Welcome to Week 3 of the Christmas Series, “What Does It Mean?” This week, we are going to study the word, “Joy.” Download the Free Printable PDF Study Guide, and follow along on this Advent journey to a better understanding of commonly used “Christmas” words. Happy Christmas!
November #jammed: Gracious.
Day 332: Thankful for Lauren.
Marveling at the sweetness of my first-born daughter, I couldn’t image being blessed with another child like her. When God says that He’ll bless us more than we can ask or imagine, He isn’t kidding. Lauren came into the world before she was supposed to, and that has typified her personality. She plays life by her own set of rules …ours being completely optional.
There is a frustration that attempts to surge through my disciplinary side as her mother. Impoliteness and lack of manners from either of my daughters simply isn’t tolerated under any circumstance. And boy, does my second child test the limit of my fore-head vein.
But there is something so pure and innocent about her, that makes it very easy to forgive her and hard to want to change anything about her. Though she is fiery, she wears this verse from Nehemiah on her shoulders. It’s truly who she is. The joy of the Lord is her strength. She has a gift to lift other’s spirits like I’ve never seen before. She’s funny and carefree, confident in who she is and Whose she is …imperfections and all.
To me, she’s a testament to the lack of control I have over who my daughters are. They are completely different! What works with my first hardly ever sticks to my second. And that draws me to Him even more. Just when I thought I had parenting figured out, He showed me that it’s been Him all along. Prayers and answers. Seeking and finding. Asking and waiting. Hoping and knowing …that they are His first.
Lauren reminds me that God created us each so differently, and with our own purpose according to His plan. It’s exciting to watch her grow, and even more exciting to dream about what His plans are for her life.
Our job as mothers is a pretty crucial one. We teach them manners, how to respect themselves, respect others, and how they should be treated with respect. We teach them how to be kind and how to be a good friend. Girls are sensitive and conversational, and weaving their faith into the very thread of who they are helps them to understand themselves. By pointing them to Him, we give them the greatest gift of comfort a girl can have: knowing they can count on a dependable God. A Joy that will never leave. A Love that will embrace them, always.
Father, Praise You for Lauren! Thank You so much for her joy! Forgive me for being too hard on her at times …and other times not hard enough. She is amazing, and I am blessed beyond belief to be her mom. God, You are so good. Help me to lead her to You, always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Get the conversation started by commenting below, and let’s encourage one another as we face life in 2017 armed with grace!
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- full of cheerfulness; joyous in disposition or spirit. 2. laughing happily; festively joyous; hilarious. (dictionary.com)
Queen Elizabeth II was said to prefer “Happy Christmas” at a time when “merry,” meant “intoxicated.” -Wikipedia
The Queen was onto something, but I wouldn’t have separated it. Let Christmas be associated with the feeling of intoxication, because that’s an accurate reading of my Christmas-filled heart.
“Merry” is the uninhibited joy released by God’s grace, and the freedom that flows out of His forgiveness. It’s the boisterous laughter that seeps out in spite of exhaustion, and the confetti of cares launched free in celebration of the Light of life.
Just in case the foul look on my daughter’s face didn’t communicate her disgust, she huffed around and away and out of the room. Infuriated that she had swiped the last word, the furthest thing from my mind was forgiveness.
God’s response to our tendency to walk around and run away was to forge a path to forgive us. His compassionate love is expressed through the Son who chose to endure humanity, knowing ahead of time that “Merry Christmas” would eventually become an intolerable offense. God loves us for who we are …not who we search to be. Jesus was born to restore our standing with His Father.
Now that the danger of touching the hot stove has passed, I can begin to back down the maternal scream for safety in exchange for a listening ear and an understanding heart. A heart that isn’t offended by my daughter’s struggle to find herself in this world; but one that recognizes it’s plight, and looks for moments to guide, assure, and comfort her. Jesus erased my sins. Who am I to hold onto hers?
