Hope that Endures

If you had peered through the windows of my soul last week, you’d have caught me in a familiar and well worn trap called deferred hope.  The symptoms of this trap are discouragement and, obviously, feeling hopeless.

I was hoping my strength would escalate after the rotten tooth came out and I would be able to “DO” things I have been yet unable to.  A better day, followed by a few rough days of pain and not much sleep crushed those embers of hope, leaving ashes of discouragement in their place.  I confess, I moped around like a little bird caught in a snowstorm.

Its funny; I can know what God is teaching me, yet still be flung about emotionally by circumstances He allows to develop the proficiency He has already told me He is building.  I recently told a friend that God is developing steadfastness in me regardless of situation.  The Psalms mine deep into the recesses of despair yet continually come back to this bedrock.  “I will hope in God.”  This is where I want my soul to find anchor.   Not circumstance, wishful thinking, or tomorrow, but in God and my eternal place in Him.

The highest building that graces the skyline is the one whose foundations began in the dark recesses of the ground.  Paul talks about endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  To learn to endure, one must go through circumstances that test endurance.  To develop hope that cannot be deferred, one must transfer hope from what might be to what will be and what is – Jesus Himself.

The trap is worn and familiar because I have often stacked my building blocks on hope that something will change or come to pass. When it doesn’t, the structure I erected topples as hope is pulled from underneath.    One cannot build something  lasting and significant on the wrong foundation.  I am learning to dig down to the rudimentary bedrock.  I am saved.  I am loved by the best Father and He is ALWAYS working for my good, regardless of how I feel.  Today is not the end of the story.  So I slowly exchange despair in the low times for steadiness that hopes in God not circumstance and the trap gets a little rustier with time.

I still hope I will be completely well.  But I am learning to recognize God in the process and see His gifts.   I am learning not to pin my hope on uncertain ends, but on God’s complete ability and intention to lead me in victory through any circumstance! I am rejoicing that I have been able to sing for the first time in almost two years.   The song at the top right of this post came out of “my time in the trap.”

Embracing hope that endures is like shifting one’s balance off something shaky to something solid.  It is a bit tricky to get off the shaky platform without falling, but the steadiness the solid one offers is worth the effort.

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers.  We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.   1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

Love’s Labor

Being the devoted spouse of someone living with a deadly disease is perhaps harder some days than battling the disease.  When Paul commends the Thessalonians for their labour of love, my mind immediately summons thoughts of the man my heart adores.

Through our battle with Lyme we have been spurred on by stories of incredible faithfulness. We have also heard stories of people who walked away.  They made a covenant of love, yet somehow the covenant itself was not enough to keep them invested when things got really rough.

My David is one of the strongest men I know, but he didn’t have what it takes.  He received what it took from the One who is enough one gruelling day at a time. There is no other explanation how he could have done everything he did with compassion and grace. You could even say we learned to love each other through the hell of Lyme Disease.  We wept together, swore together, and prayed together, desperate for God’s touch in the days that melted into years. The transformation God has worked in us is  woven through with the fingerprints love leaves as it labours.

I wonder if that’s just what love does.  It transforms.  It needn’t be a spouse; it can be someone I just met.  It may be someone who has no capacity to fill any emotional or physical need but God calls me to love.  I am learning the way I see these people reflects my heart on any given day.  I don’t have what it takes to love the way Jesus asks us to – so Jesus holds out His arms and says “come to me and be filled.”  As God fills me with perfect love, I love more perfectly and a larger space to carry love is carved in my heart.

Sometimes intangible, God’s love runs like a root system beneath the surface of our lives giving us the love we need to interact together in life.  I wonder if our capacity to give love is determined by the strength of our connection to that root system? If we must tap into Love Himself to nourish the fruit that feeds the world?

David’s love was accepted from God and passed on to me and my life is enriched by it.  Love begets love and I am discovering my first labour of love is to connect with its source.  For me, that takes a shift of thinking and time with Jesus.  Often He speaks to me in pictures, and invites me to ask good questions. (His answers are even better!)

