A Covering…

Today’s temperature is struggling to stay in the sixties and the wind is blowing. Roll your eyes if you want, but this south Florida girl is shivering. Where’s the blankets?

There’s a new trend, supposed to help with sleep, with anxiety, and all kinds of things: weighted blankets. I picture a comfy couch, soft lights, and peace. The weight of the covering relaxing frayed nerves and tense muscles.

It’s a lot like God’s grace, love, peace. He covers us in them, the weight freeing us from the weight of our sin and the weight of the world. “He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” (Psalm 91:4 NLT)

I have a grandson who loves his blanky at bedtime (and when those shaky legs are trying to learn to walk). Shaky legs are ours as we learn to lean on and into living for God rather than for self. The world wants us to buy into things, into power, into government, into anything other than the freedom that’s ours when our comfort comes from the Comforter.

“God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.” (2Corinthians 1:3b NLT) I scooped up my two year old grandson recently when he hit the slippery floor and cuddled him til the tears stopped. I was his comfort as the hurt subsided. Our Father holds us right into eternity, no more tears or hurts forever.

So whether the temperature outside is freezing or sweltering, there is a perfect covering. One who covers all our shame, all our regrets. Who looks on us and sees the covering of Christ’s righteousness and smiles in love.

My prayer for those grandsons, for myself, and for you is that Jesus is who we reach for when everything appears to be too much. No more will we listen to the voices of criticism or doubt or empty promises. But we will listen the voice of the One whose love is a covering for all seasons.

 

 

 

Better His Presence…

Sometimes the most fun days are those spent sitting and laughing with someone we love. My hubby, my best friend, my children, and now grandchildren. Their presence making life sweet.

Sometimes a quiet, no-interruption day complete with breezes and mountains and a good book are the best.

It is amazing in this harried world with so much evil abounding that peace and joy are still ours to be had. And often they are found not in things but in people and in moments.

Recently heard a wonderful man of God who works in an area of severe Christian persecution. My heart resonated with two profound statements. The first was: “Better His presence, than His promise.”

Yes, we all want the promises and, as Christians, we have them, nothing can change that. The sweetest promise being that death is conquered and eternal life is ours. But do we want the promise more than we want the Giver? We are selfish by nature, so I’ll admit that I cling to the promises and when the going gets tough I cling to the Giver. I’m working on that. I want to cling to Him and long for Him – finding my waking hours seem empty if not for His presence.

“You will show me the path that leads to life; Your presence fills me with joy and brings me pleasure forever.” (Psalm 16:11 GNT)

The second statement He made was essential. When asked over the years what his favorite version of the Bible is, he answered: “Open Bible is the very best version.” If our Bibles aren’t open, then we’re not learning from them. So if they gather dust it really doesn’t matter what version they are.

The more I study it, the more I learn. There are few books I re-read. Of those, even fewer I learn more with each subsequent reading. But the Bible, it has new messages, insight, help every time I open it. It is indeed a living manuscript. “For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 HCSB)

As we head into the crazy ‘holiday season’, my prayer is we’ll start each of those crazy days requesting His presence and savoring His goodness. That before we read texts or posts we’ll open our Bible. Better His presence than any presents.

 

Love Better, Best

I’m learning what God has always shown, has always been. Love is not finite. It doesn’t have a limited capacity. 

There’s a certain freedom the world just doesn’t get. Freedom that comes when we learn love is not a thing or an emotion – it is the infinite God. Without God we see the results all around us. Yet with Him all the turmoil and evil can’t touch us. Throughout the Bible we are reminded that love covers over sin, restores brokenness, brings healing – only His love through us could do these things.

With years has come wisdom to see beyond now. And that vision helps me sigh and lift my eyes heavenward. “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14 NIV)

Even if the shadows I once feared become reality, still they are not always. Always is not here. Always is a no ending. Always is love that says to our hearts ‘fear not’, ‘be still’, ‘trust’, and sometimes ‘wait’ and sometimes ‘no’.

This is the truth about always love: “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1Corinthians 13:7 NIV) We can’t always – but Jesus does always. The promise of eternity nullifies the power of sickness, death, financial ruin, homelessness, divorce, poverty, and whatever our sorrow is or may be.

