Monday, January 26, 2015

The Fuel Station of Joy

After reading a few of the earlier entries of this joy-journey, a friend recommended this book, which I read over the course of the last week. It's a great read, and the author develops a thorough study on Sabbath in prosaic fashion. I write to corral my thoughts; he writes to create rhythm that equals the depth of meaning. Oh, how I would love to string words together in this way (not that I'm coveting his talent - oh, no)! At any rate, I highly recommend this finished product, and have given you the Amazon link...

However, back to my study of Sabbath and the "thought" I've contemplated this week: church. As mentioned, Sabbath isn't just about attending church, yet it can't be neglected either. Here's what happened, undoubtedly because I've been "reflecting" so much on the subject. I had a dream this past week that I had been to a wedding. During the meal, or so I recall, someone asked me to pray. As I started the prayer, I began with words of thanks for those of us gathered together to celebrate this holy event, knowing that the Spirit of The Lord was with us as promised. "For where two or three gather together in my name, there am I among them (Mt. 18:20)!" I woke up shortly after, but as I poured my morning coffee, I began to connect some dots.

* In His presence is fulness of joy.
* When we gather together in His name, He is present!
* Therefore, being collectively together as a body, the church (His bride), is a sure way to initiate joy... If I need my joy-tank to be topped to overflowing, I need the body of Christ.

Church (wherever you call your collective gathering of two or more) is a place where we one-another one another's joy-tanks to fulness.

Perhaps that's why King David gave us this, "When they said, 'Let's go to the house of The Lord, my heart leaped for joy (Ps. 122:1)...."

Church. It's not a place we go so we can check off a spiritual to-do list. It's a place we go to be restored. It's a place we go to remember God's faithfulness. It's a place we go to be encouraged, consoled, spurred on to love and good deeds. It's a place we go to receive help sifting through God's right hand being held out to us with pleasures forevermore...sometimes we need someone else's perspective. It's where we go to help one another in a time of need. It's a place we go for soul-stirring truth. It's a place we go for the WORD that is God-breathed. The God-breathed Scriptures, which teach, rebuke, correct, and train us for right-living! It's a place we go, to declare together our God's worth (worship), and remind one another that HE IS ALL WE NEED.

Church. It's not a place for showmanship. It's not an event for entertainment. It's not a celebration of someone else's talents. It's not a creation that centers around me, or my needs, yet in the process of living church, it takes care of my needs, restores, and rejuvenates me to a new week of normal.

I need church for my soul to breathe; it's the oxygen every believer must have in the midst of the mundane and ordinary to saturate our hearts with LIFE.

Church was made for Sabbath; and Sabbath was God's gift for our joy fulfillment. The "gas station" for more joy, in many ways!

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the DAY drawing near. 
Hebrews 10:23-15 (ESV)

Monday, January 19, 2015

When Being An Addict is OK!

Sabbath-joy. Ending last week’s blog entry with the Isaiah verse, I’ve been running through other Scriptures trying to glean the fruit. To repeat what I know already: when I honor Sabbath, I will find joy. Isaiah’s written words were first whispered to him from the Spirit of God. I believe them.

Sabbath is not just an EVENT; it’s not just about CHURCH (gasp). First, and foremost, Sabbath is an attitude of the heart.  Incline your ear to Words the Lord spoke to Moses about Sabbath: 

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested (my emphasis) on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
(Exodus 20:8-11)

From the beginning, God set in motion a plan. No, more than a plan, an invitation to intermission (Hebrew: sabat, where we get our word “sabbatical”). It is a day to desist from exertion, to cease the norm that is our workweek, and to put it all down for one glorious day.  BUT! Sabbath isn’t just a day of vacation; it is intentional in its purposes. Sabbath is for REST. SACRED REST. There’s a difference. To truly Sabbath, we quiet our souls in order to be wholly present with God.

Here’s what I think (not that it matters). God in his infinite, boundless energy didn’t need rest. Yet, He was also infinitely wise. He knew His creation needed rest in order to function properly. So, he blessed the day that followed His marvelous works of creation; and called it holy. Set apart. Sacred. A day to look over what He'd just accomplished during those six days and see the GOOD! His day of rest was for us to mimic: a day of rest and renewal! Rest for renewal! Remember how part of finding joy is to stop and pay attention, to sift through all our God holds out to us in His right hand? A day of Sabbath allows us the time to do just that...

 ...and there's more!

I love this part of the Isaiah verse that follows the Lord’s command to Sabbath:

…then you will find your joy...and, I will cause you to ride in triumph and soar on the heights of the earth…(Isaiah 58:14)

Isn’t that a spectacular picture? I particularly like the soaring on the heights of the earth. Can you imagine it? After recently reading a book on heaven, my husband is convinced that when he arrives through those pearly gates, the Lord is going to let him ride a pterodactyl. Now, that would be soaring on the heights; and, I imagine he will never tire of it! A Sabbath experience in heaven! As I allowed this to play out in my mind, I thought, “I think I could get addicted to that kind of Sabbath experience.” My next thought, “Maybe that’s what the Lord wants for us here on earth, to be addicted to Sabbath.” Real Sabbath. A God-ordained addiction!