I want to learn the posture that receives first until every interaction is characterized by Divine Love rather than human impatience, selfishness, judgement or fear.  I want my labour to become a beautiful response; not just to the people I am labouring to love, but to the One who loved me first!  If Faith, Hope and Love remain, but the greatest is Love, how can our labour not become sacred when it is prompted by Love?

Are you walking a long and difficult road or investing in stretching relationships?  I pray your labour is saturated with the power of God’s all encompassing love for you.  What posture and practices enable you to receive God’s love for you?   Does it change the way you see people or even change your labour itself?

We remember before God our Father your work produced by faith, your labour prompted by love…   1 Thessalonians 1:2

How does faith work?

Self confidence barely registered on the scale when I began as campus minister with IVCF.  I had walked away from a terrible car accident and was in constant pain.  Sleep wasn’t speaking to me as I wrapped up my horse training business and moved to Alberta.  I felt ill equipped and out of place, yet the call had been clear so I turned my back to fear and face toward faith.

After the first Bible Study, I lay in bed, asking Jesus if bringing me here was the first mistake God had ever made.  I trained horses, not people. I think He probably chuckled.  Then He invited me to a 21 day fast to give me His heart for the students.  It wasn’t the strategy I was thinking but I surmised any idea of His would be better than any of mine.

For 21 days I neither slept nor ate and the clarity and vision God spoke over the next years of ministry were treasures I wrote down and prayed into the rest of my time there.  Looking back, I am astounded at God’s sustaining power for me and faithfulness to bring to pass what He had purposed.

By the time I left I watched God develop a group of students who taught me, encouraged me, and spurred me on in faith and who I believe left an eternal footprint at the college along with the godly instructors and mentors who came alongside them.

What kind of work does faith produce?  Hebrews says ‘faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.’  When we work in faith, we labour looking ahead to the impossible.  We believe it will certainly come to pass because Jesus said it will be so.  We remain steadfast and faithful in the mundane and gruelling tasks of today knowing God is building for tomorrow.  We work in a different way than the world because when it is God’s vision we know our efforts will be multiplied by the Master.   All we need do is bring our two loaves, few fish, and our faith and God will do the rest.

There were days Noah must have doubted his work of faith would preserve the world.  Did Mary understand her acceptance of God’s task would affect multitudes; generations yet unborn?   Imagine the faith that grew as they walked the in between when life neared unbearable and vision had long blurred.

Faith and conviction will compel the will to do far more than mere obligation ever can, and it is Love Himself who makes the work eternal.  It is critical I return again to sit with Jesus, allowing Him to refocus my view of His vision and renew my faith in His underpinning commitment to accomplish it in me.

What is the long term vision God has given you?

What piece of it has God called you to today?

Perhaps no more than caring for a single child, yet no less than shaping the eternity of many.  No more than helping one person and no less than giving hope that God cares.

For those of us who don’t have a vision but want to walk in the impossible what if we made space in life and asked Jesus what piece of kingdom work He created us to be passionate about?  And then let Him give us vision and faith to join Him in it?  God is the master vision caster and He delights in instilling faith in His children!

“We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith…”  Thessalonians 1:2  (To be continued)

Take it out!

This week I had a tooth surgically extracted from my mouth.   It was an adventure and although I expected my Lyme weakened body to not be thrilled with the ordeal I didn’t expect to pass out three times between the dentist’s chair and the parking garage!  My dear friend who was with me remained calm but God knew we could use a little more help and sent the kind building manager to our aid.  I remember thinking “I’m going to pass out.”  My next recollection was coming to with our friendly samaritan slapping my still partially frozen face with its fresh wound.  The feeling of newly placed stitches ripping is something I’m happy to only experience once.

It has been a painful experience, but one I hope will lead to greater overall health.  It did get me thinking of the picture Jesus gives of holiness.  He tells us if our hand or eye (I suppose you could name the body part) causes us to sin, we should cut it off.

