Stories of Living Hope

“This is my Story”

Oh to grace how great a debtor:

I have been discovering many new things about myself this year. Success, perfection, and how I view myself are just a few things that have been redefined in my life. A journey of watching those I have come to love, fail over and over, yet realizing that they are not failures. This has caused me to look at how I personally viewed my own failure. In spite of my own failure, I have been given a grace to live out. I no longer need that unreal expectation for myself or others.

Daily I’m constrained to be:

We live this journey moment by moment. Worry still overcomes; but on occasion I have learned to hand it over.

Let thy goodness, like a fetter; bind my wandering heart to thee… Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave this God I love: The moment when I feel as if I am drowning in stress, fear of my future, anger at events I cannot control. I have wandered. I am the lost sheep out in the darkness. Oh . . . far too often.

Take my heart and seal it for thy courts above: I am found, I find I must surrender. Your heart and will have rescued me. I am amazed by such love.

“This is my Story”

God continually reminds me to “Keep my eyes fixed on Jesus.” This where there is life, joy, peace, acceptance, and purpose. So often I get derailed by what people do—especially other Christians. Knowingly or unknowingly, people do things that are hurtful, even God’s people, and often they think they are doing the right thing. Every time I take my eyes off of Jesus and focus on the hurtful things people do, I’m discouraged and fall into a pit of despair. God gently reminds me that Jesus died for my sins. He died for the sins of the whole world. And He died for the sins of those that hurt me. Instead of holding onto these sins, He’s called me to bring them to the cross and leave them there. He’s called me to forgive as I’ve been forgiven. This is a place of peace & life.

“This is my Story”

2007 seems to have taken me from one challenge to another. My Father recently faced cancer surgery and my thoughts were ready for him to die, but God showed His grace. The cancer has been completely healed. My son continues to challenge me in ways I wasn’t prepared for. About not having control over things, especially others in my family forcing me to rely only on Him. To trust in Him with myself and my son. He has plans for each of us. Letting go is hard—but when we do, oh what a ride He wants to take us on.

“This is my Story”

To consolidate thoughts of what seems to be God behind-the-scenes is sometimes an after-the- fact revelation. A realization of the care and love so large my mind has difficulty grasping.

I’m reminded of what Peter’s response to Jesus’ question “Will you leave me too?” and Peter said, “You have the words of life—where would we go?”

To stay the course with Living Hope even though all things do not go as I might hope or plan (as if mine was the way it should be!) The community of friends believer is His plan.

“This is my Story”

Getting ready to go into Israel. Deut 26:1-10. How often we NEED to be reminded that God has gone before us and He has prepared the way. That He has provided for us. That He is there. That He has already been where we are going.

“This is my Story”

My story this year is one of learning more about God and how He relates to us–specifically to me. Sarah described it when she talked about focusing less on pursuing God and more on enjoying His pursuit of me. Pastor Dean has helped me grow in my understanding of this. I believe I am also growing as I have been learning to let go (or hold more loosely) to something things that I always thought were important but now I am seeing how little they really do matter.

“This is my Story”

I was born with a rare respiratory disorder – my entire childhood I felt like I was always going to the doctor, being hospitalized, etc. I always felt different, abnormal and that I shouldn’t expect to live very long or have a normal, healthy life. I had no confidence in any of life pursuits. But God entered my life once I opened the door, and He gave me hope, and through His grace blessed me with three healthy children and a wonderful marriage, job, and home. We’ve had our share of struggles, but He is ever present, and I don’t mind going through hard times anymore because He’s guiding us through and I understand that it’s for a reason. Whether it’s to help us learn to depend upon Him instead of the empty promises of the world, or to keep us humble, I totally trust in His purposes. Praise God! And, I am not longer afraid of what my healthy has in store for me because God is waiting at the end for me!

“This is my Story”

I am learning that I can trust my heart—that part of me that suggest I do things without having a lot of practical reasoning (if any at all!) I am realizing that God can guide through emotions. God is awakening me to the suffering world around me, and showing how closely people and the environment are connecting. And He is overwhelming me with laughter and joy. Sometimes I forget about God, but He never forgets me. So faithful.

