter our true selves so that all that we desire is washed in the cleansing blood of Christ, trusting that darkness will take flight. And the light of hope will remain.

Bolstered by Hope

On the chance that you are one of many believers who are sick-to-death of hope–maybe your workplace puts way too much emphasis on it or you’re tired of all the watered-down “hopes” of the world or you have lost most, if not all, of your hope–I especially extend an invitation to you. God beckons us inward, then outward, so that when we place our genuine hope in Him, something happens within us. We are better able to lay down doubt and fear to pick up trust. Then He asks us to share that hope with others.

In other words, God’s hope is much different and deeper than what most of us have known or experienced. So. I anticipate that this journey with hope won’t be a weak, unempowered, over-indulged, or empty experience. Instead, I have a holy expectancy that God seeks to reveal to us a well of truth about HIS HOPE–because His hope is true and good and oh-so powerful. 

Like Pandora, hope has been gifted to us–to go with us as we walk through life’s pains and problems. God never leaves us to stumble through life’s struggles on our own. His hope always remains.

Father God, how we need You. We confess to You our tendency of both having too little hope in You and too much hope in ourselves and our plans, in others and their power. We turn our faces toward You, with eyes that long to see your light, to absorb your goodness, to have your hope. How grateful we are that hope is found in You. Lord Jesus, your birth, life, and death demonstrate to us how much You love us and how much You trust your Father. We see in You a way to move and breathe and have our being in this world. And as we seek to understand how to put our hope in the life You have for us in eternity, may we feel the power of love and hope sustaining us through all life’s struggles in the here and now. Holy Spirit, what a gift You are! To have You dwelling in us at every moment of every day is a truth and a reality we too often take for granted. We look to You now and for the future to be our guide because we need your help to lead us along the right paths. Your very presence gives us hope. In Jesus’ name, amen. 
(inspired by Job 22:26; Psalm 62:5; Acts 17:28; 1 Peter 1:3-6; Proverbs 3:5-6)

  • *I’ve taken artistic license with Pandora’s story, merging many variations into my own thoughts. I’ve found in my research that neither is there just one Greek myth about Pandora nor any entire ballet about her–much to my shock and chagrin.
    • There were plenty of versions of “Pandora’s Box” to read and watch and listen to. I thought this one worthwhile (though it turns out to be a bit of an ad for Ted Talks in the end).
    • My own curiosity has reached new heights as I wonder what music and dances were included in my studio’s version of Pandora’s ballet back in 1983…
  • Resources
    • If you’d like a more in-depth analysis and explanation of Pandora’s myth, check out this article.
    • The only nugget I found about a Pandora “ballet” turned out to be one six minute song, but I chased that rabbit hole as far as I could. To no avail…never finding a way to listen to it. Here’s the article if you’re as curious as I.
    • And, of course, there’s a Spotify playlist. For now I’m calling it “Revival of Hope” as that is what I truly hope will happen–in us and among us. It’s loosely organized around what I think will be our winter themes. We’ll see!
  • Rhythms
    • Rather than jump in too quickly into all the rhythms we could add to our lives here at the beginning of the year, I propose we keep it simple. Let’s take a listen to the songs on the playlist, asking God to speak through them, to awaken within us a deeper desire to know His brand of hope.
    • Then, as you feel things, learn things, wonder about things, share here! Comment and come back to read what others share. We are, after all, a chorus of believers dancing TOGETHER!
  • And, as community, let us not neglect sharing God’s hope with others. Share your God-stories with people around you. Share this site. Share God’s Word. Shine His light into the world!

Featured Photo by Olga Korolenko on Unsplash

God With Us: Hope

Last night my extended family rang in the new year together as we gathered to celebrate the wedding of two beloved 20-somethings in our family. Like births, weddings intrinsically hold within them much hope–hope for the future, hope for lasting love, hope for starting well so that all that is to come will have a solid foundation on which to build. 

So then, how appropriate it was to usher in 2023 while witnessing the coming together of two hope-filled people in marriage, celebrating in a room permeated with palpable love. Every eye sparkling with joy, and excitement crackling the air–because hope.

Finding Jesus

Similarly, Jesus’ birth brought with it a new beginning, and ultimately a new covenant, for all creation. His leaving heaven and all the power held within its halls to become a newborn baby reveals to us a new kind of hope. A hope born not of our ability to keep the rules but a living hope that cried in the cool of night over two thousand years ago. This was a living sacrifice that would one day require this baby’s body to be given on our behalf. 

