“Grace Guy”

“My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Jesus, Matthew 11:30

My friend Glen approached me before church last Sunday–as always with a smile–and mentioned he’d been reading my weekly columns for “a while now.”

Glen is a trained chaplain (hospitals, etc.), is an astute Bible guy, helps out in seemingly every ministry in our church, and it’s encouraging to know he takes the time to read my weekly heartfelt but un-trained offerings.

Still smiling, he added, “…I think I’ve figured out that you’re a grace guy.”

A “grace guy.” I liked that. But then looking at the expression on his face more closely, I felt compelled to inquire, lightheartedly, “Is that OK?” 

“Um, yeah!” he responded, still smiling but with a moment’s hesitation.

Noticing the pause and myself not being one to miss a sardonic opportunity, I asked, “Do you prefer punishment?” He laughed and said, “No!… Well… maybe.” 

I responded, with a wink. “Well, it does help to control the flock.” Then it was time to go into the service and that conversation was over. But it got me to thinking…

The Apostle Paul wrote 13 books of the New Testament and in every one he offers the greeting, “Grace and Peace.” Jesus, in the Gospels, is constantly telling us He is the truth, the way to God, the life of God, and in so many words, the face of God. Jesus came to help, not to harm; yes, to set us free from our sin but mysteriously to “enslave” us in His own goodness, protection, and love. Punishment?  No.

It is beyond weird that a “slave” in this life who finds Jesus is set free (think of worldly sinners), and a free person who finds Jesus becomes a slave (think of Paul). And I’m not talking about the slave trade; I’m talking about humanity’s spiritual tendency to bind itself to evil because of fear, guilt, greed, pride, and self-righteousness, with a perpetual sense of inadequacy or debt when it comes to an encounter with goodness.

Jesus, you see, is goodness. Jesus knows what is best for us. Jesus, Son of God who is also God–another mystery–models God’s plan of self-sacrificial love that defeats evil. Jesus is our only “way” out. He is the “truth” we can trust. He is the “life” we can live in freedom now and in God’s eternity forever. Jesus didn’t “trade” His life for ours; He showed us perfect love and obedience. His lesson isn’t what we “owe” for our sins; His lesson is what we must do, how we must love, and how we must obey.

My life goes sour when debts overwhelm me. I know what it is to be bankrupt. The parables of Jesus not only teach us about the Kingdom of Heaven but they also instruct us in the impossibility of repaying divine gifts. Think of the overwhelming amounts in the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35). The lesson is not the enormous amount; the lesson is the enormous mercy–and justice–of the master.

Praise God for the enormous mercy of our master, Jesus. Praise God that what Jesus desires is not repayment or guilt, but that He blesses our faith in Him and our love, mercy, and compassion for others. Guilt never builds a loving relationship.

In Matthew 11, quoted above, Jesus invites the weary to rest in Him. His well-fitting yoke helps us work together easily and productively. His demands are worthy and uncomplicated: “Follow me.” The greater we trust, the greater we love. Grace abounds.

I would not trade that love–or grace–for anything.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) is thankful, not burdened, by Jesus.  It is the world that is a burden, and the world that demands repayment. Grace is divine.

Human Trafficking Awareness

Tuesday, October 15, 2019 | 7–8:30PM
First Church of the Nazarene (2734 S. Washington St., Kokomo, IN)

Hope Center in Indianapolis is a residential campus for women survivors of sex trafficking.  The nonprofit’s mission is “to transform the lives of women exiting sex trafficking by providing a Christ-centered approach to healing, self-sufficiency, and reintegration into the community.” For more information, see hopecenterindy.org.

Pastor Hubert Nolen, the Executive Director of the Hope Center, and other leaders will share about the lives God is changing through the Hope Center.

Please pre-register by calling the First Church of the Nazarene office at (765) 453-7078.

A love offering will be collected for the Hope Center.

