The Joy of Hope Fulfilled

Lois Helland, Freelance Writer

The Connection Our Hearts Are Longing For February 16, 2012

Filed under: Devotional,Inspirational — Lois A. Helland @ 10:22 pm

I have been invited to speak to our church’s MOMS group tomorrow on the topic of  “prayer.” I have learned a lot about prayer lately because I’ve been facilitating a women’s Bible class on the subject. Here is a brief summary of some of the things I’ve been learning and what I will share with the MOMS.

 

2.17.12 PS–Ladies at the MOMS meeting requested Scripture references from this morning’s session, so I will be adding them ASAP. Thanks for your patience! LH

 

The Connection Our Hearts Are Longing For: A Message for Women

 

No matter who you are, where you’ve been or where you’re going, I believe can tell you what the #1 need of your heart is, and I think I can tell you how you can have that need fulfilled as well.

 

Because I read the Bible, I have learned that humans, both men and women, were created for a purpose, and we are designed with a longing to have that purpose fulfilled. I have also learned that only God can satisfy that desire, and that He does so by giving us the opportunity to connect with Him through His Word and through prayer.

 

Women–even those of us who have known the Lord for a long, long time–often mistakenly think that our career, our spouse or our children can fulfill the deepest needs of our hearts. Other times we think that delving into a particular ministry will satisfy our desire to be connected. Sometimes we think more shopping, more vacations, more girlfriends or more gemstones will fill the empty places. And yes, once in a while we even think another romantic novel might dispel the longing for the “something more” that our heart tells us is out there.

 

The real truth, however, is that we are created for an even greater purpose than our careers, our friendships, our marriages and our families. We are created to have an intimate relationship with God that overshadows everything else in our lives. The God of the universe not only wants to save our souls, He wants to fill the needs of our hearts as well! We long for more of God and God longs to give us more of Himself. The connection that makes it all happen is prayer. He created us this way so that we would seek Him and find our fulfillment in Him!

 

But the kind of fulfillment that He offers doesn’t just happen. It takes an intentional move on our part. He wants us to be in His Word every day of our lives. And he wants us to learn to really pray–to draw near to Him with our whole heart. I don’t mean that God is asking us to pray more for other people. We already do a good job of that, for the most part. I mean that God want us to pray for ourselves more! He wants us to pray for more of Him, for a deeper understanding of His plan and purpose for our lives, and for His comfort, strength, wisdom and guidance in the day to day details of our lives.

 

Let me give you an illustration. If I have an electrical appliance such as a toaster, for instance, or a blender or a stick vacuum or a  lamp, I know that it was manufactured for a specific purpose. And I also know that as long as that appliance is not plugged in to any source of power, that appliance is not doing what it was created for. For a toaster to toast, it needs to be plugged in. For a blender to blend, it needs to be plugged in. A lamp that is not giving light is not fulfilling its purpose, and it’s not fulfilling its purpose because it’s not connected to a power source.

 

To (loosely) translate that example into real life, I would put it like this: You and I were made for a purpose. Unless we are regularly connected to our spiritual “power source” (God), we cannot fulfill the purpose for which we were created. I believe it is prayer that makes the connection our hearts long to have with the One who created us and loves us.

 

God has told us in His word that He is eager and willing to give us more of Himself. These are some of my favorite Scriptures:  “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)   “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” (Psalm 37:23 NLT)   “The eyes of the Lord move to and for throughout the earth, that He may strongly support those whose hearts are completely His.” (II Chronicles 16:9 NASB)  “You . . . act on behalf of those who wait for You . . . You come to the help of those who gladly do right, who remember Your ways.” (Isaiah 64:4-5 NIV)

 

 So I ask you: How serious are you about having an intimate, soul-satisfying relationship with God? If you want to be intentional about drawing near to Him, then I challenge you to pray these prayers. Don’t pray them for other people. Pray these prayers for yourself and see what God will do!

