A Beacon of Hope

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”

  (2 Corinthians 8:9 ESV)

We must first prepare mentally and emotionally for our yearly journey….a pilgrimage of sorts to our past childhood land…. A rather short journey but seemingly so very far away… down a stretch of highway to a place where I once loved and belonged…and quite honestly……still do……..

I grow in increasing fear and trepidation while traveling west-bound down this small stretch of highway to once again see my childhood place for I remember my last visit where I found increasing ruin and even greater and growing poverty.  A type of poverty which deeply injures my heart, and causes me to grieve for those who appear to have lost all hope. 

We exit the highway to this well-known place with child-like familiarity…..  Of familiar roads I once traveled regularly… and of familiar sidewalks I once walked regularly.  I soon notice a frail and sickly elderly woman sitting on a bench near a bus stop…her face sullen and distraught…her seemingly twisted pain so very apparent….as she sits and stares motionless at this temporary world passing her by……and I wonder momentarily of her huge life’s story and of the once lively treasures and memories which must be deeply hidden within, the type of treasures and memories which I currently seek to re-visit today.

We travel north-bound… up the familiar streets which leads directly to my childhood home…I wince in pain briefly at the thought of this future sight… and I brace myself for what I may… in just mere minutes…… eventually find…..this safe place which once sheltered me from harm and contained all my hopes and dreams…this fun refuge where young friends were once abundant…this protected shelter where my beloved youngest brother and I once shared laughter and tears trying desperately to mask the unspoken pain… this safe and loving haven where l last saw my beautiful mother alive and heard her voice so tenderly…. so very long ago……Oh the vivid memories this yearly journey brings…….

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It still stands…for yet another year…….My profound sadness is overflowing as I look among the ruin…and the poverty….and the hopelessness of community…and I quickly think of the One who resides deep within me…the same One I share with this hopeless and impoverished community… with all communities rich or poor……..the One who remains the same and never changes….…..and my heart screams out in pain with the name of my Savior…. Jesus…….and I immediately think of my sacred childhood sanctuary……where HE and I were first formally introduced….

Just a few blocks west of my childhood home once stood my very sacred childhood sanctuary……but it has been decades since I last passed by this sacred place…and I wonder and I ponder in hopeful desperation……..What will I now find there among the ruin and poverty of a hopeless community? 

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It still stands…A Beacon of Hope……Still very much alive and well……..and welcoming all those who are hopeless and impoverished to come…..  To hear…. And to accept His glorious gift….

“The poor man and the oppressor meet together; the Lord gives light to the eyes of both.” (Proverbs 29: 13 ESV)

Are you living within a type of poverty, where all hopelessness is lost?  Spiritual poverty is what you must greatly fear…..for if He is residing within you…….. Your riches reside inside….

Your riches are not of this world….

Your riches are yet to come….

Do not lose hope…….

Do not lose faith……..

 

“There are many forms of poverty: economic poverty, physical poverty, emotional poverty, mental poverty, and spiritual poverty.  As long as we relate primarily to each other’s wealth, health, stability, intelligence, and soul strength, we cannot develop true community.  Community is not a talent show in which we dazzle the world with our combined gifts.  Community is the place where our poverty is acknowledged and accepted, not as something we have to learn to cope with as best as we can but as a true source of new life.”

—Henri Nouwen

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Heart of a Servant I

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“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  (Philippians 2: 3 ESV)

My husband Brian and I were married in September of 1984, and I cannot believe almost 31 years has passed since our greatly anticipated wedding day, each of us at the tender young age of 20.   We had a simple, inexpensive, and small home wedding and this followed a two and a half year courtship.   We were married in my sister’s home who happened to be a life-long and obedient Disciple of Christ and I was just beginning to live out my prodigal years at the time as I had intentionally left my childhood church behind me many years before and I did not hesitate to look back in time.  Although wayward and wandering, this does not mean however I was not in communication with Christ during my childhood and adult prodigal years, for I had requested through prayer (and considering I was the child of a painful and bitter divorce caused by my own father’s selfish infidelity) a faithful and loving husband for approximately 10 years prior to meeting my husband at work.  When I first met my husband at the age of 18… I instantly knew he was different, for I quickly realized he possessed a Christ-like heart … unlike all the others… and I knew he was the answered prayer from Jesus… a blessed gift…the one I was searching and praying for.  

(We were also at that time, seniors attending the same high school) 

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“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4 ESV)

I wanted so desperately to be married by a godly pastor but of course I was not a current member of any particular church so this caused a rather embarrassing predicament.  My sister knew of my desperate situation, but to me…. more like a hopeless and helpless situation…. I so wanted a godly pastor to officiate our small home wedding… but I knew of no one to ask.  Initially unknown to me, my sister kindly asked her pastor to marry us and to my overwhelming surprise and disbelief… her pastor graciously agreed.

I do not recall any premarital counseling but my husband firmly disagrees.  He specifically remembers us driving to a North suburb of Chicago to meet my sister’s pastor about a week before our wedding ceremony.   He was a handsomely aged man with a round face, receding hairline, and deep tender eyes which were seemingly obscured by a large pair of dark rimmed glasses.  Quickly, I realized he possessed a genuine loving heart, and apparently he also possessed the heart of a servant, for he not only loved God but he unequivocally loved and served others, even if those “others” were outside the walls of his church….outside the walls of his own sacred sanctuary.  My husband recalls a one-time meeting where we sat down in his small church office and discussed with him the responsibilities of marriage.  I can only assume due to my lack of recall that I was extremely uncomfortable and nervous at this meeting, which if I must admit no doubt had more to do with my proud prodigal status and less to do with my upcoming marriage… for I was unprepared…. perhaps even unwilling… to defend my newly prodigal status.   Nonetheless, my prodigal (ism) was not discussed…this according to my husband.    Perhaps my nervousness caused this very prolonged lapse of memory but regarding my sister’s pastor I must say… I do specifically remember his huge Christ-like servant’s heart…his beautiful ability to ease our fears on a typically stressful day, and I will always be eternally grateful for his Christ-like  love for others, his Christ-like servant hood, and his graciousness which deeply penetrated through my broken prodigal world.

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“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2: 5-7 ESV)

“We never look into the eyes of someone whom Jesus did not give His life.”

 —Bill Hybels