Monday, December 27, 2010

Bitter Pill To Swallow

My grandmother had a simple fix for mouth sores. It's a pickling spice not often used for anything else called alum. Whenever I would develop a canker sore or the budding fever blister Grandma would gather a cotton swab, wet it slightly under the faucet and dip it into the alum powder. She would then touch the alum to my sore and tell me to close my mouth. Wow! Time to hold on! My mouth would begin salivating and there would be the stinging... But the worst was the incredible, beyond imagining bitter taste that ensued. Thinking of it still sends chills down my spine. It would take many minutes for the salivating and stinging to subside, but the bitter taste lingered on and on. I would spit and spit and spit, but unless I chose to put something else in my mouth, all my efforts to expel the nastiness were in vain. It was very effective for healing up the open wound, but definitely one of those "cure worse than the disease" choices that made me think before I acted.

I am lucky that I don't develop mouth sores often but when one recently popped up I was reminded of how invasive bitterness is in all aspects of our lives.

I have struggled mightily with the bitter pill over more than one instance in my life. I have been hurt, slighted, vilified, lied about, lied to and misunderstood. Most often I hold onto those issues in the form of bitterness. I relive the offenses and hurts and I refuse to let them go. Regretfully, it can go on for years! I can fume over the littlest things and once I allow it to continue into my heart, I can't seem to just "let it go."

Bitterness grows in your soul like a weed. Like a weed, it starts out much smaller than it eventually becomes. Like a weed, it can mimic the good and beautiful flowers we prize, slowly taking over the garden of our minds until it has given birth to other roots steeped in sin and hateful behavior. I tend to lull myself with promises to pull that nastiness out at a more convenient time. But soon the weed has taken deep roots and its stalk has grown tree-like. If I am honest with myself, I have come to love the bitter weed. It feeds a part of me that I might not in other lights admit I have. I am always the best at deceiving myself!

Realizing that I am the only one who is ever truly hurt by my bitterness is a revelation to me in ways that are comical on some levels and tragic on others. After all, there are only two entities on this earth who can see inside my bitter, hardened heart... Myself and God. So who is really affected by my choice to remain bitter? Myself and God. And who pays the ultimate price of separation from the Father? ME!

"When I was beleaguered and bitter, totally consumed by envy, I was totally ignorant, a dumb ox in your very presence." (Ps 73:21-22) Yup, dumb ox... That would be me! So many times I was guilty of cutting my nose off to spite my face, just to make a point. And to whom was the point made? No one! I never communicated my disappointment and bitterness to the offending persons. I simply allowed the bitterness to take hold of ME.

When I am consumed by bitterness (or any other sinful behavior), I am the one affected and if I allow it to take over, I ultimately become separated from God. Isn't that just exactly where the enemy wants me? He wants me separated from my heavenly Father because once alone, I am vulnerable to his attacks. I am no longer that cord of unbreakable strength. I am vulnerable to his lies that tell me I am alone, I am unworthy, no one will ever love me. He tells me that only I am capable of taking revenge and making things right. The enemy tells me that I have a right to be upset... REALLY??

Although it isn't the popular or conventional approach, letting God handle my offenses has helped me realize that I can let go of the bitterness. Keeping my eyes on Him and allowing my bitterness to flow out of me like a spilt cup results in my coming closer to God, not being separated further from Him.

Bitterness is one of those reactions that I can definitely learn to live without. I am ready to put something else into my mouth, something sweet so that sweetness may also pour out of it... Are you with me?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Knock, Knock - Who's There?

I have had it happen too many times to ignore. The voice has been clear and unmistakable. It hasn't always been what I have wanted to hear, but the speaker has almost always been obvious - God.

I don't think I am special in hearing God's voice and I don't think that He speaks only to certain folks. I think God talks to all of us. I take it rather for granted, however, that we all know how to discern the voice of God until one of my acquaintances asks me, "How do you know it's God? " Hmmmm... One of those moments that stops me in my tracks and makes me think about my relationship with the Almighty. How am I sure? How do I know that the voice I hear is Him and not, well, just voices?

