HOPE: Our Life’s Anchor

Fandango’s one-word  prompt yesterday was ANCHOR.

When I saw that word I sat down and let my mind — and fingers  — contemplate the subject. I came up with this writing before we left for church, thinking I’d have time to post it sometime during the day — but then our day turned out quite full. Anyway, here are my thoughts.

And now I can work in Fandango’s latest one-word prompt: FRAGILE,
An anchor cannot be a fragile thing. It hooks among the seabed rocks close to the shore and holds on for dear life. The anchor, and the line that holds it to the ship, are responsible for the lives of all those on board. Anchors and ropes are tested to be sure they’ll stand the strain.

When I saw the word ANCHOR, I immediately thought of that line in the old hymn, Whispering Hope.
“Hope, as an anchor so steadfast….”

Isn’t that the truth! Often the quality of our life is wrapped around HOPE:
the sick live with the hope of better days ahead,
the depressed carry on in the hope of brighter times to come
the poor live in hope of finding financial stability
the destitute live in hopes of a home, or at least a safe location
those who believe in a merciful Creator hope for an eternal reward
the grieving embrace the hope that their loved ones are in a better world now, or at least no longer suffer
and almost everyone lives in hope of finding and maintaining love, friendships, family ties.

Like an anchor keeps a ship from drifting off course in a storm, so hope keeps us heading in the direction of our life-goal, keeps us from being blown off course by gales of circumstance.

Hope anchors most of our actions; without it our days turn into a pointless, emotion-driven meander. Should our hope be a fragile thing, should it break as soon as adversity comes, courage usually fails and our ship might be tossed on a wild sea before we land in a quite spot again.

In extreme cases depressed people curl up in a fetal position and die. Mentally, people crawl into a shell when they’ve lost hope. Physically they cease to take care of their bodies and often fall into substance abuse.

An ANCHOR we need in this turbulent world
— and HOPE is a vital part of that anchor.

When Jesus walked this earth, He offered this promise: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls…” (Matt 12:29) He knew that finding this “rest for your souls” — peace of mind, freedom from guilt and fear — is one of humanity’s greatest needs. One of the best anchors in life.

He didn’t come to offer a guilt-riddled set of rules. (For some reason we humans naturally tend to gravitate towards religious systems that offer heaps of Dos and Don’ts.) Neither did He come to promote the freedom to do whatever we want, without conscience, using and stomping on other people to fulfill our own desires.

On second thought, He did give us some rules:
Turn the other cheek. Go the second mile. Forgive. Don’t hold grudges. Freely give. Respect your elders. Show kindness to the widows, orphans, and strangers among you. Don’t be a hypocrite. Don’t make rules for other people that you can’t even keep yourselves.

Most people seem to know that these are good rules. that they’ll give folks a happy, stress-free life such as we all hope for.

One more thing about HOPE: It’s one of those beautiful “multiplying” qualities: a person can freely offer their hope to others without diminishing their own supply.

Has someone shared HOPE with you lately? Have you shared yours?

Sharing the Blooms

We’ve reached that time of year when our outdoor flowers are looking rather weary. The petunias in my planters haven’t frozen yet, but the sensitive marigolds around the edges wilted at the first hint of frost. Their brittle leaves don’t add much to the esthetics anymore.

I know we’ll have to start pulling up and tossing soon, but we’ve enjoyed the colorful display this summer and I was happy to learn one evening that we were sharing. At dusk I was standing on the deck when I noticed a hummingbird moth in the petunias, zipping from bloom too bloom, enjoying the sweetness of my flowers. I’ve seen it half a dozen times since — one evening I saw a smaller version, too.

Thinking of sharing good things, I found this little story somewhere and will share it with you, hoping this thought will inspire you, too, this morning.

A lady who was a great lover of flowers had set out a rare vine at the base of a stone wall. It grew vigorously, yet she saw no blooms. Day after day she cultivated and watered it to coax it into bloom.
One morning as she stood disappointedly before it, her invalid neighbour whose back lot adjoined hers, called over and said, “You can’t imagine how much I have been enjoying the blooms of what you planted!”
The lady who owned the plant looked, and on the other side of the wall was a mass of blooms. The vine had crept through the crevices and flowered luxuriantly on the other side.
So often we think our efforts are thrown away because we do not see their fruits. We need to learn that in the service of God our prayers, our toils, and our crosses are never in vain. Somewhere they bear fruit, and hearts will receive blessings and joy from our efforts.

