Trouble With the Joy, Joy With the Trouble

When we’re there [on the battlefield], we only see a small portion of the field in front of us. Given the unpredictability of a raging battle, one is apt to complain…suffer, or feel hopeless. And, it may appear that we lose many battles there, allowing the enemy “to have temporary and apparent triumphs.” {story told by John Piper}. With this in mind, consider how Paul addresses the church at Thessalonica… In imitating us (referring to Paul, Silas, and Timothy), you imitated the Master. Although great trouble accompanied the Word, you were able to take great JOY from the Holy Spirit—taking the trouble with the joy, the joy with the trouble [1 Thessalonians 1:6 The Message]. Given the visual of a battle and the message from Paul concerning joy with the trouble, I’m shaking my head. Admittedly, joy is the very last thing that I feel when I’m losing or feeling defeated. Yet, lately, I’ve been surprised that despite really hard stuff, I’ve felt a sort of calm contentment deep in my bones. In acknowledging that it’s there, it remains unrecognizable. And, I’m strangely happy. It’s perplexing at best, and my conclusion is that this must be the indestructible joy that comes from a grace not of this world, because my capacity for joy and contentment is so very confined. Is it possible that I’m actually experiencing joy with trouble? I believe so. When I look to Jesus, I see that while he was a “man of sorrows, well-acquainted with grief,” [Isaiah 53], he was also a man of immeasurable joy and gladness. You see, gladness doesn’t mean that there...

Worship Between The Tides

This week, my family and I are packing for a beach trip. While I’m thankful for an opportunity to disconnect, I long even more to be in a place where I feel the Holy Spirit is tangible. I’m convinced—these feet are shaped for standing on sandy shores, contemplating the miles of majesty in an emerald green sea. Looking out, there is something perplexing and mysterious, yet certain and timeless. Today, this has me thinking of the tides. What I’m learning is that it all boils down to gravity and forces pulling in and out, causing water to ‘bulge’ in high tide, and later retract in a low tide. There’s meaning here… TO EVERYTHING there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven [Ecclesiastes 3:1 AMP] If we consider the rising and falling of the tides as our lives in highs and lows, we must also think about the ‘between’ time where the ocean continues ‘as is.’ Our lives, as they are, may have us going through the motions. They can seem long and daunting in the between times. Right now, my family is in this place—living between the tides. Maybe you’re there, too. Think on this… He has made everything beautiful in its time. He also planted eternity in men’s hearts and minds [a divinely implanted sense of purpose working through the ages which nothing under the sun but God alone can satisfy], yet so that men cannot find out what God has done from beginning to end. [Ecclesiastes 3:11 AMP] Every single change concerning us — the time, season, moments of it —...

The Big Wait

  Sisters…in the great casting call of life, all of us are waiting for something: a new thing, good news, a reward, a beginning or an end. And, in the wait, are we intent on becoming, or beholding? Sigh. It’s a heavy question. Before I met my husband, I was a lady in waiting. Then, I was a college graduate, in waiting, for a job. I waited for the job, landed it, and found out a few months later that I was pregnant. A new wait began…a momma-to-be in waiting. In the ups and downs and round and rounds, we wait. And, it’s often about what we’re becoming, isn’t it? Not that it’s a bad thing to anticipate change and growth and maturity and even righteousness. These things make waiting a little more bearable, because it keeps things exciting. But, we all know that the longer the wait, the less exciting it becomes. And THAT is the point of contention. Recently, our family made a big decision. And, at first, there was a great deal of confirmation and adrenaline with it. But the wait became long — longer than expected. Gradually, the big wait felt more like, um…the big weight. So, I did what any upright Christian lady would do (being sarcastic, of course): I got a little bothered by the long wait and got a bit wordy with my prayers and petitions. Do you do that? Suddenly, I had a lot of genius ideas about how to get the ball rollin’ and begged the Lord for signs and more confirmation. I acted out. So Jesus did what only...