Hubert Nolen is a Co-Founder of Hope Center Indy and serves as the Executive Director and a Board Member. He is the former Senior Pastor of Brookville Road Community Church in New Palestine, IN, and pastored there for 33 years. Under Pastor Hubert’s leadership, the congregation grew to more than 1,000 members with an annual operating budget of $1.1 million, which has provided millions to world missions and church planting. Pastor Hubert was instrumental in establishing more than 70 churches globally including in India and Brazil. He earned his B.A. in Bible and Pastoral Ministry from Barclay College and completed graduate studies at Asbury Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Seminary.

In 2015, he took notice of a promotion video featuring a young woman on the verge of taking her own life because of heartache she had lived through from a violent past. Subsequently, she found hope when she discovered an organization where she was given a second chance. Pastor Nolen felt prompted in that instant to launch a center where victims of human trafficking from coast to coast and all walks of life could find a place to heal and recover from the effects of human trafficking. He and his wife, Tonia, have been married 40+ years. They have five children, seven grandchildren, and live on the family farm in Shelbyville, IN.

The Hope Center

In 2018 alone, 85,613 human trafficking victims were identified worldwide.

“This is an urgent humanitarian issue. My Administration is committed to leveraging every resource we have to confront this threat, to support the victims and survivors, and to hold traffickers accountable for their heinous crimes.”

President Donald J. Trump, 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report

Ashley Bratcher on What Pro-Life Means to Her

By Catherine Yang
Originally published and updated September 11, 2019 in the Epoch Times

Actress Ashley Bratcher had no idea who Abby Johnson was. The role came to her in a completely unorthodox way.

One day, Bratcher received a comment from an Instagram stranger who told her she would be perfect for this part.

“She said, ‘Ashley, I have been praying for you for about this year, and God is telling me that you’re meant to play this role.’” 

Bratcher thanked her, and then ignored it, because it sounded crazy.

“It was the strangest thing,” Bratcher said.

But a while later, the commenter came back around, and told Bratcher she was really meant for this role, and if she could just please take a look.

She relented, and agreed to look at a few pages of the script.

Abby Johnson was funny, witty, and charismatic. From the pages Bratcher had, she had no idea it was the story of a woman who was responsible for 22,000 abortions, and who would do a complete 180 on her position.

Bratcher auditioned for the part.

“I learned that she was a real person, and after the audition, I thought that the character was really cool,” Bratcher said. “So I wanted to look her up and see what she was like in real life.”

“And it was then I heard her testimony for the first time, about what she saw, and what happens during the abortion procedure,” Bratcher said. It hit her, emotionally and spiritually. “I was absolutely floored.”

Ashley Bratcher in “Unplanned.” (Unplanned Movie)

“I knew that this was something that I wanted to be part of, and I wanted to make sure the world heard the story,” Bratcher said. “From that point on, I was really all in, and ready to just take on the role.”

Unplanned

Abby Johnson is a former Planned Parenthood clinic director; she’d worked for the organization for eight years and in that time rose to employee of the year. Later that year, in 2009, Johnson quit.

Not only did she quit, but she turned to a pro-life organization because they were the only people who understood. And then she spoke out about what she had seen, shocking millions with the truth of abortion.

Johnson had been with the organization, recommending abortions to women, for eight years before she had ever seen the abortion procedure take place via ultrasound, because Planned Parenthood didn’t do it that way. It was only when she was asked to assist an outside doctor with a procedure that she saw it take place—and learned it was common that the baby, still a fetus, would jump away from the abortion instruments, before being dismembered and suctioned out.

It turned her worldview upside-down, and was the final nail in the coffin. In press conferences and talks around the country, she exposed Planned Parenthood as an abortion-driven business, aiming to increase their sales, rather than a health provider as it claimed to be. She’s written her story down in the memoir “Unplanned,” and the film “Unplanned” came out earlier this year.

Abby Johnson. (Abby Johnson)

Today she also runs the ministry And Then There Were None, which supports abortion workers who want to transition to other careers.

Johnson and Bratcher didn’t meet until halfway through production, but they talked on the phone and texted constantly and became fast friends.

It was an intense seven weeks of filming.