 

1.   Lord, draw me into a closer relationship with You! Give me a greater desire to read Your Word. Give me a greater desire to spend time with you in prayer and meditation. Give me a greater desire to spend time with other believers. Give me a greater desire to worship You.   “But if you seek the Lord Your God, you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29) “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:38)  “Delight yourselves in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)

2.   Lord, make my heart clean! Help me to see my sin, confess it to You and turn from it completely. Help me let go of past hurts. Help me forgive the wrongs others have done to me. Set me free from anger and jealousy. Set me free from negative thoughts and emotions. Set me free from fear.  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9 NKJV)  “Create a clean heart within me, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

3.   Lord, help me surrender every area of my life to You! Help me to seek Your will above my own. Help me to trust You to do what’s best for me. Help me surrender my career and my finances to You. Help me surrender my husband and my children to You. Help me surrender my time and energy to You. Help me surrender my future to You.  “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for good and not for evil to give you a future and a hope.'”  (Jeremiah 29:11)  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

4.   Lord, strengthen, protect, comfort and provide for me and those I love! Help me to seek You during times of uncertainty, pain and loss. Help me to trust Your goodness and love toward me even when I don’t understand what You’re doing. Protect me and those I love from evil. Provide for our needs from day to day. Allow me to experience Your peace and comfort in every situation in my life. “I want you to trust me in your times of trouble so I can rescue You and you can give Me glory.” ( Psalm 52:15)  “But I trust in You, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.  My times are in Your hands.'” (Psalm 31:14)  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (I Corinthians 1:3-4)  “And we know that in all things, God works for the good  of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

5.   Lord, give me wisdom and help me fulfill Your purpose in my life! Help me to put my life in order. Give me a desire to establish my priorities according to Your plans. Remind me to seek You first when I need guidance and direction. Help me be willing to listen when You speak. Grant me Your wisdom in both big and small choices in my life. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go. I will counsel you and watch over you.” (Psalm 32:8)  “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts,’ says the Lord, ‘neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.'” (Isaiah 55:8-9)  “Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been His counselor? Who has ever given to God that God should repay him? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever! Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36)

6.  Lord, fill me with more of You! More of my favorite verses:  “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:18-20a) “I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and hight and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)

 

 

An “Attitude of Gratitude” February 13, 2012

Filed under: Inspirational — Lois A. Helland @ 10:41 pm

Hi, blogger friends! Here are some thoughts to remind us that the deliberate act of being grateful can have a profoundly positive effect on our lives. Enjoy! LH

Compiled Quotes About Cultivating An “Attitude of Gratitude

 “There is a calmness to a life lived in gratitude . . . a quiet joy.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice . . . it is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint.” –Henri M. Nouwen

 “God has given us two hands, one to receive with and the other to give with.” –Billy Graham

“There are three requisities to the proper enjoyment of earthly blessings: a thankful reflection on the goodness of the giver, a deep sense of our own unworthiness; and a recollection of the uncertainty of our long possessing them.”           –Hannah Moore

“Begin by thanking Him for some little thing, and then go on, day by day, adding to your subjects of praise . . . until you see in everything some cause for thanksgiving.” –Priscilla Maurice

“The greater our present trials, the louder our future songs will be, and the more intense our joyful gratitude.”              —Charles H. Spurgeon

“When we are grateful for the good we already have, we [tend to notice] more good into our life. On the other hand, when we are ungrateful, we tend to shut oursleves off from the good we might otherwise experience.”—Margaret Stortz , brackets mine

“Gratitude has the power to transform your outlook and open your eyes to life’s fullness. It can transform a trinket into a treasure, a meal into a feast, a deficit into a gain.” –Louise Rousseau

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”  –Thornton Wilder

“Find the good—and praise it.” –Alex Haley

“Cultivate an attitude of gratitude and forgiving. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

The Intentional Pursuit of Intimacy with God February 8, 2012

Filed under: Devotional,Inspirational,Personal Reflections — Lois A. Helland @ 4:19 pm
 
 

Our Women’s Bible Study Class has been working to develop a “plumb line” of sorts to which we might refer as we evaluate our day-to-day habits in the area of spiritual growth. We have concluded that our lives can reflect true intimacy with God when we make intentional choices about drawing near to Him in the following ways . . .

