Simple Reminders (For When We Begin to Forget What Matters)

It can be easy to get caught up in details and easy to get tangled in technicalities. We get snagged and tied up in the noise and the pace of life, our vision filling up with this and that and the other until we lose sight of what matters.

Today, my heart is saying: time-out.

I read Luke 10, feeling Jesus’ response to Martha’s distraction and distress (caused by her busy-ness and her sister’s non-busy-ness) to my core — And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.

I want to be like Mary. I want to choose that good, needed thing…His presence.

I want to keep my eyes on Jesus, my Savior whose love is my comfort and peace. I want to lean into His words with no other conversations crowding out His still, small voice.

Will you join me in taking these moments to savor His simple-but-extraordinary truths?

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Jesus came into our world to bring good news and to help us.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. –Luke 4 :18-19

He has compassion for us.

When the widow was weeping over her dead son, when He saw a crowd of confused and helpless people – lost like sheep without a shepherd–, when He saw the sick and the broken…He had compassion on them. (Luke 7:13, Matt.9:36, Matt.14:14) He brought life, He healed sickness, He met the needs of their hearts. This compassionate heart of our Savior has not changed. The love of the Father that sent Him to our rescue has not changed. Not even a sparrow falls to the ground outside of the Father’s care…and so Jesus says to us- Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matt.10:31) Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matt.11:28)

We can trust Him to provide what we need. The words of Jesus free us from the heavy weight of worry.

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. –Matthew 6:31-33

He is a trust-worthy foundation, in all situations. The whole world can shift, people can change, our situation can turn-upside down…but Jesus does not change. He is steady and sure. We can depend on Him and He will not let us fall.

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. -Matthew 7:24-25

He doesn’t condemn you or turn you away – He welcomes you.

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. -John 3:17

When Jesus steps in, we become subject to Him, our Lord of mercy and grace – and we are no longer subject to shame, sin, or fear.

Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. –John 8:36

He does ask us for our everything when we follow Him…but not without giving His everything first.

“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.–Matt.16:24

 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. –John 10:14-15

At the end of the day, so many things can try to distract and deter us from the point of it all, from the plain and simple truth – God loves us enough that He sent Jesus to die on the cross, so that through Him we can be made righteous – forgiven of all sin.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever should not perish but have everlasting life. –John 3:16

And through His death, through His resurrection power – we can come into the presence of God and dwell with Him forever…while here, on this earth, the Holy Spirit within us – we abide in His love. This, friends, is the needed, good part…and it is the peace to our souls when we are troubled and worried about many things.

May we lean in, hear His voice, and live His Words…

As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.

These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.  This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.

You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.-John 15:9-17

May we hold our hope steady, no matter the noise and the always-changing world. May God make firm our feet on the foundation of His truth, our hearts overflowing in fullness of His joy and love, our ears open to His Spirit’s leading, our hands open to give as we have received, our mouths obedient in speaking His gospel.

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone – Mark 16:15

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“Come and Fill this Place”

I am praying tonight that we find rest in the joy of our First Love.
Laying it all down at the altar of grace…this is where we find our peace.

And we need You, Lord. We need You when the day is long and our bodies are tired. We need You when the problems are bigger than us and our hearts are weary. We need You when we don’t know what to do next. We need You, when our minds are so full of this-and-that, to become the Center of us. We need eyes on You and Your Spirit within.

We are weak and we need Your strength. We need Your living water to fill all these brittle and dry places…more than anything else in this world, it is Your love that we need.  Let us not lose heart and not lose the hope in this — Jesus, we are Yours.

Holy Spirit, come fall afresh on me…

Leaving the Light On: Let’s Make October Hope-Full!

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This may sound strange (and it may worry my neighbors a bit!) but sometimes it comforts me in the early morning darkness when I look out of my windows and see other houses with lights on. Like mine, there are usually only one or two windows lit from within…and I feel a sense of solidarity with whoever it is in that house. Because they, like me, are up and preparing for whatever is on that day’s schedule. I am glad to know that I am not the only one reaching for a cup of something hot to drink and I am not the only one taking the first steps of a new day. (Also, I’m probably not the only one wondering why it’s legal to wake up before the sunrise. ;))

The early-morning lights make me think of the late-at-night lights. Isn’t it wonderful to arrive after nightfall at your own home or a loved one’s home to find that someone left the porch light on for you? Someone has thought of you and made your path clear. They left a beacon to guide you home. That porch light or that lamp-lit window says you are not alone and here is refuge from the darknesscome in.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season– arriving at my parents’ house after it is dark. After hours of driving through the night, I love to spot their house. The entire yard is lit with twinkling lights and the house is lamp-lit and glowing from within.

