The Do’s & Don’ts of Losing Hope

anchor in the clouds

When the storms come, do you find it hard to hold on to hope, slipping into anxious, negative thinking?  Or do you put your whole heart into hoping things will get better, that your problems will quickly be solved or go away?  With all the uncertainty in our world these days, what could be wrong with hoping for the best?  My first thought has been that by knowing God, we never need to lose hope.  But it isn’t quite that simple and that’s not the whole picture.  Does being hopeful help us or could it also hurt us?

An anchor is often used as a symbol of hope.  In ancient times an anchor was associated with safety.  Being anchored could mean stability, security and being grounded.  Yet an anchor is designed to sink, it gets stuck.  The anchor’s function is to hold the boat in place.  It doesn’t allow freedom and progress in your travels.  The anchor could hold you back when it is time to move.  As a storm roars, the waves get choppy and the winds blow fiercely.  On a sailing website ( -in-a-storm/), it said “if things get really bad, our best bet is to up anchor and head out into sea away from other boats, land, etc.”  It also said, “To reduce fear and be able to sleep at night, you want to know that you have an anchor that will keep you safe.”  If you are looking for an anchor of hope, God is up for the job.  But He may not hold you tight in the way you expect and He may sometimes ask you to give up your hope for safety as He takes you head-long into the storm.  Even with God by your side, if you hope for smooth sailing, you are likely to be disappointed.  History tells us God loves adventure and surprises, so get ready for a bumpy, exhilarating ride, losing the hopes that are pulling you down and hanging on to the hopes that lift you up.

Here are some things to Do when you are losing hope…

  1. Do let go of intense personal desires – those things that you are begging for.  You might think you cannot be happy without them.  Sometimes our hopes cause us to fight battles we can never win.  Remember that our ways are not God’s ways.  Insisting on having what we want is the behavior of a spoiled child, not a mature child of God. Psalm 62:5 Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him.
  2. Do hold on to God’s Promises – God is good and He loves you.  Hebrews 10:23-24, Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promises.  Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.
  3. Do take actions which move you in the direction of your hope.  God designed us to have free will; we are not meant to sit idly as a storm hammers away at us.  If you keep thinking about what you want to do or what you hope will happen and you don’t do anything, it will not happen.  (idea from Dutch Philosopher Desiderius Erasmus, lived 1466-1536 AD). God gives signs when we are on the right path, keep stepping out in faith, knowing that God will show you the way.
  4. Do accept things that are outside of your control.  More effort doesn’t always bring greater results. If anxiety, fear, worry and depression pull on you, accept them, stop hoping they will go away and they will lose their power over you.  (idea from Surrender your control to God, letting Him know that you are putting your trust in Him. Psalm 121:2 My help comes from the Lord, maker of Heaven and Earth.

Don’t do this when you are losing hope…

  1. Don’t let your hopes be out of touch with reality.  Wishful thinking that is extreme or fanciful will not help your state of mind or resolve your problems.  Gambling with the money you do have, hoping to hit a jackpot, will not move you toward reducing mounting debts. 
  2. Don’t be careless about protecting yourself from harm. You may hope for God’s protection but you have a responsibility to be safe and take care to avoid possible risks to life and limb.
  3. Don’t give God ultimatums.  When you are struggling, you may be tempted to test God.  “God, if you are real and you love me, you will give me the desires of my heart, otherwise I won’t believe.” You only hurt yourself.
  4. Don’t give up the fight against the darkness. God provided a physical world with beauty and challenges, and yet a big part of the journey we are on takes place at a spiritual level.  Battles and triumphs take place in our thinking.  Use your hope in God to resist the attacks that the enemy hopes will sink you.  If you’ve prayed and hoped and nothing is changing, know that God will provide you with the grace and strength to handle it.  Light always wins over darkness.

Romans 15:13 I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

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Always Enough

Infinite:  limitless or endless in space, extent of size, impossible to measure or calculate.

(According to The Oxford Dictionary)

Have you ever really thought about that word—infinite?  Whatever it describes means there is always enough, never ending, never depleting.  Like numbers, you can count forever and ever, always able to continue adding more to the sum total. 