“I was cast and I had a four-hour notice to get on a plane,” Bratcher said. She had a hundred pages of lines and appeared in nearly every scene of the movie, and she dove right in.

Ashley Bratcher in “Unplanned.” (Unplanned Movie)

Before “Unplanned” Bratcher’s stance on abortion was a common one in the current cultural climate. She personally didn’t want to get an abortion, but didn’t want to stand in the way of women who felt they needed one.

“I wasn’t really familiar with the pro-life movement,” Bratcher said. But in the few days she had to prepare for the role, she was researching non-stop. She watched all sorts of videos and talks, and heard Johnson’s story for the first time, reducing Bratcher to tears.

“It was a lot,” Bratcher said. “It was probably the biggest undertaking I’ve ever had as an actor.”

In the film “Unplanned,” actress Ashley Bratcher plays Abby Johnson, a clinic director at a Planned Parenthood located next door to a religious pro-life charity named 40 Days for Life. Johnson’s encounters with the organization’s prayer group members ends up changing her life. (Courtesy of Unplanned)

The “Unplanned” story put a face on the victim. “Knowing that and seeing that in my research just really blew my mind—to think that I’m my age and I had never known what really happened,” she said.

Another twist in Bratcher’s own story occurred while filming was underway. It was on set when she learned that she was almost aborted herself.

Bratcher had already known her mother had an abortion at age 16, and wanted to share this story she was working on as it was about mercy and forgiveness. But as she was describing the story, her mother broke down in tears, and told Bratcher that when she was 19, and pregnant with Bratcher, she had decided to get an abortion. She was on the clinic table before she had this gut feeling she couldn’t go through with it, last minute, and left.

Bratcher told Fox & Friends she later confirmed the story with her father, who told her that they didn’t think they could afford a child, and couldn’t even afford the abortion. To pay for the abortion, he had pawned a family shotgun—that was the price of her life.

Bratcher is often asked whether she was worried the film would negatively impact her career. Twitter had suspended the film’s Twitter account and revoked its ads, and a number of television networks refused to run its advertisements. The filmmakers have protested the R rating given to the film, which prevents minors from seeing it. But Bratcher says she is fearless, because she knows where she stands.

Despite efforts to limit the distribution of the film, “Unplanned” hit No. 1 in DVD sales on Amazon and received rave audience reviews.

Selfless Love

Bratcher got into acting almost by accident. In her last year at college, she needed to take an elective and chose an acting class on a whim, since she had fun in theater classes in high school.

“It kind of ignited that fire inside of me,” Bratcher said. On stage, she had escaped. She wasn’t Ashley Bratcher, whose mortgage was due and had to go grocery shopping later. She got to tell someone’s story.

Then, out on a date with her high school sweetheart—now husband—at the North Carolina State Fair, she saw a big booth with a sign: “Do you want to be an actor?”

Bratcher signed up, and auditioned for a local commercial—and got the part. From there an agent took her to New York, where she auditioned for a hundred managers and agents, and received over 20 offers.

“It just made me realize, ‘Oh, wow, I can actually do this,’” Bratcher said.

But at the time, it was driven by a desire for fame, and Bratcher, who is competitive by nature to begin with, said she had more or less been living with a selfish mindset. Life was about what she wanted, and what she could get out of it. She moved to New York and lived an emotionally and spiritually exhausted life battling rejection. One acting workshop planted some positive seeds, when she was tasked to write a letter to herself.

She had to write down why she decided to become an actor, and what it meant to her, and what sort of impact she wanted to have with her career.

“That was the first time where I said, ‘I do have a serious, legitimate reason for wanting to be a part of this,” Bratcher said. “From that moment on, I always took that letter to heart.”

“In the last couple of years … I have been able to be a part of stories that I feel give people a sense of hope,” Bratcher said. “I wanted to be part of telling really good stories that did something good for people on the inside.”

Much of this is rooted in Bratcher’s faith, which hadn’t been a big part of her life until she became a mother herself.

