Spoiler Alert!

JoyForTheJourney.png

 

As most of you know, I have several addictions in life, some of which I am proud and some of which I am sure are fairly unhealthy.

Some of my unhealthy and addictive habits might be but are certainly not limited to….

How many times in one lifetime can a woman tell herself that chocolate is NOT a daily vitamin?!!

If there were an Olympic sport in hitting the snooze button on the morning alarm clock – I would win it.  Hands down.

And don’t even get me started on Target and please don’t ask my husband about that particular drug of choice.

But … now … as I have already stated … not all of my addictions are harmful – some are very healthy, indeed!

Let me share with you one of my healthy addictions –

A singular addiction that has me under lock and key since about the second grade has also benefitted me in ways too numerous to even count.

I am a self-diagnosed, avaricious read-aholic!

In my book – there is no such thing as owning too many books.

Many days of my life I would rather read than breathe … rather read than eat … rather read that talk.

“What is a bookshelf other than a treasure chest for a curious mind?”

Whenever I walk into a bookstore or a library, my blood pressure rises, my heartbeat accelerates and I have to remind myself to “Breathe in … breathe out … breathe in … breathe out!

I am the kind of girl who fantasizes about being locked up in the library overnight!

The books that I have read over the course of my life have helped to mold the person that I am today.  I have traveled through time and have met fascinating people on the pages of a book that I otherwise never would have known.

I have climbed mountains, survived blizzards, experienced poverty, dealt with difficult people, and lived on other continents simply because I opened the pages of a book.

I have been the President of the United States of America … the Queen of England … a housewife during the Dustbowl … and a missionary who gives her life for the cause of Christ … simply because I have opened the pages of a book.

“One must always be careful of books and what is inside them, for words have the power to change our lives.”

Because I am so very human, I have even developed a frighteningly bad habit right in the middle of this excellent obsession with reading.  Actually, let me attempt to re-describe the questionable habit that thrives in the midst of a stellar habit –

To me – this particular practice of which I speak is actually not a bad habit at all but a dire necessity to my emotional investment.

However, most of my friends say it is simply a bad habit. A very bad habit.

“What is the habit of controversy?” you may ask.

I am so glad that you asked because I can’t wait to answer you fully!

Whenever I pick up a book – fiction or non-fiction – before I read the first chapter, I always read the last chapter.

That’s not a sin, is it?!

The reason that I do this is because I refuse to give myself wholeheartedly to a book that has a murky ending. I refuse to read a page of a book that comes to erroneous conclusions or communicates that which I consider to be a broken theme.

I refuse.

Other well-meaning bibliophiles may accuse me of spoiling the ending but I think not.  Knowing the ending before the beginning actually stirs my interest in and investment to the book. It is true, this habit removes both fear and suspense from my emotional thermometer – but who needs fear and suspense anyway?!

I love the development of the characters to a deeper and richer degree knowing how it is all going to turn out for them. I feel that I own a sweet secret that I am unable to share with anyone whose life story is being written before my very eyes.

And so I trudge along through my well-set pattern of literary perusal and continue to read the last chapter first.

One particular day, as I was reading the greatest Book ever written, I realized how powerful it is to know exactly what the end of the Bible says!  My heart leaped for absolute joy out of my chest as I embraced the knowledge that I know!

 I know how all of this ends for the people of God!

I know how God will tie it all together!

I know what the final act will look like!

I know who wins!

And I definitely know who loses!

I don’t mean to spoil the ending of the Bible for you … but everything really is going to be o.k.

Go ahead!  I dare you to do it!  Read the last chapter of Revelation and break out in exuberant worship!

God has written the end of your story and it’s a good one … a really good one!

There is no reason for fear or suspense in the life of a believer because the ending to all of our stories is simply out of this world!

God has been to your future and it is good because He is good and He is already there.

God has spent eternity past writing out the details of your life and has made an eternal investment in the ending that will trump all other endings … you win because He has already won!

“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me when as yet there was not one of them.” – Psalm 139:16

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

Advertisements

Kindness Matters

JoyForTheJourney

We live in a broken world, don’t we?

Politics are a mess … the media doesn’t always tell the truth … people are mistreated … the laws need changing … entertainment is warped … the list could go on and on and on.

