Fortuitous Stories are Made Every Day

I just recently finished my novel, Rolling River. As the writer, I of course have a responsibility to orchestrate events to move my characters towards some form of resolution. Even if they feel everything is spinning out of control, I can’t let them stay that way – no matter how many edits it takes.

Oh, that real life always worked that way, right?

But wait. Every beautiful once in awhile, it does!

Take, for example, this Wednesday.

It didn’t start out too great. My youngest son was diagnosed with pneumonia, but we got that dealt with for the time being.
One of my dearest friends was having a birthday, and a group of us was getting together to celebrate at lunch.

What it looks like when our group of high school friends gets together for lunch

Many laughs later, it was time to go back and face the work world again. I had loitered with two of my besties in the parking lot, encouraging and being encouraged, and then we parted ways. As I got into my car, I thought to warn the canoodling couple in front of me not to let my car startle them when I started it. (It had squealed a little that morning and I had to get it to the shop the next day to be checked out.)

As promised, it squealed. Only very loudly this time. Then smoke started pouring in through my vents and out from under my hood.

An Unrealistic Re-enactment that I found on the Internet.

As I shut it down, I heard the shocked man in front of me yell, “Pop the hood!” Before I could feel guilty that I’d ruined his goodbye kiss, his significant blonde other had come around to assist me.

Looking back, how I think the couple may have actually looked…

No sooner had the helpful stranger diagnosed my problem as “a broken drive belt,” producing evidence of it swinging in his hand, than I heard a familiar voice coming across the parking lot behind me. “Jody, what have you done now?”

I turned to face one of our prior youth leaders at church, Greg, who also fortuitously works in the repair shop closest to where I’d broken down. He told me he could get my car towed and taken care of. I told him I could meet him half-way on the towing – I had AAA.

“Let me get a ride back to the shop and go get my truck. I’ll come back and pick you up,” he nodded.

The lady who had been at the scene of my car’s crime wanted to assure I felt comfortable with those arrangements. (She also offered to take me to the mammogram I’d just cancelled, if needed. I guess she figured Greg wouldn’t want to do that! Any hey, I figured we weren’t strangers anymore about the time I’d told her about the mammogram; but I assured her it was all just as well – I was happy to put that trauma off for a few more days.)

No sooner had the couple left and Greg returned than one of my besties surprised me by coming back across the parking lot. “You go back to work and wait on her car to get there,” she told Greg. “I’ll hang out with her until the tow arrives and then take her to work.”

And that’s how it went. I never had to do much of anything for myself – except make the call to AAA.

But that’s not really the end of this story. It has a better punchline from the grand writer’s perspective.

My oldest son stopped by my house that evening for dinner, and I was telling him about my day. When I finished my story, he leaned back with a big grin on his face.

“You know,” he smiled, “every time I stop to help someone and they try to pay me, I always tell them that I’m helping them because I know if my mom or my fiance’ ever breaks down, God will make sure that someone’s right there to help them.”

My oldest son with his fiance’. (If he ever stops to help you out, he’s a pretty good fella’.)

It wasn’t too long before he was on the phone with his fiance, sharing my story and assuring her, “You know how I know that you’re gonna’ be alright if you ever break down? Because God showed me how faithful He was in watching over my mom today. She didn’t even have a chance to worry, and everybody else had already solved her problem for her.”

Now, I’m not going to tell you that usually happens. I’d never have a chance to grow in life if everybody else always solved my problems for me. But isn’t it nice to know that, every beautiful once in awhile, our faith isn’t tested as much as it’s simply gifted?

Don’t miss those fortuitous stories of resolution in your own life either (’cause I’ll bet they come up more often than any of us truly ever notice.)