Think about if each of us had infinite resources.  No one would go hungry, no one would be homeless.  Even if only one person had infinite resources, that person could give and give to help anyone who was lacking and still always have enough for themselves and for one more person in need.

The world is big, with billions of people, but it is not infinite.  The total population is measurable.  A Google search says there are 7.53 Billion people in the world based on a 2017 measurement.  There are 327.2 million people in the U.S. based on a 2018 estimate.  Infinite resources would always be enough for each and every one of us on the planet.

In the physical world, an infinite amount of anything cannot be realized. 

Luckily though, our God is infinite—without limits!  Think about that!  God helps one person, than the next and the next, never restricted from being able to help many more.  Sometimes people avoid bringing their troubles to God.  They think, “My troubles are small compared to those of others.  God has bigger things to do instead of helping me.”  That’s where their thinking is wrong.  Our infinite God always has enough for all people, for all worries big or small, God doesn’t run out of solutions.  God doesn’t operate in a realm of time the way we do.  God has infinite power over the flow of time.  Therefore, there is always time for listening to each one of us.  God will not run out of resources, never depleting the storehouses, rather controlling physical things. 

There are several events recorded in Biblical times when physical supplies are multiplied to meet the needs of the people.  Elijah asks a widow to use her meager amounts of ingredients to cook her last loaf of bread, but when she does, she finds she still has enough to make more.  She is told there will be enough until such time that the famine in the area has ended (1 Kings 17: 9-16).  Elisha tells a widow to gather empty jars.  She pours from her container of olive oil and she is able to fill jar after jar, the oil runs out when she runs out of jars.  She is now able to sell the oil and earn money to pay the creditors back who wanted to take her sons away as slaves in payment for her debts (2 Kings 4: 1-7).  There is the time remembered and celebrated by Hanukkah when the lamp oil lasted eight days when it should have only been enough to last for one day.  There was enough to fill the need.  Or the time when Jesus broke 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish and had enough to fill the bellies of five thousand hungry people with 12 baskets left over (John 6: 1-15).  They ended with more than they started with.  In Luke 6:38 the advice is to “Give and you will receive.”  The gifts we give will be returned to us in full measure, overflowing, with the amount we give determining what we get back. 

Let’s give praise and thanks that with God there is always enough to sustain us in our time of need. Through God’s infinite power, He is able.  Let’s also remember that when we give, God sees our generous hearts and will be gracious to reward us with peace, love and just what He knows we need.  The infinite supply from which God draws from will never run low.  Whenever we have gaps, God can fill us up.  With God, there is always enough.  Amen to that!

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Lives Intertwined

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We make thousands and thousands of connections with others over the course of our lives. We met at school. We are neighbors. We were coworkers. We hit it off while waiting in a long line together. We were introduced by a friend of a friend. We know each other because our kids are friends. He is my great aunt’s step son. She is the girlfriend of my second cousin. She cuts my hair. He coached our team. We started talking at a restaurant and had a lot in common. We served our church and community together.

Each meeting might just bring a smile to the moment or may forever change the lives of the two people who make a connection and for the many other lives that are then touched. Like vines growing, stretching, twisting, intertwining through a forest, there are many touch points with separate vines crossing one another. Do you think the crossing of lives is random? Or could you dare to believe that some or many are orchestrated by God Almighty.

Fruit may come from the connections made by two lives coming together, creating new life, so unique, each so special. Is it all random, simply by chance, a roll of the dice what becomes of the crossing of lives? Or how amazing to think that all the connections made, and what is created, is according to a divine design. Imagine the complex map of relationships that exists with many paths turning and crossing, lives intertwined. And not just on Earth are we following these vines but past, present, future and into eternity, the soul connections remain with new intersections continually being made.

Next time you are tempted to say “Hello” to a stranger or accept an invitation to a party, or go on a date, just do it. You might meet a new friend, a soul mate or the love of your life. You never know what might blossom, a critical connection could be made that changes the world. With God’s divine desires, designs and guidance, there will be beauty in lives intertwining.

