Such a Difference…

As I ponder words – a storm is brewing. Strong – full of wind, rain, lightening – a force for destruction. Will we be in it’s path? What will it reap? Questions swirl like a hurricane’s eye.

But time and again over the last few days God has reminded me He is bigger than the storm. More powerful than it’s force. In charge of it in fact. As He is all of life. Sure He could zap all the bad things: illness, storms, financial ruin, broken hearts. But His children are stubborn and need much instruction – and sometimes we only listen in the unexpected, the uncontrollable.

“His path is in the whirlwind and storm, and clouds are the dust beneath His feet.” (Nahum 1:3 HCSB)

Yet, what is the first response of most, Christian or not, when the hard things happen: ‘Why God?’ The bad things are always blamed on God, when we should search the very hearts and souls that have wrought all that has gone wrong since the perfection of Eden. 

The sweetness of trusting God makes such a difference. Yes, we still hurt and often still fret, but our gaze is turned toward the One who has our earthly days numbered and our forever secure. We look up – raising eyes and hearts to the Father. He whispers to our souls – ‘peace child, My peace is yours, just trust.’

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27 NLT)

 

Like me you may have to ask for that peace daily, but knowing it’s ours for the asking is good enough for me. The deposit of the Holy Spirit in us is the peace that passes any understanding. Always with us. 

So as this storm strengthens or weakens, turns straight towards my home or veers away, I am safe. And so are you. He is merciful to us and our safety – though it may not look the way we want it to – is assured. Through hurricanes and all life’s raging He is our protection. 

“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful, because I come to you for safety. In the shadow of your wings I find protection until the raging storms are over.” (Psalm 57:1 GNT)

What’s it worth?

Worth. That’s a heavy word. So many contexts. The value of an item for purchase versus our budget. The time required for an outcome versus our schedule. Encounters that cause us to pause and ask: is it worth it?

Consciously or unconsciously we weigh decisions and actions daily. It’s worth it to me to sit on the floor with nine month old Theo even though I know my hip will hurt that evening. It’s worth it to me to spend an hour or two on the phone with a dear friend even though I know I have much to do. It’s also become worth it to me to make sure each day starts with prayer and God’s Word.

Become worth it – it hasn’t always been so. Long ago I didn’t even know time with God was important. Then when I did, I had many ‘reasons’ I couldn’t. But life has a way of working on us and in us. And soon we find there are some things that are like breath…necessary.

Jesus found us worth it. What was the cost? Separation from God. Having never been touched by evil and then covered in it. Stretching out His arms willingly to spikes that purchased our eternity.

The worth of us versus eternity without us – Jesus didn’t hesitate. “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:7 NIV) The worth of peace versus continued uncertainty – a sacrifice of time to search out God is so worth it.

We form lots of ideas in our heads about how things should be. When things go awry we question and blame and fret. We let our minds go through many ‘what ifs’ – as though God can’t possibly be in the ‘wrong’ outcome. Maybe it’s time to change what if to even if.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18 NIV)

Even if our deepest concern, hardest day, darkest night is polar opposite of what we thought it should be – we can hold fast to God who knows and wants our best. Even if prayer seems to go no further than the ceiling above us. Even if hope seems to result in only sadness. Even if I give all my time, all my effort, all my money, all of me – and still struggle. Yes, our Father, our Savior, and our Spirit of Truth is worth it. Worth all. Because this is not all there is.

The Formula…

Things change quickly – we go from young to old in the blink of an eye. From raising kids to holding grandbabies. From playing to working. From carefree to burdened.

I’m not so good at change. A certain two year old in my life loves his routine when he comes over – I get it. It’s safe. It’s comfortable. But we can’t stay two and with all the technology of the last few decades, change is constant. Still our hearts long for things to stay the same. 

When we think we can’t count on anyone, can’t count on anything, it’s time to remember: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8 NIV)

Just as we go from childhood to maturity, we can also go from wandering to found in Christ. We do not stay the same. And that’s an okay thing. We are made to undergo transformation. If we stayed the same, we would be lost in our sin – lost for eternity. But the very One who never changes can work miraculous change in us.

Where fear once dominated – comes power, love, sound mind. When doubt pervades our next breath – the Holy Spirit can replace it with belief. ( 2 Timothy 1:7 and James 1:6) Those kind of changes I welcome.

