I’ve been with H2 Church (Higher Hope International Ministries) since the beginning, which is 20 years ago.

I’ve played the trumpet for the entire time.

About five years into it, I felt the need to teach myself how to play by ear, which means to play having no music…

To “create” the music that I played, while I was playing.

Did you know that the ENTIRE brain is activated and on fire when we play music?

And even MORE SO when we create the music as we play it?

I KNOW in my heart that the fact that I was “creating ” music all the time, prior to my stroke, was the one thing that might have saved my life when the stroke “struck “.

Music has been saving my life since the very beginning.

In seventh grade, I was just some kid who really wasn’t any good at

ANYTHING.

Until my music teacher, Mr. Gary Peterson, suggested I try playing the trumpet.

A classmate had to instruct me how to blow into the thing…

And then….

Surprisingly….

Beautiful sounds came out!

I was stunned to discover that there was something I was naturally good at.

I never had to “work” to sound good.

I just WAS good at it.

And all of a sudden, I became good at other things, too.

My grades drastically improved…

I began to develop that elusive thing called

Confidence!

And God’s used music over and over to save my life…

Again and again.

Every time someone hurts me, or my own body hurts me, God uses songs to hold me for as long as I need Him to.

I’ve needed Him to hold me ALOT lately.

I’ve been in constant, severe pain on my left side for the last two weeks. There have been moments when it felt like way too much.

But two nights ago, in the middle of the night, I’m pretty sure God sent me this song:

Bridge Over Troubled Water

When you’re weary, feeling small

When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all (all)

I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough

And friends just can’t be found

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

When you’re down and out

When you’re on the street

When evening falls so hard

I will comfort you (ooo)

I’ll take your part, oh, when darkness comes

And pain is all around

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will lay me down

Sail on silver girl

Sail on by

Your time has come to shine

All your dreams are on their way

See how they shine

Oh, if you need a friend

I’m sailing right behind

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will ease your mind

Like a bridge over troubled water

I will ease your mind

I know it’s seen as a “secular” song,

But everytime I hear it, it feels like a song Jesus is singing over me.

Over the broken and bruised parts of me….

Over the lost and lonely places…

He’s been “laying Himself down” for me from the very beginning.

He’s been “drying my tears” and “easing my mind” for just as long.

Jesus can sing the very best love songs,

And I’m hearing them all over the place!

The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.”

Zephaniah 3:17

More than anything else He will ever want us to know is just

HOW MUCH…

HOW DEEPLY….

HOW ETERNALLY

HE LOVES US.

He has MANY songs He plans to sing over me!

He has many songs for you, too.

If you will just

Listen.

Advertisements

My Bridge

A good friend of mine made the following statement the other day:

“Don’t make this pain about you.”

Most of us would probably have something to say about that.

“It’s MY body that is beat up.”

“It’s MY heart that is breaking.”

“It’s MY marriage that’s falling apart.”

“It’s MY family that’s going through this.”

“It’s MY children who are gone.”

“What do you mean, “don’t make this pain about me”??????????

It’s the easiest thing in the world to make the bad stuff that happens to me, about

ME.

It turns out it’s very difficult to look at the big picture of pain.

To value the fact that our lives touch OTHER lives….

To realize what is going on in YOU might be for the purpose to change or challenge OTHERS…

Or to conclude that our pain might in some way glorify the Father.

When Jesus suffered…

To HIM , it wasn’t about Him, but His heart and mind totally made it about US.

So, it makes sense that OUR sufferings should not be about us,

But Him!

MY healing isn’t all that God cares about.

My happiness in this life is actually NOT one of His major goals!

I have a friend named Pam. She has a son who was incarcerated around the age of 19. He was charged with something minor, a charge which most would receive probation. Somehow, along the road other charges piled up, some of which were not his doing.

Bottom line:

He spent TEN years in prison!!

He was recently released, which was something our church had prayed about for years and years.

Imagine that.

Your firstborn son, your baby, has now been locked up with drug dealers, murderers, and rapists.

The one who, when he was a baby, you worried might swallow a penny, was now far away, and there was absolutely NOTHING you could do to protect his body or his heart from all the pain he was going to face.

Mother’s do NOT like to be helpless!!

It’s one of the worst feelings in the world for ANY mother.

But for Pam, I imagine that wound is deep.

Wait guys!

That’s not the end of the story!

During the last ten years, Pam began working with a prison ministry with young female inmates.

She has witnessed MANY come to know Christ. She gets to pray with these girls, pour her love into them on a regular basis.

I’m sure Pam had many dark days during those ten years.

Despair and worry for her son’s safety and well being probably consumed her some nights.

But she worked tirelessly with young women.

Maybe she couldn’t touch her son, but she could touch these women.

So, she DID!

Pam didn’t stay stuck…

She used her broken heart to help OTHERS.

She did not make her pain about HER.

I think she knew God had MUCH in store for her because of her pain.

He has the same bright and shining, God-glorifying plans in store for us, when we decide to unfold from the fetal position of pain, and embrace the fact that THIS PAIN…

This terrible, torturing pain is about so much more than just me or just you!!

