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Posts from the ‘Hope’ Category

On A Journey With Dyslexia

Dyslexia is difficult, so I’m gathering. I don’t know this to be true personally. As a matter of fact, my degree is in English Education. I’m decent with reading and spelling — exactly where those struggling with dyslexia suffer. What I’ve learned is that saying to my 10-year-old, “You spell it exactly the way it sounds,” means nothing to her. She hears sounds differently.

We’ve been on a journey since kindergarten to find out why Abby learns differently. If you’re a parent, you may have said, “I know something is wrong; I just can’t put my finger on it.” That’s exactly how I felt. Every year, her teachers told us everything was fine — until 3rd grade.

And, then, Mr. Carmichael.

(He gets his own line. You should also envision rays of light around his name.)

To make a long story short (and I will fill in the gaps later on why we decided to home school), we decided to home school in January. We have continued this fall and added a dyslexia tutoring program.

This is a big ol’ roller-coaster, people. We have GREAT days and HARD days. But, I am beginning to see a glimmer of hope, AND IT’S NOT BECAUSE OF THE GREAT DAYS!

Yesterday, my 10-year-old had a tough time spelling out a 3 letter word and had a headache by the time we finished 30 minutes of work. This work is hard on her brain! And, it’s hard on my heart! But because of the hard, I know it’s working. I can see the benefit of what this program is going to do because God is gracious in giving us glimpses of good through our pain.

We have a long road.

Abby has had to make a lot of adjustments. I have faced quite a bit of sadness, despair, guilt and loneliness. I have good friends who have helped a lot and listened to way too many complaints. I feel sure those days are not dead and gone, but…

God is faithful.

He is conquering the complaints, loneliness, guilt, despair and sadness. He is providing help, answers and direction. With every trial, my heart is being strengthened, and with every skill, Abby’s brain is being strengthened. He is giving hope.

Dyslexia may continue to be difficult, but it has been, is being and will be redeemed.

Why am I sharing?

1. 2 Corinthians 1:4 — I’m not the only one in this situation. There are other families who need support, comfort.

2. I have permission. I asked Abby if I could share. Hopefully, she will be able to pass on the same comfort in the future.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

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Henry…always in our hearts

Walking with dear friends through some of their greatest joy and sorrow all within a matter of days/weeks has led us through a wide range of emotions. But, the faith of The Berrys, and their trust in God is what’s leaving the greatest mark on our lives during these circumstances. They have displayed the Gospel in their call to adoption, and they have displayed the Gospel in their response to pain.

Here is their story:

http://mommavern.blogspot.com/2012/07/henryalways-in-our-hearts.html

For more on adoption, read here.

Kill Us, Make Us Stronger

I am a fun-sucker. Ask anyone in my family. When we watch movies, I say things like, “That could never happen.” When we listen to music, things like, “That’s not true.” I even turn down the music to lecture on certain topics. So, I am busting at the seams over Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You).” I like her. I like the song. I sing it out. I just have a problem with its theology — if you care to listen?

“Some perennial weeds have deep root systems that make them very difficult to pull completely from the ground. If any bits of root are left behind, these persistent weeds will sprout again and come back even stronger than before.” -Mike McGroarty

I just want you to know that I’m cracking up right now because this is what I do. If you don’t know my sense of humor, please know that I’m turning down the music and yelling through the car right now, “Do you know what else is made stronger if not killed? WEEDS!”

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23)

Die. Die so that you can really live! Let him kill your will. Your want. Life everlasting is found in the submission of dying to self. There is no beckoning to avoid the tragedies in life that may feel like death itself; there is a call to die so that the tragedies in life are under his care with our wills submitted to his.

So, what exactly makes us stronger?

Is it the killing? The dying to self?

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

In death we find life.

In our weakness we find his strength.

We’re in a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps-kind-of-world. We believe we can overcome any obstacle if we fight hard enough, and we publicize our words boldly, but we go home and cry because we know it’s not true. Our only hope in this world is to subject ourselves to the only one who can give us strength, the only one who calls us to simultaneously die and live because he loves us enough to sing truth over us.

Now, there is another side to this story. I do believe “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame…” and if that’s what “Stronger” is trying to communicate, please excuse my rant.

Keep Your Eyes On The Prize

If you follow Chris and me on Twitter, you are aware that Cooper Acuff is the most up-and-coming basketball player in the Kindergarten and 1st Grade Instruction League in town.  He scored 2 points in the last two games — the game-winning shot in the last game.  We fully believe that shot was with purpose and that he was holding out the entire 36 minutes to bring his team to victory in the end.

