Monday, March 30, 2015

In Spite of - there is JOY! (2)

This was last week's #lessononjoy: "In Spite Of..." In spite of my shortcomings. In spite of my failures. In spite of my sin. In spite of my brokenness. In spite of my mess. In spite of my inability to DO ANYTHING in my flesh on my own behalf....JESUS!  

That's the Easter story. 

JESUS came in spite of; He came because of... 
Because of His fierce love for me.

You, too. 

Indeed, at the foot of the cross there is that reminder: Jesus loves me fiercely, in spite of! And, that my friends, equals deep, everlasting, abiding JOY!

But, there's another "in spite of" where it is more difficult to find joy, yet Old Testament writers and New Testament authors alike, ask us to squint through the blackness to find sparkling stars of joy in the midst. In spite of trial. In spite of suffering. In spite of persecution. In spite of hardship and heartache. In spite of failed expectations. In spite of no cows in the stalls, and harvested crops in the barns. In spite of poor health. In spite of____________________ (?) 

Paul wrote of such joy in these words found in Romans 5:3-5 (follow the link). These words became my mantra while my son served his first tour of duty in Iraq. Good words. In spite of the hardship, and, yes (gasp), worry, I KNEW that, character would be refined, and hope would not be put to shame. Somehow, good would prevail, and it would produce BENEFIT. No matter what the outcome.

James wrote of such joy in these words (James 1:2-5). I quoted this truth (sometimes minute by stinking minute) when my girls were struggling GREATLY in their marriages. In spite of the failure, I KNEW that out of the pain, steadfastness would be born, and that the Lord would make them "perfect and complete lacking nothing." Again, I had a sense that "all things would be used for good..." No. Matter. What. 

But, it's Habakuk's words (3:17-19) that are convicting. Here they are:
In spite of the fig tree that does not blossom,
nor the fruit absent on the vines,
and the olive tree failing to produce,
and the fields yielding no food.
In spite of the flocks being cut off from the fold,
and no herds present in the stalls,
yet I will find my joy in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
He makes my feet like those of the deer, 
and He allows me to walk confidently on my high places. (emphasis mine)

Habakkuk's world is totally bankrupt. His life is empty in the fullest sense of the word. What should be normally expected, seasonal provision, can't even be depended on...and, frankly, life looks pretty hopeless. Bleak. Yet, in the middle of the "in spite of," Habakkuk only had to look inward, not outward. That's the difference between his song and that of Paul or James. Habakkuk doesn't seem to even have a forward hope on which to hang his hat. So, Habakkuk finds his joy simply because he has a God who saved him. His joy isn't based on what God will do, but on what God had done (period). He is assured, the God who rescued him once, will rescue him again. The God who had been his strength before, would strengthen him now. The same God would help him put one foot in front of the other; and, in spite of the darkness and the weariness, would bring him confidently to a place far above the present difficulty. 

Habakkuk's lesson is this: When everything is depleted and bleak, we can still have joy, because we have a God who is joy. 

When there is absolutely nothing to depend on, we still have a God who is dependable. 

Therein is our joy. When we can get to that place, when all seems lost, and still find joy, simply because of the God who is our salvation, we have found the key to victory. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

What if? Would there be Joy?

I woke up quite early this morning, turned my praise & worship station (Pandora) on quietly, and sat with coffee in hand, just soaking in the lyrics I was hearing. These were songs filled with declarations I needed to be reminded of before seeking what the Lord had for me as I began my day. They were words that brought me back to the cross, just as discussed last week, to that place where I was reminded of the mercy and grace of my Savior. Then, my mind started asking the "what if" questions:

What if there was no forgiveness for our sinful natures?

What if we had to live our lives eaten up by guilt; consumed by our own human failures?

What if there was no way to find freedom from the entrapments of sin?

What if there was no way to victory over the world, the flesh, or the wiles of the enemy?

What if there was no way to remove the darkness of our own depravity?

What if fault could find no bridge to reconciliation or redemption?

What if there was no mercy, and no role-model to exemplify it?

What if the rest of my life, I had to battle the lusts of the eyes, the lusts of the flesh, and the pride of my power-hungry-seeking self?

What if I had no Savior?

What if this life was all there would ever be; or worse, what if this life was the best my eternal existence would know?

What if there had been no cross; no resurrection?

So words like these settled into every crevice of my soul:

...Everyone needs forgiveness
the kindness of a Savior...the HOPE of nations...*

And, my heart resonated with this offer:
...So take me as you find me,
All my fears and failures...fill my life again...*

Sometimes we need to ask what-if-questions, if they will bring us back to the cross, in appreciation!

Lord, that you offer forgiveness in spite of:
-my desire for retribution, when You say, "Vengeance is mine..."
-my callousness and lack of love for others who mess up (and hurt me, or mine, in the midst of their failure), when you say, "Love your enemies; and, do good to those who speak evil of you; ALL of us sin and fall short of the glory of God, but I so loved the world that I gave..."
-my worrisome and anxious heart, when you say, "Do not be anxious, but..."
-I desire to control the way my life goes, when you say, "Let go...surrender!"
-I seek to please others, when you say, "...if you seek the pleasure of others, you are not a servant of God..."
- I lean on other things to "cope," when you say "in all things give thanks; let prayers abound; and think on these things..."