Perhaps it was this kind of hope that drew men of science from far off kingdoms in the east to a king recently born in Bethlehem. These magi traveled for months to arrive in a foreign land in search of a baby because of a star. This celestial phenomenon piqued a curiosity that quickly became a pursuit of hope and a quest for presence. 

The men we often call wisemen were not satisfied with their well-kept notes about the star that shone with a unique brightness. And, they refused to justify a decision to remain safely at home, intentionally choosing not to ignore the star’s beckoning brilliance. 

Instead, these magi set out on camels, bearing gifts, to follow the glow in the eastern sky because somehow they knew in their hearts what their calculations couldn’t confirm–a baby boy had been born king of the Jews (Matthew 2:2). Foreigners, who sought Jesus by a star that gave them great joy (v.10), worshiped from their knees upon stepping into His presence (v.11). 

Knowing Jesus

Like the magi of old, we can choose to leave our places of comfort and step into a forever journey with the One who beckons us into His presence. We can choose to ignore lingering doubts that all the scientific proofs fail to answer and step into a faith that is sustained by the Spirit and Word.  

No matter how long you’ve been pursuing Jesus–fifty years or fifty minutes–there’s always more to know about Him. Like the magi, this journey to knowing Jesus is not a short one. It is, in fact, a lifetime of dwelling in His presence, of scouring His Word, of drawing closer to Him through prayer. 

We may never know how the magi’s lives were changed that day they bowed low before the King of Kings, but we do know of their faithfulness–they stayed the course till they knew Jesus for themselves, and they heeded God’s warnings (Matthew 2:12). And their faithfulness demonstrates for us the way to know Jesus most fully, through keeping God’s command to love in truth and deed (1 John 3:18).

God With Us

This year we’ve sought to follow Jesus more fully by learning all that it means to dwell with Him. We can look back to see the ways God has inhabited His world and His people through all generations. We can wrap our minds around the idea of remaining with Him more as a lingering, or a tarrying that is unrushed, uninhibited, and unobstructed by our ideas, our pride, our calendar.

We’ve sought all the ways we can abide most wholly with the Holy One–in body, mind, heart, and spirit. And we’ve taken time to walk with our Good Shepherd, allowing Him space to lead us to every good meadow and river, through every valley and path.

We’ve discovered that Immanuel really is GOD WITH US and that to dwell with Him is to live in peace, with love and joy and hope. 

As we set out into this new year, let’s take all that we’ve learned with us and choose to dwell with our God every moment of every day–and trust that as we dwell with Him, He dwells with us. Jesus is always and ever will be God With Us.  He is our hope.

Stars may not guide us to Jesus today, but the Holy Spirit leads us well. So, no matter what mysteries the future holds, we can take brave steps forward, following the One who will never leave us, never forsake us. He not only knows the future, but He’ll help us navigate all of it–and that is His promise for us as we step into 2023. Our trust in Him is secure because He is Way Maker, Miracle Worker, and Promise Keeper. 

So, let us set our eyes on the horizon of this new year ready to pursue His presence and hope.

  • Rhythms: I don’t know about you, but these last two weeks have been quite challenging as far as keeping rhythms goes. His Word kept me grounded, however, even if I only read in snippets and snatches. And so much of what we learned this year about dwelling in God broke out several times, reminding me to abide in Him–so in the moment I’d say a quick “I love You” prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to help my heart and mind to remain aligned with His. And I’m so grateful for all the ways He sustained me and showed me His joy and love.
    • Week Six Praise Rhythm: Like the star that led the magi to Jesus, stars can continue to be our reminders this week. As we pack away our Christmas decorations or look up into the night skies, we can thank God for showing us His way and for the hope of promises fulfilled each time we see a star.
  • Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.
    • Well, I had to add “Way Maker” to our God With Us playlist. Singing aloud these monikers of Christ helps my trust and faith grow stronger–I hope it does the same for you!
    • Each week this Advent I’ve mentioned Annie F. Downs’ podcast, That Sounds Fun, because it’s really spoken to me in the midst of busyness and disappointments. But no week surpassed my expectations like her first week on Hope.
  • We’re a flock. We’re a fellowship of believers. We’re a community. Know that you are not alone. You’ll walk these paths with Christ at your side and your sisters hemmed around you.
    • As you feel led, share in the comment section. I’d LOVE TO HEAR how the Praise Rhythms help you keep in step with God this season. Do share!
    • God’s hope needs to be shared. One way to do that is to share this site. 😉
Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash

Featured Photo by Alexandra Gornago on Unsplash; Bits and Pieces Photo by Yana Gorbunova on Unsplash

God With Us: Presence

Today we light the fifth candle of Advent in honor of Jesus Himself. Imagine an Advent wreath encircling a looming, white candle, arising from its central place and marking Christ’s presence at the center of our being–personally and corporately. The flame flickers its glow across the room ready for the joy of this Day.

