Cloud of Hope

What are you waiting for God to do in your life?  Are there prayers that seem unanswered or ignored by God?  Is He offering you small glimpses of hope that you’ve overlooked, misunderstood, or taken for granted?

We live in a fast-paced society where we expect everything to happen right away.  Fast food delivered right to your door, instant communication without waiting for the mail to run, elevators that move more quickly than taking the stairs, overnight shipping…the list just goes on and on.  So much of what we do, or want, or even need can be done almost instantaneously, and we often forget the satisfaction of receiving a long awaited response.

In 1 Kings 18, Elijah is on top of the mountain after God had immediately answered his prayer for fire.  The Israelites had allowed the worship of other gods to separate them from the One true God. Elijah called a test between his God and Baal, the god of the sky. After hours of prayers, Baal failed to burn the offering.  Then Elijah said a short prayer, and God immediately caused a fire to consume the bull, the altar, and even the stones, which were all drenched in water.  After that instantaneous response, Elijah prayed for rain to end a three and a half year drought, but this prayer was not answered immediately.

Sometimes God answers “Yes” right away, and we are able to experience an undeniable miracle right before our eyes.  Other times His answer is “No”.  Maybe we’ve asked for something that is not in our best interest, or our desire does not match with His plan.  Then there are times when the answer is “Wait”.  Wait for rain, wait for healing, wait for answers.  God’s timing doesn’t always meet the instant satisfaction that We prefer, so we tend to grow discouraged when He doesn’t answer our prayers instantly. 

Notice what Elijah did when he didn’t receive an answer right away.  In verse 43, he sent a servant to look toward the sea for a sign of rain.  When there was no sign, he prayed again then sent the servant to look again.  It must have been frustrating after the miracle he had just witnessed when he prayed for fire, but Elijah did not give up.  He continued to pray, wait, and watch for God’s answer.  Seven times he prayed and sent the servant to look for a sign that rain was coming.

Finally, the servant reported, “A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising from the sea” (1 Kings 18:44).  It wasn’t a sudden outpouring of rain, but it was the glimmer of hope that Elijah needed.  He knew that the rain was coming.  He knew God was answering his prayer!  It wasn’t immediate.  He still had to wait for it, but it was coming.  A cloud no bigger than a man’s hand was all the evidence Elijah needed to know that rain WAS coming.

Like you, I want instant satisfaction. I want immediate answers. More often than not, I’ve had to wait to God’s answer. But many times He has given me glimmers of hope.  Small hints of healing. A small cloud that is  God’s way of reminding us that He is still in control.  His answer may not be immediate, but He’s still at work in our lives.

When answers don’t come right away, don’t give up.  Continue to pray and keep watching.  Keep expecting to see His answer coming in the distance.  Keep watching for that small cloud of hope in the distance that indicates rain is coming!

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Change Your Focus

I learned a valuable Grammy lesson today.  No matter how precious that grand baby is, do not sit and gaze at her as she sits in the baby swing just swinging away! Somehow it caused a bad case of motion sickness. The room began to spin out of control, and  I suddenly found myself on hands and knees crawling on the floor unable to even stand and walk! Go ahead and laugh because I know how funny it sounds!

Once I managed to get off the floor, I spent the next few hours feeling faint, nauseated, stumbling around, and crashing on the couch trying to sleep it off. Little did I know that simply enjoying that sweet baby swinging would have such negative consequences.Grandbabies are wonderful, but combined with motion may create a hilariously funny yet miserable situation for Grammy.

Later I learned that all I really needed was a change of focus. I just needed to simply look at something stable more than I was gazing at Baby M.  If my focus had been on something unchanging, I would never have felt so miserable, and I could have spent much more time enjoying my new grandbaby.


This experience made me realize that sometimes in life, I also need to change my focus. We get so wrapped up in the things we enjoy that we often forget to turn to God for stability. He wants us to enjoy the people and things in our lives. After all, He’s the one who blessed us with those good things. But when we place those things before Him, we may find ourselves stumbling through life unable to stand on our own and wondering what went wrong.
When I find my life has become a miserable situation, maybe that too is because my focus is in the wrong place. It’s easy to let our problems become our focus. We dwell on the what ifs and if onlys, and soon our thoughts are consumed by a huge problem. Strangely, focusing on an obstacle tends to make that situation seem to  grow even larger, which makes us focus on it even more.  Eventually it seems as if our life is spinning out of control.  But when we can turn our focus to God, we’ll find that the problem actually seems smaller.

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18

Whether you’ve been focusing on the good or the bad, maybe it’s time for a change. Stop and check your focus. Are you spending all your time enjoying the good, but forgetting to focus on the One who has blessed you?  Or are you focusing on a growing problem instead of seeking the face of the One who can conquer all? It’s your choice. Turn your focus back to the Lord. You’ll see that He offers the stability that you need.