It isn't always easy to discern the voice of God in our everyday life. We are constantly barraged by the electronic blips and bleeps that assail us from every pocket, purse and corner of our offices. Our lives are rapidly becoming so loud we can hardly hear each other talk, much less hear a being that has to compete with our ever distracted thoughts. Stop right now and listen... Is there music playing in the background? Is there a television competing not only for your eyes, but your ears as well? Do you need noise to fall asleep as well as noise to wake you up? It is no wonder we cannot hear our Lord trying to get through the cacophony that is our modern life. Yet He never quits trying to reach us, at least for a time.

There are times I can hear God very clearly indeed. Those times I am sitting quietly, either by choice or by force, no distractions and no competition for my attention. I may be seeking Him in prayer, or just reading in my quiet time I have committed to reserve for just Him. Those times it is easy to determine what God is trying to say to me. I am actively listening.

Other times I may be driving, ruminating on a problem or a desire and God will interject His very distinctive voice into my world and make me take notice. Still other times, I may have my head firmly buried in the sand, piping in background noise, foreground noise, watching movies and humming to myself.... He can still get through by bipping the back of my head - and believe me, He does!

So when I hear the voice, how do I know whose voice I am hearing? What confirms it for me and how do I avoid being tricked by the enemy?

First, I pray. If the voice I am hearing is sounding just this side of crazy and asking me to do something completely out of the blue, I pray about it. I ask God to make whatever He is trying to say to me crystal clear and I also pray that if it isn't His voice He would banish the thoughts from me as far as east from west. If the thought is an enemy attack, it vanishes into thin air and I am relieved.

Second, I line up the voice with scripture. Is what the voice telling me a Godly desire, thought or action? This becomes a bit more challenging for me since I do not have the entire scripture committed to memory. When necessary, especially in very important decision making processes, I will sit with my bible and try to line out what I am puzzling against scripture. In these instances I also pray that God will guide my hands to find His words relating to what I am dealing with. I have found God faithful every time to deliver to me that very word to either confirm or deny His involvement.

Thirdly, if I don't hear an answer from my Lord directly, but I cannot find contradiction in scripture, I take the first little step in whatever direction I may need to go in my confrontation. If the voice is telling me to start a business, I pray, I check out my motivations for doing such a venture and confirm that they line up with scripture, and then I step out in faith. I step out cautiously, all the while praying that God will continue to guide me and hold me in His grasp. I turn over all my desires to Him and I beg Him to close the door if He is not in it.

There have been times that I have received a confirmation from the Holy Spirit that moves me to tears, makes my heart palpate and takes my breath away. It often ends in joyful or frightened tears at the awesomeness that is my Lord. I don't rely on this confirmation, however. It is an emotional response to my Lord's overwhelming blessings and as an emotion, completely unreliable and easily manipulated.

When you are wrestling with an issue that has you wanting the Lord's voice to ring loudly in your ears and you just aren't convinced it is Him speaking, pray for discernment, confirm it with scripture and step out in faith. God is listening, even if it doesn't seem like it. He hears each and every cry and whimper and He cares where you are today. Take just a moment, turn off the noise, breathe in deeply and let Him speak. He is waiting for you in the Throne Room today.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Pulling Punches

I have a forever friend that keeps me real. She tells me exactly what she thinks and she doesn't keep it soft and safe. That is a very good thing. I need that. In fact, I think we all need that at times. It isn't always easy to hear, and sometimes it hurts - a lot! But I know that what she says is meant with the very best intentions and even if she's angry when she says it, I can count on it being the truth as she sees it. She knows that I too will confront her with the truth as I see it when I know it is what she needs to hear. That is a good friend, a great friend as a matter of a fact.