“I had my own unplanned pregnancy,” Bratcher said. She had just started acting, with few results, and her husband had graduated college and had a job, but neither really had a career.

“I had to be on government assistance. I had Medicaid, I used WIC; we just couldn’t afford it,” Bratcher said. “But at the same time, we were figuring out ways to solve that problem. And I totally believe in government assistance when it picks people up and gets them on their feet. I think when it’s used appropriately, it empowers people to get back up and do what they need.”

Bratcher needed it for a little over a year, and it helped put her on the right track.

“Having my son, first and foremost, deepened by faith. I looked at this tiny little person, and I just could see nothing but the love of God,” Bratcher said. “I couldn’t imagine loving him so much. And it just clicked with me that if I love him so much, how much more God must love me to be able to hold this little baby in my arms and feel this incredible amount of love.”

It changed her whole outlook on life.

“The most important thing I learned from my son was what it meant to love selflessly—because I had been so selfish in the past,” Bratcher said. At the root of all her choices was pleasing herself; other people weren’t even a consideration. But the moment she understood selfless love, she realized what a shallow life she had been living.

“I had experienced a love that I feel like we’re on this planet to experience. I had felt, for the first time, this very pure and selfless love,” Bratcher said.

“That was a huge spiritual awakening for me,” she said. “After I had him, and I got back into the film industry, I had this sense of faith and identity.”

“I wasn’t looking to anyone for validation, I didn’t need to book a role to feel like I was going to be successful, I didn’t need anyone’s approval to know what my worth was,” she said. “It is critical for me to make sure that I am digging into my faith.”

Bratcher initially never wanted children, didn’t want to be responsible for another life and forego all the travels and experiences and the career she dreamed of. Now she has all of those things, and her son as well.

Bratcher attends the Save the Storks 2nd Annual Charity Ball at the Trump International Hotel on Jan. 17 in Washington. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Save the Storks)

And “Unplanned,” far from ending her career, has opened up avenues for Bratcher to help make a positive impact. She’s done two TV shows and is the lead in a romantic comedy where the proceeds of the film will go towards charity. She recently partnered with Heartbeat International to launch the Unplanned Movie Scholarship to help moms with unplanned pregnancies with educational scholarships.

“A lot of times women choose to have abortions because they don’t have the support that they need or want or desire,” Bratcher said. “They’re told if they have kids they can’t be successful, they can’t finish school, all of these things.”

She wanted to provide an option to solve the problem, such as the scholarship fund that would give mothers financial means to finish their education, and partner with an organization with resources and expertise. Heartbeat International has 3,000 pregnancy health centers and provides everything from parenting classes to formula and childcare.

“I wanted to make sure that I was using my voice in a way that was loud enough to say ‘yes, you can’, and actually do something about it,” Bratcher said.

Life Chain 2019

Sunday, October 6, 2019 | 2:30-3:30 PM
Pick up signs at First Baptist Church (at the intersection of Taylor St. & Washington St.)

Stand with thousands of pro-life individuals throughout the USA and Canada in honor of millions of babies whose lives have been lost to abortion. Pray for people in crisis situations and for our nations. You’ll be a light in a darkened world as you help put an end to abortion through prayer!

  • Signs will be available for pick-up at 2:00 PM at First Baptist Church of Kokomo at the northwest corner of Taylor St. and Washington St.
  • The event begins at 2:30 and ends at 3:30 PM.
  • We will be forming a cross by lining up on the North/South Street Washington Blvd. between Markland & North Streets and the East/West street Jefferson Ave., between Indiana Ave. & Apperson Way.
  • This year we are inviting church leaders as well as individuals to go to our Facebook page and choose a spot on the cross to stand. Tell us the location you have chosen. We are praying that this will be the year that the city of Kokomo will see the longest LIFE CHAIN ever!
  • We will stand with our pro-life signs while we pray silently for our country, our leaders, those who drive by, for women and men who have or will in the future be making a “life decision” and for the pro-life cause.
  • After 3:30PM, please return the signs to the person at First Baptist Church (at Taylor St. & Washington St.), or to Bible Baptist Church, 2635 S. Dixon Road.
  • If you have any questions, please call (765) 210-9367.
  • We hope you will establish a sign-up sheet for your parishioners as well as frequently giving out reminders to friends, family members and neighbors to further encourage their involvement in this very important national event. Each year we are encouraged by the increasing number of motorists and pedestrians who honk or show a thumbs up in solidarity with our message. This is a chance for the church of Christ to stand up for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Will you stand with us?