Gray sand peas,

Jody

O Little Town of Bethlehem – & other places for a Christian woman to cover her head

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/thousands-flock-bethlehem-celebrate-christmas-article-1.1226868

Manger Square in Bethlehem 2012

After the unrest in the Holy Land as of late, it was heart-warming to hear the good news reported by the New York Daily News: “Thousands of pilgrims and Palestinians converged on Bethlehem Monday to celebrate the first Christmas in this West Bank city since the U.N. vote recognizing Palestine as a non-member state.The celebrations capped a boom year for the city of Jesus’ birth, with a record two million tourists in 2012 helping an impressive economic revival.”

I dare say the importance of this news (and that picture above) makes little sense to many Christians anyway. We Christians like to romanticize the little town of Bethlehem, as though it somehow belongs to us. We sweetly sing our caroling song about it, our faces aglow, basking in the candlelight. How still we-e see thee lie. Well, that’s a lie. (Somehow we forget that Jesus wasn’t exactly welcomed in that restless place with open arms – he was only welcomed by a mangy manger.) Commerce hasn’t come through there, either, like it used to (mostly due to an ugly Apartheid wall that blocks it and is responsible for blocking the harvesting of many age-old olive trees now destroyed or inaccessible), and hearts are still restless there – so “pilgrims flocking” – and buying – is good news of great joy to the people of ‘O Little Town.’

Going to Israel’s West Bank has made one of the greatest life impacts on me, putting many things in perspective for me, while also knocking many of my perspectives off-axis. That’s why it was important to go there.

The very night I first arrived in Jericho in January 2006, Hamas was elected into power. There was immediate unrest, with gunfire celebrations going all through the night, as Islamic Palestinians anticipated release from Israeli authority (while Americans – a.k.a. Christians there, regardless of religious affiliation –  had enough sense to remain in their hotel rooms). It’s interesting being over there as an American. Politics & religion become one in the same – don’t bother trying to explain our principle of separation of Church & State; you’re wasting your breath. So if you’re an American without obvious Islamic ties or without Jewish transfer as an Israeli soldier, you’re classified as Christian – no exceptions (which I am Christian, but coming from America, I had to come to understand this particular paradigm). And if you’re an atheistic American, I guess you’ve just become a secular Christian. Yeah, well, academic arguments don’t really matter. Life stinks out for you, huh?

I had just come from Ammon, Jordan, where I’d seen the Palestinian refugee camps and had begun to understand the true extent of potential hatred between the Israeli & Palestinian people because of decades of displacement (and how U.S. Christians are viewed in the turmoil with a Zionist worldview). Nerves were a little on edge in Israel, anyway, as Prime Minister Sharon had suffered two strokes (which had resulted in his vegetative state). It seemed the Hamas must have been surprised to have come into power (certainly unprepared, as were America & Israel about it) because it took them several days to effectively organize and begin disseminating ‘power’ statements. By the time all that had occurred, I had made my way into Bethlehem.

The "Apartheid" wall that encloses Bethlehem(Note the sign on the wall when leaving Jerusalem to go into Bethlehem. It reads, "Peace be with you.")

The “Apartheid” wall that encloses Bethlehem
(Note the sign on the wall when leaving Jerusalem to go into Bethlehem. It reads, “Peace be with you.”)

The wired fences, the walled Apartheid barricade, the armed soldiers, the long wait during passport inspection at the ‘you are leaving Jerusalem & we’re not sure if we’ll let you back in’ checkpoint – all matched well with the ominous gray sky the first day we entered Bethlehem. No sooner did we get off our bus and begin walking to Jesus’ supposed birth site than I began to realize the desperation of the Palestinian people there. Tourism and commerce were down significantly (I was told to less than one-third of what they had been), with great limitations on supplies that could come into the city. Residents didn’t necessarily have the means to get out of the walled-in city to sustain themselves either. We were swarmed upon several times by people desperate to make sales with very little to actually sell (even though, honestly, I’m not much of a shopper anyway, avidly avoiding Black Friday & Walmart like the plague). I accidentally offended one man by backing away and holding up my hand, trying to make the point I wasn’t interested in being crowded any further. (Well, it always works as a good signal to those upstanding people trying to sell you stolen goods at U.S. gas pumps. You must understand that I’m also the person who will ask to be excused from the no-longer-has-met-its-weight-limit-elevator as people keep trying to push me towards the back to suffocate me.) This fellow was persistent in sharing my personal space, as he boldly pursued me, yelling at me that he, too, was a Christian and that I was not “the Mrs. of the World” (which was a little heart-breaking that he hadn’t recognized me without my sash and crown). Desperation creates frustration; frustration causes tempers to easily flare. As disconcerting as this experience was, my heart did hurt for him and the others, one of whom actually was successful in picking another woman’s pocketbook in our party that day, passport and all.