Jesus was that kind of friend. He had so many men around him at any given moment that He could very easily have tired of being a good friend. He never seemed to get a moments peace and yet, He was never cross or impatient when these fellows asked Him some of the most inane questions. He didn't shy away from the hard answer for fear of being disliked. He didn't speak in parables so as to not offend the ignorant, He never lied, and He didn't hesitate with the truth. He is the best example of being a great friend I can think of.

Jesus didn't pull any punches. He didn't hesitate when the man attempting to find a loophole in the "love thy neighbor" command asked for a definition of the word neighbor (Luke 10:29). Jesus readily tackled that subversive behavior by telling the man that even those lowly Samaritans were his neighbors. To a Jew that was the most insulting and humiliating answer he could have received. As a result the man was quieted and one of the best examples of neighbor was born and used the world over.

Jesus didn't pull punches when he advised the rich man on the greatest commandments. The wealthy man assured the Savior that he was doing all that, was there anything else he needed to do to get to heaven (Matthew 19:16-23)? Jesus cut to the heart of the mans entire existence when he then advised him to give away all his material wealth and follow Him. Notice the fact that the man walked away saddened. That was more than he was willing to do and Christ knew it. It didn't keep Jesus from telling him the truth, however. It very likely saddened our Savior, but He didn't dumb down or soften the requirement. He tells it like it is.

Even around the fire on one of His last nights with his closest friends, Christ drove right to the heart of the matter without hesitation. Three times he asks Peter, "Do you love me?" and three times he tells Peter to look after the church He would be leaving behind (John 21:15-22). At the end of this unusual discussion, Peter is a bit hurt and probably had a stinging wound in his pride. When Jesus drops the bomb on Peter that his days would end in a not so pleasant manner it seems to be the breaking point for the first true church leader. Peter looks around in consternation and his gaze lights on John. "What about him?" you can almost hear the petulant whine. It's as if he's looking for solace in knowing someone else will suffer too. Christ is unswerving in his answer, "If I choose to let him live forever, that's none of your business. You do what I have told you to!".

Peter was no doubt a great friend and companion to Jesus, yet there isn't any room for a light hand when it comes to the important issues they were facing. The same should be true with us. When people in our lives matter, we shouldn't take a light approach in our dealings with them, even if it means it might hurt feelings or be steeped in uncomfortable silence. The truth, when applied with kindness and necessity, is always the right answer.

Don't get me wrong. Rudeness is never an acceptable approach and isn't excusable disguised in truth. When in doubt about how to say what desperately needs said, PRAY! The Holy Spirit has never let me down with lending me his vocabulary when I can't seem to find the right words. And if I'm not finding words, maybe what I am trying to say needn't be said at all. The proverb that tells us a wise man holds his tongue is very good advise indeed (Proverbs 21:23). You may not know the right answer, but you don't have to seal the deal on how much you don't know by proving it with saying the wrong thing.

Is there something you've been needing to say to a friend that has you hesitating? Pray now that God will guide your steps and give you the courage and the words to get HIS point across

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hold on Loosely

I had seen it many times before, but this time my jaw dropped open and I had one of those moments...

The woman was kneeling down with a small piece of candy held in her open hand. She was talking at eye level to a toddler strapped into a stroller and she had a determined but pleasant look on her face. "It is time to give me back my keys," was the gist of the conversation being had (if one can have an actual conversation with a toddler). The toddler had an equally determined look on his face, but there was interest beginning to spark in his little eyes.

He looked at the shiny and intriguing set of keys held tightly in his chubby fist and then he let his gaze shift to the candy held in the open hand of his caregiver. It soon became apparent that the woman held a much better item in her hand as far as his tiny person was concerned. You can't eat the sweetness of a set of keys, and as he was years from driving, the attraction was waning fast. He tried only once to grab the candy with his other hand, which was met with a quickly retracted palm and a comment that he could only have the candy when he relinquished the keys. She offered the candy again with an open hand. It didn't take long after that for his dimpled hands to offer the set of jingle-jangle keys to the woman and to happily receive the candy as promised.

