Hope and a Future

As I finished a run the other morning I was recalling all of the things I was thankful for. So many good things are happening right now, it just all feels so right. But there are times when I feel like I’m just waiting for the bottom to fall out. A verse from Jeremiah came to mind at that instant and struck me in a way it never had before.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

How many times have you heard this verse? Maybe you’ve written it in graduation cards (I have). Maybe you’ve shared it with friends who can’t see a way out of the valley they’re in (yep, done that too). Maybe you’ve spoken it to yourself when you’ve needed encouragement, knowing our God’s promises are never failing and certainly things should get better (all the time!).

But what about when the bottom does fall out?

How in the world could He bring us hope through that?

And I was thinking about that when the lightbulb turned on. How in the world indeed?

Our hope is not in this world, nor is our future, ultimately. Our hope is in Jesus Christ. In the cross on Calvary. In an empty tomb. Our future is more amazing than we could ever try to imagine. Enveloped in the full glory of our God and King, for eternity, rejoicing and praising Him. There’s nowhere I can even think to start about how awesome that will be.

So, while there are blessings here on earth, and our Father does give us good things, it’s important to remember this in times when they are hard to spot (and even when they’re evident). Our everlasting hope and eternal future are not in this world, come what may. They reside in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Praying you have found security in your hope & future, through Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

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True Beauty

Ever have one of those days when you’re just not happy with the person staring back at you out of the mirror? Those days where you change outfits at least 6 times and finally settle on something only because you’re going to be really late for work? I’ve done those things more often than I care to admit…but less and less as of late and for a very good reason.

A few months ago I had a conversation with a friend about beauty and it really got me thinking. I was used to seeing beauty in many things that God has created; not only in the visible & physical aspects of creation like nature, but in people and relationships that I observed. The perfect fit of a wife’s head on her husband’s shoulder. The joy of a parent seeing their child accomplish something for the first time. I saw His beauty all around, but never when I looked in the mirror. Over the course of this summer, I have begun to see things differently, though. I have begun to see myself differently.

I’m not sure what started this snowball; but something that really got it rolling was when someone told me I was beautiful. I know this is a simple thing to say. I know it can be said by people who do not mean it. To be completely honest, I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone say it to me who wasn’t family or one of my girlfriends (not that when you say it you do not mean it, don’t get me wrong. I just have typically taken it as a “whatever” kind of comment because I never saw it myself). So how was it different this time around? It was said by someone who is blind.

The insistence with which he said it struck me. Who was I to tell him he was wrong? But if he could not physically see me what was it that led him to think such a thing?

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

If you are in Christ, not only are you a new creation, but you are God’s workmanship. In a Bible study I went to the teacher said that the word translated to workmanship could also be masterpiece. We are each a masterpiece of God’s. Do you think He could ever create anything ugly? Anything that is not beautiful? Take a moment to let that sink in. After it has, ponder this:

I praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14

Psalm 139 is what the Holy Spirit first used to draw me to God. It spoke to me in a very broken place and told me of the great love He had for me; so much so that He would be with me wherever I was and would “hem me in, behind and before,” which always gives me this wonderful visual of being safe in God’s pocket 🙂 I go to it often when I need to remember these things, but verse 14 always stood out. I wanted to believe it so badly, but it was just a matter of my heart not believing what my head said was truth. Or that it was true of other people, but not of me. Now, on most days, I know better.

Being a wonderful work of God, you can bet there is beauty within me. My problem before was that I was searching for the beauty of the world. Something that has been distorted by sin and mangled by lies of the devil. That is not beauty.

True beauty is a cross on a hill.
True beauty is Jesus dying to cover a debt I can never repay.
True beauty is an empty tomb.

Just as Christ’s love and grace should be reflected in our lives, so should be the beauty of all He has done for us. It is something that people might not see with their eyes, but it should emanate from us so that they can sense it and know there’s something different about us.

