How to Have Hope

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Like a dense fog, sometimes the clouds of discouragement can descend on us blocking out any glimmer of hope. Perhaps there have been times in your own life where you felt a sense of despair. How do you have hope when everything seems to be going wrong? Let’s look at a few ways to part the dark clouds.

Look Up instead of At. When we are going through a challenging time, circumstances loom large and are sometimes the only thing we can see. Certainly we must recognize our grief or pain, but one of the first steps toward seeing glimmers of hope is to change the direction of our focus. Paul wrote to the Colossians, “Set your minds on things above.” When we look only at our circumstances, it is easy to become overwhelmed, but when we look above our circumstances, we remind ourselves that there is a God who loves us. He is bigger than our challenges. He is the God who sees, and He is not surprised by this situation. When we turn our eyes upward, it helps us gain a broader perspective.

Praise. While we are looking up, let’s take a moment to praise God for who He is and what He is able to do. Actively praising God changes us within and opens our hearts to the possibilities of what He can do. Open the Psalms or open a hymnal, or play some worship music or simply pray something like:

“Father, I adore you as the God who is able to do immeasurably more that I ask or imagine.”

“Father, I praise you that you are Sovereign and Powerful. You know all things and can do all things.”

“I exalt you my God, because You see the bigger picture and You know what is best.”

“Praise you that you walk through the darkest valley’s with me. I am not alone.”

Or as Jeremiah prayed from the pit of despair,

I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
 I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
  Lamentations 3:19 – 24

Encouragement. One of the apostle Paul’s prayers for the early believers was, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” God is the God of hope, so let’s not hesitate to ask Him for hope, wisdom and guidance as we navigate rough waters. We can also pray that God sends a person into our life that can encourage us or walk along side of us through our dark moments.

James (the brother of Jesus) gave the persecuted church powerful and positive advice,  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. “

My friend, there is always hope. It may come in unexpected ways and look slightly different than how you thought it would look. Keep looking up and keep your heart open to what God wants to do in your life. I believe there is always hope, because I believe in a God of hope. I believe what the Bible tells us – that He is a redeeming God, and He will never leave or forsake those who trust in Him.

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What’s Your Word?

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Have you ever chosen a “word for the year?” I find that it gives me a great sense of focus as I pursue my goals and move toward what I want to accomplish for the year. Simply put, choosing a word gives me a constant core reminder of a way I can zero in on one area of improvement in my life. Here are a few thoughts on choosing your word and allowing it to encourage you throughout your days.

Pray, Listen, Observe.  As you consider your one word, ask the Lord to guide you and give you direction. Be still and think about some of the ways you want to grow and become stronger throughout the next year. Pay attention to words that seem to continue to resurface as you are reading His Word or in conversation with others. Look for a word that defines some of your current interests, ambitions or drive.

Write It Down. As you figure out the word you want to focus on for the year, write it on several index cards and place them in locations where you will see them on a regular basis. Seeing your word will serve as a reminder to spur you on in your pursuits. I encourage you to choose a Bible verse or quote to memorize that goes along with your word and write that down as well.

Share it. Tell other people about the word you chose for the year. It will not only inspire others, but it will also strengthen your resolve to keep you on track as you now have accountability. I love to hear about the words my friends have chosen and why they decided on that particular word. It always reveals something about them and their desires for the year, and I can offer encouragement to them in the process.

So… what’s my word for 2020? My word is “deeper,” because I desire to grow deeper in my relationship with the Lord and in His word. I also want to grow deeper in my relationships with friends and family. Finally, I want to go deeper in my research for both my writing and my parenting organization.  I’ll close with the Bible verse that I chose to go along with my word. It’s found in Hosea 6:3:

Oh, that we might know the Lord!
    Let us press on to know him.

 

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Start the Year Off With a Positive Plan

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The end of December brings with it the opportunity to make some changes from the past and design a fresh start for the coming year. It is wise to take some time to ponder, pray and consider what you want to accomplish in 2020. Here are a few ideas to help you develop a purposeful plan.

Write Down at Least Three Things you Want to Accomplish. As you prayerfully consider the year ahead of you, think specifically about what you want to achieve. Perhaps you want to start volunteering at a local outreach or maybe you want to learn a new skill or there may be a project you want to complete. Guard against being too vague as you write down your desired accomplishments. The more specific you are, the easier it is to measure if you achieved your goals.

Create Doable Action Steps. Under each item you want to accomplish, design at least three actions steps that will help you get there. Ask yourself the simple question, “What will it take for me to reach this goal?” If you have a specific sales goal for the year, then consider how many people you need to call or meet with each month and/or week in order to reach your target. If you are targeting a certain weight, then ask yourself what changes in diet and activity do you need to make in order to achieve your goal.

Formulate a Daily Routine. Great accomplishments begin with positive daily habits. Initiate several new daily routines that will help lead you toward success. For instance, if one of your goals is to de-clutter one room of the house per month, then you may want to set a time each weekday that you will devote 30 minutes to an hour to work on re-organizing and throwing out old stuff. If you goal is to read 12 books a year, then you will want to etch some time into your daily routine for reading.

