A Secret to Joy

Over the past year, there’s only been one book, besides the Bible ;), that’s kept my attention long enough for me to (almost) finish it. That book is called One Thousand Gifts and it’s by a woman named Ann Voskamp. Her writing is raw, eloquent, and captivating.

I had a pretty rough year (yep, being engaged/married doesn’t fix all of your problems… However, having someone there who loves you with their whole heart does make the journey from pain to wholeness easier), and only the essentials (Jesus, His Word, and God-appointed relationships) made the cut in my life. You learn to get back to the basics: being thankful for every sunrise, salvation, and God’s love. My lofty revelation for the year was probably just that I need Jesus, every day.

Anyways, I felt pretty numb and empty on and off for quite some time. It felt like I couldn’t “do” enough to fix myself… and the truth is, I still can’t. And neither can you. Only God can do that.

Long story short, I thank God today because I can truly say that He has delivered me from so much heaviness. His joy is truly my strength and I know that He can heal the deepest wounds and reach the darkest places in us, in anyone. My heart is for the people whose hearts are full of pain and nobody knows. It is the world we are living in… whether it’s a homeless woman or a wealthy man in a suit: pain is universal. And yet, God’s love is greater… Anyone who calls on Him will be saved in the whole sense.

Thank you GOD for Your love and mercy!

I asked but never searched

Wandered but never dug 

For answers and sometimes

for anything at all 

 

I begged but never thanked

Cried out but never waited 

 For a sign and sometimes

for anything at all

 

To all the places that I’ve been

where I didn’t think You were

and all the moments I’ve spent wondering

when You were always sure,

 

I’ve opened my eyes to see that You 

weren’t so hidden after all. 

 

No, not so hidden after all. 

Inspired by a quote from One Thousand Gifts:
“The secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is.” 

One Life Source

So there’s probably a blog or a book or a sermon out there that poses the same idea that popped into my head this morning… I wish it was original and revolutionary, but I’m not in denial. Someone else will probably say it better than me too if they haven’t already.

I don’t know about you, but when I wake up feeling heavy or feel like I’m in a rut or need breakthrough, I run to a lot of things before I cling to Jesus. And what I mean by that is… If I woke up heavy in a village with no electricity, none of my current “methods” would work.

..turn on a podcast

..turn on my “It’s A New Season” or “REVIVAL” playlist

..watch one of Beth Moore’s weekly teachings

..YouTube a teaching by someone new if I want to mix things up a little

Yeah, it’s safe to say I’d be in trouble in a village in the middle of nowhere.

The thing is, we have the world of teaching, worship music, etc. at our fingertips because of technology. Just type what you want to learn about in the search engine and bam… charismatic, conservative, Baptist, non-denominational, you can have it all. We can research a 5-step process that will get us out of our pit or we can read about how there is no 5-step process for escaping trials.

We consume mass amounts of information and knowledge because our souls are desperate for truth and freedom, but what did people do before technology?!And, on another, hold-your-breath, note… what about people who don’t even have the Bible?!

…There has to be something more, another life source, that is available to all men and women, with and without technology, with or without the Bible even, and that life source is Jesus Himself… HIM! (Side note: I believe the Word of God is living and should be consumed daily, but I also don’t believe our time in the Word should replace time spent with the Word Himself).

I’m by no means saying we shouldn’t or can’t use technology as a means to grow spiritually, but when it comes time to be intimate with our Father, there should be nothing that stands between us, good or bad, nothing to lean on… it’s about HIM and me, no intermediaries besides Jesus.

Sometimes we need to shut down the technology and stand alone, bare, in a room before our Father… laying down any ideas about Him we’ve gained for the sake of knowing Him in His fullness and in turn being fully known ourselves. 

Though the Fig Tree May not Blossom

Though the fig tree may not blossom,

Nor fruit be on the vines; 

Though the labor of the olive may fail,

And the fields yield no food; 

Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,

And there be no herd in the stalls

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength; 

He will make my feet like deer’s feet,

And He will make me walk on my high heels.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

Have you ever found yourself at a place where it feels like a thousand disappointments have folded into one big question mark? The… “I trust you God, but where on earth could you be in the midst of this” kind of question mark? I mean… honestly?

We all deal with our question mark differently–there are so many ways, really. You can embrace it in hopes of some sort of comfort, not realizing the toxic emotions confusion and chaos cause when you cling to them so tightly. You can close your eyes and take on the “wake me up when it’s over” mentality, or if you’re like me, you can punch it every time it lowers itself into your way… thinking you’re doing spiritual warfare, but in all reality you’re getting the strength knocked out of you because… well, this is not your [my] fight.

The prophet Habakkuk spoke the words above in a time when, quite literally, everything was going wrong. [External] circumstances were causing [internal turmoil].

The economy was failing, there were threats of war, and on a personal level, he was overcome with feelings of loss, doubt, and grief.

I know a lot of people, including myself, who have been through an extremely hard past year, and I just believe it’s time to stop running away from “negative” emotions because we believe that if we acknowledge our disappoint it means we’re letting God down. …Disappointment is not the opposite of faith. It’s a part of life and we have to learn how to process it in a healthy way if we want to come out stronger.

