our resource for Hope

Our God is the source of all patience and comfort, the very things we need to maintain hope. Remain connected to God and you’ll have the resources needed for a life of hope. Have a great Thanksgiving. I’m grateful for you! Debby

 

MM 11/27/14 our resource for Hope from Debby Bellingham on Vimeo.

attaining Hope

Good morning. Don’t we always need hope? Doesn’t it seem as if hope is something that needs to be guarded? That can be easily deflated? Let’s talk about how we can keep it kindled. Love, D

MM 11/26/14 Attaining Hope from Debby Bellingham on Vimeo.

Patient Hope

2 Peter 3:3-15a, 18

…in the last days scoffers will arise… (verse 3)

Scoffers come in many forms. Family members who don’t understand your faith, friends or co-workers who ridicule it; cultural systems that diminish or mock your beliefs. But perhaps the scoffer that is the hardest to handle, is the one that lives within your own head. Can you hear the voice of the scoffer?

  • “You’ve been faithful, where is the answer to your prayer?”
  • “Why keep trusting God’s promises? Things will never change. Today is the same as yesterday, why do you expect tomorrow to be any different?”
  • “Why not just have a little fun, live for today?

Peter reminds us how to address these mocking voices.

Don’t be surprised by their appearance. Your desire to live for the glory of God makes the enemy of God very unhappy. As Peter describes in his first epistle, the enemy prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Your righteous life is his appetizer! Your doubts do not necessarily suggest there is something wrong with your faith; they may indicate a space in your heart where God is expanding God’s territory or a space where your trust in God is a threat to the devil’s devices and he is out to get you!

God creates and God re-creates. The Trinity created the universe out of nothing; and when the world was destroyed by a flood because of evil, God re-created the earth. God did not and does not abandon the creation he loves. The scoffing voices may suggest otherwise, but God is powerful and committed to ensuring your complete wholeness. His timing may be different than yours, but remember: “God is not slow, he is thorough.” The apparent delay in the promise being fulfilled is purposeful, founded in love, not neglect.

A day is coming, we are promised, when Jesus will return. He will bring with him complete justice and salvation. We don’t know the day or hour, but we are to live in the hope of his appearance.

Who/what are the scoffers you encounter in your life? Where in your life do you feel God is slow in keeping promises? Peter reminds you of God’s power to create and to re-create according to God’s loving purpose. How does this impact your doubt?

Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. (verse 14,15)

 Written for weekly devotional for CBC

God heeds your soul’s cries, do you?

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication…I wait for the Lord, my soul waits and in his word I hope…with God there is great power to redeem.

Psalm 130:1,2,5-7

I know I’m late to the party, but I just saw The Dark Knight Rises a few days ago. Bruce Wayne, aka Batman, finds himself in a hellhole of a prison, it’s dark and ugly. Being kept barely alive was the torment inflicted on the prisoners, death would be a welcome release.

Surprisingly, the other instrument of torture was hope.

A beam of light, traveling 500 feet down a narrow shaft, penetrated the darkness and despair of the captives, teasing them with hints of life and freedom; unassailable and impossible to acquire. Yet rumors were whispered that someone had climbed up the shaft and escaped into the light. Hope constantly dangling in front of them, without power to realize it, was the harder, more devastating torment, it killed the soul.

The blind man spoke wisdom to Wayne, “You can escape; but to do so, your escape must not be motivated by despairing of life (‘I don’t care if I die, I need to escape or end it’), but by fear of death – knowing that if you remain in this limbo, an unending torturous life of death will be yours. Your escape must be born of the desire to escape this death. And you must attempt the escape with no rope tied around your waist, no second guessing, no backdoor. Let your fear of dying push you to great courage and strength. You must own the piece of your soul that wants to live and want it so desperately that you’ll take a huge risk to realize it.”

Such are the depths from which our souls cry to God, places where we feel as if we’re barely hanging on, where despair, lethargy or indifference takes over and we settle into survival mode. We see the promise of a life of freedom and peace, we hear God’s invitation to come and live in the light, yet it seems out of reach or too hard to accomplish. Allowing ourselves to want such a life only increases our discomfort, there is such a gap between the dream and reality.

Still, there is a piece of every heart and soul that knows, with complete purity, that she was made for Life and that she needs God to energize this Life. This is the true self, the self made in God’s image, the self that knows she needs salvation and God alone can satisfy this existential need. No darkness can extinguish this light, it is God’s eternal flame burning within, not letting her settle for a living death.

This voice cries out to God for release, she will not be silenced. She will not settle for a living death, a life that goes through the motions without joy and freedom. She cries out, looking toward the light, continuing to hope. God has promised life and freedom and has the power to grant her release.

My friend, heed her cries, just as God does. Let yourself want Life, this is the first step of ascending into freedom.

