Joy in the dark.

Dark Autumn mornings beg me to smack the snooze button. At my dimly lit desk, coffee steaming into the quiet, I felt a pang of jealousy of as I read Acts 8: “When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.” (Acts 8:39 NIV) I would like the Holy Spirit to physically relocate me, I thought to myself, which is exactly what happened to Phillip. (Zondervan)

There are many pandemic days burned into the permanent section of my memory. Days full of shock, tears, heartache and loss. Normalcy has fallen by the wayside, and it’s been hard to cope. We miss hugs from friends, seeing smiles in person, and sharing live laughter. 2020 has been a very hard year.

The generation currently navigating junior high has a skyrocketing suicide rate, and they now pile on the anxiety of quarantine. My daughters are in 7th and 5th grade.

The patch of sunflowers I planted in late September had a slim chance of surviving long enough to bloom. Yet today, I cut the first batch and brought them into the warm house. Miracles do happen, and life can bloom despite of the odds stacked against it. In the midst of heartbreak over what they haven’t been able to do this year, my daughters have chosen to remember where their strength comes from. My oldest will clunk up the stairs from the basement in her pointe shoes to show me what she has been working on. Her grades, even though she had been zoomed in for much of the first quarter, were straight A’s. Today, a photo gift she made for a friend arrived in the mail, and she wore a new outfit she bought with her allowance to zoom into school. As I write, I hear her laughing with friends on a group chat.

When I told my husband the buns were on the stove next to the crock pot this morning, my youngest daughter laughed at no less than ten of her own “bun” jokes. Everyday, she has us rolling in laughter, despite of these dark times. This girl, who tends not to communicate with the same word count her older sister does, shared with me on our ride to school today about her nightly conversations with God.

God could physically pick me up and move me. He could change our circumstances …make it easier …ease the pain of isolation… Jesus wept and prayed for God to change His circumstances, too. He was isolated and deserted as He was crucified, unjustly. He endured all of the pain of this world voluntarily because He trusted God’s will. So in moments of isolation …I choose to remember the source of my strength.

Jesus gives me the perspective to see my situation through the filter of hope, and the blessings He’s sweetly and faithfully embraced us with in 2020. The laughter, long boating days in the warm sun, lunch dates during the school day, late night talks, and time with my girls who will disappear back into their busy lives as soon as they resume. I’m not glad its happening, but I know where my strength comes from. Acknowledging personal hardship is important. Tears are healing and some anger is righteous! But I know beyond what I can see, feel, and plan for …God is always on the move …and He is always good.

Remember the verse at the top of this post, and the man who went away, rejoicing? Phillip shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with him, and he was baptized! His joy was a sign of new life, and evidence of the Holy Spirit. (Zondervan) 2020 has taught us not to hang our hope on our plans, routines, and goals. All of those things are good, but His plans are more than we can ask for or imagine. It may get worse before it gets better. We were never promised life would be easy. But, if we unplug from the manic media and choose to tap into our real source of strength, we can live joyfully even in crazy hard times. Dark times. Jesus links arms with us through it all.

(Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary of the New Testament. Copyright 2002.)

Pray on the Armor of God.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” Ephesians 6:10 NIV

The smell of a loaded morning diaper overpowered my coffee as I walked upstairs to wake up my kids. We’re eight years post diaper, but the oder suggested otherwise. It cut through the freshly cleaned bathroom my daughters share. Apparently chewable vitamins, when tossed into the trash alongside damp make up wipes and whatever else …smell like a loaded morning diaper. 

The daily ritual of taking vitamins had suddenly become so painfully disgusting, my daughters resorted to hiding them in the oddest places. Why rebel against something that will make them stronger? Healthier? Protect them from sickness and injury?

More important than daily vitamins to protect our physical bodies are the pieces of God’s armor we can pray over our lives. “Pray always,” Paul writes, “Pray in the Spirit. Pray about everything in every way you know how!” (Ephesians 6:18 VOICE)

Real, enduring strength is found in God’s promise for the longevity of our souls. Paul said, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV) The enemy is out to injure our souls. “Put on the full armor of God,” Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:10-18, “so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”

Today, let’s pray the armor of God, found in Ephesians 6:10-19. Armed with the truth and mighty power of God, we will stand tall and strong, ready to bring honor and glory to Him in every area of our lives. 

Father, 

Protect us from the spiritual war we cannot see. Empower us to put on Your armor and stand firm. Jesus, You understand our pain. Crucified with You on the cross, we are no longer slaves to sin, or the evil forces at work in this world.

Protect our minds from distorted thoughts and untruths with the helmet of salvation. Slice through lies and accusations, hopelessness and doubt with the sharp double edged sword of Your Word. Knowing we will face trouble in this world, ready us for battle, Father. Protect us on all sides with Your breastplate of righteousness.

Father, set our feet on the solid foundation of the Gospel to remove any worry of stumbling into battle. In all circumstances, may we take up the shield of faith, to deflect every calculated shot of our enemy. Enable us to help others put on their armor, and accept help from those You have placed to help secure ours. 

Alert us to the enemy’s schemes to kill, steal and destroy. Protect us, tighten and tweak our armor when it loosens and becomes dented. Teach us to wear and use each piece efficiently. Keep us alert and help us to persevere.

Father, give us courage and bravery to pursue You and Your purpose for our lives like Paul did. To place our confidence in each piece of the armor we have prayed over our lives today, and feel the strength of Your mighty power working in and through our lives. 