We live in a broken world.

Do you want to know what I believe?

I believe that the reason God placed YOU in this world is because it is broken and it needed someone just like you to heal its brokenness.

We all know what John 3:16 days, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

That’s a “WOW!” Scripture of the very best kind!  God loved … He gave … we believe … we live!

However – do you know what John 3:17 says?

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”

Jesus didn’t come to judge us … He came to save us!

He came to save us from sin, from politics, from opinions, from waywardness, from confusion, from pain, from hatred, from war, from anger, from sickness and from death.

I also know that often He needs to save me from myself.  Isn’t that the truth?!

He came to save us and to give us a new way of living … of thinking … and of processing life!

You see, when we partner with Him in loving this broken world … miracles happen!

 

July 12 blog pic 1.jpg

 

The world doesn’t need another Christian with an opinion – it needs a Christian who will be kind.

The world doesn’t need another religious person to judge it – it needs a gentle word and a loving smile that will serve as a source of encouragement.

This doesn’t mean that we accept the sin and gloss over the compromise – what it means is that we are kind in spite of it.

Your opinions will never change this world – but your joy might change it!

Your judgment will never revolutionize this world – but your heartfelt goodness might do the job!

Your negativity will never deliver this world – but your kindness might make an impact!

Can I tell you a story?

I’ll try to make it short and I really don’t mean to glorify anything that I have done … I just want to remind you that kindness matters.  It matters very, very much.

It was the summer of 1996 and our family home was on a busy street in a small town in North Carolina.  I would often sit on the porch while my boys played basketball in the driveway and while my little girls decorated the sidewalk with all kinds of amazing chalk designs.

One day while we were outside enjoying an August afternoon, I noticed two young men walking up our driveway. I immediately recognized them as Mormons because of the way they were dressed and due to their clean-cut appearance.

I judged them before they even opened up their mouths.

They chatted with my boys for a while about Michael Jordan and about who was going to have the better team that year – UNC or Duke – and then they marveled over my daughters’ sidewalk masterpieces.

I knew that I was next.

As they paused on the front steps, I pondered what to say to these two boys whose belief system was so very different from mine.

They smiled and introduced themselves and asked if they could have a minute of my time.

Being the softie that I am, I said, “Sure! Join me on the porch.”

While they were settling themselves, I went into the house and brought ice-cold lemonade out for my five children and for these two young men.

It also gave me a minute to pray.

After I came out with red plastic cups and with store-bought cookies, I settled myself back on the porch swing and let them take a gulp or two of the refreshing beverage.

I chatted with them for a few minutes about where they were staying, where they were from and how hot it was in North Carolina in the summer time.

I then took a deep breath and then said, “Look – I know that you are Mormons and that you have come to talk to me about your faith and to try to convince me to believe like you do.  But I never will.  I believe that Jesus Christ is the only Son of God and the Savior of the world.  I believe that He died on the cross to forgive me from my sins and that it was a complete work.

I really don’t want to argue or debate with you but I know that you are far away from your moms and I am a mom.  So – if you need anything while you are here – let me know. If you need to do laundry, or need advice or just want to hang out with a rowdy family – you are welcome here.”

One of the boys looked at me and sheepishly said, “Can you give us the name of a dentist? I have a really bad toothache and don’t know what to do about it.”

I got up from the porch and called our family dentist who was also a believer and made an appointment for the young man who was far away from home. I also told the dentist what my strategy was and told him to bill us for the appointment.  My sweet dentist said, “Carol – you can’t afford to do that.  The first appointment will be on me and then we will see what we can work out.”

The young men left that afternoon after shooting a few hoops with my boys and I assured them that they were always welcome to just stop by.

After that afternoon, I often saw them on their bikes, in the grocery store and just around town. They would engage with my children and would always chat for a minute or two with their North Carolina mom.

Then Hurricane Fran hit my small town during the first week of September.

We were without power for over a week while other parts of the community didn’t regain power for nearly a month. My town looked like a war zone with trees scattered all over streets, houses and cars.

One day, shortly after our power came back on, my two young friends from Utah came walking up our driveway.  They looked hot and bedraggled.  When they told me that they still didn’t have power and wondered if they could do a load of laundry, we welcomed them into the cool of our delicious air-conditioned home.