Oh, sweet Lord, that mercy falls like rain! 
My chains are gone, and I've been set free..*

WHAT WORDS.....In spite of! 

= JOY!

Indeed, without the "what ifs" becoming "in spite of," there would be no joy.

PS. I highly recommend turning on a praise and worship radio station, and just jotting down every meaningful line that resonates with your heart. Before you know it, the Lord Himself is whispering of His Amazing Grace and Love for you...


* Links to YouTube provided for each song...

Monday, March 16, 2015

Salvation: Let it Roar!

These words, in the song "Amazing Grace," have a fresh meaning after this week: I once was lost, but now am found... There is no sweeter word than the word found! Especially, when one has been lost.

Last Sunday evening, just before dusk settled and night waned, the young son of dear friends (from our Rift Valley Academy days in Kenya) got lost in the Sand Dunes National Park not far from us here in Colorado. In winter. All night. We were to have lunch with them on Monday. When his mama sent me the text message, we began to pray...hard! All night. Nothing is scarier, I don't think, than having a child come up missing. My heart ached for Caleb, for his daddy (Danny), his mama (Faith) and sister (Viola). I couldn't imagine what they were experiencing. When morning dawned, the search and rescue sent out aircraft with infrared hoping to find him. Somehow, though, Caleb made his way to the highway, and a State Trooper passing by found the little six year old. What sweet relief! What a flood washed over my soul as I read the words, "Caleb has been found and is OK!" Lost is excruciating. Found is, well, joyful (as in filled with expression: rejoicing)!

I've been lost. Literally. Spiritually. I've also been found. My being found was equally filled with rejoicing. For a while...until I forgot the despair of being lost. Until I took for granted being found.
Isn't that a sad indictment?

Caleb's "found-ness" came when I needed a big boost of reminding just how found I am because of the cross of Christ.

Dr. Luke wrote these words (Message Paraphrase): "'s not what you do for God, but what God does for you - that's the agenda for rejoicing (Luke 10:20)."

The Apostle Paul wrote frequently about rejoicing, and as you read his epistles to the churches, almost always pointed their reason for rejoicing back to the cross, what The Lord had done, the Good News!

As I've been studying "joy" and how to create space for joy to reside in me, God brought me back to the cross. Fitting, I think, during this Lenten season. As a result, I've been deeply convicted. My ability to find joy-in-me is in complete connection to my ability to remember my found-ness. The more I return to the foot of the cross, the more meaningful my salvation. The more meaningful my salvation, the more joy! It's a cycle I must keep up - regularly and often.

I'm afraid I have tamed salvation in me. I've put it like a lion in a nice cage, and walked by from time to time to check on it. Maybe I even throw it a little meat from time to time, and fill the water trough. However, lions aren't meant to be "zooed." They are meant to run through savannas, voraciously feed on meat they kill for themselves, and drink deeply from rushing rivers. It's time for me to uncage the lion of salvation in me. Let it run; feed on the meat of the Word (found in the joy of discovery); drink deeply of living water; and, by all means, let it ROAR!

May I return daily to the cross, remembering:
- just how very, very lost I was (& believe me, I was extremely LOST!)
- the fulness of forgiveness, mercy, and grace that covered me
- the shame God buried
- the freedom I hold dear
- the found-ness I experience in His love
- the new identity He has given me
- the gifts of the Spirit He has imparted
- the eternal life I will obtain

All = JOY! Let it ROAR!


After writing this blog, a friend posted this picture on her website, without knowledge of what I'd just written. Fitting, I think:

Monday, March 9, 2015

This God - His Way is Perfect

Every so often, in that place between sound asleep and wide awake, I seem to be more sensitive to hearing the whispers of God's words. Up first on my agenda this morning was to move on down the "road to joy." I've been deeply convicted about the place of the cross in our lives as it compares to a heart filled with joy. That is, also, where I studied all week. HOWEVER, the words that seemed to scroll across my brain as I moved out of slumber were these: the way of the Lord is perfect. 

The words resonated; and, they sounded very much like something the Lord would say. So, I went to look them up for reference. I found them here in 2 Samuel 22:31-32:

The word translated as blameless also means perfect, without defect, complete, or full. A great prescription for joy, especially when you add it to the verses that were highlighted last week.

So, here I camp this morning, and here's why I think they are, personally, important. Part of our plan to spend a few weeks in Phoenix this winter, besides board meetings and flying out of a city not buried in snow, was to visit the same doctors we've had for years (since Phoenix Suns days). It's just nice to be with docs who know your history, particularly for Bay. The result of his visit brought about a couple minor surgeries for basal cell carcinoma, and three days in a Holter Monitor, after a stress test indicated some possible aortic valve issues. Every now and then, my sweet husband's heart acts up. He's had an arrhythmia, detected way back when, but once in a while his heart kicks into a higher gear, sometimes lasting hours. Hence the Holter...which showed nothing, because over those days he wore it, his heart acted completely normal. Of course. So, home we came. AND WOULDN'T YOU KNOW IT, the night we arrive home, it happened. While trying to sleep, his heart ran a race. So why then, not when we wanted it to do so?

