Tag Archives: Joy

The Miracle in the Manger

24 Dec

creation swap 22155_Christmas_BellsI love Jesus. He is my Savior, my Rescuer, my Friend.  He is the One I trust will be there when I need a heart to hide to in. The One who finds joy in my company. The One I know will never tire of me or find me to be too needy. He is just IT to me and the idea that the King of Kings would stoop from heaven to show love to this ordinary woman often overwhelms my heart until the joy of being His slides down my cheeks.

I am no one special to this world. I hold no place of great esteem or importance. I am insignificant in the landscape of this temporal life. But to the heart of Jesus, through the eyes of God, nothing could be further from the truth. Not for me and not for you.

Christmas Day is the announcement that He finds you, that He finds me, to be special. It is the trumpet call declaring our importance to Him. It is the Star He hangs to shine on those who are far off and it is His chorus, filling the sky with the heavenly host to say to every man, woman, and child “You matter to me!”

Friends, that is the beautiful truth of Christmas.creation swap candles David Shrein 12966

Love gifted to us as a Baby was not delivered to the wealthy, to the influential, to the movers and shakers of the day. He was given to a young girl who appeared to the world to be nothing special. Gifted to a Hebrew carpenter who held no lofty position.

The Star, heralding the arrival of the King did not shine with revelation on an exalted inner circle of priests and scribes. It lit up the night sky for a group of outsiders. Unknown, unnamed men from the East, foreigners and strangers with no standing in the Hebrew community.

And the glory of the Lord, the angels filling the sky with praise, did not proclaim the birth of the Good News to kings and nobles. The messengers of God shared the dawning of Salvation with shepherds who lived in fields seemingly influencing no one. They were unesteemed and insignificant in the landscape of their temporal lives.

Don’t you see that stooping down from heaven and gifting the ordinary with the Extraordinary has always been God’s way? The Baby in the manger held in His tiny chest the tangible heartbeat of the Living God and no matter how ordinary we may feel . . . the Heart of the Extraordinary still beats for us in personal, real and tangible ways today.

The Gift of Christmas is still being given to those the world sees as nothing special. The Light of the season still dawns from Glory to shine for the unknown and the unnamed. The glory of the Lord stills fills the skies and proclaims the message of Love to the unesteemed and the insignificant.

The Extraordinary sees you as anything but ordinary. You will never be the nothing special, the unnamed, or the insignificant to the heart of God. He loves you so and has gifted you with the priceless life of His Son. The Christmas Child has come, Dear Sister. The cry of the Babe of Love has pierced the night and the Light of the World has dawned.

creation swap JOY 3763_Christmas_1_of_2_(REVISED) ribbetPonder these things in your heart. Treasure His grace in your soul. For blessed is she who has believed that all the Lord has said to her will be accomplished. There are no limits where the Beloved of God are concerned nor are there any boundaries that can hem His holy blessing. O Sweet Sister, embrace the full of Him in the celebration of this season and may you experience the miracle of the manger as never before. Merry Christmas

 

40 Days Receiving Joy

17 Apr

At the beginning of the 40 days of Lent I shared openly that my spirit was feeling sluggish and the enemy was whispering in my ear all manner of lies about the Holy One leaving me behind. I shared just as openly that I wasn’t going to give in to the voice of deception or surrender my God-given joy without a fight and I gave my battle plan a name . . . Lessons from Lent.

Lessons from Lent was the challenge to read through the New Testament in those 40 days leading to Resurrection Sunday and blog each day about whatever lesson God pointed out. Now we’re on the other side of that season and I can tell you that God met me in ways I had never dreamed. Every single day as I read through the Scriptures He spoke to me through His Word and unveiled a treasure I’d not previously seen. I never found myself grasping for something to share or apply in my daily life—the struggle was usually narrowing it down to just one thing. Imagine that . . . I had a lot to say!

It was so wonderful to have the exclamation point of praise put on the first verse I remember totally capturing my heart: “Call to me and I will answer you and show you great and unsearchable things you do not know” and for the shouts and accolades to reach the ears of what I would say is my life verse in Malachi . . . “I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” Is there anything quite as beautiful as Scripture colliding head on with Scripture?