We can even come to know God’s will: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2 NIV)

Hmm, that would make change easier. There are several places in the Bible that tell us God’s will – one of my favorites: “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)

And there it is – God’s formula to navigate the rapid changes that often leave us fearful or fretful. Joyful always – not happy, because that depends on the moment, but joy in knowing God has this all figured out. Pray continually – not just at meals, or a set time, but in all the moments lift our thoughts and hearts to Him. Give thanks in all – no matter if the circumstance is a wondrous or worrisome – thank Him because He tell us He works out all things for those who love Him.

How to Live…

Heard this recently but not sure who to credit for saying it: “If He thought we worth dying for, isn’t He worth living for?”

This is what Christians and non-Christians alike miss daily: living for HIM. Self is such an imposer. Our focus trends toward crossing off lists, getting our needs met, feeling good about self – all else becomes secondary. And our culture reinforces it. How do we break free from our cycle of appeasing self?

“Turn my heart toward Your statutes and not toward selfish gain.” (Psalm 119:36 NIV)

Selfish gain – the root of all this world’s issues. Faithfully living for God is the answer to the same. But we are fickle, sometimes moment to moment.

Yet our heavenly Father is fully faithful. Our role model. Our helper-upper when we fall. Our truth when we’re lost in the lies. Our plan when we’re lost in our purpose. Our best when all we have to give is ‘less than’ in every way. “If we are not faithful, He will still be faithful. Christ cannot deny who He is.” (2Timothy 2:13 CEV)

The very best news is that though we will struggle day in and day out to put others first, to put God in His rightful place (far above all we know or can think or can hope) – He puts us first every second of every day. It’s like being in a peaceful field of wildflowers with a gentle breeze – nothing else as far as the eye can see. We are surrounded by a field of grace – grace that envelops us.

Here’s how He calls us to live: “So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord…by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” (2Timothy 1:8a, 9 NIV)  Grace-full living: accepting His grace in our lives and extending it to others – this helps us dispel self and put Jesus on the throne of our hearts.

 

Dear Reader…

   Today’s post is a questionnaire. So here goes:

What can we discover about a Universe Maker that you want to know?

What can we find out about Infinite Love that will heal wounds?

How can Truth be shared to truly set us free?

Do you know who you are in Christ? Are you in Christ?

What are your doubts and fears? What does eternity mean to you?

These are personal things and intimate details shared on the internet aren’t what this is about. But being just a little vulnerable maybe you could share one answer?

   I’ve been writing weekly for almost six years. Has God’s glory been manifested? Has your heart been broken open and filled with Jesus? Has wonder for the Creator opened your eyes? Only you can decide.

An Infinite God loves us enough to show us the way through each day – and night. But I need to know you so I can seek Him out and share pieces of myself and where He’s leading me.

Join me in the journey to forever…

 

New Kid…

Remember being the new kid? So uncomfortable – lonely. Wondering if we will ever fit in.

I’ve thought long and hard about borders. Volleying back in forth – thoughts like how can we sustain this and what can we do to help. Then I thought about putting a face to the throng flowing in. The face of Jesus.

Jesus was the new kid once. His grandparents, extended family, neighbors so certain His mother had been promiscuous. Then God – speaking comfort to Mary’s heart, speaking encouragement to Joseph. Confirming to Jesus as an adult: “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” (Matthew 17:5b NIV)

Listening for the Holy Spirit to show me the way. The faces searching mine for acceptance are His image bearers. Oh yes, may be some bad guys intermingled, may be wrong motives for making the trek. Jesus’ last words on earth “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19a NIV) The nations are coming to us. Are we listening to Him?

These are hard issues to make sense of. Could a bit more concern for being ‘the shining light on a hill’ to a searching soul make a big difference?

The world is watching – our children and grandchildren are watching. Are we telling God He doesn’t have enough resources? Are we saying no to those last words?

Comfort has become the American king. For all our chants of ‘founding fathers’ and ‘independence’ – perhaps we have forgotten that freedom to worship God – who created every human around the world – was the real freedom so dearly desired. Maybe it’s time for us to realize that the harvest is ripe. Will we be His workers?

In Between…

1938-2011, July 23-27, choose a span of time. Notice the commonality: the hyphen. From point a to point b. A dash, in time.

We live here in between. Between our first breath on earth and our last. Time here never seems long enough. Mortality is foreign to us. Implanted in our souls is eternity. And so we will be. Eternally with God or forever separated. What we do during the in between isn’t nearly so significant as Who we know. I am quite certain the one who finds Jesus in the last microsecond would tell us: ‘if only I had known Who I was missing’.

Who we know, God the Father, His Son, the Holy Spirit – it is He who makes the in between rich and full.

Can’t get this tune out of my head and heart – reaches deep in my soul and says: Who do you see? Be Thou My Vision – written almost 600 years ago. When we look at sky or pavement. When we greet family or stranger. The created, us, even our greatest accomplishments are His enabling. All peoples bearing His image. Do we see?

When did we get so lost? Oh yes, in the garden. When being like God was the temptation. And so it is to this day. God of our own course. How freeing when surrender comes and we willingly let Jesus be King of our heart – His vision showing us real life.

“The thief comes only in order to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come in order that you might have life–life in all its fullness.” (John 10:10 GNT)

Sometimes we just need to close our eyes to see. Looking at circumstances, we get lost in what ifs. Seeking after the world’s treasures, finding dissatisfaction. Seeing with our hearts and spirits – only way to know peace is real.

“Thou my best thought, by day or by night; Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.” We think lots of thoughts throughout the day. We walk in broad daylight as though stumbling in darkness. Best thoughts are those focused on Jesus, His light leading us on. Til this in between becomes our someday always. “I tell you the truth, whoever hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24 NIV)

There is a Name…

Out of town recently we were staring up at the ornate architecture of a 150 year old building when I hear my husband’s name being called. I’m thinking: ‘who could possibly be here in this mountain town that knows us?’ It was heartwarming to meet up with a dear friend.

Names are important – instead of ‘hey you’ we call to each other personally. I sing a song to my grandson called ‘There is a Name I Love to Hear’. It’s my way of teaching him the Name of Jesus. Name above all names. “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9 NIV)

Guess what – you have a name known only by God, but someday when He calls to you using it, you will know it is your real name. The one you were always meant to be called by.

It will sound like music in your ear and you will feel completely known. Known in a way so intimate, so filled with love. What a day that will be. “I will also give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name is inscribed that no one knows except the one who receives it. (Revelation 2:17 CSB)

And then we will discover each other’s new names and see how perfect they are for each of us. From an infinite God will flow a different name uniquely suited to His children. Our forever name. 

But forever and always the Name that will quicken our heart to joy, fill our soul with unending peace, and constantly renew our wonder is the Name of Jesus. There is a Name – and found in it is all we could ever want. “that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10-11 NIV)

Link to the lyrics of the song ‘There is a Name I Love to Hear’: https://www.hymnal.net/en/hymn/h/70

For the Joy…

Caught in joy – that moment after working for months on a project, it’s finished, and you get the big check or promotion. That moment after training for months on end and you complete the race in record time. That moment after going through labor and delivery and that downy head snuggles you. We persevere, work hard, and endure because we anticipate the outcome and count it worth the effort.

Ever ponder the day in and day out of Jesus’ life once He began to fulfill His purpose on earth? Scorn, ridicule, shunning. Sometimes from those closest to Him. And top it off with imprisonment, beating, crucifixion.

Why would He willingly accept all this? Not just His duty. Surely not to prove a point. “…who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2b NIV)

Since before your first breath you were known by the Creator of life. For your sake He endured the ultimate of sacrifices. You are His joy – He endured all evil man could do to Him – even temporary separation from God during His time on the cross – because He said ‘you are worth it’. (not to mention all the sin yet to be committed – by me, by you)

“When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” (John 14:3 NLT)

Such love our hearts cannot fathom. Willing to suffer? To die? Wants us to be with Him? Always? Even if we were to lay down our life for another, it would still be a temporary act of love.

The act of love Jesus fulfilled is permanent . A forever, no more sorrows, no more pain, no more fear, no more worry fulfillment. Only Jesus can give a soul that assurance.

This life will have its ups and downs aplenty. Just remember: “There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.” (1Peter1:6b NLT) Even though trials – for the joy we know is ours, we can trust all is well.

 

 

Light Shine…

A zillion stars dance across a velvet sky as fire flies flit below. The wonder of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Unplug for a few days with me. If you share in the free gift of salvation, let the Light in you shine. If you don’t have His Light, it is free, just ask.

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ “ (John 8:12 NIV)

Where darkness blinds, the Light of the world penetrates. Now, more than ever, this world needs to know the Light. Celebrate America not just with a parade or fireworks, but with a banner of freedom that is granted by God not by man. (next week back to regular post)

 

HAPPY TODDLER PLAYTIME

PLaY CReaTivEly WitH YoUr LiTtLe OnE

Mandy Hughes

PURSUING GOD WITH PASSION

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