Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Romans 12:12 for the new year...

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
Romans 12:9-13

As I thought more last night about my hopes and dreams for the new year, these verses popped into my head as well. Romans is such an incredible book, packed with so much. I have read through it at least 4 times fully, using it as a study book… and the first couple of times, I took copious notes!

But I realized as I was writing last night, there was no way I was going to be able to include these verses in that post. It was already getting too long.

Now we will see how well I can keep my train of thought with the kids playing nearby!

I am sure that you have experienced times when the love of someone has been insincere. The things they say sound so good, and for a while you believe them. But then eventually their true feelings show through in their actions. They do things to hurt you, to betray you, to manipulate you. And you are left damaged, hurt, confused and wondering what happened.

I find it so interesting that Paul couples love being sincere with hating what is evil, and instead clinging to what is good. If we cling to what is good, the things of God, we will find ourselves becoming more “in sync” with God, and loving others with His love.

Sincere love.

So many times the bible talks about loving your brothers, being devoted to each other, honoring one another about yourselves. That is true love, sincere love.

I have experienced that this year. I have seen that sincere love extended to me from my church family, my bible study, my husband’s family, my family, my friends. I have seen that sincere brotherly love extended to others outside my church. Reaching out to people who are hurting, needing ministry and care that they just couldn’t provide for themselves and their families.

That is the love this year that I want to show to others. A love that reaches out to others, because I have been reached out to. I want to love others, deeply, from my heart. And I want my actions to bear that out. I want others to feel my love and know that I truly care about them. I don’t want to be influenced by the opinions and decisions of others. I want to be cautious so I don’t give my heart away too easily, but I also want to be open to loving those who are difficult to love, or who I might not always gravitate towards.

Another thing that I want is for God to help me keep alive the fire that He has rekindled in my heart for Him. I want that “spiritual fervor” that Paul talks about. I want to follow after God with all my heart. Only then will my love for others spill over… out of the love that God has shown me. I want the passions He has given me for Him, and for using the things He has given me to not just fade out as they have in the past. I want to stay close to His side and learn more from Him.

Even though our resources are limited right now, I want to be able to get to the point where we can give to others who have need. I want our house to be an open, hospitable, friendly, loving and safe environment for people to come into. I want people to feel welcome here, whether it is their first time in our home or not.

I want others to be able to feel at home with me as well. Not just when they come into my home, but when they are in my presence. That is a gift some people that I know really have. As soon as I am with them, I find myself relaxing and not worrying about appearances or anything else. Because I know that I am totally accepted by them, and again, sincerely loved by them.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
Romans 12:12

This was the verse though that spoke to me the most. It was a verse that I settled in on when I was looking for verses on Joy for my advent posts.

I want this year to be characterized by joyful hope. I want to come to the end of 2009 and be able to look back and see where I have been joyful. Maybe not happy, but joyful, and hopeful.

Joyful in hope.

Over this year, and especially this past month I have discovered and rediscovered, again and again that God is my source of joy. I can’t manufacture joy on my own. I can make myself happy for a little bit, but then it fades away. God’s joy never fades.

It is the same with hope. God is the source of our hope. I read today’s devotional from Proverbs 31 Ministries that talked about how someone was drawing hope from earthly things. When those earthly things disappointed, they were left feeling hopeless and helpless. Until God reminded them that He is the source of their hope. They were reminded that God’s hope never disappoints or fails, but always lifts up, renews and refreshes.

That type of hope produces real joy.

There is nothing like the hope and joy that comes from God.

I know that there are going to be things this year that are going to cause me difficulties and that will drag me down. I know that I am going to encounter situations in my life, relationships with people, struggles in my personal and emotional life that are going to hit me, and hit me hard. I know there are going to be things that will afflict me. But I also know that God provides the patience to endure the hard times.

The hard times I went through this past year were extremely painful, but through them I have learned anew that God will love me through it all. I have learned that He will bring me through. I have learned that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him. Nothing will change that. Nothing will rush what He is doing. It requires patience and extreme trust.

And difficult situations require faithfulness in prayer. There have been so many times that I have wanted to stop praying. Times when I didn’t have the words to pray anymore. It was crazy hard at times to even think straight. Especially when I could feel the pain in my own life, or the pain in the lives of my friends and family I was interceding for.

Being faithful in prayer… and admitting to God when I was ready to give up on praying for or about something… has been a growing and learning process but so rewarding.

I want this year to be characterized by love, clinging to God, providing for others and loving them without boundaries, joy, hope, patience and faithfulness.

I don’t want just this year to be characterized by these things. I want this year to continue the transforming process that God has begun. I want my life to be characterized by these things.

I want my life to be a reflection of God’s character.

I want to serve Him with a spiritual fervor for the rest of my life, so that when others look at me they will see and know that I serve the Lord God and Him alone.

Oh Lord, You know the desire of my heart is to be more like you in this coming year, and for the rest of my life. I want to live the way you would have me live. I ask that you would help me to cling to you and your word. Continue to give me an insatiable thirst for your word, and a deep desire to become more like you. Help me to grab on and cling to you with all that is within me. When I win I will praise you, and when I lose, I will praise you. In the good and the bad I will praise you. In the pain and in the joy I will praise you. In the lean and in the plenty I will praise you. In the times when I feel dead and dry, and in the times when I feel filled and full I will praise you. You alone are worthy of all my praise. May my life be exemplified by praise. Praising you the Living God. Make me more and more into a woman after your own heart, that I may reflect your love and life to everyone with whom I cross paths. Amen.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer 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 12:1-2

These are my goals for myself this new year.

Maybe, better to say, these are God’s goals for me this new year.

It is hard for me to fathom the many changes that have happened this year. Between being in the hospital, in intense counseling, and the major shifts I needed to make in my thinking and belief systems, I really had my work cut out for me this past year.

God took me through every step of the way. Looking back at the depression I was suffering through last Christmas, the difficulties in facing conflict in my life.. the problems with standing up for myself and telling others what I really wanted… Heck, I didn’t even know what I wanted most of the time because I was so used to deferring to others, and letting others make the decisions because I wanted to keep the peace and do what someone else wanted. But looking back at all of that, I can see how much God led me through it all.

He taught me how to start standing up for myself, and how to deal with the emotional fall out that often happened afterward. He showed me to how to be responsible for myself, and my reactions to things, and to learn to not take responsibility for others reactions. It has been easier to do that now. Now I am starting to be able to see where others are coming from, what modes, what pains, what difficulties they may be coming from and operating out of. It has enabled me to give them more grace in our interactions.

God has been the one who has opened my eyes up to those things. It is nothing of my doing, or the doing of anyone else in my life. It has only been God using others when I was ready to see those things.

I have dealt with a lot of pain in my own life this year. I can remember times in counseling when Tricia would mention that we hadn’t dealt with something, and I would tell her, “I know,” and change the subject. Many times she let it go, until I was ready to bring it back up again. It was hard to bring things back up, but as I tackled each painful topic this year, I could feel the freedom starting to work into my life. I could feel God’s healing power, and oh the relief!

I can’t describe to you the relief I started feeling. And that relief from the pain, the pressure, the depression, the bondage was what kept me pressing on. I think that it was pure strength of will, this deeper grit that I didn’t know I had, until I really needed to use it, that God activated in me as I needed to keep going into the deeper, harder topics.

And now.

Now I am done with counseling. I have worked through the stuff that Tricia can help me with for now. I hope to say that I’m done and won’t need to go back at all. I know that for now I have things I need to work through, but they are things that I am equipped to deal with. God has given me the means to work through them.

That brings me back to the verses from above.

This coming year is about offering myself as a living sacrifice to God.

My life, my body, my heart, my soul, my will.
All of it is God’s.