Yet on a Sunday that also happens to be Christmas Day, it’s easy to push that candle to the side and immerse ourselves in the passing of packages, the ripping of wrapping–the presents. 

Giving a good gift is a blessing, to be sure. I personally LOVE the whole process of selecting stashes of goodies to give my loved ones, wrapping them, placing them under the tree–all the while anticipating their joy as they open them.

Yet what I find myself longing for more than anything today is to plant myself and my family squarely before Jesus–the presence.

So how about we pause for a simple moment to nod toward the nativity and remember whose birth it is we’re celebrating, to settle ourselves into His goodness, His peace, His joy, and His love.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Father God, it’s here! The Day we have anticipated for at least four weeks–the Day we celebrate your Son’s arrival on earth as a baby. Born among animals, laid to sleep in a manger. We look upon the nativity and remember this miraculous birth and the ultimate gift You laid before humanity: your glorious Son given to us–fully human, fully divine. Lord Jesus, we celebrate YOU. We look upon that Christ Candle and remember that You remain at the center of all we are and all we do. Your presence, like the flames of Pentecost, alights within our hearts and minds and spirits. You are Immanuel, God With Us! Around us! In us! We pause to take in the truth that You abide within each of us, and we nestle ourselves into You with our hearts and minds aligned with yours, our very essence abiding in yours. Holy Spirit, thank You for dwelling within us. How incredible to remember that we are vessels of Christ’s majesty–that we carry within us the fruit of your abiding Spirit. So we choose to lay aside our expectations and earthly ideas, all our doing and disappointments–right here, right now. And we pick up Christ’s peace, love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. We choose to offer these as the best gifts we could ever give. Thank You for your blessings. Thank You for all the reminders of Who is at the center of today’s celebrations–the nativity, the candle, the gifts around the tree. We ask with joyful humility, Spirit–throughout our day continue to be our reminder of the present of Christ’s presence. In Jesus’ name, amen.
(inspired by Luke 2:1-20; John 1:14; Ephesians 5:1-2; Acts 2:3; Matthew 1:22-23; 1 John 4:13; “Tabernacle” song by We The Kingdom; John 15:8; Galatians 5:22; John 14:26)

Featured Photo by KaLisa Veer on Unsplash
Need some tunes for the Day? Here’s our “God With Us” playlist.

God With Us: Love

Perhaps there is no word more overused in our culture than ‘love.’ 

Love my family.
Love chips and salsa.
Love Jane Austen.
Love Hallmark Christmas movies.
Love a good mystery.
Love my Christmas tree.
Love my friends.
Love a good cup of hot tea.

You get the idea. We tend to L.O.V.E. everything. In all our loving, we lose the potency for the kind of love God has for us. We miss its depths, its sacrifice, its unconditional and long-suffering character–so that when we hear John tell us “God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son…” (3:16), we nod, but the familiarity of those words often prevents us from entering into all that God has done for us–out of His love for us.

God’s Brand of Love

Paul helps us in our attempt to grasp what God’s brand of love is truly like.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-7, NLT

In short, God’s love never flows from a divided, unsure, fickle heart. His love is pure and good and righteous. And it never changes. 

Throughout the Old Testament we get glimpses of this chesed–God’s loving kindness that pours out on a people who vowed covenant love for God yet who consistently turned from Him in every way. They failed to love Him over and over and over.

But God never gave up. He constantly forgave and rescued and demonstrated His love.

  • When humanity’s hearts were only evil all the time (Genesis 6:5), God didn’t fully give up on His creation. He cleansed the earth and started over with the one righteous man. Because of His chesed.
  • When His own people’s hearts turned to pagan idols and practices–like burning babies and twisting the love between a man and a woman into a fertility god’s orgy (Ezekiel 16:20-21; 2 Kings 17:10, 17; 23:4)–God didn’t completely turn His back. He always saved a righteous remnant (Genesis 45:7; Ezra 9:8). He always kept up His end of the covenant because of His chesed.
  • When the Jewish leaders held a list of laws higher than their love of God and oppressed His people with legalism, God still loved them enough to keep His Messianic promise.

