in Hope

Learning to Live with Open Hands During Seasons of Change

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See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19)

Change. None of us like it. Rarely do we seek it. Even the word can strike fear in our hearts. Yet life is full of it.

Recently, I have undergone many changes in my life. So much so that it has seemed not one thing has stayed the same. My health has dramatically changed. My extended family has gone through turmoil and looks nothing like it did several years ago. The ministries I have been involved in for many years have been stripped away, and I’m having to rethink where God would have me serve. The house I have lived in for 21 years – the one I raised all of my children in - is about to be sold. My husband’s job of 18 years changed, which meant that our finances changed, our insurance changed, our doctors had to change, our daily routine changed, etc. And I left a church that I had been attending for 25 years, which meant friends and relationships are changing even as I write this.

So, what do you do when faced with that much change? Does your foundation shake? Do you crawl into a ball and retreat? Do you put your best foot forward and bravely push on? What is the answer?

But God.

Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Wow! What great news! Despite all the changes going on around me, there is One who never changes! One whom I can cling to who is always the same.

Psalm 18:2 says, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” That is a foundation that will not shake! He is a rock, a fortress, a deliverer, a stronghold! What an amazing truth!

These changes have stripped away parts of me that I had come to rely on. Things of this world that I had equated with who I was, good things - ministries, friends, family, health. etc. Through the years, we get comfortable with the ways in which God is using us. The things we are involved in become who we are, and the way people see us becomes who we think we are. Through these changes, God began showing me a new way to see myself. A way where change doesn’t have a say - a new stream in the desert.

During this season of change, I have been cleaning out and getting rid of things to prepare to move. On one hand, this has been another source of change, to get rid of things that have defined and been a part of our family for years; yet on another hand, this has been a cleansing process. I have learned that, through the years, we all allow “junk” to gather in our hearts, just like we allow it to clutter our closets. Sometimes these are even good things, but we begin to let them define us instead of being defined by who we are in Christ. We accept labels such as prayer warrior, Sunday School teacher, caring friend, church member, mission advocate, responsible family member, etc.

None of those are bad things, but they are not who we are. They might be what we do, or how God is using us at a moment in time, but our identity is truly defined by who we are in Christ and that can never change! A person bought with a price, one who has been saved by grace, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb – that is a person who is the same regardless of any outward changes going on around them. They are a servant of the King, and what they do or where they live or who their family is or who their friends are or the state their health is in – all of that can change, yet everything in Christ still remains the same!

We are just passing through this earthly life. This is not our final destination, so cling not to things that change. Hold loosely to the blessings and pleasures of this world. Live with open hands to what God gives and what God takes away. Yet hold tightly to the One who never changes! Grasp on to the One who is steadfast and sure! He is faithful!

Paula Folsom

 

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in Hope

Hope Comes in the Midst of Cherry Blossom Blooms

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These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Spring has sprung, and with it have come thick blankets of pollen, the annual nesting of our favorite thrasher family under the eaves of our back deck, and copious amounts of cherry blossoms – that ephemeral bloom that has inspired ceremonies and celebrations around the world for millennia.

In Japan, where they are recognized as a national flower, cherry blossoms are (according to Wikipedia) seen as “an enduring metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life,” and their “exquisite beauty and volatility” make them apt for artistic allusions to mortality.

I get it – probably more than any Wikipedia editor realizes. The blooming of our two cherry blossom trees is one of my favorite things about spring. At their peak, they look like clouds come down to earth, snowflakes dancing in the slightest of breezes. But that beauty lasts only for a few weeks and then comes the volatility. What was once beautiful becomes a constant irritant. Their petals get tracked into the house, necessitating more sweeping than I’d care to do. Their blooms congregate in our pool, creating an amoeba-like mass that must be scooped out constantly. (First-world problems, I know.)

These cherry blossoms create a kind of tension within me that I think we’re all dealing with right now in this time of virus, sheltering-at-home, social distancing, quarantines, and overall isolation. There’s beauty and gratitude in living the lives God has granted us, but there’s also a sense of frustration as we wait for the plague to pass.

To me, it’s akin to the tension that we as Christians hear about nearly every Sunday. We are called to live in the world, but to be not of it; to be the salt and the light when society seems to thrive on doom and gloom; to realize that a Biblical worldview is vital to enduring a global pandemic, despite what the media or government officials tell us. We know that we live in a fallen world, and yet we can have hope no matter what public health crises come our way (or to trivialize it somewhat, no matter how much cherry blossom petals drive us to distraction).

As Jesus says in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

And as Jeremiah writes to the Babylonian captives in 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

We are called as believers to abide in the peace Christ has given us, even in times of suffering and uncertainty, because we know that He is in control and that we can find our hope in Him. Perhaps, like me, you’ve found yourself thinking that’s easier said than done. Perhaps, like me, you’ve let doubt, fear, and anxiety overcome the hopeful certainty you’ve always relied on as a Christian.

Like me, I hope you’ll take this unexpected downtime to pray for stronger faith; and to prayerfully dig into your Bible, as Pastor Matt mentioned recently, ready to act on the wisdom God reveals to you. He is ready and waiting to encourage you and to remind you that He has already overcome the virus – and the world.  

Jenn Dennard

 

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