Things may happen that I don’t want. Things may not go as I will. I may get sick; my heart may hurt; my soul may quake at the coming things. But that is my sacrifice. It is a sacrifice, because I have to die to myself. I have to let go of all the things that I think I need to live. But God is in the business of resurrection. Bringing to life the dead. My worldly desires and flesh may die. But Jesus is raising to life a new person inside of me. A person that reflects God’s beauty and wisdom, I hope.

I hope that I will be a reflection of His glory.
I pray that I will shine with His light.
I pray that my face, my life will be radiant as I look to Him.

As I said before, this past year has been one of equipping me with tools. Some of the tools have been helping me transform my ways of thinking and believing and reacting to situations around me. A lot of the tools have been centered around how I know what is truth and what is a lie. Both of them all twisted up together within me.

Those tools stem out of a deeper knowledge of the scripture. God has given me a hunger for His Word like never before. As I soak in His truth, it has started to transform me.

My mind has been transformed as He has revealed lies about my identity, and lies about Himself, that I have been believing. Slowly the Truth has been working it’s way deeper and deeper into my mind. Deeper into my heart. Deeper into my thoughts. Deeper into my belief systems.

I don’t want to do the things that the world does… at least not as strongly as I used to. There are still areas of struggle. I think there will always be as long as I live here. But slowly I am fighting against conformity to this world, and desire more strongly to be transformed by God… from my thought patterns to my habit patterns, from my feelings to my actions. I want to be completely renewed and transformed by God… and that starts first in my mind. The transformation moves from my mind to my heart.

As I wrote that I realized, that encapsulated exactly what Tricia was working me through this whole past year. Transforming my mind, my thought patterns and the things I believed, because as those got transformed, my heart became transformed as well. As I started to believe the truth (that sets us free) in my head, my heart was transformed by those new beliefs!

Praise God!!!!

I want to continue this process of offering myself to God, as a sacrifice… and not allowing myself to be conformed by the world. I want to continue being transformed, by the renewing of my mind. I want those processes to keep going this coming year. I feel that God is really calling me to that, in a new way than I have ever understood it before.

If I do that this year, then I truly will be able to know what God’s will is for me. The more I soak in His Word, the more I will be transformed and renewed, and the more I will be able to recognize His voice, and know His will for my life.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Make Joy Complete... Advent of Joy #25

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.”
1 John 1:1-5

I am so thankful for all of you who have gone on this journey with me. There have been ups and downs as I have tried to keep my mind focused on joy this season of Advent. And now here we are at the journey’s end.

Or are we?

Today is the day that we celebrate the ultimate gift our Father in heaven could give us.
His one, dear and precious Son.

Our journey to seeking His joy continues.

It is in the message of His Son that we continue to find joy. As John wrote above, we share the message of Christ, the Light of the world, to make our joy complete.

We can find joy from God, and He will be faithful to fill us with His joy, as we learn more about His love for us, and as we learn to love Him and others more. His joy will flow out of us to others. We will start to live in, and think in harmony with others, and our joy will grow as we live in joy and peace with each other. But above all else, our joy is completed when we share what we know of Christ with others. Because that brings them into fellowship with us, and their joy adds to ours, thus increasing joy for all of us.

We may be at the end of the official Advent season, but we are still on this journey… this journey of waiting for our Savior… this time waiting for Him to appear again. And we are waiting in joyful anticipation. As we wait we can share what we know with others. Our joy increases as more people are “added to our number” and we know that more and more people are waiting with joyful hope.

I am going to continue to look for aspects of joy. As I come across them, as I go through my days, I will share them with you. Because as I share aspects of joy, and get your responses, and see that God is touching your heart, my joy is also increased.

Not because I am getting affirmation for what I am writing (or from it, that it is the motivation… though I suppose some of that is there) but it is good to know that I am not on this journey alone. It is good to know that there are others struggling to find joy… even in the midst of troubles, pain, hardships… and that we are able to find that joy in those tough circumstances (or maybe becasue of them) because of Jesus.

No matter what our circumstances are today… on Christmas…

Whether we are together with family, in harmony, or struggling with strained family relationships;
Whether we are by ourselves or with friends;
Whether we are resting in a warm home with more than we need, or we find ourselves wanting have more for ourselves or others;
Whether we have all we need provided for us, or we don’t have all our basic needs met;
Rich or poor, blind or seeing, lame or walking, sick or healthy, deaf or hearing, mute or speaking, slave or free…

…we have Christ at the center if we are believers in Him and have repented of our wrong-doing, and asked for His forgiveness, asking Him to live with us, abide with us in our lives and in our hearts.

In that is everlasting joy. For in Christ alone are we saved. In Christ alone do we have our ultimate security, significance, acceptance, and purpose. For this life, and the one to come.
My being able to write these posts has been a joy. It has, at times, been hard to keep up. There have been some days that have been so hard, my words have dried up, and there was nothing to write… at least on my own. Then something would happen that would give me a spark. God would touch my heart and give me words to write. There were days that I was able to write my post for the next day, the night before… that was typical for me. But then there were the days that I wouldn’t be able to write in the evening. Or the morning a post was “due.” Or at noon. But finally something would help during the day, and I would find a scripture or an inspiration during the day, or from my quiet time.

It has been a difficult discipline to write every day.
Each day God has been faithful and given me words and reminded me of something that brings me joy.

Today I will close with a bit of joy.

I woke on Christmas day, anticipating going to the Christmas service at my parent’s church. I woke to my 2 year old daughter getting sick to her stomach, then snuggling up in bed with me. We fell back asleep. Then got up to have breakfast and she got sick again.

So started my Christmas morning.

My parents took Peter to church with them, and I stayed home with Marina.

We had soft music playing in the background, she fell asleep against me, and when I moved her over to the pillow on the couch, she stayed asleep, and we just had a beautiful, quiet morning.
What seemed like a bad thing, a sick daughter and missing church, ended up being a blessing and joy.

May your Christmas, even if it doesn’t go as planned, be filled with joy, and many reminders of the reason we celebrate.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.”
John 1:1-4

God bless you all.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

God's wisdom and strength... Advent of Joy #24

When Jesus was born, angels heralded His birth, appearing to shepherds in the fields saying:
“I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Luke 2:10-12

When Jesus was brought to the temple to be circumcised, Simeon who was waiting for the time when He would see the Messiah, praised God and said to Mary,
“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
Luke 2:34-35

And so began Jesus life on earth. Born as a baby, there was already a foreshadowing of what was to come.

After Jesus’ resurrection, two angels told the women at the tomb,
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, He is risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again?”
Luke 24:5-7

Can you imagine the reaction of people in that day, after hearing that Jesus was resurrected? Can you imagine the disciples and followers of Jesus starting to see the plans of God? Can you imagine how crazy they must have thought God was? They had to have thought that God was so foolish, that He had no strength if the person they thought was the Messiah was dead and buried.

But when they saw Jesus resurrected and full of glory, and felt the power of the Holy Spirit running though them. Then they began to see the wisdom and strength of God in a way never before.

How could He be the conquering king they thought He was? The religious rulers and authorities had taken Him and killed Him.

Don’t those thoughts follow the lines of many today?

He was just a man.
He was just a prophet.
He was only…
He really wasn’t…

Today, in our own “wisdom” we think that we know everything and there is no way that Jesus could possibly be who He said He was.

Today, in our own “strength” we try to do everything by ourselves, including getting into heaven by doing “enough” and being “enough” and wondering what “enough” really is.
Christmas is about so much more.

Christmas is about the insane foolishness of sending your one and only Son to die to reconcile the world to you…. and then leaving it up to the world to accept or reject or ignore your Son.
Christmas is about the weakness of Jesus. His allowing Himself to be taken in hand by the rulers of the day and beaten and killed so inhumanely.