 

Eight Effective Habits of Women Who Are Intentional
About Pursuing Intimacy with God

1. The habit of reading the Word of God on a daily basis and acting in obedience to what the Word says

2. The habit of acknowledging my spiritual condition before God on a daily basis, including

• confession of my sin and repentance (turning) from it
• extending forgiveness to others
• recognizing my dependence on the Holy Spirit’s help to obey God’s laws, to serve Him with a pure heart       and to resist the enemy’s efforts to thwart God’s plans for my life
• submitting myself to the work of the Lord and the will of the Lord in every area of my life

3. The habit of giving praise and thanks to God in worship on a daily basis

4. The habit of praying for my needs and the needs of others on a regular basis

5. The habit of cultivating an attitude of gratitude and generous giving on regular basis

6. The habit of memorizing Scripture on a regular basis

7. The habit of meeting together with other believers–especially women of faith–on a regular basis

8. The habit of drawing away to evaluate my time, activities and habits in light of my life’s purpose and priorities on regular basis

 

Things Don’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Perfect! January 31, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lois A. Helland @ 11:58 am

A very dear friend introduced this phrase to me over a decade ago, and I will always be grateful for her wisdom! Thank you, LB, for being a smart and loving woman, and for sharing your insight with me.  I love you!  Lois

THINGS DON’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT TO BE PERFECT 

Every year, when the month of January draws to a close, I begin to find time to write again. I won’t make excuses for my lack of time spent on the computer . . . it’s just a fact of life for me right now. Spring and summer and fall are always very busy with yard, garden and family, and the holidays are always a pretty intense time at our house, too. It’s during this slow part of the year–when all those things are finished and “put away” for awhile–that I feel I can give in to the literary longings that goad me every day, all year long. For a few weeks now, I might actually be able to hunker down in my office and WRITE without  feeling like I’m neglecting something or someone  important!

I have been continuing my efforts to simplify areas of my life that seem to take up an inordinate amount of time and energy. But even simplifying takes time! I have noticed that getting rid of  material things that I don’t really need or use has helped streamline repetitive tasks like housecleaning. And adopting the “good enough” philosophy about certain daily tasks that don’t require perfection has helped to rein in my compulsive behaviors a little bit. I still have a long way to go.

I intend to approach my writing–including this blog–with the same attitude. So many days, I choose to write nothing because I don’t have time to get it “just right.” Well, as of today, I am going to work at sitting down to JUST WRITE instead of trying to get everything JUST RIGHT!

So, just for today, I will share the blessing with you that LB shared with me: “Always remember, that in the big picture of life, things don’t have to be perfect to be perfect!”

© Lois A. Helland, 2012

 

You Just Never Know . . . Four Generations Later! June 16, 2011

Filed under: Inspirational — Lois A. Helland @ 11:45 pm

I had a heart-warming realization today while I was making strawberry shortcake for dinner:

I referred to my grandmother’s handwritten shortcake recipe, baked it in my mother’s pie pan, and used strawberries my daughter picked from plants that I had planted.

Kind of neat, isn’t it, that Martha Downing-Ecklor (who died four months before my birth in 1961) lives on through her recipes four generations later?

It was a simple, everyday act of making dessert for my family; it was a profound connection between past and present. I wonder what my grandmother would think if she knew?

