When Hope Seems Foolish

I wrote this post back in 2015, and although the news reports in 2018 are a little different, the need for hope remains the same.

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Hopelessness is sneaky. It erodes the hope I’m standing on, as I’m standing on it.

I feel hopeless when I watch the news. Seeing the waves of people fleeing the war in Syria, running from the unimaginable, toward the unknown. The anxious faces of children riding on the backs and shoulders of their fathers, uncles, and brothers. The fear on the adults’ faces as they are stopped by high fences and border patrols.

And the question rings out, mockingly, “Where is hope now?”

The situation is so dire that it seems foolish to even bring up the word hope. It makes more sense to let hope wash away into the darkness and allow hopelessness to take its place.

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Or so the darkness would like us to think.

The darkness does not fight fair. It hits us when we are tired, weak and worn. It whispers to our hearts, “You are just one person. How could you make a difference in this situation? There is no hope.”

But the darkness is wrong.

God has been fighting against the darkness for quite a while. He knows the darkness is convincing, so He sends out sparks of hope in the darkest of times.

He gave the first spark of hope in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve realized the cost of that one bite of fruit, when darkness gave a victorious cry believing it had ruined God’s beautiful plan for mankind. Even then in that moment, tucked in among the tragic, world-changing consequences, God gave Adam and Eve a spark of hope, the hint of a Savior who would defeat the darkness, in Genesis 3:15.

Jeremiah 32, describes another dark time for God’s people. The Babylonian army was outside the walls of Jerusalem, marching closer every day. Defeat was certain. And God told Jeremiah to buy a piece of land.

It sounds foolish. But in a city about to be overtaken, for a people about to be carried off and scattered, in the darkest of times, God had a message of hope. He told Jeremiah to buy land and to put the deed into a clay jar because “houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.”

So Jeremiah bought land.

This message did not erase the fall of the city, nor did it take away the violence of the invasion. but it provided a spark of hope. It sent a message that this was not the end, this was not the last chapter, and God would bring good again.

And now, all these years later, God still sends sparks of hope in the darkest of times. For the men, women and children looking for safety from a war-torn country, this is not the end. The story of their lives is still being written. This is a very dark chapter, to be sure.

The darkness would convince us that God does not see, or hear, or care because we can’t see Him working.  We can stand firm,  confident that He is. Or, in those moments when we do doubt, we can take this doubt to Him instead of blindly believing the lies of the darkness. We can cry out, even in the midst of darkness, for God to work in a mighty way.

This holds true for your life as well. As you walk through your days, do you feel doubt rise up and whisper “There is no hope?”

The darkness wants you to believe that you are without hope and powerless to change the situation. It wants to convince you that you are alone.

But the truth shines in the darkness: God is the God of hope.

And because of that, even in the darkness we can plant our feet firmly and cling to truth.  This is not the end. This is not the last chapter. God will work in this.

The darkness is as light to Him. He sees. He hears. He knows. And He will lead His people through sparks of hope.

When you find yourself surrounded by darkness, please remember

This is not the end. This is not the last chapter.

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And, my friend, you are not alone. Keep fighting for hope.

Overwhelm, Abundance, and Walmart

I give myself pep talks –  when I’m about to lose it on my kiddos, when I’m tackling a mountain of laundry, when I walk into Walmart two days before Christmas. Basically when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

The Walmart pep talk sounds like this: Ok, Erin. You can do this. Take deep breaths, stick to your list, and, please, let’s not end up on the evening news.

I have this fear that one day I am going to lose all composure and ability to filter my words and actions in Walmart.

Walmart is the perfect storm for overwhelm. There’s just so much going on. First, there’s the mental stress of remembering what I need to get. There’s a list on my phone, but there’s also a couple of other lists in my head that I’m working off of.  Then there are the shopping carts. Have you ever gotten rammed into from the back with one of those things? When my kids were little and just learning to “drive” they would accidentally hit the back of my feet. I’m still not sure what words came out of my mouth, but I’m pretty sure this will come up with their future therapists.

And then, there are  people, too many people, getting in the way of my ultimate objective: Get in, get out, go home.

When I focus on my objective, then I see people as exactly that – in the way.