Just as in the days of Noah and David and Jesus, God’s love is never dependent on our actions. It’s always there for the giving, for the filling of our hearts. It’s forever ready with forgiveness and grace. It’s unchanging and undefeatable. And there is nothing, not one thing, that can separate God’s love from us (Romans 8:38). 

God’s Love In and Through Us

Paul’s description of this love that is both feeling and action helps ground us in God’s way of loving others, as well (ref. 1 Corinthians 13): 

  • It’s practicing kindness when we’re tempted to want our way–right. now. 
  • It’s patience with the people around us even when they’re missing the mark or flat out failing. 
  • It’s a persevering persistence that chooses to believe and hope and endure no matter the circumstances or situation.
  • It’s putting ourselves second.
  • It’s placing someone else’s needs before ours.

And this way of loving looks much differently than the way the world loves. God’s way is selfless; the world’s way, selfish. God’s way is motivated by hope; the world’s, desperation. God’s way is driven by generosity; the world’s way, greed. 

This patient, kind and unconditional way of loving is the way to love as followers of Christ. However, it’s not all on us to pull this kind of love out of ourselves. Rather, we have a pool to draw from–because He loved us first (1 John 4:19); because love is from God (1 John 4:7); because God is love (1 John 4:8).

Photo by Mauro Sbicego on Unsplash

Love Made Flesh

Our challenge this season, especially as Christmas gets closer and our hearts start pounding with stress–I mean, ONE WEEK TILL CHRISTMAS (gulp!)–is to keep the priorities and perspectives aligned with Jesus’ heart. 

How many times have I had to stop and say to myself: 

  • “This is good enough,” when not one package has a ribbon or bow. Or if all the gifts are stuffed hurriedly into gift bags–reused from last year.
  • “No one else expects this event to be perfect–just me.”
  • “The boys have enough gifts.”
  • “Larry knows I’m doing my best.”
  • “It’s not about how much we spend but the love we give with.”
  • “It’s okay if it doesn’t all get done before the family arrives.”

How many times? Every year. I get so caught up in all the doing or the guilt or the pride that I have to get my heart and mind back where they belong, every single year. In fact, every day I have to return to the source of love.

The love that left the safety and power and glory of heaven to enter earth as the most fragile, dependent creature–a newborn baby. In a barn. On a cold winter’s night. To a teenage mom who was far from home. In a country where a power hungry king killed baby boys to prevent Jesus from growing up to be the King of Kings. This, my friends, is the true love that sources all of creation, that sacrificed EVERYTHING to be here. On earth. With us. 

The One who left His immortality to become immortal.
The One who left His home to become our refuge.
The One who left His glory to become our shelter.
The One who left eternity with His Father to die for His children.

This. Is. Love.

So, when I give myself space to stop and sit in the truth of such love, I am transformed. My temptation to earn favor and love settles into a peaceful relationship of mutual affection. Jesus and I, we just share all the feels. We gush with our gratitudes. We let the tears fall because as we abide with one another, true love is shared.

It’s like nothing on earth.

The change in me is purer motive, kinder actions, fuller heart, more patience, and more holy hope for all those I love so dearly. To pull from that pool of love that exists in me because I dwell in Him is to draw on the living water of love that never ever runs out. It’s a pool I can return to every moment of every day. 

And, so can you.

Father God, You are love. You are full of perfect love, and You love us most and first and best. Your love never ends and never changes. Your love motivates You to keep your promises–even when it means allowing your one and only Son to leave your heavenly presence to come to earth to suffer, to become the bearer of all our sin, and to die on our behalf. That is true love. Lord Jesus, You did all of that for us. You are love incarnate, love divine. You are the living story of amazing love. And now your love dwells in us. We can abide in this love, allowing it to soak into every pore, every bone, every fiber of our being so that fear is cast out and we are made whole. Thank You for this love You have so freely demonstrated and given. Holy Spirit, help us to be good receivers of such love. May all this love that courses through our veins transform us into generous God-lovers who go into our homes and work spaces and churches and stores and restaurants and gas stations–to be love to others. Remind us that loving others is not a box to check off but a heart status that allows your love to overflow from us and splash onto all we meet. We pray, Holy Spirit, You would help us keep love as our highest goal! In Jesus’ name, amen. 
(inspired by 1 John 4; John 3:16; Lauren Daigle’s song “Noel;” John 15:9; Ephesians 3:18-19; John 15:12-13; 1 Corinthians 14:1)

