Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

Posts tagged ‘hope’

HOPE for 2013

[This article is from a sermon I preached on 12/30/12.  Many thanks to A. Todd Coget, whose sermon “What If? and Why Not?” (December 29, 2002) inspired me to go deeper into the subject of HOPE.]

hopeHere’s my personal list of what I believe are the Top Ten news events of 2012.  See if these prompt your memory banks, and if you agree with me about their importance or their impact.

  1. The reelection of President Obama was, by far, the biggest news event of the year for the United States.
  2. The internet continues to be one of the “drivers” of our culture.  From FaceBook going public to the death of Whitney Houston (the number 1 story “googled” this year), the internet continues to exercise its muscle and influence.
  3. Hurricane Sandy’s devastation, and the storm’s aftermath, is a reminder that we don’t have control over nature … and that sometimes the storms of life are literally storms!
  4. The uncertainty of gas prices, and the rise and fall of prices at the pump, continues to get our attention daily.
  5. The mass murders … what some now are calling “Spree Killings” … in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, Oikos University in Oakland, CA, the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and the horrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut!  The thing is, guns are being blamed, but Hollywood and the computer game industry continues to outspend the NRA.
  6. The Middle East continues to capture our attention every day – with the ongoing tensions associated with Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Israel, the phony elections in Egypt, and the murder of the US Ambassador in Libya.
  7. The “Fiscal Cliff,” and the inability of our government to get a handle on spending; the national debt, and the world’s economy.
  8. The London Olympics was the biggest distraction and emotional lift for our country this past summer.
  9. President Obama’s Supreme Court health care ruling (in his favor) was huge news with huge implications for our nation.
  10. The new tensions arising in the world because of Iran and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

These stories, circumstances, and influences have, and will continue to have, an impact on our times and our individual lives.  What happens in the Middle East and North Korea will impact your life, as will decisions that follow Sandy Hook, Hurricane Sandy, and our government’s spending.

We are standing on the threshold of a New Year … 2013.  The world didn’t end on 12/21/12!  We have a future!  But do you have HOPE!

There is a reason the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to include HOPE as one of the “big 3” … one of the THREE THINGS THAT WILL LAST FOREVER!  

Screen Shot 2013-01-02 at 4.19.45 PM

Paul wrote, “And now these three remain: faith, HOPE and love.  But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV)  Or, as the New Living Translation reads, “Three things will last forever — faith, HOPE, and love …”

Let me tell you something:  If you feel HOPEless, you won’t love or exercise faith.  HOPE is critically important to life, and life in God!

HOPE is “confident assurance.”

Look with me at Hebrews 11:1 and 6 –

“Now faith is confidence in what we HOPE for and assurance about what we do not see …And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (NIV)

“Faith is the confidence that what we HOPE for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see … And

it is impossible to please God without faith.  Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him.”  (NLT)

  • We talk much about love, and we should, because it’s the greatest of the Big 3.
  • And we talk a lot about faith, and we should, because without faith it’s impossible to please God.
  • BUT what about HOPE?!  Do you have HOPE?

But not just ANY HOPE?  Do you have HEAVENLY HOPE??

LUKE 24

13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem.  14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened.  15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus Himself suddenly came and began walking with them.  16 But God kept them from recognizing Him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They stopped short, sadness written across their faces.  18 Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”

19 “What things?” Jesus asked.

“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said.  “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and He was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people.  20 But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed Him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified Him.  21 We had HOPED He was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel.  This all happened three days ago.

There is nothing so devastating as having lost HOPE.  For these men, their HOPE was gone.  The one they had HOPED to be the redeemer of Israel, was, in their mind, dead.  Along with the death of Jesus, came the death of their HOPE.

If you’ve lived beyond childhood, you have lost HOPE in some sense, at some point in your life.  When we lose HOPE we are overcome with feelings of senselessness, purposelessness, and despair, discouragement, depression.  The energy is just sucked right out of our lives.  Lack of HOPE can actually destroy our very lives.

  • Maybe you have a memory of driving away from the only friends you’ve ever had to move to a new town, a new school, and a totally new life … one NOT of your choosing.
  • Maybe it was when your favorite sports team got so far behind in points that there was no HOPE of them winning.
  • Maybe it was a little more serious …. Maybe there was time when you were without a job, and you had no money.
  • Maybe it was a health issue … where you thought there was no HOPE for you or your loved one.

During those times perhaps you were tempted to take the advice of Job’s wife, who told Job to “Curse God and die.”

But let me interrupt that thought process with this truth:  for the Christian, life is essentially a life of HOPE.  And that is what I want to talk about today.  The HOPE we have as children of God.

