Great Expectations

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for
and assurance about what we do not see.
—Hebrews 11:1

Great Expectations

By Pat Knight

As I gazed out the window at the bleak winter landscape, I detected a definite lack of color, a bland outlook with no life stirring. With barren expectancy, we prepare our hearts for desolation, reflected in our attitudes and conversation. Are we so mentally programmed with gloominess that even our anticipation of future events is dulled?

Comparing heart focus with environmental conditions is risky, thwarting inward hope and personal growth. It is easy to be affected by the lack of sunshine and warmth in winter. Let us not permit exterior influences to eclipse the radiance with which Jesus penetrates darkness by reflecting His light through our lives. Joy is quickly extinguished by despondency.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). After Jesus’ disciple, Thomas, conquered his disbelief at Christ’s post-resurrection appearance, Jesus taught the eleven disciples, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have  not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). In today’s vernacular we would explain Jesus’ teaching as “blind faith.” In spite of our circumstances, our beliefs don’t change; they are locked securely inside our hearts. Faith in God is the consequence of trust; trust the outgrowth of belief.

If we constantly focus on the negative, our hearts will languish with despair. We’ve all been exposed to a curmudgeon who  projects a pessimistic approach so hopeless that black clouds spontaneously open, dispensing chilly water on a new idea. Cynics have an intimidating influence on positive thoughts, much like the austere environment in winter.

With whom do we communicate to enliven a joyful spirit? God is the Author and Creator of all things good. “Jesus answered, ‘No one is good except God alone’” (Mark 10:18). The good God constantly imparts to us is a reflection of His own divine character of purity and holiness.

After gazing outside at the monotonous winter panorama once again, rather than a change of scenery, I discovered the need for an attitude adjustment. God has the ability to change our perspective with His gifts of joy and peace. Man is unable to conjure up sovereign gifts independently with the power of positive thinking, as some assert. We must depend upon our Lord to supply us with His limitless gifts, always available to those who seek Him. “Take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you” (Ephesians 4:24,The Msg).

We are commanded to fellowship with God, the glorious, victorious Creator of life and peace, joy and light, grace and love. In the new year, let us establish enlightened priorities, recognizing the capacity to alter our lives forever by placing them in God’s care. “Submit yourself, then, to God. Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:7a-8).

Winter, with its unique season of dormancy and hibernation for many living things, is also a period of refreshment, preparing for regrowth; for a magnificent burst of beauty and fragrance that identifies the imminent season of spring. Let us not bear winter grudgingly, but joyfully use the time to develop attitudes pleasing to God. There is beauty during winter unseen at other times of year. Shadows on snow peek around trees, marching like toy soldiers as the sun manipulates the imaginary forms. Sunsets of magnificent proportions and beauty light up late afternoon skies with unequivocal displays of prismatic colors. The deep green of softwood branches and the silhouettes of stark hardwoods in the foreground of high, pristine snowbanks create fantastic visual delights. A full moon illuminates light blue blankets of snow when the dark draperies of night are pulled down upon the world.

What do you envision in the winter season of your life? The bleakness of financial, health, or employment woes, or the unprecedented power, protection, and provisions offered by God Himself? The new year holds unimaginable possibilities and victories. Seek an attitude that reflects Jesus’ submission, humility, and obedience toward His Father. “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).

Jesus could release His deepest hope to His heavenly Father, assured that even at such a late hour God could perform the impossible by cancelling His Son‘s crucifixion. Yet, Jesus believed that His Father’s perfect plan would be accomplished. Christ was convinced that His hope wasn’t misplaced by cross-your-fingers wishful thinking, but as confident expectations resting on God’s promises, free of worry and nail-biting. Jesus trusted in God’s sovereign ability to answer his prayer custom designed for His Son alone. He does the same for us.

Hope is like an restraining anchor at the bottom of the sea. The Christian anchor rises up into the heavenly realms, guaranteeing our personal security. We are sheltered by our sovereign refuge.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19).

