Save, Don’t Save…

When I write something and then close it out, a dialog box pops up ‘Save or Don’t Save’. Two little boxes, one big question.

Kind of like when we clean out the garage or attic – save, don’t save? Stuff that at one time had meaning – enough to store it away even after its usefulness.

Fortunately God doesn’t use a program with a dialog box and an easy button to push. “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn its people. He sent Him to save them!” (John 3:17 CEV) That’s why you and I don’t get to decide for others. In moments of frustration we would hit ‘don’t save’.

But this Father of ours, our Creator, the One who loves when we give no reason to, chooses save every time a lost one looks to Him.

What a sweet picture – not only did God send Jesus here to walk this earth, but after Jesus returned to sit at God’s side He now speaks up for us. We are His and when our actions condemn us, He intercedes for us.

“He is forever able to save the people He leads to God, because He always lives to speak to God for them.” (Hebrews 7:25 CEV)

Jesus before the Father saying things like: ‘Yes, she lied, but I paid for it on the cross.’ ‘Yes, he had an affair, but my blood covers over his sin.’ ‘This one doubts and doesn’t trust You all the time, Father, but I made a way even for her lack of faith.’

And then instead of save or don’t save there’s this: “How great is God’s love for all who worship him? Greater than the distance between heaven and earth! How far has the LORD taken our sins from us? Farther than the distance from east to west!” (Psalm 103:12 CEV)

You, me – saved for all eternity and looked upon as worth keeping forever.

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

Free Fall…

Ever actually seen a field of wheat? Me either – but I love the pictures showing stalks gently blowing in the breeze, like a sea of gold.

These days machines do much of the work taking the grain from the stalk and leaves – stuff called chaff. But back in the day before all that modern equipment, wow, hard work – messy – time intensive. The workers would spread the sheaves out and beat them and then begin tossing them in the air. The wind takes away the lightweight unwanted chaff and the grain falls to the ground.

A picture of us. Standing in our own confidence. Then life happens. We stubbornly hold on to all we’ve known. But little by little, if we let Him, God breaks us down. All our chaff – selfishness, pride, greed, ugly things we hold on to – begins to blow away.

For us it is a lifelong process. Some days much of our good grain – compassion, generosity – becomes apparent. Other days the chaff fills the air around us.

Love this quote by George Eliot “Oh the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with You, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”

The breath of kindness, just as we are. Free falling grain into the hands of our trustworthy God. No pretenses needed, for He knows us better than we know ourselves. He looks upon our worst moments and still says “This one is mine.”

A Faithful Hand, in the midst of our faithlessness, beckoning to our spirit to trust, to let His love transform us, to finally be crushed into something useful. The grain that fell to the ground still has no use. Milled into a fine powder then mixed with oil, water, and yeast it bakes into a wondrous aroma and life sustaining food. Us too, transformed by the renewing of our spirit with His sweet aroma to those around us.

“He saved us — not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy — through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5 HCSB)

8:45am

Funny how we mark things with time – the year of the hurricanes, September 11, 2001, the call this morning from a tearful child “I’m on my way to the emergency room”.

The slow motion moments. Moving at the speed of light to get to her side but feeling like time has come to a standstill. The praise news is all is well – the soul news is God’s there even when all isn’t well.

“He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble,” (Psalm 91:15a NIV)

In the midst of chaos His peace is always being offered – but our eyes become focused on our own sufficiency and forget His. On my way to the hospital a homeless man, head down, with his sign. A plea for help – not oh so different from mine. And then the blessing: me with no cash but I did have bottled water and a Bible, my apologies for not having more. “Thank you, no worries, life is getting a little better each day” he tells me.

That’s it. Each day is another day closer to being with Jesus and no more emergency rooms, no more homelessness.

Why oh why do we doubt? Has God not proved Himself faithful over and over – in the minor and major life happenings? Yes, death still comes, sickness still weakens, marriages dissolve, jobs get cut. In those moments, O Lord, take our eyes off our perceived ability and put them on Your moment by moment provision. It is in the jumping ahead, the what ifs, and the ‘no please’ – that we lose our way.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34 NIV)

We don’t know the next calendar date we won’t be able to forget – but we can know the God who doesn’t let a sparrow fall without His noticing. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me.” (Matthew 14:1 NIV)

Eyes Fixed…

How do you teach a one year old about Easter? The little guy in our life is thrilled to point out birds in the blue sky, search for the airplane he hears overhead, and loves to come up to the base of a tree straining his gaze upward to see the top.

So I sing songs about a Savior, His love, His creation. But how do I tell him the wrongs we all do, did, will do caused this Savior to be nailed to a tree?

For now, I choose to do as this little one naturally does: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2a NIV) Soon enough he will begin to see sin for himself. Choosing to say ‘mine’ instead of share a toy, temper tantrums, and unfortunately the really vile all around him.

Then I can tell him: “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame,” (Hebrews 12:2b NIV) Why would Jesus suffer so? In the few thousand years before His earthly ministry, man had proven most cruel and He knew we would continue down the same path for the next couple thousand. But Jesus was the plan before time was set in motion. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6 NIV)

That is Easter summed up. We are powerless, God’s perfect timing, Christ died. But wait there is one more thing: He rose again!

Someday this little one will find out what you and I know: life is not easy. Tomorrow, today for that matter, could find us gasping for God to make sense of the mess. So we are reminded “Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:3 NIV)

This is our call for the days leading to Easter Sunday. Consider – ponder long, think about much, search out, seek. Remember all He endured. For my sin – for your sin. As we do this, not only at Easter but each day, we will not grow weary and our hearts will be strengthened.

So be like a one year old – keep your eyes fixed…on Jesus.

