Missing Part…

Several years ago I decided to go super natural in food and beauty products. But…

I’m a bread lover – pretty much all the mass produced stuff is unhealthy – I had to find a way. I began with milling my own wheat. I bought a used mill from a friend – after much use it finally wore out. I ordered a new one but when I was ready to use it, an important part was missing.

Life is a lot like ‘brand new in the box with the factory seal on’. We open it but a part is missing. When my children were little they listened to the ‘Donut Man’ – songs about Jesus – he pointed out that without Jesus we’re like donuts: holes in the middle that we can’t seem to fill. “You have made known to me the paths of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence.” (Psalm 16:11 NIV)

So many who ‘have it all’ (money, power, fame) – leave behind a suicide note. All that striving, making it to the top, only to find nothing was there and it didn’t fill their deepest need after all. He calls to each one of us – longing to fill us with joy.

And religion and rituals and traditions leave so many just as empty. When belief is founded on man’s ideas and ways, the longing is still unmet. And the result is often strife, division, confusion. Jesus saw this firsthand – the very people He came to bring salvation to were the most wrapped up in religion. The Bible tells us it brought Him to tears.

Jesus won’t force Himself on us – but He is oh so good and quick the moment we turn to Him to meet us wherever we are, whatever we’ve done.

Because what Jesus really wants is to have a heart connection that runs soul deep. “Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion.” (Isaiah 30:18 NIV)

And when we have that connection, His compassion pours over us like a waterfall, grace covers us like a blanket, and mercy shows us the way to be filled with what lasts forever – no missing parts.

Right There…

Ever help a turtle find his way back to water?

A little soft shell guy found himself in the middle of my hot concrete driveway. He wasn’t moving. Ever since a turtle got hold of my son’s finger one summer long ago, I’ve been a little afraid to just pick them up and move them. But he needed shade and water fast. So…I found some plastic gloves and a bucket. Rescued.

“Oh 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)

Jesus got right into our messes. No masks, gloves, buckets for the broken in body or spirit. And to this day He’s relocating us from our parched places – even when we aren’t seeking Him. So faithful is God that when we walk too far out into the dry places, He’s right there.

Not so sure? He’s promised. Never leave or forsake (Hebrews 13:5b) With you always, til the end of the age (Matthew 28:20b). “Because he loves me,’ says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.” (Psalm 91:14-16 NIV)

Those are not idle words. Those are done deals. The thing is we’re in the middle of the hot driveway and we’re not sure if we’ll reach cool waters in time. But the God of the universe has this dry time and every dry time.

How do I know? I’m on the other side of some messes – I’ve seen the other side of loved one’s messes – and I’m learning to trust that even if the answers to my pleas aren’t my plan, His plan is best. Because even if the ‘worst’ comes about, He has eternity waiting. And ‘worst case scenarios’ are never the end for God’s children. He wants us to live in the assurance that this isn’t all there is – and when we’re at the end of ourselves, we’ll find Him. Right there all along.

All God’s promises are for you, don’t doubt a one. One step at a time, take His hand – run to His arms – just don’t forget: He isn’t even a breath away. He’s your ever constant help in times of trouble – and you will see all your answers. Now? Maybe. Someday? Absolutely.

Soaked…

Rain, rain, rain – for weeks. The canvas canopy over an outdoor swing was sagging – I pushed up and – whoosh – over the edge cascaded water.

It caught the attention of my one year old grandson, but I hadn’t noticed he had walked right up on the other side. You guessed it, as I pushed to get more water off, a soaked to the bone little guy stood staring back at me. I laughed hysterically, his reaction was a little different.

Turns out the laughter was refreshing to me and the ‘waterfall’ cooled him off that warm day. Kind of how it is with the things of God – time just reading His Word can refresh our soul, listening in our hearts for Him or singing His praises calms our anxiety, and praying has a way of opening our tight fists and letting God take care of things.

The funny thing about all that is: its not the act of doing those things, its Who we realize was there all along when we do. “Yet I am always with You; You hold me by my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel,” (Psalm 73:23-24a NIV)

God’s always right here, right now. Sometimes we have to be still long enough for Him to impress His truth upon our souls.

These summer rains make everything green. But summer in our hearts comes and goes. When we get soaked with Jesus, things like compassion, kindness, and grace sprout and grow from us. When we stay away, things like apathy, anxiety, impatience dry out our hearts. “Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face continually.” (Psalm 105:4 NASB)

Though stunned, my grandson threw his arms around his grammy’s neck, buried his little face, and came up smiling. That’s what our Father wants – no fancy prayers, deep studies, grand charitable gestures (all those are good) – but best to God is for us to run to His loving arms, bury our head in His care, and come up smiling. Soaked in His love.

