Always Listen to Hope

This morning in church, I remember the day a wise friend told me that the Holy Spirit is always a voice of hope. “Don’t listen to any voice that isn’t hope,” she said. I was still a teenager, and my heart felt like a storm every day. I thought nothing would ever change. I thought God could never heal someone like me who had strayed too far. I thought God had no future for me. Sadness was my skin.

But that day with my friend, I remembered hope. It was a little whisper, a flick of a thought, a color that flashed across my soul. Hope was in there; I just had to hear its music again. It was settled deep in there, and I had to stir it all up like snow in a snow globe.

I remember that God is a Spirit of Hope (Romans 15:5). Some mornings, the old despair returns, and I have to choose hope. I cannot listen to discouragement or fear. And I’m trying to teach my daughters how to wear hope like skin. I’m trying to tell them that they must always listen to hope and no other voice.

My daughter reports with joy her Sunday school lesson on John 15 and how, if she stays close to Jesus, her life will bear fruit. She sounds so hopeful as she explains the gardening metaphor. “If I’m an apple seed, I will bear apples. I don’t need to be an orange or wish I were a banana tree if I’m an apple.

I think about self-acceptance and surrender. I think about how God ordains the life we have and how it took me 40 years and a book to articulate this very thought. She is talking about comparing her life to others, especially in school and when she sees other girls excelling in so many ways.

I see hope in her for the first time in days. Then, later, as we’re walking the neighbor’s old dog (the one we have to walk so slowly because she’s so very old), she says, “And do you know what? I shouldn’t worry if other girls seem so happy and have wonderful things happen to them. It’s like they have sunshine in their lives every day. I get jealous of all that sunshine. I have dark days. And then I thought of the gardener and vine. When I am having dark days, I remember that some plants need shade to grow best. My life may need more shade than others, and this is how I’ll grow.”

Some plants need more shade to grow.

Yes. I’m crying as I type this because she is already listening to hope. She tells me I can share her hope with others. If it’s a sad day, remember that some plants grow best in shade. 




A Message in the Clouds

It’s raining.

I look up into the clouds.  Rain falls because the water vapor becomes too heavy.  It leaks out. 

Yesterday, a friend remarks that when we are filled with God, He leaks out.  He overflows. 

It’s as natural as rain falling. 

You need upward motion (cooling the water vapor, making it heavier) and moisture (from various sources) to get that cloud so saturated that it leaks out rain.   

I want to be soaked with God today.  Moving upward, adding in moisture, I want to leak out radical love.  There’s nothing I have to do but fill up.  And the result can nourish whatever earth it falls upon. 

Living with flair means I soak up and leak out. 

Journal:  What’s a favorite way to soak up God? 


It’s Like Victoria Falls

Last night, I show my daughters the footage from Discovery Channel’s Human Planet of the fisherman in Zimbabwe who brave a waterfall to catch their supper.  As the greatest source of natural power, Victoria Falls cascades down for 360 feet.  We watch, fascinated at the beauty and power of it.  It’s a sublime encounter just to experience it in film:  I feel fear and wonder simultaneously.

Later, I’m reading a book about the power source of God within us.  The author compares knowing God to having power deep within that far surpasses even Victoria Falls.  I’m struck by the fact that I had just seen the footage of this waterfall two minutes before.

I think about that power.  It seems a little terrifying, a little dangerous.  But it also seems beautiful and wonderful.  It’s a visual reminder I can’t stop thinking about today.  Is the power of God like that in me?  And what do I need power for?

For everything.  I need God’s power for everything, especially that very thing I think I cannot do.

I send a message to a struggling mother to tell her about this power within her.  “It’s like Victoria Falls.  Remember that.”  

Living with flair means I tap into that power source today.

(photo, “Victoria Falls Zambezi,” Creative Commons, author Zest-pk)
Journal:  Do I live like I have that power within me?  What would I dare try if I was certain of this power? 


The Home You Take With You

This morning, I remember my daughter’s explanation of “The Warm Welcome” from October.  As I clear the breakfast dishes, refold the green blanket on the couch, plump the pillows, and reposition the bright yellow daffodils in a cobalt blue vase, I tell her I’m orchestrating my own Warm Welcome.

I want to come home to order and beauty. 

In church, I think about the inner landscape of home and the Warm Welcome I have when I respond to God.  As the poet writes in Psalm 90, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout the generations.”  I come home to that spiritual dwelling place within my own heart where the Holy Spirit waits for me, and I find the kind of peace and sanctuary I need.  I’m home. 

It’s not a location.  I carry it with me. 

That means it doesn’t matter where I am.  And it means I can offer others a dwelling place they can have with them always, even when they are very far from home. 

Journal:  What does it mean to be “home”? 


When You Stop Resisting God

Last week, I was asked to write a piece on depression and Lent for The High Calling.  At my lowest point, I imagined God asking the question, “Will you live the life I ask you to live?”  I was humbled and so encouraged by the comments on this little essay called, The Best Question.  (Click the link and enjoy.)

Yesterday, I’m walking to the vernal pond and recalling that depression.  I remember how many years I resisted the reality of my life.  It didn’t look like it was supposed to.  But God knows what I don’t know; He sees what I don’t see.  But I wasn’t ready to surrender. 

Humbled again, I’m silenced as I walk in the woods.

We find our secret pond, and on the surface, I see the blue sky reflected. 

My daughters peer deeply, waiting patiently.  All of a sudden, we see the new frog and salamander eggs.  They might even be turtle eggs. 

Then, the water’s surface trembles:  little salamanders, spotted bright red and orange dart beneath the leaves.

Can you see that one hiding?  

I look out, and I see an entire pond filled with eggs, and tiny creatures move about everywhere. Those white cottony puffs are great big globs of frog eggs.  Next week, we’ll see unimaginable numbers of tadpoles.

As I think about my life (the one I resisted all those years), I hear another whisper of the Spirit.  I look deep into that pond, and I see how fertile, how bountiful, how rich and teeming this exact spot is.

This very spot where I find myself (no matter how wrong) will produce life in abundance as I cooperate with God.  And when nothing seems to be happening, I just have to look beneath the surface.  

Journal:  Will I live the life God asks me to live? 


A Short Rant (I Never Thought I’d Be Ranty)

A popular blog I read this morning suggested that one pathway to happiness is to “imitate” a spiritual master–someone like Jesus.  I cringed.  The not-flair bells rang.  I frowned and felt the same way I do when somebody tells me to just “try harder” and I’ll find holiness.  It’s just not true.  Telling a person to imitate a spiritual master to find real life and joy is like telling a cardboard box to act more like a computer in order to come alive.

Imitation doesn’t change the inherent problem I have.  I need an infusion of grace, not an imitation of one.    

Imitating a master is also like telling two people to stare at each other and imitate a relationship.  I don’t want to imitate love.  I want to be in love.  Imitation isn’t the trick.

A relationship with God is a romance.  It’s an infusion of power, of love, of joy, of deeply knowing.  It’s not imitating a master or doing what Jesus would do.  That kind of life doesn’t work.  It never has.

That’s why the gospel is good news.  I want to know Jesus and have him give me the power to live the life I’m supposed to.

Christianity isn’t a religion of imitation–of acting more like Jesus.  It’s exchanging our weaknesses for his strength, for inviting his presence into our lives, and for depending on his love and peace on a daily basis.

It’s not imitation.  It’s infusion.

I’m off to the pool.  My children have been in their bathing suits since 8:30 AM.  The towels and sunscreen are all in a row.  The snacks are ready.  The goggles are tightened.  We could sit on the couch and imitate swimming, or we could dive into that delicious water.  I think I know what we’ll choose.   Living with flair means I’m experiencing a life of joy, not imitating one.