Oh God, You pay attention to my soul’s persistent cries. Your light penetrates my darkness and ignites my hope – I was created for Life. You have not abandoned me to mere survival. You are the source of my freedom. Sometimes, though, it hurts to hope. Yet hoping gives me energy to remember you and honor the true me, the me that will not settle for less than all of you. Amen.

 

What drives you to Jesus?

He begged for more than alms, he begged for mercy.

In both yesterday and today’s Gospel reading Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” Yesterday’s request by James and John was born of ignorance mixed with pride, today’s of hope for restoration and maybe a little anger.

As Jesus and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ …Jesus stood still and said, ‘Call him here.’ …So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. Then Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ ‘My teacher, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go your faith has made you well.’ Mark 10:46ff

Bartimaeus wasn’t always blind. Something transpired in his life that robbed him of his sight. His blindness physically reduced him to the role of an insignificant beggar, yet his spirit retained the memory and the experience of being a person of consequence. In Jesus, he hoped for more than alms because of who he was, a blind beggar. He hoped for mercy.

Mercy, the quality that looks beyond the present reality to the original and intended plan of God. Mercy, originating in the caring heart of the beholder, not in the pitiable state of the one seen. Bartimaeus begs Jesus “Please don’t see me as I am now, a blind beggar in need of alms, see the real me, the me I am meant to be, a person returned to wholeness.”

Yesterday, James and John were bold in their request of Jesus because of their intimate relationship with him. Today, Bartimaeus’ boldness is energized by desperation. Both motivations for approaching Jesus are equally welcomed by him. Jesus will use your intimacy with him to take you deeper into his love. And your desperation to lead you into greater wholeness. “Let nothing separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” [Romans 8] Run to him with your heart’s desires. You are welcome in his presence. He longs to ask you, “What do you want me to do for you?”

For more thoughts about your desires leading you to a deeper walk with the Lord read  “What do you really want?” and “Choose Life.

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How does your Garden Grow?

A beginner [in prayer] must look upon himself as making a garden, wherein our Lord may take His delight, but in a soil unfruitful, and abounding in weeds. His Majesty roots up the weeds, and has to plant good herbs. …so that He may come often for His pleasure into this garden, and delight Himself in the midst of these virtues.

from The Life of St. Teresa of Avila

St. Teresa uses an analogy to help us understand our relationship to the Lord, we are the Lord’s garden. Jesus longs to walk amongst the flowers of our garden-soul and make us his dwelling place. Weeds in the garden choke the flowers or food that have been planned and planted. They hinder the beauty, the accessibility and the effectiveness of the garden.

No need to argue that we are weedy – that is obvious. It is the job of the gardener to uproot the weeds, to clear the soil, to plant the flowers. He has a plan and a timeline, it is our task to submit to his activity and cooperate with his work.

***

We find the primary activities of God’s plan for tending the garden of the human soul in Matthew 10:7,8. Jesus sends out the twelve disciples on their precedent setting mission, giving them the following instructions. They were to:

1. Awaken Hope – Proclaim the good news: the Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near

2. Restore to Health – Cure the sick: relieve hindrances to wholeness

3. Return to Innocence – Raise the dead: animate and reenergize what once was alive

4. Remove Shame – Cleanse the lepers: restore to community

5. Establish truth – Cast out demons: eliminate spiritual lies, provide spiritual truth

Each of these activities provides a return to health, life and proper normalcy. This is the Lord’s intention for us and his means of weeding our souls.

Awaken Hope – Proclaim the Good News: the Kingdom of Heaven has come near

The sequence of these instructions is significant.  The first task of God’s weeding is to proclaim the good news: The Kingdom of heaven is near.  This assurance awakens our hope. We are so convinced of and consumed by our deficits, our sins, our wrongs, that it is hard to believe that there is hope for us. That’s why God begins the work of weeding the garden of our soul by letting us know He is near.

God’s reign begins here. Right exactly where we are. We don’t need to move toward it – It has drawn close to us. The Kingdom of Heaven is wherever God has his say so. This kingly authority and power of God has approached us and is as close as our skin.

God’s character of love and grace is shown in the post fruit-eating episode of Genesis two and three. Adam and Eve have screwed up and in their shame they hide from God, the one they’ve disappointed. What does God do? God seeks them out, wanting to stay in relationship with them. God names their reality, they have disobeyed God’s instructions and as a result there are consequences they must bear. Yet God does not leave them as they are found, cowering and clothed in fig leaves; he covers them with soft, durable and warm animal skins. (Perhaps foreshadowing of the need for blood sacrifices?) God’s next act of love is a confusing and profoundly loving thing, he banishes them from the garden, so that they may die an earthly death and be reborn into eternity.

From the Garden of Eden, where death was unleashed to the Garden of the Resurrection where life defeats death, God’s love awakens our hope.

(This material is taken from the retreat, “Shaped at the Garden.” Contact me or look at the events page for information about participating in this retreat.)