He reminds me of the bigger picture when life threatens to close in. And I’m finding God in the most unusual places—myths, the origin of the universe, the parking lot at Target, a study room in the library, the structure of a porin protein, conversations at 2 in the morning, my coworkers, the blunt honesty of a friend, they way things just seem to work out, seeing truth illuminate a life, in the prophet Habakkuk, trees, community…

“This is my Story”

I am unlovable. I don’t think anyone ever told me that, I just think I felt like I always knew. I often feel like if I don’t say or do anything unusual, no one will even know that I am here. I’m bland, I’m boring. And because I am also proud, I won’t let anyone get too close – not even God. This leaves me feeling isolated, alone, misunderstood – wandering because, like my father Jacob, I am a wandering Aramean. I have come to discover that these, in fact, are not truths about me. In fact, my Creator loves me deeply – He delights in me – even when I mess up. See, He doesn’t see the mess. He sees me. He thinks I am worth dying for. He assures me that I am fully loved and accepted by Him and that His love is big enough that I can completely entrust myself to Him. All of a sudden, what others think doesn’t matter so much any more. Enjoying Him seems more fulfilling. Knowing How He feels about me is starting to mean more than what others think about me. As a gift from him I am being set free from my pride, my self-centeredness, my god-complex, and my fear and I am learning to trust Him and others more. As Peter says . . . “Trust yourself to the God who made you, for He will never fail you.” And He hasn’t.

“This is my Story”

This past year I have been learning to trust in my Lord to meet my needs, and grow in Him. I have learned not to put my trust in man, but in the One who cares for me more than I can imagine. His Word says He will do immeasurably more than I can ever ask or imagine. Finances are a concern since I am “starting my life alone.” I always tithe on whatever comes in and I have never been short on meeting my bills and having enough left for gas and groceries. It is a pleasure to tithe and I am blessed by doing it. I am learning that I don’t need so many “things”. I put my trust in my great, wonderful, and loving God and watch Him provide in all circumstances. He is faithful.

“This is my Story”

-God’s love shown through us in this fellowship.

-I have seen widows and widowers loved through gifts of service and gifts to ease financial burdens.

-Encouragement for those who have lost jobs and what looks like the worst possible time.

-Dependence on God in situations of lost loved ones. (Lost jobs, next meal, watching your kids so you can go to work.)

-Living Hope’s love reaching out beyond our walls.

-God blessing me and my family beyond what I thought was needed, enough for me to be a part

-Being able to be His love physically. (Being His arms, hands, and feet to others)

-Trusting He will bless any sacrifices on our part

-Living Hope, living love.

“This is my Story”

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

God brought the people out of Egypt. He wanted them to remember.

This scripture is so fitting to our situation right now. God is amazing that this would be the word that he would bring on my first visit to your church. The very reason we just moved from the city to the country is because God has been calling us to “come out from among them.” Last year, we visited intentional Christian communities in Texas and Missouri- communities where believers live and work together. A phrase that stuck with us is, “We are not called to live in the world and go to church, but to live in the church and go to the world.” God did not lead us to go to Texas or Missouri, though we’ve maintained relationships with our brothers and sisters there. He led us to a hobby farm just a few miles from where your church meets. We hunger for more of him, and for community with others who love him. We don’t know what this will look like in the coming days and years, but we’re very excited about the journey he has us on.

“This is my Story”

The last year has been spent care giving for my wife. She knew that Christ had entered her life three years ago and she was ready to spend Christmas with him and sing with the angels. She passed away on December 18, 2007. We loved her, but Jesus loved her more.

“This is my Story”

2007 has been a year filled with so many blessings, trials, and great times to grow in our faith walk!

“This is my Story”

This last year God has shown me that love and faith are my central roles. My central role had been work. The Scripture that without love we are just noise, clanging cymbals was on my heart, but I believed charity was essential. I worked at charity. I worked seven days a week, mostly because I could, but also because I thought I should. I also harbored bitterness and self pity because I was tired. I short changed my family and those closest to me. My first role is to love with faith that some things will be taken care of by God without any effort on my part.

“This is my Story”

I have been blessed this year to be involved in groups who are very generous to those who are in need. Just when I was feeling I didn’t have what I needed, I was faced with others whose needs were greater than mine and found ways to help them too. God also threw a couple of deer into our path this fall to remind us to slow down (I think). I will try to listen to the more subtle messages.

“This is my Story”

This is my story, this is my song… For those who don’t know me well, I have a song for everything. Over the past couple of years God began to undo the world that I trusted in—a world that I felt safe in, based on a plan I had developed and asked him to bless. The people I had placed my hope in disappointed me. The finances I had depended on shriveled. The health I had so enjoyed disappeared. There I stood feeling very unsure of all I had trusted in. This has been the best season of my life, and the most painful. God in His great love knew that I would never love him and trust Him if my own resources were sufficient. Now it was just me and Him… and I feel in love with Him. I came to know him and love him and be able to really be loved by Him. I learned to trust in him and now myself, not perfectly, and not that I don’t ever go back and try by my own efforts to be back in control, but I now am reminded quickly that I don’t see straight, my vision is dull, His is not. Church is over and my time is up.