Everlasting life just for trusting Jesus with ours? That’s a birthday worth celebrating in “merry” jubiliee.
Treasure Your Sled
Christmas is like hopping on a sled and swishing down the hill, faster than we can brace for but worth hopping on. Blinded by stinging snow as we sail down the hill, the world’s cold, cruel and political correct statutes are blurred by hope.
The joy of Jesus numbs the pain that tends to taint tears a bitter color if we remain of this world. The constant search of self is satisfied in the embrace of who we are right now. Life isn’t consistent or predictable. Lean into the reliability of love, not actions, personalities, or unexplainable disasters. Our entire existence is a snap of God’s fingertips.
Christmas is the whole point of life. It grants us the opportunity to have the relationship that Luke mentions above. Without that baby born in a manger, we are doomed to watch the sled zip by, never quick enough or smart enough or agile enough to catch it and hop on. Jesus holds it, waits for us to accept the ride, and then joins in as we scream with glee all the way down the hill …of life.
“Merry” Christmas. It’s intoxicating …Jesus being born to save the world. It’s merry …God and His love for us. It’s endearing and inspiring …to be forgiven beyond what we deserve. It’s joy …the opportunity we have to journey through life in closeness with our Creator.
Be merry! Shout with joy! Embrace who YOU are …right now! Have FUN in this life, with your Savior by your side.
I occasionally link up with the following awesome writers…
A source or cause of delight –Merriam-Webster
Joy differs from happiness in that it is an emotion. -Wikipedia
Is there greater delight than the wonder of Santa, or the glee witnessed as a child unwraps the present they wished for? Can there be a sweeter tear than the touch of a Christmas memory?
Set a part from the fleeting feeling of happiness, joy defines what Jesus came to give. It’s constancy flows through the entirety of our days, and allows us to laugh our way back to right. Joy is accepting who we are in confidence that we are cared for.
Acceptance & The ‘Damn’ Centers
Joy is the acceptance for who we are by the One who made us.
We often place God far off in the distance or high in the sky. But one of the endearing qualities of the Lord is that He is funny. I believe, in reverence, that Biblical conversations reflect the humor of a God for whom nothing is impossible. How often are we able to make light of our circumstances? Life isn’t always funny, but it is overflowing with joy …if we choose to accept it.
My six-year-old daughter exudes joy. It’s hard to discipline her with a straight face. When I asked her one afternoon why she had to stay in for recess, she said:
“I had to finish my damn centers,” and rolled her eyes.
What else could I do but excuse myself to die of laughter? She’s six! #longroad It further confirmed the spitfire personality that I love, along with the list of reasons she’ll never be allowed to go on spring break…
“Lo” doesn’t fall in line or take adults too seriously. Her laugh is loud and ever-present. I may joke about her tendency to test the rules, but embrace the tender heart behind those twinkling blue eyes. My love for her allows me to witness the brightness of her light.
God is not surprised by us. He loves the complete creation, and we are made to journey in joy! His love doesn’t lessen when we fall down. In fact, He seeks to share a laugh with us and reveal joy in hard moments. He’s accepted us. That’s why Jesus was born.
Christmas is closeness with God.
Confidence …For the Birds
Joy is the attitude of gratitude.
In the North where I live, Christmastime signals every bird that can’t bear the winter’s cold to start flocking together. Millions of birds dance together in the sky, instinctively gathering and swooping and soaring until they’ve accumulated enough of a mass to drift as a dark “bird cloud” away with the warm air.
Birds are not even in my top 100 of favorite …or even likable creatures. Yet, over the years, I’ve come to admire the way they just know what to do.
“…God cares for every little sparrow …Since you are so much more precious to God than a thousand flocks of sparrows, and since God knows you in every detail—down to the number of hairs on your head at this moment—you can be secure and unafraid…” Luke 12:6-7
Birds don’t realize they are small or incapable. They operate confidently on carefully designed instinct.