I don’t believe we traveled too many more steps down the road before the speakers on top of the mosques began to blare. I had become accustomed to chants coming from them often, but this time seemed different. Apparently, Hamas had begun to make some decisions, and at least one was relayed to us. Did it come from the very loud-speakers? I can’t recall. Did the words first come in Arabic and then were translated from the speakers? Or were we simply thereafter informed of their meaning? Regardless of the details I’ve failed to remember, I do quite clearly recall the gist of the message we received as we stood out on that street: “Hamas is now in power. Bethlehem is an Islamic state. Christian women will cover their heads” (hijab – yep, I got that part of the announcement).

Now, I’m all for honoring customs and traditions. (Nobody wears green to keep from being pinched better than me on St. Patrick’s Day. Admittedly, I don’t go out of my way to find black-eyed peas and greens on New Year’s; but when my sister says we have to eat them, I hold my nose and play along – even when I can’t recall the point). Seriously, I have no problem with head coverings when they’re called for. I had already taken one with me to the Wailing Wall in Old Jerusalem, and I didn’t even make a stink about having to go to the “girl’s side.” I understood the expectation. Had I known a head covering was going to be a requirement in Bethlehem that day – a town composed of both Islamic and Christian Palestinians – I’m sure I could’ve brought one along. It was the ‘immediacy’ of the matter -without any pre-designed rule book or warning – that kinda’ got my hijab in a wad that day. (That, and this, if you want more info about why the ruling wasn’t really ‘kosher.’)

When you’re one of less than a handful of American women with uncovered light-colored hair and skin walking down the streets of an agitated town in the middle of the day, you don’t have to wonder if you’ve just become a magnet for creating a potential offense! (Especially when there are women fully covered with a niqab or burqa who you realize are now only giving you uncomfortable side glances, as they quickly shuffle away in a direction quite obviously opposite from your own.) Obviously, the impracticality of not being forewarned of the possibility of immediate governmental law changes does not necessarily negate the severity of the perceived offense.

So, you see, had I but only known the wonderfully gracious and giving TravelingMarla back then – my blogging friend, Marla, who just recently sent me a lovely green forever-scarf as a gift for playing along in her writing challenge… (I would like to say it was because I won it for being such a profoundly gifted writer; but then I’d be creating a new offense by not simply saying she is a fun and generous gal!)…I could’ve easily pocketed that little green scarf and pulled it out quicker than a redneck Muslim could say “Hee-yawb.” (That’s some bad American Christian cowgirl humor for ya’, since all Americans notoriously are western cowpokes, too.)

Thank you, Marla, for my forever-lovely forever-scarf!

Thank you, Marla, for my forever-lovely forever-scarf!

For the record, this isn’t the ending story of my Bethlehem visits – there’s a really good one in there that ends in prayer in an upper room. But I’m saving that one for another day. For now, there’s one more thing I have to say because there’s a small likelihood I haven’t offended enough religious (or non-religious, as the case may be) affiliations yet. I came back to the states and later went to see a family Christian production in the movie theaters. It began with a commercial from Evangelical Christians, essentially stating (as fact) that “all” Palestinian children were sent to camps to learn to make bombs. (It was a nasty little hate message, in case you didn’t get that.) It was the same sort of hate message that was keeping the residents of Bethlehem from being able to get any commerce or supplies into their town to survive. As a Christian, I felt more horrified over that commercial than I had during my own uncovered-head-day-in-Bethlehem excursion. I wished I’d had a hijab with me at that moment, along with a dark niqab to cover my reddened face.