With that, the woman said something so simple and yet it was what had dropped my jaw. "Good trade! I am so very proud of you!"

Isn't that just exactly how God works with us? Determined yet incredibly patient and pleasantly waiting on us to make the right decisions and the right choices and even to receive better blessings from His very own hand. God is like that. He wants to give us the best gifts, the gifts most suited to our situation and our temperament, despite the stubbornness with which we cling to the things in our grasp.

God expects us to hold our things in this life with a very loose rein. He wants us to be good stewards, that is certain. But God also wants us ready to exchange what we have for something better he has in store for us. Nothing good comes of us holding onto our lives or our things with a white-knuckled death grip. When we focus on the thing in our tightly gripped grasp we put a stranglehold on it. It cannot grow there in our fist. It cannot become more when it is squeezed down between our fingers. We suffocate our dreams and God's plans when we hold too tightly. We lose our focus on the bigger plan of following God and walking with Him.

Open your palm right now. Imagine that you have something wonderful in your hand and close your palm into a fist. Now imagine if God were standing before you to give you the gift of your heart, your most wonderful-beyond-ability-to-imagine gift, but you need your hand to take it. If your fist remains closed around what you are clinging to He cannot give you the gift of your heart. Open your palm and imagine relinquishing what you are holding to receive what God has for you. Now look at your hand again. How much more can you put into an open palm than into a tightly closed fist?

That is the picture I had of God that day as I watched the woman and the child. God asking for my open palm to put into and take away from as He chooses. Each a gift of unimaginable value, happiness and yes, even sorrow. In all things, God is amazing at knowing exactly what I need at just the most perfect time. He is God after all and He loves me more than I can fathom.

So often we open our hands and we wait for those things God is going to put into them, be them physical, material, emotional or spiritual blessings. So often He empties our hands and gives us something we weren't ever expecting. But there are those times when it appears to us that our hands are empty. We feel alone, dejected, unloved and forgotten. Look again at your open hand. It isn't empty. Those empty hand moments are the moments God chooses to slip His own hand into ours, holding onto us and giving us Himself as a gift to hold.

Hold hands with the Lord today and thank Him for the very blessing of life pulsing through you

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Better Left Unsaid


Once they are out there you can never unsay, untype or unwrite them. Good, bad or indifferent, once those words fly from your mouth, your fingers or your pen they are out there in the universe, never to be retrieved. My mother told me once when I was angry over my journal being read, "If you don't want people to read it, don't write it down!" Those words still caution me to this day. Post it on Facebook and the ramifications rapidly become crystal clear - It is incredibly difficult to get a thoughtless comment back under wraps, even if your intentions were never to hurt with your words.

Being a writer, words carry huge meaning for me. I think about words and their many implications daily. I am also mortified when my words hurt others... Well, most of the time I'm mortified. Sometimes I'm just mean. When I realize, however, how much impact my words have on others and how lasting that impact is, I tend to think a bit longer before I allow my words to fly unwittingly from my mouth.

Emotional response is usually my worst enemy when it comes to words. Being a writer, I can and do express myself in ways that can paint a vivid and sometimes pointed picture of what I am feeling at any given moment. I am rarely at a loss for words. When I lose my words it is a very big deal and a sign that God is working on my response.

What kinds of biblical responses do we have for our words? Such a wealth of advice, if only we would take a minute to let it sink all the way in...
"A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire." James 3:5

Proverbs warns us, "Watch your words and hold your tongue; you’ll save yourself a lot of grief." Ain't that the truth?!?! How many times could I have avoided a conflict that resulted in enormous hurt if only I had held my tongue for just a minute more.

Again in James: "A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell." (All quotes taken from The Message.)

So often we spout off at the mouth because we want to say something, and not necessarily because we should say something. My grandmother called it "Talking to hear yourself talk." When I feel that immediate need to open my trap and retort, especially if I am angry or hurt, I have to stop and take stock.