During the craziness of the week before Christmas, I made out an extensive to-do list, because it was a week of all-things-extra. I was a bit overwhelmed when I looked at this list on Monday morning and saw the week looming before me.

So I gave myself a pep talk. Ok Erin, you can do this. Just get these done one at a time and you’ll make it through the day. Get in, get out, go home.  This pep talk would been fine if my list didn’t involve people. But it was filled with people. And that ‘s not the way I want to treat the people in my life.

I stopped and thought over the truths from the December series. Jesus is with us, so we are not alone. He gives us strength, so we are not powerless. He rescued us to live in freedom. And then this truth. He upholds the universe by the word of His power.

My pep talk changed dramatically.

I am loved by the God who upholds the universe by the word of His power. If this is true, surely I can ask Him for the energy to enjoy all this extra. Surely He can help me to be fully present in this crazy schedule.

My get in, get out, go home thinking comes from the belief that I don’t have enough in me to handle life. And that belief keeps me operating out of emotional poverty.

I want to operate out of the mindset of abundance. I want the truth that I am not alone to guide my actions. I want the truth that I am loved by God to form my words. I want the assurance that Jesus rescued me to be the fuel that gives my life lasting hope.

God can work through me. He is not limited. The compassion, love, patience, and forgiveness that He showers on me CAN flow through me into the lives of those around me. That’s life in abundance.

That abundance gives me the freedom to walk through Walmart, seeing people as real people instead of seeing them as in the way of my objective. When His compassion, love, patience, and forgiveness is what they see, there are opportunities for words of encouragement, for words of hope.

And I can still avoid ending up on the evening news.

 

Beautiful Redemption

It’s the end of December as I’m typing this which means that we survived the holiday craziness (whoot! whoot!) and things have come to a screeching halt in those grey days between Christmas and the new year.

Sometimes those quiet grey days are peaceful, but sometimes they feel empty and words of hope are especially needed.

One more whisper of truth from the Christmas carols we’ve been singing all month.

A weary world rejoices because there can now be Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.

The answer to our weariness, rushing in on us on these grey days, is found in reconciliation.

Reconciliation means to bring before the face of God. We are reconciled out of love, for intimacy and communion with God. We are reconciled to do what our hearts were created for- connection, belonging, love, worship.

Reconciliation flows from God’s heart and makes His heart’s desire possible.  Throughout the Old Testament He stated over and over “I will be their God, and they will be my people.” And our salvation through Jesus is so that we can, one day, come before Him face-to-face.

I love the concept of reconciliation because it changed the way I relate to Jesus. Throughout my life I pieced together a picture that Jesus was a reluctant Savior. That He came to earth and died on the cross because He had to. That He came out of cold duty and obedience.

And that impression was so, so wrong.   

The Bible paints a picture not of a reluctant Savior but of a God who fully rescues, who delivers by any means, to bring His people into relationship with Himself.

The greatest rescue mission ever leads to reconciliation with God, which results in redemption.

And this redemption is not just an in-the-future-once-you-get-to-Heaven event. His redemption changes our lives right here, right now.

Redemption is the way He takes back the enemy’s claim on His beloved people and His beautiful world.

God redeems – buys back, rescues from loss – situations and circumstances in our lives. Because of the power of God’s redemption we can stand firm and yell at the darkness in our lives God turned into good what you meant for evil.

This powerful redemption is the fuel for our fight for hope. We can push back against the darkness because we believe that God will bring good where darkness wanted to bring evil.

I honestly don’t know how He does it, but I’ve seen Him do it. I’ve seen Him weave stronger marriages through things that should have destroyed those marriages. I’ve seen Him take brokenness and fill the gaps with Himself to make a person more whole than they’ve would have been otherwise.

There’s no way to track it with a chart or trace it with our finger, but God works in the chaos and brings beauty.

“Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen.”   Psalm 77:19

God’s actions are not limited. They are not bound by the expectations of others or by the rules of this world. He doesn’t look at our lives and see hopeless situations because no one and no situation is beyond His reach.

Things in our lives do not have to stay where they are right now at this moment because God is a God who fully rescues, at all costs, buys back, and restores.

This is the beauty of redemption.

This sounds great, you may be saying, but it doesn’t feel true.

