Under the Rainbow…

Wherever you are – stop – look around – we have it all right here and right now.

Why do we need to long for ‘over the rainbow’, when right here under it is where God has put us? Under this rainbow, sure there’s hard stuff, but there’s so much more. There’s birds flitting, there’s lizards darting. There’s green trees, there’s breezes blowing. There’s salvation and eternity ours now – not someday over somewhere.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b NIV)

When I focus on petunias overflowing, a one year old drinking from the garden hose, I’m reminded under right here is good. When tragedy strikes as it did last week only two hours from me – I can understand why not everyone thinks right here is so good. The thing is, for those affected that know Jesus, many tears will still flow. Hard days will be ahead. But God is right there with them in this most dreadful storm. But for those who don’t know Jesus, only fleeting condolences are left – and that has to be unbearable.

This won’t be the last tragedy in this world. But that doesn’t mean God doesn’t care. It means man continues to play out his sin led ways. It means the world needs Jesus more and more.

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26 NIV)

When that is what we know, what our hope is found on, then here under the rainbow is bearable. I can hardly sit still when I think about our someday. When this body that sometimes aches and gets sick will never feel that way again – that’s something to look forward to. When there will be no more tears, no more moms with empty arms – that’s something to do a little dance about.

So today I choose to sing: Somewhere under this rainbow, God is good. His mercies never end. His grace takes away all my mistakes. His love covers me til I am overcome. His peace finds me in the midst of my worst fears. Eternity with God isn’t someday, it’s now – only it will be perfect when we see Him face to face.

If you stopped by because you read my devotion today over at Encouragement Cafe, WELCOME!   So glad you are here!​​

Fine Print…

If you loved me, you would… You don’t love me because… Real love doesn’t…

We put fine print on love. Only thing is, we’re not the only ones with fine print. A world full of broken hearts begs ‘just love me’. And because that looks so different to each of us, the brokenness continues.

But there’s this love we overlook. The breeze in our hair on a hot day, the food budget that stretches enough to feed tummies, the pillow to rest on each night. Love saying: ‘I’m all around you, yours for the taking.’  “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.” (1John 3:16 NIV)

The exciting part is the Father raised Him back to life – so we could take His hand and walk in a love that has no fine print. Only bold letters. A book of letters showing our brokenness, His provision, and that the best is coming. That’s a love letter!

Then there’s the hard life things – making us question. Does God really love me? Because if He did He wouldn’t let this happen. 

Sometimes hard things say love best. Our fine print says only the outcome that’s happy or my answer shows love. Lisa Appelo, who knows what it is to walk the hard road, to cry valleys of tears recently said: “But God’s love has been proved – not by giving us an outcome but by giving us the cross.”

I’m thinking those who witnessed the cross did not think it appeared to be a happy answer. Turns out it is the happiest answer ever.

An answer to all the bad we’ve done/will do. An answer to all the bad that has happened/will happen to us. The answer that says we are loved because someday “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4 NLT)

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day – chocolates, flowers, cards, I love yous for some – loneliness for others. Questioning for too many. Today if we are blessed with confident love can we give some away? Today if your heart is more a broken mess, will you chance it one more time? Jesus wants to shower you with comfort, lavish you with an ever love.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1John 3:1a NIV)

If you stopped by because you read my devotion today over at Encouragement Cafe, WELCOME!   So glad you are here!​​

Search & Rescue…

Ever notice the hardest person to be honest with is…yourself?

I sit down to have a little prayer time, God time, telling myself ‘I’m choosing what’s best’ – all the while thinking about what I need to get done. What I’m really doing is checking off my good girl ‘to-do’ list. “Oh Lord, You have searched me and You know me.” (Psalm 139:1 NIV) And He does, and still delights in me – and you – despite our distracted ways.

It’s not that we’re insincere, that we are completely self-centered. But we are restless.

We may know all the right words, walked with God many years – or few, but our hearts give us away. We are a lifelong process in the hands of our patient Father. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” (Psalm 139:24 NIV) Notice this passage, Psalm 139, begins and ends with God searching us, pursuing.

Jesus is the very thing we think we’re missing. The thing we think we’ll never find. The thing that will satisfy our thirst. We all want someone who pursues us, so enamored with us they don’t give up. We put all that hope in earthly relationships. And we miss out. The very One who does pursue us – we run from. The One who is crazy in love with us – we forget. The One who hasn’t given up, who won’t give up, who will ever pursue – we don’t let catch us…completely.

