The Color of Hope

My friend slipped away to Jesus…three years ago in the wee hours of the morning. Her gain is certain, although I (and many others) continue to feel her absence. She is woven into the tapestry of my heart. Her particular turn of a phrase, her insights, and her encouragement spangle my conscious thoughts. Little mementos of friendship are sprinkled throughout my earthly treasures and I am grateful to be the current librarian of her Bible and personal journals. Today I meandered through the pages and pockets of her well-worn Bible and had a glorious word picture of Betsy’s current reality appear…let me share the story with you.

I found a stash of small cosmetics in the front pocket of the Bible cover and idly rolled them in my fingers while I perused the pages of Betsy’s Bible. I set the makeup down when an underlined passage caught my eye. I think you will appreciate the word picture that emerged. I snapped a picture and laughed to myself for Betsy continues to teach spiritual lessons with the faith tools she left behind…and even with her lipstick!

The inscription on the lipstick case reads, “the color of hope”. What is the color of hope? Well, to L’oreal it is color #531 – a dusty rose…but what was the color of hope for Betsy? When Betsy lay dying, her hope (our hope too) for healing through medical intervention was certainly not fulfilled. Therefore, I’m going to pass on hospital shades of green (or beige) as the color of hope. Betsy was surrounded by folks who celebrated her and hoped to keep her on this side of heaven. That relationship sustenance hope was unfulfilled (suspended for now) so I’m going to discard the warm shades of friendship and companionship as the lasting pigment of hope, appealing though they may be. What are the enduring colors of hope? Here’s a hint carried on the whispered worshipful wings of an old hymn…“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.”[1]

The underlined Bible passage which caught my eye just above the spot where I laid the lip tint reads:

“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you…” (Job 42:5, NIV)

The context of this passage finds Job falling to his knees in repentance after God’s thundered apologetic rife with exemplars of His majesty. Job humbles himself and repents. He is restored and given twice the prosperity he enjoyed before his severe losses and grief. Job begins his response with, “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted..” (Job 42:2, NIV)

Betsy mouthed that sentiment with her daily breath. She declared God’s trustworthiness in Job fashion to her dying breath in fact.  She believed what she heard and read about God. She knew His sovereignty and omnipotence. She lived what she believed. She trusted Him through loss and grief and ministry and marriage and moves and love and cancer and death. She appreciated the sweet frames of her husband, her friends, her family, and her calling. She loved and was loved but she chose to wholly lean on Jesus’ name. She built her hope on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Those are her colors of hope: crimson blood-red and sparkling sanctified snow white.

18 … though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isiah 1:18, KJV)

White as snow, white as snow, though my sins were as scarlet,
Lord I know, Lord I know, that I’m clean and forgiven.
Through the power of Your blood, through the wonder of Your love,
through faith in you I know that I can be white as snow. [2]

Betsy and Hank once named a bedroom in their Willamsburg, VA, home the “Ruby Lips Room” for the particular shade of scarlet which graced the walls. As a grateful hospitality recipient whilst a resident of the “Ruby Lips Room”, I came into contact with the Teuton living-love tapestry shot with crimson blood red and sparkling snow white. I experienced encounters with the majesty of God and was enveloped in His love and mercy incarnated through Betsy and Hank. My hope began to float in the mire of existential pain and betrayal. My heart unmoored from anchoring tangles of sorrow and sin and set sail into seas of grace. I began to see, to really understand, the truths I had always heard.

So now I ask of you…what is your color of hope? Do you have the kind of relationship with God that can weather all manner of illness, grief, loss and pain…and remain unmoved in confidence of God’s goodness and trustworthiness? Do you have the hope of heaven? Do you have hope to sustain you through another day? Betsy’s hope is fulfilled. All that she had heard of Him (that familiar and beloved shape always before her) has been borne out. Her present reality is presence to Jesus in His present risen-ness. I am sure of what I hope for and certain of what I do not see – that she is more alive today than ever and that I shall join her presently and lay down my pilgrim’s pack…to drink in the sight of His beloved face…and enjoy that wondrous banquet of fulfilled hope.

What is your color of hope?