It means welcome and it means find your rest herewe are waiting for you.

And maybe it sounds funny and maybe I don’t know exactly what this will look like, but I want to keep the light on for you.

Because sometimes it feels like darkness surrounds us. Sometimes it feels like the night is going to last always. Sometimes we feel hopeless. Sometimes we are just tired.

I want you to come here throughout the month of October to find my ‘porch-light’ on, the windows blazing with light…so that you will know that you are not the only one facing the day. So that, late at night (or in the middle of the day!), you will remember that you are not alone in this journey.

I want to hold up the “Lamp for our feet and the Light for our path”, which is God’s Word.  I want to remind you of our Hope that never fails, the Rest for our hearts — Jesus Christ. He says to us – you are not alone. Here is refuge. Come in. Find your rest. I am waiting for you. 

He is the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not, can not, and will not ever overcome Him. (John 1)

It is time for us to turn on the porch light – the lamps – every light in the house! – so that the Father will be known.

It is time to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ with truth and hope.  It is time to take heart in the face of our trouble – because Jesus has overcome the world…it is time to proclaim and live in confidence that darkness and night will one day be no more! (Rev.22)

If you are a fellow blogger, facebook-er, or twitter-er…will you consider joining me and turning your own ‘porch-light’ on? Can we let the love and light of Jesus – in whom there is no darkness – flood our houses, our yards, our entire lives? Can we make October hope-full? I’d love it if you could share a verse, a prayer, a song on your own social media ‘porch’ or on the So Beloved facebook page throughout the month. Feel free to share links to your thoughts in the comments here…and to use the porch-light graphic to share the idea. Let’s take the hope we share on-line and live it out in our every day world.

It’s time to leave our lights on.

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Run

I am having one of those weeks…a week that reminds me of everything that I can’t control. Days that go by in their unpredictable ways. Things happen close to heart, here at home, and far away…things that make me stop, breath slow and tears quick, realizing once again how fragile this life. How delicate…how precious, the hours we are given. And a familiar ache begins in my stomach, a particular weight dropping on my mind – fear, with its sticky tentacles, tries to latch on.

Sometimes, when one of my kids gets hurt or frustrated, they immediately start howling their tears and all I can hear, besides their crying, is feet bounding over the hard wood floors. They are running to me.  Without hesitation, without thinking about it, without a plan. They need me and they run.

I move to meet their outstretched hands with my open arms, ready to love them. Ready to help soothe and make better what I can.

Today, this week…when fear tries to grab hold…I run to Him like my own children run to me. I need Him. I need to remember who He is. I need to see the perfection and hope of His plan – the eternal stretch of our future – instead of these situations. So I reach out my hands, I hold onto Him. To His Word.

He meets me there, in Living Words that speak of His power. His compassion that calms my worries, reminds me of how He has always been faithful. His perfect love reminds me that He always will be faithful.

His arms are always open. He has held me all along.

If fear is trying to sneak its way into your heart and mind, don’t hesitate. Run to your Father. Tell Him what it is that is tying your stomach into knots. Tell Him what brings the tears to your eyes. It is okay to fall into pieces in His arms. He is the One who makes us strong in our weakness.  He is the one who gives joy that nothing can take away…peace deeper than our understanding.

I promise you this: He cares. He is ready to help. He wants you to rest in His arms.

Remember who He is. All-power, all-strength, all-authority, all-grace, all-mercy, all-love. When you ask Him to fill you up with the knowledge of who He is…when you surrender your heart to His presence…you’ll find that His love wholly covers you.

In Him – in His all-sufficient love- you’ll find that there is no room left for fear in your heart.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” ~Isaiah 41:10

Just in Case…

Just in case the day has pressed down hard on your heart…just in case worries are crowding in your mind, overtaking your peace…just in case you feel alone in this moment, without a friend to understand…just in case you are weary from the outside-in, inside-out…

Please remember to speak His name…Jesus, Savior who has sent His Holy Spirit–Comforter, Counselor, Helper–to dwell there, right there inside of your heart. You are not alone.

