Category: hope

photo by dhudson_creative on Unsplash

On one of our cross-country road trips, we ended up on a red dirt road in nowhere Arizona without a sign in sight. Why would there be a road sign when what we were driving on barely qualified as a road?

Our children were young. It was long before GPS or cell-phones. As we drove slowly on this very rocky road, hoping to see some sign of civilization my mind was going through possibilities. Since our trip was taking us from South Florida to Washington State we’d taken a large cooler to economize on snacks and stops. The thing that kept me from panic mode was the thought that if we had to spend the night in our minivan in this deserted place we would have water. If we had water, we’d be okay.
Most of us have been on this kind of road in a figurative sense. Life brings unexpected detours. The signposts seem to have disappeared. It’s a dry and lonely place.  On the outside, things appear normal. We keep showing up and going through the motions while inside we’re blinking back tears and looking for a flicker of hope. This isn’t where we want to be. We’re screaming for a way out and out now!
He prepares a table for me in the midst of the wilderness.
I’d written these words down without a reference. I thought it was a Message paraphrase from the Psalms but all my searching with BibleGateway and Google yielded nothing from the Bible. It could easily be a reference to God’s provision to the Israelites when they were in the desert. Faced with a long, hard journey, with nothing but the unknown, God met their needs. He met them in the wilderness with food, a table right there in the midst of the wilderness.
Nothing feels as if it’s enough when you’re hurting. You ask for prayers and do your best to believe in its power but how long, o Lord, how long must I plead with you? Don’t you hear me? Are you listening? We know the aches of the heart. We know the soft places where hard words have struck.
In the midst of this wilderness, He prepares a table. A table of friends….a table of grace. It’s not the answer we want but somewhere we have to trust He is giving us what we need today. Tomorrow he will provide for us again. And the next day and the next. It often won’t feel like enough but don’t give up hope. Gather up your friends, keep moving forward and know that God cares.
On that Arizona road, the only way out was to keep driving. We’d gone too far to turn back. We had to keep going forward so we continued on this rocky road with hope it would lead us out of the wilderness and back to life. We made it because we weren’t alone. Even in silence, our hope was greater when shared together.

faith hope

Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

For the last 25 years where we live hasn’t been our decision. Our denomination transfers its clergy. They decide when and where. The moving usually takes place in June but which June? This year or next? How long we stay is never a guarantee, never known.

We gave this over to faith that even though the decisions of man are imperfect, God will use it for His good.

We are in our last appointment. Our next move is into retirement. The location has been decided by us, our retirement home purchased and occupied by renters.

I am living in the in-between stages of what is and what is to come. We’re looking at boxes of stuff we’ve moved too many times. We’re remembering people and places, happy and sad. I am trying to choose wisely where I will live mentally and emotionally from now until then.

One place I’ve chosen not to live is in regret. I have plenty. If asked if I’d change anything in my life I’d say yes. There are decisions I’ve made I would readily change if I could. I could use a few “do-overs”. What I can do is decide not to allow space for regret in my life.

Regret is a thief. It steals joy and peace. It hangs heavy like steel gray clouds rumbling full of thunder. When I see storm warnings, I can shift my thoughts to the assurances of God’s grace and forgiveness. I choose to walk in hope.

Wait with hope. Hope now; hope always! Psalm 131:3


Writing on the word prompt: regret with Five-Minute Friday.


faith Five-Minute Friday hope Salvation Army

We know why.

We live in a broken world, a fallen world.

Our gun laws are too lenient, not enforced enough.

Mental health care is lacking.

Money going to gun lobbyist and not mental health care.

We put individual rights over rights of our children.

Tell me anything you want as to the why but what remains is once AGAIN we are mourning the loss of children.

This time it is playing out in our backyard, in a community considered the safest in our county, in an A-rated school. Collectively, all of these schools are in our community, our country.

I watched the local coverage of breaking news with a numbness of disbelief. The tears came a day later and now my anger is at the surface. Does the why even matter anymore when it takes more than two hands to count the numbers of our children being shot down in their schools?

It’s the what that we argue and fight about. It’s in doing something more than ‘thoughts and prayers’ that will make a difference but we’d rather have a debate. We’d rather wave our amendment while our children are waiving their lives.

Yes, I’m angry. Yes, I don’t understand our fascination with guns. What I really don’t understand is that, again, we seem to be choosing guns over children and teachers, over sons and daughters and fathers and coaches and friends.

