Joy Regardless of Circumstance

March 31, 2011

As the day of the first Pentecost began, what was the scene?  Let’s look to the book of Acts.  In Acts 2:1 we are told that “when the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.” We know this story and we know the mood in that room.  We also know that Jesus assured them and assures us that He will be with us always.  It comes as no surprise that His Holy Spirit changed that day, but did it?  It seems to me that the circumstances of the lives of those in the room didn’t change at that moment, but what did change was at a much deeper level.  The change was within the hearts and souls of those men and when we are open to the Holy Spirit and seek help, we too can be changed.  So, does this apply to just ministers, priests, and people who aren’t like us?  Should we respect this notion but call upon the Holy Spirit when something “big” is going on in our lives but handle the little things on our own? 

We certainly do tend to bring the Lord into our lives when “we can’t handle” things  but all but forget Him when “we’ve got it.”  I question this logic.  In fact, I totally oppose it.   Why settle for good enough when the Lord wants to give us so much more?  So, let me tell you about last night.  I just couldn’t sleep.  My name is Martha and I felt like “Martha” last night.  I was distracted by many things.  Oh, and to make things even more clear, I kept rolling over and looking at the clock.  Yup, that’s a great  solution, isn’t it?  So at some point I started praying.  I can’t say how much sleep I got, but as I got up, I prayed for the Holy Spirit to be with me throughout this day.  I asked “guard me, guide me, fill me, use me, and enable me to have joy regardless of my circumstances.”  The Lord provided!  My day was fairly routine.  If I gave you a list of everything that happened, it might not seem remarkable to you at all.  However, this routine day with it’s challenges and mundane tasks and the rest of it, was joy filled because as the Psalmist wrote (Psalm 5:11) “but let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.  Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.”  So, why waste a single moment?  We have been blessed and filled with grace!  It’s a beautiful gift inside you just waiting for you to reach in for it and open it wide!  Open wide your heart and soul and you, too, can have joy REGARDLESS of your circumstances!  Try it!  I promise you that no matter what the day brings, if you invite the Holy Spirit to fill you, guide you, and guard you, you will find the joy of the Lord swelling up within you as well!

Are You God Centered?

March 27, 2011

It is a beautiful day! Yes, I know the clouds are moving in, but do you know what? I know the maker of the clouds personally and so I’m not threatened. Actually, trust me – even when we have total cloud cover, the blue skies and sunshine are still there. Never far from us – just as the Lord is never far from us. Tomorrow’s Sunday! Holy Spirit rain down! Won’t dampen my spirits any! I am free! 

That being said, I was just thinking . . . if you turn on any television station, pick up any magazine or newspaper, walk through any bookstore . . . you are inundated with opportunities to be taught to “get centered.”  We constantly have opportunities to “de-stress” and to deal better with anxiety, even to bring on “good” stress.  We are told we need to “chill” and to free our spirit . . . we are told we need to learn to focus better.  We are told that once we do all this, we will be happy and peaceful and oh, so successful.  What is all this?  I can’t say that much of these books and lectures I’ve seen contained any reference to Christianity.  I am also reminded of having read more than once that if we persist in doing the same thing and it never works, YET we continue to repeat it anyway, we are surely “crazy,” whatever that means.  Well, crazy or not, if we are so much in need of finding our center and we keep reading these books and not finding it, are we perhaps chasing our tails which can only result in eventually getting dizzy? 

To a Christian, there can be only one answer to what is at the center of our being.  If we are to “get centered” and be at our peak, we must acknowledge the presence of the Lord living in our heart and soul.  We must invite Him to fill us with His Holy Spirit to guard and to guide us, and to use us and our talents given BY HIM to His glory.  We know this, yet our free will takes hold of us and we turn in every other direction BUT inward!  We possess the answer to our every need.  We’ve been given the perfect answer!  A gift beyond our comprehension and more valuable than any we can buy for 29.99 plus shipping . . . all we have to do is open our hearts and say “come, Holy Spirit, come!”

Giving Up Hope Is In Our Best Interest

March 24, 2011

 What is hope?  I’m thinking we use the word constantly but do not always have a proper definition for it.  “I hope you have a good day.”  “I hope traffic is light.”  Then we read Psalm 25:5 that “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”  Hmmm . . . there’s that word again,  but can it mean the same thing?  Let’s consider this.  Hope is associated with expectation.  The dictionary defines it as “a person or thing in which expectations are centered.”  That being said, where do you wish to center your hope? 