There is an old adage on speaking one's mind accredited to Socrates, among many others: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? There are many variations of this philosophy, but mostly it is self explanatory. I want to say something that has me hesitating... First, is it true? Can I know without a shadow of a doubt that what I am about to spout is the absolute truth? If not, shut it! Then, is it kind? This is trickier. Sometimes the things we need to say may not seem kind on the surface. When in doubt, pray about what you want to say. I have done this, even in the heat of the moment. When I responded, if I responded, the Holy Spirit filled my mouth and lent me words that I didn't even know I had! Kindness need not dumb down your message if it is one of admonishment, in fact kindness can cause a hard message to be heard all the louder. Lastly, is what I am about to say necessary? If I don't speak, will someone be hurt? Am I speaking something that will needlessly hurt the hearer? If I can't see the necessity of what I am about to blurt out, I need to think long and hard before I let the words fly. Remember, those words can light like a gossamer butterfly or rend a heart like a ravenous falcon. Is my response really necessary?

In a time that is marked by so many careless words, whether in a status line on Facebook, a rant in a public blog, a hastily blurted comment, we must take heed of our words and how we use them. So many times we are thoughtless about what and how we say things, never fully comprehending the impact they may have.

Just as a thoughtless, hurtful rant may destroy, so too our words have the ability to build up the hearer. We can love through our words, encourage through our words and praise through our words. Those are the "gift" words. Admonishment can be a gift well received if the words are chosen, prayed over and delivered in love. A word of praise can be carried in the heart of the hearer for years, encouraging them in times far beyond the original moment. The most cherished words of love comfort hearts the world over during loss, momentary separation and struggle.

Let your words be a gift to someone today!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


It wasn't a bad day. It wasn't particularly easy, but it wasn't bad. I had a lot to do, as was my usual situation, and very little time to get it all done. Husband would be leaving very soon and I had errands to complete in order to facilitate that trip. To say the least, I was very busy and probably more than a little distracted.

Anywhere I drive, I have to plan on a minimum of twenty minutes just to get to the nearest small town. So I was definitely distracted when I didn't hear the fuel reminder ding at what must have been just outside the drive to the ranch. In fact, I didn't hear the subsequent dings after that, until the alarm finally gave up on me and quit "reminding" me altogether.

I had run almost all of my errands in town and was hopping onto the Interstate to head to the grocery when I looked down at my control panel and realized I was all but out of fuel! After a quick look at the swelling traffic ahead I ducked off the Interstate and made some quick decisions about the nearest gas station.

Sitting at a light and praying God would bless me once more with a way to get to a gas station without stalling in traffic, my car puttered, stuttered and gave up the ghost. Luckily, I was sitting on a hill and in the right lane, so I ducked off the main road and coasted down hill to a station where I drifted into a fueling stall.

You would think that such good luck would have had me smiling. Nope. I was not pleased. In fact, I was feeling rather sorry for myself. "Why was it always so stinking hard?" I remember thinking. "Why can't it just go smoothly?" I was doing the errands needed to sent the Man down the road and I was the only one who ever did. No one else ran these stinking errands, no one else bothered to pick up dry cleaning, and why was I the only one who could put gas in the car? Oh yeah... I was on a pity party big time!

I filled the tank (something I should have been very thankful for), and I headed back out onto the road, right for the Interstate. If I was lucky, I might be able to miss the rush hour traffic that loomed large all around me. It was almost four in the afternoon.

Merging onto the Interstate I groaned... Traffic was wall to wall and backed up for miles! Now I had to sit in traffic since the nearest exit was at least another mile up the road. I banged on the steering wheel in frustration. Once again, I was stuck doing nothing when there was so so much to do! What was God doing to me???

Turns out, God wasn't doing anything to me. As I clicked on the radio, stewing not very quietly in my seat, I learned that the Interstate was backed up for miles. "No duh!" I groused. But as I listened I was stopped short in my tracks.