However, without Jesus dying and rising to life again, we would have no reason to celebrate Christmas. We would have no reason to celebrate his birth, because without his suffering and bearing all our sin and shame, we would have no salvation. He took the penalty for our sins. He alone is worthy of our praise. He reigns victorious over death so we may have life.

This little baby born to us this day in the city of David is Christ our Lord.
This baby rejected by men, is chosen by God and precious to Him.
This baby is the reason and source of our JOY.
Let’s remember this baby together on the advent, the eve, of His birth.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Weakness... Advent of Joy #23

“…and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”
1 Corinthians 1:25b

So what about weakness? Have there been times in your life where you have viewed God as being weak?

I know I have.

Think about Joseph. Here he was, given dreams by God of his brothers and father bowing down to him. Yet, God allowed him to be sold into slavery… thrown in a dungeon. How could that possibly be a path to leadership? From Joseph’s point of view, it had to look like God wasn’t in control. Here he was in a deep, dark place, given these dreams. It had to cross his mind that maybe it wasn’t right, he was wrong and God was too weak to control the whims of men.

But then, at the end, Joseph saw the bigger plan. He stuck with God and got through his questioning, and saw how God intended to save His chosen people. God’s apparent weakness was way stronger than anything anyone could do to Joseph.

How crazy it must have been for Moses’ mother needing to protect her baby. In her strength she saw the need to protect her son, by setting him in the reeds along the river Nile. She must have thought that God was out of control as she saw all the baby boys around her being killed.

I wonder if she saw the power of God as Moses grew up safe in the Pharoah’s household. I wonder if she saw and knew how God saw it all and pulled everything together for the people of Israel to be released from captivity.

What about when the Israelites came to the edge of the Red Sea, resting from their walking right out of Egypt? What about when they saw the cloud of dust behind them and realized the Egyptians were coming to destroy them? Did they think that God was too weak to save them? I can just imagine the panic.

Then God showed up. He saved them by a pillar of fire, and by suddenly splitting the Red Sea. He showed that He wasn’t without power or strength. What seemed like weakness, in allowing them to be driven to the edge of the sea, in allowing all the years of slavery to increase the number of His chosen people, turned out to be God showing that His weakness was by far more powerful than man’s strength.

The things that God allowed in my life over the years seemed so crazy. It seemed like that God was totally out of control. It seemed like God didn’t care, and that He was too weak to take into account the choices others would make. The choices I would make. The depression. The suicidal thoughts. The pain and hurt from my decisions and the decisions of others. The trust broken.

But God. He has healed me, and continues to work on my heart and heal me even more. He allowed those things into my life to bring me to a place where I can see what He is doing to prepare me for ministry. His power has been proved over and over in my life.

No matter where I go or what I do, I can see how God has been working to bring me to this point of healing. The process I have gone through has shown me that you can get through things like I have experienced. And it has given me a compassion for others who need to know this healing; who need to know that God truly isn’t weak, but more powerful than we could ever grasp. His strength is perfect, and He can see beyond our horizons. He knows where we have been at, and where He is taking us.

We may be wandering in the wilderness. We may be preparing to cross the Jordan River to conquer the land promised to us. We may be in a place that He is providing exactly what we need, in the exact amount that we need for each day.

I may be struggling with understanding what in the world these things are, that keep coming into my life. Why do I still deal with anxiety and depression periodically? But God sees far beyond what I can, and He knows what He is doing.

He is not weak… His weakness is much stronger than my strength. He has shown that over and over in my life.

His foolishness is wiser than my wisdom and His weakness is stronger than my strength.
I praise Him for that and draw joy and strength for rediscovering that today and through my pastor’s sermon this week.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Foolishness... Advent of Joy #22

“For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom…”
1 Corinthians 1:25a

Are there things in your life that seem like foolishness? Foolishness when seen through your eyes?

Think about how Noah must have felt, how his family must have felt and the thoughts running through their heads when they were told to build that huge boat.

Think about how Sarah and Abraham felt when they were told they would have a child in their old age. How impossible, and foolish, and laughable!

Think about the Israelites as they left Egypt and started off into the wilderness. The craziness of so many people, including elderly, women, children, babies, all going out into the desert with little food and water. Imagine what started going through their heads as they grew hungry and thirsty.

What about the Israelites years later when they went in to take the promised land? They entered a land where they were far outnumbered. Think about how foolish they must have felt walking in circles around Jericho.

In all these things God had a bigger plan, and a better viewpoint than the people right in the situation.

So again, are there things that are in your life that seem like foolishness to you? Things that seem to make no sense that you feel God has asked you to do?

It is very frustrating for me to not see the whole picture when I feel like God is telling me to do something. I am one of those people who really wants to know everything. I don’t like being left in the dark. There are only a few things where I suspend my “need to know.” That is around Christmas and my birthday. I hate spoiling surprises around then. I suspend my natural curiosity. I don’t look into places that could be used as hiding places, the whole works.

But otherwise, I really want to know, to understand the whole picture of how things are going work out.

So when God tells me to continue tithing, even when not tithing would pay a bill off or two… or when He tells me to stop using the credit card, and only use checks and the check card or cash… I want to understand. I want to know how things are going to work, when we have little left in our account before the next check comes in. I want to know that we are going to be taken care of.

I guess I am a lot like the Israelites in the desert. God proved Himself over and over. He showed them so many times that He was their provider. He gave them water. He gave them food. He was ready to destroy them so many times because they just didn’t get it, and they wouldn’t trust Him. They kept trying to do things on their own to provide for themselves, and complained to God when things weren’t the way they thought they should be.

It scares me a bit. If I am a lot like the Israelites, if I end up trying to do things on my own, and complain when they aren’t what I think they should be… I wonder how many times God must look at me and shake His head and wish that I would just trust Him.

I know He doesn’t really shake His head in disappointment, because He knows what I am going to do and isn’t surprised by it. But I wish that I could do better. I wish that I would be able to really trust Him to provide. Especially when the things I think He is asking me to do, will make it harder for us to provide what we want to for our family.

The thing is, we have all the things we need. We really do. It does get tight from time to time… but we haven’t gone hungry. We have extra food in our pantry that we could eat off of for a while. Many people don’t have that.

I know that we are blessed. I know that we have more than we need, and that even with the economics the way they are, and how hard it is to pay the bills, we are still in the very top percent of the wealthiest people in the world. How I wish that more of our resources we freed up so that we could give more.

I know that God wants me to trust Him with what we have. He wants me to trust Him period. No matter what the situation is. I have learned to trust Him in some areas. Now He is giving me more areas to work on.

Areas where doing what He says seems so foolish….

But His foolishness is wiser than my wisdom. His viewpoint is from so much higher, and He can see all the things that I can’t.

Praise God for that. If I were in charge of my life, I would make such a mess of it!
There is joy in knowing that no matter what happens He knows it all and is in control!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Birthdays... Advent of Joy #21

Today is my birthday.

Today is also my son, Peter’s birthday.
He was born on my 30th birthday… what a birthday present!

But an even better birthday present was one that God gave me on April 25, 1993. That was the day I celebrated my new birth into a living hope.

I don’t think I realized the significance of it at the time. At least not fully. I just knew that my life was radically changed. I began a new life with Jesus. A new life that slowly began to transform me from the inside out.

That change has happened in starts and spurts, and with painful bumps and falls along the way. But through it all God has been with me.