  • In all this talk about kindness and love and forgiveness toward others, it’s important to differentiate in abusive relationships. We need to always have Jesus’ brand of love for our standard to love others AND to be loved by them. Never abused–physically, mentally, emotionally. One place to reach out if you are in an abusive relationship is the National Domestic Abuse hotline: 800-799-7233. Or let your pastor know. Or a friend.
  • Rhythms: When I say that Jesus and I get together and share all the feels, I do not exaggerate. I am a feeler for sure. And getting in His presence is a rhythm I treasure because it keeps my mind aligned with His and my heart full of His love. I can always feel it (of course) when I neglect this rhythm–stress reigns and joy is fleeting. So is my love for others… Today I turned on my Lectio 365 app and just sat with Jesus. LOVE!
    • We’re looking for organic ways to keep our focus on Jesus this Advent by tapping into what’s already around us. Like Christmas trees. So…Week Four Praise Rhythm: Anytime this week you see a Christmas tree, speak a word of thanks to God for the love displayed on the cross.
  • Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.
    • Lauren Daigle is a constant on my playlists, making an appearance twice on our “God With Us” playlist. But one is kinda sneaky because it says “Chris Tomlin.” I’ve listened to “Noel” so many times that it’s become one of my all time favorites. And it captures so beautifully Jesus as love incarnate, love divine!!!
    • The Lectio 365 app really is a great way to immerse ourselves in God’s Word and presence–through prayer.
    • I’m still enjoying Annie F. Downs’ podcast this Advent. She’ll be diving into LOVE all week.
  • We’re a flock. We’re a fellowship of believers. We’re a community. Know that you are not alone. You’ll walk these paths with Christ at your side and your sisters hemmed around you.
    • As you feel led, share in the comment section. I’d LOVE TO HEAR how the Praise Rhythms help you keep in step with God this season. Do share!
    • God’s love needs to be shared. One way to do that is to share this site. 😉
Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

Featured Photo by Jesse Goll on Unsplash

God With Us: Joy

This time of year the word ‘joy’ can be seen and heard everywhere–on decorations, in songs, even on people’s lips. All of which become reminders of just how much we long to have joy in our souls. Instead of just seeing and hearing about joy, we deeply desire to possess it ourselves.

Ironically, it’s this time of year when we are most at risk of losing our joy. We’re overly busy or overcome with grief. We’re lonely. Resentful. Ashamed. Disappointed–again. All the reminders dangling in our line of sight can distract us from true joy.

What if. Instead of fixating on all that has to be done or all the painful reminders before us, we look to the One who came–at this time of year–to make a difference. To change things so that we don’t have to live so swallowed up by the hard and hopeless.

What if. Instead of looking for situational happiness, we seek Jesus’ joy–the inner gladness that remains and strengthens us no matter what is happening around us. 

Finding Joy

The only way to find joy is to find Jesus–like the shepherds in the local field or the magi who travel thousands of miles. Faithful, lowly shepherds receive the news that Messiah is born–then they go to Him. Wealthy, foreign men of science, who know the sky and see a strange star, don’t just jot down notes when they spot the celestial phenomenon; they get up and follow, at great risk and sacrifice.

On the surface, these two groups of men have nothing in common. Until they learn of Jesus’ birth. Each group recognizes the significance of this long awaited Savior, and they are filled with so much joy that they turn their eyes toward Him and get in His presence.

So should we.

It Is That Simple

The last night of His life, Jesus prayed that all His believers would have His joy. That we’d be filled by it (John 17:13). Earlier that same night, He taught His disciples the concept of abiding in Him–like branches to a vine: 

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. …As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

John 15: 5, 10-11, ESV

Abiding leads to fruit. Obeying leads to love. And all this leads to true joy.

Finding joy is not impossible. Joy exists in the presence of Jesus. It is fruit that grows sweeter over time because we’re anchored to the Vine, abiding in His life-giving presence. So, all that’s required for the finding of joy is finding Jesus. Then remaining there.

So, when you hear people like me say Christiany things like, “just dwell in Jesus,” it really can be that simple to find His joy.

It’s also that difficult. 

