Category: hope

Threadbare Words – HOPE

We don’t really use this word – HOPE – too much, anymore. I mean, we might hope to get into this school, or hope we land that job, or hope our health improves, or hope we meet that perfect person.

But the idea of real HOPE (a noun) is not something we think about, until we “need it.”

We’re relatively comfortable now, advancements in modern technology have eliminated most sources of suffering.

  • If I’m cold, I turn on the heat.
  • If I’m hungry, I head to the fridge.
  • If I’m sad, I take a pill.
  • If I’m lonely, I check my new feed … again.

But when my world is hit with something I can’t “fix,” then I call to mind this idea of HOPE.

I was forced to think about this concept when my teenage daughter was almost killed in a car accident. So many things were outside my control. Well, actually everything was outside my control, expect me. That first lonely night I sat at her bedside begging God to let her live. But in a all-too-familiar conversation, I knew that God owed me nothing. I also knew that preserving her life was not the measure of His love for me. God let’s those He loves die everyday.

I learned this watching my mother die, now I had to revisit it – this persistent concept of “letting go.” It is an irritating and aggravating concept, and one that does not go away.

HOPE, is the reality, that no matter what happens to me, or those I love … there is something more waiting for me and them.

Something that will not disappoint me, something that is true. A place where there will be no more crying or fretting or illness or sorrow. A place where all will be well.

I do not say this flippantly, as I have experienced many sorrows, and many losses. Through these experiences I have been confronted with the truth, that, no matter what happens while I live, I will not be overcome.

I may not get what I pray for, but I will not be overcome. Not an idea that makes me happy-clappy, but this is HOPE, the anchor of my soul.

HOPE is a thing, a noun. It is more than a feeling or an expectation. HOPE is a reality.


Threadbare Words is a series of pieces exploring thin, worn-out words. The idea is to examine their real meaning, consider their overuse and, finally take a fresh look at them through the filter of a 21st century mind to discern if they’re still relevant.


Next Christmas Give Yourself a Gift

Curious this week to visit a local bookseller and see an eye-catching journal type thing titled “Letters to Future Myself: Write Now, Read Later.” Very cleverly designed, it was a group of envelopes bound together in an actual book. Each envelope had instructions on it for writing different letters to yourself; “Where I want to go…” “These are my roots…” “It was an extraordinary day…” Once the letters are written you are to seal them in the envelopes and open sometime in the future. The title tag line said “a paper time capsule.” Priced at just under $15, it felt nice in my hands.

yourself-giftI didn’t end up buying the book. Although impressed by the idea, I was somewhat disappointed that I hadn’t created it, you see, I’ve used this concept of writing a “Letter to Yourself” for years; both in my retreats and with people I’ve mentored. The instructions for my letters are a little different; “Where am I today on my spiritual Journey…” or “What new discipline would I like adopt this season …” or “What I’ll do differently next Lent …”

Not having a cleverly produced book, I simply have the participants self-address an envelope and seal up their private letters. I have a special place at my workspace where I keep the letters and I mail them out a year later. It is a great exercise and one that never fails to surprise. It is amazing to read your own words, written to yourself, in your own handwriting. Hindsight is an interesting gift. Having that ability to reflect on how you were feeling, and compare it to how things actually unfolded.

I thought it would be fun to share this idea with you. We don’t need the clever journal, just some paper and an envelope.

Before you begin, take a minute and think on your hopes and aspirations for the next year. Think also on the uncertainties the next season will bring. Maybe you have fears and anxiety about an unresolved issue? Maybe something special is going to happen this year? Whatever is going on, capture your thoughts, ideas, and feelings as they are – today.

Now, as you write your letter to your future self, be encouraging.

Encouragement is important to our mindset and to inner peace. Deep within each of us is the desire to have someone say, “You’ll figure this out.” “You’ll get through this.” Be that person and say encouraging things to your future self.

Because we’re doing this virtually, I can’t offer to hold your letter at my desk until next year. So, I had a thought, as you clean up your Christmas decorations, tuck your “Letter to My Future Self” in a box. You’ll discover it next year around this time. I know you’ll find those encouraging words, from yourself, in your handwriting, a welcome gift.

Mine will begin something like this, Dear Future Lisa, Surely, 2017 won’t be as difficult as 2016! I know you’re worried about …

Drop me an email or leave a comment here if you’re going to write a letter to yourself. I’ll make a note in my calendar so that I’ll remember next year to ask you about it. If you’ve worked with me before, you know I will.

Making Time for PEACE

img_3976So, I’ve been laid off from my job, we’re in full holiday swing, I literally have a hundred things to tend to, so what do I do?

I go on a retreat.

Life has never been as busy as it is now. We thrive on multi-tasking and seek distractions from our distractions. Yet, with all our activities, are we really satisfied? There still seems to be something missing. A longing for something we cannot attain. I think the answer lies in stillness and solitude, and that’s why I retreat.

I’m reminded of the timeless story of Elijah experiencing the presence of God. Beginning in 1 Kings 19:10, God calls out, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Many people think Elijah was seeking God, yet Elijah was hiding, deathly afraid, in an overwhelming situation of great anxiety.