If you build your life on that which is hoped for, do you really think placing that hope in yourself or any human is such a great idea?  Sure, you might get what you want, but I remember the often repeated words of caution “watch out what you hope for!”  This brings to mind a quote from Psalm 33, ”We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.”  I believe that when our hope is in any but the Lord, giving up hope is a good thing.  He is perfect and knows what we truly need and what is best for us.  We do not.  As the Psalmist said, “He is our . . . shield.”  We need to be shielded from our own imperfect desires. 

 I can think of so many hoped for situations in my life that didn’t happen and which saddened me at the time.  Examples include the home I didn’t get to buy, the relationships that failed, the job I didn’t get . . . and when I reflect on what I did receive versus what I’d hoped for, I am so blessed.  What the Lord provided was and always is so much better than anything I could have imagined or hoped for on my own.  There are things I hope for just now and am still waiting for, but my panic or “oh, but what if” has faded.  Psalm 31:24 says it best.  “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.”

The Necessity to Love One Another

March 23, 2011

”Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”  Romans 12:10

 The above command from Paul’s letter to the Romans leaves no room for discussion.  No “well, what about?” and no “Oh, but I don’t think” or “well, surely that doesn’t mean . . . “  I believe we find what we seek in life much of the time.  Okay, let me bring that more into focus, because love can be a scary concept.  When we look for something or someone to criticize, we will surely find PLENTY.  However, and this is a BIG however, if we as Christians seek to see Christ in those we meet – and we know He resides is all people – we will surely find Him and thus loving them becomes easy. 

 I was in a retail store picking up some sewing supplies I needed and feeling low because I had not found a job and was feeling scared I’d “lose everything.”  As I stood at the counter in the store a stranger who I can only think of as an angel sent to me from God seemed to pick up on my need to be reminded to trust in the Lord and smiled at me and shared her testimony.  Later in our conversation as we walked around the store talking about the Lord, I learned she had it as hard as I did but was walking in faith.  Wow.  I’m sure she had better things to do but spend that time with me, but she honored me above herself and shared the love of the Lord with me   I left the store feeling that love and recalling the meeting brings that feeling back to me even now. 

 On another occasion, I found myself next to a stranger to me.  The stranger was clearly dealing with a heartbreaking situation of which I knew nothing.  I knew the Lord was telling me to show her His love and so I prayed for the Holy Spirit to speak through me and moved ahead in fear, but did as He commanded and showed her His love.  I recalled later that I’d not been feeling well that night.  Nothing in particular, just “one of those days” and the most remarkable thing happened.  Reflecting the love of the Lord to this stranger blessed me!  

There have been a number of occasions in which I’ve judged folks I didn’t know ANYTHING about and I can tell you that there are many times when He has revealed Himself to me through those very people as they showed His love to me.  Had I been looking at them through the eyes of Christ, I’d have seen Him there!  Looking through my human eyes and my own brokenness, I initially saw only flaws, but when He revealed Himself to me through these people, those flaws no longer had any importance to me.  I can’t count the number of times a smile, a handshake, a kind word, or a hug from someone who in many cases I hardly knew changed my troubled spirit, changed my day, or changed my life.  “Love one another” isn’t a suggestion, it’s a necessity.  I love you!

In Praise of Hard Times

March 22, 2011

If our lives were always easy, would we appreciate it?  I think most of us would quickly say “yes” we would!  However, I am not convinced that this is true.  In this season of Lent as I consider anew what the Lord has done for me both on a daily basis AND of course when as God made flesh, He allowed Himself to be tortured and murdered for my sin, I can’t help but realize that my hard times – which I am still working through – have been such a blessing to me.  My hard times have so strengthened my personal relationship with Him.  I still don’t know exactly what He has planned for me tomorrow but I’m smiling today and praising Him!   “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”  2 Corinthians 1:4

Just a sheep . . .

March 21, 2011

I read somewhere that “the Son of God would rather die for us than live without us.”  Amazingly, we trust our family, our friends, our own judgement, our “cyber” friends whom we’ve never met, even strangers on the street and yet do we trust God?  We strive to, but we fall short.  Yet, He is perfect.  He loves us.  We do nothing to deserve this love.  He is with us always.  There is no greater love.  Yet, our faith and trust of Him falls short. 

In this time of Lent as we are reminded of His death on a cross to save us, let’s invite Him more fully into our lives and hearts.  When folks speak of “giving up” things for Lent, I tend to think we could truly benefit more by “giving” instead.  Rededicating our lives to Christ – giving ourselves and our lives TOTALLY to Him – I can think of no greater gift we can give to OURSELVES.  The Good Shepherd who takes such perfect care of His sheep and indeed would and DID lay down His life so that we, His sheep, could live eternally with Him!  There is no greater love!