Alyssa Alhadeff

Martin Anguiano

Scott Beige

Nicholas Dworet

Aaron Feis

Jamie Guttenberg

Chris Hixon

Luke Hoyer

Cara Loughran

Gina Montalto

Joaquin Oliver

Alaina Petty

Meadow Pollack

Helena Ramsay

Alex Schachter

Carmen Schentrup

Peter Wang

We know the why. What are we willing to change? What are we going to do?

family Five-Minute Friday hope

The back row in church is where the teenagers want to sit. Once their parents let them sit with their friends they hurry to nab a seat in the back row. I remember sitting there trying to hide the notes we were writing to one another behind the hymnal. Today the kids just put their phones on silence and text.

In our Sunday service with our recovery community, I sit behind the back row. I am there running the media for our worship gathering. Some days, I am joined by a few graduates who come to share in the fellowship of worship. We make a rather interesting back row.
There’s the 40-something man who grew up in church but always felt tormented because he knew he was gay and couldn’t tell anyone. For a time it kept him living a life of lies. Living one lie makes it easier to live other lies and for a long time, he did. He hid his struggle with weight and perfectionism. He hid his drug addiction. He hid is feeling less than. He hid feeling unloved by God.
Our other back row companion is a 30-something man who, at first glance, you might confuse as a skinhead. He is bald with tattoos creeping above the collar of the crisply pressed long-sleeved shirt and tie he always wears to Sunday chapel. He has a gold “grill” on his bottom teeth. He walks to service every week carrying his Bible.
Both of these men completed our residential program. They are employed living on their own. One is as white as white can be and the other African American. Then there’s me.
I round out this unlikely threesome with my blonde hair, Irish complexion and no first-hand experience with the drug culture. We make quite the unexpected trio of friends.
We all have stories. But which ones do we allow to define us?
In an AA meeting, people sharing stand up and say, “Hi, I’m Bill and I’m an alcoholic”. For that purpose they allow their addiction to define them. I’ve come to understand this is good.
But they don’t always introduce themselves that way just like I don’t always introduce myself by saying I’m a Salvation Army officer. It’s part of my story, not all of it.
We let different things define us according to the time and situation. I am Heather and Jonathan’s mom; Henry’s wife; Paul’s sister.
If you write a guest post on someone’s blog they will ask you to write a short bio. It’s one of the hardest things in the world to do! What do I say that doesn’t sound smug, arrogant, prideful or stupid?
Individually and collectively, our lives are a collection of stories.They defy being categorized. They are rich and begging to be shared. It’s why many of us blog.
While my back row friends and I share vastly different stories, we all have a chapter that is similar. We were changed by God’s grace. That is what defines us today. It’s why we can sit together as friends looking past our differences. It’s how God teaches us about his Kingdom.
God continues to change stories of people. Even stories that have been marked with horror he can write an ending that says…”happily ever after”.
How has God changed your life’s story?

faith grace hope

The week brought us another relapse. We’ve watched the struggle for years and were trying to be hopeful this time was the time he’d make it. But he didn’t it. He’s alive but so are his demons.

Hard decisions had to be made. Decisions that can make you feel uncaring and mean.
“The only way I can deal with this is by numbing,” I said out loud. I can’t leave myself unguarded. No one chooses the ride the roller coaster of emotions. I’ve been on it enough and this week I wasn’t going to go through the dips and dives. I can continue to smile and hug while I shut down inside.
This isn’t the way to live. It’s the opposite of how we counsel the men. Numbing is what leads many to drugs. Brene Brown reminds us that we can’t selectivity numb. When we numb the bad we also numb the good.
But sometimes caring betrays you. The children you raised creating a good foundation make destructive choices. The spouse you thought would always be there is taken by cancer. You wonder how much a heart can bear. Not feeling seems a way out or at least a way to get through.
I saw Adrian holding his sign on the bridge. I thought it was him but he gets so thin when he’s out there ‘ripping and running’. He had a softness to his face, not the frenetic, cold eyes I’ve seen in others. I rolled the window down, holding a dollar in my closed hand. He came closer and smiled bigger as he recognized me. I asked the silliest question ever, “How are you doing?” Did I just say that? He’s on a bridge holding a sign and I asked how he’s doing as if he’s just walked in from work.
He gave me a kind smile and we both spoke at the same time…well, not too good.
“You know where to go”, I said. Our facility, the one he’s been in two or three times was one block away.
“I know. But you have to be tired.” 
His truth was hard to hear but it broke through the numbing of my heart.
I wanted to get out of my car and hug Adrian at that moment. I wanted to wrap my arms around his dirty exterior. All I could say was God bless you.
I was on my way to our Sunday chapel service. In our time of sharing, words of gratitude from broken men continued working in my heart. Reed lost his mother and sister in a 4 month period and then got a diagnosis of throat cancer. But he stood to thank God for this community and bringing him through this dark time.
Charlie gave thanks for his son being with him. His son who chose to fly down from Atlanta to celebrate his 25th birthday with his dad who is living in our residential facility.
Others continued and with each one, I felt the numbness fade and compassion warm my heart.
The answer to hurt isn’t numbing. It isn’t turning inward and withdrawing. It’s taking the risk to care more. To invest in hope. To see the flicker of light and know darkness will not overtake it. It’s feeling the pain and loving anyway.