Ephesians 2:12 and 13 says, “Once you lived in this world without God and without HOPE.  But now you have been united with Christ.  Once you were far away from God, but NOW you have been brought near to Him through the blood of Christ.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13 – “And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no HOPE.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 – “That is why we never give up.  Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.  For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.  Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!  So we don’t look at the troubles we see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.  For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we 

cannot see will last forever.”

HOPE is to the human spirit what oxygen is to the physical body.  

The word HOPE occurs some 52 times in the New Testament alone. And if you take the time to look up those 52 passages you will find that it ALWAYS is connected in some way to God.

God is the author of HOPE, Romans 15:13 tells us, “I pray that God, the source of HOPE, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him.  Then you will overflow with confident HOPE through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

FOUR things to observe:

  1. God is the source of HOPE
  2. When you have God’s HOPE, you will be filled with joy and peace
  3. That joy and peace will be a result of TRUSTING in Him.
  4. If you learn to trust Him, confident HOPE will overflow in your life through the power of the Holy Spirit.

HOPE connects us with the future just as memories connect us with the past.

We reflect on our past through our memories … we think back on what happened.  Through our memories we en-vision our past.

HOPE helps us envision our future.   How do we know what will happen in the future?  We have HOPE, which is placed in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sure there might be valleys in our future, just as there were valleys in our past.  But the HOPE we have in Christ Jesus should make us realize that some day we will stand on the Holy Mountain of God, reigning with Christ, beautifully adorned as bride for the bridegroom.  Worshiping God, praising God, dwelling with God.  That is what HOPE does for us.

One of the definitions I read for HOPE stated, “HOPE is desire, with the expectation of getting what is desired.  One cannot HOPE for that which he neither desires or expects to receive.”

Sometimes HOPE can be misplaced.  David wrote:  “Some nations boast in their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the LORD our God.  Those nations will fall down and collapse, but we will rise up and stand firm.”  (Psalm 20:7-8)

  • There are those who HOPE to receive eternal life in heaven without acknowledging Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
  • There are those who HOPE to grow in Christ without reading His word or going to God in prayer on a regular basis.
  • There are those who HOPE to live happy lives even though they are in rebellion to God.
  • All these are misplaced HOPEs, false HOPEs, HOPEs that our not founded and based in God.
  • Life can be difficult and harsh, and there are times we may think that it will not get better.  But there is HOPE, true HOPE in Christ, and there is true HOPE no where else.

Screen Shot 2013-01-02 at 4.16.05 PMNo matter what our situation, HOPE is there, that HOPE that is Jesus Christ.  The angel Gabriel gave this HOPEful assurance to Mary in Luke 1:37:

  • “For no word from God will ever fail.”  (NIV)
  • “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”  (KJV)
  • “For God can do all things.”  (New Life Version)
  • “For nothing is impossible with God.”  (NLT)
  • “ … every word shall not be impossible with God.”  (Wycliffe)
  • “But God can do anything.”  (Worldwide English NT)
  • “For no promise of God can fail to be fulfilled.” (Phillips Translation)
  • “God can do anything!”  (Easy-To-Read Bible)
  • “For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment.” (Amplified Version)

Hungry, Thirsty, Unknown, and Naked

Matthew 25:35-40 is a text social justice folks mention in hopes of mobilizing people who are apathetic about the needs of others.  These verses, I’ve observed, are quoted most often when talking about reaching into the heart of a broken city … a broken-hearted city like my own – Richmond, Virginia.

Take a look at the New Living Translation’s version:  35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.  36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’   37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you?  Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality?  Or naked and give you clothing?  39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’   40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

The words of Jesus.

Rarely are these words … His words … quoted in the context of judgment, but that is in fact what Christ was talking about.  Take a look:   31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne.  32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.   34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.  35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty … etc.

Maybe the most startling statement Jesus makes when preaching this sermon is verse 46.  It certainly is to me:   46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

He talks about separating the “sheep and the goats.”   According to Jesus, when He comes to judge the world, the righteous (the sheep on His right) and the unrighteous (the goats in His left) will be assigned their place in eternity.

I gathered from reading Michael J. Wilkins’ commentary on Matthew the following:  Jesus had given some clues about the events that would accompany His return (24:4-35), and then He taught lessons about watching, waiting, and being prepared for His second coming (His “first coming” being His birth in Bethlehem, His ministry, His death, and His resurrection).  Those lessons (24:36-25:30) include the parable about the homeowner and the thief, the parable about 2 kinds of servants (faithful and unfaithful), the parable of the 10 virgins (prepared and unprepared), and the parable of the talants (productive and unproductive).

When Jesus talked about sheep and goats He was talking about followers of God verses people living independent of God.  He made clear there was a reward for followers and punishment for the independent.  What is really cool is the surprised reaction of the sheep – those who would be rewarded:  “Lord, when did we see You hungry, thirsty, being a stranger, naked, sick or imprisoned” (the last two categories found in the other Gospels).