In the book of John, Jesus is talking to Nicodemus.
In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
“How can a man be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.
Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.
John 3:3-6

Even more important than my physical birth 35 years ago, was my spiritual birth almost 16 years ago. That is what I want to impart to my son. And to my daughter. I want them to know that it is wonderful to celebrate their birth into this world. But I want them to know that more importantly,

“In [God's] great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”
1 Peter 1:3-5

I want them to know that God loves so… He loves them enough… loves all of us enough that He sent His Son here as a little baby, to grow up as a boy, to full grown man, to heal and bless and touch peoples lives and hearts and to teach them who God is. And then Jesus as His Son, gave up His life to die so that we could live.

I want my children to know that. I want them to celebrate that this year, and all their years to come. I want them to make a decision to fully follow God the rest of the days of their lives. I want them to find the joy and love that can overflow from God into their lives.
Christmas is about Christ’s birthday. Because of His birthday, we can have a spiritual birthday!

I want to be able to share that joy with not only my children, but anyone, in any way that God calls me to. I want to spend the rest of my earthly life sharing the joy of Christ with others.

I honestly don’t care what that looks like. I may be waiting now, but when God gives me the “go,” I want to jump at the chances He gives me and run through every door He opens for me. Women’s ministry, writing, friendships, singing, praying, worshiping, retreats, ANYTHING.
I may have missed something that God might have me do. But He knows that I love Him, and that as He has healed me in this year, I am ready to follow Him with much less hesitation than I have had in the past.

This birthday may be a better one than I have had in many, many years. Because I am experiencing it from a much more healed heart than ever before.

And that is true JOY!!!
Coming from Him alone!!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Comfort and Joy and Promises... Advent of Joy #20

“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
1 Peter 1:8-9

Oh I read these verses today and just didn’t know. I wasn’t sure where that inexpressible joy was, but I didn’t feel it. At all. I mean I know I can believe Him and trust Him to have my best at heart. But last night I went to bed mad. Frustrated with some circumstances in my life that really had me upset.

One of the things is that I get so frustrated the last few days before Christmas. For once, one year, I would love to enter into the last few days before Christmas, and be able to actually relax and enjoy the season and the anticipation. I want to be able to show my kids the real reason we are celebrating. I want to be able to enter into mine and my son’s birthday (tomorrow) and relax and enjoy the celebration. Instead, today again I am stressed out and frustrated and wondering how in the world we are going to be ready in time to head to my parents on Christmas Eve.

Juggling my husband’s work schedule around family celebrations is so hard. We have no idea from year to year how we are going to meet both of our families requests to be together.
All these little things just added up… and I managed to forget about joy… and His comfort.
I have not seen Jesus physically… and though my love for Him didn’t disappear, I sure haven’t been feeling it. And I though I know that He will bless and give good gifts, in my heart I wasn’t believing it.

But this morning I was reminded that the true gift I have been given isn’t anything physical. It isn’t anything that my husband or kids or family can do for me. The true gift of Christmas is the goal of my faith, the salvation of my soul. That fills me with inexpressible joy. I may not always “feel” that joy. But it really is there.

“May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant”
Psalm 119:76

Again He comforts me.

Comfort and joy instead of sorrow and frustration and anger.
That is His promise.

He surprised me this morning with an opportunity to get away and get some last minute shopping done. With an early birthday present from my mother-in-law of a gift card to a store that has a 50 % off sale on everything in their store. A blessing for me to get some of the things that I have wanted and needed.

Last night I was so out of sorts that I just wasn’t finding joy in anything. My body is fighting off a cold and I know that my stress level isn’t helping that any. I was to the point of not liking a Birthday present from God Himself.

You might ask what that was?
Even Dave commented that this was the first time he had seen this in me.


I know. It seems so simple and silly…. and crazy to some of you who don’t like it.
But as soon as I see snowflakes, I get excited. I want to get out and drive in it. I want to go out and shovel and play in it. Seriously.

And last night when I saw that we were going to get more snow tonight, and tomorrow. I didn’t get excited. That’s when I knew I wasn’t drawing any joy from anything. I just went to bed. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t read. I cried myself to sleep, and had a horrible attitude.

Psalm 42:5 and 8 say:
“Why are you so downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
For I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”
“By day the Lord directs His love,
at night His song is with me -
A prayer to the God of my life.”

He was sure doing a lot of singing over me last night. Because this morning I woke with a new attitude. I still feel like I am battling a cold, but I am looking forward to the snow. I am looking forward to celebrating my birthday with my son.

My God promises to give me comfort and joy… His unfailing love is my comfort… He delights to bring me joy, even in the small things…

My God keeps His promises…

of provision,
of comfort,
of joy,

of His presence with me all the time.

Friday, December 19, 2008

God of comfort... Advent of Joy #19

OK, so today has been a hard day. It has been hard for me to even think about writing my advent post. (Sorry it is running so late today) I felt dry, and without any thoughts or words or any outlook on Joy.

Honestly I am struggling with trusting God, and I have been holding out on Him, and that hasn’t made me feel very joyful.

I have needed to re-read the posts I wrote the last few days. For me. I wrote them for me, but I kinda forgot them.

Then I remembered a post I read last night. A friend, at Maiden, Bringer of Peace, wrote a wonderful post about joy. I could practically copy and paste all she wrote right here. But please go visit her post. It was very powerful, especially this quote.

“Real JOY is not based on outward circumstances. God’s kind of joy is knowing - experiencing, accepting - that God loves us, we are special to Him, we are the ‘apple of His eye’, He loves to have us talk to Him and even just to come into His presence.”
(By Maiden, Bringer of Peace in her post “Cause of an Epidemic” on 12-18-08)

I just needed reminding of that. That’s a bit of what I did today. I sat at the coffee shop and found I couldn’t focus on bible reading, or any reading for that matter. I couldn’t even journal. It wasn’t until after I had eaten and moved to a more secluded spot, and started listening to some praise music, that I was even able to relax. I sat and cried, prayed, journaled some, and just felt like God was right there listening to me.

In the process, I came across the following scripture in my search for a different one.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.”
2 Corinthians 1:3-5

I wrote something in my journal, to the effect of,
“God do you still give comfort to someone who isn’t quite right with You? To someone who is holding out on You, and knows it? To someone who has every intention of probably holding out on You for a while longer?“

To answer my own question… I think maybe He does… even when we are willful. He knows our motivations and our heart. He knows the depths of our hearts and yet still loves us the same.
So, comfort? In all my troubles?

Yes. At least, I sure hope so.

If the answer to my question is yes, that can give me joy to know that He will comfort me, no matter what and will still hold me in His arms.

He has given me little blessings all day. A gift in the mail, a couple of cards that I am treasuring from a friend for a quiet moment… an early birthday gift from my mother-in-law, so that I can use part of it before the end of the weekend…

Is that His comfort?

I got a huge hug from my little girl when I got home. She came running down the stairs to find me. We wrestled and tickled and had a wonderful bit of mommy and daughter time. Now she is playing quietly around me, just happy to be near me.

Is that His comfort?

I was able to sit in Beatitudes and relax, and soak in Jesus’ presence. I was able to take some time out to rest and relax. I didn’t have to to worry about anyone or anything. I was able to go somewhere I knew was a safe place for me.

Is that His comfort?

I would say that all that is part of God’s working in my life to give me comfort.
To know that He is giving me comfort, in the midst of things that trouble me or are causing me anxiety, makes me feel better. Even if I am disappointed by some things right now, I know that He still desires to help me. I am still the apple of His eye… and only from Him comes real joy.

I need to set aside the disappointment.
I need to set aside the anxieties and troubles.
I just need to set it all down.

Instead I need to accept His comfort and peace and joy.