I had tried for months to regenerate and heal the tooth, but when a  virus caught up with me, things went downhill.  Something I was so resolutely trying to save  became something that had to go to keep from compromising my whole body.  I now suspect the damaged tooth had created bacterial deposits leaking into my body for months, keeping my body from getting stronger.

Feeling like a bomb had exploded in my mouth I felt the kind of desperation sustained agony induces as I lay awake for the third night in a row.  I began begging Jesus to alleviate the pain.  Even just a little.  And then it intensified.  After five years of constant physical suffering this seemed a grievous affront and I was like a child, abject after being told “no.”

The next morning in my quiet time, I pondered things I am attached to that jeopardize spiritual health.  Sometimes they are even good things that become toxic to holiness and  need to be removed.  The first thing to come to mind as I sat with my journal and Bible was attitude.  Self pity is like a toxic tooth that will insidiously infect the rest of the body if not removed.  So after allowing Jesus to extract self pity (it took a little while) I asked Him what He would like to fill the hole with.  Even with extracted teeth something must fill the space.  In life it is no different.

“Kindness” I heard the Holy Spirit whisper.  “I would like to fill it with my kindness that leaves you feeling loved, grateful and secure in me.”

So I lay on my back, opened my hands and my heart, and invited Him to fill me up!

Extracting things from our lives is often painful as the roots that have wound their way into the fabric of our souls are yanked loose.  Being willing to perceive what Jesus is wanting to extract is the first step, but it is in the after care He so generously offers where the life giving benefits become apparent.

What is the Master surgeon inviting you to let Him extract from your life right now?  What is one thing that is keeping you from experiencing the incredible kindness and power of God in intimate relationship?  Yes, the extraction is painful, but in the pain never forget to linger in the Surgeon’s chair with hands held out to receive life giving newness and extravagant kindness.

Make every effort to add…

At supper David told me of a friend struggling with symptoms of giving up sugar for Lent.   I asked if he was giving anything up and as we talked about fasting from things we are attached to, I began to wonder if somehow in pursuit of the upside-down kingdom, we look at Lent rightside up?

Although Jesus calls us to lay down our life, He is clear we are to pick up the new life He secured for us, and walk in it to the full.

I am not saying it is bad to give up sugar, caffeine, Facebook or hankering ‘X’  (chocolate’s a different story).  I encourage everyone I know to give up unhealthy proclivities; but simply because we are told to care for ourselves as a lifestyle of holiness, not a symbol of suffering for a 40 day window.

What if, in preparation for Easter, we replaced something?  Easter points forward to the second triumph of Christ, when He returns for the sons and daughters of God.  What if, in anticipation of His coming, we were intentional to develop character traits of God in increasing measure?

For example,  what if we were mindful to build kindness, replacing impatience?  Or grace to replace critical words?  Or a compassionate listening spirit to overthrow a need to be heard? What if in the next 40 days, we asked Jesus what He would like to add, rather than pick something to punish ourselves with for a time, only to go right back to it when Easter is forgotten?  What if every year, we added another layer of character we could wear for the rest of the time we are given here?  What eternal impact might that have over 40 cups of missed coffee?

The last few weeks have been brutal.  But then, the last 5 years have been excruciating in many ways.  Deferred hope, stymied dreams, and constant pain have frayed nerves and sapped the last reserves of strength.  Today Isaiah 40 reminded me it is they who HOPE in the Lord who will renew their strength.  Who will run and not grow weary, walk and not faint. (I’ve become well acquainted with the feeling one gets just before passing out.)  Today, I hold out my aching, weary hands to Jesus and receive renewed hope.  In the weeks before Easter I’ll be working with Jesus to grow unshakable hope planted in the greatest reason for hope – Resurrected Life in Christ! Please feel free to ask me how I’m doing!