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How many times have you found yourself in a situation in which it seemed the best response was to just grin and bear it? We often practice this technique in the small day to day annoyances so that we don’t come across as rude or cranky. We do it when we aren’t feeling well, and someone asks how we’re feeling so we don’t appear to be a whiner. How many times have you heard or said, “Suck it up, Buttercup”?  Many of us see this manner of dealing with adversity as a strong trait.

I’ve come to realize that even with the big stuff I tend to take this same approach.  It’s as if when I grin and bear it, that is proof of just how strong I am and how much faith I have. But instead maybe it just proves my lack of faith and that I am stubbornly digging my heels in an attempt to do things on my own.

For weeks after my husband’s accident, God was literally carrying me through each day because I did not have the strength to even try and do it on my own at that point. A week or two after the accident, I finally had to leave the hospital to take care of some things at home. It was probably the first time that I had really been alone. I remember a feeling of peace as I drove listening to the Christian radio station and even joy as I began to sing along and truly worship God in the midst of the storm. Our situation was not what I wanted to experience, but it was much better than what I had expected to be dealing with. Even in the stress of our situation, I was able to praise God for all He was doing.

But as time passed, my life started to feel out of control as I began to dig my heels in and grin and bear it. I stopped letting God carry me.  I stopped depending on Him and began a daily struggle of depending on me. It’s not easy to admit, but that’s when I began to lose my joy.

In Acts 16, Paul and Silas were thrown in prison after being falsely accused and beaten with no trial. They were treated unfairly and placed in a horrible circumstance, yet verse 25 says they were praying and singing to God. They weren’t dwelling on their physical pain, unfair treatment, or difficult situation. They didn’t simply grin and bear it to prove their faith. They showed that faith by choosing to turn their focus to God.  Others in the prison saw and heard their faith including a jailer who along with his family was saved. After an earthquake (v26), salvations (v33), and a heart to heart talk from Paul (v37), the officials released them.

My experience is small compared to that of Paul and Silas.  But their response has helped me to refocus, not on the situation but on God and the peace and joy that He gave me months ago during the most difficult of times. I’ve learned that I must continue to choose joy and check my focus daily, and He will continue to give me the strength I need. Others will see that in my life and ultimately bring glory to God.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2-3).

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

“He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless” (Isaiah 40:29).

“Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalms 30:5).

God allows both small trials and big trials in our lives.  His desire is not for us to just grin and bear it.  He wants us to truly have faith rather than depending on our own strength. He wants us to find a way to focus on Him and rejoice through the trial. He will take care of the rest. Don’t grin and bear it. Choose joy!

 

Disturbing events in my life often cause me to walk aimlessly along, maybe discussing my feelings with a friend as I go, but still very confused about what is going on.  I’ve come to realize that I (you, me, we…choose any pronoun) am at times very similar to the disciples walking along the road to Emmaus after Jesus’ resurrection (Luke 24:13-16). They were mourning and confused when  Jesus joined them on their walk, but they did not recognize Him.
I think there are many times that Jesus walks and even talks with us, yet we don’t notice His presence. There are many reasons we may not recognize Him.

  • Emotions – Difficult circumstances have caused my emotions to be so overwhelming that I don’t always recognize that Jesus is walking with me.  The disciples were grieving the loss of their friend and the man they hoped would redeem Israel.  They were full of emotions.
  • Distractions –  Many distractions during situations have prevented my focus from being on Him. At times I must admit that I’ve become so focused on the circumstances that I can not see God at work in my life.  (In those moments, I’ve been extremely thankful for intercessory prayers of family and friends.)
  • Timing – Sometimes it is just not the right time for us to see Jesus, but instead it is a time for us to simply experience His presence as these disciples did.

Jesus opened their eyes to recognise Him in verse 31, and  when He was ready for them to know more, He opened their minds to understanding in verse 45. Then the exciting part happened.  He ascended into heaven! Their confusion was gone. They understood what He had been telling them and what the prophets had spoken for years. They worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy (Luke 24:52).  They were able to joyfully return to the place that had caused so much confusion.

Like the disciples, we sometimes miss Jesus walking and talking along side us because confusion clouds our vision. But I believe our eyes will one day be opened so that we understand why God allowed the difficult things in our lives. Maybe not in this lifetime, but when it’s the right time.

An old hymn, which my daddy loved to sing, comes to mind called In the Garden by Charles Austin Miles. Part of the lyrics say:

And He walks with me and He talks with me. And He tells me I am His own,  And the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.

