Homesick…

My parents divorced when I was young. I came to Florida each year to see my dad – my only time with him. Torn between two homes.

I used to love airports, the smell of jet fuel and the hustle bustle. Then I had babies and with each passing year I really just liked the view of my children in the front yard best. We assign a place as ‘home’ – sometimes an actual structure, or maybe a town or country. The account of the birth of Jesus starts off by the government requiring people to travel to wherever their ancestral heritage began and register as a citizen. “And everyone went to his own town to register.” (Luke 2:3 NIV)

When I became an adult my mother moved a number of times. But wherever she was, when I walked through the door, that was home. It was her that made it home, not the place.

Yet even if we are blessed with an earthly home that draws us, it never quite fills our longing. We’re homesick like a child away at camp. And in so many ways, we are all homeless. Nothing really satisfies: remodeling, cozier blankets, minimalizing. We keep looking for ideas.

Jesus says “no one who has left home…for the sake of the kingdom will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.” (Luke 18:29-30 NIV) Perhaps He’s trying to help us see that if we change our concept of ‘home’ from tangible here on earth to forever in Him, we’ll realize we’ve got everything – now and forever.

Holley Gerth said in a devotion: “home is not a place; home is a Person. And He is with us always. His love is the place we can stay wherever we go.”

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1 NLT) All of Psalm 91 speaks of Him being our refuge, our fortress, our dwelling, our rescue, our salvation. And there it is – Salvation is home, and Salvation is a person. Salvation is Jesus and when we rest our head on the pillow of His protection, we are home.

Homesick? Come Home – your Rest is Jesus, wherever you are.

 

Wonder-full Plans…

I’m noticing lately all us wanderers. I can’t help but think: what if, instead, we were wonderers?

We wander around stores looking for gifts. We wander around outdoors seeking quiet. We wander all our days and what do we find? Emptiness mostly. So I’m thinking its time to wonder all our days instead.

We need Jesus Wonder: “As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet Him.” (Mark 9:15 NIV)

Will we run to greet Him? When my grandson arrives in the mornings little arms stretch out to me, his heart running to mine. Does God see us, His children, like that? Do we stretch out arms eager to fall into His? What a smile starts on my lips and works it way through my very being at the sight of my children and grandchildren. So it is with God – even when we don’t run to Him.

“God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” (1Corinthians 1:9 NIV) When we wander from Him, He still longs for us. His arms ever reaching for our faithless hearts. Oh wanderer let’s seek Him.

And, by the way, there’s nothing we need to do first. No messes to wash away. No changes we need to make. He’s in the business of cleaning us up, transforming us.

This is the promise I cling to when I forget Him in the busyness. This is the truth I know when I worry for my loved ones. He has a plan for each and every one of us – and His plans are not spoiled by us or any other force in the world.

Each day – and dark nights – always there. Don’t think so? Things are too bad, too hopeless? He’s forgotten you? Not a chance. Some wondrous day all this won’t even be a memory. “You have done many things for us, O LORD our God; there is no one like you! You have made many wonderful plans for us. I could never speak of them all–their number is so great!” (Psalm 40:5 GNT) Someday those familiar arms that have carried us through will once and for all embrace us and we will indeed wonder always.

All I Want…

Christmas lists are being made. Toys, games for the young. Clothes, electronics for the adults. And more.

So here’s a prayer to carry into the coming month – a little something to rest in, to rejoice over, to remember for The Gift…

Let not my heart be fooled by shiny wrapping. Let me instead be wrapped up in Your love. Lead me not to the best sale. Lead me instead to Your peace. May my decorations not be Pinterest worthy. But may they glorify You in ways no one can miss. 

“You are my God. Show me what you want me to do, and let your gentle Spirit lead me in the right path.” (Psalm 143:10 CEV)

As I put cookies and treats out to impress, impress upon me instead the Bread of Life. When songs of ‘the season’ play – stir in my soul alleluias for all seasons. When gazing at twinkly lights, lift my eyes to the velvet sky and remind me of the Star announcing your arrival.

May the scented candles and aroma of pines fill my senses and direct my thoughts to the the fragrance of Christ. “For we are like a sweet-smelling incense offered by Christ to God, which spreads among those who are being saved and those who are being lost.” (2 Corinthians 2:15 GNT) A loving reminder of how the Father perceives me because of Jesus.