–Author Unknown to me

Freedom From Anxiety

Lilies

“And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

In Matthew 6:25-30, Jesus taught his disciples not to be overly wrapped up with concern about their daily needs, because God is watching over them and knows what they need. He never said they could just loaf around and everything would be provided, but constant preoccupation with needs is a menace to a person’s mind and spirit.

I’ve written these verses in my own words for anyone who’s interested:

Don’t obsess over the things of this life, like what you’re going to eat or what you’re going to wear. Your life is about more than food and clothes.

Take a look at the birds: they don’t spend a lot of time laying up food supplies, thinking of deprivations that might lie ahead. But God, Who sees all things that go on in this world, knows they need food and provides for them in whatever season. And you people are so much more precious to him than birds. Trust him.

Tell me, can any of you, by worry or scheming, grow a few inches taller? And why spend a lot of time dithering over what you should wear. Consider the lilies, they can’t buy nor sew nor weave, but God has provided them with such intricate attire that even Solomon, with all the glory his riches could buy, couldn’t hold a candle to their beauty.

So if your Father in heaven has provided so well for insignificant wild flowers and the grass that grows in the field for a season, then is gathered and used as fuel, how much more can He look after your needs. Have more faith.

Those who haven’t learned to know him will chase after these things, but you should rather focus your attention on matters of the soul and trust your Father to look after the other.

Lily bloom

Another response to the Ragtag community prompt word: FREEDOM

For Every Hill…

For Every Hill I’ve Had to Climb

by American poet Ernest Lawrence Thayer
(1863—1940)

For every hill I’ve had to climb,
For every stone that bruised my feet,
For all the blood and sweat and grime,
For blinding storms and burning heat
My heart sings but a grateful song—
These were the things that made me strong!

For all the heartaches and the tears,
For all the anguish and the pain,
For gloomy days and fruitless years,
And for the hopes that lived in vain,
I do give thanks, for now I know
These were the things that helped me grow!

‘Tis not the softer things of life
Which stimulate man’s will to strive;
But bleak adversity and strife
Do most to keep man’s will alive.
O’er rose-strewn paths the weaklings creep,
But brave hearts dare to climb the steep.

My response to:
Word of the Day Challenge prompt: SOLACE

The Partnership

Many years ago a husband and father died, leaving his wife the burden of raising their six children. How could she face the challenge of financial as well as parenting responsibilities?

Placing her dilemma in God’s hands, she carried on, not only parenting their children but adopting twelve others along the way and raising them all to be decent people and good citizens. Someone asked her one day how she managed to keep it all together. She always always appeared so relaxed in spite of her busy life, surviving on a “bare necessities” budget.

“Oh, I’m in a partnership,” she told the questioner. “That keeps me going.”

“Oh, really? What kind of partnership and with who?”

“After my husband died I told the Lord that I’d do the work and He could do the worrying. I haven’t had a worry since.”

Do you have a partnership like that?

I’ve retold this story from one I read in an Our Daily Bread devotional booklet from the ’70s.

A Cloud of Oppression

I was lost in a dark cloud one day years ago. As I thought of the future, the scene looked so bleak. I thought of my brothers and sisters in the Lord – and of myself as well – how full of faults we all tended to be. Yes, we wanted to follow Jesus’ teachings, but temptations came and we so often had to confess that we’d entertained thoughts, said words, done things a Christian shouldn’t. If our lives up to this point had been so full of failings, how could the future hold any hope for better things?

I had many ideals of Christian life and behaviour that I couldn’t seem to live up to — and neither could others. But lowering my standards didn’t feel like the right answer, either. God does hold us to a perfect standard. We can’t say, “If we’re mostly good, the rest will get by.” I couldn’t pass off my failings with, “Oh, well, I’m just human.” The Lord asks us to obey his direction. When we don’t, we are doing wrong.

