“What Does It Mean?” Week 3: Joy.

Joy

A source or cause of delight –Merriam-Websterjoy-image-1

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?

 Yes.

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.

“Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.'” Genesis 21:6

joy-tweet-1She was ninety …of course she laughed at the thought of giving birth. (Genesis  18)  Yet as God promised, she and her 100-year old husband Abraham had a son named Isaac …which means “he laughs.”

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.

joy image 3.jpgMy 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.

joy-tweet-3In 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.

“…Look at them fly. It looks like God is taking pretty good care of them, doesn’t it? Remember that you are more precious to God than birds!” Luke 12:24

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.

“My little flock, don’t be afraid. God is your Father, and your Father’s great joy is to give you His kingdom.”Luke 12:32

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.

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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.

    He is the light who reveals Your message to the other nations,
        and He is the shining glory of Your covenant people, Israel.” Luke 2:32 (The Voice)

Joy to the world, indeed. The greatest gift. #yulesee 

Happy Christmas,

Meg

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The Invisible Fire.

My little girl’s tears streamed onto my cheeks as she hugged me tight. Fearful that in the darkness of night our house would catch on fire, unreasonable emotion gripped her blotchy red face. Her pierced blue eyes searched mine for an answer …for comfort …for reassurance …all of which I was unqualified to promise her.invisible-fire-2

The anxieties we answer to in this life grab us much like Lauren’s sweet six-year-old heart, that can’t bear the thought of being separated from her teddy bear. Life is fragile. We want to look around and depend on each other to get through things that may never happen. We want to believe that everything is going to be ok, but it’s simply not always going to be. In fact, we’re promised that it will get much worse.

We can help our children cope with fear and anxiety by teaching them to pray these Words of God:

“Do not worry.” Matthew 6:34

“Do not fear.” Isaiah 41:10

invisible fire 4.jpg

Step Back.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” Matthew 6:34 (The Message)

Our duty as parents is not to have all the answers, but to point to the One who does. We can aim to protect our children but we cannot promise them safety. Only God is sovereign to make good on the assured direction of their future.

“Lauren, can I pray for you?”

She nodded ‘yes’ through slowing sobs.

“Lord, you tell us not to fear, and not to worry. But that’s hard. We need Your help. Help Lauren not to worry, and not to be afraid. Let her rest in knowing how much you love her. God we pray that You protect and bless our home. Keep it and us safe. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

My godly duty as her mother is to reassure that she is loved …not just by me, but far invisible-fire-3greater. Her little heart needs to hear that He is good, that she can trust Him, and that He he cares about her fears and worries.

“Jesus explains the futility of such worry for one’s life (Mt 6:25), time (6:27, 34), clothes (6:28), and even what one will eat (6:31). Such a focus is not only a wasted effort on something that one cannot change (cf. Lk 12:25), but it leads to unhealthy anxiety.” Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary

If the thing I want to be able to promise will never harm a hair on her head singes her life, He will get her through. He will love her. He will grow her. He will never leave her side.

Through the calamity of this world, God does not promise Christians a free pass from pain. He gifts us the grace, peace and hope to keep walking through it. We grip Him in fear, look to Him in awe, and trust Him with it all …through it all.

Let Go.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Night after night my little Lo cried at bedtime, afraid our house would catch on fire. Night after night we prayed together, and repeated those truths to her tiny heart and my overwhelmed one. Until one night, her brave blue eyes stared right into mine and with a small, still voice, wondered:

“Mom, can I say a special prayer?” I nodded, misty-eyed.

“Dear God, Please bless us and don’t let our house catch on fire. Keep everyone in our family safe, and my teddy and blankie and all of my toys. We love you God and Jesus, Amen.”

Our great God hears the prayers of tender little hearts, and understands their fears.

invisible-fire-1

Sometimes it takes months, years, decades, lifetimes …before the discipline to turn to God first replaces our knee-jerk reaction to solve humanity’s dysfunctional fears and worries. But I believe that when God’s truth repeated is alive,  powerful, and in motion.

My greatest prayer as a mother is that my daughters will know that God loves them perfectly, even when I do not.

“The scope of these verses is to silence the fears, and encourage the faith, of the servants of God in their distresses.“ Matthew Henry Commentary on Isaiah 41:10-20

Prayer becomes powerful conversation. The grace of accepting Jesus’ sacrifice as allows us to experience a power that is not of this world. Discernment of text that is much more that black and white letters on a page. It’s much more than a good story. He is God.  He was here. And now His Spirit lives in us.

Invisible fire, indeed.

Happy praying,

Megs

 

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The Preview of “The Space…”

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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.

Joy’s beach.

Waves of emotion may ebb and flow, and even erode …

but when the tide subsides,

it’s unchanged.

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…

Stay tuned…

Happy Tidings…

Megs

“Be joyful always.” 1Thes.5:16

The Over-Answerer

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?

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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)

image2. 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.

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“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.

imageWhen 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.image

Happy First Five Morning Minutes…

Megs

“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

The Crack

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.

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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:

  1. A person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
  2. A person who gives assistance; patron; supporter
  3. A person who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile
  4. A member of the same nation, party, etc.
  5. 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 imageConcordance 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.

“Be joyful always.” 1Thes 5:16

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.

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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.

 “Love, companionship, devotion …these are all synonyms for friendship, and all descriptions of walking with Jesus. We’re all going to fail each other at some point, but He will never.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17

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.

Happy “Friend-ing,”

Megs