Candy canes and hot chocolate – snow globes and snow men – poinsettias and wreaths…what wonder there is in all these trappings – but there is more wonder still in a wee babe born to a virgin. Laid in a manger, loved by an adopted father. Given priceless gifts by wise men. Despised by those who thought their power was most important.

Yes, heavenly Father, remind us to rejoice in Christmas – Your best gift. To rest as Jesus did – for because of Him we need not lose sleep. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6 NIV)  This is all I want.

 

Hold My Hand…

Sometimes we just need to squeeze a hand that loves us.

During labor I watched as my daughter fiercely squeezed her husband’s hand. When I got close to her face once she grasped my hand with all her might as well. And when her little one came into the world and lay on his momma’s chest, little fingers squeezed her finger with all his strength.

We have a Hand Holder – always right there with us. Sometimes we just forget to hold on with all we’ve got. “Yet I am always with You; You hold me by my right hand.” (Psalm 73:23 NIV)

The thing is: He never let’s go. We may loosen our grasp and run ahead. We may forget His hand is there as we flail in the turmoil. But that Hand, the strong and capable ones that formed and fashioned stars and wee babes, that Hand guides and protects. And that Hand is tender in mercies and fierce in strength.

We need strong. The times we’re in move so fast, change without notice, catch us off guard – try to steer our course. We need a strong hand that says: ‘this way’. “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ “ (Isaiah 30:21 NIV)

A new babe is in our lives, his momma and papa will hold his hands many times over the years. Their hearts will never let go. And so it is with the God who knit you together – His heart has you. His salvation is for you. His love knows no bounds. He grace is abundant. His mercies don’t cease. 

Most of all his forever for you will show just what a life of hand-holding is really all about. For now you will rest secure in the hands that calm storms. Hands that give joy in the midst of what seems the worst. And hands that will guide you safely. So take Him up on His offer – just hold His hand. “I am the LORD your God. I am holding your hand, so don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.” (Isaiah 41:13 CEV)

 

Just Sing…

There’s a new song out – a little album done mostly for kids – you know, like you and me. Kids still on the inside – that we see a glimmer of now and then. (More about the song at the end.)

Every new day is a new song to sing – to the One who sang the first song. No coincidence that joy often pours forth in song. Not being one of those blessed with an angelic voice, I hold back. Except, when I’m all alone – and when I’m with a certain one year old. Then songs to the Maker pour forth.

“Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have worked salvation for Him.” (Psalm 98:1 NIV)

His right hand – well that would be our Jesus who sits at the right hand of God. Yes, this Savior has worked salvation in us for the Father. Right there is something to be overjoyed thank-full for. Whether we live in plenty or struggle – whether we live in healthy or broken bodies – whether we are surrounded by loved ones or we’re lonely…salvation is our joy.

Joy – ours in the midst of all of life. And just when we can’t find it He reminds us: “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy.” (Psalm 126:5 NIV) Even tears are not wasted, they will be turned to joy.

The world is full to the brim with everything except for praise for God. No song breaks through the evening news reminding that God is in control. No politician comforts with promises from the Promise Maker. And so it is to us to dwell in praise and spread it. The song in our hearts is where the Hope this world needs will be found.

Oh how I love this Psalm: “I think about you, God, before I go to sleep, and my thoughts turn to You during the night. You have helped me, and I sing happy songs in the shadow of Your wings. I stay close to You, and Your powerful arm supports me.” (Psalm 63:6-8 CEV)

Yes, during the night, dark moments – always there. During sunshiney times dancing and singing with us. So as Ellie Holcomb tells us in the song below – Sing!

 

 

Have Fun…

Remember your mom calling after you as you went out to play: ‘Have fun…’ ?

It’s a bit hard to recall just how that works. How does one have fun when the bills pile high, the workload grows, sad things creep in? I have a life friend and whenever we’re together the hysterical happens. Laughter makes our stomachs hurt. Perhaps it is in the comfort of another who does not judge, but loves, that we able to release our grown-upness and just live.

Yes, Jesus said in this life we will have trouble – but He also gave us jumping fish, silly monkeys, and bouncing goats. He gave us toddler antics, burps and body noises, and hair that sticks up in the mornings. ‘Just live’ He says to us – enjoy all that makes a smile and savor it. “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4 NIV)

Maybe the fact that I have an almost two year old in my life is causing this pondering about fun. Turning round and round til your dizzy is a favorite right now. Makes me think what fun life was for Adam and Eve before the fall. No worries about looks, lists – no unmet longings. And daily walks with God the Creator of the joy all around.