“This is my Story”

For me this year has been a year where I haven’t really felt God with me. Maybe it’s because I was doing my own ting and not paying that much attention to Him. I don’t know what it is, but I want it to stop. I want to experience God like those in the Bible did. I want to feel God’s love so I can love others. This year hasn’t been fun, but I pray it’s been a y ear that I can look back on and learn from.

“This is my Story”

“The heights from which I have fallen; the depths from which I have arisen.”

I have been so arrogant all of my life. I have been aware of it most of the time, so I have tried to fight by avoiding all confidence whatsoever because it always led to arrogance. I would bounce back and forth from arrogance to timid-ness in extremes. Then my mom told me one day that my problem was that my confidence was not in God but in myself. It is not an easy thing to put your confidence in someone you have not tested and in whom you barely know. I decided to fight my arrogance instead of hiding from it, so whenever I found myself being arrogant, I would stop and pray, asking God to put my confidence in Him. And so He did…by testing my confidence and showing me that in every circumstance my confidence failed me until it was put in Him—only then did I stand. It is a continuous battle, for I often start thinking that it was my own ingenuity that saved me in this situation or my own ____ in that one, but God always knocks me down and turns me around, to show me that only by grace am I saved.

“This is my Story”

This is my song: praising my Savior all the day long.

I used to be very judgmental and was struggling with understanding worship so I’d always watch everyone to see if it was genuine. One day at Calvary Chapel’s young adults meeting, worship was just starting and someone was already lifting their hands and worshiping. I said to God, “Come on, are you kidding? I mean, look at that, you can’t tell me that it’s genuine.” While I was in the middle of saying this, God’s conviction came down on me very strongly and he rebuked me and said (paraphrase), “Who do you think you are to judge? You know what? Do you want to know what worship is? Fine worship is something that you do for me just because I deserve it. And that’s all you need to know for now.” He has since taught me all about it. I’ve realized that true worship is something that comes from your heart and should be every day. God looks at the heart and judges, but He loves to be boasted on and there is so much more to it, but I’ll leave you there so that God can teach you instead of me trying to because it is still a mystery… all of what it is. God bless.

“This is my Story”

This past year has been full of changes for me. I graduated from high school, went to college, lost touch with some old friends, made some new ones. My older sister moved out and is talking about career paths and is almost done with college. My younger sister is trying to decide where to go for college and is continuing to come to terms with her autism. There are many other changes that could be listed, both major and minor. Some of these are thrilling, others are frightening, and still others are a mixture of both. I found out that I’m not exactly who I thought I was. I’m not the super out going person I thought I was. I have trouble being myself. I struggle with my identity. But through all of these struggles and changes I have learned to keep my eyes on the One who never ever changes. God has never moved out on me, He’s never looked for colleges hundreds of miles away. He is constant. He is true. He is faithful. He is there.

“This is my Story”

-Came to know Jesus in early 20’s.

-Very faithful to keep family, extended family on my mind.

-Me not knowing how long it would be or take with all of my efforts to come untangled like a broken tape in my mind, soul, and body.

-Many years later to have God’s love flow through me with ease. Having finally learned, I can trust God always with less fear of things going out of control.

-My great joy now is to be learning how to pass God’s love, pure and unconditional onto others.

“This is my Story”

My journey over the last year has been intense, insightful, and very challenging. I’ve been faced with choices and decisions like never before. I’ve felt like I’ve been on top of the world, only to feel the next day as if the weight of the world is crushing me. I do have to say though; I don’t think I’ve ever learned so much.

The beginning of the year started out with big decisions looming, decisions about relationships and my future being central. I had to decide whether to stay up north or move back home. Where would I do my internship? Where would I work for the summer? Where was this friendship going? Ironically, or maybe not so much so, I’m still faced with most of those questions this year just in a different form. I think God is giving me another chance at trust. I wish I could say that I just trusted God from the very beginning and left all of my questions and worries at his feet. I didn’t though. I made plans, I made lists, I relied heavily upon people, and I “processed” until I could process no more. The decisions were made slowly, one by one. I ended up moving back to the cities. I got three jobs for the summer. I found an amazing internship. And it turns out that the friendship was just that.

