Growing Up…

Recently I discovered I had made a mistake that bruised my ego in many ways: I looked foolish, like I had no attention to detail – and it could have caused some real problems. Oh how hard it was to fess up to the error. And then the anguish and problems it caused the one who had to take care of it, made me want to run and hide.

Years ago I would have had a hard time even confessing it and I would have had a string of excuses why. I feebly offered a reason, which sounded ridiculous even as I said it. But grace was poured out. Instead of anger and ‘how could you’ there was ‘give me the info, I’ll take care of it’ – and afterwards it was like it never happened.

Hmmm, is that our reaction? How much grace do we pour out – or at least sprinkle here and there?

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2Corinthiiians 9:8 NIV)

And He does – from the moment we realize our pitiful, selfish ways right on through the moment of salvation and then every day thereafter – so much grace overflows. So how about us? If grace flows through us, do we keep it just for ourselves? Is it possible that it abounds so that we might share a little?

Growing up is a life-long process. Some never do. Without the Holy Spirit right there in us, it’s impossible to leave selfish ways behind and become who God created us to be. “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1Peter 2:2 NIV) Crave a life that reflects Him, a life that rests in Him, a life directed by Him. He is our very breath and sustains us.

Have children (adult or at home)? Have co-workers? Have a spouse? Have relatives? Have contact with other humans? They will disappoint us, and us them – a little grace goes a long way. And this great gift of grace that we don’t even have to work for, makes way for all to grow up – up towards Him. “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen” (2Peter 3:18 NIV)

What is Unseen…

This life is all about changes – for a girl who doesn’t like change, it’s a bit unsettling. Ask my husband. I can live in the same house all my days and be content, order the same thing at my favorite restaurant and laugh through the meal like it’s the best ever. But take me out of my element and smiles fade.

And yet I see the hard of this world and know things need to change. A few thousand years separate us from once perfection. Only the first man and woman knew what it was like before the downward spiral we now find ourselves in. They were also the first to trust that the God who they intimately knew would somehow make a way. Hope.

Hope – still sustaining us all these years later and assuring us there is still perfection for those who believe. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NIV)

You and I can’t see beyond the dark curtain of guns firing randomly from hotel rooms or hearts failing and leaving us alone. But we can be certain that God is never caught off guard and glory is being made from it all. Don’t let lies tell you God can only use good deeds – there is no evil act too powerful for God not to bring forth greatness we can’t fathom this side of eternity.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (2Corinthians 4:16 NIV)

As much as change will accompany all our days, we can rest in the one thing that never changes: God’s love for us and that He has made a perfect way. The same God who made endless galaxies and tiny tree frogs – who set in motion changing seasons and hearts longing for no more tears – is the same God who holds all our brokenness and is making wonders beyond anything we can imagine.

No we don’t see how He does it, that’s where faith comes in – and He even gave us the faith. He provides it all and He reminds us to “Fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2Corinthians 4:18 NIV)

Re-Do…No DIY Here

Too many times I need a re-do – my attitude, my words, my actions, even my thoughts.

There’s mom-guilt, forgot to say thank you guilt, bad judgement guilt, selfishness guilt – and the list goes on. So wishing we could re-do: wipe out the things we wish we had known better than and erase the things we did know better than.

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2Corinthians 5:17 NLT)

What – we do have a re-do? Belong to Christ – guilt can be gone…and we can have a new attitude, kinder words. Can have now, will have in eternity. Now is a choice. We have the Holy Spirit in us and He is ever true and present. We can be made new now but we have to cooperate with God, we have to say no to self – yes to Jesus. Let go of guilt that imprisons us – instead of just burying it – and be set free.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1 NIV)

Stand firm – that’s our part – but like a toddler learning to walk, God takes us by the hands and helps us toddle ever closer to standing our ground in Him. The more we live in His freedom the more the old life is gone. Oh someday we will toddle right into His waiting arms, for now He wants to show us the way.