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Facing Your Fears

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When I was a teenager, I had a reoccurring dream.  My brothers and I were going to cross an expansive arched pedestrian bridge over a large body of water.  It was a gorgeous, warm summer day.  The sky was blue and the sun was shining.  We were laughing and having fun.  We would decide is was a great day for crossing over the lake.  Once we made it to the middle of the bridge, everything would change.  A storm would come in with dark clouds, heavy rain and fierce winds.  Soon the metal side rails of the bridge would bend and break with large sections of the bridge crashing into the water.  My brothers and I would hang on as long as we could but eventually we would each fall to our deaths.  That was how it seemed to me as I awoke shaken, scared and glad that this was just a dream.   It all happened the same way in my dreams, many times, over a period of several months.  My brothers and I would be fearful about going on the bridge but with the fine weather, we thought we’d be able to make it across without trouble.  I never quite knew why we were so eager to get to the other side of the bridge.

One night, the dream was different.  It was the same bridge and I was with my brothers again, but this time the weather was terrible.  It was winter, we were in a snow squall, the skies were dark and the winds were wicked.  The lake below the bridge was frozen solid.  We were afraid but we encouraged each other and thought that at least this time the weather wasn’t going to take us by surprise, we already knew it was awful.  We would hold tight to the rails the whole time we were making our way along the bridge.  We’d be prepared for the worst.  Just like before, as we made it to the middle zone of the bridge, the storm worsened and the bridge started to rip apart.  We hung on.  A couple sections of the bridge broke apart crashing down, this time breaking through the ice.  We tried our best not to fall but our best wasn’t enough, we lost our grip and went down, one by one.  We each broke through the ice, but instead of death or waking up out of the dream, we lived.  At the time of impact, it was like a protective bubble formed around our bodies.  We went through the ice into the water and the bubble allowed us to breathe underwater.  We could swim and move whichever way we wanted without any pain or discomfort.  We could easily see where we would need to go up through the ice if we wanted to return to the surface.  Soon we were doing flips and having a great time.  We couldn’t wait to tell our parents about the exciting adventure we had.  After that, I never had the dream of the bridge again.

Have you found that your walk with God is sometimes like my dream?  We may be asked to go somewhere that scares us.  There are risks.  We could get hurt or die.  The amazing thing is that if we can trust God to be there as we face danger, He will provide a hedge of protection.  We may fall, but God has us in His hands.  Should we stay on the side where it is safe?  Or should we take the chance to face our fears and perhaps experience something amazing and exhilarating that God has in store for us?  Trust God when you are fearful.  He will never let you down.

Isaiah 41:10   Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

God is…

God is…

God is infinite, boundless love, yet is in an intimate, close relationship with each of us.

God is timeless and eternal, yet present in every moment.

God is architect and creator of everything in the world and cosmos, yet works supernatural miracles on our behalf.

God is universal and vast, yet focused on each one of us as individuals, hearing our every thought.

God is omnipotent and has ultimate control, yet He allows us to exercise free will.

God is able to see the end from the beginning, yet He grants freedom so that we live with the consequences of our choices.

God is filled with justice and fairness, yet He gives us mercy and forgiveness over and over again.

God is wise, the holder of all knowledge and yet is able to share an inside joke to bring a smile to our face.

God is a great ruler, king, a leader like no other, righteous, yet comforts us gently when we are struggling or anxious.

God is the author of human destiny, yet is willing to co-write the story of our life with us.

God is bold, full of surprises and yet gives us subtle winks that only we can understand.

God is all-powerful and yet He shares that strength with each of us, bearing our burdens and carrying us when we cannot make it on our own.

God is a friend and father to us all, wanting nothing but the best for us and always there, day or night.

God is our provider and when we face lack, He provides abundance.

God is our light, when the darkness surrounds us, His guidance shows us a brighter way.

God is what fills the void when we are empty, only He can sustain us and help us thrive.

God is so many things, more than we can fully express and yet God is everything we will ever need, every day.

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God is Real, Can You Believe It?

If a person is on the fence about whether or not they have full faith in the existence of God, what does it take to jump off and take a side? I say it requires something very personal, a dream, an experience or event that hits home, transforming what you know to be true.

