Can You Find Hope on the Highway of Life?

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope”—Jeremiah 29:11 (TLB).

Photo by Carol Round

Driving east after a four-day writers’ conference in Colorado ended, my friend and I were anxious to get home. We’d spent most of each day in workshops and visiting with other conference attendees. I’d also led two workshops.

We met accomplished authors and those who dreamed of becoming an author. While there, we listened to the stories of both and shared our own stories of disappointments, trials, victories and hope. We made friends. We encouraged each other.

On our daily walks to and from our housing to the conference center, we marveled at God’s creation. Snow-capped mountains towered over the valley where we stayed. Abundant wildlife, including elk, roamed freely around the grounds and in town. Although we’d been warned, we never encountered any bears.

Each day’s view of the towering mountains reminded me of : “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

When Everything Seems to Go Wrong

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”— John 16:33(NIV).

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Pulling up to the intercom to place my order at a fast food place, I noticed something amiss. Normally, the vehicles waiting in line would have pulled up a ramp to the window to pay for and pick up their meal. However, they were bypassing the usual route and parking next to the ramp.

Before I could figure out what was happening, the employee taking orders explained. “We have a problem with a car blocking the exit. You can still order and follow the line in front of you or come inside.”

After placing my order, I drove forward where I could finally get a glimpse of the vehicle interfering with traffic. When I looked closer, I realized—and felt sorry for—the young man who had evidently tried to exit the ramp too soon, leaving his car straddling the concrete barrier to his right. I’m sure he was not only embarrassed, but his car was probably going to require some major work.

To minimize the delay, restaurant employees were scrambling outside to collect customers’ payments and then returning with their orders. Even though their usual routine had been disrupted, they were taking the challenge in stride without complaint. They even apologized for the delay.

Have you ever had one of those days when everything that could go wrong does?  Maybe you’ve been moving forward, following God’s directions, when you make a wrong turn. You wonder, “Where did I go wrong?”

Are God’s Promises Too Good to Be True?

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’”—Hebrews 13:5 (NIV).

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Telemarketers are annoying. If the salesperson is the persistent kind, he usually won’t take “no” for an answer easily. Even the nicer ones can grate on the nerves, especially if the promises seem too good to be true.

Since I signed up for the Do Not Call list over two decades ago, the number of phone calls I receive from telemarketers has declined. Another reason could be attributed to my lack of a home phone. I finally cut the cord about six years ago, depending on my cell phone—which is also on the list—for verbal communication. However, I occasionally still receive unwanted calls, including those I know are scams.

I’m always amazed at the proliferation of different scams as well as those who fall for them. In spite of repeated warnings from different news sources, people hang onto hope that they’ve won large amounts of money, vacations or other goods.

Criminals will go to any lengths to steal our money and identity. It never seems to end. While the elderly are the most vulnerable, I’ve read of those who’ve been scammed out of money through dating websites.

Listening to a radio program recently, I was amazed to learn that the number one Internet google search is “What is love?” As the commentator and his guest discussed this trend, I thought about the lyrics to a 1980 country song, “Lookin’ for Love.”  Part of the lyrics follow: “Searching for love in all the wrong places.”

Keeping Our Eyes on the Lord

“I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken”—Psalm 16:8 (NIV).

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Do you find it difficult sometimes to keep your eyes on the Lord? I know I do. When we find our lives spiraling out-of-control with unexpected illnesses, the death of a loved one, family dysfunction or worldwide uncertainty, it’s often easier to wring our hands in despair than to turn to the One who gave His life for us.

Jesus never promised us a life of luxury or one without pain and heartache. Look at His life, lived simply and ending in an agonizing death. But He did promise to be with us during our trials.

Recently, I was blessed to have lunch at an assisted living facility with a friend who will turn 90 later this year. As each of her table companions joined us to eat, Josie introduced me. I’m certain my friend is the oldest of the five women, but you wouldn’t have guessed it by her actions.

Before the others arrived and I could assist her, Josie had parked her walker and moved a chair from a nearby table and placed it next to hers—for me. When I realized her intent, I admonished her and said, “Josie, you should let me do that.”

Then, when the last of our table mates joined us, Josie rose to help maneuver her friend’s walker and pull back her dining room chair so she could be seated. When she returned to her seat, I said, “Josie, you have a servant’s heart.” She just smiled.

Don’t live life looking in a mirror

“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 3:22-24 (NIV).

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Trying to back out of my friend’s curved driveway, I had to make several attempts to keep from running over several bushes. Even with a dashboard back-up camera, it was a challenge to maneuver my car safely onto the street without doing any damage.

My friend, seated on the passenger side, admitted she wasn’t very good at backing up either. Her solution was to turn her vehicle around in the wide drive so she could leave the premises facing forward.

How often do we navigate life’s challenges, clinging to our mistakes, regretting our choices and failing to move forward because we haven’t released our past to the One who loves us more than life itself? God never meant for us carry that weight.

Holding onto the past

Letting go is one of the hardest things we face. It’s easier for us to hold onto regrets, mistakes, guilt, failures, hurt, fear, anger and worry than to allow God to use them for His glory.

British author C.S. Lewis once said, “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.”

Paid in Full with One Glass of Milk

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”— Colossians 3:12 (NIV).

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On a spring day in Pennsylvania, a poor boy was selling goods to pay his way through school. The year was 1863, and the boy was going door-to-door to meet his goal. While traveling through the countryside, he became hungry. He only had a dime left, so he decided to ask for food at the next house.

However, he lost his nerve to ask the young woman who answered the door for a meal. Instead, he asked for a drink of water. Thinking he looked hungry, the woman brought him a large glass of milk.  After he slowly savored the nourishment, he asked her, “How much do I owe you?”

The young woman replied, “You don’t owe me anything. Our mother taught us never to accept payment for a kindness.”

The boy said, “Then, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

As the young man walked away, he not only felt physically stronger, but his faith in God and man was strengthened also. He had been ready to give up.

Living in Anticipation and Hope at Christmas

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel”—Isaiah 7:14 (ESV).

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Anticipation, according to the dictionary, means “realization in advance; foretaste; expectation or hope.”

Hope is a four-letter word loaded with meaning. While the dictionary offers several definitions, the one fitting to Christ’s birth is “a person or thing in which expectations are centered.”

Approximately 700 years passed between the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 and the birth of the Christ child. Another word closely associated with anticipation and hope is the word, “wait.”

Does anyone like waiting?

Does anyone like waiting? We wait for the traffic light to turn green. In our rush, we sigh as we wait in the long check-out lines, especially at this time of year. We wait in frustration when we are put on hold and have to listen to elevator music.

The waiting time continues while we anticipate the arrival of a beloved family member or an important package in the mail. We count the days until a milestone birthday or other event.

Disliking the cold and darker days of winter, many count off the months until the arrival of spring and more daylight hours. We wait and wait and wonder.