I am sad but ALSO JOYFUL!

March 21, 2011

So, does that sound crazy?  The world loves to toss around the word happy.  We are happy or we are sad.  Can’t be both.  Naturally, we prefer to be happy all the time.  Not logical to expect it, but well, we aren’t always logical, are we?  So, this happiness thing . . . what’s up with that?  Well, to keep things simple, something happens – if we like the something that happened and if it impacts us, we generally will be happy.  Sometimes we do things to “make” us happy, and not always good things, but that happy feeling is something we like and it doesn’t last.  We have to keep chasing it and finding ways to bring it back to us.  Okay, makes sense.  So, very clearly if we are happy, we are not at the same moment sad.  One replaces the other.  Both are connected to specific stimulus. 

Joy, however, comes from within us.  It’s not reliant on external conditions.  It can rain and I can be full of joy.  No, that doesn’t mean I love rain nor do I hate rain, but it just means joy comes from deep inside me where Jesus lives.  It never rains in there.  I can hold hands with Jesus anytime I want to.  He’s always with me.  That can only result in joy, yet external conditions can be such that I am sad and YET having Jesus in my heart and soul brings joy into the equation and so what is the result?  A specific circumstance can make me sad, but the presence of the Lord can override this circumstance and STILL bring me joy even in a time of sadness.  I think, for me, I can only deal with sadness because I have Jesus to love me and “infect” me with His joy.  In fact, He gives me so much joy that I have to share it and I never run out!  Happy can’t do that for me.  Do I like being happy?  Sure, but I prefer joy! 

So, what brought about all this thought just now?  Well, a couple of things.  For one thing, it seems to me that I can choose to be joyful.  Jesus lives in my heart but I don’t always pay Him the attention I should.  Sometimes I get caught up in “me” and suddenly the world seems to be against me.  When I turn my gaze toward Him, none of that matters and in fact, I don’t even notice it anymore.  All I notice is Him and all I really become aware of is His love and joy.  So, if I’m having a bad day, I can get caught up in complaining and very likely those around me who were having a good day might suddenly get caught up in my negativity and next thing you know, I am not the only one in a bad mood.  Alternatively, I can come into a scene where all around me are grumpy and negative and I can smile and be reflective of the joy of the Lord, and someone is bound to catch it!  I can even force a smile on my face and deliberately remind myself that “the joy of the Lord is my strength” even when I’m feeling bad, and the “bad” feeling often goes away!  How cool is that? 

The other thing that got me thinking of this is that I have two friends who have faced so many difficulties in their lives.  Illness, family challenges, financial challenges, and much more.  One of these dear friends lives in heaven and one on earth.  Do you know what?  I can’t think of a time when I’ve seen anything but the joy of the Lord and a giving heart in either of these two special people.  No matter how sick either has been, no matter how much has ever “gone wrong” in their circumstances, they still reflected joy and they focused on Christ AND they focused on those around them – striving to lift US up by shining His light toward US!  As I looked into the eyes of my friend earlier today and knowing his troubles, I am sad.  I remember feeling the same way before when my friend who lives with Jesus was still here with me in form and not just in spirit.  Do you know what?  I never saw sadness in her eyes and I didn’t see it in his today at church.  I saw only the love of Jesus and His joy!  There is no better testimony than that!

Reflecting the Light of Christ

March 19, 2011

We are all, as Christians,  commissioned to be the light of Christ to others.  What does this mean?  Does it require resources I do not have?  Do I have to know the Bible from memory?  Do I need to be free to travel to the far reaches of the world?  Do I need to donate “seeds” of money to all those television preachers who claim this is my obligation?  Do I have to be an amazing preacher like my dear friend and priest, Rick?  Do I need to lead Cursillo Weekends like my friends Jay and Sue so often do?  Is it complicated?  What if . . . . and then again, what if . . . .

Today, I have seen the light of Christ reflected  in the eyes or written  words of  both friends and strangers alike.   Much of what I’ve seen is not complicated, doesn’t require an MDiv, and didn’t involve specific mention of any Bible verse, but did indeed reflect His love and joy very clearly and profoundly to me. 