What’s surprising, to me, is Cooper’s reaction when he scores.

There is no smile or celebration, not even a little fist pump; he looks at the score board.

Even amidst the cheering, the adrenaline, the buzzing, his focus is fixed on winning.

Cheering

Does cheering make you lose your focus?  When those around us see us as something we’re not, showering us with praise, it sometimes causes our view to blur.  We begin to believe things that aren’t true and trade the majesty of the Lord’s for our own.  Don’t misunderstand, we should encourage and edify one another, but glorifying is reserved for the Lord.  Fix your gaze on him and not the praise of men.

Adrenaline

The truth about Cooper is that he is the smallest on the team.  Only once has he scored in practice.  One of the reasons we are so excited about his 4 points is because we didn’t think we would see them this year.  He hasn’t really shown the ability to get the ball within one inch of the rim.  So, we have chalked-up his game-scoring to adrenaline.

Adrenaline can be a very good instrument.  It can cause us to accomplish tasks we never thought possible. But, it can also force us to lose our gaze quicker than the shot of a gun.  Have you ever seen a runner tire out because they quickened their pace on race day, even though they diligently practiced that very pace for months?  Not busyness, but regular, planned solitude and communion with Him must be our stride. When we look stealthily toward Christ, there is an even strain with which we work toward our goal, never wreaking an awkward imbalance.

Buzzing

Do you have the ability to shut out the surrounding, negative noise, keeping your feet planted in the identity Christ has set for you?  Perhaps no distraction is greater to our surveying of God than noise — whether it be negativity, untruth or a warped identity. We can drown out the noise by replacing our words/thoughts with His, in other words, speaking the gospel to ourselves and having others speak the gospel into our lives.

Goals/Prizes

Let’s get back to the basketball star for a minute.  Cooper likes to score.  He loves to win.  I think that’s a pretty good mindset.  God has called us to certain goals; we strive to accomplish those goals.  But, our eyes are fixed on the win.  That’s what keeps us going.  Don’t let cheering, adrenaline and buzzing cut in on you.

“that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:10-14)

Are You Hiding or Resting?

On occasion, I kick my husband out of bed.  Not because he makes me mad. Not because he snores. Not because he’s a bum.  I kick him out because we reserve the right in our house to call one another’s bluff if we believe the other is “hiding” and not legitimately resting.

Can you distinguish the difference?

Hiding is wrapped in fear, defeat, dread, paranoia, isolation, being overwhelmed.

When we hide, we take matters into our own hands.  There is a tension we want broken, and we aim to cut it with sleep, withdrawal, darkness.  We wake to find sleep was not the cure for exhaustion, possibly because exhaustion was not the culprit.

Rest is intertwined with solitude, retreat, focus, comfort, even worship.

When we rest, there is a relaxed submission about us, a hope that surrounds us.  We are able to be tired and overwhelmed with our circumstances, yet at peace.  We are at peace because of surrendering control of our situation.

The Lord provides rest; it may come in the form of sleep but not always.  And, he is the only one capable of providing rest in the midst of our turmoil.  We often look for rest outside of or around or after our circumstances, but he provides rest “in the middle.”

Thus says the LORD:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30

How can you differentiate for yourself if you are hiding or resting?  Once it’s been brought to your attention, there shouldn’t be any trouble telling the difference between the two.  Next, determine what you’re hiding from if that’s the case. I usually hide because I’m overwhelmed or paranoid.  Chris usually hides because he feels defeated or is dreading something.  The most difficult part is giving over our control. But, when we find rest for our souls and realize he doesn’t lay anything heavy on us, how can we decline?

He beckons: Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.  (The Message)

Are you hiding from your circumstances, or are you resting in the Lord?

Treasure The One — A Guest Post

You cannot be in the presence of Diane Butler without shedding many tears — some from laughing — some from crying.  But mostly, you will not leave her company without first hearing the impact Jesus has had on her life.  Diane is sharing a powerful story today of anger, control, forgiveness, mercy and redemption. I hope many are set free as we continue to address the fear of coming clean.

Here is her story:

There is a memory that continues to remind me of the power of forgiveness and the power God gives us to overcome sin in our lives — my precious little two-year-old (now 12) sitting on the toilet.  We were in the middle of potty training, and she would not “go potty.”  My heart breaks as I share this because it is not a proud moment.  I just wanted her to go potty; I just remember “losing it.”  I can see her little face looking at me as I screamed at her to “just go potty!”  I began to rant and rave at this little innocent bystander to my lack of control.  This pattern of anger continued for many years.  When I couldn’t get the response I wanted, no one wanted to be in my path.