Like peace, joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Fruit doesn’t appear overnight. Fruit doesn’t come without effort and intentionality. Fruit requires something of us–namely, to abide in the life-giving Vine. In fact, if we close our eyes and picture ourselves, the branches, remaining attached to that firmly rooted, well-established Vine, we become immovable. Anchored.

Yet, I don’t see Jesus telling us to grab hold of Him and hang on for dear life. That seems too fragile, too dependent on our own strength–which fails when we’re unwell, flounders when we doubt, or flees because our grip weakens.

Rather, Jesus tells us His burden is light. That we can yoke ourselves to Him and find rest. And, Nehemiah offers another truth: “the joy of the Lord is [our] strength” (8:10).

Joy As Strength

If we zoom out a bit, Scripture shows us that joy is both a feeling–an inner gladness that comes from knowing and abiding in Jesus–and a function, the strength we need to remain in Him.

If it seems hard to believe joy could be or do two things at once, we need only to look to branches and stems. These marvels of nature simultaneously carry minerals and water from the roots to the leaves and fruit AND food from the leaves to the rest of the plant (re: photosynthesis). I imagine each stem as a two-lane highway with traffic flowing in both directions. One stem. Two functions.

So, maybe we’re beginning to understand Jesus’ brand of dual-actioned joy more fully–it is the strengthening agent Jesus uses to help us cling to Him and the fruit of all our trusting and abiding in Him. But, maybe even more marvelous than the flow of food through branches and stems, is the fact that joy rises up within us because of who Jesus is while at the same time helping us remain anchored to that Source of said joy. Joy is the means and the end (insert mind-blown emoji).

Whatever threatens to steal your joy this Christmas season, friend, it has no power, no hold over the true joy Jesus offers. Be like the shepherds who leave everything to go see Jesus. Be like the magi who risk everything to go find Jesus. Be like branches who are anchored to the Vine. Whatever you do, get in Jesus’ presence because that’s where the joy is. And, on the chance you just don’t think you have the energy or will to go to Jesus, trust that His joy is already at work in you and will give you the strength you need to remain in Him. Here’s a promise, just for you. Keep it close. And trust it:

[God,] You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16:11, emphasis mine

Father God, You are joy. In all your glowing glory and goodness, joy exudes. To step into your presence is to know true joy. We may not see You now, but we believe You and rejoice because of You! We pray to have hearts that receive your joy–and minds that desire and discern the difference between your brand of joy and the world’s counterfeit version. We long to experience the deep inner gladness that remains despite the storms that rage and the doubts that threaten. Lord Jesus, thank You for being our anchor and for praying that your joy would fill us and that your joy would be made complete in us. We know that whatever You pray for happens, so we look to You now with arms wide open–fill us with your joy. Holy Spirit, in your power and profound wisdom remind us continually to abide in Christ. Be our supernatural help to remain in Him throughout each day this week so that our souls become seedbeds for the fruit of joy to flourish within us. So that we become that fruit of joy in the world. So that joy becomes the strength we need to keep ourselves attached to the Vine. In Jesus’ name, amen. 
(Inspired by Psalm 16:8-11, 1 Peter 1:8-9, Psalm 33:21, John 15:5-11, John 16:24, 1 John 5:14, John 14:15-18, Psalm 28:7, Nehemiah 8:10)

  • Rhythms: Eugene Peterson’s “unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11:29) is a phrase I keep close to mind so that I don’t start forcing things like prayer and Bible reading into the busier days of December. Instead, I lean into the grace Jesus gifts us. Instead, I pick up rhythms that fit the season. Like a Praise Rhythm.
    • Week Three Praise Rhythm: As the announcers of great joy, angels abound at Christmas. So, each time you see one this week, thank Jesus for His truth proclaimed–like joy is for all people (Luke 2:10).
  • Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.
    • There are some incredible songs of joy on our Advent playlist. Example: Caroline Cobb in her song, “Hallelujah, Christ is Born,” reminds us that “this is the One we’ve waited for!” Rejoice!! Even as we yet wait…
    • I’ve been listening to Annie F. Downs’ podcast, That Sounds Fun, every chance I get because her Advent series touches on the themes we are here. So far, she’s spent a week on hope and peace. They are short, daily insights that have really stirred my heart and imagination.
  • We’re a flock. We’re a fellowship of believers. We’re a community. Know that you are not alone. You’ll walk these paths with Christ at your side and your sisters hemmed around you.
    • As you feel led, share in the comment section. I’d LOVE TO HEAR how the Praise Rhythms help you keep in step with God this season. Do share!
    • God’s joy needs to be shared. One way to do that is to share this site. 😉
Photo by Andy Cat on Unsplash

Featured Photo by Matthias Cooper on Unsplash; Bits and Pieces Photo by Yana Gorbunova on Unsplash
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God With Us: Peace

The rush of a season meant for festivities often leaves us floundering in a wake of struggle and stress. Hustle shifts, becoming the hectic pace of hurry. Long lists begin to feel like imprisonment instead of empowerment. And plans for peace and joy get swallowed by panic and chaos. 