  • I read an email from a friend who told me he loved me. 
  • I sat in the driveway with Mom and enjoyed both her company and the lovely weather.
  • I was greated  by neighbors who smiled and waved as they went about their day – rather than simply drive past.
  • I met countless strangers who stopped at the yard sale and whether they bought or didn’t, they were kind, friendly, smiling folks.  One in particular hugged mom and I and said “have a blessed day.”
  • A friend, needing nothing, was concerned that Mom would be disappointed if nobody came to her yard sale so she came over and sat with Mom and I for a couple of hours just to make sure Mom wasn’t disappointed by “nobody” coming do the house.

Then I used my cell phone to surf online and found a post by a friend who also blogs here in Word Press.  My friend has a tender heart for all God’s creatures and devotes time and other resources to several causes important to her, especially to greyhounds.  These precious beasts are raised by “business” breeders who profit by encouraging racing . . . and thus produce dogs who often end up neglected or killed when they are no longer “useful.”  This breaks my friend’s heart.  It breaks many hearts.  Does it matter?  The Bible tells us that whatever we do to the least of these . . . surely, you realize that our Lord loves the birds of the air and also these beautiful greyhounds.  Surely, like my friend, He cries when they’re abused?  I think so.  Please read her blog entry and share it with others – the small things we do combined together through the efforts of many can make a big difference.    Click the link below to view her post.

Quilting and the Holy Spirit

March 15, 2011

My precious Godchild was heading out of the country for her next college semester, and asked me to make her a quilt which she could bring with her.  I excitedly got to work on it and of course I wanted it perfect and it’s a really challenging pattern, although I love the technique I was going to be using  – and quilting is  so much fun for me even with all the work involved.  Here are the steps involved:

  • select a main objective – the “focus”
  • choose materials to support the main objective
  • very carefully work with these, cutting and adjusting and perfecting
  • move forward without really knowing exactly what the end result will truly look like
  • sometimes the way is very very slow and fussy
  • sometimes you screw up and can’t change it or fix it
  • when the pieces are finally assembled the mistakes no longer matter
  • the end result is more beautiful than I could imagine

This, about this quilt technique, is quite true.  It’s a sort of pinwheel meets kaleidoscope in design and you really don’t know exactly what the end result will entirely look like – it’s impossible to know for sure until you complete it.  I’m a very visual person and if there was a way to predict, I’ve have found it.  If you screw up at any point, you have to keep going and try not to be distracted by your mistakes – unlike most quilt patterns which allow for seam rippers and do-overs, with this one you really just go on.  To create the scene, I had pieces all cut and spread out all over and was working on getting them into the positions they’d be stitched together into to form the blocks for the quilt. I realized at this point that even though this particular technique is one I’d done twice before, the end results always surprise me and are always far better than what I had envisioned.  What a great designer came up with this!

This got me to thinking.  It’s really very much like our life with the Holy Spirit guiding us, don’t you think?  God’s grace takes our bits and pieces and mistakes and when we trust Him and keep working at it, transforms these bits and pieces and us into something more than we can ever have envisioned!  God’s plan for our lives is always perfect and our brokenness and human failures are transformed and redeemed with the end result being a reflection of His glory to the world!   Wow!

The Privilege of Loving

March 12, 2011

I read a quote recently that really made me think.  An unidentified missionary in Russia was quoted as having said that God loves us just as we are but that He also loves us too much to let us stay that way.  Initially, this statement seemed contradictory and I questioned its theological accuracy.  It, at first, sounded as though it reduced God’s immeasurable love for us to the somewhat questionable claims of love we hear (and speak) almost daily from (or to) family, friends, even virtual strangers.  How often is a greeting card signed “love,” or an email closed with “love you?”  How many times have you heard those “three little words” while on date with someone you’ve only barely come to know and thus assumed that they were perhaps a “means to an end” rather than a true expression of sentiment?                      

On the other hand, giving the quote a second thought, I find myself thinking of my childhood.  As children, we were constantly surrounded by our parents, grandparents, teachers, etc., who accepted us as we were and then reprimanded us as well, expecting something more.  What was this?  It was their love for us manifesting itself in the effort to teach us to grow in understanding, and to keep us safe from harm.  If our earthly mentors can love us this much, how much more can our Heavenly Father love us?  He did, after all, give us His only son who died on a cross to save us from ourselves, and gave us His Holy Spirit to reside in us, to guard us, and to guide us in all we do. 

We are the mirrors of that amazing love to the world.  What a gift this is!  How humbling to be given such a privilege to serve Him in this way!  When we accept this commission, those three little words “I love you” are no longer a casual statement in the way our society has so often used them.  Rather, we realize that they represent a blessing given to us, and one which we must share with others.  This amazing love is indeed a gift and when we share it, we are twice blessed!

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