A pureness you and I have never known – but just wait. It is coming. Oh you are His beloved and what He has in store forever is more fun than we can dream.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19 NIV) For now, some trials, for always He meets our needs. So live!

Dare to live like a child. Learn all over how to jump. Stick your nose right into a flower. Delight. “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4 NIV) Turns out those desires aren’t the selfishness of wants, the simplicity of needs – but the very longing only He can fill. When we are filled with Him, tapping toes and dancing feet are not so strange.

Holley Gerth in her devotional ‘Hope Your Heart Needs’ reminds us: “In the beginning God created… Genesis 1:1 Every small wonder in our lives is evidence He still does…”   So, have fun!

How Many Oranges?

I live in citrus land. Did you know from the time you plant a little orange tree until it produces the first couple of oranges is at least three to four years?

A sweet lady recently told me she moved here thirty-six years ago. She never thought she would be here more than a couple years. She recalled wanting to plant an orange tree or two when they arrived but didn’t think it would have enough time to bear fruit before she moved on. She never got that tree planted. She asked “How many oranges could I have picked by now?”

It made me think how much we are like that. Is it that we lack faith to think things will turn out like we want? That we don’t want to start and not finish? What holds us back from small orange tree dreams and even those bigger?

“So do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ “ (Matthew 6:31 NIV)  Or ‘Should I plant an orange tree?’.

Just think of all the little things we worry or fret over. Which shirt, what purse? Which restaurant, what time? Not to mention the bigger things – move across country, go on a missions trip, sell a house? I love that just a couple verses later Jesus says: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34 NIV)

But why does He tell us not to worry? Because He has given us promise upon promise. Long before Jesus walked the earth – even as He set stars in place and breathed life into those first lungs – His promises were for sure and for always.

I like to think I keep my promises. To be a good friend, wife, mother. To get my work done. To help someone in their time of need. Truth is we all fall short on our promises at one time or another. But it’s not that way with our Promiser – “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23 NIV)

We have to ask ourselves how much time have we wasted with our worrying – how many oranges could we have picked? (Souls touched, love given, friendships forged – if only we had planted the tree.)

Silenced…

There’s a lot of voices shouting these days. If you’re loud enough, does that mean you win?

Reminds me why I love early morning. When dusty sky sparkles with a few last diamonds and all is quiet – everything seems brand new. Each soft dawn is a call to find His quiet voice. A chance for our soul to breathe a little peace – to stare in wonder as everything turns to pink and orange and a new day begins.

Wonder – it’s lost on us these days. Everything is ho-hum unless it’s sensational. A loud protest, a terror attack, another scandal – are these what amaze us now? “Light is sweet; how pleasant to see a new day dawning.” (Ecclesiastes 11:7 NLT)

This world wants to silence what is good – what truly amazes. The voices say God is non-existent, have your higher power but don’t tell us there is a Creator. Yet we spin through this universe with new dawns, rolling tides, and seasons delighting us in ways we forget to be delighted.

Oh yes, this world and the enemy of God wants to silence anything and anyone who would point to a creative God. One who made the tiniest celled life to the greatest wonders. And yet the very quiet of a bunny scooting to the trees and a fish skittering through the pond shout His love.

“It is wonderful each morning to tell about your love and at night to announce how faithful you are.” (Psalm 92:2 CEV)

Here’s the deal – someday the deceitfulness of man and the deceiver who chases us will be silenced – forever. But there will be a loud trumpet call and the one called Truth will touch us with eternity. Just when we think we are being silenced, not heard, making no difference – we will be noisier than ever.

For on that day we will be dancing, shouting praise, singing joyfully, calling to one another ‘I knew it, God has made a way! Jesus has returned, His Spirit in us has led us safely home!’ Now that’s a noisy new day I can’t wait for.

“It will happen suddenly, quicker than the blink of an eye. At the sound of the last trumpet the dead will be raised. We will all be changed, so we will never die again.” (1Corinthians 15:52 CEV)

Enemy Approaching…

We are obsessed – with electronic communication.

Be it social media, text, email – all is a blinking prompt and words sent in seconds – that can’t be taken back. Even the best of writers are often misinterpreted, let alone the text that comes across as angry, the email that seems to accuse, and the social post that embarrasses.