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Maybe the jump is to the side of unbelief in God. Perhaps there was a critical time in a person’s life when they needed help or an answer. If they put the problem out there for God to solve or come to their rescue and they felt nothing happened, God must not exist. They gave God a chance to prove Himself, and they feel He failed them. If their parents or friends believe or don’t believe, can that determine which side to fall on? Does it mean they follow others or does it push them in the opposite way? Some people want to exercise control over their lives and believe that it is solely up to the individual to direct their path and make things happen. Having a God who wants them to relinquish control and has rules to be followed isn’t what they want.

Others see the suffering, evil and destructive forces in the world and conclude there is no God or if there is, He is not completely good and loving. For some, the decision to believe or not believe is determined by the actions of ‘so called’ godly people. There are church leaders caught in scandals or religious teachings that fuel conflict and hate. If God’s people don’t live as an example of God’s way of being good, why believe or follow it? Many religious organizations teach “what” we should believe but they don’t tell the reasons “why” we should believe.  Even if taught the reasons “why”, would it change anyone’s faith or lack of faith?

Some people are ruled by logic and objective reasoning; on the surface, the belief of God isn’t logical. There are skeptics that need hard evidence to convince them of the truth. Or could it be that whether to believe or not believe is based on genetics and how are brains are wired? Or is it more influenced by our environment? Nature or Nurture?  Maybe a little of both?

A huge factor that really drives us to choose a side with the divine comes out of our life experiences. Something awakens the spirit inside that says you are not alone and that there is meaning in this great big physical world. You find that you matter to The One most powerful, or your self-centered nature dies to something that matters most. It is a unique path for every person, but when it happens it changes everything.  You are different.

The pages of history are full of radical, personal divine transformations that have changed the world. Full religions have grown from visions, dreams and inspirations known by the person to be the result of supernatural direction over their lives. If it isn’t a personal god that is revealed, it may be a spiritual rebirth where the person’s understanding of the meaning of life and an individual’s role in it is fired up. There is a quest to put the experience in a greater context. If the experience is real for one person, what does it tell us about the rest of the society in which we live? What does one person’s transformation mean for the world? Once a fire is lit, the intensity and passion people have propels them forward. They do things and have impacts in unexpected, often amazing, ways. The commitment to their beliefs can be so strong they may be willing to die rather than deny it.

When I think of the transformations that have changed the world and have led millions of people to follow God’s way, it fills me with awe. There is no question for many, they believe God is real. They feel it, they know it! It is especially inspiring and incredible when I don’t put a fence around how God or the divine is defined by religion, culture and history. How different the world is because God revealed The Way and guided human leaders to spread the word.  God is still real!  Look at all that is happening around you! Think of your experiences in the context of being led by a super-powerful force directing you to your unique path forward.  Have you gotten off the fence and taken a side?  Have your experiences established your belief that God is there?  Wishing that you are filled with a holy fire and that you hear God’s voice providing the inspiration to live a life that fulfills your greater purpose.  You’ll be able to say with confidence that God is real.  Yes, I believe it! ‘

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Next Step: Right Direction?

Where do you want to go? Do you want to change something? What do you want to be, know or do?

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Wherever it is that you want to move, it must start with the next step in the right direction.  You may choose to stand still or even take steps in retreat if you don’t feel ready.  Those moves won’t get you where you want to be but they may be necessary in the process.  Reaching your destination begins with desire, you have to want it.  Then next it requires a plan, to chart a path forward.  Once the plan is there, it just takes that next step.  Will it be in the right direction?

What if you are being pressed to do something hard?  Let’s say you need to make lifestyle changes for your health or you need to break bad habits preventing you from being your best.  Start by asking God for help.  Don’t worry, God wants you to ask.  When we admit we cannot do it alone, we are humble and through our weakness, we can be given strength.  Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, taking care of it is important.  It may be tough looking at a long road ahead but is it too tough to just take the next step, make the next choice, your next movement?  If you have habits hurting you or others in your life, try to change them one moment and one thought at a time.  You are the child of God, He will recognize and support your efforts to become the best version of yourself.  We all slip and stumble, but focus on that one more step leading you in the right way.  After one step, the next may be a bit easier.