Humans seek to be loved because deep within the design of our nature is a Creator who is love. Our confidence is found in Him, through Jesus.
He came into this world a small baby in a manger. His light caused others to flock to Him and follow Him, shifting and moving and gathering and cackling and spreading the Word. Long after Christ gave His human life on the cross, the birds continued to fly and stories of Jesus spread. His Word still flutters and gathers. Christian faith is moving and shifting. God’s not surprised. We all instinctively seek the joy of Jesus.
Joy to the world, indeed. The greatest gift. #yulesee
Link up with us!!
“Sorry!” My oldest called out as she sent her Daddy’s peg flying off the game-board.
“What?!?” he retorted, “You just broke your own rule!”
My little one lined up a teeny tiny animal audience as they argued. The table melted down into assigning blame, hurt feelings, and an unfinished game. It’s impossible to declare the winner of a game with no rules, and I was not going to take sides…
Life’s a lot more complicated than the game of “Sorry.” It’s easy to forgive someone for knocking your game peg off the board, but not so easy to swim through the hurt of being bumped. There are times I feel unqualified to wipe away my daughters’ tears as I choke back my own. Praying for the right way to raise them, I discovered two words to help me piece together a plan.
Though they appear synonymous, “favor” and “favoritism” communicate opposite messages in fostering a healthy community. These three steps will help you land on the right side of the coin.
1. Say something.
“Favoritism: the practice of giving unfair preferential treatment to one person or group at the expense of another.” Google.com
Life can be a lot about choosing sides and shifting circles, causing hurt feelings to be hidden in fear of being cut out. But it’s important to put a voice to hurt in a non-accusatory or defensively dramatic fashion. I try to guide my daughters (and repeat to myself) to talk directly to the one who hurt them, not around them in circles. For example:
“When you said that, it hurt my feelings.”
When we align with the audience of favoritism, we fail to notice God’s favor; when true hurts of the heart are spoken out loud, we allow God’s favor to defend us.
“He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart…he who does these things will never be shaken.” Psalms 15:2,5
How is one to know they’ve hurt me if they have no idea they’ve wounded me? God doesn’t care about the clamor to click and the clack to belong. Speaking up when my feelings are hurt without putting my foot in my mouth is an impossibly difficult task, but it’s more conducive to community than seething to attain sympathy out of thin air.
“We hide pain in the weirdest places…broken souls with smiling faces…Just look around and you see that people …are scared to say how they really feel …we all need …a little honesty.” ‘You are Loved,’ by Stars Go Dim.
2. Voluntarily forgive.
“Favor: an attitude of approval or liking…an act of kindness beyond what is due or usual.” Google.com
Forgiveness is an important extension of the grace Jesus died to give us. It is something a human to human relationship is not 100% capable of without His presence. We consult our circle, but Christ didn’t have a clique. (Luke 4:19)
Cliques offer protection, status, guaranteed friendship, trust, and acceptance. Though we look to each other for these things, only Christ is capable of fulfilling a lifetime of love and belonging. God wired our desire to seek His Son.
Christ loves beyond faults, and gifts grace without regard to requirement. Extend grace.
3. Let it go.
The puzzling and powerless feeling of injustice is agonizing, but I survive by crying out to God. The ugly cry. The uncontrollable, shoulders shaking in sobs and nose running down my face …desperate to understand “why?” cry.
Sometimes, life hurts more than we can comprehend because we’re not built to lean on other people …we’re meant to lean on God. He will fight our battles for us if we will faithfully hand them over.
Before I drop them off at school, in sibling mediation, at bedtime …I’m constantly trumping my daughters’ excuses with my favorite soapbox.
“and we are…” I’ll bait.
“Kind,” they comply. Life’s most important rule.
“My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.” James 2:1
It’s hard to be kind in the face of calamity when I have a ferociously strong feeling about what is fair. But I believe God. Speaking the truth of our hearts, and forgiving without requiring apology …that’s our part. The rest is His area of expertise.