The Lord was referring to Isaiah 58:6-10, where God declares that true righteousness (right with God, right living, right motives) is displayed by caring for the needy.

But NEVER does Jesus in the New or God in the Old Testaments indicate that acts of mercy and kindness lead to salvation and eternal life!  Jesus was clear about that, and Paul made sure the people that received his letters were totally informed.  One example of Paul’s teaching is found in Ephesians 2, verses 8 and 9:   “God saved you by his grace when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.   Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

Jesus was very clear:  acts of mercy and kindness are evidences that the sheep are already righteous!  The surprise of the sheep indicates that these acts of mercy and kindness were not intentional meritorious acts to gain access and entrance to the Kingdom of God, but were evidence that the sheep belonged to the Kingdom.

In light of my previous blog (“It’s Time” – October 11, 2011), I’ve been thinking long and hard about the motivation behind acquiring a specially-equipped truck, with all the bells and whistles and amenities.  I’ve come to a point where I’m asking myself, “Does it need to be ‘perfect’ before I begin to do what God is calling me to do?  Does the step-van/food truck need to come first – before I’ll venture out into the unknown?”

So … would anyone in the Richmond area consider joining me in an experiment.  First, prayer – asking for God to lead us.  Second, doing some “prayer-trips” around the city, looking for the places where needy folks are currently NOT being served by those already involved in such projects and ministries.  I think then, thirdly, it will be time to put a few propane burners in the back of my pickup, some previously prepared soup that we can warm up when we’re on location, something to serve coffee, some good water, along with cups, bowls and spoons.

What say you?

The Bridge

The Bridge

The Bridge - to Christ, Spiritual Maturity, and Hope to the World

The Bridge.  A new name, a new vision, a new pastor, a new approach to ministry, a new congregation.  By the way … I’m that new pastor.  I took the position in October, and it’s been great!  I love the people – “the survivors” is what I call the folks who made it through the turbulence of transition from former pastor/former church to new pastor/new vision.

Maybe you noticed the logo caption.  We, the people at The Bridge, want to be a bridge to Jesus.  We will never change the message!  It’s Jesus Christ, the Lord, Son of God, born of a virgin, lived in Palestine, taught disciples, was crucified, dead, buried and RISEN!  And coming King!

While we’re orthodox in our beliefs we will tend to be unorthodox in our approach to reaching out to the “dechurched” and the “unchurched.”

Matt Chandler (Google Matt, and look for him on You Tube as well) describes the dechurched as people who attended church when they were younger (pre- and even post-adolescence) but, for a ton of reasons, decided church wasn’t their thing.

I’ve come to the conclusion, after years of observation myself, that the dechurched may have thought attending church was pointless, irrelevant, dead/lifeless, populated by hypocrites, and constantly wanting more and more money.  The dechurched may have been hurt in a plethora of ways while attending church, and they’ve decided, “Who needs this!?”  Unfortunately, they may have seen hypocrisy in their own home and decided, “Why go to the trouble of going to church on Sunday morning when there are better things to do?”

The dechurched, after years of wandering the planet, wondering if there is a personal God that’s as sick of “church” as they are, believing that Jesus Christ is who He said He was, and investigating every spiritual nook and cranny there is have finally decided, “If I can find a group of REAL Christ-followers – authentic, transparent, loving, kind, other-centric, missional and more – I’ll check it out.  If I can find a group of Christ-followers who are honest about their imperfections and don’t make excuses for their misbehavior (they actually ask for forgiveness and want to make things right), I might check it out.  If I can find a diverse congregation that does not try to be politically correct but (instead)  tries to love each other the way Martin Luther King dreamed, I might check it out.”

It is my hope that The Bridge will be all those things!  I want to hang out with people like those I described above.  I want to build relationships with honest-to-God and authentic people who get the Gospel, believe it, and want to live in a community that looks and sounds a lot like Jesus if He were living here, and now.

Sounds idealistic?  Sounds impossible?  I don’t care what it sounds like – this is the vision I have for The Bridge.  Before my life is over I want to be with a group of people who want to do “Church” the way Jesus intended it to be.

Give me some feedback!  What did I leave out of my vision.  That’s an honest question.  I want to know.

What I Believe About God

I attended a meeting not long ago and heard a speaker say, as the general premise of the talk, that she had figured out how to get God to heal anyone, anytime.  She wasn’t talking about coercing God or artfully manipulating Him to do whatever we would want Him to do, especially in the area of healing.  She wasn’t that dumb.  Rather, her main point was that everything we need to know about healing, and getting people healed, is in God’s Word – the Bible.  All we needed to do was pray a certain way, believe a certain way, and He’d come through.  He would have to, you see, because He “had promised us He would heal anyone who believed, and would respond favorably to anyone who prayed in faith.”