“Jesus answered ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6a NIV)

So, yes, you and me, we do need a re-do – and the great news is, we get one. The moment we say ‘Yes’ to Jesus, the re-do begins and someday it will be complete. In the meantime, all those trying times, all the things we regret, all the changing that will happen – that’s how it is here. We grow more through our weaknesses than our strengths. In our strength it’s all about us, in our weakness we learn it’s all about Him.

Yes, Father, re-do us and help us let worry, fear, regret, and guilt be removed as far as east is from west – let us live in our new life that has already begun. (No DIY here.)

Today…

With calendars chock-full weeks ahead of time and what seems like an endless list of special days (birthdays, holidays, national who knows what day) we tend to live in tomorrow. So much to be done, to look forward to or to dread.

Sometimes I’m guilty of looking at the days as a check-off list. Got that birthday cake made, sent that card, made that call – check, check, check. I think that is the enemy’s strategy, make life one big check-off list and humans are too busy to see the wonder and thank the Creator. Get them fearful about what tomorrow may bring and there’s no time to rest in the care of the Protector.

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

Each day has enough trouble but also enough awe and miracle. Sunrises, clouds over a hot day to cool it down, babies crawling, apple picking and so much more. Sure peek at tomorrow’s schedule but then let’s lose ourselves in this day, in this moment. This is the day the Lord has made – “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”  (Philippians 4:4  NIV)

Living in tomorrow started in the garden. Eve wanted to control circumstances, to know like God knows, to be in charge. But only God has walked all the tomorrows and faith is all about trusting that our times are His. He knows the number of hairs on our heads – He knows the joy and the sorrows. He knows that someday faith leads right into eternal joy. He wants us to know that too – and assures us that living for Him moment by moment gives the peace that passes understanding.

A perpetual calendar sits on my desk – the past few days have started in with the author saying what he is thankful for alphabetically, then it’s my turn. Today was the letter C – his was chocolate, mine was clouds. Oh I could have been spiritual and said Christ or emotional and said children – but I chose the clouds outside my window. I choose to live today and to remember:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8 NIV) He’s already done all the checking-off, today will you choose wonder?

With All My Heart…

Marriage – a pledge to love despite obstacles and with all your heart. Parenting – we commit to meet their needs and love them with all our heart. Friendship – requires a lot of work (and a good one is worth it) – and needs our whole heart.

Hmmm, most of the time I love my husband with my whole heart – until he makes me mad then we’re guilty of letting it wane a little. I adore my children – but sometimes I just want to shake them when I see the pitfalls they could avoid. My dearest friends are a source of strength and I care deeply for them – but still I let them down at times.

What is love with one’s whole heart? “[Jesus] answered: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Luke 10:27 NIV)

That’s a tall order – good intentions. Do any of us do it perfectly – no not one. However, we have a pattern to follow: Jesus opened wide His arms and loved us with all His heart – dying that we can live forever and ever. That’s whole heart love.

So how do we die to love God? Our neighbor? Die to self. When my hubby makes me mad, it’s all about me if I’m honest. And so it is with every relationship. A little dying to self could bring a whole lot of life to our weary world. It’s the same in our relationship with God. When we surrender ourselves and accept Jesus, we die to the ways of the world and come alive to the ways of God. No perfection expected, because Jesus is the only perfection we need. And little by little He will help us to love with more and more of our hearts.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5 NIV)

Our understanding sees with eyes that can’t see our friend’s heart or our child’s either. Knowing that God does, we can trust that all He has planned for them He will bring about. And the most comforting truth: God loves us with an unfailing love – all His heart. Because of that: “I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify Your name forever.” (Psalm 86:12 NIV)

5 Reasons to Live Like a Hurricane is Coming…

Because there is.

You, me – ready or not – will face storms. Some come with 100+mph winds with days ahead warnings. Others blindside us – knocking the roof off our fears and exposing them.

