Saturday, December 28, 2013

Joy in Opposition

Sometimes, I think I know how my life is supposed to go. I think of Micah 6:8, "And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Follow the rules, keep my nose clean, and God will bless me, right?

It's hard enough for me keep my commitments, be a good steward, and maintain good relationships with my family members, let alone anything else God might call me to.

According to Joyce Meyer, there's supposed to be more to it than that. God calls us to new challenges, new levels of growth on a regular basis. And every time He does, Satan comes right at us to put obstacles in our path.

So, if I'm coasting, I'm right where Satan wants me. I'm not a threat to His work. And that doesn't sit right with me.

I'm not saying bring it on. I just know I need to open myself up to what God is calling me to do in this New Year. And like the Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven... blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3,10). 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Joy in the Light

When I returned from an appointment yesterday, I was amazed to see that the sun had melted most of the snow and ice off my windows, even though the windchill was in the teens.

The sun is an amazing thing- providing light, heat, day, seasons... and I have a special relationship with that glowing orb in the sky.

About 8 years ago I was diagnosed with seasonal depression, or winter blues. It's a real thing. When that sun disappears for days or weeks behind heavy clouds, and the sky is a dull gray all the time, I get down. I have a physiological need for light to maintain my sanity. When the sun finally reappears after a long hiatus, I notice right away. I greet my old friend, and I'm filled with joy. Everything (literally and figuratively) seems brighter, more real somehow. A sense of hope is restored; winter is not forever.

Light can represent goodness, truth, righteousness, hope. 1 John 1:5&7 says that "God is light...If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin."

Sometimes living in the light... being "good", so to speak, isn't easy... or even much fun. But the rewards are a relationship with the God of the universe, and real relationships with other people. I think finding joy is to draw near to light, to beauty, to truth, to goodness... as a moth is drawn to a light. The weather forecast for today is "partly cloudy," but I'm going to look for partly sunny.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Joy in Homesickness

I had a blessed Christmas Day. I was able to spend time with the people who mean the most to me. I received some very nice things from my doting husband, and my kids were great.

I think my parents would have liked us to stay at their house longer, but I was tired and just wanted to be home (which is ironic, since that was my home for 18 years). I longed for the comfort of my own pillow and jammy pants and relative quiet.

I think sometimes that's what heaven is like. We are enjoying ourselves where we are, and we feel at home, but there's a longing for something more comfortable, more basic, more ideal. It's like the song sung by Buddy Greene: I don't belong and I'm going someday, home to my own native land...I've always known, this place ain't home, and I don't belong. 

I find deep joy in knowing that this isn't all there is. As much as I enjoy the pleasures of Earth- the fascinating people, the smell of coffee, the taste of chocolate, the color of the sky when the clouds are like cotton candy, the warmth of the sun on my bare skin, the sound of a baby's laugh... and so much more; I look forward to a time where you don't have to worry about money, or health, or sadness, or anger, or what anyone else thinks. I can just be, soaking in the glory of Jesus Christ, worshiping him, catching up with old friends, enjoying whatever treasures I've managed to store in heaven through my obedience to God.

So, even if today was wonderful, there will be days of hardship to come. That's the nature of living in a fallen world. But I can face it, knowing that eventually, I'll be going Home.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Joy in Children

Christmas eve... gifts are wrapped (mostly). Treats have been made and sampled. THE gift is put together and ready to play with... I'm ready for Christmas

As corny as it sounds, I think the secret of finding joy in the holidays is to see things through a child's eyes. It's not all about the gifts... not really. It's about the excitement, the lights, the visiting with family... even if they can't comprehend everything that Jesus means to the world, they can celebrate the birth of a special baby.

My kids have floored me with their generosity this year. Of course we encourage the attribute, but let's face it..generally speaking, kids tend to be selfish- "what's in it for me?" My kids not only purchased gifts for immediate family members, but are making gifts for others, and giving things that they no longer use. And it was all their idea!

As Toby Mac says in his song, Christmas this Year, "it's like I'm ten years old again and everywhere I go I can feel it...For Christmas this year, we're gonna make some noise, let the world rejoice...It's all love. The season is a gift when love came down to let us live. Let's open up and let our hearts embrace this moment."