Over this summer I have changed in ways I cannot fully describe. I am often surprised by the girl in the mirror. There’s a hint of radiance in her I don’t remember noticing before. I feel content in where God has me in this life. I have assurance that I am doing what He would have me to do. I have grown; in confidence, in faith, and, yes, in beauty, for I am growing in Christ. My prayer is that you are as well.

Love & Blessings,
KJ

Delight in Hope

It struck me Friday, as I was at church for music practice, singing “I Will Rise” by Chris Tomlin. It marked 3 years since my grandma went home to be with her Lord. While the date marked that, back in 2011, Good Friday was the day of her funeral, and as we sang, it hit me with double the impact. I didn’t really take that in then. All I remember was that it was my daddy’s birthday, and how sad it was that he said goodbye to his mom on that day instead of celebrating the blessing of another year.

My grandma was an amazing, God-fearing woman. She taught me so much; never knowing that when she was gone I would learn even more. I would learn about hope.

ImageI remember my mom calling me at work that Monday morning, telling me Grandma was gone. While she was old (95) it was unexpected and caught me off guard. I cried, of course, I cried. Then I went outside behind the library and cried some more. I called my pastor and he told me something I’ve heard him say many times since. It is okay to mourn, we are sad and missing our loved one; but unlike the world, we are to mourn as those who have hope. Hope in what? You may ask…

Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Later that day I went to the beach. To sit and think and pray. I laid back in the sand, wind softly blowing around me. Closing my eyes I saw Grandma running into the arms of Jesus, smiling like never before. Running? My Grandma? I had never seen her run in my life. But I imagine that when it’s His arms you’re running to, you can’t get there fast enough 🙂 It gave me peace, knowing, without a doubt, where Grandma was going to be spending that Easter morning, just 6 days away. And I was jealous, to be honest. To be completely honest, I still am; for she’ll be doing the same thing today. I imagine, in heaven, it might seem like every day is Easter morning.

So, yes, I discovered hope. Hope in the promise of 1 Thessalonians 4:14 – that I would see Grandma again. More importantly though, is the hope I have in this promise:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26

Do you believe this? I do.

It is a fitting time of year to be delighting in hope, don’t you think? Today Christians all over the world will be celebrating the hope we have in our risen King as we remember His resurrection. Jesus rose from the grave, on the third day (just as He said He would), victorious over death. He did it for us. For you, For me. Because we have all fallen short of the glory of God. And there’s just no way we could ever make it to heaven on our own. We cannot be good enough, go to church enough, give enough. Period. But Jesus is good (no enough about it). He lived a perfect life here on earth and gave Himself as a sacrifice for all. Of course, it would be for naught if He didn’t rise again – but the empty tomb proves that. Those who believe, who have accepted God’s gift of faith, stand in that hope. Knowing we will see our Lord one day, whether it is when He takes us home or comes again, it doesn’t matter; we will see Him.

This morning, when I’m in church, singing “I Will Rise” I will be doing so standing in the assurance that it is true. Knowing that, one day, I will rise. I pray we all are able to keep that promise of life, and of hope, in the forefront of our minds. Not just on Easter Sunday, but every day.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Christmas, in Retrospect

I hope you all have enjoyed a wonder-filled Christmas season! For me, it was the first time I was not traveling at Christmastime since I as living at home with my folks some 13 years ago. I had spent most of my vacation time with family earlier in the year and I was a little relieved that I wouldn’t have to fight the holiday traffic & craziness at the airports. I love my family, don’t get me wrong (you hear that, Ma – I love you!), but have also been blessed immensely with friends here who might as well be family too.