This past week, those of us in the path of Irma, emptied grocery shelves, sat in gas lines, and checked on neighbors. Storms do that – spur us into action. But there’s only so much we can do. The real test of any storm is trust. Is my trust in my preparations or in the God who speaks to the winds and rains?

“Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.” (Psalm 107:28-29 NIV)

The best preparation is a heart that knows God. Trust that if the storm passes, praise goes to Him. And if it hits, trust that He’s right there in the midst.

Long before the storms of life hit, this is one check list to make sure of:

  • Know Jesus as Savior
  • Spend time getting to know God
  • Live life to please Him
  • Know with confidence that in the worst storm, He loves us and will never leave us
  • Speak faith to fears even in the howling wind

A list like this is a life long pursuit, never perfected. But, amazingly, each baby step leads to the next one.

“For the Lord takes delight in His people; He crowns the humble with victory.” (Psalm 149:4 NIV)

All other preparation, all other sources of help are empty if THE Source isn’t our confidence. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)

Real storm prep starts in our hearts.

Choose Belief…

Spending a week (or more) sick can bring a whole new perspective.

Why are we surprised each time when we go through the inconvenience, pain, and agony of the common cold/flu/whatever is going around – that we come out on the other side with a soul rest we desperately needed? I hate getting sick: it messes up my calendar, nothing gets done that should, I worry I’m spreading it to family. Then a week or so later I realize that by not being able to think clearly (or at all) my brain might actually be ready to hear God’s whispers.

At the beginning of this still-not-over but-much-better round of yuck, I lay in bed begging: ‘God just lay Your healing hands on me, I’m supposed to be watching my grandson, I’m supposed to be doing many things’. N-o-t-h-i-n-g. A day or two later: ‘God, really, this can’t go on, I need Your healing now.’ Yes, I actually told Him ‘now’. So grateful He just smiles and thinks ‘Paris, Paris p-l-e-a-s-e let me be in control’ (since He is anyway).

Funny how when we feel good, have what we need, think we’re in control it’s easy to say ‘Oh yeah, I trust God in all things’. Honestly, how long does it take to grow up and mature in God to the point that you don’t see in the mirror a little girl saying ‘now’, (hands on hips optional)?

In Max Lucado’s book Glory Days (excellent by the way) he tells of a father who lost one of his children to a freak accident. Six years after the incident they happened to meet. Hurting no less for the loss, the father testified as to how he’s made it through: “Faith is a choice.” Max said this about Jesus followers:”When forced to stand at the crossroads of belief and unbelief, they choose belief.”

“We live by faith, not by sight.” (2Corinthians 5:7 NIV)

And so on the worst night of my illness when the pain in my cheeks was so bad I wanted to pass out, I passed words into the throne room of heaven ‘Father, You have seen me through all things and I am certainly not as miserable as the poor people in Houston are right now. I can’t even imagine their pain and suffering. I trust You to work out things for me and pray great things for Texas in the aftermath. In Jesus Name, Amen’

Was I healed in the morning – no – but the pain was gone and I found a great doctor at the local urgent care – and my spirit was renewed. Today I CHOOSE BELIEF in the great I AM.

You’re Surrounded…

Sometimes just need to be held? I know, me too. My seven month old grandson too. He’ll play, then turn and see me, and crawl right up lifting little arms.

Bet God wishes that’s what we would do – when we wonder what to do next, how things are going to work out, who to turn to. Arms open wide – but we crawl on. “For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me.” (Psalm 40:12 NIV)

A broken world, heavy with sins of selfishness, meets us on the news and sometimes face to face. And yes, it will be this way until Jesus returns. But, like a seven month old, we can turn to the One who picks us up, brushes us off, and sets back on the path. Like learning to walk, we stumble, but with the Holy Spirit we try again. “You hem me in – behind and before; You have laid your hand upon me.” (Psalm 139:5 NIV)

We put up baby gates at just about every entrance we can think of around here, still little one finds a way to konk his head or get mad when he can’t get where he wants to go. Oh yeah, that sounds like me, you? ‘This way, Paris’ His Word leads me, shows me. Still I turn and say ‘But what about this way?’ When the answer is ‘no’ – pouts abound.