“There were three options for citizens under Roman rule: sell out, get out, or fight back… Jesus introduced a fourth option: serve…” Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (James 2:1-26 commentary)
I pray to mimic Jesus’ justice and fake it till I make it all the way into His arms; letting Him fill the gap of what I cannot accomplish alone, and fight what I was never equipped to battle.
Life is too risky to run without rules, yelling “sorry!” over shoulders when feelings flip and hearts are hurt. Reactions CAN land on the right side of the coin by determining which audience is driving our decisions. The audience of favoritism caters to cliques; the audience of God’s favor fosters community.
Speak. Forgive. Let go.
We say, “Sorry!!” Jesus says, “Grace!!”
Happy Card Drawing!
“I DIDN’T SAY THAT!!!!” One sister yelled.
“YESSSSSSS YOUUUUUUU DIIIIIIIID-AAAAAAAA,” the other retorted.
“WELL THEN YOU HEARD ME WRRRRROOOONNNGGGG-AAAAAA,” she snapped back.
“Ugh,” I sighed, listening to them pile frustrated syllables on top of simple words, “they’ve BOTH gotten that from me.”
Faces twisted into eccentric versions of craziness, both seethingly glared into the review mirror. Apparently, that was my cue to magically apply logic to what had “actually” been said. Ironic, how they burst into laughter at Siri’s mistakes …or Mom’s …that’s always hysterical. But they take sisterly “corrections” very seriously.
Grown-up or not, we all fall victim to our own stubbornness. Right or wrong, few people have the ability to apologize on the spot for the effect irrelevant to the cause. Except Siri, she’s pretty quick to tell you, “I’m sorry, I did not understand.”
If you join me in the struggle to handle hot-tempered moments of kids quarreling in the backseat, I can offer a couple of tips that have kept me on the road. But don’t judge me if you hear me screaming “SHUT UP!” as I drive around town with the windows down. #trying #inthefield
1. Load up and line up your corrections.
“Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy.” Leviticus 20:7-8 (NIV)
Tense moments flare tempers, and words seem to fail us. No matter how many, or at what volume, they spill into the car … mistranslated like a text message surrendered to auto-correct.
God seeks to steer us, and applauds efforts to guide our children through tedious moments. Seek His wisdom. Set aside some space to clear the clutter and read the Bible. Everyday has five free minutes. The time I spend in His Word allows me to relay the motherly messages He always intended for my daughters to hear.
2. Embrace The Correction
Imagine God watching from Heaven while we blow right by misinterpretations and hit “send” anyway …EVEN WHEN He’s waving both hands in front of our face?!?! Instead of ridiculing us for missteps and side-trails, He sent His only Son to die for us. The love demonstrated in sacrifice forever forgives our failed efforts. Through Jesus, God replaces every “fallen short,” with “grace and love.”
What missteps have lent us the opportunity to spread Christ’s love? The story of Jesus naming Peter yields immense hope.
“And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas (which, when translated, is Peter.)” John 1:42 (NIV)
Peter was a fisherman that doubted Jesus at the rooster’s crow. But he was also known for having solid faith in Jesus, and for his leadership in the early church. The NIV Study Bible further notes that, although his name is literally translated, “Rock,”
“Peter was anything but a rock; he was impulsive and unstable…Jesus named him not for what he was but for what, by God’s grace, he would become.”
My daughters’ bickering in the backseat brings to light the natural struggle to be right …to be the best …the favorite … independent… No winner emerges from unjust conflict. There’s no reason to put our individual mission on earth to death by comparison. Our kids need us to be who Jesus says we are.
“Peter was best know for his impetuous nature and fierce devotion to Christ.” -NIV Study Bible Text Note
Impetuous means, “acting or done quickly and without thought or care.” (Google.com) It also can mean, “moving forcefully or rapidly.” (Google.com)
Fierce means, “having or displaying an intense or ferocious aggressiveness.”(Google.com) It can also mean, “(of a feeling, emotion, or action) showing a heartfelt and powerful intensity.”(Google.com)
So by one definition we can choose to see Peter as a flip-flopping doubter with a temper. Or, we can choose to look a little bit deeper into the heart Jesus identified long before Peter knew his name. The “Rock,” who spread the gospel with force and speed throughout the early church, and loved Jesus with heartfelt and powerfully intense faith.