But one thing it’s truly good for? Stirring up anger, division, hate – and a whole lot of hurt. Ooh, the enemy is rubbing his hands together. “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud…” (2Timothy 3:1-2a)

But let’s say we choose our words with caution and we aren’t leaving a trail of electronic bitterness. Where are our eyes? Still on the screen. Children beg for mom’s/dad’s attention, spouses long for real conversation, friends lose closeness – all for the sake of not missing anything flashing away in cyber land.

So how can we conquer the slave master of our day and once again be people who look into each other’s eyes? Jesus said where our treasure is, there our heart is also. How easily distracted we can be. So God reminds us:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23 NIV)

Satan is sly, clever, a true deceiver. What better way than the anonymity of a sleek phone. How many relationships destroyed by pornography and the privacy of our own little screen? How much discontent sewn by seemingly innocent posts about the perfect wedding, best decorated baby room, most creative dessert?

A song for children has these lines in it: ‘be careful little eyes what you see; be careful little ears what you hear; be careful little tongue what you say’. Why? Because these are gateways that can lead to great fulfillment or great sorrow. So be careful, the enemy is approaching and wants us to follow the crowd he’s gathering.

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1Peter 5:8 NIV)

The List…

I make lists. And I love crossing them off.

Each little ‘to do’ that’s done somehow is satisfying. But recently in another great book by Max Lucado, Unshakable Hope, I read this at the end: “In the first chapter I told you that the promises of this book are some of my favorites. Now that I’ve shared my list, I urge you to create your own.”

That’s a challenge we should embrace. The real challenge will be identifying favorites. If we found all the promises in the Bible and wrote them down we would have a very long list. But what about some that speak right to our hearts, written as though they were just for us?

I’m thinking that as we find them, we personalize them. Like this: “His divine power has given Paris everything she needs for life and godliness through her knowledge of Him who called her” (2Peter 1:3a NIV) Your turn, put your name in there, for He has given you everything you need as well.

This is fun, you first: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard (insert your name) heart and (insert your name) mind in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7 NIV)

The thing about this list is we don’t cross them off, we hold them and read them til that someday we see the Promise Maker face to face.

As we find these treasures, make our lists, and read them again and again they become part of us. There when we need them most. When doubt creeps in, or we utterly fail along the way, or we reach out to a hurting soul – sure words that don’t let us down and will help us through.

It seems to me that weariness is overtaking just about everyone around the world these days – oh so tired of the way of things. The brokenness of our fallen world piling so high some can no longer find hope. But that doesn’t mean Hope has deserted us. For Jesus will never leave us or forsake us – and He is coming back.

Which reminds me of this promise – it’s for you and for me: “and Paris and (your name) will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2Peter 1:11 NIV)

Running Away…

There’s an unrest in my soul these days. Haven’t pinpointed it yet – but experience tells me it’s preparation. A feeling – things don’t stay the same, no matter how much I hate change.

I know because more than once a day I want to run away – to the wild and quiet Tennessee mountains or even a small town somewhere that nobody knows me. But I stay, firmly planted, knowing that running never makes it all better.

So where is faith in all this. That’s when I most know faith is His gift – and His faithfulness holds me steady. Whispering faith through words on His pages or songs sung by those who know Him or in creation reminders. “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23 NIV)

So much meaning in that dear word ‘faithful’. It’s a timeless promise and intertwined throughout the Bible. When our legs are most shaky or doubts surround He calls to us – just like He called to Joshua so long ago. First He said “Be strong and courageous…” (Deuteronomy 31:7a NIV)

How? When hurricanes wash away any normalcy, when politics continues its corruption, when hurt stabs deep, when the unjust of it all mounts up. How? “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you” (Deuteronomy 31:8a NIV)

Be with us – oh yes, always with us. With us when running away seems to be so tempting – but another step of faith leads us on. One more step with Him until they lead right up to a lifetime of walking His brave and His courage.

Still doubt? Still wonder? “He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8b NIV) A promise we can plant deep in our hearts and it will grow. A promise that reminds life is hard, but His love is sure. A promise that ends with a forever of no more doubts and no more running away.

So for now let’s walk day by day holding tightly to our Hope. And when that inevitable change rocks our world for better or worse – we’ll know we’re not alone. At the end of his life, Joshua, who faced what seemed insurmountable obstacles, declared: “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15 NIV)

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