They did their laundry, took showers in the kids’ bathroom and then I fed them dinner right along with our kids.  We didn’t talk about religion or about differences but they told us about their younger brothers and sisters. We laughed and talked and ended the evening with a rousing game of Uno.

Several days later these boys appeared at my front door again with notes from their moms thanking me for being kind to their boys.

I never saw them again. But I was honored to love these boys who were so very different from me.  It was the plan of God for me to be kind to these young men whose worldview was in direct contrast to mine.

I don’t know if they ever came to Christ or not but what I do know is that their world was touched by the love and compassion of a believer.

Oh – I could have argued with them!  I could have put them in their place theologically but I felt called to love them in spite of our differences. Sometimes words are cheap but actions will always be priceless.

This world may seem broken to you and to me but it becomes a place of miracles and of wonder when we respond like Jesus would respond.

 

July 12 blog pic 2.jpg

 

So – rather than spew opinions on Facebook this week … just be kind.

Rather than judge your neighbors … be good to them.

Rather than criticize the media … pray for them.

Restore the wonder to this broken world!  It is, after all, what Jesus would do and it is why you are here!

We live in a wonderful world simply because you and Jesus are in it!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

Summer’s Song

JoyForTheJourney.png

I absolutely delight in the lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer!

Do you?!  Surely you do!

I am addicted to sunshine … to fresh cut grass … and to a slight breeze blowing through my windows at night.

I love the buzzin’ of the bees … the sound of the neighborhood children laughing on my street … and I love having a quiet time on my deck in the early morning hours with a steaming cup of coffee in cradled in my hands.

I love the hanging baskets that I see out my kitchen window … the flags flying proudly from nearly every porch in my neighborhood … and I even love the dandelions that audaciously poke their heads up through my well-manicured lawn.

Summertime … I wait for it all year long!

Summer is a time for enjoyment, for growth and for beauty.

Let me share with you how I incorporate all three – enjoyment, growth and beauty – into my summertime routine.

Enjoyment!

First of all, I am determined to enjoy every day of this fleeting season of summer and not to let one gorgeous day fly by without my acknowledgement of it.

I go for long walks outside in the summer warmth and I revel in the glory of God’s creation.

I listen every morning for the birds outside my open windows.

I watch the menagerie of animals that stroll across my backyard in the evening hours … bunny rabbits … very brave chipmunks … sweet mama deer and her twin fawns … and a critter that I have yet to identify!

I water my flowers diligently and find such simple pleasure in snipping off the dying blooms while waiting for the new ones to come alive.

We often eat dinner on the back deck and silently drink in the wonder of God’s brilliant creation known as “summer”.

I enjoy every single day of summer as if it were the last day of summer!

July 5 blog pic 1.jpg


Growth!

Due to the fact that my schedule generally eases up during the summertime, I am also diligent about creating a space for personal growth in my life.

In addition to my daily quiet time, I choose one book of the Bible and just swim in it!  This year – it is the Book of Hebrews.  How I love this epistle whose authorship is still contested to this day. Was it Paul?  Was it Priscilla?  I’m not sure but I know that whoever wrote it knew the God that I know today in the 21st. Century!

I love the strength of Hebrews … and the theology of Hebrews … and the Christ of the book of Hebrews.

“And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the world of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” – Hebrews 1:3

I can barely come up for air as I delve into the depths and richness found in this book that presents history and life from God’s perspective.

I also have a long list of books that I read during the summer. This year my list includes:

Hearts of Fire – The Voice of the Martyrs
The Grave Robber – Batterson
The Making of a Leader by Dr. J. Robert Clinton

Martin Luther by Eric Metaxas
Caroline by Sarah Miller

Now … I don’t just grow intellectually and spiritually during the summer but I also “up” my exercise routine.  Instead of walking a mere 3 miles a day, my goal is 3.5 – 5 miles per sweaty, sizzling day and I love it!!