Christmas Eve at work included a surprise visit from Santa (who was supposed to visit the local hospital but there were no kids there; a Christmas blessing, indeed), lunch with friends, and me playing various Christmas CDs on my computer (including the soundtrack to The Muppets’ Christmas Carol). After work I got home in time to pack my overnight bag, gather some goodies for the evening, make a couple last minute gifts (more info on those Friday), throw everything in the car, and head to church for music practice before the service started. After service my friends, Michael & Robin, hosted an open house. This time was full of friends, food, & fun. I spent the night there so I could celebrate Christmas morning with them and their family. It was a nice, quiet, and relaxing day that ended with some more friends coming over to have a lovely Christmas dinner of Chinese take-out. It was a wonderful couple of days; I was able to talk with my family & even video chat with some. There was much to enjoy, but I feel as if I’ve left something out. Let’s rewind (you do know what that means, right?) a bit; back to church on Christmas Eve.

This was also very special to me – being able to be a part of our Christmas Eve service. Always traveling, I had never been able to attend. Words cannot adequately express what it is like to be in a darkened chapel with 60-75 people all holding candles, singing, “Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.” It is beautiful, awesome, and powerful; realizing some 2,000 years ago the Son of God, the One who was with God in the beginning, the One who is God, humbled Himself & put aside His glory, to be born, of a virgin, as a human. He was born, as all babies are, completely vulnerable and dependent upon His earthly parents. The Lord of all creation came to us, a mere baby, because He loved us so and wanted to make things right between us and our Father again, once for all. He did not stay a baby, of course not. All babies grow up into children, and those children into men and women. This baby, this Jesus, grew into a man; a man who worked many miracles, taught many truths, and saved many lives. In fact, He’s still doing that today. This humble babe, born in a manger, grew to a man, knowing one day He would die for many; for as many as would believe in Him and call upon His name. He lived a sinless life, and when the time came, He gave up that life; no one took it from Him; He gave it up freely as a perfect sacrifice, the only sacrifice that could ever reconcile the sinful heart of man with the God who created him. Of course, we know, it doesn’t stop there. Jesus’ death was followed by His resurrection, proof that He has overcome death and the grave. And that, my friends, is what gives us hope. If He is indeed our Lord & Savior, we have the greatest hope; that we will, one day, be reunited with Him. And that, truly, is the best Christmas Gift.

I pray your Christmas was not only merry and bright, but also that you had time to reflect on what it really means and the great Gift we were all given, those many years ago, as a star shone brightly over a baby asleep on the hay.

Love & Blessings,

KJ

Encouragement for the Day

So, I realize that last week I deemed Fridays the day where I share creative things I have been doing/making…however, I am now mostly working on Christmas presents and don’t want to spoil the surprises for anyone (I’ll have lots of things to post come January 🙂 ).

Instead, I have a psalm I’d like to share. A verse of it was referenced in today’s entry of Jesus Calling and I thought I would read the whole thing. So glad I did – what an encouragement for today! I hope it does the same for you.

Psalm 16

Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.

I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”

As for the saints who are in the land, they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.

The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods. I will not pour out their libations of blood or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.

I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

So amazing to think to know that not only are His plans for me secure, but I, myself, am secure in Him. As I walk this path of life, He will never abandon me. In knowing that, there is such an amazing feeling of peace and love that washes over me; a feeling of confidence and strength imbeds itself in my very soul. This is what life is supposed to be. This is what He has given us life to be. His children who rest in His love and peace, for we tend to be restless and anxious on our own. His children who draw strength and confidence from Him, for we are weak and unsure by ourselves. His children who fully accept His gift of grace, given to us through the ultimate sacrifice – His Son, dying on a cross as atonement for our sin, that we might have a relationship, a personal relationship with the Creator Himself, because without it, we are all lost. His children who give Him all the glory, for there is no way we could do it all on our own.

Are you acting as a child of the Almighty God today? Take a moment to stop and think about all of the good things He has blessed you with. The times you held it together when it all seemed to be falling apart? That was Him. The times you were so full of joy you felt like you would burst from smiling so much? That was Him. Realize all He has freely given you, and give Him thanks, glory, and honor for it all. He deserves so much more, but it is the least we can do.

Love & Blessings,

KJ