To learn more, visit Howard County Right to Life on Facebook or email howardcortl@gmail.com. You can select a designated spot to stand by viewing the cross in our Facebook post.  Just select the spot you want for your church/organization/business and reply with a comment telling us your choice. We will post your group on our Facebook page within 24 hours.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call.

Barbara
Life Chain Coordinator
(765) 210-9367

or

Melanie
HCRTL Marketing
(765) 455-8665   

Unashamed 2019

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” — The Apostle Paul, Romans 1:16

Friday & Saturday, November 15–16, 2019
Landmark Church
1600 Glendale-Milford Dr., Cincinnati, OH

Join Christians from many different walks of life sharing the reason for their hope in Jesus Christ–the promised Messiah who lives in the hearts of those who receive Him as their Savior and Lord.

Speakers

Registration is $39.95. To register, visit Truth for a New Generation or call (877) YES-GOD1.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 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.

The Apostle Paul, Romans 8:38-39

A Reminder to Remember

I am beginning to identify with Jeremiah, the one called “the weeping prophet.” Not that I consider myself a prophet, but I am one who weeps.  
Each time my fingers tap out the words to send from my heart to yours, this thought runs through my brain, “Maybe I should write something that has a lighter feel.” And each time God whispers to my ear that there are so many people hurting, struggling, wounded, and uncertain about the future. I count myself one of the many.

We truly want to finish well the race that is set before us. But in the spirit of authenticity, sometimes I find my faith teetering on the fence of doubt. 

Perhaps the days of lightheartedness will come soon. I hope so. 

But for now, we are called to-

lock arms 
hold one another up 
offer grace when one stumbles
lift each other up
and take one more step in this heavenly race.


We are to remember that this world truly is not our permanent home (Hebrews 13:14). There is a glorious place waiting for us. But until we stand face to face with Christ in all of His glory, we must remember we are ambassadors of His kingdom (2 Corinthians 5:20-21). We are called to bring what’s up there down here in our day to day lives. We are reflectors of grace, set apart for a greater purpose.

We are called to know Him and the power of His resurrection as well as the fellowship of His suffering (Philippians 3:10). Confession time. We have all seen that crazed football fan. The one who paints his/her face with the team colors and roars with every advancement of the ball down the field then jumps up punching the air with his/her giant sponge hand when the team scores.  That’s me when I hear the first part of this verse, “the power of His resurrection.” YES!!! Go, God! That’s what I want to see, the resurrection power. 

As I reflect on this verse in light of so many who find themselves in life’s hard places, there is a clearer message coming into view. There can be no resurrection power without death first. Wow! I never saw that before. 

Maybe today you are experiencing a death of sorts–the death of a dream, a job, a relationship, health, or expectation. My friend, these are the places where His resurrection power breathes life into dry bones. 

Every victory won was first a battle fought.
Each body cured, was first a disease diagnosed.
All mountain top views were reached by trekking the valley.


This week’s “Hope for the Journey” is less organized in thought than I am comfortable with.  However, it seemed fitting to take a step back and remember some truths about who we are and who we are called to be. Suffering never negates the greater purposes of God or our identity in Him. 
 

Stand strong, dear one. Hold tight to His promises. Live with your eyes wide open to…

His divine peace
His miraculous ways
His overwhelming joy
His unexplainable presence
His extravagant love
His wondrous grace


This is our God!
Remember Him and live in awe.