Embrace the correction.
“Girls…” I warmed up, as I prayed that a nugget of Spirit-led wisdom would fall out of my mouth, “…it doesn’t matter who started it or who’s fault it is …you both need to apologize and hug it out.”
Insert insane amount of eye-rolling and last ditch efforts to pinch each other…
“Love you,” I added with a smile.
The correction is love.
We don’t have to fight to be fierce. Most of us haven’t even grown into our true “names” yet. When we’re scrunched up and mangled into frustrated faces, Jesus sees our hearts and knows our names. His gift of death in exchange for grace grants us new life …for life …for forever.
Fight with the fierce and ferocious power of the love that conquered it all. And if you let a hot-tempered phrase slip, apologize. It works for Siri …my kids think she’s hilarious when she admits she’s at a complete loss…
When I want to quit, prayer is there to pull me through. I hope you know He’s there for you, too.
God gave us grace to enjoy this place.
The space He creates to replace our race
…just for a little while.
Life’s rip current can relentlessly grip and pull…
It’s essential to bask in the space of blessings.
Where time stops …and minutes stretch.
Waves of emotion may ebb and flow, and even erode …
but when the tide subsides,
Christ is constant.
He’s my constant.
I may weep but only for a moment …
Anger will break like the surf but then foam back into the sea.
For me, Jesus is joy
…and I cling to His hold on my hand.
Between this post and the last, I have been hanging out in the space…
I can’t wait to tell you about it…
“Be joyful always.” 1Thes.5:16
Solutions are revealed through noise, and hidden in the slow silence of subtlety.
“Lo, you can’t cheer in flats.” I harped.
“UUUGGGHHHH!!!!” She exasperated as she stomped off to change her shoes.
“Mom…” My oldest began…and then I really can’t tell you what she said after that. It was too long and drawn out, and I didn’t have the capacity to digest it as I popped my coffee out of the microwave and corralled her little sister to the door.
“Brianne, honey,” I quipped,”get in the car.”
Poor thing, she’s just me.
I’m an excessive talker, over-answerer, and I’m missing that “stop talking no one is listening anymore” radar. God has encouraged me so much, it in turn just oozes out of me. Let the encouraged, encourage. However, I get so excited that I’m not always the best at slowing my thought train down to tune in to other voices.
Face freezing and my girls yelling, “C’MON MOM! YOU’RE TOO SLOW,” I checked them in at mini-cheer and then parked by the lake to walk the pier. Ear buds in to drown out the peace, I forced myself to walk at an uncomfortable pace against a brutal north wind.
Somehow the stillness of the sun sparkling off the ice, devoid of other living things out to brave the chill, breaks through the tingling of my itchy hat to uncover a secret space where I can hear God. I’m obedient in my rush to meet with Him everyday because I’m very aware of my need to stop talking. And even if your struggle to be silent isn’t as intense as mine, He waits in the stillness of the dawn to over-answer the day’s quandaries. Who doesn’t want a head start before the gun goes off?
3 Revelations I’ve gained by letting God’s Word drown out mine in the secret space.
1. It’s not by chance. Do you ever feel like you’re being followed around by a reality TV crew? All of the sudden, you seem to be tuned into different people that are saying and writing and speaking and singing about the same things, at the same time in your life when you are looking for answers to that very notion. That collaborative coincidence is evidence of our very personal God. I don’t put YAX on my boots and trek out onto the ice because it’s boring out there…
Give Him the first part of your day, and you’ll see what I mean. Even if it’s only 5 minutes..and there’s an app for that, too.