Will I get it all done?
Will he like his gift?
Will they get along?
Will the money stretch?
Will the grief overtake me?

December has just begun, yet pressure already squeezes with its tight grip. 

So. We pause. 

We take a breath, and we refocus. We move our gaze off the waves that threaten to drown us and onto the Savior who is reaching for us. We let go of our worries that have overtaken our hearts and minds in order to look to the Sovereign One whose plans are perfect, whose burden is light, and whose peace is offered freely.

We look to Immanuel, God with us. Because He knew we would be here. Overwhelmed. Overworked. Over it all–as in, done. He knew we would have trouble (John 16:33). That’s why the Prince of Peace gives us His peace (John 14:27). Our Sovereign God has gone before us with an offering of peace because He knew we would need it.

God’s Brand of Peace 

Jesus desires that we would discern the difference between what the world calls peace and what He provides, so it helps to know what God’s peace is–why Paul says it’s beyond our understanding (Philippians 4:7), and why Jesus says it helps us live unafraid (John 14:27).  

The world’s version of peace often depends on absence. The absence of conflict, for instance. I remember teaching a unit on ‘war and peace’ to my seventh graders years ago. In all my materials, the only definition given for ‘peace’ was the absence of war. The thesaurus offered ‘tranquility’ as a synonym–a word that exudes calm and quiet. In other words, no battles raging.

A few years later, I saw a picture that stopped me in my tracks. A woman standing in the middle of a storm with the look of serenity. Something in me knew before I had done any sort of word study through the Bible that the ‘peace of Christ’ permeates us no matter what’s going on around us or even inside us.

Photo from Crosswalk.com — not the photo, but one that speaks a similar message

Jesus gives, not as the world gives. His peace is perfect. It’s transcendent of our situations. It surpasses our ability to describe it, but when it fills us, we feel its power to push aside all the doubt and dread, angst and apathy. Maybe that’s why the first words Jesus speaks to His fearful disciples after His resurrection is “peace be with you” (John 20:19, 21, 26).

There’s nothing absent in God’s brand of peace–rather, it is full. Full of the power only His presence can bring.

Eirene and Shalom

In the Greek, Jesus’ ‘peace be with you’ carries with it “the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot” (Strong’s, Greek 1515). Tranquil. Assured. Fearless. Content.

Such is the peace from the Greek, eirḗnē, which derives from a root word meaning, “to join, tie together into a whole.” In the Hebrew, its sister word, shalom, also connotes a sense of completeness (Strong’s, Hebrew 7965). Isaiah paints a beautiful picture of this peace:

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”

Isaiah 26:3, emphasis mine

“Perfect peace” is a translation of shalom shalom–Isaiah’s creative doublet, using shalom twice, back-to-back. Jesus, the One who lived as a man on earth, knows the impossibility of achieving such perfect peace on our own. And He sees how our lacking definitions fall short of His shalom–peace that not only gives us a feeling but does a work of completeness and wholeness within us.

So, with all that in mind, I read Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Philippians 4:6-7 with greater understanding and appreciation:

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”

Philippians 4:6-7 MSG, emphasis mine

Jesus knows we need His brand of peace. A peace that comes when all the “essential parts are joined together” (Strongs, Greek 1515)–something like:

Jesus dwelling in us  +  us dwelling with Him  =  perfect peace

Peace and Trust

Isaiah tells us that the only way to displace worry from the center of our lives is to trust God (Isaiah 26:3), yet it’s impossible to trust someone we don’t know. So. As we anticipate the coming of Jesus at Christmas, we can reflect on who He is as we move throughout our days. Our knowing Him will grow our trust in Him. 

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

We can remember that He has been around since the beginning (Genesis 1:1, 26; John 1:1). He has ruled in heaven with all glory and power and honor for eternity yet gave all that up to come walk the earth in flesh. He left His throne in heaven to be a vulnerable baby, a tempted man, and the target of so many. For us.

