Parties & Prayer

Last night, I stood still, amidst hundreds of students all proclaiming their praise & confession to the Lord.  We prayed for those who are lost, seeking & struggling.  For those who do not yet know Truth.  Outside the building where we gathered, a deep pounding surged through to our ears, just across the street were parties, with probably the same amount of students, but not gathered for the same purpose.  They were there, doing whatever felt right to satisfy them for the moment.  But at the end of the night, where would they end up?  I met a few who wandered through our doors after the evening had ended.  They were looking for something…..it didn’t matter what, they just wanted to be a part of something.  While talking with them, my heart ached for them to be a part of our family…of God’s family.  If only they could understand that they mattered, that God loved them, that we loved them, and that there was purpose for their life.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

The seeking, searching, aching and dizzying path of these students compels me to pray that someday soon they can understand fully the grace of God that has been extended towards them, and that there is a way of peace & joy, found only in the Lord.  Will you join me in this prayer?

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A Christmas Hope

This past week, my Papa & I were asked to sing Christmas carols at a local assisted living home.  We accepted the invitation, and began to choose songs that we wanted to share.  He would play the mandolin, and we would both sing.  We thought how nice it would be to have my younger brother play his guitar with us, and thought he probably wouldn’t want to but we asked anyway.  You see, because my mom was such a support to Tyler & his music, he hasn’t really wanted to pick up his guitar since she passed away.  It was an absolutely delightful shock to me to hear that he wanted to play with us!  I was so happy!

We stood up in front of the older crowd of residents, barely having practiced singing together except for the five minutes prior, and began to sing.  My dad would tie in meanings of Christmas and thoughts from the carols we’d sing.  During one of the first songs, we sang something about the angels singing with us, or seeing us from afar.  At that moment, I imagined my mom crying in heaven, not with sadness but with delight, to see the three of us together, singing & playing music together.  I thought about how happy she would have been to hear us all together, and how pleased she would be that we didn’t pass on singing.

This all led to another thought….one of hope.  I wanted to have my mom with me so quick right then, pinching back tears that screamed to be set free from the confines of my eyes.  Yet in that same instant, the hope arose that I will see her again soon, and it is because of the birth that we were singing about that I could have that hope.  It was a future hope of a fulfilled promise.  A promise God revealed many thousands of years ago, that was brought to fulfillment through the birth of Christ.

Through the Spirit, Mary a humble girl said “yes” to doing God’s will, for waiting on Him to provide a miracle through her.  An unsettling situation to be sure, she waited with hope that God would be true to His word once again.  When Jesus was born a joy filled her & spilled out to each of us through the Son. We can have joy in the hope that His birth proclaims.  There is now a way for us to be joined to the Father.  What a thing to celebrate, what an act of love, bringing joyful hope to a people stirred with unrest.

His birth brought love to the world, joy to the heart, hope to the mind and peace to our soul.  Though some days we all feel unloved, discouraged, defeated & distressed, we can know that God LOVES us, and because of that love we can find JOY because God gave PEACE to our tormented souls, which reminds us of the HOPE that Christ’s birth brings.  So this Christmas, let’s celebrate, I mean REALLY celebrate, not only the birth of Christ, but everything that His birth represents!

A quiet Joy

In the past two years, there have been multiple things that have upset the flow of my life.  Some would say this just IS life….the constant upsetting, twisting, lurching, occasional lull and then surprises once again.  I agree with this, but I think you know what I mean when you feel like your “nice little life” is turned upside down!  Even though crazy things are what make up our life, somewhere we feel like…..it’s the “normal” days that should comprise the most of it? I don’t know if this makes sense….but stick with me.

I’ve been challenged to look at joy in my life, and here is what I can say….for those of you reading who don’t know me well, in 2008 my dear friend gave her life trying to save another camper, and both died tragically over a large waterfall…a few months later, my grandma passed away after a 5 year fight against cancer…a few months after that, my dad had triple by-pass surgery following a motorcycle accident…and a few months after that, my mom was diagnosed with Leukemia…leading to this March, when she met Jesus at home in heaven.  That’s part of my backstory…I’m not telling you this so that you pity me, or on the flip say…she has no idea what kind of pain I’ve been through, I just want you to know that I can to some extent say with assurance that I can empathize with pain…and we can be connected through that. These trials are not the things that make me unique, nor does it for anyone else….but it is the way we respond to these situations that really define who we are, and what we are made of. ….so back to Joy….

“Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help. You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.” (Psalm 30:10-12)

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (Psalm 51:12)

Joy to me, is the confidence I have in knowing that God, the eternal and all knowing, all powerful God will sustain me throughout whatever trials must be faced on this earth.  Having this trust in his unfailing mercy, brings me joy….understanding that though times can be tough, He is still faithful, He is still strong, He will sustain me and hold me up when I feel like falling.  This joy is freedom in Christ, knowing that when I cannot make it, He will continue the work that he began in me.  It is not something that I can do, or stir up, or make grow inside of me….it is something that God reminds me of at the right moment of need…He reminds me that I am not alone, and that there is hope for a future in Him and in that hope I can find joy because my present moment is not the end…it’s not final and God will be with me in every situation, at every moment….forever.

This to me, is how joy is seen.  It is in the reassurance of God’s unfailing love that I am able to relax in His arms and revel in joy despite the raging seas pounding against my soul.  His joy will give me strength.

“Praise be to the Lord, for He has heard my cry for mercy. The Lord is my strength and shield; my heart trusts in Him and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song. The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of his salvation for his Anointed one.” (Psalm 28:6-8)

Bunches of Goodness

This morning, I’m sitting here, jumping for joy on the inside, bursting with something. It’s like…the last few days have been SO good, SO much better than previous ones. Yet what I know to be true is that despite the amazing things that have been happening around me & the fun things I’ve been doing, it’s not THAT that is supplying my energy. It is the in-explainable joy that comes from knowing that my future & freedom is all in God’s hands.

Paul prayed that this would happen for us, “so that Christ may dwell in (our) hearts through faith. And (he) prayed that (we) being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide & long & high & deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that (we) may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” –Ephesians 3:17-19

…and we know that this prayer would be answered because “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful & effective.” –James 5:16b It is effective, and felt beyond the realm of time. How would Paul know that we would need this prayer so much? He helps us to realize that the power of the Holy Spirit will meet us where we are through those who pray for us when he writes in 2 Corinthians 9:14, “and in their prayers for you, their heart will go out to you because of the surpassing grace God has given you.”

God is answering their prayer, and giving us a bold & fresh faith. One that is not easily overcome. Still, knowing that we have this power through Him, we must hear him & open the doors to our heart, so that we can be cleansed & prepared to defend our faith to those who come with questions & challenge us. “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” –1 Peter 3:15

We can be confident that the prayers of the righteous will be fulfilled by God, & that we can walk in that confidence because we “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.” –Deuteronomy 7:9

Walk in boldness, gather all the confident joy you can muster from the bunches of ways that God pours out his goodness through his Grace, as answers to the prayers of many and rejoice in Him.

Get away, Get deep

‘A vacation is what I need to get away, to escape, to heal.’ At least that’s what I unconsciously told myself, convincing my heart that this time away would bring me the peace that I so desperately sought. Naively I believed myself, and didn’t think one thing about it not being even 1 percent truth.

It was just about two weeks ago that I remembered a deep truth in my heart…that my life situations are what they are, yet only I have the choice in whether I live in them or truly live because of them. Living not in depth of despair, but out of the depths into the light of our Heavenly Father. Taking those changes & seeing where God wants me to go with them. Joy has always been something that God has blessed me with, and it has been so obvious through past hardships, but in the last few months I viciously pushed it away…I really just didn’t WANT to be joyful, or happy. ‘I’ll be happy when I go to Ireland, that’ll make me happy. I’ll change then, just not now.’

It was only a few days ago that I subtly realized this, and realized that my renewed joy was from the refreshing rediscovery of the fact that it is not a new land that will give me peace, not a new surrounding, not new pictures or meeting new people. Peace would not come from getting away, from writing for days or reading a new book in a far off place, far away from the troubles of this world….no, peace came from the One who is the author & perfecter of our peace. It is the JOY that He alone can bring to my heart. Only through Him will I be able to find sustenance to bring me through another day, hopefully more after that too.

It was then that I pondered, ‘Where IS my hope? is it in this “trip” that I’m heading out on, or is it in Christ?’ I had to admit that most of my faith was that Ireland would be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow….the promise after the rain. However, it will not be that for me, for I have found my joy…the rainbow that God gave me when He adopted me.

Ireland will not be a place that will bring me peace, but a land that will hopefully give me space to feel & meet God in a new way that I wouldn’t before. For it is ONLY in him that I can rest.