What we don’t understand is our restless heart will be that way until it rests in God.

The same words David used to describe God’s pursuit of him are there for us to claim as well: “He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me.” (Psalm 18:19 NIV) Rescued – past tense, done deal. And, oh yes, delights, not because of anything we do, but because of who He is. And He is: Love.

Lost & Found…

Who hasn’t searched for missing car keys, misplaced glasses, an earring? But sometimes we’re searching for deeper things.

Sometimes we’re not even looking and something lost finds us. Just this week I found out I have a niece I never knew about – how does that happen? I didn’t misplace her, I didn’t even know to look for her. She found me – and crazy enough, she didn’t know her search would lead to finding an aunt.

Kind of like when I was waltzing along through life. Sometimes I knew something was missing but I dismissed it. And then suddenly the One searching for me all those years, helped me find Him. Jesus hadn’t lost track of me, but He had lost me to the world – until that moment I said in my heart ‘is this what I’ve been missing?’ – and pursued Him.

“I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and will bring you back from captivity.” (Jeremiah 29:14a NIV) Captivity. Yes, captive to a world who holds on tight, blinding us – we search and find only things that don’t last.

But here’s the truth: the Light shows the way to our misplaced longing: “The kingdom of heaven” (by the way, you and me, we’re the kingdom of heaven, those who are called believers, followers). “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When He found one of great value, He went away and sold everything He had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45-46 NIV) Do you see? He not only searches us out, helps us find Him, but to secure our forever He went to the cross and gave everything He had. Even when we didn’t know it was just what we needed. To Him, we are of great value.

This week my daughter lost a diamond in her engagement ring. She searched diligently for it. But it was her fiance who found it. What a picture of Jesus. We look and look in life for what will satisfy. But it is only Jesus who truly fills us up.

How do we find Jesus? “You will seek me and find me when you seek Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13 NIV) As my daughter has given her fiance her heart, so we give Jesus ours. The more we surrender it, the more it is filled to overflowing. That’s just like Jesus, we think we’re giving to Him and find out all along He is the giver. We were lost, now found.

Don’t Look Away…

Scary is different for us all. But we pretty much react the same way. As children: pulling covers up over our heads. As adults: turning away or closing our eyes. 

One evening a ragamuffin bunch set sail and encountered winds that kept them from making much progress. In the wee hours they thought they saw someone walking on the water towards them. Panic. “But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ “ (Matthew 14:27 NIV)

‘But Jesus’ – He is always our help. ‘Immediately’ – knowing His voice would calm them, He spoke. ‘Take courage’ – take Me, He is our courage. ‘It is I’ – the source of our faith and trust. ‘Don’t be afraid’ – don’t look away or fear or worry, keep your eyes on Me.

Love the next verse: “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to You on the water.” (Matthew 14:28 NIV) If it is You? We always doubt.

It just gets better. “Come”, he said.” (Matthew 14:29 NIV) Jesus says this through every moment of every day to us. When you are tired, come. Worried, come. Hurt, come. Longing, come. Lost, come. What makes you close your eyes, look away, fear? Just come, turn those eyes to Him.

So Peter got out and walked on water. The only human to ever do that, ever. “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid” (Matthew 14:30a NIV) But when. When we try to fix things on our own. When we give up hope. When we trust money, or people, or government, or self – anything that takes our eyes off Jesus. “and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ “ (Matthew 14:30b NIV)

We sink. When we pull away from Jesus, when He isn’t the source for our next steps, we sink.

The question is, do we cry out like Peter – ‘Save me!’? “Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him.” (Matthew 14:31 NIV) Same for you and me. Immediately – we may not think so. Maybe we still stay sick, maybe the outcome still isn’t pretty. But trust is about knowing that even when the answers aren’t our idea of answers – Jesus is always right there and He knows how it turns out.

Don’t look away when facing the waves, look to Jesus.

If you stopped by because you read my devotion over at Encouragement Cafe, WELCOME!   So glad you are here!​​

No Walls, Know Love…

Ever been imprisoned? Me either. Can’t even imagine. This girl has to walk outside and look up at blue skies, breathe in fresh air.