But she doesn’t know what to do, think or say when “God” doesn’t heal someone, other than to just keep praying.  (That is, until death ends the process, of course.)  Others who believe in healing today, and have the formulas that “work,” will explain that when a person isn’t healed someone is at fault – either the person praying or the person that is sick.  What they are unintentionally or intentionally saying, depending on the person, is that they’ve got God figured out.  They know how He operates.  He’s totally predictable … that He responds a certain way in a certain situation every time that situation occurs.

Well … that’s what people say who have either (a) never read the Bible, (b) have read only the “interesting” parts of the Bible, (c) [ the most likely option] have approached reading the Bible with a certain pre-judgment (or prejudice, if you will).  Oh, and there is an option (d) and it is:  people have heard and then bought into teaching from teachers who live option “c” – teachers who themselves bought into the teaching of someone … who bought into the teaching of someone … etc., etc.

Their God is only as big as their understanding of Him … and that tends to be SMALL.

Let me tell you about my God.

He’s smarter than me.  I’m limited in my understanding of Him.  I can’t figure Him out … BUT … it doesn’t bother me.  In fact, I like it.  (If I could figure Him out I might think He is weak, or lacking intelligence … way too small to be worshipped as the great “I AM.”)

God tells me a lot about Himself … but again, more than I can fully understand … and He keeps me curious.  I want to know more about Him.

Put another way, His BIGNESS makes Him God … and for me, I like that.  I want a BIG God.  I want a God that can do infinitely more than I can, so much so that I wouldn’t want His job because I couldn’t do His job.  (I certainly don’t think I’m up for it.  I believe the position of GOD is filled.)

God’s Word, while totally true, is complex because it’s from Him – the One who is infinite in wisdom and knowledge.  It’s written to me and for me – the one who is finite and not all-knowing.  That means that there are parts of the Bible I won’t “get” … and there are parts that no one will get.  (If I could get it all, or if anyone else could understand it all … well, we’d have to be God’s equal, right?)  That said, there are times when children will get Him better than we do.

I believe God is the consummate, perfect LOVER.  He never holds grudges, never lies, alway understands, and is totally accepting … but … He’s not stupid.  He loves with His eyes wide open.  We can’t fool Him.  There’s not a place dark enough that we can hide our true feelings toward Him from Him.

Because God loves me He wants me to know Him better and better, and because He loves me He will reveal more and more about Himself to me in language I can understand.  (But that still means I won’t ever FULLY understand Him, or His ways.)

I believe God is beyond generous.  Because He’s so giving He always wills and wants to give me what is good for me; He said so.  He will not withhold good things from me.  At the same time, He WILL withhold what is NOT good for me.  He said so – He said don’t even ask for those things because He’s not listening.  Therefore,I should never try to lay a guilt trip on Him.  As hard as we might try, we can’t make Him feel guilty for not answering our every prayer in the way we dictate it to Him.  I also believe you and I can’t come up with formulas that make Him do anything He doesn’t want to do … even if we beg … or fast … or cut ourselves … or make promises concerning what we will do for Him in the future.  I can never force Him to do anything.  He is the greater, I am the lesser.  So if I think or believe something … ANYTHING … that doesn’t mean He has to believe it, too.

I believe God is HOLY.  That means He can never sin, just as light and darkness can’t mix.  He can’t sin against me, or against anyone in the whole world.  So … if anything bad happens to me – my stocks tank, I’m shipwreck, I am stoned (and I’m not talking about “pot” here), all my goods confiscated, I get really sick, or even die … it’s not His “fault.”  He is perfect.  Pure.  Right every time.  Good every time.  Kind every time.  Because He knows everything and I don’t, He knows when it’s time to pull the plug – my days are numbered … BY HIM.  You can’t sing, “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands” and believe otherwise.

I believe God is more concerned about me – the real, down-deep-inside-me me – than my comfort.  That means things I may not like could be good.  Just because I’m uncomfortable doesn’t mean something is wrong, or bad.  God can’t be bad.  My circumstances could be, but He is never or could ever be bad.  That also means that something bad happening in my life might ultimately bring about something good … something unanticipated.

God is tough.  He is the same God – in the Old Testament and the New Testament.  He didn’t come to His senses in the New Testament.  Jesus doesn’t represent “His good side” while Jehovah represents “His bad side.”  He does not have a split personality.  He is not a child killer in the Old Testament and a child resurrector in the New.  He is Job’s God.  He’s is Peter and John’s, too.  He hasn’t changed.  Everything He did in the Old and New Testament, whether we understand it or agree with it, was good because He is good.  In other words, He had His reasons for whatever He did … and He was HOLY while He did what He did.  Got it?