News flash to those of you calling yourselves Christians while persecuting Palestinians: Somebody’s been leaving out some pertinent information while filtering their agendas to you. A reality check will reveal that, even if you care about no others outside of ‘your own,’ there are Palestinian Christians who remain just as displaced in both homeland and affiliation in the Middle East as any other Palestinian. Because they are neither Islamic nor Jewish, these governments tell them to go to America (because we all know that is where Christians reside,  of course. Yep, lots of secular Christians.) While in Bethlehem, I witnessed Christians and Muslims living and socializing peacefully together as individuals (well, commiserating over their woes), rather than acting out separately like governmental entities of this region. So are we truly, as proclaiming Christians, going to persecute our Palestinian brothers and sisters with lies such as those being promulgated in that movie theater commercial? Are you truly willing to  be the means of persecuting anyone, according to religion or beliefs, based on picked-up propaganda perspectives? I, for one, did not appreciate it – so much so that it makes me think long and hard before I take any political stances – especially those that might cost people their lives.

I found out, first-hand — Persecution Stinks. But what gets me most is that Jesus came into the world knowing his arrival would mean persecution – persecution to the point of eventually giving up his very life. He even found out how un-welcomed he’d be from the very beginning – right there in Bethlehem, when there was no room anywhere but with the animals down in a musty cave.

But that didn’t stop Him from coming. The Prince of Peace – coming into a restless world. Emmanuel (God with us) – coming not to hoard his power over us with unreasonable rules and restrictions we couldn’t meet or to throw new ones on us to embarrass us and trip us up, but so we could be free of the things that bound us;so His light might shine brightly upon those of us who had been hiding in the darkness.

Perhaps we should revisit that song, O Little Town of Bethlehem – especially that part where it says:

Yet in thy dark streets shineth,  the Everlasting Light

the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

We need to uncover that light within us – a light that desires to shine in the darkness for others to witness; not the darkness trying to snuff out the Truth – that God’s light has come into the world.

The Perfect Present – Merry Christmas!

Christmas

takes the historical,

the theological,

the magical

and the whimsical

and wraps them all together 

in a most delightful present.

whimsical_nativity

Year after year,

the beauty of this same familiar package

never wears down,

it never fades.

The surprise never lessens,

the Christmas spirit never dies –

not as long as we determine we’re going to prepare our hearts to continue to open

-and cherish-

this eternal, priceless gift.

Merry Christmas 2012! – jody

nativity

Travel theme: Hot

In a place where the temperature average is 94.1 degrees F (34.5 C) for the year, with Summer temperatures soaring over 110 degrees F (43.3 C), it’s easy to

Feel Hot, Hot, Hot! 

While Building a Church from the Ground Up.

Nevertheless, that hasn’t stopped the people of Ligitolo, South Sudan from faithfully working towards accomplishing this great task!

For more information on the current “building” initiative for Changing Lives in South Sudan:

Other Hot Travel Themes can be viewed at Where’s My Backpack?

Wild Weekly Photo Challenge – My Wilderness ESCAPE

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Whenever I hear the word Escape, the first thing that pops in my mind is a song by Rupert Holmes with that same name (when it’s not being referred to as ‘The Pina Colada Song, of course).

“If you like pina coladas and getting caught in the rain…

then write to me and escape.”

Those lines instantly evoke a sense of joyfulness and of being carefree –

a feeling we all desire.

(Or maybe they evoke in you a desire to write about your own planned escape – if so, I’d love to hear about it.)