faith hope recovery Salvation Army



It wasn’t the plant that not only survived but it thrived. The word that it couldn’t be killed was true. When it outgrew it’s pot we put it in a larger one and hung it from the ceiling in a macrame hanger. It fit perfectly with our bookshelves made of 2×4’s and bricks and peach crate album holders. It was the 70’s.

This philodendron did so well I bought other plants at the flea market. The prayer plant survived a few months but the creeping Charlie I liked so much was gone in 2 months. And so it’s been for us and house plants.
I’m not a plant person. When their leaves droop I water but apparently, it takes more than that. Their best chance of survival is to put them outside and let them rely on nature.
Our son was talking to his dad about the new year. They were talking about fitness goals and resolutions of sorts. My husband is going to add another mile to his daily treadmill walk and our son was talking about the benefits of his twice daily 15-min. cardio.
For some reason, I chimed in saying I don’t make resolutions. I don’t recall ever making them. When our son asked why I said because I won’t disappoint myself when I don’t follow through.
He didn’t like how easy it is for me to not try. I see it simply as being realistic. If I scratch the surface of that, I might admit it’s also a case of complacency, of comfort.
I’d rather wait for the magical day when I wake up wanting nothing more than to do a vigorous workout and eliminate sugar from my diet. I don’t want to work at it. Let’s face it, who does? Isn’t that why we don’t keep our resolutions?
Pastor and blogger Carey Nieuwhof writes one of the reasons our resolutions usually fail is because they’re essentially intentions with no strategy in place to accomplish our goal.
This is coupled with the vagueness of intentions to be healthier. In what way? By doing what? How can we measure our progress?
Instead, like my experience with plants, my intentions fail without even trying.
Because of my history with plants, I quit buying them and discourage others from giving them to us. It’s easier to accept my brown thumb than work through how to keep them alive.
However, I can’t compare plants to my health or relationships. I’m not willing to accept I’m just not good at exercising or communicating.
The best thing about resolutions or goals is you can start them anytime. I feel less pressure to start them at some random time like the middle of March or October. I also don’t berate myself for having off weeks or unexpected schedule changes. Reminding myself to keep trying is more helpful even with a good strategy in place.
I do want to do better at developing strategy and discipline to accomplish new areas of growth. I just don’t want to start them on New Year’s Day or call them resolutions.


Four weeks of preparing, planning, shopping and decorating were over with the turn of the calendar.
This morning we took our kids to the airport and I started washing linens and making a new grocery list. The tree will be down and decorations boxed before New Year’s Day and just like that the reset button has been hit.
Reset? I need to rethink this.
When I power down my Mac I’m asked if I want to restart or shut down. When I restart things appear as they were. Evernote will be opened to this note, my mailbox will pop up and if I had a Google page open it will still be there. A shut down will close it all.
There have been many times in 2017 I wanted to shut down. The political noise is like a family feud with each side taking loud aim at the other.
The cry for firming up our gun laws should have been louder but seemed to get buried in familiar rhetoric. It’s like the traffic hum you barely notice because it’s always there.
Hurricanes displaced tens of thousands of people from their homes and wreaked destruction in the eastern part of our country while fires devastated acres and acres on the West Coast.
Hate, violence, war, slavery and worse are part of today’s world.
If a reset means going back to 2017 I don’t want it.
But what’s our choice? My voice feels small at best. How can one smile and one laugh grow into more?
It feels like treading water. You’re expending energy but going nowhere and I want to move forward toward more. More kindness.  More understanding and less name-calling. More grace and less shame. More love.
A friend posted on his Facebook, “Don’t tell me Merry Christmas, show me Merry Christmas. Don’t tell me keep Christ in Christmas, show me Christ in Christmas.”
We can blog, tweet and write all the words we want but if we aren’t acting out those words we’re treading water, hitting the reset button and going through the motions. Again.
As shut down 2017, I want to move forward with intention and hope.

How enduring is God’s loyal love;

    the Eternal has inexhaustible compassion.
23 Here they are, every morning, new!
    Your faithfulness, God, is as broad as the day.
24 Have courage, for the Eternal is all that I will need.
    My soul boasts, “Hope in God; just wait.”

faith hope

We lit the second candle of Advent and we called it love.