Until next time, let’s find hope in the journey,
Evelyn

Hi There! My name is Evelyn. I am a lover of all things family, faith and Fall. So grateful that you found your way here. The chaos of life can leave us feeling a bit worn around the edges. Sometimes a little ray of hope is all we need to provide courage for the next step in our journey. So come on in, take a deep breath. My prayer is that in this space, you will be able to grab hold of hope. For more of Evelyn’s columns, see her blog Hope for the Journey.

I’ve Not Forgot

“Oh, no!” says the Lord.
“That’s not your lot.
“Look unto me; I’ve not forgot.
“Give Me your hand,
“And come my way.
“You have a future.
“It’s a brand new day.”

Margarett Inez Bates

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15)

Christian philosopher, Bible teacher, author, and prolific poet, Margarett Inez Bates is a graduate of Mount Vernon Bible College with a Bachelor’s degree from the Christian International School of Theology. Actively involved in Christian service for over forty years she currently resides in her hometown, Kokomo, Indiana. Margarett has published two books: Poetical Insights: Lifting Up a Standard, and Poetical Insights Vol. 2: A Closer Look. You can read more of her work at Kokomo Poet.

So God, What is the Next Step?

The room is filled with deafening silence except for the tick of the clock and the periodic roar of the blood pressure cup inflating. We find ourselves once again in life’s waiting room. Dad has just come back from having his heart cath. He sleeps. I write. We both wait for the doctor to inform of us of the next step.

These days seemed to be filled with waiting and unknowns. My prayers of adoration often become overshadowed by prayers of desperation. “God, what is the next step? Just tell me and I will do it.” And just like we wait now for the doctor, I wake each day waiting for God to step in and provide light for my next step. Next steps for…

  • Dad’s health
  • Wisdom for caregiving
  • Guidance in my job
  • Answers for hurting friends
  • Stewardship of time and resources
  • Strength for my weary body

I glance toward my father. His deep breathing now adds to the rhythmic sounds being played out in this room. As my eyes witness the gentle rise and fall of his chest with each breath, my mind replays his favorite verse. The one I need to hear right now in the wait.

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.
 

Isaiah 40:31

This “doing heart” of mine is unnerved with waiting. You too? To just sit seems so counterproductive. I would much rather be busy, moving around. At least then things are accomplished. But are they the right things? Are they the best things? 

As I reflect on this familiar passage, my eyes move past the phrases at the front end and land on the “doing” words. “They will walk, they will run, they will soar.” These are the words that grab my attention when steeped in turmoil. However, these action words give me a false sense of control when life is filled with uncertainty.  Then God draws my attention to the first half of that scripture.  My eyes shift and I stare at the uncomfortable part of this passage… they that wait. 

It is in the waiting light is given for the next step we take. It is in the waiting wisdom is gleaned for the race we run. It is in the waiting courage is gained so that we may soar higher than we dare dream.  

Perhaps this is due in part to the desperation that comes in the silence of waiting. Our hearts yearn for comfort, direction, and wisdom.  We intentionally lean in anxious to hear answers to the prayers we have poured out in the night season. We strain to hear the Father whisper hope to our worn heart. 

My friend, maybe you can relate to the season of waiting. I am right there with you. One thing I know…God speaks in the wait. It may not be within the realm of our comfort zone, but He does speak.  So, we must resist the temptation to rush ahead. The slow pace of waiting affords us precious time in His presence that is often stolen by the fast pace of life. It is in this time, waiting at His feet, that He does a transformative work in our hearts.

Let’s hold tight to Him knowing that He is with us in the wait. He is renewing, strengthening, and transforming us.

Until next week, let’s find hope in the journey.
Evelyn Sherwood

Hi There! My name is Evelyn. I am a lover of all things family, faith and Fall. So grateful that you found your way here. The chaos of life can leave us feeling a bit worn around the edges. Sometimes a little ray of hope is all we need to provide courage for the next step in our journey. So come on in, take a deep breath. My prayer is that in this space, you will be able to grab hold of hope. For more of Evelyn’s columns, see her blog Hope for the Journey.