This God, His way is perfect... Even in this, God's plans for our lives are precisely accurate, and we can trust His ways. This was just a small reminder to us that He makes no mistakes. Maybe it's time to find a closer doctor? Maybe it's time to cancel a few events and make time to get this figured out? We're seeking those answers. The point is, every one of us on this journey called life, asks "why" from time to time. I confess! I am a why-asker. There's nothing wrong with it, as long as it doesn't interfere with my trust. Asking questions, helps us when the road isn't as clear as the one in the picture below. Asking questions, diving into God's truth (His roadmap) and evaluating the WORD as a part each of life's circumstances, gives us a clearer map of His spotless way. 

His way is perfect...through every storm, through every shade of trial, uphill, through valleys, when the way is fraught with fog and we can't see, or understand.

His way is perfect...and sometimes I transgress that way when I put "life" in my own hands, but picking up God's Word will always lead me back.

His way is perfect...and on that way, I am assured of two things:
1) He will shield me. He is a shield for all who take refuge in Him. I may not experience a physical protection, but He is certainly promising He will be a soul-refuge in the midst of the journey (so much more important). As well, He promises, He will always deflect away that which will not better me in the process of looking like Jesus (Romans 8:28-29).

2) He will provide a firm foundation. He is a rock! He will steady me* along the way when things seem crazy and out of control, spinning and rocking. When my world experiences a soul-quake (kind of like an earthquake, but in my heart, instead), He will be unchanging, undeniably immovable, a place to find that firm footing in the middle of EVERYTHING.

His way is perfect!


*link to a "Steady Me" by Kari Jobe - a favorite!


Then there's this:

Monday, March 2, 2015

What I Eat & the Road to Joy

Your words were found and I ate them; and, your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart.
Jeremiah 15:16

Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly (extravagantly, fully)…
Colossians 3:16

God’s words. A delight. A joy! The Prophet Jeremiah ate them. The Apostle Paul filled himself up on them. Both men consumed God’s words. Devoured them. Both found their joy-tanks overflowing…superfluously (isn’t that just a GREAT WORD?). They lived their lives with more than enough joy. That’s what I’m after. More than enough! I’m joy-greedy.

Keep in mind that Jeremiah is the one who wrote Lamentations. He was a prophet of doom. Yet this prophet of sorrow still found joy in the midst of the darkness. Paul, too. Paul writes a lot about joy; even from a prison cell, and in the midst of persecution, he was rich in joy. These men, role models in joy, share with us their secret. It had to do with what they ate!

I have a love/hate relationship with eating. Right now, I’m in the middle of a diet. I’ve incorporated some guardrails in my life that I pay attention to on a regular basis. I’m not fixed on numbers, as in I don’t want them to define me, but I am attempting to stay as healthy as possible. So, if the numbers go under “X” amount, I am very aware that’s too little (gotta say, I haven’t ever worried about the “X” numbers - I’m not one of those). If the numbers go over “Y” amount, that’s too much. I’m better off if I live in the green zone somewhere between X and Y. However, following holidays, wonderful company from December forward, board meeting weekend, and traveling (such a killer), I am over the “Y” by about 8 pound. Yuck. So, I’m working on getting back to the green. I’ve learned over the years what works for me. Basically, it has to do with caloric intake and the amount I burn (what I eat and how much I exercise). Fairly simple and straightforward. When it comes to what I eat, some things are better options than others. Fruit and Greek Yogurt not Dairy Queen Freezes. Lean protein not pizza. Salads not sandwiches. I still need calories, for energy; I just need to watch what calories and in what amounts. This isn’t a blog about dieting, it’s a blog driven on a discovery of joy. However, as in dieting, some things are better choices when it comes to filling up our minds. That would be God’s words. The beauty of eating God’s words is that we can consume to our hearts content, and never, eat too much. Additionally, the best part, no matter how much we eat, we can’t really over-do, because it simply means more joy. For someone who is being restrictive in regards to food, this resonates with me. Wahoo, something with no limits!

Jesus encouraged this kind of joy-eating: 

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full (John 15:11). 

These things! What things? The things He’s spoken to us! What’s the result? The joy of Jesus filling me. Want full joy? Make a stop at a banquet that’s going to fill you superfluously full. Just know that if I’m already there, I may not share!** I think Jesus would be OK with this “greedy.” So, eat to your hearts content, as will I! 


Today’s key: I get filled up with Jesus' joy when I dwell on His Words...that's a LOT OF JOY! 

or, maybe Bay could buy me a house on this street (the Street of Joy/Contentment), but I doubt it’s all it’s advertised.


**Qualifier: I may not “share” as far as the intake goes…though, be warned I might regurgitate; but that’s for another Monday morning. Smile.