 

Finding the Courage to Do What It Takes

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lois A. Helland @ 2:01 pm

“Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, your God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work . . . is finished.”    I  Chronicles 28:20  

 

New Friends and Old: WTP 2011

I had a few simple goals in mind when I attended Write to Publish Christian Writer’s Conference in Wheaton last week:

First, I wanted to find an agent,

Second, I wanted to find at least one more publisher who was interested in considering Footprints to Freedom for publication,

Third, I wanted to sell my “Giving My Dreams Back to God” article, and

Fourth, I wanted some sort of confirmation from the Lord that I was doing what He had called me to do—to be certain that I wasn’t just following a whim of my own imagination.

On paper at least, the goals seemed like something I could handle. When the time came to act on them, however, I almost lost my nerve and ran like a scared rabbit.

Of course, the morning I was scheduled for agent and publisher interviews, the west side of Chicago experienced a torrential deluge of rain that soaked me to the skin and made my hair into a flat, hair-spray gooped mess. I had planned to go back to my dorm room after morning worship to put my “pitch” materials together, but the rain—and street closures due to flooding—prevented that. I was so discouraged, I almost cancelled all my appointments!

Thankfully (probably because many faithful family and friends were praying for me) while I was planning my escape, the Holy Spirit gently reminded me that He was in control, and that all He asked me was to courageously keep moving in the right direction so He could do the work He desired through me. I was also reminded of the sacrifices of time and money my husband had made to enable me to attend the conference. So, with a prayer on my lips, I went through with the interviews.

By the time the day was over, it was obvious that my steps had been ordered by the Lord, and that the outcome never had been dependent on my ability or self-confidence. In my weakness, my Heavenly Father reminded me that He alone makes me able to carry out the tasks He has called me to do; if I will just trust and obey, He will take care of the hard stuff.

What I blessing I received that day and the days that followed: By the time the conference came to a close, I had three agents who were willing to consider representing me, I met a fiction editor from a major publishing house who asked me to submit my book materials for consideration, and a request for an 800 word article from the editor of a well-known Christian magazine that has always been on my “dream” list of publications for which to write! I was looking for a confirmation about the Lord’s call on my life. I certainly found it at Write to Publish 2011!

Looking back on the week, I can say, without one shadow of a doubt, that it was God’s hand that granted these successes! I was scared, void of self-confidence, and inadequately prepared; He was trustworthy, dependable, and faithful. When I came across I Chronicles 28:20 today, I knew the verse described the lesson God had been teaching me at the conference: “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged,  for the Lord God, your God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work . . . is finished.”

Bless the Lord—and His (good) goals for my life!

 

Will the Real Scotty McCreery Please (Continue to) Stand Up? May 20, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Lois A. Helland @ 2:42 am

I rarely EVER watch television—life is too short!

But somehow, I have been “hooked” by this year’s version of American Idol. I didn’t start watching until the process was down to eleven contestants, but the talent of those eleven kids wowed me so much, I just had to keep watching! Every one of those final ten or eleven are winners in my book. Poise, self-confidence, outstanding voice quality, showmanship . . . you name it, those contestants have it!

When Scotty McCreery was voted into the finale this week, I was thrilled.

But I am amazed that America has voted him all the way to the top. Scotty didn’t use any flambouyant set techniques like flaming pianos or laser-type fireworks. He didn’t use wild hair styles or eccentric clothes, and he didn’t use sexually explicit actions or clothing to sell his songs.

America loves Scotty McCreery because he is real—real voice, real clothes, real guitar playing, real sincerity and real humility.

Isn’t that surprising, in light of the fact that the vast majority of popular musicians today use all of the props Scotty doesn’t use? Just think of Idol’s feature performers and feature video premieres from the the Thursday night shows: Lady GagGag, for example. 

So Scotty, this message is for you: Whether you become the next American Idol or not, I hope you will ALWAYS be the real thing like you are today. You are destined for an award-winning recording career, that is certain. So when I see you on TV  five years from now—or ten—I hope that the real Scotty McCreery will still be standing up for all that’s genuine and true.

And I hope America will still be loving you!

PS: The fact that your favorite quote is listed on the Idol website as Phillipians 4:13 is awesome!

 

 
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