Ellie Holcomb sings a beautiful song: You Love Me Best. She sings of a mother’s love, a father’s love, a spouse’s love – concluding that even when those are wonderful, God loves us better. I love my children, yet still I failed them at times. I love my husband, yet still I disappoint him at times. My mother loved me dearly, yet still it wasn’t enough.

Human love will never be enough. But it is a gift from God to share in a weary place called earth.  Perfect Love is best and it is ours. Trusting in Him for the here and now sets us free to love without limitations. “But as for me, I trust in You.” (Psalm 55:23b NIV)

 

 

Timeless…

 

How easily, these days, we discard anything from the past. We rewrite it to suit what we want others to believe. We sequester what doesn’t fit our comfort. We call outdated that which is timeless.

We do it with people, history, science – and the Bible. But because we say something isn’t so, or is so, doesn’t make it true. All it does is show us for the foolish selves we are. “Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And He chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.” (1Corinthians 1:27 NLT)

Reading an old hymn written one hundred ninety-four years ago, I saw a timeless truth that gives great comfort to all generations who read it. Each verse building on the next and culminating with “faith to sight, prayer to praise”. Someday faith will be replaced with sight never again obscured. And prayer will be done, replaced with praise for all He has done and will do.

A new grandson was born just a couple days ago – we prayed long before his debut that he would come to know Jesus as Lord & Savior. From my perspective life is short, from that of child it seems like he has forever.

One great thing (among many) about being a grandmother, is that my grandchildren think I know more than their parents. Smile. But what I know isn’t what I want to pass on to them. Who I know – that’s what I want to pass on. “Know that the LORD is God. It is He who made us, and we are His” (Psalm 100:3 NIV)

If I pass on the accumulation of all I’ve learned about education, work, talents, skills – I will leave them nothing worthwhile. But if I pass on to them wisdom from the Wisdom Giver, they will be rich. Because the hope that I have becomes theirs, then their children’s, and on through however many generations are left until Jesus returns.

Want to live forever? Only one way, know Jesus as Savior. Want future generations to know you? Only one way, share Jesus with them now. A timeless legacy.

 

 

 

 

Receive It…

How are you about receiving – gifts, praise, correction, criticism? For me, all of those are hard. For the sweet ones like gifts, I’m awkward, wanting the giver to feel special. For the hard ones like correction, oh I must admit I don’t like being wrong.

How about how we receive love, acceptance? I like those ones, warm and cozy. So when God lavishes that rich love of His on me, I’m arms open wide. But when He lays on a bit of conviction to show me my wrong thinking, arms crossed.

What is something you do well? For me, I like to think, it’s writing. Yet how wounded I feel when there’s constructive criticism. Maybe for you it’s singing, or cooking, or teaching, or ______? But how to accept that we don’t always get it right?

It’s the same with God’s love and correction. I want to have His love flow through me to others and I want to mature in my relationship with Him. But how often do I not receive, or maybe perceive, the instruction in His Word or the prompting of the Holy Spirit. “And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:6 NLT)

Call out – that’s what changes everything. Just saying ‘Oh, Father’ usually changes my whole perspective. There are so many things Jesus tells us to receive: His love, grace, mercy. His provision, constant presence, truth. His peace, freedom, inheritance. Also His correction, rebuke, reminders.

When it comes down to it, we really don’t have all that much to offer. That’s an ego buster. But truth is, Christian or not, anything we have, we’ve learned from those who’ve gone before; wisdom from previous pioneers. Who we are is simple: children of God. As His children all we offer needs to flow from Him.

There is no greater honor than to be called by Him. A high calling it is – and so whether it’s love surrounding us at the moment, or a bit of much needed discipline, let’s receive it. For those He calls he also equips: “Now may the God of peace…equip you with every good thing to do His will. And may He accomplish in us what is pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20a-21 BSB)

 

Do Everything…

You can learn a lot from a two year old – about being brave, about trying.

I’m not one who likes to try new things. I like the routine of life. Sure, a vacation here and there. But don’t talk to me about eating a dish I can’t pronounce or backpacking in a foreign country. But a little guy just over two feet tall learned all about jumping in the pool and swimming to the side this summer. All about swinging high even if your tummy feels funny. And often he would say: ‘I can be brave with a little help’, as he was trying his new adventures.