“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you…” (Job 42:5, NIV)

 

[1] “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less” by Edward Mote, 1797-1874

[2] “White as Snow”, CCLI Song Number 491917, 1990 Sound Truth Publishing (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.), Universal Music – Brentwood Benson Publishing (Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.)

 

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This Body You Have Given Me

April 30, 2014           Hebrews 4 – 10

May 1                         Hebrews 10:5-7

“Christ…said, ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me…I have come to do your will, O God’.”

The reference for the Old Testament quote is Psalm 40:6-8. But there it says,

“…my ears you have pierced” which could refer to Exodus 21:6, which says,

“If a servant declares…’I do not want to go free’ then his master shall…pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.”

You, Father, have given me this physical body, with all its earlier flexibility and strength and its current weaknesses. You know how the cancer diagnosis has opened the door for me to share Your trustworthiness and Your saving and keeping grace.

Holy Spirit, help me to say, “I have come to do Your will.” Help me to be a faithful witness no matter what. Thank You that You have not given me more that I can stand and that Your grace and strength have kept me standing when, on my own, I would surely have crashed. Thank You for giving me Your servant Hank as my beloved partner through it all. I know I am blessed and loved.

*from the journals of Betsy Teuton

 

Thought Police

April 28, 2014           Hebrews 4:12-13

“For the word of God is living and active…It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight…”

Because a current news story (about things a wealthy man said in private) has stirred up great negative judgments about him, Hank & I have been talking a lot about a person’s right to think as he wants – not to act on those thoughts, but even to think them.

But here I am reminded that God judges my thoughts and attitudes. Thankfully, I believe He does so for correction and not for condemnation – for purifying, not for punishment. When the Holy Spirit points out thoughts and attitudes I need to examine, is that not an act of love designed to keep me from drawing away from God’s best for me?

Change me, Lord, into one who welcomes Your role as my “thought police.” Help me to respond with gratitude even if the change I’m required to contemplate is very hard to consider.

**from the journals of Betsy Teuton

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Trumping Belief

April 26, 2014

Hebrews 4:3 & 4:1-2 again & 4:11

(3) “So we see that they were not able to enter because of their unbelief.”

¨…the message they heard was of no value to them because those who heard did not combine it with faith (or they did not share in the faith of those who obeyed.”)

Again, confirmation that obedience = belief (if belief leads to obedience). Thus disobedience indicates disbelief or unbelief.

Where in my actions is unbelief indicated? Again, what do I not think is true of You, God?

What behavior or action based on my feelings is trumping what I say I believe? “The man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” Is Jesus saying I must die for Him? * I’ve said Larry Crabb’s lesson so often. (about when choosing to be hypocritical to either your feelings or to your beliefs, choose to be true to your beliefs. The feelings measure is not the better anchor for your life.)

Help me to be consistently true to what I say I believe. “Help my unbelief.” **

*See John 12:25. Anne Graham Lotz devotional for 04/2

** Mark 9:24

From the journals of Betsy Teuton.

Conscientious Consecration

April 10, 2014           2 Chronicles 20:20-27

April 11, 2014           2 Chronicles 29:34

“The priests were too few…so their kinsmen the Levites helped them…for the Levites had been more conscientious in consecrating themselves than the priests had been.”

It sounds like a good reminder to be ready when God calls on you! It’s very much like the story of the 10 virgins – 5 of who were wise enough to take extra oil for their lamps so they would be prepared and ready even if the bridegroom delayed his coming. * Matthew 25:1

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”           – Matthew 24:42

         Help me to be conscientious about being consecrated to Your service. I’m not sure what it takes to be fully consecrated – dedicated? Committed? Holy Spirit, please show me the truth of being “all in” for God. Help me to be brave in the world, not just in Christian circles, and help me to be ready to do Your will.

            Purify my heart, Lord.

*from the journals of Betsy Teuton

 

Counting and Disregarding the Cost…

March 15, 2014

Deuteronomy 16:10 & 17

“…giving a freewill offering in proportion to the blessings the Lord your God has given you.”

“…bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you.”

We are so very blessed. How can we give back to You, Lord, “in proportion to the way” You have blessed us?