I also try new recipes during the summer that use fruits and vegetables that are only available during June, July and August.  Here is one of my favorite new recipes that I just discovered on Memorial Day and I have made it 4 times since! Let me know how you like it –

Summer Squash Casserole

12 Cups of Summer Squash cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup chopped sweet onion (I use Vidalia)
2/3 cup of salted butter, divided
1.5 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 eggs beaten well
1 sleeve crushed round butter crackers (Ritz)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 13x9x2 inch baking dish; set aside

Place squash in a 6-quart Dutch oven with enough water to cover. Boil over high heat until fork-tender; approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and drain well. Return squash to Dutch oven but not to stovetop; set aside.

In a small skillet over medium heat, cook onion in 1/3 cup butter until onion is translucent. Pour over cooked squash.

Add sugar, salt, pepper, and eggs to squash. Stir gently to combine.

Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Top with crushed crackers.

Melt remaining 1/3 cup better in the small skillet over low heat. Drizzle over crushed crackers. Bake until golden brown. Approximately 1 hour.

July 5 blog pic 2.jpg


Beauty!

I look around my home and my eyes linger around my yard during these delicious months and I wonder what I can do to make a more beautiful dwelling space around me.

Do I need more throw pillows on the couch?

Could the guest bathroom use a new hand towel or two?

Can I weed around the front tree to make the yard look neater?

Does the back deck need a fresh coat of paint?

Should I plant flowers around the mailbox?

I also look at me and wonder what I can do to improve what people see …

Do I need a new hairstyle? A pedicure?  To lose 10 pounds or more?

Do I need to smile more?  Listen more attentively?

I know that I need to cultivate the fruits of the Spirit to a greater degree … that will certainly make a more beautiful me!

Enjoyment … growth … and beauty! Those are my words of summer!

I hope that you will join me in jumping into summer and splashing in the joy of every hot day with childlike wonder!

Have a watermelon for dinner … buy some popsicles for the neighborhood kids … open your windows so you can hear the song that only summer sings.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

No Matter What

JoyForTheJourney.png

 

I received an interesting Facebook message recently from a friend.  Her message wasn’t really a “message” but it was presented in the format of a question.

This question has been boiling in the crevices of my heart for nearly 3 weeks now and I am not sure that I have been able to answer it yet.

The friend who sent it is a deep thinker, a true disciple and is on a passionate journey to follow Jesus in all seasons of life. Although she is younger than I am, in many ways – I want to be like her.

This is the question that she posed to me –

What does it look like to follow Jesus no matter what?

To answer questions that seem to me to be humanly unanswerable – I always go to the Bible.  I always ask myself, “What does the Bible say about this?”

When I go digging for gold in the mines of the Bible, I always find the wisdom and the heart of God. And this time was no different …

“And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23

If my heart’s desire, this side of heaven, is to follow Jesus then there is a price that I must pay.

The price that I must pay is that I must deny myself and take up my cross daily in order to follow Him.

What in the world does that mean?! It doesn’t sound like much “fun” to me.

And – it sounds pretty expensive if you ask me.  I am not sure that I can afford the price that Jesus is asking me to pay.

If I choose willingly to deny myself does that mean that I will never go shopping again?  That I will never eat another piece of raspberry pie?  That I will never get to go to Hawaii?

And if I take up my cross daily does that imply that every day this side of heaven there is some sort of difficulty that I must carry?

What does it look like to follow Jesus no matter what?!

 

June 28 blog pic 1.jpg

 

I don’t believe that the cross that we are called to take up is exactly like the cross of Jesus Christ.  His cross was a literal one and ours is perhaps, more figurative … our cross is vividly symbolic of the cross of Christ.

Your cross may not look like my cross but we all have one … you can be sure of that.

I think that if I were to define – in general terms – what a modern day cross is … it might sound like this …

Our cross is that difficult thing that we choose to do simply because we belong to Him.

A cross is a choice and you can choose it or not.  It’s up to you.

Your cross may be seen in loving a difficult person … or it may be found in a place that you choose to go even though it is just so hard.

Your cross may be giving up a relationship that is not healthy or holy … or it may be seen in embracing a simpler lifestyle than you would prefer.

Your cross may be found in serving someone or a ministry for which you receive little or no recognition.

Your cross may be discovered in giving generously to Kingdom causes.

What does your cross look like?