Author Dee Brestin tells of ministering to ladies in prison. Sharing the Lord one on one and in groups, opening up the Word with them. Finding a shared longing we all have – whether our depths have led to prison walls or invisible ones. The longing to be loved, worthy.

As I reflected on this universal need, my hands were cold. Sun streaming through the window warmed my back and the question came: what warms my cold? The light crept over my shoulder and lit the page in front of me, again a question: what lights my way? What keeps me from going crazy in this hard and crazy world?

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (Romans 8:35 NLT)

Again and again we have to remember that His love isn’t moved, changed, lessened or increased by us – our shortcomings, our doubts, our faith or faithlessness.

Love – ask ten different people to define it, get ten different takes. Ask Jesus to define it, and He settles it: God. God is love and any attempts we make at love are an imitation of the Father. Created in His image we are most like Him when we love – and most at peace when we believe His love for us. Think you are too unworthy or that your actions can make Him waver, think again:

“No power in the sky above or in the earth below–indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39 NLT)

Whether we’re behind windowless, concrete walls or invisible walls put up daily by our doubts there is freedom. Funny thing about this love we all long for: we find ourselves with more of it, the more we give it away. Oh as He drenches us in love, will we sprinkle a little here and there? Want to know God’s heart, be assured you are worthy because of Christ? Love those who are unlovely, difficult, and who don’t return it. Truth is, we’re often just like those we withhold love from.

If you stopped by because you read my devotion today over at Encouragement Cafe, WELCOME!   So glad you are here!​​

Go, Be…

The Sunday message has often ended with ‘Go be the church’. I knew what he meant, I knew the intention. I thought I did.

But knowing and action are different. Knowing can be acknowledging and even agreeing. Action is both of those and then being. But not in just a single action, not in some great cause, not even in good deeds. It is a lifestyle.

2018 has me reflecting – a lot. Wondering, how can I more truly glorify this God I proclaim. Again not in some act of service, though that is good. Not in some cause I give to, though that is good. But in a living moment by moment way.  A way that so fills life…that end of day exhaustion…is due to overwhelming joy lived out.

“And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21 ESV)

 

And there it is – the act of surrender – to listen for the voice in the noise of life that says ‘this way’. And when we listen, then those moments will add up to a day spent being His – for souls around us needing to find their way. When we spend ourselves in countless ways that live out a joy that longs to bubble out of us, we will find an endless strength to do it again. Maybe this year, you and me, maybe we can put aside agendas and lists and listen. Intentional.

“The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and great in faithful love.” (Psalm 145:8 HCSB)

Do we believe this? If the God we serve is gracious (no matter our shortcomings), compassionate (hurts when we hurt), slow to anger (so patient with us), great in faithful love (immense love that never wavers) – then this day will we live what we believe? Love this from a Matt Redman song:

Here I am, God
Arms wide open
Pouring out my life
Gracefully broken
My heart stands in awe of Your name
Your mighty love stands strong to the end
You will fulfill Your purpose for me
You won’t forsake me, You will be with me

So our challenge this year is: Go, Be. Eyes, heart, hands – all His. Go: wherever we find ourselves, whoever we’re with. Be: the joy-filled soul in the midst of suffering and blessing. Spreading His glory, forgetting self.

The Call…

Invites are great – the call asking you over to dinner. The card asking you to attend the wedding. The text saying ‘want to get coffee’.

Many years before my mom passed away I began calling her weekly. It became our habit and it never got old – and now those calls are silenced and I miss them.

We let time slip away all too easily – the calls don’t get made, the notes never sent, the time lost. Great relationships only develop one way: t-i-m-e. Yet in our fast-paced world it is a valuable commodity that we can’t store up or earn more of. And with all good intentions we still squander precious moments. How then to not look back with regret? How to make the most of what we’re given?

I wish right now I was going to write the answer. Ideas come to mind – prioritize, work harder at it, set goals. All human efforts – been falling short since the fall of man. Perhaps the answer is to first listen to the call: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV)

Jesus calls to us through His word, by His Spirit in us – and in the noise we miss it. If He could sit with you and me right this instant, I think He would tell us ‘Spend time with Me – get to know Me. Know Me so well that you feel My hand in yours all the time.’ It is in knowing Jesus that we find He redeems all things and quiets our souls.