I get it.  I often feel a gap between what God says is true and my feelings.

So what do we do with that gap?

We can be honest with God about the gap. We can pour out our hearts before Him. He can handle our honesty.

We can run toward truth. We can fill the gap with a steady intake of truth. Strength can come through struggle and our faith can grow through times of wrestling in this gap, but only if we run toward truth.

We can ask God to bridge the gap. We can ask Him to do what only He can do: Help us see His hand and believe His words.

When I run toward truth I run to what God says about Himself in the Bible. I want the pictures I piece together about God to be based on His Words and not on the words of others.

I’ve found a list of questions that help me apply the truth of God’s Words to my life.  These questions have helped me run toward truth when I am sitting in the dark.

I’ve created a guide using those questions in hopes that it will help you see Jesus in a closer way too. I’ve included an example from my own study and a blank page for you to use.

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Thank you so much for following this December series. I have enjoyed the comments and conversations that took place during this time together. This has been a gift to me, an anchor during the busy holiday season. It has reminded me that the difference Jesus makes is one that reaches from this broken world into eternity.

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This post is part of my December series, “What Difference Does Jesus Make?” Please join me on my writer’s Facebook page, Erin Ulerich, on Wednesdays for more truth about fighting for hope. I’ll be live at 6:00 a.m. CST, but the video will be available to watch whenever you can.

I am giving away this spunky little mug through a drawing. To be the lucky recipient of this mug, all you have to do is comment on the Wednesday videos in December.  Let me know what you found encouraging or challenging during the video. Each week that you comment I will put your name in the drawing. The drawing will take place on Wednesday, January 3, during my 6:00 AM Facebook Live. The good news is that you don’t have to be awake to win.

 

A Whisper of Hope and An Extreme Rescue

Act of Valor isn’t on the top 10 Christmas movies list, but it does give a vivid description of a rescue mission. It shows the danger a SEAL team was willing to face in order to rescue a CIA operative that had been captured and tortured by the enemy. She was injured so severely that there was nothing she could do to help with her rescue. It shows the sacrifice that team was willing to make to get her back to safety. They put their lives at risk in order to save hers. This rescue is very exciting to watch. It’s a close call to the very end because the enemy wasn’t giving her up without a fight.

This mission reminds me of how God rescues us from darkness. Before we ever whisper God, please save me, before we see that we need to be rescued, an intricate backstory has taken place. A backstory that involved the greatest rescue mission ever.

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20)

“There’s no need for peace unless there’s a war.” Rev. Brad Mercer from Highlands Presbyterian Church in Ridgeland, MS pointed this out in a recent chapel sermon.

There has been a war going on since the beginning of time.

It’s a war that sounds like a movie plot.  A war between good and evil, between the Creator of the Universe and His enemy who desperately wants to rule that same Universe.  But it’s better than any movie plot – because it’s real.

God created this beautiful world, and created man and woman, made in His image.  He put in the human race a need for relationship, connection, belonging.

Satan didn’t bring an army in and confront God head-on. No, he slithered in and convinced Eve that the face-to-face relationship she had with God wasn’t enough, his words cast a shadow in her mind about the goodness, love, and intention of God.

O how he must have celebrated as she and Adam bit into that fruit. He had won! The precious souls God created and loved had rejected Him and doubted His goodness.  And with that bite the beautiful world God spoke into being became enemy territory.

And then, even in the messy, sorrowful brokenness, God promised to send One who would crush the head of evil. Those were fighting words.  With those words God gave a whisper of hope, a promise of a rescue.

The world He made grew dark, the people He loved grew blind in the darkness. His people grew deaf to His words and the enemy’s hold on them grew stronger.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining

Pining means to yearn deeply for, to suffer with longing. The people made in God’s image, loved by God, people made for connection, belonging, and love,  knew, even while sitting in the darkness that something was missing. They yearned deeply for what they were made for, even though they had been in the darkness for so long that they didn’t know what to call it. They only knew something was missing and they couldn’t find it in themselves.

Some turned to worshipping idols, literally turning pieces of wood and stone into objects of worship. Some turned to worshipping life in this world, living in the moment, keeping busy, or filling their lives with pleasure. Some turned to worshipping control with rigid rule keeping.