It is essential for us to value God above all else in our lives. He freely extends joyful delight, anchoring hope and unconditional love. Ask God to transform your priorities. He will lavish you abundantly with the righteousness of Jesus. To live right before God (righteousness) is His ultimate goal for each believer. “The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (Psalm 147:11).

Hope is expressed when we turn toward God with confident expectation during times of trial.

“And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). With inner tranquility, believers relinquish their worries to God and dwell on them no more. Then the victory of God is theirs to enjoy. The full dimension of God’s love and provisions are beyond our comprehension, motivating us to trust Him explicitly.

During one final peek outside, I focused on the glory of God’s creation. Just as the outside world perpetually changes, believers also experience consistent growth and renewal deep within their hearts. We learn patience and perseverance, but most marvelous of all is the imperceptible growth in hope, trust, and faith our Lord accomplishes by His power at work within us, transforming our lives. Expect the unexpected from an exceptional, extraordinary God!

O Christmas Tree!

Today is another Wonderful Wednesday and I’m enjoying the Christmas decorations I finally put out yesterday. It didn’t take long because I’ve pared down the process a lot over the last few years, but I still needed some recovery time afterwards. I spent the afternoon dozing in my recliner, happy with what I had been able to accomplish that morning.

Life for me these days is lived in bytes, small bits of time in which I break tasks up into manageable pieces. Gone are the days when I could  accomplish five or six things at almost the same time, all while compiling a grocery list in my head. But I’m not complaining. I truly appreciate the days when I can do more than just live through a migraine.

It’s funny how used to things one can get, given enough time and thought. Last year, one of the darkest years of my life, a good day for me meant not sleeping most of the day away. Earlier this year, I felt thankful when I no longer needed insulin injections. Now… well, let’s just say that I plan the night before the one or two tasks I want to accomplish the next day and hope for the best.

Christmas preparation for me used to involve days and days of making and freezing cookies and other delectable treats. I would crank up the Christmas music on the stereo and sing along during hours of decorating. If it was snowing outside during any of these activities (I’ve lived in snow country most of my life), then all the better.

Now life is slower but not by choice. Still, having had to slow down is not a completely bad thing. In a few minutes I’m going to slide into my recliner and gaze around the living room at our few decorations. Although we no longer put up a traditional tree, the sight of the small ceramic Christmas tree with its tiny colored lights always brings a smile. My mother-in-law made it especially for me as a gift many years ago and I cherish it still.

So, do any of you have treasured Christmas traditions or keepsakes? If you do, please share them in the comment section below.

 

 

Sweet Saturday

Sweet Saturday

Are you having a “Sweet Saturday”? The “sweet” in my “Sweet Saturday” designation is more about having a day off from the usual Monday through Friday workweek, whether that means running errands or just enjoying a lazy day. And each Saturday will probably be a little different depending on what’s going on in your life that week, so make it yours in whatever way works for you!

Today it’s all about cooking for me. It’s been snowing all morning which makes it a great day for cooking! I had some leftover baked potatoes from earlier in the week and found the greatest recipe online for a baked potato soup. I tweaked it a bit because I didn’t have the celery, American cheese or green onion called for, and it still turned out great! Even Rick, who isn’t a great fan of potatoes — unless they’re his favorite potato pancakes — loved it.

The recipe is called Bacon and Baked Potato Soup and comes from Recipe.com.  I changed the American cheese to shredded Cheddar, and since the green onion is just to top each serving, I didn’t feel bad leaving it out. And I’m not a big fan of topping soups with sour cream, so I left that out too. The recipe also called for half & half, light cream or milk so I used equal amounts of half & half and milk.

This recipe made enough for a couple more lunches, so that part made me happy. I’m a big fan of cooking once to serve several times. It saves time and energy, which in my life makes a huge difference because it keeps me from standing up too long at any given time.

Oh, and I did peel my potatoes because Rick likes them better that way, but as the recipe says, that is optional.