Just like in this song, we may get to various points in our lives when we feel as if we need to plan an escape from “reality.” (Just like just then, when I wrote we because, in reality, I needed some backup and didn’t want to admit that it translated to I in that sentence.) Well, I am still betting you can relate to our escape plan.

Some days, admittedly and incredibly, I find escape in my work, simply running from one form of reality to seeking solace in another. Other days, I find my escape as I get caught up in reading a fantastically fictional story where I wish I could play the protagonist’s part. Ironically, I find that my most pleasurable times of escape, though, aren’t really when I’m trying to get away from life; but when I’m working on a life adventure of my own, either through engagement with nature and others, or engagement among my characters or the words in my mind as I write.

Throw in a little pina colada and some dancing in the rain, and I guess I’m in business.

Sometimes, our life escapades come out differently than how we’ve anticipated.

(At least mine do.)

Truthfully, without sounding dramatic or even getting into the details, I can honestly say I’ve escaped death a time or two in my life – but those instances were direct consequences of poor decisions either I made or someone else made on my behalf (or, in one instance, didn’t make in time).

That thought brings me around to my response for the Let’s Be Wild Weekly Challenge on Escape.

When I was in the Holy Land, out wandering a little myself down the Wadi Qelt in the Judean wilderness,

I had some time to think about a couple of the famous escapes associated with this place.

When the Hebrews escaped their bondage from Egypt under the leadership of their prophet, Moses, they wandered through the wilderness for 40 years, according to the Torah. As Moses stood on Mount Nebo (aka Pisgah), he looked down into the Promised Land, the area we distantly view here that includes Jericho. As I stood there, in that same place (or close to it, anyway) thinking on this, I came to the conclusion that

Sometimes we have to be patient and persistent for our escape to come to fruition.

Other times, our escape may be very different than anything we’ve planned for ourselves,

as it was with Moses.

Deuteronomy 34:1-5
Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho….
Then the LORD said to him, “This is the land I promised….I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.” And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab…but to this day no one knows where his grave is.

Another thought as I looked upon a Bedouin herd, finding grass where I might have said there was none to be had:

When it comes to making an escape, perhaps one person’s deserted path is another’s prime pasture.

I was also reminded on this pathway that I traveled, along the Wadi al Qelt was where the Story of the Good Samaritan took place in scripture. Don’t let my high elevation shot fool you here. When walking the Wadi Qelt, it becomes easy to see how readily bandits can hide in the surrounding area and surprise someone along the path unexpectedly.

Luke 10:25-37
“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers…” (vs. 30).

That man was left for dead by the robbers and by two others that couldn’t be bothered to help him. But because of the least likely person that would’ve been expected to help him along the way (the Samaritan), the robbed and beaten man was cared for and escaped death.

Sometimes the people we would least expect might be the ones to assist us in making our escape.

Sometimes, like the dry places in my life, the Wadi Qelt looks a lot like death, void of much of anything living, until a little spring of life sneaks in and obscurely announces itself. That was the case with this area of green growth, boldly announcing where Herod’s aqueduct came through, supplying water for life along its path.

At other times in life, I might be moving along on high ground and can’t even fathom what surprises might await me in the deep recesses if I’ll just take time to escape to them and explore around there.

In this case, I did, and was welcomed in by priests serving lemonade and cookies. This monastery was built around an expanse of caves, one in which Elijah resided while hiding out from King Ahab and the ill-tempered Queen Jezebel. The bible story says ravens came and fed Elijah, and I’d never dispute that birds could very well have done just that. However, it’s also rumored that the cave-dwellers who lived along the sides of those ridges were called a named that translates to sound very similar to ‘raven.’

To tell you the truth, I enjoy escaping into the possibility of either of those story versions.