Your cross may look like a nation … or a people group … or a lifestyle … or a person.

A cross may be a change in direction … a denial of creature comforts … or a determination to choose joy even in dark circumstances.

As you can imagine, ever since my friend sent me that simple yet profound question, it has been stirring around in the depths of my soul.

And as disturbing as that question has become to me – the follow-up question is even more unsettling …

Am I doing it?  Am I following Jesus no matter what?

For me personally, some of the ways that I have taken up my cross have been to live far away from my children and grandchildren.  They are pursuing God’s will for their lives and I am pursuing God’s will for my life.  We have, as yet, not landed in the same geographical location.

For me personally, it has meant changing my lifestyle in the wake of cancer so that I can live a long time and fulfill my destiny in Christ.  The lifestyle changes have been challenging but a joyful discipline, indeed.

For me personally, “taking up my cross” has meant embracing the socio-economic level that serving in full-time ministry requires.

For me, personally, “taking up my cross” has meant encouraging my husband to work full-time in missions and to spend long periods of time apart.

What does your cross look like?  Are you doing it?

 

June 28 blog pic 2.jpg

 

After my friend asked me that soul-piercing question, she went on to say –

“I was thinking about our mission trip and thought about how many of us had hesitations about going to the other side of the world to serve the people Jesus had called us to serve, and to spread his gospel.

Perhaps out of fear, or being out of our comfort zones, or missing our husbands or children, or taking time off work, or raising the funds to go etc. so many things can discourage the dreams God has given us to complete his purpose in our lives for the kingdom, if we give into the temptation to let discouragement settle upon us and cause us to doubt his plans for us.

However if we pursue him fervently, what blessing follows when we are obedient to his call on our lives. 

Will we be obedient to go wherever he calls us to?

Will be willing to leave our comforts, families, and friends for the sake of advancing the kingdom of heaven?

Will we listen to his still small voice as he calls us to get out of our comfort “boats” and watch as he parts the waters of the stormy seas before our eyes and reach out to the people in this broken and hurting world?

To truly follow Christ is a moment-by-moment decision requiring denial of self and of taking up one’s personal cross.

The blessing is found in the knowing that He is with us as we carry our cross … and He is helping us do it every step of the way.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

The Bucket List

JoyForTheJourney.png

I have never made a bucket list, have you?  At least I don’t remember ever making one.

Now – I have always had things that I wanted to accomplish in my life like …

Writing the books that change a generation …

… Speaking to tens of thousands and telling them about the hope that is found only in Jesus …

… Making a difference for Christ and His Kingdom at my moment in history …

… Raising my children to love the Lord with their whole hearts …

… Building not just a good marriage but a truly great marriage …

… Teaching the Word of God in a way that is powerful, practical and joyful every chance I get for as long as I live …

… Making hell smaller and heaven bigger!

The above list describes goals that I hope to accomplish in my life rather than just experiences that I hope to participate in.

“A generation goes and a generation comes but the earth remains forever.” – Ecclesiastes 1:4

However – a true bucket list of things I want to do and experience while I am still alive and kicking?  I don’t think that I have ever done that.

Have you?

When you look up the phrase “bucket list” in the dictionary – this is what it says:

A list of things a person wants to achieve or experience, as before reaching a certain age or dying.”

I especially liked the definition from the British Dictionary:

A list of experiences one wants to have before one dies.”

And so – I think that it is time.  It’s time to make the expected bucket list.

Will you jump on the bucket list wagon with me?

“I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor – it is the gift of God.” – Ecclesiastes 3:12 & 13

June 21 blog pic 1.jpg

 

Here goes – at last … at the age of 63 … a Bucket List!

1 – To go to Hawaii at least one time before I die and dig my toes in the hot sand. I am sure that I would love it!

2 – To walk where Jesus walked … and to be forever changed.

3 – To go to London and visit the haunts of the classic writers that I have read and loved since childhood. To see the Thames River and the Tower of London. To have a cup of tea where C. S. Lewis used to discuss theology with the great minds of his day.

4 – To take my daughters and daughters-in-law and granddaughters to Prince Edward Island and visit Green Gables.

5 – To teach my grandchildren how to catch fireflies on a summer evening.