{I AM} Unchanging

Most of us are unfamiliar with the technicality of Bible printing. It is complicated at best. From transparency to the fibers dispersed on each page, to the light allowed through—we pinch thin corners and turn pages, watching them fold over and lay down. Today, I’m in a campfire scene of sorts with Moses. Can you hear the crackling of the burning bush from the delicate pages of Exodus? Illuminating here is a story as holy as the ground beneath Moses’s feet. So, slip off your shoes and turn the silken page to chapter 3… “The angel of God appeared to him (Moses) in flames of fire blazing out of the middle of a bush. He looked. The bush was blazing away but it didn’t burn up. Moses said, ‘What’s going on here? I can’t believe this! Amazing! Why doesn’t the bush burn up?’” [Exodus 3:2,3 MSG] In a blaze, God invited Moses to the grounds of His presence. You may already know that God gave instructions to Moses here on rescuing the Israelites. Personally, I cannot shake the image of the burning bush. Given the obstacles that Moses would later face, what does a blazing bush, one that does not burn up, tell us about God? What can we believe about Him today? For you, what’s the first thing that comes to mind right now? I’m currently at my desk. It’s early in the morning. The kids are at school. I’m well aware of time on days like today, because I have a long list of “to-dos” and a short amount of time in which to do them. The...

Unapologetically

My daughter has a paint spinner. It pushes and flings colors in streaks and droplets. They puddle and spill over the edges, sometimes bleeding through the paper. The thrill of her work is that no two images will ever be the same. By design, neither will we. Here in Georgia, it’s springtime. The things of winter have fallen, becoming one with the Earth. They’re giving way to fresh, new life. Yet, I am dormant in a bed of thorns. The unmistakable pounding in my chest, tightness in my throat has returned. Anxiety. Depression. Every single one of us can feel anxious: melancholy. Yet, to have it as a condition doesn’t require being shaken or stirred to wake it up. It comes from behind, squeezing the life out of precious moments, while you are strangely still physically present. You fidget and laugh, adrenaline rushing to your bones. You wipe your sweaty palms on your jeans as you change positions, hoping to relieve the dizziness and plaguing feeling to throw up. You wait out the moment, only to sink into a series of depressing afterthoughts about what happened. You wish you could control it…get rid of it. But, you can’t. I certainly couldn’t. That’s why I decided to get help. I began taking medication. Friend, if you’re suffering from anxiety and depression, I’m not offering advice on what to do. My message is simple. If you are struggling, you’re not alone. And, it’s going to be okay. “But you, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory, and the {lifter of my head}…[Psalm 3:3 AMP] When we are not of...

Faith That Can Rest And Move

I pride myself on being able to say the right things at the right time. Okay, I know how this sounds…and that’s why I’m clenching my teeth as I type it. For the record, I don’t see myself as wiser, more intelligent, or more sophisticated than anyone else. And I definitely do not have my nose in a crystal ball…if I’ve ever said anything relevant at all, only God could’ve imparted those words. In truth, this admission comes because of the old bones of doubt that have resurrected in my heart as I’ve longed and wished to say the right things to a dear friend of mine who lost her 4-year-old son. Our recent conversation stirs fresh in my mind. At one point I said, ‘I don’t understand God’s ways, but I know that He is good.’ Later that same day, the statement replayed in my mind, but in a question. “Do I really believe that God is good? Is He good when a child dies?” My throat burned with questioning. I felt like a liar. I was confused and altogether troubled at how difficult it was to answer with a resounding YES. How could I have told her something in confidence, when I was harboring doubt? So, I’m going to ask you the same thing…Do you believe that God is good…no matter what happens? If you are squirming as much as I am, do not lose heart. In John chapter 6, verses 60-71, the disciples wrestled with believing and accepting the words of life, spoken by Jesus. They were hard to swallow. “When many of his disciples heard...

Dead of Winter

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple [Isaiah 6:1 ESV] And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And, I (Isaiah) said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips….” [verse 4,5] for I have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” **One of the seraphim flew to Isaiah, having in his hand a burning coal that had been taken with tongs from the altar. ‘And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” [verse 6,7] **Isaiah is encouraged and reassured by the touch of the burning coal. He is at freedom to respond to God… And I heard the voice of the LORD saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” [verse 8,9] For the past month, I have been in the temple with Isaiah…imagining this overwhelming account of seeing and hearing the LORD. I’ve found myself stung by Isaiah’s response…it seems almost involuntary. As I remember a particular moment of my childhood, I swell with thoughts and memories. You should know…as a young girl, I was painfully shy. I wasn’t the one who would raise her hand to give an answer, much less volunteer for anything. The thought was terrifying to me. But, one day, when my teacher asked a question,...