Oh, sweet Lord, may I so love, so honor, so delight in Sabbath, it becomes my addiction!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Define My Joy

The joy-journey. I’m exploring the landscape; looking deeper into that which keeps joy, not just on the horizon, but ever-present. I have a map of sorts, but what’s to be found at each stop is still a mystery. Joy is the end destination, but I’ve just realized that while “joy” is clearly where I’m headed, I’ve never defined it! It’ll be difficult to know when I’ve arrived, if that hasn’t been settled.

So, for all practical purposes this is MY working definition. Joy: “an inner sense of calm; an uncluttered mind and heart that feels settled in spite of circumstances. An internal blitheness, or lack of concern about future events (not in a carefree, careless, or reckless mental state that throws caution to the wind, but a quiet assurance that ‘all things work together for good…’).”

 Joy is Peter walking on the water, while looking at Jesus, undisturbed. Joy is Mary pondering all things in her heart, and knowing her son was God’s Son…and in the end it would be OK! Joy is the martyr burning at the stake, yelling, “More than enough! He is more than enough!” Joy is the friend diagnosed with stage-four-cancer, who takes advantage of every single day to live to the full. Joy is the car accident victim learning to persevere and walk again, in spite of pain, counting his blessings in the midst. Joy is the daughter going through divorce digging deeply into truth, and coming out focused and victorious, more in love with Jesus. Joy is watching your young husband collapse after being hit in the chest, thinking everything you’d planned was about to change, but being convinced God still sovereignly holds every tomorrow. Joy is watching God provide month after month, never knowing if ends will meet, but confident in the One who is FAITHFUL (correction: more than FAITHFUL!). Joy depends not on circumstances. Joy depends wholly on who holds them.

Stop #1. The pinnacle of God's presence. 

Stop #2. The city of God’s blessings.

Stop #3. Here’s where the journey took me this week. The valley of Sabbath.

“If you keep your feet from breaking Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day; if you call Sabbath a delight, and the Lord’s day honorable; and if you honor it by not going your own way, and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, THEN YOU WILL FIND YOUR JOY IN THE LORD (emphasis mine), and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land, and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob!” The mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Isaiah 58:13-14, NIV

Accordingly, when I honor Sabbath, I WILL FIND MY JOY! I think I’ll spend a little time here in this valley, wandering through grassy meadows. I’m thoroughly delighting in where I am, but, honestly, Sabbath doesn’t look anything like what I thought it should. We’ll explore the area together next week, after I learn my way around some…

Monday, January 5, 2015

Paying Attention: a key to joy!

The past week has been a week of happy! Gotta admit, I could get addicted to happy. Happy for me is having all my family under one roof, making memories, laughing, playing games, and grazing our way through each day not worrying about calories. Happy is, well....wonderful; and, it is sure to fill my joy-tank to full and over-flowing.

HOWEVER, happy is temporary and temporal. It's based on my-current-world-experiences. It's grounded upon sweet-situations. It finds its fulness in what brings me pleasure. All great gifts from God's hand to be sure. BUT, what happens when my kids leave and take my grand-treasures back home? Then where does the joy-meter register? Sometimes, happy masks true joy. 

I don't want to need happy repeated in order to know JOY. So far, what I understand about experiencing true JOY is that it's found being in God's presence. No matter what the current-world-experiences, if I want my joy-tank to fill up, I have a need to experience God. We all do. That's had me thinking quite a bit, once everyone left, and silence filled the empty spaces of our house. I went back to Psalm 16. I re-read these verses, and began to memorize the words:

I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely...You will make known to me the path for my life; in Your presence is fulness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever more (vv. 8, 9, 11)

Honestly, sometimes, it's difficult to experience God. I anticipate meeting with Him every morning; I come ready. I do all the right things. Gotta tell ya, though, there are times I wonder if He's around. Some days, He's just quiet. There's a key in those verses that I almost missed. A key that will open the door to being in His presence and experiencing His fulness. It's found in the last phrase of verse 11: in Your right hand there are pleasures forever more!

Picture this: While unseen, by faith (not by feeling), I can KNOW for certain (according to verse 8) that my God is always at my right hand. His left shoulder is brushing up against mine - and sometimes, His arm is embracing me, comforting me, causing me to feel settled, secure, unshaken. That picture should be enough to get my heart soaring, and my soul leaping in joy, as it did David's, but there's more. While my Lord sits close, He's also holding His right hand in front of me. In His hand are "pleasures." Pleasures: sweet, lovely, beautiful things; delights agreeable (literal or figurative). These things never run out. He, forever, has more gifts to offer. We get the privilege of sifting through them, and discovering each and every one for ourselves. No wonder there is fulness of joy!

The key is in the sifting. The key is paying attention. Every time we sit in God's presence, we should be looking into His right hand. There are wonders anew - things that will make us smile, things that will cause us to "awe"...  As I think about that, I'm reminded of something someone told me years ago, "if we lose our wonder, we lose our worship..."  

Being in the presence of my Living Lord, experiencing God to the fullest, finding my joy-tank rising to overflowing, begins with paying attention to what's in His right hand. To do so, requires a little effort. This isn't a normal practice. To do so, requires setting aside our sense of entitlement, in order to receive the blessings. To do so, however, will open our eyes to a fresh new wonder...and lead us to worship, because we will KNOW we are in HIS PRESENCE; and in His presence is fulness of joy!