6 – To go to a Boston Pops Christmas Concert.

7 – To plan a reunion with the girls of my childhood. To laugh with them over sweet memories, to cry over our girlhood broken hearts and to dream together once again as if we were young and wrinkle-free!

8 – To pray for someone who is ill and to see a physical miracle before my very eyes!

9 – To track down all of my teachers from high school and college.  To thank them for their labor of love and let them know that each one of them made a difference in me.

10 – To draw a chalk masterpiece in my driveway with the grandchildren.

Oh!  And that’s only 10!  Don’t think that I am done yet because I have only just begun!

11 – To go to Vermont and celebrate summer with my husband, my five children, their spouses and all of the grandchildren at least one time before heaven calls my name.

12 – To write a Christmas song that is memorable and instills a childlike joy in the hearts of those who hear it and sing it.

June 21 blog pic 2.jpg

13 – To plan a reunion with my girlfriends from college and go away for three days together.  To talk … to laugh … to cry … to theologize … to pray … to encourage … and to dream again.

14 – To laugh with my granddaughters until we wet our pants. (Everybody needs to do that at least once in a lifetime, right?!)

15 – To take my sons, my son-in-law and my grandsons to the Final Four!  Of course – my husband will be invited as well.

16 – To plant a honeysuckle bush by my bedroom window.

17 – To teach my grandchildren what a wonderful, Godly man my father was.

“A good name is better than good ointment, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.” – Ecclesiastes 7:1

18 – To tell the truth every day.  All the time. Even when it’s hard.  Especially when it’s hard.

19 – To turn every day into Thanksgiving Day – minus the parades and calories, of course!

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His Name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.” – Psalm 100:4-5

20 – To create a beautiful space called “home” for my husband and I to live in the rest of our days.  I’d like to fill it with fresh flowers, life-changing books, the pictures of those we know the best and love the most and, of course, timeless music. 

21 – To play a Chopin waltz so beautifully that it makes my heart hurt.

22 – To pray big, bold prayers that only God can answer.

I think that I will stop there for today.  I don’t want to risk making this all about me and my hopes and my plans and my experiences.

The purpose of this blog has always been about causing you to think … to dream … to pray … to experience … to sing … to remember … and to wring the joy out of an ordinary day.

The purpose of this blog has always been about encouraging you to carry on … to hope … to believe … to live with purpose.

So – I am not sure if that will require you to make a bucket list of your own or not … but honestly … why not?!  Just do it!

Make your own bucket list and determine today to decide what you want the rest of days of your life to look like.

I’d love to hear what’s on your bucket list … as a matter of fact … I dare you!

I dare you to make your own bucket list and then send it to me! I’ll be waiting to hear from you – carol@justjoyministries.com.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

Tug-of-War

JoyForTheJourney.png

Have you ever been in a place in life where you felt you were in a tug-of-war with the God of the universe?!

Come on … surely I am not the only one who has ever felt this way!

Perhaps after weeks of desperate prayer, you are just sure that you are pulling God your way in prayer … but your circumstances never seem to cooperate with your passionate prayer life.

Then – you try something else.  Private prayer hasn’t worked so you will take your case public.

What you do next is go to church. Your worship your heart out and even spend time at the altar. You might feel that at long last you have experienced that infamous break-through and … finally … that little flag on the middle of the massive tug-of-war rope has finally landed on God’s side.  Whew!  God won!

Except on Monday morning … you sneakily inch it back your way.

All week long you find yourself talking to God until you are completely hoarse trying to convince Him why your way is the best way and why it makes the most sense … but it seems like heaven is not listening.

You feel that heaven is not interested in your opinions … your desires … your pain … your preferences … your goals … your hopes … your dreams.

You dramatically beg God to do it your way … but heaven is quiet.

Did I just describe your life?  It’s called … a tug-of-war with God.

Your will vs. His will.

Your plans vs. His plans.

Your hopes vs. His destiny.

Your desires vs. His perfection.

Can I just help you out here? It’s no fun to win when you are in a tug-of-war with God.

No fun at all.

In fact … it rather stinks in the long run of life.

And while you are listening to me … let me give you one more tip and then maybe I’ll be quiet …

You actually shouldn’t be in a tug-of-war with God at all.