What if you have a big dream?  It is exciting and fun to think about.  That is not to say taking steps toward your dreams is easy.  Turning grand ideas into reality requires choices and it may involve risk as you step out of your comfort zone and into a place of uncertainty and unknowns.  It often takes hard work to make dreams come true.  First and foremost, place the desire in front of God.  Open your heart to hear whether He is giving you peace and energy to make this happen.  Listen for guidance on timing.  Sometimes we have the right vision but it may not be for right now, perhaps God is saying “yes, but later”.  It can get frustrating to work toward a dream that God doesn’t feel you are ready for.  Maybe there are other goals to reach before pursuing the big one.  What will be your next step?  It could be a small one, that’s okay.  Keep your eyes and spirit tuned to the doors that God might be opening for you and the people God may be lining up to help you.  With each step forward, you can build confidence that you are on the right path or you might find you need to revise your route.  Keep stepping out, building momentum so that your dream will get ever closer.  One day you’ll step into that dream and be amazed and thankful for how God led you into it.

Now I need to take my own advice.  There are things I want to change, be, know and do.  I’ll present them to God for His help, blessing and guidance.  I’ll create a plan.  Then I need to take that next step in the right direction.  Here we go, not looking at the mountain, but just putting one foot in front of the other.

God Bless,

Kerri LeVanseler

A Masterpiece, A Miracle–That’s You & Here’s Why

IMAGINE AN ADVANCED ROBOTIC DESIGN, ABLE TO PERFORM manual labor, learn new things via a connection to the world wide web, having self-awareness and the latest artificial intelligence software algorithms.  Now top that off with compasion, the ability to show empathy, care about others and to give love. Pretty incredible and world changing, right?  At first this robot would be a special prototype, with a high price tag.  There is bound to be de-bugging and beta-testing to be done.  Later, the design would be mass-produced, just another output of our computerized, global economy.

Now think about how each human is created.  A special combination of personality, appearance, strengths, passions and capabilities, produced when you came into being.  All your experiences add in to make you who you are.  Consider all the coincidences, chance meetings between people, choices that were made, that led you.  If you believe in only nature, without an intelligent designer, you are just a random arrangement of parental DNA, dropped into the culture and environment that your mother happened to be at the time.  You would be less than the robot prototype, lacking a functional plan and purpose as envisioned by your maker.  But you are NOT LESS, you are MUCH MORE than unintelligent physical processes and matter.  You have a Divine Maker having a hand in the connections and events that led to a unique you, a Miracle of God’s choosing.

God lights up attributes in each of us, bringing out beauty and inspiration.  In an amazing world wide network of individuals and connectivity, God guides, but grants free will.  Situations and experiences, both pleasant and difficult, infuse into our being.  Elements of nature, nurture, spiritual strength, grace and so much more, all coalesce to form something amazing.  No mistake about it, everyone is God’s Masterpiece.  If you feel incomplete, uninspired, unworthy, God isn’t finished with you yet.  God is refining you and is your partner in making you everything you were created to be.  You have a special purpose, an exclusive designs with unique functions and relationships.  You have not been programed or mass-produced.  You are a one of a kind creation, never to be repeated or reproduced, before or after in all eternity.

You are God’s Miracle.  You are God’s Masterpiece.  Incredible and world changing, right?  THAT’S YOU!

God’s People—All Types of Stories

Imagine a God big enough for everyone in the entire world. 

What would that sort of God be like?  There is so much diversity across different cultures, a Big God would have to be adaptable, willingly accepting and embracing the world’s diversity.  The Jewish view of knowing that God selected them as God’s people was such an amazing and exclusive calling.  God used Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Daniel and many others in incredible ways.  The stories held within the Hebrew Bible inspire millions then and now to engage with God in a personal way, to hear God’s voice in the trials and in the joys of each day. The Muslim view of only Allah and the visionary experiences of Muhammed were the right stories and perspectives to change the Arabic world.  Then there is the Christian tenet that there is no way to God except through Jesus:  the miracles, the sacrifice, the resurrection, the love, the forgiveness, the eternal life. 