The reason for the traffic wasn't due to the regular rush hour congestion. No. The reason for the traffic was due directly to the fact that a woman leapt off the Interstate over pass into on coming traffic, in front of a rapidly moving bus. Not only had she made a swan dive into concrete and asphalt, but she made sure she got the job done by timing it just right so that she would be hit by a careening bus.

And I had the audacity to think my day was bad? I was humbled to say the least. I turned off the radio and in that moment, I bowed my head, "Lord, forgive me for being so incredibly selfish. I am blessed beyond measure."

Life is like that sometimes, isn't it? We get so caught up in our own problems and wishes that we forget how really blessed we are. It isn't until someone or something reminds us how bad it really could get that we take stock of what we have.

The woman was incredibly selfish to take her life. She must have been having a very bad day to do what she did. But even worse in my thoughts, what about that poor bus driver? He or she wasn't doing anything but their job. They hadn't made a poor choice other than to pick that lane at that moment to travel in, and they couldn't have known what was about to transpire. In an instant their entire life was altered by someone else and their choice.

I wonder about that driver. Are they still driving? Did it cause them incredible trauma, enough for them to hang up their job? What about folks traveling under that bridge at that very moment? Did a mother have to explain to children what just happened? In an instant that woman's choice altered the decisions and the lives of many other people.

Am I aware that my choices, no matter how small and insignificant I think they are, or how big and life altering I believe they may be, might effect those around me in a huge way? It could be a good change, it could be a terrible change. Am I aware of it?

Like the "reminder" alarm for refueling my car, if I am distracted I may just find myself on the side of the road and out of gas to complete the work I have before me. How much more so if I don't heed the reminder alarms from God. He has them set up all around me, but if I ignore them and careen on toward my own ends, He may choose to quit "dinging" and sit back and watch.

Is it His fault I have gone off and done my own thing on my own steam? Nope. Will He pick me up when I call for refueling? Absolutely! But I do have to recognize it is my responsibility to listen to my warning bells. I need to be aware when distractions from His purpose threaten to derail my path and lead me from Him.

God wants our tanks full of His love and His purpose. As you go off to your day, remember to check your fuel light and come before God if you are feeling low. He is waiting to fill you up.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Kitchen Moments

I love my kitchen. It isn't a great wealth of yummy gastronomic successes. Quite the contrary. I usually don't cook anything that takes more than 30 minutes and more than a handful of ingredients. In fact, I am a big fan of the one pot meal, even if husband calls it "bachelor" cooking... But I digress.

The layout is open and fresh, lending itself to easy cleaning and flat surfaces. It's colors are muted grey-greens and taupe, camouflaging the grime that often accompanies living in the country and the fact that I am a horrendous housekeeper.

I love my kitchen not for the cooking aspects of it, but because it is in my kitchen that I often find my friends. It never ceases to amaze me that during the annual parties we throw everyone always seems to congregate in the kitchen. It's natural, I suppose. I am usually still in there preparing food, cleaning things up, or mixing up a yummy beverage and I don't mind if you come along. In fact, I love the company!

Like the openness of the layout, I believe this room above all others reflects my friendships in ways I don't often think about. In my kitchen you can find sustenance for your heart. It may not be fancy cooking with loads of eloquent advice and parables in flowery verse, but it will sustain you. The counters may need a quick wipe down, but those are remnants of the fact that we actually live here - amidst people we cherish.

The countertops are cluttered with all manner of things, some decorative, some useful, some none of the above. I admire those kitchens that have clear counters with nothing on them and everything put away in the cupboards. I, however, know that in my life "cleared off and put away" simply isn't me. I am more of a "all out in the open" kind of gal.

That is definitely another reason I love my kitchen. When my friends and I gather around the table or perch at the breakfast bar, we get real. We have a beverage or two, maybe a bowl of chips or some veggies and dip, and we get down to the business of being real. We talk about our week, our families and we listen as each one of us opens up to the other.