I believe God healed people in the Old and New Testaments … and He DIDN’T heal people in the Old and New Testaments – for His own reasons.  Again, some of those reasons He has never explained.  Some He has.  That said … even if I’m not healed, not protected, not always safe, not wealthy, not comfortable, not IN on His plan or plans … I try not to care.   It’s hard, but I’m better at it today than yesterday.  Because I trust Him.  I trust His judgment.

I trust Him.  And I love Him.  I can’t wrap my arms or my mind around Him, but I love Him – passionately.  During some tender moments He and I share it’s all I can do not to cry – I’m so filled with emotion.  I go ahead and cry eventually.  And He likes it, and thinks it’s masculine.  

So … that’s my God – my best attempt today to put what I believe about him down on paper, or in a blog post.  I don’t want to live without Him just because I don’t understand all of His ways.  I want Him, even if He keeps me wondering.  He is wonder-filled and wonderful.

Oh, and I do pray!  I do ask.  I ask BIG.  I have great faith.  I’ve seen miracles.  Real, honest to goodness miracles.   And when He doesn’t answer in the way I pray I just keep praying – with an open mind and an open heart.

He is God.  I am not.  And that is a good thing.

Part 3 – Trust and Disappointment

Again, if you’re reading this article without reading parts one and two, you won’t understand the context of this exchange.  Please take time to read the previous postings.

After I wrote the long letter empathizing with Ellie, she sent me this sweet response.

hey Lowell…

     i wanted to thank you for your words of real empathy and encouragement… it helps to know that you have experienced the depth of despair that drives one to long for (and seriously consider or attempt) what seems like the only escape in death, and not only survived, but are stronger… and it seems, have gained a closer relationship with god as a result. that is honestly what my heart desires, what i trying to accomplish, and on a good day, what i seem to have a tiny taste of.

    “it was the hardest thing to do – because of the guilt and the pride and the fear of disappointment …. again. I had to trust God. I had to let go”…  yes, this seems to one of my biggest sticking points as well. especially the trust issue. when i am completely honest, at my core, i do not trust god. i do not trust him to protect me, not to hurt me, to love me… and i know much of this distrust is a result of the abuse in my past. and in acknowledging, and seeking to overcome that lack of trust, you would think that eventually, it would be a barrier i would have conquered. no such luck as of yet… still working on that one. but i do know that this is the key to true freedom in my life.

    it seems, for me, such a difficult task to cry out to god with anything more than a desperate “please lord, just make it stop… quiet my head, my heart, my past” in those moments, and while i know this is simply what i am feeling on a heart level, and what i yearn for… i do so wish that he would answer. at least in some way that “didn’t come from my “self-talk.” It was other-world.”

    i do not want to waste my life (as John Piper so eloquently warns against)… in suicide, or in simply existing, chained to my pain and my past, allowing my fetters to prevent me from having that promised abundant life, and bringing glory to god in living that life. i just want torment to end… and sadly, cashing in my chips so often seems to be the best and only option.

    Lowell… i believe in your sincerity and honesty, and i deeply appreciate your transparency and willingness to share some of your story with me. i am going to keep listening for his voice…

thanks for your prayers,

ellie

Then, just a few hours later, she sent this post script:

here is my P.S. note … how would you suggest that i pursue conquering the “trust in god” issue?

Ellie

I felt like a fire was lit under me!  I did my best to explain how I’ve approached trust issues in my life, and some conclusions I have arrived at.

Dear Ellie,

I’ve tried to wrap my mind around the question you asked, “how would you suggest that i pursue conquering the “trust in god” issue?”   I’ve been trying to do that for years now, and I’ve got some opinions.  Here are a few:

I believe to understand “trust” one must understand “disappointment.”  (I’m speaking of trusting people, God, etc., versus being disappointed in or by people, God, etc.)  That is, in your case and mine, because we’ve been so hurt, to understand the positive (trust) one must try to understand the negative first (disappointment).  In my search for answers I went to “disappointment” first because I believed, and still believe, that trust is destroyed/damaged/weakened when we are disappointed, so … how can I ever trust if I don’t know how trust was broken in the first place.

Let me explain disappointment this way, and I think you’ll get where I’m coming from.  To me, disappointment comes from unmet expectations.  If I have an expectation of God, or any other person for that matter, and He/they do not meet my expectation(s), I will be disappointed.  And to guard my heart from the pain of repeated disappointments I will not trust.  I won’t be vulnerable again to that person.

I’m trying to do these word gymnastics  (God, people), so for my sake and yours I’ll just go with the “trusting God” thing.

In our minds (young and old) we have a picture of how God should behave.  When we’re children we have a finite understanding of just how big God is, but we get the part that says, “He can do anything because He’s super-powerful … and He is the most loving Person in the Universe … etc.”  When we’re older, we tend to limit God.  We’re more successful putting Him in a much smaller box, i.e., “He might not be able to do everything, and He may not be the most loving Person in the Universe.”  That “adult” point of view comes from repeated disappointments in our life experiences:  that is, we were not protected when we thought He (God) would protect us; He did not “love” me by giving me what I wanted, when I wanted it.  You know what I mean.