“When Jesus says ‘Follow Me,’ He is saying, ‘Come out of the world and into the kingdom of God.’ ‘Come out of danger and into safety.’ ‘Come out of darkness and into the light.’ ‘Come out of stress and into peace.'” (Stormie Omartian)

The call is ‘Come’, He will do the rest. It’s always simple with Christ – not easy necessarily, but simple. “Come near to God and He will come near to you.” (James 4:8 NIV) It is in the nearness, that we find our answers. Trust is built. Faith deepens. What we consider loss, He can redeem. When there are not enough hours, He can make a way. When our soul feels His rest, we will want to extend His invitation. Timeless.

If you stopped by because you read my devotion today over at Encouragement Cafe, WELCOME!   So glad you are here!

Returns…

Christmas is behind, boxes of decorations will soon be put away, and store music is already back to usual. Is life?

We mark time because we are currently captive to it. The difference between December 31st and January 1st is really a calendar year. But we look with great anticipation to putting behind things that saddened or wearied us. Look forward hoping that only good is in store. We wake up December 26th looking to five days later.

“The shepherds returned,” (Luke 2:20a NIV) They were visited, they went to see, they told everyone – and then they went back to the fields. I’m thinking those particular shepherds were never quite the same. Us?

“glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen,” (Luke 2:20b NIV) Maybe it’s about how we return to daily life. We’ve been told the good news, maybe even looked into it, perhaps shared with a few people. But do we return to the ordinary of life glorifying and praising God?

Having a word for the year has become a trend. At first I ignored the idea. Then the last two I had the word grace. I wanted it to be my practice – to give more grace and to rest in God’s grace. This year I think it will be glorify. To attempt to live on purpose in a way that doesn’t glorify self, but points to glory in the highest.

“which were just as they had been told.” (Luke 2:20c NIV) The message of the angels was just what those shepherds saw. We may think the shepherds were lucky, they got to see with their own eyes. We have to see with our hearts – faith. But I think we’re the more fortunate. Jesus said “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:19b NIV) To us He gives the Holy Spirit to see more clearly than eyes ever can. Someday time will no longer hold us, for eternity has no ticking clock.

So as we mark another Christmas celebrated and watch a clock countdown the seconds to midnight, may we awake each new morning praising and glorifying for the gift and the promise.

 

Treasure…

Wish I could freeze time – little feet that toddle, bright eyes seeing all as new – a grandson. I wanted to freeze time with all my children, but it marched on. And here I am, Maam Maam to a little one who finds everything amazing.

I snap picture after picture. I rock a little longer once he falls asleep. Willing time to just slow, for a few more precious moments. And so a young woman must have been bewildered as she held her baby a couple thousand years ago. She knew, like no one else ever would, that this baby was no ordinary child. She did not know all He would do, she wasn’t even sure what all she was to do with Him.

No cameras to capture precious moments, nor a way to stop the clock long enough to take it all in. “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19 NIV)

Things moved fast for Mary and Joseph – not long after His birth Jesus was brought to the temple in the Jewish tradition to be ‘consecrated to the Lord’. First old Simeon comes over and takes Jesus in his arms proclaiming salvation has come for both Israel and the Gentiles. “The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about Him.” (Luke 2:33 NIV)

At that moment gray-haired Anna shuffles over giving thanks to God and telling all who were looking forward to redemption that it had arrived. No rolling cameras, no Instagram, no Facebook to post to. Just two parents and those in earshot – hearing confirmation that God had fulfilled all prophecy – and forever was being offered to all who would believe.

I wonder if Mary held a little tighter with each revelation. Pondering would He be welcomed, royalty, powerful? She could not know the opposite would be true. Selfish man would do all they could to discredit God in the flesh – even try to kill Him.

Mary’s heart must have gone back to treasured heart pictures of baby, child, teen as she witnessed His sacrifice for her and all mankind on the cross. This Christmas will we rush through the decorations, parties, wrapping going every which direction and miss the Gift? Starry nights call us to pause, to slow, to look up and ponder. Snow falls and blue skies beg a moment to show the brilliance of creation. Perhaps it’s time to stop and treasure all these things in our hearts.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of darkness a light has dawned….For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:2, 6 NIV)

Mandy Hughes

PURSUING GOD WITH PASSION

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