Isn't that what being a Christian woman is all about? We are called by God to hospitality. It actually comes naturally to most of us.

In Titus 2 we are directed to mentor each other as women in order to be good at those things that God finds pleasing. In those relationships we become so much more to each other than just mentors though. We become partners. We realize that we are not alone and ultimately, we are not special.

"What?" you ask. How can I say such a thing when we are always told how special we are right from the very start? Of course we are all individuals, created as one of a kind creatures. What I mean to say is that no ailment, no plight, no situation we are going through is special. It has all been done before and we are not the first or the last to experience it. You see, Satan is limited in his imagination. He only has so many tricks up his sleeve. He is simply the master at using them to his best ability. He can make us feel as if we are the only people that have struggled - just ask Adam and Eve.

The Enemy thrives on our ability to isolate ourselves when we feel persecuted by our circumstances. He isolates us from our families, our friends, and when he is particularly successful, he isolates us from God.

It is at that time that we need our kitchen moments and our friends the most. Only then can we understand that we are not alone in our struggle. Only then can we truly begin to help each other realize that we are not special. It is then that I understand how very much I love my kitchen.

Have you opened your kitchen to a friend in need lately? It only takes a moment to wipe down the table and pour a glass of water. It may be what makes all the difference in her world - knowing she's not alone.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Got Joy?

It's not an easy concept, joy.  In fact it is often confusing and leaves us feeling less than deserving of the love we so desperately need from our Lord.  We rail at ourselves because we think we should be able to approach all aspects of our lives with Joy as James says in James 1:2.

I believe that we can be joyful in all of our lives, but the snag lies in your definition of the word.  To most American folk, joy is lumped in there with happiness, giddiness, and all manner of other responses.  Much like our misinterpretation of love (a whole other post, obviously), we miss the mark by simplifying our definition.  Joy is a complex concept.  It is confusing at times and it can be misunderstood by outsiders, but most of all, joy is not happiness.

Ah!  Now I have your attention! 

Joy is not an emotional response but a conscious choice.  Happiness is an elusive and fleeting emotion that comes and goes many times during the day.  Joy is a state of being and a choice we make when things aren't always making us happy.  Joy is choosing to believe that God is in control.  Joy is the response we most often don't choose first because it is hard.  Joy is what Jesus had in his heart when he limped, broken and battered, to Golgotha.  Joy is not happiness.

Joy doesn't always look like elation, although it can.  Joy is a deep seated state of our soul.  Joy looks like peace, if I have to give it a definition to wrap my head around.  It is that peace that covers you in the most dire of circumstances, when all hope seems lost.  Joy is the response you have when instead of running off with your hair on fire, you kneel and pray and ask your Lord to guide you into His will. Joy connects you to something deeper than your emotions.  Where your emotions are shaky and unreliable, joy is steady and unswerving.  Joy is a deep contentment with one's circumstances, despite what our emotions are telling us.

Joy lives in us when we accept that Christ is the new author of our story.  Joy is our response when we trust Him to have our back, no matter what the circumstances and frankly, no matter what we don't understand about our plight.  Joy is what keeps us from hitting eject and walking away.  Joy is at our root of our faith and joy is absolutely essential to our love of our Saviour.  Joy is a choice.

"How do you get this joy," you ask...  Simple concept, but not an easy appropriation.  Not easy because it is a constant battle with ourselves to choose rightly.  Joy is obtained by asking God, continuously to help you see it as a choice.  Joy can become a habit that soothes you, uplifts you, and emanates from you.

Got joy?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

What does she look like?

I don't have a picture of myself on this blog...  Yet.  To be quite honest and frank about it, I am not sure I ever will.  Not because I am overtly shy or have three ears. No, I am not sure I will have a picture because I don't want this blog to be about me.