All this worship was in an effort to stop the yearning and longing. But only one Person could fulfill that longing to find connection, belonging, and love. Doesn’t that weary world sound like the world we live in and the people like you and me?

“God knows that each and every other thing we idolize holds us captive without us realizing it. He knows that every other thing we worship demands more and more from us until we have nothing left to our names but empty shells.” Meg Lynch

Through all those years God reminded His people. He whispered words of hope, words of Someone who was coming to save them.

Because God is the only one who can answer this longing, He is the only one who can set His people free. And He planned the greatest rescue mission ever.

Light broke into the darkness with an impossibility, a virgin with child. Its beacon was a bright star, and the Rescuer was a baby. God didn’t go in with guns blazing, but as the most vulnerable of all creatures.

Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth, A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

Everything changed when the light broke into the darkness. The people who were looking for Jesus to come saw the beginning of God’s whisper of hope.

We have the whole picture.

We see that our rescue began with His birth that night in Bethlehem and progressed in His death on the cross, and was complete when He rose from the dead, bringing peace.

Not peace between good and evil, but peace between God and the people He created. This rescue mission was to get His creation, His beloved, out of the darkness, out of the enemy’s hold.

This rescue speaks to our worth and to God’s power, mercy, grace, and love and that is exactly where our enemy slithers in. Our enemy wants to make us doubt the goodness, love, and intention of God toward us. It’s called sabotage and deception – and those are war-time techniques.

The truth?

We were worth this extreme rescue.

God planned this dangerous mission because He says you and I are worth fighting for, we are worth rescuing, and we were made for life in the light.

But when I watch the news, when I talk to people, when I scroll through Facebook, I see people harassed by the enemy of their soul, tossed around like waves in the ocean, living without hope, numbing their pain, surrounding themselves with layer upon layer of rules.

I see people very much like the people that lived in the days when Jesus came.

A people that need to be rescued. A people whose rescue began many years ago. And this rescue, the greatest rescue mission ever, began with a baby.

This baby makes it possible for every heart to have peace with God.

And our part in the rescue? We are like the CIA operative who was injured so severely that there was nothing she could do to help with her rescue.  God doesn’t ask us to help with our rescue. He only asks us to believe.

“This is the work of God, that you believe in Him who He has sent.” (John 6:29)

We can’t help with our rescue because it’s already been done. We only have to believe that we’ve been rescued. Sounds too easy, doesn’t it? Sounds like He did all the work and we just have to write a thank you note.

But what we believe, really believe, doesn’t stay inside us. Living out what we believe will make a difference in every other area of our life – our thoughts, our actions, our words. When we believe that God planned this dangerous mission because He says you and I are worth fighting for, we are worth rescuing, and we were made for life in the light, it makes a difference that lasts forever.

Where are you today? Does the thought of being rescued and having peace with God seem far-fetched? Do you feel you are too far gone, out of God’s reach? Let this crazy truth sink in. Jesus left the perfection of heaven, stepped into time and history to carry out this rescue mission with you in mind.

Wherever you are right now, whatever is going on in your life, this truth stands. You are loved by God, made in His image, made for connection, belonging, and love. You are worth fighting for and you were made to live in the light.

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This post is part of my December Facebook Live series, “What Difference Does Jesus Make?” Please join me on my writer’s Facebook page, Erin Ulerich, on Wednesdays in December. I’ll be live at 6:00 a.m. CST, but the video will be available to watch whenever you can. I am looking forward to connecting with you in these few moments of sanity during December.

I am giving away this spunky little mug through a drawing. To be the lucky recipient of this mug, all you have to do is comment on the Wednesday videos in December.  Let me know what you found encouraging or challenging during the video. Each week that you comment I will put your name in the drawing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mystery That Changes Everything

 

There’s mystery surrounding Christmas. No matter what age you are, there are things that just can’t be explained through logic.

When we are little we want to know how Santa gets presents to all the kids in the world in one night. As we grow older we sing about joy and yearn for peace on earth, especially at Christmas. But how can there be peace when the world is so broken?

But there is a mystery that trumps them all because it. changes. everything.

Jesus, fully God and fully man.

The words feel a bit abstract even as we sing about it.

Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing… (O Come All Ye Faithful)

So wrap our injured flesh around You, Breathe our air and walk our sod                  Rob our sin and make us holy, Perfect Son of God  (Welcome to Our World)

But it is a mystery worth exploring.

In the first chapter of John, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…”

John calls Jesus the Word made flesh.

The Word of God has a very specific job and an all- encompassing reach.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:22)

In his commentary on Hebrews, John Calvin says “This means that it [the Word] tests the whole soul of a man. It inquires into his thoughts and it searches his will and all his desires. It means that there is nothing so hard or firm in a man, nothing so deeply hidden that the efficacy of the Word does not penetrate through to it.”

 

God has given His Word the task of penetrating to the most secret thoughts of the heart.

In His interactions with people Jesus, the Word made flesh, did exactly that. He brought the thoughts from the innermost recesses of people’s hearts out into the light.

He was gentle with those who were struggling, with those who didn’t even know they needed Him until He spoke to them.

He challenged the thoughts of those who thought they had God figured out.

The Word was God and the Word became flesh. God became flesh.

Colossians also speaks of this mystery.

In Him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. (Colossians1:19)                         He is the exact image of the invisible God. (Colossians1:15)

Jesus reveals the Father to us. Through Jesus we see the invisible God.

And at the same time that Jesus is fully God, He is also fully human.

My mind cannot wrap around this. How is this even possible?

How does the infinite fit inside the finite? How does the limitless dwell inside the limited without overpowering or replacing it?

How did He who upholds the universe by the word of His power come as an infant who could only cry to make His needs known?

The how is a mind boggling. The why is a life-changer.

Why would He do this? Why would He leave the perfection of Heaven to wrap our flesh around Him and walk through life in this messy, broken world?

“Christ has put on our feelings along with our flesh, not only to show Himself to be truly man, but to be taught by that very experience how to help our miseries; and that, not because as Son of God He needed such instruction, but because only thus could we grasp the concern He has for our salvation. Whenever we are laboring under the infirmities of our flesh, let us bear in mind that the Son of God has experienced them too, to encourage us by His power in case we are overwhelmed by them.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, Hebrews and 1&2 Peter)

He did this to show us the depth of His love, grace, and mercy toward us.

This love, grace, and mercy is described in Hebrews 4:12-16.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

He fought the battles we face – each one of us – and he WON! – not to gloat over us, but to say “I know the battle. Come closer and find your strength in Me. Come, and receive forgiveness.  Take my hand and I will fill you with hope. Come to the throne of grace in your time of need, with confidence, to find help.”

I don’t know about you, but when I am struggling, when I give in to temptation, I want to hide, especially from God. Adam and Eve hid. We hide. But God has made a way for us to come to Him. We don’t have to hide.

I love the language of this verse.

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

We have weaknesses, and God is not surprised by this at all. Even as we struggle in those weaknesses, we can come to Him and find mercy and grace.

Mercy addresses our need for forgiveness. Grace is the power He gives to sustain us in the midst of temptation.

The why of this mystery is found right here.

Jesus is with us, so we are not alone. He gives us power to fight temptation, so we can say no to sin. He offers forgiveness when we do fail and gives us strength to get back up on our feet.

None of this was possible before Jesus came. And none of this would have been possible if Jesus was not 100% God and 100% man.

Before Jesus came there was a distance between God and His people, even in worship. God addresses our sin and bridges this distance through the person of Jesus.

So what difference does Jesus make? What difference does it make that He was fully God and fully man?

The difference between distance and embrace, the difference between our weakness and His grace.

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This post is part of my December Facebook Live series, “What Difference Does Jesus Make?” Please join me on my writer’s Facebook page, Erin Ulerich, on Wednesdays in December. I’ll be live at 6:00 a.m. CST, but the video will be available to watch whenever you can. I am looking forward to connecting with you in these few moments of sanity during December.

 

I am giving away this spunky little mug through a drawing. To be the lucky recipient of this mug, all you have to do is comment on the Wednesday videos.   Let me know what you found encouraging or challenging during the video. Each week that you comment I will put your name in the drawing.

 

Jesus Is With Us In Our Joy and Our Pain

God’s desire from the beginning has been fellowship. To be with us.