Sweetest Embrace…

Nothing quiet like being held. Babies who are cuddled thrive – those fed and diapered but not held have been known to die.  Recently I witnessed a precious groom sweetly cradle his new bride’s face in his hand as he kissed her.

Just look at mothers’ hands. Gone (for the most part) are the manicured nails and smooth skin. But out of all the caring those hands do, comes a sureness and beauty that speaks without words – these hands know how to hold.

Throughout Jesus’ ministry here on earth the Bible speaks often of people coming and asking for Him to touch them with His hands. Just a touch – somehow knowing in their hearts that in His hands were healing, forgiveness, peace. And Jesus, just before His last breath on the cross, spoke these words: “Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit.” (Luke 23:46)

After He rose from the dead He showed His hands. Even more beautiful than before, though scarred from spikes – they revealed He holds the keys to death and life.

As I squeeze my grandson’s sweet cheeks between my palms, love swells. In the tender hug of a friend, love grows. In the hand holding of a husband and wife, the love grown through struggle and triumph is solidified. In the sweetest embrace, the one we receive as we pass from this life and behold Jesus’ face, that embrace assures: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV)

So, dear one, if you know Jesus, you are being held – don’t let go. And some sweet day you’ll hold the hands that stretched out willingly on a cross in order to hold you forever.

On Marriage…

Only daughter walked the aisle this past Saturday – my ‘do it myself, my way’ girl.

Ever been to a wedding? Some are sedate and full of ritual, some are party start to finish. But all are a celebration of two people saying they want to live in commitment to each other. And so our Jesus has committed to all who know Him as Savior. Some day a wedding banquet like no other will take place – Pinterest doesn’t have anything on this celebration.

“For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) Then the angel said to me, ‘Write: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ “ (Revelation 19:7-9 NIV)

That will be a time of joy like no other. And the celebration will never end, for that celebration will signal the end of our fallen world and usher in the eternity we have so long hoped for.

The Lamb came once to lay down His life. He will come again so our days will be eternal. The bride has made herself ready – in the simple act of saying yes to Jesus. Righteous acts will clothe us like a stunning wedding dress – not our righteousness, but Christ’s. For only through Him working through us are any of our acts without self-motivation.

Blessed are those invited – favored, honored, special preparations made for. The love that is ours now will be so overpowering in His presence we will feel immersed in it.

For now we commit to have and to hold. Through the good and the bad. Til death us part. It is a chance to try and live out a relationship the way Christ lives for us. We will flub it up over and over – and some will have the great pleasure of many anniversaries. But we never have to worry about our Jesus’ commitment to cherish from this day forward, for He knew us before we came to be and He waits to walk into a jillion sunsets with us.

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:3 NIV)

 

 

You Belong…

Oh the heart pain of not belonging.

I remember during middle school being in a new group of peers, unsure where I belonged. I just wanted a good friend like I remembered from grade school. To my shame I hurt some to try and get in with others.

Wish I knew this then: “Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.” (Luke 6:31 HCSB) Simple, that’s how Jesus kept it for us.

Then there’s this – we can do all we know and still be rejected. Family, friends, co-workers, church – sometimes it seems we’re all alone in this world. We’re not. Yes, you know I’m gonna say Jesus is always with us. What if we actually grasped this? How different would our days, moments look?

We want that peace that says when friends are too busy, grown children are preoccupied, no one at church says hello – we will still sing in our hearts.

Maybe the longing of belonging points us to our Father. What need would we have of drawing closer to God if our deep heart needs were satisfied here? David said it best “O God, You are my God, earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You, my body longs for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1 NIV)

This world is dry and weary – no water for a parched soul. Perhaps we can quench a thirst by fitting another in. Truth moment – do we allow all family, friends, co-workers, people at church to ‘belong’ with us? How often have I neglected a simple ‘hello, how are you’? How often do I let busyness or differences exclude someone?

Oh to have Christ’s eyes – to see the heart and not the outside. To take in, even in a simple gesture, a lonely heart. Just like He took ours and filled it with His Spirit. Wisdom here:One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.” (Proverbs 11:24 NIV) I think Solomon wrote this not only about money or possessions, but about what really matters – our hearts. 

In the end it comes to this: you belong to God. Imperfections and all – He longs for us – that is living water for thirsty hearts. Love these words:

This Day…

Sometimes loved ones are just too far away. Maybe no longer here on earth. Maybe living more than a short car ride away. Maybe separated by walls put up with harsh words.

Every now and then I catch the scent of my mom (a blanket or scarf tucked away) and I stop and sigh. When our oldest son went in the Navy we were so lonely for him that any young man about his height in the distance made me stop and hope.

So how far away is too far? How do broken, lonely hearts span the gap of distance – time? Well this is how God does it: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8b NIV)

Yes, God longs for us more deeply than we do for those we miss. As parents long for grown children to be ten once again, so the God who knit us together and gave us breath longs for our presence. He beckons ‘come’ – just a few moments in prayer or reading His love letter to us. From Genesis to Revelation there is the common thread of a Father longing for His children.

We are the prodigals – way off course and trying to find our way back. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him…he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20 NIV) God doesn’t meet us half way, He spans the distance with the cross.

God throws His arms around us. Maybe we need to throw our arms around not only those we love and long for. Daily our paths will cross the lost ones of other’s, can we help them find their way into His presence and His forever? 

Where to start? I love the old praise song ‘This is The Day‘. Yesterdays are behind us and can only be learned from, not lived in. Tomorrows can’t be counted on. But today, today is the day the Lord has made. Let our gladness in it be what speaks to the souls in our path. Let’s start there.

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

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!​​

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