O.K. … I’m not going to be quiet yet.  Hang with me for just a few more thoughts.

Every believer must decide whether they are going to enter a tug-of-war with God or not. 

Every believer.

 

June 14 blog pic 1.jpg

It’s inevitable … there comes a moment in life when you have to determine if it is worth it or not.

Abraham had to decide … and God won.

David had to decide … and God won.

Samson had to decide … and God won.

Peter had to decide … and God won.

The odds are on God’s side. If I were a betting woman (and I am not) my money would be on God and not on you.

I have been studying the Book of Job for the past month as I prepare for the next book that I am writing.

Everybody knows who Job is but no one wants to study his life.  We are afraid that what he had might be contagious or something.

What I am discovering is that the Book of Job is a neglected treasure of the Christian life.

Job was in an appalling, hideous, detestable tug-of-war with God.

Job had been an extremely successful man in business and in agriculture.  Not only had he achieved significance in the world’s opinion but even more importantly Job loved God. 

The Bible calls him, “righteous” and “blameless”.

Even so – Job had lost his entire family except his difficult wife was still around to torment him.

Everything that he had worked for his entire life was gone in the blink of an eye.

Everything.

And then – boils appeared all over his body.  Crusty, ugly, oozing, painful boils covered Job from head to toe.

The physical pain was excruciating and the emotional pain was unbearable.

But the worst pain of all was the spiritual pain.

Where was God?!

Where was He?!

Did God even care about Job?

And the tug-of-war between Job and God began in earnest.

Job’s friends were absolutely no help at all – they blamed God and they blamed Job. They were the three stooges of the Old Testament.

Job was desperate to hear from God and to figure out what had happened that made his life implode.

For 39 of the 42 chapters of the Book of Job the tug of war goes on … and on … and on.

But finally – the Lord wins the violent tug-of-war (as He always will) and this is what happened next.

(Let me just give you some inside information here:  You are getting a very small sliver of my next book that is coming out in April of 2019. The next words are taken from the rough draft.  It’s so early in the process that the book doesn’t even have a title yet!)

“I can picture Job sitting there, in the ruins of his life, with his three despicable companions inching away from him. God has spoken and the earth, and all that live therein, are now silent.  Perhaps the silence was awkward for a minute or two but then Job lifted up his head and responded to the call of heaven. Job’s beautiful reply is so poignant and lovely that it is almost painful:

“Then Job answered the Lord and said,

            ‘I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.

            Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.

            Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.

            I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You;

            Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.” – Job 42:1-6

 

June 14 blog pic 2.jpg

 

The refining work was completed in the life of Job! He retracted all that he had spoken out of pain, out of selfish questions and out of understandable human emotions. Job came out of the fire as pure gold because God had completed a work so vast in his heart that he was able to retract and repent. Job spoke plainly and powerfully to the One whom he served and when Job said, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted,” what he was actually stating was, “Not my will, Father, but Your will be done in my life.” Job had laid his earthly agenda down and was ready to partner with His Father in heaven for the rest of his remaining days.”

Do you need to retract your case?  Do you need to repent with Job?

I certainly do … I need to lay my will down at His nail-scarred feet again today.

Not my will, Father, but Your will be done in my life.

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

The Circle of Life

JoyForTheJourney.png

In case you have forgotten this important piece of information about my life or have somehow missed it – my daily walks are nothing if not legendary.

I have had numerous divine appointments with needy, hurting people as I saunter along my 3-mile route in the country.

God has spoken to me through clouds … and through geese … and through the change of seasons … and through my aging body as I trudge along!

My daily walks are the stuff of which dreams are created … prayers are prayed … philosophies are born … and tears are shed.

During the harsh, cold days of winter, I am forced to walk inside my house … basically because I am a wimp and I despise breathing in cold air.

However, as soon as the temperature creeps above 45 degrees or so … you will find me all bundled up and ready to take on my little corner of this great and glorious world!

“How blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! O Lord, they walk in the light of Your countenance.” – Psalm 89:15

On one of my first walks of the season this year it was almost as if I was traveling through time! I was viewing the circle of life from so many different vantage points that I began to giggle at the timing and the creativity of my God.