These are the interconnected Abramaic faith stories, all starting with Abraham, the first father of monotheism.  The stories are shared generation to generation through the reading of the Torah, the Bible and the Qur’an.  These sacred texts hold the words of God and have changed innumerable lives. The impact of these stories on people and civilization as we know it cannot be underestimated.  God was right there in the middle of all these developments.  But intermingled in the pages of divine texts are conflicts, acts of cruelty and contradictions.  For some people, these and other factors are too great for them to buy into the religion inspired by the fundamental stories.  The stories are not enough to drive their passions or directly guide how they live their lives.  The stories do not reveal a God that seems right for everyone.  What was happening in other parts of the world?  Was God missing?  Over all of creation, did God place all of His attention on this one part of the world and let the rest of the globe move along without Him? 

What about all the other cultures?  Would a Big God leave India, Asia, Africa, Australia and the Americas and all the other civilizations across the globe, to live in darkness with no knowledge of the divine truth?  No way!  A true Big God would make Himself known to many people in many lands.  In Asia and India, the populations are great in number.  These are the regions of the world where believers envision many gods, millions of them in the Hindu and Buddhist tradition and in folklore of the Chinese there was a traditional understanding of a complex celestial hierarchy of gods.  When you are just a speck in the mass of humanity, like each of us is, wouldn’t it make sense that there were many, many gods, enough that there would be one who especially cared about and listened to you!? Yes!

Would the stories told by Christians, Jews and Muslims be enough to win the hearts of everyone to God?  It hasn’t happened yet.  Instead of uniting over their shared histories, the groups become fractioned off, sects form, with each holding strong to the stories that move them.  There is division, strife and clashes between groups.  Each group is sure they are right and everyone that doesn’t believe in the way they do, in the God they serve, is doomed.  Wouldn’t a true God be bigger than all the stuff that man allows to get between one another?  God wouldn’t want us to get bogged down with junk that interferes with our relationship with Him. 

Throughout history and today, there are so many stories where an encounter with God changes everything.  In the Axial Age, the inhabited world went through great intellectual, philosophical and religious evolutions that shaped human societies in Greece, India and Persia.  This time perior brought new ways of thinking based on the Hebrew Prophets and the Hundred Schools of China.  This period of several hundred years ushered in enlightened thinking, with people finding the “way” which led to a huge evolution in cultures, often associated with trends toward the greater good.  The “Golden Rule” for treatment of one another becomes more formally recognized as a beneficial rule for civilized society.  This philosophy becomes rooted in the individual’s conscience mind and in the tenets of organized religion.  “Love one another.”  “Do no harm.” These are the themes of behavior that lead to peace and harmony, a better way, a story with a good ending.  But people cannot just be simply sorted as right or wrong.  We are complicated.  In every person’s story, there will be opposition with people facing challenges.  There will be choices and actions that lead to specific outcomes.

Acting with love isn’t easy and there will be other drivers for action that work in contrast.  People want power, control, recognition, notoriety, material wealth, physical pleasures, you name it, there are dozens of passions and reasons people choose which result in love being a lower priority.  Enemies to peace and harmony abound.  We know in a physical world there will be suffering, disease, infirmities and death.  Love cannot conquer every problem.  We need to be able to tap into a universal super power, a creator, provider, protector, savior and leader.  However we describe it, name it, worship it, think about it, serve it, there is a force greater than the ways of the world.  This almighty power exists for everyone, everywhere, and with free will, each human can make their own choice as to how much they will be transformed to live a life at a higher level.

Not everyone will be moved by the same story, so there are many stories across cultures to guide us.   In my own life, I’ve found that God is present in a really personal, loving way.  I have my own story which secures my faith and trust in my God.  In the book “Life of Pi” (by Yann Martel, published in 2001) and later in the movie based on the book, the characters say that you will learn about God.  I have to admit that when I first watched the movie, I didn’t get it.  Then two weeks later, driving in my car, it dawned on me.  There was a question raised: “which story do you like?”  Pi had been raised a Hindu, fell in love with a Muslim and had an interaction with Jesus.  Pi had met God in a number of ways.  The author said that we can choose our story and that the one with God is a better story.  This God transforms lives, one at a time.  I might not be inspired by the story that changes you, but that is okay.  There are all types of stories for each one of God’s people.  If the story moves us to love one another, it is a Big God story.  We can each live out our own stories in a way where we are connected in relationship with the Divine, as a source of everything that brings true worth to living.  I like the moral of that Big God story best of all.