When the Wind Falls

It’s early & coffee is brewing & I’m looking out against the sky that came with January…clear and cold and gray. Gone is the morning sparkle of Christmas reflecting in stringed lights upon a tree. It’s all packed away now, and the new rhythm of a winter wind pushes the last of the leaves down, laying them skirted at the base of trees. Here, December was strangely balmy. Somewhere, in the exchange of a coastal month, winter remembered who it was…or so it seems. In a sense, I’m following suit. 2015 was riddled with highs and lows…for all of us, I’m sure. But, the over-arching tension I felt from wanting to know was the Goliath force working against me, and I often seemed to miss the mark, in slaying it. This morning, right now, the Lord is giving a saving word, penetrating the silence of a heart tossed and turned by a year in time. It is salvation that I have known from the start… ‘Loosen up, earth, and bloom salvation; sprout right living. I, GOD, generate all this. But doom to you who fight your Maker—you’re a pot at odds with the potter!’ [Isaiah 45 : 8-9, the message] These hands have been clumsy in praising Him, as I’ve wrestled with uncertainty…as I’ve attached myself to emotions, tossing me this way and that…when it was surely my expectations that should’ve been tossed! And, now, I’m admitting…my eyes are glazed with doubt, when they should be bright with wonder over all of the many ways His provision was (is!) present every single day. It’s salvation, this save from ruin...

By The Seed

Just before Thanksgiving, my 10-year-old son had a science test. The focus was on vascular and non-vascular plants. In short, the main difference between the two is that one has roots [vascular], and one does not [non-vascular.] For test purposes, he only needed to know the facts concerning the two, but ironically, I found myself reviewing it again, days after, when a friend prompted me to read Jeremiah 17. I don’t know about you, but when I spend time with Jesus, reading His Word, I tend to wonder about and consider the timing of it…probably too much sometimes, as I’m desperate to make sense of it 😉 . If you’re the same way, you’ll appreciate the connection between a vascular plant, with roots, and the idea of ‘living by the seed’ in Jeremiah. [In case you didn’t know, vascular is often described as a vessel that circulates]. [Jeremiah 17: verses 5-6 : The Message] …let us not place God aside as dead weight…being like tumbleweed on a prairie – out of touch with the good earth, living rootless and aimless in a land where nothing grows. Andrew Murray explains that ‘no tree can grow except on the root from which it sprang. Through all its existence, it can only live with the life that was [in the seed] that gave it full being.’ The questions that I’ve pondered are: am I hearing the good news, only to turn away and go my own way? Am I receiving the Word [the seed] with joy, but with a short root? Am I ‘choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this...

Free To Dream!

A dreamer…that she was. Always hushing the spirit within, the one beckoning her to run into wide-open spaces, unhindered and free. On road trips with her family, she’d gaze out the window to meadows & fields of green that seemed to stretch for miles. And, it’d be the same dream every time…she’d take off running, arms stretched wide. The motion itself a foreshadow of years later, when asked how much she loved her little boy & with tension in her arms, she open them and say, “thiiiiiiiiis much!” Yes…it was that type of dream, with deep intention and with motion and emotion. But, it never happened. This was me. Maybe it’s you, too. The book, Humility [Andrew Murray], offers this analogy… “…blessings of the higher Christian life were often like objects exposed in a shop window–one could see them clearly and yet could not reach them. If told to stretch out his hand and take, a man would answer, I cannot; there is a thick pane of plate-glass between them and me. And even so, Christians may see clearly the blessed promises of perfect peace and rest, of overflowing love and joy, of abiding communion and fruitfulness, and yet feel that there was something between hindering the true possession.” Friend, I’ve been gazing out the window for much of my life. All of the splendor and goodness, grace and beauty that I’ve seen, through the pane, appeared to be the greatest window of opportunity, yet it felt like an impossibility. And, why? Consider what the apostle Peter says in 2 Peter, chapter 1…[Amplified] [verse 2] – who (speaking of...