The same God, the One who does not change, who filled my heart with His truth in those first days of faith and thrilled me to no end with Jeremiah 33:3 revelations of His goodness and personal applications to my life was still with me. He still peeled back the curtain to display the riches of His word and He still enthralled me with every syllable. And just like in the early days of running my fingers over the pages and asking Him to let me know Him . . . He showed Himself to be absolute Love to me. And just the same as way back then, I heard myself whisper . . .”Why?—Why do You let me see the Much of You?” It’s the closest I come to joining heart-to-heart with the Psalmist who asked “What is man that you are mindful of him?” and in my imagination, he whispers that phrase with a catch in his voice just like I do.

And I fully believe God has used this trek across the calendar pages to introduce me to the Biblical truth of John 16:24 in a way I could not ignore or pass over quickly. It’s a concept I think He’s had me practicing but hadn’t begun to define for me or given me the unction to begin comprehending until this particular Kairos moment in life. His timing is always perfect . . .

Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. John 16:24

God-given joy—complete, filled to individual capacity, secure . . . joy in the Name of Jesus—wasn’t that what I was fighting to keep a hold of? Wasn’t it the joy of my faith, the joy of being in His Presence, the joy of an attentive soul all to the glory of my Covenant Partner that I was considering when I posted the introductory paragraphs that preceded every Lenten blog entry . .

I’m not giving in to it! I am going to fight the good fight of faith and follow the example of my Nehemiah Man. I am going to stand firm in my faith because if I do not, I will not stand at all. I’m praising God for bringing me to a place of emptiness so that I can look to Him to fill my cup.

I’m coming before the Lord and I’m asking Him to do a new thing in me. To rouse my heart to His side and to draw me near in real and tangible ways. To plow through the fog that has settled over me in the form of health issues, physical stress, and emotional upheaval and lay a level path before me. I’m entering the throne room and I’m humbly reminding Him that He has invited me to come in my time of need. O Lord – be near to me. Love me where I am. Take me where I need to be.

creation swap love me one flower 206081_Flower_Background

I don’t know about you but when I read those lines that introduced the Scripture for the each post as we marched toward the Empty Tomb, they sound a lot like asking . . . Asking God to do the new thing, to rouse my heart, to draw me near . . . no matter what my circumstances might be. So unbeknownst to me, the entire journey was aimed at teaching me the word that lingers in the middle of the verse. The word that lives between the invitation to ask and the gift of joy to the full . . . receive.

Help Word Studies 2983 defines receive this way— lambánō (from the primitive root, lab-, meaning “actively lay hold of to take or receive,” see NAS dictionary) – properly, to lay hold by aggressively (actively) accepting what is available (offered). 2983 /lambánō (“accept with initiative“) emphasizes the volition (assertiveness) of the receiver.

So to receive as God intended it to be understood in this verse is to aggressively and actively lay hold to that which is offered. To make the volitional choice to accept what is available.

Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. John 16:24

The “receiving” we find here is far from a passive activity.  There’s some work to be done to really possess it—to live in it.  Much different I think than the gift of salvation we believe on Christ for and receive in His Name.

I’ve been as candid as will serve you well about the depth of my sin and I hope I have made it clear –in a no-holds-barred, full out, give Him all the Glory every time kind of way—that my salvation and my rescue was . . . my righteousness and my life are—all because of Him. He swooped down from heaven and pulled me from the depths. He brought me up out of the pit and planted my feet firmly in His freedom. He and He alone lifted me to the spacious place of Grace. The place where Light and Life are abundant.

And with a grateful heart I testify that He has increased my territory just as He has increased my faith and He has shown me the beauty of the land He has given me—the place where boundary and blessing meet. He lifted me up and brought me again to the spacious place, but praise to the Hope of Glory– the scenery on the way out of the cavern I found myself in was so much different. See my God is still God and my unchanging Messiah was ever present as the steadfast Spirit spurred me on but unlike the work of my salvation, this time . . . my participation was required.

I’m praying for God to give me the exact right words as I try to explain this and I remind you before your eyes land on a single syllable, I am not a theologian, a pastor or any kind of formal scholar. I’m a woman who sits at the foot of the Cross and asks to know her Savior better— who enters the Throne room of God and stands in awe that she is welcome there.