Oh Lord, May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant (Psalm 119:76). Your promises are true and right. I know that you have said over and over that you will wipe away my mourning, and turn it into joy. You have given me so many things. In so many ways you have comforted me this past year. I know that you love me. I know that your love can be my comfort. Because your love never fails. Others that I love may disappoint me and fail me. I will fail them as well. But I trust in you to never fail me. You say that your love is unfailing. I choose to believe that and rest in your love tonight. Your love will be my comfort and your word a delight to my soul. Help me to share the comfort I am receiving from you with others around me. I love you, Lord. Thank you for showing me your comfort through your love shown by the sacrifice of your Son. Amen.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sealed in Him... Advent of Joy #18

I was praying with the worship team last night. We were praying for people who have some serious health concerns. As we did, I was reminded of some important truths that bring me joy.
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession - to the praise of his glory.”
Ephesians 1:13-14

No matter what we are going through, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. We have an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade. We are secure.

When Jesus came as a baby, grew up, took our sin on His shoulders and died on the cross, He gave us eternal security.

No matter how I felt this past year, alone and scared and depressed, I never was out of God’s protecting hand. He had me close to His heart. He kept me sheltered under His wings, even when I was not feeling it.

I am covered with His love. So are you. We are secure because we are made alive with Christ.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, though faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Ephesians 2:8

God’s grace has saved us. His grace came down to earth at Christmas. It was His gift to us. It is His gift to us. Over and over we are given His grace. His grace constantly covers us, our mistakes and wrong choices and attitudes. We are His, and that will never change.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.’
Surely He will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”
Psalm 91:1-4

Through all, because of Christ coming, we can say that we will trust in Him. The Holy Spirit assures us in our spirit that we are sealed in Him, and that He truly is our refuge and fortress, our shelter in the storm.

Praise God that we can rest so fully in Him. Praise Him that in the midst of our trouble we can have peace. A peace that passes all understanding. I can’t describe the joy that I felt at times this past year. Looking back at a lot of my posts, it doesn’t seem like I really wrote about them. There were sparks of light that showed me God was still with me. The pain was very intense at times, but bits of scripture would come to me at the right time. Bits and pieces out of the Psalms and Isaiah, that spoke of the pain, but God’s coming healing. The promises of redemption, the promises of His staying near to the brokenhearted and binding up wounds. Those all brought joy.

That promise of being His, and never being able to be snatched from His hand… that brought me joy.

It still brings me joy.

I know that I will face some tough times ahead. It is just the nature of living in this world. But my God is more than enough. He is more than enough for me, and for you. We are sealed in Him. We are secure in Him. He is our shelter and rest. He has saved us from the snare of the fowler.

Oh Lord, thank you so much for all you have done for us. Thank you for being my shelter and hope. Thank you for filling me with your Spirit, so that I can experience the joy you have. Thank you for bringing me into relationship with you. I can hardly believe all you went through, all you chose to do, all you endured for the joy set before you. That joy was unity with me, with all of us. Thank you for doing that to open up a way for us to come to you. Thank you for your protection and the love you pour out on me. Thank you for constantly guiding me and keeping me safe under your wings. It gives me such joy and peace to know that no matter what I walk through, what happens to me, where I go, you are always with me, holding me securely in your hand. I have joy in knowing that you hem me in, behind and before and that you have laid your hand upon me. You are my source, my all in all and I believe all your promises to me… your child that you chose before the beginning of time. Oh, to be adopted as your daughter, to have a new birth into a living hope and a glorious inheritance! Thank you for the joy that is mine in you!!! I love you Father God. Your daughter, Heather.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Loved by God... Advent of Joy #17

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
1 John 3:1a-2

I could end this post right there.

The only way we will be able to love one another is to be able to grasp just a little bit of that lavish love. Over and over God tries to tell us in His word just how much He loves us.

Yet a lot of times, all we hear are the lies of this world. I know that I did. Un-lovable, worthless, dirty, unforgivable, shameful, inept, stupid, a failure… I thought all these things applied to me. I really did. I know, it seems crazy, it seems like there would be no reason to think these things.

Choices I made, or choices others made, ended up damaging me emotionally. Damaged to the point that no matter the amount of positive things said to me, I didn’t believe them. The enemy had footholds in my life, that quickly became strongholds.

I wasn’t able to grasp what it meant to be a child of God. Though the first year after I became a Christian was good, and I felt changed, those “feelings” didn’t last. Once in a while things would change, but it was largely because I was trying to work my way through difficulties. It would be different for a while, but the underlying strongholds of lies weren’t being addressed.

It took so long for me to get where I am.

I read the following passage at our wedding, and it bears repeating here.

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high an deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
Ephesians 3:14-19

That is my prayer. For all of us.

Our God loves us. To the point that it is completely unmeasurable. No matter how wide and long and high and deep you go, His love is always there. We can’t run from it, we can’t escape it.

We can pray to know and believe this love that surpasses knowledge. Because if we grasp even a corner of the blanket of His love, we will be completely changed. Once we have a corner, we will hunger for more, and we will pursue Him until we have a handful, until we have our arms full, until we are completely assured of His love.

He rooted us in love. We are planted in His love and our roots have grown deeply into the soil of His love. We can’t be uprooted from His love. It will never ever, ever, ever taken from us. His spirit is within us, and He will never leave us. We have the possibility of grasping that love, even if it seems impossible… because with God nothing is impossible.
Oh, how do I explain this any better? I feel like words are failing me right now.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
1 Peter 2:9-10

We are chosen by Him. We are His. His children. His people.

He would not have chosen us, were we not loved. He created us, He chose us, He loves us. We were thought of before we ever came to be. He chose us out of everyone, specifically because He knew us, and wanted us. He loves us, and lavishes that love on us every day… yes, even when we have a bad day (can you imagine how much worse it might have been had He not intervened in some way?!).

What more does He ask? He wants us to love Him back, freely, from our own will. He wants us to live lives worthy of the calling we have received. He wants us to honestly try to please Him (even if we fail miserably). He wants us to create exuberant commotion because of the things He has done in our lives.

He wants us to declare His praises, because He has brought us out of the darkness, out of oppression, out of the strongholds in our lives, and brought us into His Son, the Light of the World. We can now see. That’s how much He loves us.

He has given us light for our paths.

He wants us to share that light with others.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Love one another... Advent of Joy #16

Over and over in the bible we are called to love one another.

In the short book of 1 John, the phrase “love one another” is used 5 different times.
Loving one another, having compassion on our brothers (and sisters), doesn’t just mean feelings.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”
1 John 3:16,18

If we truly love one another, our love is personified with action. Jesus love for us was personified with action. He died for us while we were still sinners. His sacrificial love for us is our example of what love looks like.

You know what it is like. Someone comes into your life, and they say they love you. But everything about them grates on you. They seem to be more interested in what you can give them. They point out your faults. Even if they don’t out right say anything negative to you, you can feel it. You know when they aren’t really truly loving you.

I have been in that type of situation before. When someone has professed to love me, to be my friend, but really they were more interested in correcting me, “fixing” me, and being the “superior” model to follow. When I didn’t follow their lead, eventually they left me alone because they weren’t successful at “changing” me. Sometimes I did change to please people, and try to be what they thought I should be. But I eventually learned that there was no way to please them, their standards were higher than God’s.

I have been in that type of situation before. When I have professed to love someone. But in the end I realized that though I said that I loved them, in reality, I wanted to “fix” them.
That’s not true love. Not the kind of love God wants.

When you are the recipient of true, honest, godly love you know it. You know it because it brings you pure joy. As I have been truly loved by people the past few years, it has given me joy deep inside. At first I didn’t believe it was real. I thought at first it was just a show. But as these people stuck with me, were patient with me, were consistent in showing love and not trying to change me, I started to believe that they really loved me.