Oh, Father, You still love us?? “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1John 4:10 NIV)

Today, chubby arms will reach up, and a tired back will reach down and swoop him high. Today we will yell at the guy cutting us off in traffic. We will plead ‘why’ about the diagnosis. We will worry about the dwindling bank account. And in those moments where we take our eyes off the fear and put them on the Father, He will swoop us up and we will know — “You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” (Psalm 32:7 NIV) Lift those arms up – you are surrounded.

Looking for Roots, Finding our Way…

I was given the gift of DNA testing through Ancestry.com this year. There’s a lot of missing information in my family tree. At times we’re all trying to figure out who we are, aren’t we?

Recently from that test someone contacted me based on the fact that the data showed we may be first cousins. Wait, what? I have a cousin I didn’t know existed? Turns out she was adopted and only just found out when her adoptive mom passed away. She is searching…

It’s a strange thing to suddenly realize who you thought you were, you aren’t. Only thing is – you are. Adopted or not – the ones who pour love into us are the ones that mold and shape us. We’ll call this cousin Karen. Karen wants to find her roots. Find someone with the same blood running in their veins. I bet Karen would say she is doing this not because her adoptive mom wasn’t enough, but because the mystery of her beginning has been hidden.

“My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body.” (Psalm 139:15 NIV)

God doesn’t make mistakes. He knit Karen together in one womb and laid her in the arms of another. The DNA she carries gives her the hair and eyes etc., the family who loved her gives her the rest. We are all adopted the moment we turn to Christ for salvation. Adopted into God’s family – as dearly loved as His very own Son. With all the rights and benefits and wonders of eternity that Christ has. His Holy Spirit runs through our soul like the DNA of our ancestors pulses through our veins.

“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3:29 ESV) Abraham was who God promised would have descendants as numerous as the stars. For, even before Abraham, God had already made a way for all who would trust, like Abraham trusted, to have God as their Father so they would never have to wonder who they were.

Who are you, Karen? Who are you, reader? Who am I? We are children of the most high God, dearly loved, given all we need for now and forever. May we all trace our lineage to the cross and find His face reflected in us. “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:17 NIV)

Falling Together…

Ever have one of those almost asleep moments when suddenly you feel like your falling – then jerk – and you realize your safely in bed? Falling is one of those fear-full things. Hollywood still uses falling out of buildings, off cliffs, over the side of the boat to build suspense.

I have friends who are afraid of heights – my thing is edges. I don’t like walking along foot bridges or high platforms or mountainsides that don’t have railings. And it’s not just for me – I get those flutterflies in my stomach when my children or hubby get close to the edge – fear-full of the fall.

Adam and Eve fell – and look what that has wreaked. So much heartache – death – lostness.

Sometimes the falls we take aren’t physical – we fall out of popularity, out of favor with employers, out of love. Maybe more painful than the physical. There is a fall that is final – and it’s not out of a twenty story building: “Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:29&31 NLT)

But that kind of fall is not what a follower of Jesus ever has to dread. Ever do the dare of falling backward into someone’s arms? I was never able to completely do it until…Jesus found me. God replaces punishment with provision. Giving His Son for us so that we can fall into the arms of a loving Savior: “He tends His flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart.” (Isaiah 40:11a NIV)

So fear-full is falling that when things aren’t working out we say ‘everything is falling apart’. “Grace is what holds you when everything is breaking and falling apart, and whispers that everything is really falling together.” (Ann Voskamp) To trust in God is to say that all this falling is but a passing moment leading to the perfection of eternity that will be ours. Eternity is a Jesus follower’s now – not someday – and in the now, falling apart things work for our good and others. Our broken places help us touch another’s soul – it is not our perceived perfections that draw in a broken heart. It is our brokeness that makes us a safe place.

We’re really all just falling together, safely into arms that secure us forever.

Mandy Hughes

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