“But by shifting our focus from what we do to what God does, don’t we cancel out all our careful keeping of the rules and ways God commanded? Not at all. What happens, in fact, is that by putting that entire way of life in its proper place, we confirm it.“-Romans 3:26(MSG)
2. Perfection is overrated and already reserved. Since it can never be attained by anyone else, let it be the first thing you cross off your daily to-do list and start seeking attainable joy.
A struggle lies behind every smiling selfie and perfectly posed portrait. I don’t want my funky faces rolling through the facebook newsfeed any more than my kids want me circulating theirs to their Dad and the rest of the family and all of their friends’ parents. I’m too aggravated to fumble with my phone in the heat of those moments, and the kids run away in a blur.
Every joyful moment is the product of a struggle. The answer to prayer…blessing from God. I cry out in angst beyond the lens, and He never fails to over-answer.
“But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.” Romans 3:21-24(MSG)
My life is not the only testimony to those verses. Flip through the album, but ask me for the story. My college degree looks awesome in my bookcase now, but it was absent the day of graduation. My family is amazing, but this isn’t my first marriage and my kids are not perfect. I gossip and envy and lose my cool with the people that love me, and way too often add Cabernet and dark chocolate to aid the indigestion.
The struggle with self-doubt is real…but my heart is His.
Maybe I should try posting pictures of blurred children running away from me so that we can all bond together. #blessedmess
3. Look up and Look out.
I am living proof that God aggressively pursues those whom He has called.
“Who is like you?” Moses stated in Exodus 15:11. Can’t you just picture the awe and hear the whisper of hope and faith in his voice? “Who is like you?” That’s how I feel about Jesus.
Every day a faithful friend, He pulls me out of my coffee coma and through my mess to the feet of His Father. God left a reminder to the Israelites of the Manna He faithfully fed to them every day for 40 years. (Exodus 16:32)
Jesus is ours.
“God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public—to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it’s now—this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.“-Romans 3:25-26(MSG)
He supply’s my whole portion in the first few minutes of the day, speaking through my child’s ramblings and the still of frozen water. Through an Elevation sermon in my ear buds or an eagle on the ice. But I won’t hear or see anything if I don’t tune in and look up. I am joyful because I seek to be.
Walking with the wind pushing me back, the snow wisping across the iced over River, I felt my pace quickening. I felt like I was walking pretty fast until the snow blasted by alongside me with a gusty blow. I heard God say to me clearly, “YOU’RE TOO SLOW.”
“OK, OK” I laughed.
When my daughters go through spurts of arguing about every thing all of the time, I’m quick to remind them that family comes first and sisters are forever friends. They typically glare at each other, disgusted mid-argument that they are stuck together for life without choice. But, the seed inevitably always sprouts a root, and the moments bursting with sisterly love triumph over the squabbles.
Many mornings, I attempt rush by my Father at full speed with my own agenda in tow. Perhaps that’s why He reveals the wind. Or, leaves a rock balanced a-top the ice in one season and sunk to the bottom in the next. He certainly knows how yank me out of my whirring thoughts. Walking with the wind reminded me Who was at my side …right now …and one day at a time. Family first.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11
He will aggressively pursue you…more than you ask.
Happy First Five Morning Minutes…
“Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25:4-5
Joy cracks conformity.
“Mom,” my seven-year old wept as she slunked against the cold window on the way home from school, “it happened again.”
A chill stemmed from my heart to the heated steering wheel as I swiped the volume down.
“Same person?” I pressed.
“One stopped, but there’s still one more.”
Kids are funny about what they share, aren’t’ they? Brianne unravels the truth as she needs mine to apply to it. Perfect, because I can’t handle the whole story at once emotionally, anymore than she can digest the entirety of my reaction/advice.
“I thought it was only one person doing it…” I said in a fake, I’m-not-angry-about-it-at-all tone.
“Well, there were more, but now there’s just one …and she keeps erasing my mascot.” The tears were now visible in the rear view mirror, and I could barely drive I wanted to hug her so bad.