Here’s a modern-day look on the inside of Elijah’s cave, if you’re interested in seeing the place of his escape:

The final escape story with which I was faced during my own wilderness experience was when I stood upon the Mount of Olives, looking over the Garden of Gethsemane. This was the place where Jesus went to pray, just before he was arrested and later crucified. A portion of his prayer was, if there was any other way for salvation of the people to take place, for that cup to be taken from him. After that, he ended his prayer obediently, saying, ‘Not my will, but yours be done, Father.’

I wonder how often I’ve worked to escape from uttering those words in my life when the price wasn’t nearly so high for me?

It wasn’t until I stood above that very spot, overlooking that garden, when I came to realize the physical choice Jesus had made there. If this had been a modern-day movie, for instance, things would’ve looked very despondent for the hero; then, just before the worst possible outcome, he would have turned the other way – and escaped. By our standards, that would’ve made for the perfect ending. And let me assure you, he could’ve done just that – escape would’ve come all too easily. On one side of this garden lay Jerusalem (which you can see, now in modern-day, in the background of this photo).

But when you’re standing up on that mount, if you turn and look out to the other side, you’ll find there is an entire wilderness into which Jesus could’ve chosen to escape – the same wilderness into which Elijah escaped quite easily from King Ahad and Queen Jezebel.

Instead, Jesus chose to do his Father’s will and stay right where he was in that garden, awaiting his capture. He chose to accept the sentence for those deeds that really belong on my head. Standing there, as a Christian, I had to acknowledge in my belief and in that place that He had chosen to stay there and take a punishment to allow me to be the one to escape it.

He became my emergency escape hatch.

What better escape could I ever ask for or plan than that?

In this realization, more than anywhere on my walk,

My wilderness experience surely taught me to always look for the unexpected Escape Hatches & Doors to explore, regardless of where I am in life.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t take time to wish this same joyful and carefree escape route for you, my friends.

***

Just for kicks,

I’m participating in the LetsBeWild.com Wild Weekly Photo Challenge

This week’s Challenge is: Escape

Make Your Own Escape to see the winning entries here!

***

What, Where, How (or maybe Who) is your Favorite Escape?

I’d love to hear about it, if you dare to share…

Hope Be -Dam’ed

Without hope, life is meaningless.

Whenever I read these words out loud, they always sound like this to me:

“Without hope, life is mean and less.”

When I was growing up, I can remember my best friend’s mom saying, “Put hope in one hand and spit in the other and see which one gets filled the fastest.”  So hope was something that wasn’t going to be fulfilled by her definition (and the process of trying was fairly disgusting).

Hope requires vision.

My friend’s mom was missing the vision. With many of us, hope is often a vague wish or a best case scenario when things aren’t looking so good or we’re after something better than what we’ve got (with little to no chance of getting it). Vision gets lost (or spit on by others) with that kind of hope.

I have a vivid story on this subject of hope that stands out in my mind.

I was once heading into the Netherlands on KLM, finding myself getting dizzy from circling the Amsterdam airport, over and over again. (At least we thought we were circling somewhere in the vicinity of the airport. We had to take the pilot’s word of the navigator’s instrumentation’s word because the fog surrounding us was as thick as pea soup — not that it was green or anything, but you get the idea of the simile).  Eventually, the pilot informed us we had to head to Rotterdam for any landing attempt because we were running low on fuel. Okay, standard operating procedure, right? It was still good…until we had to do the same sort of maneuvering over Rotterdam in the same thick fog – over and over and over (you get the idea) again. I kept imagining how I cringe at the thought of the fuel gauge on my compact car causing its little bell to ding. (In truth, I’ve never heard that little bell ding. I’m not brave enough to test how far it can make it after that happens.) I wondered if any dinging would take place on this huge jet before we heard the dreadful sputtering and then the disastrous plummeting sound. (I figured it would probably be more than a tiny ding, since those seem to be reserved for less urgent seatbelt-like matters.)