God walked with Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Face to face.  When sin entered the world, that relationship was broken, but God’s desire did not change. Throughout the Old Testament His heart cry is repeated, “I will be their God and they will be my people.”

This desire is also found in the language surrounding the reason God offers us salvation through relationship with Him, “They shall see him face to face.”

That’s the goal. Connection. Intimacy. God created each one of us with the need for connection, the need to know and be known by Him.

And then he opened the folds of time and stepped into our world as one of us. Jesus, Immanuel, which means God with us.

With us. Not watching from a distance. Not a kind but powerless force hovering around us. With us, experiencing life in this broken world.

Jesus knows the pull of this world on our heart. He experienced every emotion that we have felt or will ever feel. And he has experienced one emotion that we will never experience – abandonment by God.

We often feel alone, I’m not discounting that. But the reality is that God has promised to be with us and to never forsake us.  Jesus willingly experienced complete abandonment on the cross in order to offer us peace with God.

 

Why is God being with us important? What difference does it make?

We have an enemy that works overtime to make us feel isolated, misunderstood, abandoned. He knows that when we feel alone and vulnerable, we are more apt to listen to his lies. We were made for connection and intimacy, so when we feel alone it is easy for our hearts to make this false conclusion: I am not known, therefore I am not loved.

Jesus is with us, out of love for us, to draw us into relationship with Him. In Jesus we are known, loved, connected – the very things we were created to experience.

Because Jesus experienced life in our skin, He is with us in our joy and in our pain.

Pain is part of living in this broken world. We feel pain on many different levels, and we usually work hard to avoid pain on every level. We avoid it by staying busy, numbing out on Netflix, eating, not eating, drinking alcohol, shopping, working, working out, the list is endless. We want to avoid pain so much that we even take good things and twist them to keep numb instead of stopping and looking our pain in the eye.

And the main problem with all the numbing that we do is this truth: We were not made to live life numb. We were made to push through the fear, look our pain square in the eye, and live life in full.

Does that sound scary? You bet.

But we don’t do it alone.

Jesus stands with us when we face our pain. He guides us into healthy ways of living and thinking and acting. His resources are not limited, and He will provide what we need to face our pain.

On the podcast This Good Word With Steve Wiens, Seth Haines says this on the episode called Inner Sobriety.

“The foundational question is, Can I sit in my pain and feel it without needing to eat, drink, do whatever, look at porn? Can I sit in that pain, can I invite Christ into that pain and then can I cultivate a prayerful imagination of what it looks like for Christ to walk in that pain with me?”

What is your pain? Can you imagine Jesus speaking into your pain? What do you think He would say?

We are not alone in our pain. Jesus stepped from the perfection of heaven into the broken chaos of this world to walk with us. Our God is with us every step of the way.

And what a difference that makes!

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Please join me on my writer’s Facebook page, Erin Ulerich, on Wednesdays in December as we explore the question “What difference does Jesus make?” I’ll be on live (and attempting to speak in complete sentences) at 6:00 a.m. CST, but the video will be available to watch whenever you can. My prayer is that in those moments our hearts will lean toward Jesus in adoration and praise. My hope is that we will enter our day stronger and more peaceful.

O come let us adore Him.

What Difference Does Jesus Make?

Fighting for hope is my all-time favorite subject to write about. Hope is talked about a lot at Christmas, so I could probably back off on the talk of battle, right? Come on, lighten up. Do we have to keep fighting for hope, even during the most wonderful time of the year?

Most definitely.

I have found that holidays seem to amplify daily struggles. It may be that we are busier than usual, but I think it’s also because we have these expectations of happiness, peace, and perfection – standards that we don’t require our every-day lives to meet.

We have these hopes that just for a moment life will balance in perfect peace and harmony, you know, like they do in the Hallmark Christmas movies. We want our meals to look Instagram perfect, and our Christmas craft projects to make it on Pintrest, and not on the Pintrest fail website.

So with all this pressure, it’s not surprising that we struggle during the holidays.

What’s your top holiday struggle?

My biggest struggle at Christmas is remembering why we are celebrating and how that connects to my every-day life. To be honest, it gets lost under the mad dash of secret Santa presents, real presents, school programs, parties, decorating, luncheons, get-togethers, and the pressure to somehow stay in budget.

