Catching Hope

Looking for the grace of God that surrounds us

breathe.

Dear Suffering Saint:

You didn’t expect your circumstances to make it hard to breathe.  I know, because I didn’t expect it either.

I know that sometimes you are caught off guard with That thought.  You know, that one thing that brings the pain back to your mind and heart in a rush, like a sudden gust of wind.  And as it comes, the air your lungs catches quickly and hovers, in one brief inhaling gasp.

….

but breathe.

just take a breath.

and another one.

And then it gets easier. I promise, it does.

It again becomes natural, normal, a simple reflex induced by oxygen and carbon dioxide osmosis gradients in the tiny alveoli of the lungs.

…………………………….

Maybe you knew It would be difficult.  Maybe you were totally caught off guard by it.

Either way, it hurts.  I know. It comes in rushes. Like the rise and fall of an ocean wave…like a breath.

In….out.

Up….down.

Pain….grace.

……………………………….

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'” (I Cor. 12:9-10)

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Glass Lazarus

Sometimes prayer seems this way, I think. Like a Glass Lazarus.

Go with me on the imagery here….

Our deepest desires, our most fervent prayers, the things that makes our hearts weep for longing…these are the miracles that we pray for, and sometimes they seem as impossible as raising a dead-four-days man from the grave.

And it seems that every time we pray, the dream of our Lazarus-like miracle collides with the harsh steel of reality.  Disappointment shatters that dream into a thousand pieces, like one of those tiny, delicate glass ornaments that falls on to a concrete floor.

But I think there’s hope.

In some cases, I think that God shatters our self-dreams because when the distraction of these desires are gone, we can see that underneath lies a God-dream that is so much better.

In other situations, I think we are called to hold on to the pieces of our God-given hope, despite how they seem to be shattered.

But I guess that’s the tricky part, isn’t it?  We can try to pick up the shards of our dream and glue them back together.  Odds are it won’t work, and it won’t make us happy.

Perhaps what we should do instead is sweep up the pieces and put them in Jesus’ hands.  He will give us His dream instead…or He will put the pieces of our hope back together to make something even more beautiful than we can imagine.

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:21-22)

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Holding A Miracle

In keeping with yesterday’s post, here is one of my favorite YouTube videos.  I think it helped me realize that we don’t have to look too far for inspiration! Enjoy!

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Speaking of hope….

my patients need it.  Or maybe I need it for them.  Can you hope for someone else?  I think so.

My first little boy looked up at me with cracked, dry lips and angry, sad, pain-filled eyes.  His mommy kept stepping out of the room to cry, then come back in to offer what support she had for him.  “It’s so hard,” she said.  “First the refugee camp…we didn’t have food every day.  And the attacks.  Then we come here, and he–”

I administered the injection meant to boost his dwindling white cells, gave him pain medication for the long bone pain that inevitably comes with the cancer, wanly smiled at their pastor that had come to visit and was oh, so glad he was there to offer the kind of support that I just didn’t have the time to offer.  Or just couldn’t figure out the right way to offer it, no matter how hard I tried and wanted to.

My second child, five months old, sat on one side of the floor in her carseat, bottle propped next to her, in a dirty used-to-be-white onsie stained with spit-up and bottle drool.  She was set aside, just about forgotten.  I picked up her seven pound, 12 ounce body and held her close, because no one else would.  Child Protection will come soon….but is there any more hope for her than that?

I forced a tiny tube down the nose of my third patient today.  A little six-month-old, who escaped death by a hair’s breadth multiple times in his short life, and now needs a tube threaded down in to his stomach because somewhere along the lines of fighting the pneumonia, the infections and the IV tubes he never had the time or the energy to learn how to eat.  Alarms beeping, baby crying, mom trying to comfort….and my hands shaking as I hook the monitors back up and spend the rest of the night worrying about how he is.

I try to fight for my patients, try to have hope for them.  But in the utterly terrifying sadness of cancer, the despair of neglect and the gnawing worry of wondering if I made the right clinical decisions and if I really made the gravity of the situation clear enough to the doctor, sometimes I don’t know how.

I don’t know if the heaviness in my heart is sadness, pain, anger, anxiety…or just the love that causes and encompasses it all.  I pray for the love of Jesus to fill my heart for my patients like these, so that I can fight for them practically as well as through prayer.  But sometimes, some nights like these, it seems impossible….