Our pilot must’ve heard the ding…

because, finally, in a tone of resignation, his voice came across the speaker and, as I had become accustomed, first explained the situation in his native Dutch, then repeated it as translated English. He explained that due to the fuel situation, we obviously had no choice but to attempt a landing, despite the fact that he had no visualization of the runway. Our captain’s final accented words to us were, “I am going to hope for the best.” My first response to those sitting around to me was, “Well, I am going to hope that his words sounded more assuring in Dutch than they did in English.” (In truth, I was concerned our captain might be a little like my friend’s mom when it came to hope.) When I got no response from my travel companions, I added my own final thought: “Our captain can keep hoping for the best all he wants. I’m going to start praying for it.”

In this case, hope didn’t come with much vision.

As a matter of fact, we missed the runway — but we did make it onto the ground.
Once we all got finished climbing out of the plane and kissing that ground (when we were able to locate it through the fog), hope cast its vision. After we were issued our emergency layover kits, we were to be double-dam’d — shuttled from Rotterdam to Amsterdam. The fog lifted enough somewhere along the way where we were able to enjoy a shuttled tour of the countryside, complete with the fattest field-grazing mutton at which I’ve ever gawked. (I was getting hungry and hoping for dinner.)

Without this experience, I would have missed out on some great “stuff” (aka, experiences)!

Besides being able to tell you this story without the necessity of additional dramatization…I would’ve never envisioned the spread of food or hoped for the awesomeness of the room (or shower) I was given at the Schiphol hotel. I would never have known the delight of having a server fly through six languages (twice) to ask to take my order before I admitted which was mine because it was so intriguingly impressive. And I would have never gotten the opportunity to say “Goede morgen” and to have been smirked at – over and over again – because of my obvious southern states accent. (My online tutors, Mirjana & Jarno, who had worked with me on my Dutch had prepared me for this – they always laughed too.)

The truth is…Hope doesn’t spring from pretty places.

Romans 5:3-4 tells us: “…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Hope starts from a seed of suffering.

In reality, my suffering was minimal. It makes for a one-upsmanship travel story, at best. In contrast, I visited Anne Frank’s Huis while in Amsterdam, being greatly reminded of how even a young girl who left behind a poignant diary of her suffering has ultimately assisted in bringing hope to others. Her experience continues to cast seeds into others’ soil.

 Look at what can spring forth from a planted seed:

Proverbs 13:12 – “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Mulan says it like this: “The flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest and most beautiful of all.” 

Have you envisioned some hope for yourself lately? Have you planted a seed for someone else?

It’s time to stop deferring hope and to tap into its power!

Related Articles:

A Mean and Less Life

Devo: Who Paves the Road to Good Intentions, Anyway?

I’ve spent the past several years of my life living a hundred miles north of Atlanta. I can never recall a visit there when I didn’t witness miles and miles of road construction. Atlanta apparently kept expanding our way, as I now can’t travel anywhere around my own city that I’m not passing dented orange barrels threatening to cause claustrophobia in yet another lane. You’d be hard-pressed to convince me it’s true, but I’m told that civil engineers spend a significant amount of time in the detour planning process, considering traffic flow patterns for devising alternative routes during the various phases of road de- and re-construction.

When one has to travel the same way, directly through a construction zone, day after dusty day, the trip can become arduous on the nerves – especially on the days when progress appears non-existent. 
The impatience of waiting and the unanticipated detours become distracting and may cause wrecks, ill tempers, or even cause some commuters to get off-course, vowing never to travel that way again. Those who are forced to traverse the ‘de-construction zone’ each day often become quite adept at the role of long-suffering commuter, even capitalizing on tragic tales of woe at work, each morning’s description becoming increasingly worse as the audience becomes increasingly sympathetic. Many get so accustomed to arriving late to their destination each day that they begin to become complacent, expecting others to simply understand their detoured excuses. As a matter of fact, the excuse of tardiness may become so long-understood that it even works on days in which road construction wasn’t even a factor. Despite such benefits, eventually a dread begins to settle in, casting a mood on the traveler’s day before it ever begins – simply from reflecting on the trip that lies ahead.