 

 

 

Security Alert…

A charge to my card that I don’t recognize, a call to report it to the fraud department – not so unusual these days.

A world turned upside down wanting only self-indulgence, gain at any cost, and no regard for others – what was once shocking has become mundane. Steal someone’s information to make a purchase, their identity to scam multiple entities – and without caring someone’s peace is stolen, life is disrupted.

But in Christ our identity is certain. No one can claim to be us and take our place in eternity. We are intimately known and we don’t need password protection, just a Holy Spirit deposit in our hearts. “Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:13b-14a NIV)

That’s what we want a whole lot more of these days and find a whole lot less of – guarantees. Not so long ago if a company ‘guaranteed’ their product or workmanship you bought with confidence. Now the ‘guarantee’ often has legal disclaimers or the company goes out of business.

We live in a world without…trust. Where man and woman marry vowing to have no other and find divorce an easy out. Where parents have little regard for the ‘best’ for their children if it’s inconvenient for them. Where prescriptions or surgeries are the miracle cure, only they don’t and you’ve signed away your rights. 

While identity theft may be the latest crime, man’s selfish ways have long been around. Jesus came over 2,000 years ago and sighed throughout His life, knowing this isn’t how it’s supposed to be. And so without regard for self, to show what life can be like – should be like – He made a way.

“…Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:28 NLT)

Looking for reliability, dependability, sure thing? Someone willing to die so that you can live forever – put your trust in that. Security alert: you’re safe in the reliable hands of Messiah.

A Little Help Here…

Do-it-yourselfer? Got it handled? Not so much…

Accepting help isn’t always easy for me. Somehow it makes me feel ‘less than’. That I’m not smart enough, strong enough, good enough. And so it is with too many of us when it comes to seeking God – often only when we’ve exhausted self.

Amazing that our Creator – who is not messed up by our messes – can cherish such wayward hearts as mine, as yours. And how is it we go through our days as though we can handle things – asking for His help if we need it? If??? “…all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16b-17 NIV)

It’s taken years to break down pride, to attain the freedom that comes in asking for help. Caring friends have modeled for me love that says my weak areas don’t bring judgement. They allow the sweetness of another to partner in this walk called life. Their tender acts have reminded my heart to ask God for help – in the mundane and the heart pounding.

Self and our Savior’s enemies want us to look anywhere, but to the God who holds all our times. Psalm 139:10 reminds us that it doesn’t matter where we are or how much we’ve blown it, once we are His we are never away from Him: “even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.” (NIV)

Turns out we can look back on all our D-I-Y days and know it never was us, always a tender Father making way for His cherished child.

And so the goal fades from self-sufficiency to God-dependency – for breath, for our next step (and the next). An old hymn says it so well: “Have Thine own way, Lord. Hold over my being absolute sway! Fill me with Thy Spirit till all shall see Christ only, always, living in me! Amen”

It is as He enables that we become capable – an ever present Help.

 

 

What’s Ahead?

Truth? For everyone who ever has, is, or will walk this earth – nothing is static. Life changes – sometimes gradually, sometimes in an instant.

About two thousand years ago Jesus’ cousin John was born. His papa hadn’t been able to speak since learning he was going to be a father. At his birth when Elizabeth said we’re naming the baby John, all present said ‘That’s not a family name, Zechariah what should it be?’ Zechariah wrote: “His name is John.” Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God.” (Luke 1:63b-64 NLT)

About thirty or so years later a beggar, blind and at the mercy of anyone with pity called out to the Healer. “Lord,” he said, “I want to see!” And Jesus said, “All right, receive your sight! Your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus, praising God. And all who saw it praised God, too.” (Luke 18:39b&40-42 NLT)

I’m seeing a trend – and it’s not the miracles. And it’s not rubbing a genie lamp and instantly getting what we want. Each time praising God was the response.

Not every life changing moment is rosy – some are catastrophic. Our response has to do with our focus. Zechariah was surely frustrated but for nine months he looked ahead to what was coming. The blind man was shunned and had nothing but when the One he had heard about came his way he loudly kept calling even when shooshed by the crowd. His focus on the only One who could help.

Our problems, our ‘oh no-now whats’, our helplessness usually result in short-sightedness. As Renee Ratcliffe recently said “Sometimes I look around instead of looking ahead.” Miracles or tragedies and all the in between – we need to improve our vision by keeping it focused ahead. To what God has called us to, to our someday when we will see clearly.