As I believed that they really loved me, and grew more secure in it, that’s when I started to experience joy. As I started to experience joy, slowly my capacity to experience deeper and deeper joy grew. It all grew out of knowing and believing that they really loved me.

“We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”
1 John 4:16 (NASB)

When we have come to know and believe, both in our heads and our hearts that God loves us, we are able to love one another. When we are secure in His love, we start experiencing joy to a deeper and deeper level. We end up truly abiding in, living in, love. As God is love, we live more deeply in Him. Our understanding of His love for us grows, our joy grows, and we become more deeply connected with Him every day.

Out of that understanding, those experiences of being closer to Him and more connected to Him, experiencing the JOY of His love; out of THAT flows our love for one another.

“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.“
1 Peter 1:22 (NIV)

Our love for one another is to be a deep love, from our very hearts.

If our hearts aren’t changed by God’s love, how can we deeply, authentically love one another?
If we don’t allow our hearts to be changed by God’s love; if we don’t begin to grasp the depth of His love for us; if we don’t start to experience that joy of a love relationship with Him; how in the world will we be able to love one another?

As I started to be changed by the love of my friends and family these past years, it slowly led me to realize how much God loved me. I started to get more connected with God, recognize His love for me, accept His love for me, know and believe His love for me. I finally started experiencing joy, not condemnation in my relationship with my Father.

Now filled with that JOY that I have been given by God, I am finding myself becoming filled with love and compassion for other people in my church, in my life. I want them to experience the same love and JOY that I have. That would increase my JOY as well.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Exuberant commotion... Advent of Joy #15

“One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer–at three in the afternoon. Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts.
When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.
Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.
When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him”

Acts 3:1-10

Can you imagine being there that day in the temple? You look up and there is a man that has been crippled for as long as you’ve known him, leaping and jumping, walking, clinging to two men, praising God at the top of his voice!

I have always loved this story.

I love the man’s exuberance. He wasn’t shy about what happened. He had never known what it was like to walk, run, or play with other children growing up. He had never known what it felt like to be normal, a husband and father, working a day’s labor, as an adult. He just sat and begged for money from those going into the temple. He had to sit where he was put.

Imagine the shame in that. He didn’t look at anyone, he just asked for money. After all this time, he probably didn’t want to look at the rejection and loathing in people’s faces. Remember at that time it was thought that either the child or the parents had sinned if there was a birth defect. He was an outcast in his whole community. He was identified by his crippled legs.

No wonder Peter had to tell him to look at them. He probably was keeping his head down, expecting another rejection. When someone actually took notice of him, and asked him to look at them, to him it must have been like and invitation to a relationship.

Little did he know, that was exactly what he was getting. An invitation into a relationship.
Peter said that he couldn’t give him silver or gold, but could give him what he had. He had Jesus. He knew the healing power of Jesus. Peter himself had rejected Christ, but been restored by Him. He knew the healing and mercy of His Savior. So he gave that same healing and mercy to the crippled man.

The man’s response. That is what I want my response to be. I want to respond to God’s healing the same way that man did. He ran and lept and praised God. He was loud and filled with such joy that he couldn’t keep silent. Later verses tell us that all the people were astonished and came running to see what the commotion was about.

This man made a commotion in all his joy!

And his joy was contagious.

In Chapter 4:21b-22 it said that all the people were praising God for what had happened… because it was obvious that this was a miraculous healing… from God.

Oh that instances of our healing would cause us to make a commotion in all our joy!
I want to dance in the streets before the Lord, the way David did when the Ark of the Covenant came back into Jerusalem! I want to jump and shout and leap for joy at the way God has healed me. He has shown up in a mighty way in my life. He has healed in a mighty way.

I know the feelings of being released from a prison like this man was. His was the prison of physical health. Mine was a prison of emotional and mental health. The weight is gone, the feelings of being trapped are gone. I am finally free to be who God has called me to be.
The joy that man felt to be free, and the joy I feel are the same.

I want my joy and exuberance to be known!

I want to make a joyful, exuberant commotion!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Impacting my Father's heart... Advent of Joy #14

Today our pastor talked about not missing Christmas. We miss it if all we focus on is the family get together, the food, the presents and never look at the greatest gift of all, Jesus.
Pastor Kim asked us to consider several things in light of Christmas.

One was the preparations of God for Christmas. Before the foundations of the world, before anything was created, He had already chosen us. He knew us intimately then. He created this world, and humans, knowing what our choices would be. He knew, going into creation that He was going to provide a way out for us from the death and separation from Him our sin would cause. He knew that Christmas was coming, before anything else started. He set all the plans in place and everything He did pointed ahead to that day.

The second thing to consider was the extravagance of the gifts God prepared. We have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. We have been given Jesus, Himself. We have been given the Holy Spirit to live within us, guide us, strengthen and help us. We have been given the chance to live transformed lives. We have been given the gift of eternal life with God. God didn’t have to do any of that. But He loves us so much (just as we love our own children and family) that He did everything He could to keep us with Him. Then He blessed us beyond measuring. Our cups are filled to overflowing… just as in Psalm 23 it says,

“You prepare a table before me in the presense of my enemies.
You annoint my head with oil,
My cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Psalm 23:5-6

We are co-heirs with Christ; which means that we get everything that Christ the Son of God gets. Christmas isn’t about the stuff that we get. Christmas is to remind us of the incredible, unimaginable gifts God has given us.

The final thing to consider was what goes through the heart of God at Christmas. God is an emotional being. He made us emotional as well. This was the point that I got stuck up on by one simple question Pastor Kim asked us.

“Why do we think that what we do doesn’t impact the heart of God?
Do you feel that you are too insignificant to impact the heart of God?”

That really struck me. God is emotional. He rejoices when one person is saved. He wept and was wracked with grief at the coming fate of Jerusalem, as He looked out over the city.

All this year (really, all the time I have been a Christian) I have felt comfortable coming before God with requests, and He has answered them. I have been able to pour out my heart in this past year, knowing that He was hearing me, and that He loved me, cared about me. That has impacted my heart. He has answered prayers of mine and those around me, helped heal me in the deep, dark, wounded parts of my soul. I have praised Him, danced in the streets, rejoiced over the amazing things He has done.

But I never once thought of this. The things that I think, say or do impact His heart just as much as the things He has thought about me, said to me, or done for me, has impacted mine.
I guess I have always thought of Him as so big, that though He came right down here to be with me, and to indwell me, I never felt that I did anything that would touch His heart.

We get all excited about picking out the perfect gift for someone we love. We can hardly wait until they open it. When they do, their reaction impacts our hearts, our emotions. We rejoice if they are excited… we get excited with them. If they open it and meet it with a flat, “Oh. Thank you,” then we immediately feel disappointed and hurt and wish that they would have really liked what we had gotten them.

So why would it be any different with God? We are made in His image. If our hearts are impacted by the choices, words, and thoughts of those we love, why would His heart be any different?

I never thought of it this way before. Yes, rejoicing in God, and praising Him for the good, repenting of the bad, seeking healing and restoration… all of that is good, and is our response to Him. But He also has a response to us. As much as my friends and family around me have rejoiced with me in my healing this year, God has rejoiced in it as well.

As much as, or even more than my heart is touched, hurt or changed by those around me, so God’s heart is touched, hurt or changed by those He loves. By me.

I have the ability to touch my Father’s heart.

Pastor Kim said one other thing today that made me think and put it into perspective. If we go into our santuary at church, and totally blow off worship, ignore the sermon, be singing but not really thinking about it, and remain unengaged, we are missing something. We miss that intimate interaction with God.

But more than that, God misses that intimate interaction with us. He misses us, and is hurt when we don’t show up like we said we were going to.