But I am so human! We all are. Often we don’t fail a little, either; we fail Big Time. Someone does something that irritates us and we tell that person off in no uncertain terms. We forget that “Charity is patient and is kind, thinks no evil, hopes all things, endures all things…”

We want — may even take — things that aren’t ours and violate the “Thou shalt not covet.” The Apostle John wrote, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world…” Next thing I know, here I am, wanting stuff again. I see my Christian sisters wanting stuff, too. God says “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” and here I am skirting around the truth to avoid criticism for something I said or did.

That day, as I viewed my own past track record – and that of others in our church – the dark cloud towered over me, suffocating me in despair.

My husband and I were driving to a neighbouring town to do some business so I began to tell him how I was feeling. As I was explaining, a little voice dropped a clear thought into my mind: “Your problem isn’t with the past, it’s with an evil spirit.”

One of those falling diamonds from heaven that clunks you on the head when it lands — and makes perfect sense when you examine it. This thought pierced that dark cloud like a laser beam, blasting it to pieces.

I immediately repeated the thought to my husband and something amazing happened. It’s like my eyes were opened and I could see it so clearly. This “blue mood” was actually a tormenting spirit. It would come to me every time my thoughts went back to the past, and it highlighted all my imperfections. It shadowed every thing I’d done with dark tones of failure – which was why I had a hard time thinking about the past at all without getting depressed.

As soon as I recognized it for what it was, it was gone! That whole dark shadow was gone and I could look at the past in a brighter light. Things were not nearly as bad as I had been seeing them. Why, we had all behaved as normal people! Sure, we had failed, but the blood of Christ covers all our failings. God forgives us, not because we’re improving with time, but because His Son paid the price to redeem us.

I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve wandered into that same dark cloud and felt that oppression. I’ve heard again that voice lamenting the blackness of my sins and/or the errors of other Christians. I’ve tried to fight it myself, to pull myself out of that mood, but positive thinking never gets me very far. Thankfully the voice of the Holy Spirit reminds me that I can be forgiven; I don’t have to let myself be browbeaten by those accusations.

Over time the only effective solution I’ve found is to cry out to God for help. “This spirit is tormenting me again, Lord. Please make it go away.” It’s amazing how those dark tones can be zapped and life can become bright and cheerful again. So many times He sends me a thought, a verse, a song, that lifts me out of the sea of despair and sets me on the right path again. Praise the Lord!

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God…”
I John 4:1

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Ephesians 6:12

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 4:14-16

What Do I Have to Lose?

One day as I was mingling among the multitudes at the mall a passing T-shirt caught my eye. In bold black and white it declared, “Compromise is for Losers.”

I eyed the bearer of such anti-diplomacy. Was this his life’s philosophy, the rule he lived by? No doubt he thought he was making a statement, “Don’t mess with me.”

Losers of what, I wondered?

Truth? We should never compromise the truth, nor our honesty, our integrity, or our purity. Did the young man wearing the T-shirt have these in mind?

If I were to compromise with sin, I’d lose my self-respect. I’d feel degraded and guilty. If I fudged around with the definite “Thou shalt nots” of the Lord, I’d lose His blessing in my life and gain an uneasiness in my soul. If I say “okay” when in my heart I know the real answer should be “no”, this can be compromising with sin.

Or was he thinking of principles? Possibly. But whose principles? Would it be so bad if I lost some of my own understanding about how things should be done, my own sense of right and wrong? Does it hurt to be a little bit flexible on these at times?

So what might I gain by a compromise?

In the areas of my life where opinion, understanding and preference hold sway, a compromise could well benefit me. I’d lose my rigidity as I bend to someone else’s methods. In doing so I might well learn a better way, see things from a new perspective. Discover why a certain approach works when I was so certain it wouldn’t.

I’d lose at least a little of my pride and admit I might not have the best light on the subject. I’d have to abandon the “My way or the highway” attitude if I wanted to reach a compromise with someone.

I might have to abandon self-righteous indignation and gain better relationships. If what this person said or did was an affront to me and my nose is out of joint, I’d have to snap it in place again before I could reach a truce with her. At times I’d have to admit I was wrong and ask for forgiveness.

I’ve seen where a “No compromise” philosophy of life means “No real friends.”

Yes, it’s true. Compromise is for losers — and there are some things we really could stand to lose in order to gain something better.

“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are…”
I Corinthians 1: 26-28