Hmm – a little help. We’ve actually got a whole lot of help. The Holy Spirit in us, the Bible to lead us, the Son interceding for us. And this reminder: “Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong.” (1Corinthians 16:13 CSB)

Life will throw a lot of curve balls – during those times it’s easy to be alert. We try to shore up our faith. We seek courage and strength from God, from family and friends. But in the easy times? We tend to think we can coast along.

Evil and our own weaknesses don’t take holidays. In fact, when we’re in coasting mode is often when we can be most susceptible. On guard and alert to: not compromising, being aware that satan would relish tripping us up, that the motivation of many is selfish. Be courageous and strong by: praying, studying the Bible, being in the company of believers, living for Jesus not for self.

The very next verse says: “Do everything in love.” (1Corinthians 6:14 CSB) Not much wiggle room there – everything. The thing is, try as we may to be on guard and be brave, things aren’t always in our control. But in all the things of life, we are to have an attitude of love.

What does that look like? Something for us to ponder as we go about the mundane everyday and as we encounter the unexpected. Be alert, stand firm, be brave, be strong – but most of all do everything…in love.

Breaking & Prayer…

How broken our world is. Tragedy is reality for so many. And for those who watch from afar, do our hearts break? 

In our own backyard do we not see how life is no longer precious – if it’s inconvenient. The unplanned pregnancy, the elderly failing body. Our world’s answer: bury them or throw them away. How have we come to this? How do we not weep? How are we not in fervent prayer – constantly?

Can we go the world over and extinguish all evil? Do we have the funds to fix every need? No, but we have a God who longs to hear our call. “He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.” (Psalm 91:15 NIV)

Let’s cry out to God for those right in front of us and those half a world away. Let’s never say in our hearts that prayer doesn’t make a difference. To do so makes God a liar and Jesus a fraud.

For the Father calls us to prayer and there wasn’t one thing Jesus did on earth without praying. Many times the Bible says Jesus looked up, then prayed. From multiplying a few fish to feed thousands, to healing a blind man, and everything in between – Jesus prayed. So much more should we. “Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard Me.” (John 11:41b NIV)

My heart and head are learning new things. Much is accomplished by a steadfast child of God who prays. ““Prayer is not telling God what to do. Prayer is partnering with God to see that His will is done.” (Stormie Omartian)

You and I can’t make all the wrongs right but we can pray and acknowledge we serve a God who can and will work all things out. We have been given great power – the power to pray. Jesus’ disciples noticed that when Jesus prayed, miracles happened. There was power accompanying His prayers. Yet they didn’t ask Him for that power, they asked Him to teach them how to pray.

Maybe if we will break a little over all the hurt and heartache around us and call out to God, we will see miracles. But we’ll never know until we lift up our eyes and pray. “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them.” (Psalm 34:17a NIV)

 

 

Rest…

Some nights sleep is illusive. I’m not fretting about anything in particular. And weariness isn’t really in my mind or body – could it be soul rest is missing?

In this world, that wouldn’t be a hard thing to miss out on. Just when I think I’m getting prayer, Bible study, and seeking the Holy Spirit (and all the things I know are God’s best for me) figured out – there’s this uneasiness. Is it a stirring to more, is complacency setting in? Or is there something on the horizon and preparation is needed?

Do you find yourself, at times, needing just a bit more…rest? Then here’s what we need right now: “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV)

There is a call to action in that verse. Can’t just read it and be done. Three words: Come – To – Me. If you’re like me, I look at those words and say: ‘I do, I come to You, where is this rest?’ It’s there and I know it. When I’m lost in reading His words, it’s there. When I lose myself in fervent prayer, it’s there.

But what about in the middle of the night? Or the unanswered prayer? Or the fear that creeps in now and then? “Take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29 CSB)

Another call to action: take up My yoke. Have I, have you? How do we? It goes back to the first step – come to Me. The yoke of accepting salvation, of taking off our old ways and habits and putting on His ways. Daily putting on His Word, covering ourselves with prayer, and, with every step, seeking the Holy Spirit to show us the way.