So … when a young girl such as yourself experiences abuse, you would naturally think, “If God is all-powerful, and the most loving Person in the Universe, how could He have let this awful thing happen to me.”  Right?  We are disappointed.  Our disappointment comes from our understanding of how God works, or how we think He should work/behave.  And He did not meet our expectations.

The fascinating thing is – Yes, God is all powerful … and He is the most loving Person in the Universe … and because He is both of those things, He’s a gift giver.  If He can’t give His enormous love away, He can’t be a Lover!  Some people think – “UNFORTUNATELY, God gave the gift of choice to mankind … and because He stupidly gave that gift to us, selfish people use that gift to satisfy their lust(s) for money, aberrant sex, etc., and because God gave away CONTROL when He gave mankind choice, I have been hurt, injured, damaged.  Stupid God!  How could He have been so unloving, as to give people the power to inflict pain upon me????”

Hang with me.  I’m going somewhere with this … I’m just getting real wordy.

God’s dilemma?  How does the consummate Lover give and receive love?  God gives love when He gives us the “power” to make a choice to return love to Him.  The risk?  That the loved one (that’s you and me and the whole world) might choose to love our selves more than Him, and do our own thing, and in turn do our own thing to innocent little girls like you.  God could have created mankind as little playthings.  He could have created a perfect world (He did) and then controlled every aspect of life in that world (He did NOT).  Instead of creating a cosmic doll house, and spending His time moving furniture from one room to the next, and move little puppet people around, God breathed LIFE into man, and said, “I love you, and I want you to love Me.  I won’t make you love Me.  I want you to choose to do it of your own free will.  You are not puppets or robots.  You are like the angels.  You can worship me or not.  Your choice.”

NOTE:  You and I can relate to God’s desire for love returned from a person with a free will because that’s what we long for.  We don’t want anyone to love us because they have to, but because they want to.

As I delved deeper into why God made the world the way He did, and then gave us human beings the gift of choice, it dawned on me, “God risked not being loved.”  Wow!  The most powerful being in the Universe exercised His awesome power to choose by LIMITING His power over us.  He decided not to make us love Him, but to let us love Him if we wanted to.  He limited His control.

And I love Him for it most of the time.  But from time to time I have hated Him for giving mankind that gift.  We are so selfish, we choose to go to war rather than go to the peace conference.  We are so selfish, we choose to abuse little girls rather than value them by saying NO to our immoral desires.  Sometimes I’m ashamed to be a man because so many men use their power to choose to do what’s been done to you.  I hope you will forgive me for being “one of those!”  One of those monsters – those evil, selfish, sexually deviant types.  And sometimes I’m ashamed to be a human being – because we humans are so … so … inhumane.  Ellie, please forgive me.  Please forgive us.

When I look at the Cross where Jesus died, what I see there is the epitome of wicked, inhumane behavior, and I pray, “Oh, God … we chose to KILL You rather than embrace You.  And we didn’t just choose to put a gun to Your head and pull the trigger so You would instantly die.  We chose to torture You to death … to make Your dying last as long as possible so that our hatred for You could be more fully expressed.  At the Cross we chose ‘freedom’ from Your Lordship over our lives so that we could do whatever we wanted to do, whenever we wanted to do it.  God, forgive us.  God … forgive me.”

Dear Ellie, in order for me to trust God, I had to go where I just took you.  It was a painful process … and it took a while.  I had to address my disappointment in God.  I had to identify my expectations, and decide if they were based on truth or fiction, God’s word or my best guess.  It was a humiliating process, but I finally came to the following conclusions, and if my pain-filled life experiences can help you, then I have a greater appreciation for all the shit I’ve been through.  Oh, and let me say, right now I’m living a wonderful life.  It’s based on truth, not fantasy.  I’ve come to grips with my childish thoughts, and rather than keep God in a small box, I’ve let Him out to be GOD!

Conclusions for Lowell:

1.  God so loved the world … you and me and the billions … that He wanted to give gifts (a lover wants to love and be loved, and a giver wants to give), and God’s gifts included the gift of life, the gift of this planet, the gift of others (so we wouldnt’ be alone), the gift of sex, the gift of choice, and the gift of His Son, Jesus.

2.  We selfish human beings have taken all of His gifts, and for the most part we have used them to satisfy our desires.  (There are notable exceptions – Mother Teresa comes to mind immediately!)

3.  FACT:  It was NEVER God’s intention for mankind to abuse His gifts, His love, or each other.  He said so many times and in many ways.  One way was to give us the Ten Commandments.  They were limitations God put on selfish behavior.  His desire was always that we would choose Him, and that we would choose to love others like He loves us … to not hurt other people.  Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God, and the second would follow … we would love our neighbors.