My joy gets lost in the busyness and I have trouble remembering that Christmas is really about Jesus coming to earth, experiencing life in this broken world, and making a way for us to be in relationship with God.

God opened the folds of time and stepped into our world as one of us.  It’s unheard of. It’s mind-blowing. And yet, even as I’m writing this, it feels far away.

I want things to be different this year.

So my Christmas gift to myself (and you) is a few moments on Facebook Live in the early morning of each Wednesday of December. Let’s grab a cup of coffee (if you’d like) and focus for just a little bit on this question: “What difference does Jesus make?” My prayer is that in those moments our hearts will lean toward Jesus in adoration and praise. My hope is that we will enter our day stronger and more peaceful.

Please join me on my writer’s Facebook page, Erin Ulerich, on Wednesdays in December. I’ll be live at 6:00 a.m. CST, but the video will be available to watch whenever you can. I am looking forward to connecting with you in these few moments of sanity during December.

O come let us adore Him.

It’s A Wrap!

I’m blowing the (virtual) dust off the bog today after a summer of no writing.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

I wrote grocery lists, snarky texts to blow off steam after surviving  pre-teen drama storms, and SOS texts to my husband when those storms reached critical mass.

That is not the kind of writing that fills my soul with joy.

In the midst of surviving the summer, I learned something the hard way.

After creating an entire video series on the 5 areas that are critical for taking care of ourselves, this summer I neglected 99% of these areas.

(What kind of person creates an entire video series and then doesn’t follow her own advice? Geez.)

This neglect impacted every part of my life. Not all at once, of course. But as the weeks went by, I grew more agitated, more reactive. I didn’t like being around myself. I wasn’t nice to myself either.

This experience makes me even more convinced that these 5 areas really are CRITICAL for living life with courage, strength, and resolve. Just ask the people who had to live with me while I spiraled into my pit.

Today I am so excited to share the final video in the series, the wrap-up, with a few thoughts about badass-ness and fighting for hope. I encourage you to go back and watch the entire series. The videos aren’t long, because getting back to badass isn’t complicated, it just takes focus.

I created this video series because I firmly believe that the way we care for ourselves impacts the way we fight for hope. When I am feeling badass, when I am living life with courage, strength, and resolve,  I make brave decisions, I speak up for what is right, I respond to situations instead of reacting in anger and panic. It gives me strength as I fight for hope.

Our world needs more of this kind of badass.

 

The Back to Badass Wrap-Up

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Nausea is a Good Thing

We’ve made it to the fifth (and final) area of our video series: Back to Badass: Living Life with Courage, Strength, and Resolve.

This area is Stepping Toward our Dreams. The action point for this area sounds pretty easy, Do one thing each day to step toward our dreams, but you and I both know that pursuing dreams involves overcoming fears, facing our insecurities, and our feelings of worth.

Not so easy.

We need courage, strength, and resolve to even start pursuing our dreams and these qualities actually increase as we pursue our dreams. It’s a wonderful cycle that helps us push past our comfort zones. You know, that place where things feel safe and comfortable and where you hear the whisper “that’s not for you. that’s for other people.”

I’m not against safe and comfortable by any means, but I’ve discovered that if I’m staying safe and comfortable out of fear… then it’s not a healthy place to be.

“If your dream doesn’t make you want to throw up, it just isn’t big enough.” When it comes to pursuing dreams nausea can be a good thing, especially when it’s accompanied by that “I was made for this!” feeling.

 

I’d love to know your thoughts on these quotes:

If your dream doesn’t make you want to throw up, it’s just not big enough.

It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you aren’t.

As I pursue my dreams, I ‘ve discovered that I am my own roadblock 90% of the time. I think of all the reasons I can’t do something instead of asking “What would it take for this to happen?”

I am more likely to ask this when I am living with courage, strength, and resolve.

What about you? What would it take to step toward your dreams?

 

Resources:

Podcasts: Chalene Johnson, Lewis Howes, Michael Hyatt

Hopewriters  – The community at hopewriters.com has changed my writing and inspired me to continuously step out of my comfort zone. Being a part of this community has helped me move forward in the writing side of writing and in the sometimes-scary tech side of writing. The low monthly fee is the best investment I’ve made toward my writing dreams.  (The link on the sidebar of my blog is an affiliate link.)