How do we hurt someone we treasure so much?  The object of our heart must be Christ. If we don’t treasure the One who teaches us to love, the one we substitute in His place will take the wrath of our disappointment.

I loved my children so much, but they were having to do God’s job.  They were having to make me feel loved, valued, accepted, respected, and when they didn’t, I let them know.  It breaks my heart to think about it now. But what allows me to share is that I’m different; I have changed the object of my treasure.  My treasure is Jesus!  He has set me free from depending on my children to complete me, and I can’t even begin to explain how my home has changed.  No one walks on eggshells anymore.  My home is different, not because of something I did but because God poured out his great mercy and forgiveness through his Son, Jesus Christ.  I am different because someone else had been transformed by Jesus, shared their story and through it, God revealed my sin to me.

I had known Jesus my whole life, but I refused to give him everything.  I was enslaved to what I wanted, and they were good things, but they were not the prize of Jesus Himself.  Because I was a slave to my lifestyle and my “stuff,” everyone else paid when life wasn’t going well for me.  At the center of my story was ME, and what I finally understood was that God had to be the center of my story.  Now, when my children disappoint me, I remember it’s not about me.  When they make a bad choice, I remember it’s not about me.  When they bring home a bad grade, I remember it’s not about me.  I am free to love them, teach them, train them, but it is not my job to control.

I have a long way to go, and God has had to heal a lot of wounds in my children and me, but he is faithful.

The sin was easy to hide; it didn’t happen in public.

It was something I often wrote off as this is just who I am.

That was a lie.

I am so thankful God never gives up on us.  Don’t hide in the shame of your sin.  Bring it into the light so you can be who God says you are.

What lie is your sin holding you to?

Who/What is taking the wrath of your disappointment?

Work It Out

As a Christ-follower, do you every size-up yourself with the thought

I should have progressed beyond this point by now.?

I expressed those sentiments to a friend one day over a struggle, and he suggested that as we grow, sometimes the Christian walk seems to get harder.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “There is such a thing as false peace, there is such a thing as believing delusions. The whole of the New Testament  and the history of the Church throughout the centuries bear eloquent testimony to the fact that there is a ‘fight of faith’, and not to have any troubles in your soul is, therefore, far from being a good sign.  It is, indeed, a serious sign that there is something radically wrong, and there is a very good reason for saying that.  For from the moment we become Christians we become the special objects of the attention of the devil.  As he besieged and attacked our Lord, so does he besiege and attack the Lord’s people.”

I have found great relief recently in the passage  “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)

Many days, working out my salvation looks like, in Uncle Lewis’ words, “a dump truck driving through a nitroglycerine plant,” a baby holding its breathe until it lets out that first blood-curdling scream, sitting, staring, wondering what I’m supposed to do next.

Fear

Trembling

Working it out Nonetheless

If you’re here, don’t quit.  It may not be comfortable, but it may be right where God wants you.

For (a really big word)

it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Progressing, growing, working it out — these are not by our own might.  We have the power of God working through us in this fight of faith.  Stand firm, knowing that all of these things are beneficial and necessary for sanctification.

Nothing is wasted.

What is it looking like for you to work out your salvation with fear and trembling?


Brought Near By Christmas

A friend presented a beautiful depiction of the gospel recently, and I want to attempt it in my words.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)

The Wise Men were far away and were brought near by the star.

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.'” (Matthew 2:3-6)

The religious men were near (in proximity) but their hearts were far away.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13). Read Ephesians 2 in its entirety here.

THIS is what should cause us to fall on our faces during this season.  That God came in flesh to bring us near.  We were far away in our sin and filth, not desiring him, not wanting anything to do with goodness, standing at a distance from peace on earth, wrapped in dissension, mocking righteousness, turning our backs on good will toward men, laughing at the thought of joy in the world.

The ruler humbled himself to bring sinners near.

Wise men still seek him?  Certainly.  But, for myself it seems to be more the other way around.  He still seeks me.  I am prone to forget my name, and he gently reminds.  I am capable of turning my back, standing at a distance, mocking.  And, he is faithful to continue the work he started the first Christmas.

He came to bring men near.

He has brought us near.

He will continue his work in bringing us near.