And for me, for some reason, Christmas has been different today. Yes, there were last minute shopping trips, and endless chores, and gifts to wrap, and goodies to make... but I wasn't stressed. Nothing HAD to be perfect. I enjoyed the time I had with my family... before this week family time had been rare. And I felt it. I felt joy. Not just happiness, or satisfaction, or contentment... but an underlying current of true joy that comes only from God. Merry Christmas! God bless us, every one.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Joy in Chaos

Have I already said I hate shopping? I hate crowds, noise, waiting in line... When shopping for gifts, I'm never confident that I'm choosing something that would be useful or appreciated. I get lost in large stores and can't remember where the departments are. I don't like driving, traffic, parking, or dodging cars in the lot.

So on a day spent going from bank to store to store to store to store... With a know-it-all teenager and rambunctious child in tow... Where did I find joy?

In my devotions this morning, I read Paul's letter to the Philippians. At the time he writes it, he is in prison. Talk about chaos! He writes: "In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy (Philippians 1:4)." Now, I wasn't exactly praying for my family  members as I shopped, but I tried to imagine their wants and needs, and how they would react when opening the gifts I purchased. Maybe it wasn't prison per se, but it was not my favorite place to be.

As begrudging as my attitude was, I couldn't help but smile when an elderly lady at Target apologized for my having to move my cart twice to let her pass, and she made a joke and wished me a merry Christmas. It wasn't a greeter or cashier who HAD to wish me a good holiday. It was a simple acknowledgement that this hustle bustle situation was temporary, and all for a good cause. Christmas. Giving. Showing love.

I didn't have much to share with the bell ringer and the red kettle, but I felt I had to give something. And later, when discussing the benefits of egg nog to the bagger at Martin's, I passed on the wishes. "Merry Christmas," I said. And I meant it.  

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Joy in Loneliness

When my sister and I were deciding where to spend the Sunday morning before Christmas, she suggested Grace Community Church in Goshen. I said as long as there were lights and Christmas music, I'd be happy.

I was not disappointed. The main sanctuary was beautifully decorated for the season. And even though the music was worshipful and engaging, the message is what hit home.

The speaker admonished us not to take the miracle of the season for granted, and took us into the perspective of Mary, a young peasant girl in a small town with simple expectations from life: marry, have a family, keep a household. Then an angel comes a-knockin'. Imagine the mixture of excitement, wonder, and trepidation upon seeing an angel, hearing that she was favored by God, and that she would be pregnant... by the Holy Spirit.

Of course God chose the best mom for Jesus. Of course she was spiritually strong and faithful. Yet, she was still human. Imagine Mary trying to explain the situation to her fiance. Or her parents. Or even her best friend. Would anyone believe her? Did she seek out her cousin Elizabeth for the moral support, or because no one else would understand?

Yet amid this incredibly confusing, awkward, and lonely time, Mary found joy. She said " spirit rejoices in God my Savior" (Luke 1:47). She could see the big picture of God's promise of a Savior and a Messiah being fulfilled, and was humbled by her part in it.

Maybe part of finding joy is seeing the bigger picture. Knowing that any kind word or deed that I can offer can make a difference, no matter how seemingly small. Knowing that I am a child of the King, the God of the universe and heavens. He loved Mary, even when others may have shamed or abandoned her. He loves me, and would have sent Jesus to Earth, if I were its only inhabitant. Awesome!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Finding Joy

I have what you might call a "melancholy" personality. I don't see myself as a pessimist however, more like a realist. So, I was contemplating "realistically" the headaches of the holidays- I don't care much about decorating, or baking, or cards, or shopping. I get disgusted with the commercialism and secularization of the holiday.

But as I was doing my devotions one morning, I came across the familiar passage (Luke 2:10) where the angel says, "I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all people..."

Jesus came to Earth, to bring great joy. Not a little bit of joy, but a heavenful amount of joy. And not just for the spiritual, or the wealthy, or the beautiful, or the smart. For ALL people. Even me. Even when I don't feel particularly special, or motivated, or happy. Jesus came to Earth to bring great JOY, in the promise of freedom from sin, and a relationship with a heavenly Father.

So I'm setting out on a journey to find joy. I know it's all around. I know it's in the little things, like a laugh shared with my children, or a sparkly Christmas gift, or a rich piece of chocolate. But I think it's like when I ask my son to pick up the dirty clothes from his room, and he says he did, but they're still there. I don't think it's so much skirting duties as it is an inability to see the dirty clothes peeking out from under his bed and in his closet. They've been there so long, he doesn't notice them.

I know the joy that Jesus brings is all around and within me. But without taking the time to notice, to appreciate, to really see, I don't feel the joy. I can't allow it to shape my day, my attitude, my life. I hope you'll join me as I search for JOY.