He is told, “Go out there and stand on the mountain before Yahweh.” Elijah then experiences a succession of terrifying events; a mighty wind, an earthquake, and fire. But, Elijah discovers the voice of God is not in all these loud and impressive displays of power. No, the voice of God came as the “sound of a gentle breeze.”

In a world full of distractions, we can hear the quiet voice of God, like Elijah did – but it takes practice. I don’t retreat to escape the world, I retreat to practice listening. So, when I return to the world, I have a greater attunement to God’s voice and to others. I realize not everyone has the luxury of retreating, especially during the holidays, but there are things that one can do to quiet the chaos.

I’ve created a list of my top TEN ideas to finding PEACE this holiday season. I’d love to share this list with you. Click here to submit your email and I’ll send you a copy.

Commit to making a retreat this year!! Even when it makes no sense to do so …

Keep seeking PEACE, it’s there to be found

pax
~ lisa


For information on retreat locations in southern California visit my page “Thin Places.” 
Here is a link to an online national directory of retreat locations: www.retreatfinder.com 

Trees

The golden trees in the southeast ridge of the retreat center are alive with deep green leaves. At first they don’t appear to be as tall as they were that autumn of my first retreat here, then I realize they’ve all been “topped.” Where once graceful tappers reached heavenward, there are flat, harsh cuts that stunt them.

A somewhat inconsistent yet frequent wind strains their branches as it gusts up and over the ridge behind them. I realize their “topping” was for protection, preventing them from growing too tall and snapping under the force of the gusts. This action by a master tree man intentionally forces new growth down lower on the tree’s trunk. The new growth providing the needed leaves to soak in the warmth of the sun, in turn strengthening the trunk of the tree.

I imagine I am like one of these trees. They teach me about my recent season of sorrow and pain. Has God indeed topped me? For my own good? Has my suffering prevented me from becoming too tall, too thin and too weak? Did I need renewed strength within me?

I sit and watch the unpredictable wind gust in and around the trees. The fresh mountain air is alive. The trees sway gracefully where the wind would take them, but they are not in danger of breaking. I yearn for that grace and welcome new  strength in places I thought I had already grown through. Thank you Lord for this vision.

Perhaps as God watches me, I already have a hint of that grace. I struggle inside and cry out to him, yet I have not broken. I bend and sway with each twist and turn of the ever changing gusts of wind in my life.

Help me Lord to be flexible and ever dependent up on you whatever you allow to befall me.

Symmetry

Dizzy my mind has been of late. A whirlwind of shifting thoughts and feelings.

I sit – still, yet I am not.

I feel as if all the particles that make up my body, might at any moment pull apart. Leaving where I once was a heap of the smaller pieces my body is made from.

Another voice calls to me,

Look up, see higher things. The blue of the sky the softness of the clouds.

And so I answer the call, gazing upward.

I behold beauty that only One can orchestrate, symmetry in the world around me. The trees near me are perfectly outlined by soft white clouds miles behind them. Every bump in their outline perfectly haloed as if by an aura. Each contour echoed in pattern. Yet this pattern can only be seen from exactly where I sit.

A whisper through the chaos,

I am in control. All things are ordered aright. 

Mountain Top Wisdom

Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters.

With great wisdom Aslan encourages the little girl. “Here, in my presence you will know and understand, but the air down below will become thick and confuse your mind.”

This has been my own experience, drawing away to be with God. Seeking Him, intentionally in a “thin place.” The richness of meeting him, moments of crystal clarity. Then the obligatory returning to the world.

The air does become thick – quickly. Oh the burdens of life. They make His lessons thin, elusive. This doesn’t negate the mountain top experience, it only reinforces the need for those moments and the urgency of practicing what you learn there. To live with the assurance of those things which you know to be true, to record them deeply, to know them by heart.

“Nothing else matters,” nothing else.

Hope-filled Grief


“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the with trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thes 4:16-18

Paraphrased: “You will see your loved one again and you will be reunited forever, Christ himself will come again. And HE will make this so.”

I was comforted, again, by this truth today at the Requiem Mass for a great lady, Catherine Wilcox. The priest, encouraged us, “Mourn and grieve, yes, but not as the world grieves.”

Christian grief is filled with hope, the aspect of mourning that eludes the world. Ours is not a wishful hope, but a certain anticipation of the fulfillment of a promise. “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

Make us Glad

“Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.” Psalm 90:15-16

Always we have the hope that our sorrows will come to an end. The blessing of time passing. The psalmist asks that his children see God’s power. Times are difficult, but our children are watching. If we believe the things we know about God, he will redeem our affliction and allow our children to see the glory of His power.

Our responsibility is simply to be obedient and step our feet in the paths that we KNOW we must take. A difficult task? Not, if we anticipate God will redeem our suffering.

Lost Desires

There was a time when Christians desired eternity, perhaps because life around them was awful. Full of uncertainties, injustices, illness, hunger and disease.

Through modern technology we have erased most of these issues – and so, we have ceased to long for wholeness, the beauty of a ‘glorified’ being.

We’ve traded-in our hopes and accepted a counterfeit of life.

In exchange for a longing to return to God, we’ve become satisfied with a transient substitute – believing the lie that the things we can see, acquire and consume will satisfy, and they don’t.

We no longer anticipate the beauty that God desires to give us.