Months and years can progress when a large road project has become an on-going event. By the time the paving crew arrives, in reality, the motorist should be rejoicing! No more dusty, uneven, grated roads that make your car (and your entire body) vibrate and hum. The end is in sight. That’s not how it works though. Everyone – and I mean everyone – dreads the paving crew most of all! They’re the ones who bring in all the gooey, messy materials slopped out by huge, cumbersome pieces of equipment that leave tar build-up and loose gravels stuck on passing vehicles. Though the paving crew is laying out the finishing touches of a soon-to-be enjoyed product, by the time they arrive to prepare permanent passage of a greatly improved road system, the attitudes of the commuters are not so joyful and thankful. Instead, attitudes are, more often, the expression of the road’s prior condition – filled with grated nerves and increased agitation. The travelers, you see, have lost the vision of greater things to come. The promise of open passageway no longer seems to be a reality. This paving process seems, instead, only to serve as yet another portion of the torture that has bombarded the senses for the past couple of years. And speaking of senses, is that tar smell offensive or what?!

I have to wonder how many of you began emphatically nodding your heads in agreement to some of these descriptions as you read them. I also have to wonder how many of you were able to begin relating these events to your own spiritual lives and how you may have the ability to envision where and how God has called you to make your journey. Have the offenses of annoyed commuters, unreasonable detours, excessive delays, irritating excuses, and life’s foul smells bombarded you to the point that you’ve decided to travel in a totally different direction? Can you no longer sense that God is allowing these delays and distractions to come into your life so that you may travel down a clearer course in the near future? Have you, instead, become impatient because the Engineer hasn’t shared His plan with you? And have you even shaken your fist or loudly proclaimed that this spiritual re-construction is a big fiasco, with no one giving proper consideration as to how it was going to affect your life?

I’ve traveled in that spiritual construction zone for a large portion of my life, not understanding many of the detours and, as a result, getting myself into worse messes when I attempted to follow my own routes. On occasion, my choices took me off-road because they seemed thrilling (but caused irreparable damage to my vehicle). I’ve likely caused many (emotional) wrecks along the way, too, that didn’t just include my own vehicle. I also let myself become the victim of others’ poor choices in detours. In short, I lost faith that there truly was a plan meant to route me around the construction zones and get me safely to where I was journeying, even if it meant perceived delays in my life. I also came to points of complacency and readily used excuses for  my own delays. By the time the paving was taking place to smooth out those rough spots, I would have argued that the workers on my roadway were paving it straight to hell.

Then, by the grace of God, I was reminded that there was a master road plan, and I simply needed to stick out the journey.

The road would soon be made clear for safe and productive passageway. Even if Hell’s very own paving crew was delaying my journey, and even if I had to smell their stench, God was allowing that to happen in my life. I had to learn to trust in Him and the plans He had laid for my journey. Amazingly enough, I found it much more comforting to learn to sit still in life’s traffic jams and sing praises to Him, rather than rush around looking for my own poorly planned (dead-end) detours. Since that time, I’ve only been able to become excited about the journey that lies ahead!

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 (NIV)

God’s intentions for our lives truly are good ones. It’s our own intentions that might send us seemingly traveling down the pathway to hell; and there may be spiritual forces who strive quite diligently to pave our path in that direction for us. But that has never been – and will never be – God’s desire for our lives. If His intentions were anything other than good ones, He wouldn’t have provided us with a direct pathway to Him through Jesus Christ. Our Heavenly Father’s intentions are, in fact, such good ones that He’ll use every road block, wreck and detour in our lives to place us back on track towards our journey with Him. Yet He’ll never restrain us from going a different direction of our own choosing. That very fact has humbled me to watch for His road signs much more carefully in my own life and to rejoice in the paving!