“Your mascot?” My own tears blocked the road.
“Yes, Happy Heart…my mascot,” she explained.
“Well that’s-not very-nice and I’m-so sorry,” I blurted in a cracked tone.
“The thing I don’t get is that she’s my friend…”
Now she was full on crying, and so was I…and so was little sis Lo.
Some friend. I had to pull back from the conversation and revert to comforting mode before I let my anger drive my mouth and call the kid’s parents. Later on, I yearned to define what a true friend was to my daughter…so I Googled it. Dictionary.com says a friend is:
- A person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
- A person who gives assistance; patron; supporter
- A person who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile
- A member of the same nation, party, etc.
- V. Make friends with, to enter into friendly relations with; become a friend to.”
No where in that list of definitions does it require one friend to conform to another, yet we have mixed reactions to differences in qualifying and ranking our friendships, don’t we? Let’s face it, sometimes Emo Joe is a ‘ way cooler’ mascot than Happy Heart. The challenge to define and find friendship requires a look inward at how to be a good friend.
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though. Now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fireman result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” 1Peter1:6-7
I think a little bit of Jesus Christ is revealed right in these two verses, shedding light on the definition of friendship in two ways:
A good friend is genuine, a trait revealed by trials.
Jesus is genuine. He was tested and put through trials, leaving no doubt of His faith, glory, and honor. Strong’s Concordance says the word genuineness in Greek is adolos, meaning “free from fraud.” Jesus knew fraud. He experienced it. Upon His arrest, all twelve apostles fled. They failed that friend test. Imagine the betrayal Jesus felt, when just hours earlier they were all hanging out with Him, appalled at innuendos of betrayal within their circle. Jesus died for them anyway, forgiving them long before they knew to apologize. He did not let it affect who He was or what He was called to do. Aim to apply the forgiveness of failure to your friendships, and allow them to stick around long enough to travel through trials.
Erase the mistakes. Put the good back up.
Forgive and forget or forgo friendship. Jesus gets erased, but He doesn’t give up. He is repeatedly being removed by an increasingly secular society. Merium Webster’s definition of secular is: “of, relating to or controlled by the government rather than the church.” I personally don’t want to be ruled by either.
“The LORD is my strength…I WILL praise Him.”- Exodus 15:2 (emphasis added.)
“Draw the Happy Heart,” I told Brianne, “Keep putting it back up.”
It’s hard to rescind the urge to hide my child from hurt, but it’s important to pray through the appropriate times to let go and let them be lights. Though the darker side of life will attempt to snuff them out, light cannot be erased.
The joy eluded to in the verse above doesn’t just appear immediately in our hearts. We have to find it and fight for it.
“In 1Thes 5:16–18 Paul turns from instructions covering attitudes and actions toward fellow believers and other human beings to instructions dealing with attitudes toward God.” -NIV Application Commentary
What is our attitude toward God? Do we think of Him in fulfillment of those definitions of friendship above? It should be the first place our minds drift, because even secular socialites will admit the fault in humanity to execute those definitions to perfection. But Jesus did…and can…and does.
God tells us to “be joyful” not “be lemmings.” You’re stomach’s going to drop every time the heart is erased.
It’ll never feel right because we are not of this world.
You are a crack in the ice.
Humans are human. Don’t get mad at “the eraser.” Don’t let the sound of footsteps scattering break your spirit. Don’t hold any one person accountable for one Savior’s job. Don’t be naive, but your friends off the hook of perfection.
“Did you put the Happy Heart back up?” I asked one night over spaghetti and meatballs.
“Yep!” she smiled, blue eyes especially sparkling, “And he’s holding up a sign that says J.A.M.!!”
J.A.M. for Jesus And Me…She’s the proudest new member of the kids praise and worship team at church. Erase her mascot, but can’t get to her heart.