We didn’t have a time of sharing in our service this week. It’s busy with the extra bits put in for the season. Richard came to me after church, excited to tell me about another message he’d heard the night before. He was all smiles as he said it was the same thing. It was about love too.

During that service, they’d invited people to write a word on stones and he’d written Love. That was his word for this year. I remember him telling me that but it seems like a hundred years ago, not eleven months. I remember Richard saying he chose that word because he needs to learn to love himself.

These guys are good. They listen to the messages poured into them here. Messages from counselors helping them learn new ways. Even messages from me at times, reminding them that God makes them enough.

Terrace danced to words that sang about God loving us in our good and bad. It’s something Terrance has had to work on too – accepting God’s love.

Love is one of those things we’re better at giving than receiving. We allow ourselves to believe we have to earn love. We’re always trying to get ourselves right, to clean up our mess but we have it backward. Jesus sets us right. His grace makes us clean.

Last week we celebrated the hope found in Jesus. Next week we will proclaim his joy. All of this in the motion of lighting candles. Small flames will flicker great promises in their light.

The old song chimed ‘what the world needs now is love, sweet love; it’s the only thing there’s just too little of’. Real love came down in the form of a baby. We remember it in the glow of a small flame. Maybe, just maybe, I can carry a spark in me. A love that is freely given, not earned. Love that wants to shine like a city on a hill for all to see.

Enjoy this video of Terrance and his offering of his talent to our Savior who came to be love.




faith grace hope Music Salvation Army

My hope was they wouldn’t find these poster-sized coloring pictures childish.

My hope was that the story portrayed in these pictures would help their understanding of the biblical Christmas story.

And I really hoped they do them one at a time in accordance with the 4 weeks of Advent. That one hasn’t worked out so well as they’ve nearly finished them all.

Hope is a desire or expectation for something to happen.

Ous is an audacious hope.

We have many hopes for the men entering this 6-month rehabilitation program. We want them to regain their health, for families to be restored. We want them to find jobs and respect. Our deepest desire is that they’ll embrace a program of sobriety and walk hand in hand with Christ as their Savior. We want to see them give back as they live this example.

Some days are hard in this work where disappoint happens regularly. Six photos hang on the Christmas tree in the chapel this year. Photos of men who’ve passed this year as a result of their addiction.

Friends and family have asked how we can do this day after day. It’s because we have an audacious hope. Hope that stares in the face of relapse and addiction and says we believe in a power greater. We look at hope eye to eye because flesh and blood is wrapped around this Hope.

This is bold and living hope expressed in new lives. This is the Hope of Jesus. He is our only Hope.

In memory of Pat, who found hope in this song.




faith hope recovery Salvation Army

When God’s people haven’t seen a hint of light or hope of day, God will do something new.

The hologram flickered from R2D2’s projection lens. It was a desperate plea from Princess Leah as she says, “You are our only hope”. 
Her people are in peril. All she can do has been done. Hoping Obi Wan Kenobi will see her message and come to their rescue is her last resort. 
We lit the first Advent candle this week. Two residents read the scripture from Isaiah. It was a message of hope shared by the prophet Isaiah to a people who have been waiting. 
    There will be a new time, a fresh start.
Hope of all hopes, dream of our dreams,
    a child is born, sweet-breathed; a son is given to us: a living gift. Isaiah 9:5-6 VOICE
Both of the men reading have been in our Center before. Like many others, this battle with addiction is a daily tug-of-war. Some come to us to stay off the street, some to make family happy, others because they’ve hit bottom. In their eyes, we are their only hope. 
It’s not hard to understand the despair that fills our world today. Our hopes of peace are met with Hawaii sounding testing alarms in the event of a nuclear attack. Anger and fear fill our politics and news reports. We seem to be cloaked in a darkness that doesn’t know where to find hope.
The Christmas carol says, “the thrill of hope a weary world rejoices”. Yes, oh yes, we are a weary world. We are tired of the Tweeting and shaming and finger-pointing. We’re weary of hearing about another shooting and the ongoing allegations of sexual assault. When do we get to the rejoicing part?
Writer, Emily Freeman, says,
We need the kind of hope that believes a young girl can bear the kingdom in her body and a baby really can save the world.
To some, this sounds crazy. It’s a lot to take in, this miraculous birth. But isn’t a miracle what we’re hoping for? Aren’t we placing our hope in this miracle?
This isn’t my last Hope but my first.
This is the Hope I know is sure, the promise that has been proven over and over. This Hope is the living word. It is Jesus.

We are merely moving shadows,

    and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth,
    not knowing who will spend it.
7 And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
    My only hope is in you. Psalm 39:6-7 NLT
When God’s people haven’t seen a hint of light or hope of day, God will do something new.


faith hope