 

 

Soul Care: The Heart of our Badass

Soul Care gets to the heart of who we are and what we believe. And it’s important, because we aren’t just bodies that need rest and food. We are whole people, made up of mind, body, and soul, and each part of us needs attention.

Soul Care is connected to our badass because what we believe guides the way we live. Without taking care of our souls, our badass becomes a blustery take-it-or-leave-it, I’m-on-my-own attitude. But it’s really hard to sustain courage, strength and resolve based on our own bluster.

When life takes the wind out of my sails and I’m left thinking Wait, what just happened here?  the state of my soul guides my actions.

This subject takes some thinking over, especially if we aren’t used to paying attention to the care of our soul. To help with this, I’ve included the transcript of the video below the video.

I would love your feedback on this section of Back to Badass: Living Life with Courage, Strength, and Resolve.

In this series we’ve talked about taking care of our body through getting enough sleep, eating healthy, and exercise. The fourth area of getting back to badass focuses on taking care of our soul.

I have found in my journey that when I spend time learning about God and about His love for me, it helps me feel balanced, it fuels my fight for hope, and it gives me a foundation for my badass.

Fighting for hope is a trait we share across the globe and have shared through the centuries. No matter how dark our world gets people cling to hope.

I believe that we are drawn to hope, our hearts crave hope, because we were created by the God of hope. He made us for hope, He gave us the ability to hope, and He is the source of lasting hope. And lasting hope is what we need as we push against the darkness in our lives. Lasting hope is bigger than we are because it is grounded in God’s nature and character.

If He created us for hope, it makes sense to get to know Him and find out more about the hope He can give.

How does this connect with getting back to badass?  Remember our definition: Badass is a feeling of courage, strength, and resolve. Soul care gives us a foundation for that feeling. Feelings change so easily and our circumstances can change in a heartbeat. And that makes it difficult to hold on to that feeling of courage, strength, and resolve.  But the more I learn about God and His love for me – His love that never changes – it gives me steady footing.

If lasting hope is grounded in God’s nature and character, then we can experience this hope by getting to know Him. We come face to face with Him in His Word. Through the pages of the Bible we read what He says about who He is, who we are, and how much He wants to be in relationship with us.

In Soul care, two of the most important questions we can ask ourselves are:

How do I view God? and How do I believe God views me?

We live much of our live based on the answers to these questions.

For a large portion of my life I thought God was distant, disappointed in me, and loved me because He had to. I got the picture that Jesus was a reluctant Savior. As a result, I alternated between feeling like I could never measure up, so why try, and working hard doing good things to try to earn God’s love.

This yo-yo-ing back and forth was exhausting. I finally hit a point where I asked myself, Is what I believe about God accurate or am I just repeating what others have said through the years? So I started looking in the Bible for the words and phrases God uses to describe who He is, and the words and phrases He uses to describe what He thinks about me.

The Bible is more than a book. It is God’s words, saying this is Who I am, this is how much I love you, and this is what I’ve made you for.

And what I’ve found is that God loves me fiercely and wants His best for me. And, at the same time, sometimes His best comes through difficult times. But in those difficult times He is with me and He gives me the courage, strength, and resolve to keep going.

We tend to define God’s love based on our circumstances. If things are good, God must love me, if things are bad, He must be mad at me. But the difficult times are times when we can run toward God and toward His truth and find our courage, strength, and resolve in Him.

Badass rooted in God doesn’t waver with circumstance. Because He is steady, we can rest our feet firmly on Him. Because He is steady, we can believe beautiful truths like : I am loved because God loves me. I am not alone because God is with me. I have worth because God made me for purpose.

Finding my worth in Him gives me courage to do big, scary things. And when darkness does close in, having my hope in God gives me the resolve to keep on going.

Soul care helps us walk in courage, strength, and resolve in spite of our circumstances and in spite of how we might feel.

The Action Point for today is to answer those two important questions:

How do you view God and How you do believe He views you?

The answers to those questions really do shape our lives.

I would love to know your thoughts on soul care. Do you have books or resources that help you in this area?

I am so glad to be on this journey with you!