At all times, and especially in adversity. The light will fight it’s way through…the ice will crack. You needn’t look any further for the best friend you’ll ever find. It’s Jesus’ joy that cracks conformity. It’s through Him alone that we tap into the light of His Father. Lean into Him when you’re being squeezed.
In a world freezing fast…seek Him…the crack in the ice.
The habit of holding on prevents our stumble down the stairs, but falling is not failing.
“Mmmmmmmmoooooommmmmmmm,” Brianne wailed, through broken breaths of crying…”Oooooowwwwwwweeeeee.”
Happens at least once a week. One of them falls down the stairs, and I’m greeted by Brianne’s cry of shock, or Lo running to me out of breath and holding her butt. I’m used to the routine of hurried footsteps followed by awkward clunking…
Despite my best efforts to educate and warn, my little Lo will come flying around the corner high-kneed and stomach punched often enough to warrant her own hashtag. Her crash down the staircase is often prefaced by a symphony of Ty eye-ball plinks as they reach the first floor first.
I caught an interesting directive falling out of my mouth as I held a sobbing Brianne after her latest tumble down the stairs.
“Hold on to the railing,” I begged her, “You’re too precious to fall.”
How many times do we want to bolt up a railing for kids to hold on to …thinking they’ll surely recognize, appreciate, and grip it tight, preventing a nasty fall. But they don’t. Three reasons why:
1. They don’t recognize it when they need it because they weren’t paying attention to something they didn’t need at the time.
2. They don’t appreciate the love and care bolted into the wall of protective measures we surround them with, because they don’t understand why it’s necessary.
3. They don’t grip it in swallowed pride when they are about to fall down the stairs, because they don’t think our protections are as necessary for them as they are for us.
Down the stairs they tumble …and we’re helpless as our precious babes fall.
“I told you so.”
“Why didn’t you hold onto the railing?”
“We talked about this.”
I used to frustrate my face into a fury over their lack of listening skills, until I tumbled down the stairs with the vacuum cleaner one day.
“Well, that was stupid,” I said to myself out loud in an empty house.
God revealed a few things through the railing:
1. Falling isn’t failing.
“Therefore, in order to keep me from being conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh…” 2Corinthians 12:7
The apostle Paul was clever to point out that our imperfections and insults to injury are what keep us in check with reality. And reality is, God knows we all need something to hold on to. Just because we let go doesn’t mean we give up.
2. The railing is Jesus.
“For through Him we now have access to the Father by one Spirit.”-Ephesians 2:18
God has bolted His Son to our hearts, that we may access Him through prayer, The Word, and the Holy Spirit. The access is there for the acceptance. I’m no better than my daughters at holding on to the railing, but
God doesn’t punish me every time I fall down the stairs. Don’t you punish yourself, either.
He is not waiting at the bottom with an “I told you so,” or a “well, that was stupid.” No, He’s waiting at the bottom, already knowing how much it hurt. Because of Jesus, God says,
“It’s not too late, grab the railing and pull yourself up.”
3. Jesus knows that life is difficult…that’s why He put the railing there in the first place. He died for us… He’s not going to give up, even when we let go.
“For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses…” Hebrews 4:15
Jesus felt what we feel, “yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) He was tempted, but never failed. The railing is there, but He knows we’re not God. We’re to have faith, not be perfect.
4. He watches out for us.
“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” -2Chronicles 16:9
Often when I’m out walking in the morning, I can’t help but feel God’s warmth in the beginning of a new day. The sky is so much prettier in the morning, after it pierces through the darkness of night. I look for God in that sky, and He meets me there. Day after day, railing still securely bolted to the wall of the staircase.
“My heart is confident in you, O God; no wonder I can sing your praises with all my heart.” Psalm 108:1
Through Jesus we can come to the Father and receive grace. A God who cares for us, watches out for us, and forgives us. “Hold on to the railing…you’re too precious to fall.” But when you do, I hope you know, He’s with you.
Hold on tight, but don’t forget to look up.