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen.

Pulled Open & Slammed Shut.

“For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.” Hebrews 3:4 ESV

“Did you get new knobs?” Sitting in the kitchen for coffee, my friend noticed the new bright blue and yellow cabinet knobs.

“No, we just now installed them!” Though we built our home six years ago, some things are still on the “to-do” list.

Hebrews Chapter 3 got me thinking about the building process, and the way it admonished Christ as the builder alongside God of the house …the church …us. (Hebrews 3:6) We are built on a firm foundation, but sometimes neglect to install pulls and knobs to properly open all God has for us. 

Overwhelmed with joy to move our growing family into a larger space where we could all breath our own air, knobs and pulls seemed easy to live without. But after opening and closing drawers and cabinet doors for six years in the wrong way, they became crooked, dirty and loose. 

I sifted through a bin of blue and yellow flowered knobs caught my eye at the craft store, purchased and placed them on my kitchen counter. There they sat, for weeks, waiting to be installed. But eventually, they donned my kitchen cabinets, and we began opening things the right way. 

Pulling on things the wrong way wears them out prematurely. 

I have worn the corners of my life in similar ways, procrastinating the process of change. The cycle of disappointment can rob my will to start. Frustrated with myself, worn corners start to wear off on everything and everyone my life touches. Enter, cycle of shame. 

Christ never pulls on us in a way that prematurely wears us out. Shame is NEVER from Jesus. He died to put shame to shame, to erase guilt. So when we’re feeling that way, it’s our lurking enemy and this broken world seeking to keep us from simply installing the right knobs and pulls in our lives. 

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16 ESV

When we’re walking around wounded, we can’t operate in the full capacity of life Jesus died to give us. We live in a world that allows us to justify every stupid mistake we make, instead of encouraging us to apologize, right the wrong, and try not to make the same mistake again. For the sake of comfort, we’ve become uncomfortable. We don’t know our full potential, because we’re too busy making excuses.

“Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.” 2 Timothy 2:14 ESV

When the knobs and pulls are installed properly, we know unequivocally that Jesus is God. The One True God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Residing in every Christian believer. There is power in the name of Jesus. There is strength in Christ to persevere the pulling open and slamming shut without falling a part

The radical love of God is life-altering.

Happy Installing!

Megs 

A Prayer for the Strength to be Joyful

“Be joyful always.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (GLT)

The Bible commands us to “be joyful always,”(1Thessalonians 5:16) but it takes strength to hold onto joy when life threatens to snatch it from our hands. How do we recognize a threat to our joy, employ a strategy to refute it, and come out stronger on the other side of it …still gripping our God-given joy?

The misconception of Biblical joy is that it feels like happiness. Even though “always”encompasses happy times and feelings of bliss, true Christian joy can endure through extreme hardship and pain. Happy feelings aren’t a requirement to be “cheerful no matter what,” as the Message paraphrase of 1 Thessalonians 5:16reads.

“Be full of joy all of the time,” the New Life Version translates. “Always be joyful,”reads the New Living Translation. “Celebrate always,” the VOICE paraphrases, and“Rejoice always,” the New International Version states. Joy is an emotion of great delight. Praise expresses approval. Worship regards something as sacred. Celebration makes something known! (dictionary.com) Where do we find the strength to rejoice in the middle of trials, frustrations, and heartbreak …sickness, death, and despair …loneliness, fatigue, and unfairness? The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible states that “rejoicing might be associated with praise.”

Click here to continue reading …

The Super Strong Coffee (#jammed daily devo, day 82)

March #jammed: Grace Revealed.

Day 82: Stronger than we can handle.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 HCSBpost-image-82

Coffee and me have this thing. And it’s growing …stronger. The process is getting lengthier. The time invested is stretching. Flavor is expounding on my taste buds, and now it’s an experience. AKA, I’m a coffee snob, as my husband likes to put it.

Guilty. So snobbery when it comes to coffee. From throwing a cup in an pushing a lever to grinding my own beans every morning, the relationship with my morning cup of joe has become a bit of a fancy-pants habit.

The privilege I feel when I crack God’s Word open is akin to the same love …and abundantly more. As the days run on into more life lived, I no longer need a quick bit of wisdom to hold my sanity together as two crying babies pull on both pant legs. My Father and I are growing old together like a fine wine … or a snobbery cup of coffee. Well invested, minutes stretched.

“I invite you to drink deeply from the exceeding riches of My grace- My favor, mercy, and lovingkindness. It is a free gift that opens the way for you into eternity. It also provides what you need to live now, in this fractured world.” Sarah Young, Jesus Today

The second half of today’s verse states: “Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9b

Jesus knew us before He accepted the cross. Every flaw and failure, but every smile and spark, too. Joy is in the journey with Jesus when we realize our weakness leads to growth. In the healing of our frailties, wisdom is produced. The ways of God are not our ways. He doesn’t always heal as we ask, He heals out of provision and love of a good, good Father. When we embrace our pain we acknowledge His sovereignty.

jammed-tweet-blueFather, Praise Your sovereign hand upon our lives. Thank You for loving us beyond what we are capable of understanding. Thank You for the simple joys in life like a good, snobbery cup of coffee. Forgive us for taking the little things, and giant pains, in this life for granted. Bless us and heal us. 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! 

#greatgrace17

Happy Coffee-drinking,

Megs

Get the #jammed Daily Devo sent straight to your inbox each morning, by subscribing to Sunny&80.