God has crazy, mighty, INSANE ways of using our little, private pain to defeat the Enemy….

And to increase God’s great and amazing glory!!!

that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Philippians 3:10

Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him. If we endure, We shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.

2 Timothy 2: 10

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.

2 Corinthians 1:3-11

It’s Not About You!

Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 7:12

And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.

Luke 6:31

I’m sure I heard a version of this verse many times as a kid.

I think it was used as a tool to convince me and my sisters to get along with one another.

But there really is so much more to this thought than just “getting along” with each other.

So many times, I feel like I’m lacking something.

Sometimes, I feel lonely…

Or discouraged,

Misunderstood,

Ignored,

Invisible,

Unappreciated,

Undervalued….

This list goes on and on,

For EACH of us, I’m guessing.

What do we do when we are in that place of disappointment?

It’s one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves, because if we follow our feelings, we will oftentimes follow them right over a cliff.

Anger, bitterness, and resentment are just a few of the things we will find at the bottom of that cliff.

This verse guides us in the right direction.

Feeling lonely?

Say hello to someone new. Invite somebody out to lunch. Be sure to include an invitation for me, too, because I LOVE lunch. Pay attention to others who appear to be lonely, too.

Feeling discouraged?

Send a note of encouragement to a friend. Compliment lots of people…. SINCERELY!

Feeling misunderstood?

Take time to really listen to others. Put yourself in their shoes, and walk around in them for awhile.

Feeling ignored?

Pay ATTENTION to others!

Feeling invisible?

Open YOUR OWN EYES, and love on other “invisible” people.

Feeling broken?

Know that ALL of us are broken! So, be GENTLE with EVERYONE!

When we give to others all the things WE desperately need, His Word promises we will be greatly rewarded.(Luke6:35)

I learned years ago, that all of those feelings we have sometimes lead us to believe we are the “only ones” who feel them.

No greater mistake can be made, if you ask me!

Your feelings aren’t special.

Your feelings certainly aren’t unique!

So, instead of wondering why no one notices us in our darkest moments….

Notice SOMEBODY ELSE.

Because in doing so,

You will, in some crazy way,

Get exactly what you need.

“Do Unto Others”….For REAL!!!

We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.

18-20 He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.

Colossians 1:15-20

When I think about all the things God “holds together”, I get overwhelmed.

I mean, He holds

EVERYTHING.

TOGETHER.

He holds the oceans in their place. If He didn’t, the waters would swallow us all up.

He holds the planets together, ever so delicately…

Because one wrong move of a planet to left or to the right would mean instant destruction of the entire human race!!!!!

So, knowing how He holds such massive and important things like oceans and planets in their perfect places….

Should make it fairly easy for us to trust Him to hold US together, too!

But I know I often don’t.

Instead, I feel most days that I am simply FALLING APART….

Not being “held together” at all!

I feel as “broken and dislocated” as I could possibly be.

I remember watching the movie, “The Impossible”.

It was the story of a family of five, who are tragically separated by a fierce tsunami in Thailand in 2004.

The furious rage of that storm was CONTROLLED by God.

If you lived through that , or watched the movie, it doesn’t SEEM like God is in control of ANY of it! So many people died, or were lost forever.

But yet, it was very clear that God DID have the power and control to rescue each member of this family, and unite them in the end.

It looked “IMPOSSIBLE “!

But with God,

There is no such thing.

So, today…

If you are broken…

If you feel like the things or people in your life are tearing you apart

Hold on to the God,

Who is literally, figuratively, and physically

Holding YOU.

Hold Me Together

Higher Hope International Ministries, or h2 Church, is celebrating our 20th anniversary this month.

My two very best friends in the whole world (who are married) started this ministry in Sunbury, Pennsylvania.

I remember a farmer once donated HUNDREDS of eggs to us one day, and said he knew we would use them in just the right way.

Well, we got in Mark and Lori’s beat-up, green minivan, and went door-to-door, giving the eggs away, and making lasting connections with MANY people in the community.

I was working as a nanny about two and a half hours away when they first began, and I remember driving through the mountains toward Sunbury, to be there on Sunday mornings, listening to hymns by Fernando Ortega the whole way.

The memory of wildflowers and sunsets has always stayed with me from those many many trips.😊

Soon, I moved to Sunbury. My mom can tell you that I called her soon after, and told her that if I died, I wanted to be buried here.

In Sunbury.

Because this was home.

In fact,

Higher Hope is “home.”

It’s as much a part of me as my kidney,

Or my heart.

I literally and figuratively “grew up” here.

I was 25, and thought I knew it all.

Wow. I knew NOTHING!

I’ve made a bunch of crappy choices in the last twenty years…

But I’ve made lots of good ones, too.

The BEST decision I ever made was making Higher Hope a part of my heart.

No matter who left us over the years,

No matter how hard the enemy tried to destroy my most treasured relationships,

No matter how many times it was a bloody BATTLE to stand up and worship,

I stayed.

I’m still here.

I know every story,

Every scar,

Every victory,

Every miracle

That h2 had a hand in.

And I am humbled….

And completely in awe that He decided to use me, and use US….

Often in the smallest of ways.