Seems antithetical, doesn't it?  I mean, most bloggers blog because it is about them.  I have one of those kinds of blogs as well...  This blog isn't about me, per se - It is about our inner Bag Ladies or Bag-Persons, as it were.  That part of us that we are not sure we want any one to know about or look upon, but that definitely lurks beneath the surface of who we are.  The parts of our personalities that don't match up with who we are on the outside, the parts that don't look very "Christian" to the naked, untrained eye.

Maybe it is shame that drives the hiding, or maybe it is pride - Frankly, it doesn't matter.  We know it is there and more importantly God knows it is there, there simply isn't any hiding from Him.

The most amazing part?   Although He knows it is there, He doesn't see it.  He sees his children as the bright and shining image of his son, Jesus Christ.

God recognizes we are flawed in our sin, but He never holds that against us like we hold it against ourselves.  God doesn't flog us in our self-hatred like we do to ourselves.  Don't get me wrong - He will and does discipline us.  But His discipline is just, while ours is just ineffective flailing, not accomplishing anything but more shame, more self hatred and more hiding.  His discipline creates in us a haven and a rightness that breeds light, not darkness.  It is still discipline and sometimes incredibly painful consequences arise from it, but it is what God is referring to when He tells us He will work all things together for good to those who love Him (Rom 8:28).  With His discipline comes a peace where we would place self-loathing, joy where we would produce shame, and reconciliation where we would still be mired in conflict.

It is our inner Bag Lady that I want to examine here.  The person who so desperately needs to wheel her cart into the Throne Room and have it emptied of its filthy contents that seem to drag at her and keep her tethered to this earthly image of herself.  It is at the feet of her saviour that she can lay her burdens down and exchange them for the true gifts of fellowship and acceptance with the one true God.  It is in the Throne Room that she can become the "most favored of God", "the one whom God loves".

We are that special to our Lord, you know...  He considers each and everyone of us His favorite.  It is in that status that I can truly understand why John always referred to himself as "the one whom Jesus loves".  He wasn't being arrogant, as it might appear.  He simply understood that in that very special and hard to comprehend relationship with the Almighty, he had Jesus' undivided attention and unconditional love.  He knew at his core Jesus would never be too busy to answer his call or look at John with contempt as our human counterparts often do.  He understood his relationship with the Lord was built on more than that and he didn't have to understand it all to feel incredibly grateful for it.

When you open yourself to a relationship with Jesus Christ you become a favored child, just as if you were the only child of God.  He waits anxiously, as any parent would, to have you sit at His feet to learn, to share and to unburden your soul.  God is the Creator of all things and He alone is worthy of handling all you can throw at Him.  Won't you come and lay down your burdens today?  He is waiting.

Friday, August 6, 2010


That's the reaction I get when I start talking about my inner Bag Lady...  "Huh?  What do you mean?"

The deal is, I think we all have her... She's stinky, dirty, not worthy of much and no one really wants to keep her lonely old soul company.  She is that homeless woman wandering from street to street pushing a squealing cart full of garbage that she treasures as her only possessions.  She was once someone's daughter at the very least, not to mention someone's mother, sister, auntie or grandmother, but somehow she has gotten lost.

Lost in the trappings of today's on-demand lifestyle.  She has been burdened by the filth of poor choices, bad attitudes and misunderstandings, pushing a cart full of garbage that she finds so onerous and yet cannot seem to let go of.  She is that woman that we pass by and shake our heads, "But for the grace of God..."

Well, folks... It is absolutely the grace of the Almighty I am talking about!  We all have made our bad choices, chosen ill fitting attitudes and opinions and we all can use a good scrubbing by God himself to unburden our tired, worn out, ragged hearts.

The biggest blessing of all?   God WANTS us to come before his immaculate Throne Room to bask in His loving glory and unburden our hearts while He comforts and instructs us on to better things.  He is waiting for us to march our tired feet into His presence, no matter how dirty or unworthy we may feel at the time.  God's desire is to see us kneeling before Him, refreshed by his purpose and love, ready to bring glory to Him.

I am ready to  begin my journey into that glorious presence, and I hope you will come along with me...