When All You Have is a Silent Prayer

My drive into work finds the car filled with an unfamiliar silence. This space is typically flooded with prayers and contemplation woven together with an outburst of worship songs. But not today. Fatigue weighs on my shoulders like a wet blanket…pressing down, smothering. I am trying hard to pray, but nothing escapes my lips but a deep sigh. “Lord, there’s nothing I can say that I haven’t already said.  I am worn. So, if it is ok with you, I will exhale a silent prayer.” 

I wait in uncomfortable silence. Will He speak? If He does, will it be the answer to so many prayers I have wept? Will strength find its way to my weary bones? 

Then in the quiet, I hear that still small voice, “Look around.” Hands clutched tight around the steering wheel I glance to the left. The sun is peeking up over the eastern horizon spreading rays of vibrant orange, plum red, and canary yellow across the sky. I turn to the right and catch a glimpse of cornfields, swaying gently with the rhythm of the wind. My heart inhales deep gratitude for the farmers who thought their fields would lie in muddy waste this year.  My eyes are waking up as I spy geese skimming the diamond-studded ponds on either side of the road. The fog begins to lift off of the landscape and my heart as I take in the wonders of His handiwork.  

He speaks.

“My child, you have prayed all your wants, concerns, and needs. Though I long to hear your heart, there is something you are missing. You are consumed with expressing your weaknesses, while I am more concerned that you understand my strength. This life is less about you constantly remembering your inefficiencies and more about embracing my all-sufficiency. Remember me, who I am. I am God.

God

With that simple yet profound word whispered to my heart partnered with the visual reminder of His creative power, hope and strength begin to rise. 

There are books of the Bible that get referenced abundantly when we face trials. David paints a picture of the authentic heart throughout all of the Psalms. We get a front-row seat to his deepest struggles and his resolve as he concludes that God is God. Somehow, his version of man’s inner wrestling is easier to identify with than say that of Lamentations. Just the mention of Lamentations and I feel as though I have watched a movie where all the heroes die in the end. 

Yet today, that is precisely where God led me. Tucked away in this book of deep grief is a passage that solidifies what God has been speaking to me in the car. Written by someone whose prayers were steeped in more pain than the ones I have been praying. But someone who in the middle of the crushing remembered the very character of God…and that was enough. 

But this I call to mind,
and therefore, I have hope:
 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore, I will hope in Him.”

Lamentations 3:22-24

There is truth to be gleaned from the old hymn Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

It has been quite some time since I have shifted my gaze toward Him. I had allowed the weight of my circumstances to nag at me, reminding me of lack. But one glance in his direction was all I needed to remind me that He is enough. No matter what surrounds me, He is enough to face it head-on. 

What about you? Do the voices in your head pull your gaze away from the one who loves you more than you love yourself? Are your eyes locked tight on your failures rather than His faithfulness? Then maybe these verses from Lamentations will guide your vision back to His glory like they did mine.

The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
to the soul who seeks Him.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.

Lamentations 3:25-26

Oh, my friends, life gets so busy and burdens pile up. It is in our nature to grab hold of our failures rather than reach for His faithfulness. But if we are to be a people of hope in troubled times, then we must turn our gaze away from our inadequacies and behold the One who is more than enough. 

“Father, the landfill of my failures continues to pile up. But You, oh God, are the faithful one. Today, fix my eyes on you the one starter and finisher of my faith. Remind me of all the ways you have led me up to this point in my life. And as I remember, may hope rise out of the ashes. May I see with a fresh vision that you God, who created all things, is the very one that cradles my heart in your hands.”

Until next time, let’s find hope in the journey,
Evelyn Sherwood

Hi There! My name is Evelyn. I am a lover of all things family, faith and Fall. So grateful that you found your way here. The chaos of life can leave us feeling a bit worn around the edges. Sometimes a little ray of hope is all we need to provide courage for the next step in our journey. So come on in, take a deep breath. My prayer is that in this space, you will be able to grab hold of hope. For more of Evelyn’s columns, see her blog Hope for the Journey.