“Speaking of hope,” Jesus says, “I have it.  It is found in me.  I love you, I love them, and my love is NOT despairing or heavy or angry or sad….it is just love.  My yoke is easy and my burden is light….ask me and I will help you to carry them.  And I, the Great Shepherd, will carry you.” (Romans 8:38-39, 15:13, Isaiah 46:3-4, Matthew 11:28-30, Ezekiel 34:11-16, John 10:11, 14, 13:1).

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Where He is, Hope is.

It’s always there.  Always.

That’s the thing about hope.  Think about it.

See what I mean?

Hope is always with us, because our God promises to always be with us.  It, He, is there even when it doesn’t feel like it.  We can trust it...trust Him. There. is. always. hope. We can trust because Hope originates from the first Hope-Giver.

The Garden must have looked very bleak to Adam after he sinned.  Shame, fear, banishment…and yet even then, in that darkest of moments when sin entered the world, God gave hope.  “You will bruise His heel, He will crush your head,” the Lord said to the serpent.  And this hope that was fulfilled by the birth of a little baby, then His death…and His glorious resurrection that gave us the right, as beloved Children of the King, to have hope.

People, things, situations can be dark…or painful…or sad…. But because Our God is in control, we can be hopeful.  Even if things don’t turn out the way we’d like.  Even if things feel out of control.  Even if….

Fill in your “even if”.  I have one (several, actually).  Ask the Lord to give you a glimpse, even if it is a small one, of the glorious reality that our “even if”‘s are anything but hopeless to Him.  Where He is, Hope is.  And He is always with us. He is in charge of it all, for our eventual joy.  And, we can trust, Hope does not disappoint or put us to shame (Rom. 5:5).

I love the word hope.  I love what it connotes.  I love the way the letters look together.  I love the message it brings.

I love that it is always there, even when things are dark, because even when it is dark there is always hope for Light.

It seems like I am writing this to you.  I am, in part.  But I’m also writing it to me, because right now, I need to believe it.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.  Romans 15:13

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What I’m Learning….

That the Lord can work wonders when we, as His children, have nothing left to offer.

He is indeed faithful–and in my weakness, is strong!

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Sawdust

I have been been working on a furniture refinishing project lately.  Scrubbing things with steel wool, you know.  Sanding things.  And inadvertantly inhaling various and sundry strong chemicals.  And dust.  This project feels entirely endless.  And I hate things that seem endless.

Maybe it’s my impatience coming out.  A reflection on our “instant gratification” drive-through culture.  Or perhaps the frustration that there are so many other things to do, too.  You’ve all been there, I know.

You’re also probably wondering if the ‘various and sundry strong chemicals’ mixed with sawdust that I now have floating in the alveoli in my lungs has crossed the blood-brain barrier and is causing some cognitive and verbal consternation.

You’re probably right.  Why would I even bring this up?  Simply this–I have found that life often has these moments.  Seemingly endless struggle–over a “besetting sin” (as my mother would call it–that one thing that is a life long struggle)….or perhaps over trying to change a habit (such as my bad habit of taking 4 days to do laundry)….or perhaps a struggle over waiting for something and fighting to be patient and hopeful (as in the case of my non-married social status).

It’s that “waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel”…the constant falling down and getting back up again…the battle against discouragement.  It’s tough.  I know it is.  But I also know that our God’s mercies are new every morning…and that with Him, there is always hope.  There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, even if you can’t see it now.  Even if you won’t see it until Heaven.

In the meantime, let’s fix our eyes on Jesus, the “author and perfecter of our faith”.  As the song goes, the things of this earth “will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace“.

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The Family is Grieving Appropriately….

“The family is grieving appropriately…”, said one of the hospice MDs at a recent meeting, in reference to the death of a patient.

How does one grieve appropriately?  I suppose that outside of Christ it means appropriate expressions of grief and emotion, tears, acknowledgement of a sense of loss, increasingly close family ties, as well as a picture-perfect walk through the Stages of Grief.

However, what I can’t get out of my head are the words of the Lord…

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep…For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

-I Thess. 4:13-18

This is the only way to “grieve appropriately”.  Although the world may see textbook stages of grief and loss, without Christ there is no hope–and therefore no true comfort.  May the Lord grant grace for us to “encourage each other with these words”–and the courage for us to offer true hope and healing to a hurting world.

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