Chart your Progress. If you have set specific and measurable goals, then you should be able to chart your progress. We all need the motivation of knowing that we are headed closer to our goals and making progress along the way. You may want to keep a notebook or have a board or chart on which you can make notes of the steps you are achieving toward your goal. You may even want to share it with a friend or family member for the encouragement and accountability.

Review Monthly.  Studies show that most people fizzle out on their New Year’s resolutions by mid-January, so make an appointment with yourself every first day of the month to review and renew your commitment to your stated goals. I encourage you to write out your personal mission statement and yearly goals each month as a form of review. This is also gives you an opportunity to regularly chart your progress and consider where you may need to readjust your daily routine.

If you are like me, you want to make the most of your days and live a life of purpose. Prayerfully putting a plan into action gives you a framework and allows you to use your strengths to make a positive difference in this world. Ask the Lord to lead you and guide you as you employ the gifts He has given you for His glory and to bless others. I hope that 2020 is a year of greater vision and purpose for each of us.

 

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25 Days of Praise

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During this most wonderful time of the year, let us turn our hearts upward as we focus on the glorious majesty of our God. This month I want to provide you with a daily attribute of the Lord on which to meditate throughout your day. May this give your heart a reason to rejoice and your mind an opportunity to praise His glorious name throughout the holiday season.

  1. He is our Creator. In the beginning God create the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1
  2. He is God Most High. I cry out to God Most High to God, who vindicates me.       Psalm 57:2
  3. He is our Shield. Do not be afraid…. I am your shield, your very great reward. Genesis 15:1
  4. He sees You are the God who sees me…I have now seen the One who sees me. Genesis 16:13
  5. He is the Great I Am. God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” Exodus 3:14
  6. He is our Redeemer. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm. Exodus 6:6
  7. He is our Strong Defender. The LORD is my strength and my defense. Exodus 15:2
  8. He makes bitter waters sweet. Moses threw the piece of wood into the water and the water turned sweet. Exodus 15:25
  9. He sanctifies I am the Lord who sanctifies you. Exodus 31:13
  10. He is Holy. Be holy because I, the LORD your God am holy. Leviticus 19:2
  11. He is Faithful and True. He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations. Deuteronomy 7:9
  12. He is a Defender of the downtrodden. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow. Deuteronomy 10:18
  13. He has a Mighty Hand and a Powerful Arm. The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Deuteronomy 26:8
  14. He is our Rock. He is the Rock, His works are perfect. Deuteronomy 32:4
  15. He is a Generous. Take possession of the land the LORD our God is giving you for your own. Joshua 1:11
  16. He does Amazing Acts. Tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you. Joshua 3:5
  17. He is our  Peace. Gideon built an altar to the LORD there and called it The Lord is Peace. Judges 6:24
  18. He Restores.  I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten. Joel 2:25
  19. He is the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. I come to you in the name of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. I Samuel 17:45
  1. He is Omnipotent. You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you. Nehemiah 9:6
  2. He is our Shepherd.  The LORD is my shepherd, I have all that I need. Psalm 23:1
  3. He is our Guide. He guides me down the right path bringing honor to His name. Psalm 23:3
  4. He is our Salvation. The LORD is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? Psalm 27:1
  5. He loves us with an Unfailing Love. Your unfailing love will last forever. Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens. Psalm 89:2
  6. He is Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:6-7

I hope you have a wonderful Holy-Day season. May these verses lift your spirits and turn your heart toward Almighty God. Starting on Dec 26, I will begin posting specific attributes we see in Jesus, as we worship Emanuel, God with us.

 

 

Follow me on Instagram as I provide a colorful reminder of these daily attributes – @karolladd

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Getting Along During the Holidays

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The holidays are a time of cheer and joy as we gather around the table and enjoy festive food and delightful fellowship – right? At least that’s the way it looks on Instagram, but the reality is that sometimes the holidays can be hard. There may be strained relationships and different ways of viewing life, politics and God. So how do you make it through both Thanksgiving and Christmas with more love and less tension?

Recently, I read the following passage from the apostle Peter. Although written many years ago, these words seem to be a wonderful antidote to some of the rough spots in relationships. Think about how you can apply these words.

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Just think if we followed these few positive principles penned by Peter. Simply put:

  • Love deeply
  • Offer hospitality without grumbling
  • Use your gifts to serve others

I love how Peter calls us “faithful stewards of God’s grace.” That’s what we should be! We ought to be conduits of His love and grace with every person we encounter, whether it is the person next to us in line or the person sitting next to us at the dinner table. Since we have received God’s grace, then by the power of His Spirit within us, we can freely reflect His grace toward others.

God is glorified when we practice these things. Ultimately isn’t that what the holidays are about anyway?  It’s not about us, rather it’s about celebrating the goodness of God and glorifying Him. Our fervent love for one another shines the light on Him and the powerful, grace-filled work He has done in our lives. May this season be filled with forgiveness, grace and love as we honor Him in what we say and do!

 

Want to share a holiday gift that focuses on God and His glorious attributes? Check out this month’s $5 special, Pursuing God in the Quiet Places. Limit 10 per household.  Click Here for more info.

 

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