The pit I found myself in when I began the Lent journey wasn’t the same one God pulled me from when I began my faith walk. At the time of my salvation the Lion of Judah roared to my rescue and gave me the gift of eternal reconciliation with my Father in heaven. He scaled those smooth walls and carried me out of darkness into the Light. I could add nothing to His grace nor take a thing away from it. I could only repent and admit my need of the perfect salvation He had purchased for me.   He did it all. He never swerved to the left or to the right. He kept His eyes fixed firmly on the will of the Father . . . His Love poured out on the Cross, His Mercy buried in the Tomb, and His Victory secured in His Risen Life – Jesus did it all! He met me in the pit and He carried me to new life . . . life abundant.

The place I found myself in this time didn’t have walls smoothed by premeditated sin and unholy actions. No, this one had walls jagged with circumstance and life issues that pressed in from every side.   And unlike that first pit, this cavern had pieces of Rock jutting out all around me and He had prepared me to follow Him out—to keep in step with the Spirit, to do all things through Christ who strengthens me—and emerge victoriously into the Light.

creation swap shoes Jose Fares 5573 ribbet

He had given me toeholds and lifelines in His Word so that even though the enemy was actively hissing in my ear I could shout the praise of Jesus and silence my foe. I could put my combat boots on and go about the business of working out my salvation with fear and trembling. At His prompting I could put one foot firmly on the foundation of my Eternal Rock, grab hold of the Scripture with my right hand, and strain my eyes toward the Face of my Messiah. By His grace, I could wrap my fingers tightly around the Word, find the foothold of His truth, and move forward by faith, believing that He rewards those who seek Him.

Was God faithful in bringing me up out of the pit – He absolutely was but this was not the salvation swoop from heaven the work-is-done liberation – it was much more a build your faith muscles, stretch your heart, dig in and climb type of a rescue.

And right in the middle of it all, between the asking and the blessing was aggressive, active, volitional receiving.

Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. John 16:24

If I, if you, desire to hold tight to, to cling to, to live, move, and find our being in joy to the full, then you and I must be willing to go after the thing—to actively and aggressively grab hold of what our Father rescued us to possess.

A passive faith serves no one well.

We must be intentional in laying hold of the holy opportunities to fight the good fight, to train for the race, so that when the day of Christ Jesus comes we will get the prize for which we have been called heavenward. We have to be willing to put our feet in the toeholds of the temporal cavern walls we may find ourselves surrounded by and wrap our fingers around the lifelines of Truth He so graciously provides if we want the spacious place of freedom to be our daily reality.

Our days here on planet earth are all about developing the muscles we’re going to need to hold our heads high when the Good Shepherd places that jewel-laden, faith encrusted crown of glory on our heads. The active process of transformation from one degree of glory to another requires our active participation in combat drills—trials, tough stuff, messy life. Muscles unused never develop. Faith unexercised atrophies. Receiving His All is not for the faint of spirit and aggressive cardio work will be required because Girlfriend, He loves us to much to let us arrive in Glory with a heart that’s out of shape!

creation swap joy 3498_climbing ribbet

A Day in the Caboose!

14 May

We’ve looked at some pretty heavy stuff the last couple posts and, to be truthful life itself has been quite heavy since the last writing, so what I really feel the desire to do today is just roll around in His goodness.  Some days you just have to pull a little closer to Glory and ride there for a bit.  What say we leave the temporal worries and anxieties, the hurts and the can’t-do-a-thing-abouts sitting on the curb for this day and ease out into the freedom lane with the Spirit?

I know Facts are the engine of my Faith and Feelings aren’t always accurate indicators of the spiritual reality, but for this particular moment I’m giving myself permission to get swept up in the Godness of Him and simply enjoy feeling like He is with me. These kinds of days are necessary for me.  I need times when I can indulge my emotions and let myself feel lavished in His love.  Times when I can look past the urgent of this planet and imagine life from a heavenly point of view.   Times when I can entertain what it will feel like to walk in Glory.  In other words, I need days when I can just be the caboose!

I have a wonderful friend who is married to a gentleman with a penchant for her, God’s truth, and a whiteboard. One of his favorite illustrations depicts a train engine marked Facts, followed by a car with Faith written on it, and finally, a caboose with the word Feelings.  The idea of the drawing is that we can’t let our feelings dictate our faith or diagnose our spiritual condition.   It’s right on the mark and I love them for their team teaching efforts to make this knowledge part of my freedom walk because it has given me the tenacity to stand firm in truth many times when I didn’t “feel” like it. But just for today I’m going to hang off the back of the caboose, wave my arms around, and drink in the Sonshine.

