Got Hope?

Have you ever felt hopeless?

I have.  In fact, there have been many many times in my life when I’ve gone through something that left me feeling blindsided and in deep despair.  

Like when my 3rd marriage ended in divorce. Or the day I came home from work to find my daughter had taken all of her stuff – including my 11 month old grandson – and moved out of the house without telling me where she was going.  

As an early 20something, living with a boyfriend and addicted to drugs and alcohol, I remember being down on my bedroom floor crying. It was after yet another night of partying until I was puking my guts up. I had done something or said something amazingly stupid, and felt ashamed because I knew I was killing myself and couldn’t stop. 

Over the years I’ve had friends – best friends – walk out of my life without a single word.  In 2015 I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer with 18 months of treatment to go through.   I have been ambushed with an unexpected job lay-off – more than once – and me, a single mom of two to support.  I’ve experienced the unexpected death of a parent, and nearly being homeless – along with my husband and 2 children – after a real estate agent sold our home from out from under us because “he had bills to pay”.  We had 1 day to find a place.

These hard times, while differing in particulars, all produced the same result:  A dark cloud of hopelessness and depression that threatened to consume me, and which I wasn’t sure I could – or would – survive.  On my own, I didn’t have any of the resources or strength or to change them.  And in a couple of instances, my literal life was at stake.  My life was in the balance, along with my sanity.

Several times I wanted to die, and even prayed for it to happen.

Obviously, those particular prayers weren’t answered.  And oh, how grateful I am for that!  In each and every instance, things did eventually turn around – most of them in quite miraculous ways.

My husband and I are nearing our 7th re-marriage anniversary and we’re closer now than ever. After 18 months of no communication whatsoever, my daughter contacted me out of the blue and re-established relationship. We’ve been a vital part of their lives ever since, and both she and my grandson have lived with us for over 2 years now.  He’ll be 10 in just a few weeks.

I stopped using hard drugs decades ago and only enjoy an occasional drink now and then when out with friends or with my husband.  The weed addiction – it was the strongest of all of them – was finally broken once and for all last summer.  It took 45 years, but I am free. At last!

New friends showed up, I’ve been cancer free for almost 4 years, and I was never without a good job for long until I semi-retired a few years back. In fact, they just kept getting better, and better paying.

Naturally, Dad didn’t come back from the grave (wouldn’t THAT have been a miracle!) but Mom is still around at 86 years old and I see her at least every other weekend.  Her body is in decline, and she’s a wee bit forgetful, but her mind is still sharp and on a good day, it’s a good day.

And lastly, none of us – not me, my husband, my children or grandchild – have ever spent a single day of our lives without a roof over our heads, clothes on our back, and good food to eat.  We’ve haven’t always had “extra”, but we’ve always had enough.

All of these difficult experiences had one thing in common (besides me. Ha!)  They all changed for the better, changed me in the process, and turned that deep, dark hopelessness into joy.  

Was it a 12step group I attended that freed me?  Weeks of Therapy?  One (or more) of the New Age accouterments I tried?  Everything from Tarot to OMing, Reiki to Past Life Regression, Visualization to Crystals?  Did Buddhism or Paganism or Goddess worship help me?

No.  (And trust me.  I tried them all.) 

In each and every case, it was Jesus.  

Jesus delivered me, healed me, restored my marriage and my family and my life.  He protected and provided, comforted and encouraged, and gave me not only a reason to get up in the morning, but a sense of real purpose for living.

And that’s why I’ve come here today.  I felt compelled to tell of just a few of the things that the Lord has done for me.  I know, with all that is within me, that if He would do these things for me, He will do them for anyone because there’s absolutely nothing special about me.  I wasn’t the Favorite Child. In fact, in many of these instances, I wasn’t even a Christian (or if I was, I wasn’t acting like one).  But even then, even during the times when I walked away from Him, He never walked away from me. No matter what dark road I had chosen to walk, He walked it with me just waiting.  Waiting for me to ask for help.

If you find yourself today in a place where you feel hopeless, and beaten down by life or your own bad choices, I beg you.  Give Jesus a chance.  Even if you have before, invite Him into your circumstances, into your heart, and to turn things around. He longs help you – physically and spiritually – and to demonstrate His Unconditional Love. It’s not about you joining a religion. It’s about having a relationship with the Son of the Living God.

God is a good God. His mercy endures forever, and He is near to those who are broken and brokenhearted.  Ask Him for help. Do it now. You won’t be sorry.

“I love the Lord, for He heard my voice,

He heard my cry for mercy.

Because He turned his ear to me

I will call on Him as long as I live.

The cords of death entangled me.

The anguish of the grave came upon me.

I was overcome by trouble and sorry.

Then I called on the name of the Lord:

Oh, Lord, save me!

The Lord is gracious and righteous.

Our God is full of compassion.

The Lord protects the simple hearted.

When I was in great need,

He saved me.

Be at rest once more, Oh my soul,

for the Lord has been good to you.

For you, Oh Lord, have delivered my soul from death,

my eyes from tears,

my feet from stumbling,

that I may walk before You in the land of the living.”