Make every effort to add to your faith goodness, and to goodness, knowledge, and to knowledge, self control; and to self-control, perseverance, and to perseverance, godliness, and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.  If you possess these qualities in increasing measure they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ! 1 Peter 1:5

What would you choose to develop with Jesus in anticipation for His coming?

How will you incorporate it in your day today?

The beginnings of a straight road

Hebrews 12:12 tells us to build straight roads for our feet so what is out of joint may be healed, not disabled. You see, every step we take, we build the road we travel.  This same road becomes a path others will follow us on, whether our children, the youth of tomorrow, or someone we may not even know is watching. Training by the Master  Road Builder can be painful, yet it leads to wholeness and strength. It takes small but wise decisions every day to build a straight road.

It is said that life is a journey but life, it seems, scars the best of us, and we develop mental pathways that sabotage our minds and keep us from freedom. Yet Jesus continually invites us to travel with Him in liberty. Unlike a self help author, he doesn’t lay out a step by step program to follow. He merely says; “Come follow me.” And then the journey begins.

I remember while trekking, the unpleasant sensation of a stone in my boot.  It rubbed and aggravated with every step, but, loathe to hold up the group, I gritted my teeth and carried on till we stopped to take it out.  What should have been a moment of discomfort turned into a blister that bothered me for the next few days.

Our souls get stones in them too. They are not always as easy to see as the stone in your shoe, but left to fester, they cause blisters that keep us from walking freely. With these stones too, we must stop, and take the time to remove them. It is Jesus who lifts these stones from our souls and helps us place them as integral pieces on the road we are building together, and instead of making us lame, they become a platform to walk on.

I hope ‘Building Straight Roads’ will become a conversation between you and me and Jesus. A place to share things God is up to in our lives;  healing, freeing, training and inviting. To offer hope and inspiration God gives us, spilling over for others to build their roads a little straighter.

A journey is always far more meaningful when Jesus is leading and there are fellow travellers to share the road. I would be delighted if you would join me as we travel and delve deeper into the amazing depths of God’s heart through His word to us.

I will be writing twice a week, and would love to hear from you what Jesus is up to in your journey or your thoughts anytime. If you have a verse or idea you would like me to write about, I’d love to do that too! I am not afraid to talk about any subject, so if you have questions, fire away!

May you have strength and joy for the journey today!

Welcome to the road!

Welcome friend!

I am glad you found your way here!  My name is Katie and I am a disciple of Jesus and lover of adventure who has been put to shore for a season.  That being said, I am still making as many waves as I can with what I’ve been given.

Let me elaborate.  I have always endeavoured to live my life to the fullest possible measure, but 5 years ago, I contracted Lyme Disease on my honeymoon.  For the last five years, I have struggled to thrive when life seemed mostly to consist of trying to survive, seeking ardently to find the glory in suffering and the beauty in pain.

In the midst of that journey, I have grown and learned more about the kindness and character of God as we wrestled with big questions like suffering, unanswered prayer, God given visions being relegated to the shelf and how to live an abundant life when you are fighting to live at all.

There are many kinds of healing, and Jesus is, thankfully, still the best in the healing business!  What I’m learning is that He is intent on healing everything, which means physical healing is not always the first thing He focuses on.

Taking a body, ravaged by disease, a mind, oppressed by despair, and a spirit, broken by deception and pain, Jesus has been very much at work in our story.  Looking back at these desert years of disease, we see streams pouring out over the burning sand.

Consider this an invitation to journey together.   We can learn much from each other and in the process, more about God, and His abundant, adventurous life!  I love a good conversation, and there is not much I won’t talk about!  So going forward, I would love to get to know you better and discover what makes your spirit come alive.  I’ll answer almost any question you might have for me too!

I aim to post stories, thoughts on scripture, and things God is teaching me that take 5 minutes or less to read, but hopefully keep you thinking throughout the day!  And this is where the conversation begins.  I’d love to hear back from you as we go along!  You are cared for more than you know, you are valuable beyond what you imagine, and I am honoured that you took time to stop by!