Don’t miss Christmas. It may be a season when the whole family can get together and celebrate each other. But it is also a time when we have said that we would get together with our Father in Heaven, and celebrate His Son. Don’t miss that meeting with Him.

We have an impact on His heart.

Is there joy in that?
You bet there is!

You and I are not insignificant. He sees us and loves us. And He has not guarded His heart from us to protect Himself from hurt. He gives freely and unconditionally opens Himself to us so that we can really draw close and get to know Him and love Him better.

I can take joy in my God opening His heart to me. I would have never know Him or understood even the littlest bit about Him if I didn’t impact His heart enough for Him to give me the biggest, greatest gift He could. He has given me the gift of Himself.

I am still trying to get my head around the fact that I can touch, impact, make a mark on, my Father’s heart. It may take a while to connect it all. But oh the joy in starting to realize and understand this!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sorrow and Suffering... Advent of Joy #13

I was reading a devotional this morning. It talked about Jesus in the garden, and what He went through there.

“He took Peter, James and John along with Him, and He began to be deeply distressed and troubled. ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,’ He said to them. ‘Stay here and keep watch.’ Going a little farther, He fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from Him. ‘Abba, father,’ He said, ‘everything is possible for You. Take this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.’ “
Mark 14:33-36

Beth Moore said in the devotional that in Luke 22:44, where it records He sweat drops of blood, that was a condition very rare, and only seen when a body was put under extreme stress and emotion that it was not designed to handle.

Can you imagine being in such emotional pain, under such and incredible amount of physical stress, that your body wasn’t designed to handle it?

I went through the past few years or so, and felt pain that I thought I would never get through. This past year has been even more intense. At times, I thought I would die from the pain and despair I felt. At times I wanted to. The emotional intensity of facing pain in my past and dealing with it was, at times, more than I could bear.

Now that I have gone through the devotional this morning, I realize something that brings me a reason to rejoice.

Jesus knew that kind of pain intimately. He was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, like I was. I just said above that I wanted to die. I would say that was my sorrow overwhelming me. To the point of death.

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
Isa 53:3

He understands what I went through this past year. He understands how much it hurt.
He went through such pain and suffering.

Jesus asked God to take the cup of suffering from Him. He didn’t want to go through it and asked God to remove it. Have you ever thought about that? God could have stopped what Jesus went through. His Daddy God could have spared His dear Son from everything that He went through. He had the sovereign power to do so, yet chose not to.

Another reason to rejoice. God’s love for us, and Jesus love for us, kept them walking the path they had chosen… despite the pain, in spite of it. They both kept going, though the stress and pain of it was almost more that Jesus’ human body could handle. They knew the pain Jesus was in at the time, and the enormous pain and suffering to come. Yet they walked the path.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, 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 12:2

Jesus still endured the pain because He saw the greater JOY coming when He would be back with God, when He would the the first born of many sons and daughters who could join Him in heaven.
I can choose JOY because my Jesus knew all that I was going through. He knew feelings of being overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. He knew the feeling of wanting these things to go around Him, pass Him by. Just like I was begging God to do for me this year.

I can choose JOY because God loved me so much that He sent His Son to die, to take my punishment, so that I could draw close to Him. Jesus kept going, because He knew He was taking on the ultimate pain and suffering that I would have, had He not kept going.

I can choose JOY because God has offered me the eternal gift of life. My sin would have brought me nothing but death. God loves me so much that He didn’t want that. He wanted me with Him in heaven, never seperated from Him, ever.

I can choose JOY this season because it is about awaiting the baby that was to be born, setting aside all His heavenly glory, knowing fully what He would be going through, yet He chose the earthly path with joy in His heart. For He would be reunited with His Father, and He would bring us with Him

I can choose JOY because that is what Jesus chose.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Fears... Advent of Joy #12


Fears from the past… of the past… cripple us.

They cause us to fear the future…

We are afraid to face the pain in our past, so we cope poorly in the present. Our poor coping in the present makes it hard to face the future, therefore we fear the future.

How many times have we talked to, or heard of, people who had no memory of certain areas of their life, where they had lost whole chunks of their life from the past?

I was watching a show last night talking with someone who was very overweight. After starting to work on diet, exercise and strength training, they started to see if there was something else that could cause her to turn to food. She talked about how fear drove her life. Fear of dieting and things not changing. Fear of not doing it, and dying because she gained or stayed the same. Fear of her past.

She said that she remembered nothing of her childhood prior to the age of about 13. So she was encouraged to talk to family members, and look at old pictures to see if that would help jog her memory. Because they wondered if something from her past that was blocked out was a key to why she was escaping into food.

I never thought that would be something for me. I mean I never thought I would find an area of my life that was completely blacked out. And I didn’t realize that it was blocked out until after I started to remember it. It wasn’t a whole chunk of my life, but it was a portion of a relationship in my life. One night. But that was all it took. I lived in fear. In fear of remembering.

I never even knew it… I mean I NEVER even knew that I was living in fear in and because of what I had forgotten.

Until I remembered it.

Between looking up the phrases, “Fear not,” “be not afraid,” and “do not be afraid,” I came up with 86 different verses. Why would God address fear… even in just these verses… so much?
The enemy uses fear so much in our lives, to cripple us and keep us from moving forward in our life. Emotionally and spiritually we are unable to mature, because we are held in bondage to a fear, or multiple fears.

God knows that we are suseptible to fear. He also knows that our first inclination is to try to stop the fear ourselves. Think of Adam and Eve. When their eyes were “opened” they saw they were naked, tried to cover themselves, and then hid in fear when the heard the Lord in the garden. They hid because they were afraid. They lied because they were afraid. They tried to cover themselves up because of shame and fear.

And we have been living with fear ever since.

How much do you try to cover yourself, to protect yourself. How much do you hide who you really are because of fear? How much do you eat, or drink, or exercise, or read or shop or… to cover up your fear, to make it disappear for a while, so that you feel less fearful, even for a little bit? How much does your fear keep you running from things that might cause you pain?

In Isaiah God addresses fear directly.
“Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy. He is the one you are to fear; He is the one you are to dread. And He will be a sanctuary…”
Isaiah 8:12-14a

We are to fear God alone. Because He is holy. We are to have a healthy fear of Him… a dread of Him because of how holy He is. I think of Isaiah’s response when He saw himself in the presence of the Lord. He was filled with fear, basically fearing death because he was in the presence of the Holy God, and God’s holiness revealed to him just how dirty he was… and that his dirtiness (sin) deserved death.

Praise God that He sent us His Son to die on our behalf so that when we see and recognize the holiness of God, and are, by contrast, able to see our dirtiness, we are not killed! If we have trusted in Jesus, He took that punishment for us, and God does not see us any other way but clean, through Christ’s cleansing blood.

We aren’t to be afraid of the things of this world. I mean, look at the economy, the rising cost of food, difficulties in securing loans, and everything else going on. Looking at those things can cause great fear. If we start dwelling on them, if I start dwelling on them, and the immediate problems here at home, I find myself living in great fear. When I am living in that fear, then I find myself starting to do things in my own strength and power to try to fix things.

But we are not called to fear what the world fears… its predictions of disasters and conspiracies.

God alone is worthy of our fear, our reverence, our awe. And we should never allow that fear of Him to drive us away from Him. It should drive us closer to Him. To His Son. To Jesus, who gives us access to God through His blood.

We are free, and despite any other fears, we can rejoice in that.

We can rejoice in our healthy fear of God, because we know that He is the only One who really matters, in the end.

He is our sanctuary. We can dwell within His presence, and worship Him there. He will keep us safe from the fears of the world. No matter how the storms of the world affect our lives, we can live in peace and joy in His sanctuary.