  • Psalm 116:1-9

I Am Not Afraid

Stumbled across this song by Red Rock Worship this morning while I was listening to some teaching on YouTube.

What first caught my eye was their name, and I wondered if they’re from the red rocks of Las Vegas or  Sedona, Zion or Bryce.  Could they be from the King’s Canyon area, or other parts of the Sierra Nevada where we’ve explored and camped?

I still don’t know because the 2nd reason I decided to listen  immediately sucked me in, and I ended up in worship, tears streaming down my face,  in my kitchen at 6 a.m.

This happens a lot to me lately.  Jesus has been showing up.

ANYWAY, the guy singing this looks so much like my son, Adam, it’s amazing.  And I like to think that in a parallel universe, this IS Adam, who’s a musician and singer himself.  Serendipitously,  we’ll be seeing he and my daughter-in-law later today as they’re down from Seattle.  So it was extra sweet.

But I immediately forgot all that when I put my headphones in, cranked up the volume, and pressed the Arrow.  The first several bars in, and I loved it.  It reminds me of some of the melodies from the 50s and 60s, the decades of my childhood.

And the lyrics! This is literally what I’ve been saying for the last three years in particular, and the last several decades overall:  That I may have to walk through the Fire, but I’ll come out of it not even smelling of smoke, for the Lord is with me.  I shall not be afraid (….saying this even when I have been most afraid….)

God never promised life on earth would be easy.  In fact, we’ll be presented with all kinds of trials and experiences as we journey along.  They come along for all sorts of reasons, but for one purpose:    to demonstrate the power of God to heal, to deliver, and to save.

If you’re going through the fire, please listen.  You are not alone.

The Sabbath Rest

Church in Bodie, CA

I can still see her in my mind’s eye, a young woman…perhaps even still a teenager…holding a newborn wrapped in a blanket.  She was wearing sandals and a sun dress.  Her chin was pointed slightly downward, and her long golden hair hid part of her face as she walked out on stage

Humility.  Brokenness.  Maybe even shame.

I could feel it all over her.  My heart immediately shattered in pieces for her.

Surrounded by a few family members and church staff, she began to gently weep as Pastor Danny began to pray.   With the hands of those close by on she and the baby, and the hands of those of us in the congregation stretched outward towards them,  we entered all into a holy moment together.  A moment when this young mother, having been forsaken by the man who fathered the child, was there to offer herself up as she  dedicated her baby and herself to Christ.

If ever there was a singular moment over the last 8 months that made me glad we joined this little community church, it was this one.  Not a shred of judgement was anywhere to be found.  None.  And I know for a fact others there, like my husband and I, didn’t know jack about this girl or her family.   We didn’t need to know anything except what was happening in that present moment.   Compassion compelled us, all over that room, to join as One to seek the face of God on behalf of this young person. We were with her.

And with tears streaming down our faces, we asked God for strength and courage for this new little mama, and His hand of protection on the child.   Men committed themselves to step up and offer to be fathers to this fatherless child.   The women offered themselves as well.  We would be additional mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters to this family, there with our love and support whenever and however they needed it.

By the end of the dedication, as everyone left the stage glowing with peace, I felt connected to “the church” and everyone there in a new way.  A deeper way.  It’s been since 2002 since we’ve been members of a church, and I had forgotten how good it felt when it’s done “right”.   Having a spiritual community, even as new as it is, provides us a level of comfort, connection and commonality that’s been missing.   I, particularly, feel ‘safer’.   A feeling that is hard to come by in a world that feels exceedingly unsafe. The Pastor, 42 years old, is down to earth, funny and wise.  The congregation, made up of every age group and every color, displays the diverse nature of God.

I am so happy….so grateful…that we found Bridge. That’s what it’s called.  Bridge Community Church.  Even the name rings deep within me.  Bridges have always held special meaning to me….sacred symbols of joining, connection, and a way to get from one place to another.

Not everyone likes going to church, and I understand that.  We didn’t go for a very long time.  We don’t do denominations or religion.   But we do love Jesus.  Having a place to go where we can worship God with other like-minded folk is a huge blessing that has brought tremendous healing with it.  Not only a “spiritual” healing, but  positive changes in other areas of our lives as well, from our marriage to our finances.

I think that is what happens when you are where you are supposed to be.

This morning we’ll be celebrating the (re)opening of the main sanctuary.  It’s been undergoing renovations since last year while we met elsewhere on property.  The “new” interior us lovely with an understated, peaceful and intimate feeling.  I think the pews  will hold about 500 – not too big, not too small.  A large rustic wooden cross, against whitewashed brick, is the only adornment on the stage, but the worship team has all sorts of great lighting and technology to use now.   Most importantly about this space, I literally feel God as I walk in.

I navigate life through my feelings, and this building is filled with positive intention and good vibes.   It  radiates a warm welcome to all who enter. A place where faith is strengthened, hope is rekindled and love is made manifest.  A place to belong.

PSALM 84:1-4

How lovely is your dwelling place,
    Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
    for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
    Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
    they are ever praising you.