“I ask that your minds may be opened to see His light, so that you will know what is the hope to which He has called you, how rich are the wonderful blessings He promises His people,” (Ephesians 1:18-19a GNT) That’s what’s ahead, wonderful – blessings – promises kept. Praise Him in all things.

 

The Fixer…

Can’t fix the things that seem most broken? Me either.

We pray, try to forget or bury, do things, say things, buy things, and worry. And yet the very things we fret over are oh so useful in the hands of The Fixer. No ‘caught off guard’ with God. He needs no ‘plan B’.

Heartaches are not roadblocks they are avenues. Regrets are not dead ends they are detours. Suffering and loss are not accidents, they are maps showing the way. It may take our life times to really get this: “…God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28b NIV)

Our Jesus doesn’t miss one tear we shed, each deep sigh finds strength only in Him. You and me, we’re not perfect; we have and we will mess up. Yet we are perfectly loved and all our messes are not too big for God.

So take it from a ‘fixer’ in rehab: we can’t fix it and He doesn’t want us to. He wants us to release our tight grip and let His strong hands make beauty out of the mess. It is in the letting go we  find freedom. Trusting His ability for our ‘I can’t’ and discovering rest. The opposite is true – unless we allow The Fixer to handle the impossible, we will live in fear. And in fear there is only bondage.

This is how we live in freedom – we listen to His declaration of lavish love – we live like we believe it. “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) Then the fixing will begin with us and spread like ripples in a pond.

Restoration is ours today. The Fixer knows just what needs to be done.

Can You Believe It?

Oh to be childlike – laying on the grass watching clouds float away, to see a lizard and not understand why you can’t catch it, to read just one more story – and not think about time.

Seems like one day melts into another and a week is gone, then a month. Years march on and a little slowing down is what the soul longs for. Sometimes the hard things make time flying by seem like a good thing. But what about the moments we wish would linger. Is there a rest stop in the fast lane of life? “Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him.” (Psalm 62:5 HCSB)

When Jesus was here there was a woman whose brother suddenly became deathly ill – word was sent to Jesus, but the man died. When Jesus arrived she wondered if things could have turned out differently had he gotten there sooner. He said to her “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)

Time loses its grip when we believe Jesus. When we let regrets about time not spent well, or missed opportunities, or special occassions not attended stay where they belong – in the past – then we are free to live in the now. To believe that even if things don’t turn out our way, we will never die – and someday there will be no regrets. Do you, can you, will you believe this?

Here’s the truth of our fragile believing: When a father came to Jesus wanting healing for his son Jesus told him “Everything is possible for him who believes.” (Mark 9:23b NIV) The father exclaimed “I do believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24b NIV)

Our unbelief – even that is okay. Because just enough faith to seek Him is all that is needed. God doesn’t say only if we have faith to move mountains will He help us. He says faith as small as a mustard seed will move our mountains. It’s a matter of remembering that some mountains are moved in the here and now and some are moved down the road after we are done here on earth.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me…I will come back and take you to be with Me” (John 14:1 & 3b NIV) Believe Him.

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

I Forgot…

I forgot – again. Forgot that I’m not alone. Forgot that fear is an enemy. Forgot that now isn’t all there is.

But this is what God tells me, tells you: “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b NLT) He wants us to be sure – so He put His Spirit in us and wherever we go, we are never alone.

My one year old grandson doesn’t understand when I leave the room, I haven’t left him. He comes running to make sure he’s not abandoned. Jesus left us here for a little while, but He didn’t desert us. On every journey He is with us.

What about our enemy fear? “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2Timothy 1:7 NLT) Though enemies – seen and unseen – may surround us, fear is an enemy only we open the door to.

It’s getting warm here, so recently we were moving a big fan in the garage to blow on my grandson and I while we play. At first the noise bothered him but it wasn’t close so he went about his business. But when grampa moved it our direction, he thought it was coming to get him. We’re like that, when the bad stuff is far enough away, we keep our chin up. But when confronted with what frightens us, we think it can swallow us.

So over all this, there’s a promise: “…God Himself will be with them…He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain…I am making everything new!” (Revelation 21:3b-5a NIV) Now is brief, eternity is forever.

Until we’re about fifty we live like things will go on the same indefinitely. Then it begins to hit us, our mortality. We begin to calculate approximately how many years we have left. I think it’s why people started bucket lists – cram as much in as you can before it’s too late. Too late? This side of eternity is to shine God’s light – the other side has endless wonders. Time to remember – never forget – the best is yet to come.

 

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)

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