Sometimes we try to be brave. Sometimes we try to stay strong. Sometimes we expect so much of ourselves that we forget to rely on Him. But our Savior invites us to go from day-to-day in His strength, not our own. We don’t have to hide our pain and fear from Him…Jesus came into our suffering long ago. He took on every heartache…every sickness…every sin…so that we can sit at His feet…so that His grace can carry us.

So just in case today was the kind of day filled with too much trying and too much striving…just know that it’s okay to let go. All the pieces of your heart…your life…you are safe in His hands.

“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace…

Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds…walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it?

If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you?…Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes…

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (from Matt.6 & 11:28-29)

 

On Falling…

Poor Vinny, my dish-soap-dispensing waiter, had an unfortunate sprawl earlier this evening.  

It has been that kind of a day. I had my own trip and fall this morning, albeit a less literal one than poor Vinny’s.

I have no one to blame but myself. For a moment, I ignored the whisper of the Holy Spirit and put all my focus on me. What followed? Bitter words that sparked and flew, tainting the hours with their acrid smoke and scars. Even stamped out, these words still leave the soot of regret. There is still pain from the heat and shame of the too-quick surrender to that fleshly desire to prove I was right.  

I wasn’t right (and I knew it!)…but instead of humbly admitting my mistakes, my pride went raging into battle…proving nothing but the truth of James’ declaration that the tongue is a ‘restless evil, full of deadly poison.’

And so I failed to show grace and I neglected the cause of mercy…and found myself in desperate need of both.

Shame tries to send us into hiding (remember that first couple diving for the first bushes after their disobedience?) and so I really wanted to grab the bag of powdered donuts off the shelf, put on comfy pjs, and put all of my attention into an Iron Chef marathon. After all the hope I had for this week, all the good intentions…how could I slip up so easily?

Yes. Hiding sounded great.

But then…a still small voice reminded me of words I typed only a few days ago…”But I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on…

I looked around my house, at my kiddos, at the bag of donuts. Succumbing to a day of wallowing in regret and prideful self-pity would not get me out of this mess. It would only compound the problem in my heart, keeping the focus all on me.

I needed to offer a good, old-fashioned ‘I’m sorry’ to my Father and to the one I’d hurt with my outburst. And then I needed to ask Him to redirect my heart, my feet, and my day.

So I looked away from myself and up to Him. Knocked off my feet, this time in sorrow and humble crying out for help…and, out of His great (unfathomable!) love, He heard me.

“God is sheer mercy and grace; not easily angered; He’s rich in love. He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold, nor hold grudges forever. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs. As high as heaven is over the earth, so strong is His love to those who fear Him. And as far as sunrise is …

…from sunset, He has separated us from our sins.”~Psalm 103:8-12 (MSG)

The truth is that every single on of us will have a falling-flat-on-our-face day. Because we have not yet reached the end of our journey, when this battle with sin is forever done. We can have victory in the here and the now, through the help of the Holy Spirit, but we will not find perfection in this life-time…so what relief and gratefulness in knowing that the righteousness of my Savior covers me! What undeserved blessing to know that He is faithful…even when I am not.

“Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies…”~Psalm 36:5

 So if your step wasn’t so steady today, please know that you are not alone and that your new day can begin now. He is faithful to forgive and to put our feet back on His path…so don’t hide and don’t run anywhere except into His presence and into His Word. When we fall and reach out to Him, He will pick us up again.

That’s how God’s Word vaults across the skies
      from sunrise to sunset,
   Melting ice, scorching deserts,
      warming hearts to faith.

 The revelation of God is whole
      and pulls our lives together.
   The signposts of God are clear
      and point out the right road.
   The life-maps of God are right,
      showing the way to joy.
   The directions of God are plain
      and easy on the eyes.
   God’s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold,
      with a lifetime guarantee.
   The decisions of God are accurate
      down to the nth degree.

  God’s Word is better than a diamond,
      better than a diamond set between emeralds.
   You’ll like it better than strawberries in spring,
      better than red, ripe strawberries.

  There’s more: God’s Word warns us of danger
      and directs us to hidden treasure.
   Otherwise how will we find our way?
      Or know when we play the fool?
   Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh!
      Keep me from stupid sins,
      from thinking I can take over your work;
   Then I can start this day sun-washed,
      scrubbed clean of the grime of sin.

…May the Words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” ~from Psalm 19 (MSG&NIV)