I find comfort in knowing that even in my confusion Jesus cares and is willing to walk with us.  No matter what confusion you are experiencing, trust that He will walk with you every step and even carry you when necessary. One day, He will open our eyes to understanding and again fill our hearts with worship and joy.

 

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God is with You 


Like baseball, life often involves unexpected curveballs coming our way.  Just when we think things are going well, something unexpected happens. An accident, a bad report from the doctor, a death, relationship issues, a poor decision, difficulties at work, financial problems, the car breaks down.  The list can go on and on.  Like a curveball, the situation plunges into unexpected territory leaving us with unanswered questions, fear, frustration, and possibly doubt. 

 Joshua may have felt that he had been thrown an unexpected curveball when Moses’ death determined that he would now be leading the people into the Promised Land.  Although he had been an aide to Moses, this leadership role would be a huge task for Joshua. There must have been a lot going through his mind. Questions, concern, fear, and doubt.  

Entering the Promised Land would be a challenge for Joshua because it meant they would have to conquer all of  the current inhabitants.  This may have been a curveball, but the good news was that God had begun preparing Joshua for this moment since before Moses’ death. God anticipated Joshua’s feelings and gave Moses some very specific words of encouragement to share with Joshua:

  1. Be strong and courageous. 
  2. Do not be afraid. 
  3. God is with you and will never leave you. 

God’s promise to Joshua still stands true for each of us today. When the unexpected happens, He will be with us throughout the journey. What a ccomfort to feel His presence and to know you aren’t alone!

    After Moses’ death, God reminded Joshua of all these things in Joshua 1:5-7.  He added more instruction in verse 8: “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”  

    The last word of encourgement: Study God’s word. This is an integral step in order for us to be successful. God gave Joshua all that he needed to be successful, but obedience was a key factor. 

    Joshua obeyed God’s plan for him. He immediately began to prepare to cross the Jordan and take possession of the land that God had designated for His people. He didn’t allow a curveball to destroy his courage. The same is true for each of us. We just need to obey and have the  courage to believe that God will be with us when the curveball is thrown. 

    What curveball has been thrown at you? Are your feelings are keeping you from stepping out in obedience? Like Joshua, can you obey and trust that God is with you every step of the way? 

    Strength Renewed

    What makes you happy? Many of us think if we just made more money or could win the lottery, we would be happy. For some, our happiness is based on relationships such as marriage or friendships. For others, happiness revolves around sports. And of course, if we can’t find happiness in other things, we tend to search for happiness in CHOCOLATE!

    We all have personal issues that rock our world at times. Cancer, death, pain, strained relationships, heartache, and so many other things affect the happiness of our daily lives. Psalms 30:5 says, “Weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Unfortunately that does not literally mean we will weep through the night and tomorrow everything will be ok. But instead it assures us that there WILL be a time of joy even in the midst of our trials.

    The happiness that things such as money, relationships, sports, and…

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    Are You Listening 

    Why can’t I hear God’s voice? This is a question that most of us have probably asked at some point.  When we are struggling, there are many conclusions that we may draw about why we can’t hear His voice. Is it because He isn’t actually speaking to me? Is He disappointed and has given up on me? Or maybe He just doesn’t love me at all.  

    Luke 8:8 says, “Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.” This scripture is puzzling. I have ears, so why can’t I hear the voice of God? Think about the reasons you don’t hear those around you. Those may be the same reasons you can’t hear God’s voice. 

    • Too Busy – Several years ago some of my students enjoyed Pig Latin. If I listened closely, I could decipher their message, but most of the time I was simply too busy. Our lives are so busy! We are constantly busy going and doing. Busy working. Busy worrying. Busy raising kids. Busy with technology. The list just goes on and on with things we must do. Is it possible that you don’t hear God because you are too busy?
    • Tuned out – I’ve had conversations with my husband while grading papers, cooking, or anything. I heard his voice, but I may not have really heard him because my focus was on something else. Sometimes we don’t hear people because we’ve already made up our mind, and theres no changing it regardless what is said. So we simply tune them out. Then there are times that we honestly don’t want to hear what someone says. We know they may be right, but we don’t want to admit it. So we tune them out. Could you be tuning God out because you aren’t focused on Him, you’ve already made up your mind, or you just really don’t want to hear what He has to say? 

    Luke 8:18 says, “So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.” Its important that we are careful to listen so that we can grow in understanding His will for our lives. 

    So maybe God really is speaking to me (and you), but we just aren’t listening. If I really wanted to understand the Pig Latin, I could. If I really want to hear those around me, I will focus rather than tune them out. If I really want to hear God’s voice, then I will make time to listen and focus on Him. I can’t hear him by just reading the bible. I must slow down, meditate on the Word, search for how God wants me to apply it to my life, and allow Him the opportunity to speak.  That’s when I’ll hear the voice of God!

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