That is the reminder I need this advent season.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
Luke 2:10

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Uniquely Equipped... Advent of Joy #11

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”
Habakkuk 3:17-19

Things seem like they fall apart from time to time, don’t they? It isn’t always a constant thing, though it may seem like it, at times.

I know for me that sometimes things seem to be going along smoothly, and then all of a sudden, the fields produce no food, there are no livestock, no grapes, no figs…

OK, so it’s not literal. But you get the point. Something doesn’t go the way it seems is should. A check you expected didn’t come in. A check you had dedicated for something else, had to be used for sudden car repairs. A steady job suddenly was cut. A dishwasher stops working. A furnace stops working. The snow keeps falling. The kids get sick. You get sick, at the worst possible time.

An act of obedience ends up harder than you thought and you give up. You decide not to do something that God may be calling you to because it is too difficult. You don’t see the path clearly before you, and when it gets hard, you want to stop. When you give up on that act of obedience, you find it even harder to focus on the right things, and start believing the little lies that pick at you each day.

Yet we have a choice. We always have the choice. We can choose to rejoice in the Lord, to be joyful in God our Savior.

Yes. It is hard. Yes. It flies in the face of everything we hear every day. Yes. It doesn’t make sense. Yes. Even in the face of the lack of obedience on our part. Yes. Even in the face of the lies we are believing that we will NEVER get it right.


“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

It is a choice. In spite of the circumstances. In spite of what everything looks like around us. It is a choice to trust God, to love Him to rejoice in Him and let Him fill us with His joy.

The Lord is our strength.
The Lord is MY strength.

Think about how hard it is to climb a mountain. Ok, maybe most of us have not done that before. But even a very steep hill, with bare feet and hands.

I have done that before, and slipped and slid and tried to grab on to anything that would keep me from sliding back down, working my way up a very steep hill at the edge of a river. It took a lot of effort. But think about deer. God has uniquely equipped them to live in wild, dangerous territory. They can bound over barriers, and up steep mountain faces. Their feet, and bodies, are perfectly equipped for where they live.

Just like God uniquely equips deer to climb on the heights, so He uniquely equips us for where we are living, what we are doing, and where we are going. He gives us the strength to live the life He calls us to.

So even when I feel like I have failed yet again. Even when I wonder when He will give up on me… still He loves me, He is my strength, He has given me all I need to get through the tough times.

In that I can rejoice, and be joyful in God… He is my Savior.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

He watches over me... Advent of Joy #10

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Rom 15:13

My theme seems to be trusting God doesn’t it?

I mean, OK. Advent is about waiting in hope for Christ’s birth.

I think part of that is trusting the promises that He has given us. The Israelites had to trust in God’s promises to provide for them in the desert. Abraham trusted in God to provide him a son in his old age.

Mary trusted that she would bear a son, just as the angel said. She submitted her will to God’s will.

There are so many instances of people, individuals and nations, trusting in the Lord their God.
I have been getting better at it recently. Not to say that it is easy by any means. It isn’t. But just doing these posts on Joy have helped me.

God has been faithful in so many areas in my life. There were things that I was unable trust Him in before, and now I know that He has always had good in mind for me. There are things now where I feel like I am running up against a brick wall, and there is no way around. But there is still God.

He has been more than enough in the past. So why wouldn’t He be more than enough now?
Every step of the way, He has watched over me. He has seen everything in me, even when I have tried to hide from Him. Yet, He has given me so many things. He has brought me through some terrible situations. He has brought me to some amazing victories. He has brought me incredible insights into Him and His word. He has made His word come alive to me. Every time I read the Bible, I learn something new about my God. I am so thankful.

I have learned like Mary was told by the angel,
“Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.“
Luke 1:37

So my God of hope… the one who spoke everything into being, and through whom all things hold together… the one who sent His Light and Hope into the world for us… has been filling me with all joy and peace…

The filling of all joy and peace comes when I trust in Him. When I abandon myself to His will, and wait on Him, I find that I am filled with joy and peace. It is amazing how that works. I get myself so wrought up over things…

…but God knows it all. He sees everything going on and when I surrender to Him, he fills me with joy and peace, and I am then filled with hope by the power of His Spirit at work within me.

He watches over me. He always has and He always will.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Unfailing Love... Advent of Joy #9

I opened my bible today, sitting at my desk and looking outside at the snow. It’s not heavy snow; small, tiny flakes falling down and covering everything. It is so beautiful. It is amazing to me how so many tiny things can make the world looks so white and clean.

My bible opened to Psalm 33 today. Literally, I just opened it up and there it was. I started reading because I was looking for a piece of scripture on joy.

I was planning on going into the New Testament today, I even had the scripture passage picked out. Maybe that one will be tomorrow, cause this one really spoke to me.

“Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous;
it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
Praise the LORD with the harp;
make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully, and shout for joy.
For the word of the LORD is right and true;
he is faithful in all he does.
The LORD loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of his unfailing love.”
Psalm 33:1-5

The part that got me was the reason we are to praise Him joyfully (filled with JOY). Because His word is right and true.

I have been reminded through this past Sunday’s sermon to cling to God’s promises in His word. To cling to what He has said. All of God’s word is right and true. There is nothing wrong in His word, even if I don’t agree with something. It is all true and He is faithful in all He does, even when it seems impossible.

When a situation looks out of control, we can look to God, and His word, because HE IS FAITHFUL. When God says that He will be faithful to complete the good work He began in you, HE WILL.

Do you know why? Because the whole earth is full of His unfailing love. He loves us. So much that the earth is full of His love.

Full. Of. His. Love.

When we see things that aren’t right, when people do things to us and others that demand justice, even if we don’t see them receiving justice on this earth… know that they are going to have to face God with what they did. It may not be a comfort now, but let me tell you… I wouldn’t want to be in front of God, knowing I had done something wrong… waiting for His punishment!

But we don’t have to receive that kind of punishment. Because of His unfailing love.
His unfailing love came down at Christmas and was born as a little baby to a poor family, and lived His life as a carpenter, working with wood in His hands as He grew up… and then He was nailed to a tree, a wooden cross. After touching so many lives and healing and loving, He died.

Then He rose again so that those who believe in Him can have life. We can be covered by His righteousness, through accepting His sacrifice for us, and trusting Him with our whole hearts and lives.

Just like the tiny snowflakes that are covering everything, Jesus made it possible for everyone to be white and clean.

The Lord loves righteousness, and guess what? We, who have accepted His Son, are righteous before Him.

That is more than enough to make me shout for joy!

“We wait in hope for the LORD;
he is our help and our shield.
In him our hearts rejoice,
for we trust in his holy name.”
Psalm 33:20-21

That is what this season is about, waiting in hope for the Lord. Christmas is all about the hope, the joyful anticipation of our deliverance, that God has given us in Jesus. Even if we already have access to God through His Son, it is with hope that we remember this season.
Not hope and excitement for what we might get, or seeing others faces at what they might get. Hope and excitement at the ultimate present that God gave us.


God is our help (in and through everything we come against). God is our shield (sheltering us from death and the enemy of our souls).

In Him, my heart rejoices. I trust, and will trust in His Holy Name. There is no other name in heaven or on earth that can save us, help us, or shield us the way He does.

This Christmas season I choose to trust in Him, for everything and in everything.

I will end with this prayer, right out of Psalm 33.

“May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord.
even as we put our hope in you.” (vs. 22)

And Lord, help me to recognize You at work in my life. Help me to recognize you in the midst of all the hustle and bustle of this season. Thank You for Your unfailing love. Help me to remember that is what this advent is all about… Your unfailing love for ME! Help me to take joy in the hope I have in You all the days of my life. Amen.