4.  So … while it may be hard to trust people (and it has been) because “they” are self centered, I can trust God because He is actually “ME centered” – that is, He has decided that I’m worth ALL He’s ever given.  And He never wanted me hurt.  He always wanted me to enjoy all He has to offer.  (I put “they” in quotes because “I” am never selfish.  Ha!)

5.  And so … to trust Him requires that I changed my view of God.  That’s hard.  That’s the hardest part.  You may have a view of God so entrenched in your mind that you may have to have a transplant.  (Paul said in Romans 12 that we needed a transformation.)  We’ve got to deal with ideas like “God doesn’t care that I’ve been hurt”  and other real disappointments based on unrealistic expectations that we might have.  We need to understand that we live on a fallen planet.)

Just how do you view God?  And what is that view based upon?  Is your view The Truth?  Have you believed any lies about God?

Sorry!  I got a little preachy there.  I’ve shared a lot of my “journey,” and I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you.  Personally, I think you probably “know” everything I’ve told you at an intellectual level … but for me anyway, until all this stuff went from my head to my heart (the core of my being), I didn’t experience any change that brought freedom from my past and my pain.

Just after I press the “send” button I’m going to get down on my knees and thank God again for His wonderful gifts.  I’m going to worship Him for who He really is, and for all that He has done for me.  And I’m going to lift your name up to Him, and ask Him to smother you with kisses, and warm your heart with His presence.  My wife and I will continue to pray for you.  Live, Ellie!  You have a story to tell and a life to live that will have meaning beyond your imagination.  And don’t take my word for it.  Take His.  In Jeremiah 29, I think it’s verses 11-14 … “I know the plans I have for you (Ellie) … plans to give you a hope and a future.”  Amen!

Blessings, and Aloha!

Lowell

Part 1 – Trust and Disappointment

This is the first article in a series.  I hope my regular readers will stick with me on this one.  I believe the content will touch your heart, and open your understanding to the complexities of Trust – trusting God and others – and Disappointment – in God and in others.

I have made a new friend after I wrote the article on “Rape and Abuse.”  After I received Ellie’s comments on that article I tracked back to her blogsite and soon we began a personal dialogue.

After several weeks of sharing our thoughts, one with the other, I asked her permission to put out a series of  articles on what we shared, using portions of the correspondence-via-email we had sent each other.  I’ve included her email giving me permission to share our emails below.  Ellie is very generous, and is very open about the challenges she has faced and continues to face.  Check out her site and you’ll see what I mean.  (http://ridmeofmyself.wordpress.com/)

Hey Lowell…

No worries.   Actually at the time I wrote those, I had been trying to figure out a way in which to write you not in the form of a comment. so I am glad that you emailed me the other day… so we could communicate that way.

That said … feel free to use what you wrote to me as an article, and my question as a lead in.   I am sure that there are lots of people out there who would greatly benefit from your experience and insight on the subject of trust … and I would hate for them to miss out.

I am not concerned with people having read my comments … or even having attached my first name, or blogsite with them, or the personal issues I deal with. Hey, it is out there in no uncertain terms on my blog … and I feel comfortable with the level of anonymity the web affords.

So … publish away if you want to, and know that I am all for allowing our struggles to be a bridge for others to know god better. helps to know they are not in vain.

Ellie

Part One:  Ellie’s first comment, and my response:

After I wrote the “Rape and Abuse” article,  I received this comment from Ellie on April 14:

Hey … I stumbled across your post in tag surfer, and felt strongly, as an individual who has struggled daily with the aftermath of sexual abuse/rape, and who’s life has been profoundly touched by both the grace of God and the kindness and compassion of a pastor who walked along side me in that struggle that I needed to say thank you.

Thank you for caring enough to see and acknowledge the depth of pain and brokenness of those around you.  My pastor introduced me to Christ and began with me the slow, painful journey of healing that I still am taking to this day.  He made a huge difference in my life, as I am sure you have done for those in your care.  So thanx … you make a difference.

And yes, I agree with you “that self-imposed ‘responsibility’ for the crime” is often one of the major stumbling blocks to release from the bondage of sexual abuse/rape.  That is true of my own experience.  It is only now, years (and much therapy) later, that I am beginning to allow the truth (about God and myself) to sink in, and I believe this is the path to freedom.