Hope

The fantastic Chris Acuff contributes a post to the blog today.  Sorry for the funky font!
I’ve thought a lot about the word hope lately. Operating in the roles of both pastor and investment advisor it seems that I hear folks discussing their hopes almost daily.  What I have discovered is that we are all hoping for or in something.  We all have a picture in our minds of how our reality could be better if that which we are hoping for would just come to fruition.  We are all working, investing, planning, striving with some “hope” in mind.  For some, our hope is in something spiritual, for others it’s in something material.  For many, our hope is in a person or maybe an idea or a dream.  Those who have lost hope, hope to be rescued from their misery.  Our president even ran on the campaign slogan of “Hope & Change,” hoping to appeal to all of us.   In the wake of the death of Steve Jobs, we’ve heard the consistent theme that “he gave us hope.”  Hope takes a million different forms, but hope dwells in and appeals to all of us.
My thoughts have mainly circled around this:  When that which we hope for finally comes to fruition, will it be all that we dreamed it would be?  I struggle with this a lot.  I’m an idealist and a dreamer.  And, I am more often than not left disappointed because, for most situations in my life, I have an idealistic (usually unrealistic) expectation.  I dream that my experiences will play out in magical ways — that the food, conversation, ambiance will all come together to create some Hollywood-type moment.  Obviously, most of the time the picture in my head does not match the reality I am in.  Like the year my daughter got “Floam???” for Christmas.  The picture in the magazine is always better than the real thing.
As Christ followers, we often ask ourselves where we are placing our hope.  I believe it is helpful to play this out a step further.
We should ask —
What would it look like if I actually got what I am hoping for?
What if these hopes came true?
Would they satisfy?
Would I feel complete?
Or would I be left longing for more?
Are we spending our days chasing and dreaming of a hope that will not fulfill?
Or for something that can be destroyed or lost or grown out of?
We put our hope in a political figure or an investment portfolio.  We put our hope in a future spouse or children or independence or relationships or a career or a bank account.  But all of these can disappoint and can fade away. There’s no amount of any of these earthly things that can satisfy us or bring ultimate security.  There is no amount of money, sex, power, success, affection, approval, (you name it) that can fulfill our longings.
The apostle Peter had this to say about hope:
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
As Christ followers, our hope lies in God through His son Jesus Christ.  Our future in guaranteed.  An overwhelming and unimaginable inheritance is waiting for us.  It was paid for with the very life of Christ and is being protected by the very power of God.  We can’t out dream it.  I can’t out idealize it.  We hope for something that is real and living and has been paid for and is of greater worth than we could imagine.  Our hope will be more than fulfilled.  We will be much more than satisfied. And this time we can’t lose it or destroy it.  I don’t know about you, but that’s better than anything else I could ever hope for.
So, what would it look like if your dreams came true?

Shame, Shame – He Took Double Shame

Shame and embarrassment are not the same.  I know because I did a little research. Shame does not necessarily involve public humiliation while embarrassment does. They differ in intensity.  I would say they differ in intensity because shame is a deep, inward feeling that we hold inside of us — no one knows of the disgrace and condemnation we feel in that isolation.  Some might say embarrassment is more intense because it is visible to everyone.

Justin Holcomb quotes Tangney and Dearing as saying, “Shamed people feel exposed. Although shame doesn’t necessarily involve an actual observing audience that is present to witness one’s shortcomings, there is often the imagery of how one’s destructive self would appear to others.”

I found that I am completely familiar with the feeling of shame but not the intellectual meaning of shame.  I carried shame for years, and sometimes I still do.  We carry the shame of what we have done.  We carry the shame of what has been done to us. We even carry the shame of what we’ve thought about doing.

Something else I found:  shame is associated with the words disgrace and condemnation.  Well, that just makes sense to me.  One, because Christ does something beautiful with shame.  He turns disgrace to grace. Then, he turns condemnation to There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

So, “As for me, where could I carry my shame?” or “Where can I get rid of my disgrace?” as Tamar asks in 2 Samuel 13:13.

It’s been carried, and it’s been disposed of — at the cross.  We don’t have to carry our shame.  Our hope is in Christ and His accomplishment on the cross on our behalf  “and hope does not put us to shame” (Romans 5:5).

Holcomb says, “The good news of the gospel is that Jesus endured the cross, disregarding the shame.  The good news is that Jesus disregarded the shame of dying by crucifixion, and in doing so also took our shame upon himself.  Jesus willingly suffered the most shameful death and this exposed the extremity of sin’s shameful consequences and the despicable character of our humanly devised shame.  He ‘despis[ed] the shame.’  We can say that Jesus both shared our shame and bore our shame so that we can have freedom from its dread and power.