God might not make our problems vanish, but He is Lord OVER our problems and wants us to know that He is so in the midst of it all. And so I pray over my friends, family, and any stranger that might read this, that you will stop running from question marks in your life, and that you will fall madly in love with the King of Kings who loves your soul and wants to see you whole, healed, full of true joy, and therefore is not disappointed with your disappointment. 

Even when what I hoped and expected and prayed for didn’t happen,

And I sowed and sowed and didn’t get a return,

Though some days I look around and find empty places

that I was convinced would be filled by now,

and it can feel like I gave everything for nothing

 Even then,

Yes,

Yet,

I will  rejoice in the Lord,

I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength; 

He will make my feet like deer’s feet,

And He will make me walk on my high heels.

 

A Toast to Proverbs 27:1

 

Most of what we want to do

Most of what we want to say

Most of who we want to become

 

It lies in boasts of tomorrow

It lies in the time we’ve borrowed

From a future 

That does not

and never will

belong to us

 

so dear Tomorrow,

Won’t you give us back

what you’ve held hostage

Give us back our bragging rights

because you never return

what we’re convinced you promised 

 

and hello Today,

Won’t you stay a while?

 

I’ve come to tell you

that you won’t be wished away. 

 

 

 

Do not boast about tomorrow,
For you do not know what a day may bring forth.

Proverbs 27:1

 

Just Thinking

The funny thing about mission trips is you always go thinking you’re doing someone a favor. It’s impressive isn’t? That we would take seven days of our time, raise our own support, risk having to pay from our own account if we don’t meet our goal…

and we, leave so much behind, don’t we?

and we, give up so much… don’t we?

          Or do we?

Imagine a week without picking up your phone to see if you have a missed call or a text message… Always looking down, then back up, then down again…                      Then getting frustrated because you really do wish you could live without your phone. But you can’t. That’s not how life works here.

And that’s ok. I don’t think cellphones are bad, and I don’t think Twitter is bad, or Facebook, or make up, or really any of the things, any of those things that we leave behind when we go.

But you know what’s good? Leaving behind all the ducks that are in a row and not looking back to see if they stay that way. It feels good to let go. And sometimes the only way to let go… is to go. And I’m not saying that’s a reason to go on a mission trip.

…but it just happens. Every time. We learn not to cling so tight to life. Jesus told us not to do that, anyways, right?

Jesus said that those who cling to their life will lose it, and those who lose their life, will find it.

It seems we’ve become too good at building, too good at gaining, too good at clinging, too good at earning, and I was just thinking that we really should start to wonder what it looks like to lose,

 

 

 

if we ever want to find.

 “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Jim Elliot (martyr)


The Face of Redemption

It is not the magnitude of our sin that is so detestable, but our inability to acknowledge it at all. We all know it’s there… so why do most, if not all, get so offended when it’s pointed out? Well, the answer is quite obvious: when someone points, we have to look. And deep down every man knows it is his most painful experience to realize his sin. It is both terrifying and beautiful, all at once, because in that moment we know we are encountering the Lion and the Lamb.

I have found that the days when I knew He was drawing me in and still denied Him glory are my most regretted days. Why? It wasn’t because my actions, my sins, were so terrible. I’d known that same sin for years… it was nothing new to me. But, for some reason, it’s only the last months, the last weeks (before surrendering to Him) that I cringe at when He reminds me of where He brought me from. “Why so hated, why do those few days stick out so much?” I finally asked the Holy Spirit. He was not silent for long. His reply? Perhaps my heart can bear the “worst of sin,” from long ago, because I did not commit it while looking Christ in the eyes.  On the contrary, my heart cannot bear the most recent, and to some extent “smallest,” because it was committed while looking Christ in the eyes. For in those days my heart knew that the lover of my soul was seeking me out… to know, and still deny… that’s truly what is, and should be, detestable: to be so prideful, so blatantly selfish, that even the presence of the living God cannot bring you to your knees.

 And so, we tend to be afraid of remembering the sorrow of repentance, but the sorrow of repentance should serve as a fuel for The Redeemed. For when we look at those moments, or a moment, straight in the eyes… we find Him whispering, “Mark WELL the paths by which you came” (Jeremiah 31:21). We should remember all those places He carried us from. For though we should not be dictated by our past, we also shouldn’t deny its depth in regards to where we stand now.

 “Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed;

Do not be discouraged, for you will not suffer disgrace;

For you will forget the shame of your youth,

And the disgrace of your widowhood you will remember no more.

For your Maker is your husband,

The Lord of hosts is his name;

The Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,

The God of the whole earth he is called,

For the Lord has called you

Like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,

Like the wife of a man’s youth when she is cast off,

Says your God.

For a brief moment I abandoned you,

But with great compassion I will gather you.

In overflowing wrath for a moment

I hid my face from you,

But with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,

Says the Lord, YOUR Redeemer.” Isaiah 54