You have given daily provision of food & houses & meaningful work & hope & medical care & friends & family & money to spare & beautiful scenes & lovely things in our home & clothes & dancing & eternal life with You & music & singing & words to express feelings & opportunities to help & encouragement & peace & ability to walk, climb, run, read, remember, see hear and speak.

You have given me a life partner more precious than I could ever imagine. How can I give back to You in any suitable, never mind lavish, way?

Change me, Lord, into one who doesn’t count the tithe as any more than a paltry beginning of giving back to You. Make my life a living sacrifice – a gift that brings You pleasure as a parent is blessed & pleased by a small child’s childish art. Help me give as You have given, counting but disregarding the cost.

– from the journals of Betsy Teuton

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Perfect through Suffering…

April 19, 2014           Hebrews 2:10

“…it was fitting that God…should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.”

Psalm 119:75-6

“I know, O Lord, that your laws are righteous and in faithfulness you have afflicted me. May Your unfailing love be my comfort…”

Isaiah 8:17

“I will wait for the Lord…

I will put my trust in him.”

If “perfect” equals “fully mature” in some aspect of life, then suffering seems to be the only way to truly know some things – so Psalm 119’s phrase “in faithfulness You have afflicted me” means that I might suffer because it’s the only way for me to really know what God wants me to know (and what I need to know).

Holy Spirit, help me to keep trusting the Father (You) through a 3rd recurrence of cancer and a 3rd round of chemotherapy and weariness and side effects. Make me a faithful witness to Your goodness and Your keeping power and grace and trustworthiness.

– from the journals of Betsy Teuton

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“When have you totally misunderstood God’s Word?”

March 18, 2014

Deuteronomy 19 to 28 – nothing jumped out for journaling but…

Today’s devotional from The Joy of My Heart by Anne Graham Lotz struck me. Her opening question was,

Do I think Jeremiah 29:11 means nothing bad will ever happen to me since God has plans for good for me?

Do I think “Love one another” (I John 4:7) means to tolerate sin?

Do I think that “in all things God works for the good,” (Romans 8:28) means everything will have happy endings?

Where do I take Your Word to mean that I will never be sick or hurt or disappointed or unhappy or mistreated or falsely accused or criticized?

Forgive me, Lord, for the times I’ve led anyone astray by my own superficial understanding of Your Word & Your intentions. Change me, Lord, into one who knows & honors Your Word in light of Your character & eternal nature & essence.

– from the journals of Betsy Teuton

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What we say and what we do…

March 11, 2014

Deuteronomy 5: 28b – 29 & 32

“Everything they said was good. Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me & keep my commands always…”

Father, I confess that I often say the right thing, but that my heart (my mind & my will) often pull me in a different direction. I don’t want to be double-minded. I want to love & serve You with my whole self.

James 1:8  “…he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”

James 4:8   “Come near to God & He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, & purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

 

* The NIV footnote on James 4:8 equates double-mindedness with hypocrisy. Larry Crabb says we’ll all be hypocrites at some point. The issue is whether we’ll be hypocritical to our feelings or to our beliefs.

Change me, Lord, into one who chooses to be faithful to what I say I believe of You. May I live faithfully, with no behavior that belies what I say.

*Deut 5:32 “So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you…”

-from the journals of Betsy Teuton

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Rose of Bethlehem

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone…For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.”
– from Isaiah 9

I can’t read this passage without feeling a waft of the mighty wind and holy fire of God over my soul. Isaiah speaks this sobering and exhilarating reminder just as I am caught up in the material and temporal peak of secular Christmas. At the root – Christmas is a victory over darkness. Hope washes away the mire of despair into which the world has sunk. Joy rays penetrate the gloom. Love germinates and puts forth a shoot. …and the tiny Rose of Sharon blooms. It will wear the thorns in the most rending fashion of all history…but its crushing will perfume the world forever as a fragrance of life to those who accept its sacrifice or the stench of death to those who reject it.

“Oh, Rose of Bethlehem
How lovely, pure, and sweet
Born to glorify the Father
Born to wear the thorns for me”