We can remember that He accepted execution on a cross when He had the power to stop it. He chose to take on all our sins and die a criminal’s death. For us.

We can remember His love. His faithfulness. His joy. His peace. And that He extends all of these. To us.

We can remember that He is always near. That He never leaves us, never forsakes us. That all we need to do is look to Him, to call on Him–and He’s right there. With us.

We can remember that He sent His Spirit. To dwell IN us.

As our trust in Him flourishes, His perfect peace blossoms within us, making us whole and complete. His peace in us pushes aside all worries–because He is able. Jesus is sovereign. He’s been the plan for God’s redemption from the start. He knows the beginning to the end. And He invites us into all of it.

For all these reasons we can thank God for the incarnation because He “knew we didn’t just need someone to look up to but we needed someone to be with us, someone who brings peace and makes peace and is Peace.”**

Father God, we thank You for your sovereign plan of redeeming us to yourself. We’re so grateful that your Son willingly carried out that plan to perfection so that now we get to enter your presence anytime we want to. Lord Jesus–our Prince of Peace–the peace You offer lacks nothing. It covers us in the storms. It fills us when war wages around us and within us. Oh, that we would trust You enough to believe, really believe, that this peace can be ours. Holy Spirit, we need your help to know Jesus well. Prompt us to look for Him in His Word and throughout our days. Nudge us to remember all He has already done for us. Warm our hearts with a love for Him that is fierce and unwavering so our trust in Him keeps our minds steadfast on Him–all the time. Jesus, thank You that you bring peace. May we receive it. Thank You for making peace–in us, around us, and through us. Thank You that You. Are. Peace. Make us whole in You. It’s in your name we pray, amen.

(inspired by Isaiah 53:5-6, John 3:16, Isaiah 9:6-7, Hebrews 10:19-23, John 14:25-26, Ephesians 2:14, 1 Thessalonians 5:23 MSG, Emily P Freeman)

  • Rhythms: The more I lean into the “unforced rhythms of grace” (Matthew 11:29, MSG), the more I desire to do them. In fact, over Thanksgiving week my rhythms all but disappeared, and I lamented their loss. So, this week I’ve loved getting back into the Word and spending time with God. But, as I suspect you know, December’s rhythms are so different than any other time of the year. My rhythms have to adjust accordingly for this season. I’m happy to say that an added rhythm has been spending time with good friends–such life-giving gifts they are!
    • Another way to keep our focus on Jesus this Advent is tapping into what’s already around us. Like flames. So…Week Two Praise Rhythm: Anytime this week you see flames (ie: candles or fireplaces), speak a word of thanks to God for the peace that comes with trusting Him.
  • Resources: I love sharing with you the books, podcasts, articles, and anything else that has inspired, encouraged, or taught me. These are humble offerings with no expectations.
    • This week Spotify sent out our “2022 Wrapped” details. It was fun to relive the songs and artists that have filled my year (and ears–haha). So many hours of listening to playlists that strengthen faith and encourage my spirit!! You might notice I added a song to our “God With Us” playlist this week. Matt Maher’s “Glory” speaks to so much of what we’re discovering about God’s brand of peace. Enjoy!
    • **You’ve heard me mention Emily P Freeman here before. I love her books and podcast. In her her October ’22 newsletter, she actually said: “Thank God for the incarnation, who knew we didn’t just need someone to look up to but we needed someone to be with us, someone who brings peace and makes peace and is Peace.” It’s still rocking my world.
    • I do love a great resource to help me dig into the original languages of Scripture. And when they’re online, it’s even better! Biblehub.com has been my go to for a while now. It’s where I can read a passage in its original language alongside English, then click links to get to deeper meanings and connections as collected by the Strong’s Concordance. I sat in awe as I read Isaiah 26:3 to see “shalom shalom!” I know I’m FAR, so very far, from the first person to see that. But I kinda felt like I’d discovered a treasure. You can see for yourself here.
  • We’re a flock. We’re a fellowship of believers. We’re a community. Know that you are not alone. You’ll walk these paths with Christ at your side and your sisters hemmed around you.
    • As you feel led, share in the comment section. I’d LOVE TO HEAR how the Praise Rhythms help you keep in step with God this season. Do share!
    • God’s peace needs to be shared. One way to do that is to share this site. 😉
Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

Featured Photo by Guillermo Casales on Unsplash