Jesus says about all this: “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30 CSB) And it is. So much lighter than fretting about all the world’s troubles and politics and unfairness and money and relationships and all that s-t-u-f-f. So much lighter is the load of t-r-u-s-t.

I want to trust, but I’m learning it’s a lifelong process. When we accept Jesus, there are some things that change immediately – and it’s different for each of us. And there are some things we will wrestle through ever so gradually. Why? Because the plan He has for each of us is perfected through a life that looks back and sees Him each step of the way. A soul that says ‘I trust You, Lord – help me do so more each day.’

So tonight whether we sleep soundly or not, we can still rest easy knowing He never leaves us.

Heart Filler…

When I first became a Christian everything about this new life was new to me. I didn’t know much, really anything, about the Bible. I didn’t know Christian songs. I knew little about praying. I certainly didn’t know anything about the Holy Spirit – what was it? I soon learned the question is ‘Who is He?’ Still, the answer was long in coming.

It wouldn’t be until many years later that I finally understood. And knowing Who He is makes a huge difference.

“But I tell you I am going to do what is best for you. This is why I am going away. The Holy Spirit cannot come to help you until I leave. But after I am gone, I will send the Spirit to you.” (John 16:7 CEV)

If you don’t know Jesus yet, then this whole thing about the Holy Spirit will seem even more foreign. So hard for finite flesh and blood to grasp God and His Son Jesus. But never just tack on the Holy Spirit. For all of God is all three. The great favor of God for all who believe since the death of Jesus, is the constant presence of the Holy Spirit.

Looking back over the years, I know He’s been right there in me. How much I missed by not acknowledging His presence, yet I see His fingerprints spread throughout my days. “For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:5 NLT)

Some years ago I noticed running through my back thoughts almost constantly is a song about God. A few words of a praise song or an old hymn, a melody about Jesus. My brain isn’t wired to be that focused on anything, so I know this is the Holy Spirit’s way of keeping me on track. Reminding me of God’s constant love, Jesus’ all time sacrifice, and the ever present help of the Counselor. “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.” (John 14:26 CSB)

Now more than ever, we need the presence of someone who won’t lead us astray. Someone who is there in the tough times and who rejoices in the good times. And, if I’ve learned anything over the years it’s this: no human can fulfill those needs all the time.

Call on the One who dwells in your heart. In the midst of trouble – He is Peace. When lost – He is the Way. When needing assurance – He is the Comforter.

 

Never Lost – Have GHS…

Easy access to GPS has truly changed how we get from here to there. Used to be we would listen carefully to someone’s directions, or for a longer trip we made sure we had maps. I am so impressed with the pioneers of old. They didn’t have maps, but once they returned, they could lead others back with them.

I for one love the freedom GPS provides, but have often pondered: what if the satellite system that powers them went down? A lot of people would be lost.

Not long before Jesus left earth He told His followers: “You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:2 NIV) Paraphrasing the response here: ‘hold on, we don’t know where you’re headed, how can we know the way?’

None of His followers wanted Him to leave them. They had grown to love Him, respect Him, trust Him, believe He was Messiah. Leave? Why would He leave? And what would they do without Him? Ah, there’s the really cool part. He had to leave to fulfill the prophecy of the Bible. He was visibly leaving earth – but He never said He was leaving them. In fact, He told them: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b NIV)

But how can He be gone and be with us? “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (1Corinthians 6:19a NIV)

The Holy Spirit, a gift from God, put in us to show us the way. The way to live. The way to pray. The way to understand the Bible. The way to share Jesus. The way to navigate through life’s ups and downs. The way to where Jesus is and we shall someday be.

I need that. A constant companion, who – if I will only listen – will make sure I don’t lose my way. He travels with us – to work, at the dinner table, around the corner or across the sea. He never leaves us. He is a very present help in trouble and peace in the storms. He is joy in the midst of sorrow and He is strength when ours has vanished.

Better than GPS is GHS – God’s Holy Spirit. With Him we are never lost.

HAPPY TODDLER PLAYTIME

PLaY CReaTivEly WitH YoUr LiTtLe OnE

Mandy Hughes

PURSUING GOD WITH PASSION

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