Ellie

I was so fascinated with Ellie’s comment that I went looking for her site.  I found it and read the following article that she entitled “The Promise of Redemption;” she had written it way back on January 18 of this year.  Read it below.  (By the way, when Ellie writes she usually does not capitalize words and pronouns … so you’re reading what I read.)

the promise of redemption

     i spend most of my day in the numbness… functioning when i must and allowing myself to isolate and withdraw when i am not required to, living and breathing and even sometimes laughing. but in the waning hours of the evening and in the loneliness of the newly dawning day i feel. and it hurts.     

     and i wonder how the past and present can exist together in the same moment, and why my head refuses to allow my heart to heal… and how it is possible for my chest to ache so deeply from within because of an eight year old girl who remembers more than twenty years ago, when her heart was broken.     

     and i am utterly alone, caught somewhere been the sorrowful shame of my shadows and the fuzzy reality before my eyes and beneath my feet. this is the precise instant that the blade beckons, promising relief in the red river… redeeming just for tonight, her past transgressions.    

     the blade beckons, and yet the cross calls out to my soul in a soft yet familiar voice … both promising redemption, but only one delivering true, lasting cleansing. only one quenches the depth of my need. but in the midst of my pain, in my raging storm i so often reach, not for abiding truth, but for immediacy… trading living water for a lie that turns to sand upon my tongue.   

       i pray for the strength to turn from that which will never satiate, and to cling to the enduring one who gives life.                                  

On April 14, I responded this way to her comment on my blog article on “Rape and Abuse,” and then I told her how I felt about her blog article:

Oh, Ellie!

After you commented on my article today I searched for your site. (I’m sure that one of the prime motivators was your gracious compliment … I must admit.)

I’m so glad I found your site. You’re honest, and transparent. I even love the language you used to put an exclamation point on your observations.

I’m with you. I don’t think God gives a rip about chocolate, but He certainly hopes we’ll get over the guilt from failures, real and perceived, that tend to separate us from Him. He gives a rip about US! He loves us so much, and longs to hold us to Himself. He went to every extreme to demonstrate that love by sending His Son into the broken world. His goal wasn’t just our “eternal salvation,” but our temporal healing and health. He’s THE Healer for every broken heart.

I feel like a found a new friend when I found your site. I’ll be checking in often. (No pressure! Ha! Relax, and just be your wonderful self. He gifted you, and I believe God hopes you’ll find not only purpose for your writing, but JOY when you write. It’s more than therapy for you, if you even consider it therapy. Your thoughts are therapeutic for your readers … and now your fans.)

Blessings and Aloha!

Lowell

April 2008 Update – Dancing With The Healer

Vicki QuallsFor all those who have been following the progress of my writing “The Vicki Book,” I have some news.  I’m really close to finishing the “creative stage” of the process.  Soon I’ll be entering the dreaded “editing stage,” where everything I’ve written is on the block.

I’d like to ask my blog readers for some input.  Please comment on the process I’m going to outline below – one that I believe I’ll follow in order to bring the book-writing to its proper conclusion.

Before I share that process I want to thank Caroline Eitzen-Cocciardi AGAIN for her encouragement to “stay in your creative mind, Lowell,” and not give in to the temptation to constantly go back to what I had already written and edit it (which I had done, time and again until she gave me her wise counsel).

I shared last month that my goal was to have the manuscript done before I went on vacation to Maui.  I didn’t make it.  Plain and simple.  But the goal helped push me like never before.  Now, I’ve set another goal – one that I think I will make.  I’m working on the last 75 pages of Vicki’s journal.  I’ve been able to do about 10 a day (on a good day).  Given that, I’m inside two weeks of coming to the end of the creative stage.  Then, I’ll read the manuscript from start to finish, trying to find any grammar/spelling mistakes, typos, and breakdowns in the flow of the story.  That’s probably another week or two.  Then, the gutsy part.

My intention is to share the manuscript with several close friends who have a writer’s background.  Some are published authors.  Others are journalism majors and masters.  One or two of my pastor-buddies will be asked to look over the theological content, and a few readers will be people who lived through much of what Vicki wrote about – family and friends.  I’ll be asking all these folks if they would evaluate my style, the flow of the story/book, and its content.

Whew!

Like I said at the start, anyone out there in the internet world is welcome to comment on the process I’ve outlined above.

And for those who have been praying for me and the book … please continue to do so.  I’ve seen that when I’VE been in prayer and close communion with the Lord, the process of writing the book becomes mystical and supernatural, and in turn, I’m able to produce much more than normally possible.

I could use some encouragement right now.  I’m tired.  I feel emotionally spent at the end of every day.  Thank God for Becky!  She’s been such a supporter and helper.  I can’t think of a day when she hasn’t been there for me.  But most of the time she’s been a single (lone) voice.  Is there anyone out there who could join her?

Well, back to writing the book.

By the way, the blogging has rarely (I can’t say never) interrupted my writing the book.  Actually, blogging has served to break tension, relieve emotions, and strangely – rest my mind.  Blogging has been like having a conversation with a friend who’s only purpose has been to listen as I vent or wade through issues that distract me.

Love to all.