The first people group that I saw on this particular walk was a young couple pushing a baby in a stroller. 

They were smiling and chatting as the daddy pushed his baby girl around my walking trail.  The baby was just old enough to have discovered her toes; all I saw were two small pink socks gleefully kicking around from the depths of the old-fashioned baby buggy.

All that I heard was joy … pure joy!

The voices of the mommy and daddy were laced with a sweet mixture of contentment and possibility … while the baby chortled at her brilliant pink toes!

I could only imagine what the hopes and dreams of these two parents were for their little girl … and I gave them a wave as we passed by each other from different seasons and different perspectives in life.

If they had asked me for my wisdom … I would have told them how quickly life passes by … and to wring the joy out of an ordinary day … and to read books and sing songs and play games with their little bundle of femininity.

I wanted to tell them to rock her … and to turn off their smart phones … and not to sweat the small stuff.

Oh!  How I ached to be them!

 

June 7 blog pic 1.jpg

 

My heart had just barely gotten over the delight of seeing the young mom and dad when barreling around the next corner came a pig-tailed girl of about 8 or 10.

She was on her purple bike and was practicing riding with no hands. She had freckles dancing across her nose and determination written all over her face.

I wanted to tell this medium-sized bundle of energy to stay innocent as long as possible.

I wanted to encourage her just to be content playing with dolls and sitting on her daddy’s lap.

I wanted to explain to her that there is a singular magic about childhood and that it never comes again.

I wanted to tell her to pick daisies … and to catch fireflies … and to dance in the rain with her sister.

Oh! How I ached to be her!

And then – believe it or not – the next person who came into my view was a teen-age girl with earbuds in and … let me tell you … this girl was jogging hard!  She had worked up a mighty sweat and was intent on one thing … going fast and finishing strong!

I wonder if she had the Olympics in her heart –

This teen-ager was a lean, mean running machine and I quickly stepped to the side so that she could fly right by me.

I almost turned around and tapped her on the shoulder so that I could tell her to choose her friends wisely … to dream gargantuan dreams … and to save herself for marriage.

I wanted to see if she would meet me for coffee so that I could listen to her heart and then sweetly coach her to be kind to her parents … to read great books … and to reach out to someone at her school who was struggling.

This girl was gorgeous … skinny … and motivated.

And I wanted to tell her that “having it all” doesn’t meant that you’ve got what it takes to build a meaningful life.

A meaningful and significant life comes from generosity … from diligence … and from gratitude.

But she flew by me and never even attempted to make eye contact with me.

Oh! How I ached to be her!

 

June 7 blog pic 2.jpg
And finally … on this early Spring walk that had just about drained every bit of emotional stamina out of my heart … I saw him.

I had seen him last year on my walks and, frankly, I wondered if he was still alive.

He was an elderly gentleman and one side of his body was obviously weakened.  He held his left arm at a strange angle and dragged his left foot as he walked.

He was never alone but always had someone with him.  His companion often changed … sometimes I wondered if it was his daughter … other times I assumed that perhaps it was a nurse or an aide.

My walking trail of choice has benches interspersed along the way and this kindly and persevering man stopped at every one – just to catch his breath it seemed.

Perhaps he stopped to enjoy the sound of the geese squawking and the birds’ singing.

Perhaps he wanted to drink it all in – this treasure of life that has been so grandly bestowed upon us, the created.

“The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it.” – Psalm 24:1

We made eye contact that early spring day and paused for a minute to exchange pleasantries,

My first question to him just sort of popped out, “How was your winter?”

(Now mind you, I don’t even know his name!)

“It was long and cold,” he replied with a twinkle in his eye.  I could imagine that he had been quite the handful as a young boy!

I continued my conversation by asking the all-inclusive, all-convenient question of,

“Well … How are you doing?”

He responded in his weakened voice, “Not too bad for an old guy …”

I could sense at this point that his companion wanted to move on along so I ended our short conversation by simply saying, “It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?”

And as he started to walk away from me, he barely turned his head and whispered just loud enough for me to hear, “Everyday is a beautiful day!”

Oh!  How I ached to live well!

“Then Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people.” – Genesis 25:8

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

%d bloggers like this: