Into

Into the normal of a borrowed room the Bread of Life memorialized

His hope remains

Into the fog of the garden the Vine agonized

His connection remains

Into the mockery of the temple the Door submitted

His welcome remains

Into the denial in the courtyard the Good Shepherd understood

His forgiveness remains

Into the torture of the flogging the Way, the Truth, and the Life endured

His love remains

Into the abandonment on the cross the Resurrection and the Life embraced

His victory remains

Into the darkness of the tomb the Light of the World invaded

His promise remains

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

In the Ditch

This week I toured a new residency for a nonprofit whose mission is to provide homeless women and men with mental health challenges a hope for the future. Second Heart Homes is the name of this Sarasota-based nonprofit.

The facility my colleague and I toured-the first residence in their program designed for women-just opened in December. At the moment, three clients are in the program; the facility will eventually be prepared to house 12 women.

My first visit in one of Second Heart’s Homes was in the fall of 2020. I revisit that first tour every time I enter a new residence. Each visit in each residence breathes new life into everyone in the room. Why? Because their is love and hope in each heart and smiles on each face.

Yet, the reality remains that behind that smile is a heart and mind with wounds waiting to be healed. Steps have been taken to start the healing, but the journey has just begun.

This hit home as I heard a simple illustration about one of the new clients in the women’s facility. Although she’s been there for several weeks…although she was friends with one of the other women before moving in…although she no longer has to rely on the Salvation Army for shelter each night, she has to have lights on and her purse is under her pillow while she sleeps.

Take a moment. Imagine what’s behind these necessities.

The image of a purse under a pillow stuck with me. Many thoughts went through my mind, so many to chew on. The one that I most appreciated was this: Thank God someone got in the ditch for this lady.

True empathy cares about not just providing a pillow but what it might be used to protect. True empathy gets in the ditch.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Groaning (Part 3)

In Parts 1 & 2, I shared that we are all born groaning and how that viewpoint can encourage grace giving to ourselves and to one another.

That grace choice isn’t always natural. In fact, it goes against our groaning nature. Left to our instincts, we reach for anything to ease our groaning without considering the impacts of that reaching. Grace isn’t natural.

So back to those four verses that started this series, when you finish reading the rest of that chapter, which I’ll include at the bottom of this post, you see how hope and grace are made possible. They are both made possible by a supernatural grace choice-a choice only explained by love.

God saw his creation groaning. He was there for the first groan. And in that moment, he offered grace. He made a plan. He made a choice-the only choice available to stop the groaning. He chose to enter the groaning, to embrace it in order to crush it.

Chilling. There isn’t a human groan God didn’t feel and now doesn’t remember. He saw them and chose to experience them in order to redeem them…forever.

As you read the rest of this chapter, pause after each verse. Consider a prayer of thanks between each verse. Voice a prayer of adoration, of worship, of awe, of victory because you do not groan alone.

Romans 8:26-39

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[b]

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[c] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Photo by Pinakeen Bhatt on Unsplash

Groaning (Part 1)

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

These verses precede one of the most quoted verses from the New Testament. Back to that later.

Recently I’ve been meditating on this passage, particularly focusing on the groaning references. In the past I’ve always focused on two elements of this teaching by Paul (hint to where these verses are found).

  1. Creation is groaning. So the challenges of our physical world-storms, fires, droughts, etc.-illustrate this.
  2. The next two verses that follow (familiar verses about prayer) mention wordless groans through which the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. Praying is groaning.

I’ve taken a third focus lately that has brought further peace and clarity to a believer’s identity. And the focus follows this thought pattern:

All of Creation is Groaning

>Humans are part of Creation

>Humans are Groaning

Strange as it may sound, I find freedom in that truth. Not necessarily comfort or satisfaction. But this different view of our status brings deeper understanding. I’ll put it in three points:

  1. We’re all born groaning
  2. Shared groaning births grace
  3. God chose to enter our groaning

Growing up in the church, I’ve heard “we’re all born sinners” all my life. I’ve never heard anyone say, “We’re all born groaners.” All of my being is groaning. My spirit groans. My mind groans. My body groans. I was born this way. And there’s nothing I can do about that.

Although that’s true, I can do at least two things according to these two verses. First, I can wait eagerly for the groaning to end. In other words, rather than sulk over my status I can look forward to what’s ahead in eternity. Second, I can foster hope. Yes, my groaning spirit and mind and body produce stuff I don’t like; but I have the option to choose to humble all of myself to the Holy Spirit who gives me hope by being with me in that groaning.

I was born groaning and continue. It explains much. But there’s more. Stay tuned for Part 2 & 3.

Photo by Felipe Palacio on Unsplash

Now Hope (book review)

If you use the Bible reading app YouVersion, here’s a tip you may not know:

Many of the devotional plans are based on books, many written by pastors. Often, this is how I find books that I haven’t heard of and end up reading.

That was the case with the book I just finished, “Now Hope” by Paul De Jong.

This book is very accessible by all readers. I would describe it as a book of 19 devotionals designed to provide “tools to develop a hope-filled and expansive future.”

Although each devotional is good, the best tool of the book is the introduction. De Jong makes clear how foundational hope is to life, particularly the life poised to receive God’s promises. Quoting 1 Corinthians 13, he discusses the links between faith, hope, and love. His point is all three are needed “to reach the finish line and experience God’s promised outcomes.”

The devotional that provides the best mindset for pursuing hope is in Part Two: Hope Confronts Survival with Significance. In Hope Develops Expectation, De Jong outlines four levels of living:

  • simply survive
  • live an average life
  • commit to impact the world
  • influence the world by fully engaging the gifts God gives

Expectation means you’re going to believe for more, turn up earlier, resist giving up, and focus on the God who can. You’re going to be looking for more in every day and in every season. You’re going to be thanking God for the little things. Make a decision in the now to live on the higher ground of greater levels of expectation.

Hope Rising (book review)

Many years ago while working on a personal values exercise, the word hope surfaced as a personal guide. So it’s no wonder that two connections (work and church) I’ve made in the last year carry that same guide.

And it goes to reason that the book I just finished reading stands out as meaningful. Hope Rising by Casey Gwinn and Chan Hellman hits the mark in explaining much of the challenges our country wrestles with daily. Many people have low hope, and therefore their lives follow down the road to hopelessness.

Hope is a verb involving action and the ability to change the future.

The crust of their objective is to help readers grasp the importance of goals, pathways, and willpower in what they call the science of hope. They recite many research results (there are over 2,000 published studies on hope) that indicate how the concepts move people from low hope to high hope, thus hope rising. The book contains numerous stories of people with low hope working on rising their hope.

We act based on what we believe not based on what we know.

In order to know where you are on the hope scale, they share several examples of domains (academic, health/fitness, family, romantic relationships) where you can assess your hope level. Quite insightful. To take the general evaluation, follow this link to hopescore.org.

They make a believable argument that hope impacts education, work, and health, which certainly impact families and personal growth. This has led them to focus on providing support for children and adults who have experienced trauma in their lives and struggle with hope.

Hope is not a step in life; it is a stance.

Who should read this book?

  • It wouldn’t hurt anyone to read it
  • Anyone who has had any hint of trauma in their life
  • Anyone who works with children
  • Anyone who works with trauma victims
  • Coaches
  • Ministers
  • Counselors/Psychologists
  • Anyone desiring hope to rise

Bring On The Hope!

I’m giving myself a double dose of hope these days in my reading. First, with this book…

Second, with a youversion reading plan by Paul De Jong entitled “Now Hope.”

This quote stood out to me in my reading today:

The level of hope we have today is an indicator of the level of character we’ve developed.

He believes that based on Romans 5:3-4 where Paul wrote that “tribulation produces, perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

We don’t like it, but we know it’s true. So what if we decided to like it? Like spinach. I didn’t like spinach as a kid. Now, I’m a fan. My taste buds have developed.

Given the right time and attention, we can choose to embrace hard times. Rather than run or sulk or wallow, we can declare, “I’m all in for whatever is about to be developed. Bring on the character. Bring on the hope!”

Photo by Paolo Bendandi on Unsplash

In The Middle: Where Healing, Conversation, and Change Happen

Tyler Perry’s acceptance speech resonated with me because his story and language align with an affirmation God gave me last week.

Not everyone is called to be in the middle. One could argue that, so maybe a better way to put it is not everyone is ready to come to the middle.

If you are in the middle, know that your hope isn’t in victories. Your hope can’t be but in one person, the One who put you in the middle. He has lifted you up. Keep pointing people to the One that can lift them up.

What’s Left

God is still the God of what’s left. -Jentezen Franklin, Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt


This quote is in chapter 11, “Fight for Your Family.” Franklin’s point is that whatever the status of one’s family there’s still something left. Now is the time to let God be God of whatever’s left. Encouraging. Hope-filled.

How ’bout we broaden the story? Like…

  • God is still the God of what’s left of your company
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your marriage
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your friendship
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your finances
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your church
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your neighborhood
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your government
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your health
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your education
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your parenting
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your career
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your retirement
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your life

This Life is Just a Dot

Yesterday I posted thoughts from Bruce Wilkinson’s book A Life God Rewards. Before leaving that, here’s one other quote that could impact your day.

Most of our life happens after our physical death.

That’s “chew worthy.”

Of course, he’s referring to the belief of eternal life. Can’t say I’ve heard anyone put it like this. Gives it fresh reflection.

To make it more clear, he gives six main events of forever life: Life, Death, Destination, Resurrection, Repayment, and Eternity. The thought that this life we know is just a dot on an unending line might bring you joy or fear. Wilkinson’s objective of his book is to help you not wonder or worry about what might await you outside the dot. What you believe and how you live now can give you hope for the rest of “most of your life.”

Chew worthy.

Photo credit: Nick Fewings on Unsplash