Lessons from Kim and Rod

Lessons from Kim and Rod

I’m going to let the wonder-if-I-did-that-right thoughts all slip away and replace it with being thrilled that my obedience brings Him joy.  I’m not going to fret about what will come from the maybe-I-should’ve-said-that-differently moments or let myself be weighed down by the hope-I-didn’t-overstep-my-boundaries-there conversations.   Instead, I’m going to let my heart dance at the idea that the One I have my eyes fixed on never takes His eyes off me.  I’m going to celebrate the notion that the One I find too beautiful for words is enthralled with my beauty.  I’m going to get all caught up in the absolute giddiness I feel when I picture Him as my Mighty Warrior and myself as the chick with a sword at His side.

I could gush on and on, and believe me I’m totally fighting the urge to do so.  It feels so good to have the smile spread across my face and my eyes crinkle for no other reason except I am thinking of Him.  It’s been too long since I have thrown off everything that hinders and just run with the Spirit.  Yesterday in my devotions, I was reading about Hagar who was facing some massive challenges in her life to say the least.  She had been sent away from her home with a young son, some food strapped to her back,  and a canteen of water.  As they wandered in the desert, the water ran out and she was certain her boy was going to die.  I can’t imagine the helplessness and despair she must of felt as she placed Ishmael under that shrub to die.  Imagine how gut-wrenching her sobs must have been as she sat down a distance away from him and just waited for the inevitable.  And then . . . God intervenes.  The One she had called El Roi (the One who Sees) at another well in the desert had never taken His eyes off her.

Abraham got up early the next morning, got some food together and a canteen of water for Hagar, put them on her back and sent her away with the child. She wandered off into the desert of Beersheba. When the water was gone, she left the child under a shrub and went off, fifty yards or so. She said, “I can’t watch my son die.” As she sat, she broke into sobs. . . .

Just then God opened her eyes.

She looked. She saw a well of water.

She went to it and filled her canteen

and gave the boy a long, cool drink.

Genesis 21:19 (The Message)

See the sweetness of Him?  He opened her eyes to see His provision.  He gave her exactly what she needed, right when she needed it, and He gave her eyes to see the blessing.  There is so much more in that passage to look at.  Such significance in the well.  Such parallels between Hagar the slave girl and the Samaritan Woman who felt the unconditional love of Christ in the Gospel of John.  But those are for another day.  Today, we’re just loving being with Him.

Yes Sisters, let’s enjoy our day in the caboose.  But here’s the truth of it.  A day of celebration in the caboose would go nowhere without that engine. No hair would be flying around in the wind of the Spirit.  No cool breeze of freedom would blow across our souls.   There would only be sitting at the depot feeling erratic gusts of air now and then. Only the engine, the absolute TRUTH of who He is and the LOVE He lavishes on us, will get that caboose moving.  And only feelings that match the truth of His character are worth celebrating.

I came to the train station years ago with more baggage than I can describe.  I stood on the platform with all my sin stacked around me.  God met me in my need and said, “I see you child, get on board.”  He’s not left me unattended once.  He has never taken His eyes off me.  And when I have days filled with challenges, and maybe even despair, He opens my eyes and shows me the well of His goodness.  He fills my canteen with the truth of His blessings, invites me to the caboose, and lets me enjoy a long, cool drink.

Girlfriend, He will not be bothered a bit should you choose to hang off the back of the caboose in celebration today. And if you’re just not “feeling” like it, ask Him to open your eyes and show you the well.  The Fact is that our Faith in the One who is the Living Water will never leave us Feeling thirsty!  Oh, how I love that His well will not run dry!

Some Interesting Information:

  • El Roi: wonderful expansion and exploration of the Title — http://www.preceptaustin.org/el_roi_-_god_who_sees.htm
  • The Message:  The goal of The Message is to engage people in the reading process and help them understand what they read. This is not a study Bible, but rather “”a reading Bible.”” The verse numbers, which are not in the original documents, have been left out of the print version to facilitate easy and enjoyable reading. The original books of the Bible were not written in formal language. The Message tries to recapture the Word in the words we use today. http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Message-MSG-Bible/
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