Looking back I would have to say that much of the first half of the year was me trying to do life my way and failing miserably. It wasn’t ever completely obvious; I never outwardly rebelled, or even intentionally inwardly rebelled. It started out with small selfish choices and slowly snow balled from there. I was a mess by the time I got home in June, but walked around like I had never been better. I needed to turn completely to God, yet I still managed to avoid it for the rest of the summer. I had fun and got to experience and enjoy new adventures. Yet it seems that there was always a gentle tugging on my heart reminding me that there was Something Bigger, something more. I just needed to stop and listen.

I started a new chapter of my life this fall. I’m all done with school, and was “working” fulltime. I came back to a community that I had been absent from for awhile. It was completely wonderful and so hard at the same time. God new I needed a safe place to heal my heart and St. Francis, and this church has been just that.

We started in September to talk more about grace and trust and experiencing God’s love. We talked about coming home to a Father who loves us unconditionally. We talked about being rescued. These were all of the questions and the cries of my heart that I never before allowed myself to listen to. I think almost every week when I walk into the ministry center on Wednesday nights and look at the title of Lon’s message its exactly what I need to hear. I just love that. And then the best thing happened, I started to really experience what we had been talking about; to truly experience God, to really believe that I’m loved. It moved from my head to my heart and it was the most amazing realization ever. I struggle so much with getting stuck in my head and then God answered that prayer too. I realized that I had been trying so hard to please Him that I had missed the point. I had thought I had it all together, but it just wasn’t the case.

So since this fall my heart has begun to sing a different tune; one that is full of grace and of humility and trust. I still don’t truly get it, or understand completely, and boy do I forget often. But I’m realizing more and more how much my Father truly loves me. How He answers the prayers of my heart that are whispered in my darkest moments. I’ve made so many mistakes this year and have been caught up in and distracted by so much other stuff. But I’ve found over and over again that God has been with me through it all. He has shown me His faithfulness. He is gently and sometimes not so gently pursuing my heart and bringing me back to him. I remember asking him a year ago what He wanted from me. His answer was simply, me. He wanted all of my heart, no more and no less. I didn’t know what that would entail, and I still don’t really. But this last year has been a testimony to that in action, definitely an adventure. My Lord has been in a fierce battle for my heart this year. I’ve fought him, and I’ve run away as fast as I can but He’s never given up.

I was reading a book that Lon gave me earlier this fall. It was a moment of clarity for me. This is part of the book that turned my world upside down. It says…“I am not a mystery to God. I do not confuse him. He understands me because he created me. He knows my frailties and struggles, and he knows what I go through in my efforts to overcome them. He understands the humanity that drives me to do the things I know are destructive- to fall off the wagon, to scream at my kids, to give in during a moment of passion, to draw two thousand squares all over a gymnasium floor- and then later slap my forehead and say, “what was I thinking?”Still, my flaws and frailties are not what I need to understand. What I most need to grasp is that God understands. He wants me to believe, truly believe, that in spite of my unlovable, incompetent, inconsistent, sinful self, He loves me unconditionally. His nature doesn’t allow for anything else. God sees the most hidden corners of my heart and yet pursues me relentlessly in spite of everything because he understands me.

If all the Love in the universe is fully engaged in pursuing me, in courting me, and winning my heart, if this is the end result of God’s divine understanding, the what makes me think there is any room left in my life for fear and worry and doubt? What makes me think the small stories of my sin could somehow push God away? That my moments of weakness could ever diminish the power of God’s passion for me? Or that my unfaithfulness could possibly overshadow his furious pursuit of me? Do I really think my small stories are that powerful?

The story of God isn’t about my sin; it’s about God’s love. It isn’t about my faith; it’s about God’s faithfulness. It isn’t about what I need to do to catch God; it’s about what He has already done to captivate me.

If we could just trust and rest and be instead of always striving to do, we would find ourselves face to face with some of life’s most perplexing paradoxes. First, that transformation comes only when we stop trying to transform ourselves. Second, that love can flow out of us only after we’ve allowed it to flow freely into us. And third, that you can’t catch God by chasing him; you catch him only by accepting his pursuit of you.

“God somehow made the Story all about you by not making it about you at all.”

I’m excited to see what 2008 has in store for me, for all of us really. My prayer is that this year we will know Jesus better and understand His love for us more completely and in that God will be able to use us to love His children and help put the world back together again.