Higher Hope is quite honestly

The best thing I’ve ever been a part of.

And I know I didn’t do very much.

So many things have happened to me in these last twenty years.

Magical things.

Terrible things.

BEAUTIFUL things.

And my h2 family was there for all of it.

Praying for me,

Praying WITH me,

LOVING me.

And I have always loved them back.

This family has changed faces over the last two decades,

But the love was always there…

Always the same.

I thank God for Higher Hope…

For everything it’s been….

And for everything it will be.

Happy 20th, h2!!!!❤❤❤

20 Years!!!!!!

Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

Philippians 2:17

The drink offering was kind of the “finishing touch” to sacrifices made at that time.

The wine was completely poured out over the animal on the altar, so that the aroma would bring God “delight”. (Matthew Henry)

When we stop to realize that Paul was insulted, imprisoned multiple times, shipwrecked, beaten, whipped, and almost stoned to death, it seems to us that he sacrificed MORE than enough!

But since Paul knew better than most the meaning behind the drink offering, he probably was filled with joy for being able to suffer those things,

To bring God DELIGHT.

Paul was definitely “poured out” for God.

I think about the woman and the alabaster box. (Matthew 26:7)

She gave up her most valuable possession for the One who was about give HIS

For her.

Maybe I can’t literally give up my life for Him,

But I can give to Him

All the love that’s inside me…

I can “pour” myself out onto the people in my life for JESUS.

I can let all the love I have,

All the joy I have,

All the grace I have,

All the compassion I have,

Spill out onto my children…

Onto my husband…

Onto everyone God puts in my life.

Paul was “wringing” himself out DAILY for Jesus, and the people He was called to love.

He poured out his very LIFE for them,

Until he had nothing left to give.

So, why should I get to hold onto MINE?

I really, desperately want all that’s GOOD in me…

All that’s….”GOD” …in me to gush out and flood the hearts of the people I love,

And the people who are HARD to love.

What if we all lived that way?

Pouring ourselves out….every last drop…

For others?

What if we emptied ourselves,

Squeezed ourselves dry,

EVERY DAY for each other,

BELIEVING He is faithful to fill us again tomorrow?

What a picture of the love Jesus has for us!

What a picture this is for US, too!

May we pour ourselves out of ALL that we have…

Of all that we ARE…

So that it can be said of us that we gave and gave…..

“And it was GOOD!”

To the very last drop.

Good, To The Last Drop

Man, forgiveness is tough stuff.

Just when you think you’ve conquered that battle with anger, heartache, and bitterness, this person you are called to love despite their unchanged behavior, does something ELSE to hurt you.

And then, you’re right back where you started!

Or, am I the only one?

I have a couple of people , so if you don’t have any, you can borrow one of mine.😊

We were singing this hymn at prayer service last night. It is called Behold The Throne of God Above.

In it, the Gospel is told. We are reminded that we were lost, and that Jesus died to make us CLEAN and FREE.

Read the words with me:

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands
My name is written on His heart
I know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart
Oh
When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me
Behold Him there the risen Lamb
My perfect spotless righteousness
The great unchangeable I am
The King of glory and of grace
One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God!
With Christ my Savior and my God!
One with Himself I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ my Savior and my God!
With Christ my Savior and my

God!

Beautiful, right?

Powerful, right?

Well, you see, last night I was really praying for some key relationships that I CONTINUE to struggle with.

When you KEEP people in your life who hurt you, guess what?!

You will continually get hurt.

Sometimes, it’s a matter of removing that person from your everyday life, so you can move on.

But sometimes this person plays such a role in our lives that we CANNOT simply “remove” them.

So, I took my name out of the hymn.

Every time the song has a “me” or an “I”, I replaced it with the name of someone I need to TOTALLY FORGIVE.

To forgive them for all hurt they caused in my past, present , and future.

So, let’s try this. Put that name in place of yours:

Before the throne of God above

____ have a strong, a perfect plea
A great high Priest whose Name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for ____
______ name is graven on His hands
______ name is written on His heart
___ know that while in heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart

Oh
When Satan tempts ______ to despair
And tells _____ of the guilt within
Upward ____ look and see Him there
Who made an end to all _____ sin
Because the sinless Savior died
______ sinful soul is counted free
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon ____
To look on Him and pardon

____

Behold Him there the risen Lamb
______ perfect spotless righteousness
The great unchangeable I am
The King of glory and of grace
One with Himself ______ cannot die
_____ soul is purchased by His blood
______ life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ _____ Savior and ______ God!
With Christ _____ Savior and ______ God!
One with Himself____ cannot die
______ soul is purchased by His blood
_______ life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ _____ Savior and ____ God!
With Christ _____ Savior and _____ God!

Now, I know true forgiveness can only come from the Holy Spirit.

We can’t do it in our own tiny strength.

But we DO have to DESIRE it in order to get it.

This exercise makes me truly DESIRE to see the person the way God sees them.

Wholly loved,

Wholly desired,

And wholly forgiven.

Let them take your place in that hymn.

Just like Jesus truly, and painfully,

Took yours.

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Colossians 3:13

Take My Place