Tag Archives: joy

Bark Unto the Lord

In this day in age there are not many shepherds, so it may be difficult for us to imagine the Lord as our shepherd. One thing we probably can relate to, however, is owning a pet. Let’s just skip owning a cat because we don’t really want to use cats as role models for following…they kind of lack the ability to follow unless a bowl of fish is involved.

When asked to meditate on Psalm 23 this last Sunday I recalled a photo my sister posted of her dog Bruiser. A few things you must know about Bruiser is that he is a crazy hyper, little Min Pin with giant ears (now you know why they are usually clipped) and enormous adoration for my sister and niece. He just cannot get enough attention from his human family, which was even documented on a video my sister shot of him lying on the bed. His tail would slowly wag, but as soon as she would glance his way his tail will bounce from side to side like a metronome set to the fastest tempo.

Psalm 23 describes a person through the metaphor of a sheep, following God and obeying Him, and in turn receiving many blessings, even in times of hardship. Don’t you know, that even when Bruiser is punished he knows a treat is soon coming. Even when he doesn’t know where my sister is taking him, he doesn’t fear because she is with him and has his best interest in mind. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” Why should we fear if it’s just a shadow? Because we don’t realize it is? Bruiser trusts that my sister knows the difference between a shadow and the real thing.

My point is, if a little min pin with attitude can trust and obey and reap great rewards in doing so, how much more can we? And how much more will God provide great rewards?

When I shared this with my sister she shared about a message she recently heard from some pastor friends who travel the U.S. preaching the gospel (or gossip as one of my Sunday School students said). Their dog takes part in their ministry, and recently they had to take the dog to the vet. When looking at the dog’s eyes they noticed a cataract in the shape of a heart. The vet told them that the dog’s vision is now heart-shaped. Dogs constantly keep an eye on their master. They are curious and hopeful creatures, begging for more when you’ve given all the treats. Isn’t that the way we are? When we see through the lens of love, we see that all we have is enough, and all we need is our Master.

It is not often I write about pets because I don’t have any of my own. Not many landlords in the Bay Area allow pets, but I get to enjoy others’ pets and they truly teach me so much. Every moment has the potential for joy, hope, anticipation, forgiveness, the list could go on and on, but in our humanness we forget the simplicity of all of it. This week I hope you feel free to pant for God’s attention and follow His every step. You are sure to receive many treats.

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A Day with My Lover

As the eldest of three sisters and still single at nearly 34 years of age, I experience both real and assumed pressure to walk down the aisle sometime this century. Some people beat around the bush, and others just blurt it out, “Are you ever going to get married?”

Well, first off, getting married is not a one-person decision, neither is it a two-person decision, but a bride, groom, and God decision. When people ask me if I’m ever going to get married I feel like screaming! When has it ever been okay to ask a barren woman when she will ever have children? Don’t you think if I had a choice in the matter that I would get you off my back in an instant if I could?

Sometimes, however, no one has said anything, but I just feel a pressure to not be single anymore, to give my parents the grandchildren that they want so very much, but again, it is not my choice. Sure there are things I could have done differently in life that may have gotten me hitched, but I can’t change the past now. Fortunately God has given me so many other reasons to live and enjoy His creation. Believe it or not, world, life goes on even when you are single, and life can go on down in the dumps or happily jumping in the puddles while the storm blows through.

Yesterday I missed my friends’ wedding because I didn’t want to face the questions of why I am still single. That’s sad. I instead slept in, had church at home in the peacefulness of my living room while listening to the choir at the church next door belt out hymns (talk about making a joyful noise!), sang some worship songs of my own (well, not my own), read the word, and prayed and listened. You know what? After I prayed, asking God if I should go to my friends’ wedding, telling Him my fears of judgment, and listened quietly, all I heard was God’s perfect peace telling me to just rest in His goodness. There would be enough guests to celebrate with my friends, and without me there would surely be more food for them. At that moment I was feeling the joy of being with my Heavenly Lover, and He knew that was all I needed. Plus I knew my friends would understand.

Instead of saying someday God will give me all I wish for, I say I wish for all that God has for me because He’s already given me more than I deserve, more than I wished for…and that was exactly what I needed to feel yesterday, today, and forever. I’ve spent the last several weeks feeling like the future was too far away, but it’s true what they say, the present is a gift (or a present).

Heavenly Father, I thank You that You understand my every need. You know when to make me rest and when to get me up moving around, serving others. You give me strength in my weakness, and wealth of spirit when I am poor in spirit. Sometimes You let me suffer, but You always rescue me before I fall to pieces. You catch me in Your arms, not only like a father catches his child, but like a groom carries his bride. Thank You for Your gentleness, Your mercy, and Your grace. Even when I have forgotten all You have given me, You still give me more. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Have you ever had a special day with Jesus that you would like to share?

Also, I just want to take this opportunity to wish my friend Maura a very happy birthday. Thanks for always reading my blog.

Manaoag Church, Philippines

Some of the Happiest People

I have been out of the country for the past couple weeks visiting the Philippines and Guam, my first time out of the country, so some might say that I had a case of culture shock. The Philippines is a beautiful place, full of lush green landscape, Spanish-era churches, gorgeous beaches, and rolling mountains. Because PI is a third world country there are some harsher realities hiding behind the country’s natural beauty.

As my boyfriend and I were staying in a rural area, most of the attractions were over an hour away, meaning long car rides through both rural and urban areas. No matter where we went it was evident that poverty was widespread, and that resources were limited. My natural instinct is to get angry at the circumstances. I am passionate about justice, but I’m not always sure of how to act on it. While I have been back from the Philippines for several days now, I still struggle with how I can help their dire conditions. I’ve researched charities, orphanages, etc. It’s hard to navigate giving to a people with so many needs. While I work on a giving plan for the rest of the year, I am also researching the culture itself.

I ran across a wonderful stationary shop while I was in the Philippines called Papemelroti. Here I bought many gifts, along with a set of cards, each with a Philippine fact. Flipping through the cards last night I saw one that surprised me. Filipinos are among the happiest people in the world despite their level of poverty. Americans have just emptied their wallets in the spirit of a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, but how many of us are truly happy, joyful, even hopeful.

On our way to Baguio City on a Sunday afternoon we quickly pulled over to visit Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag Church. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had never seen so many people packed into a church and church grounds. The place was swarming with people of all ages crowding in to hear the sermon and to be healed. Despite the number of disabled, sick, and even physically deformed by tumor and disease, the emotion there was overwhelmingly joyful. People gathered at the shrine to light a candle for healing. I lit two, one for each of my parents. And while there were sinful things happening just outside the gates, all was forgotten in the presence of Jesus and the hope for a better life.

The lesson we so often miss or forget is that our happiness is found at His feet no matter the number on our paycheck or whether we even have a paycheck. It is found where two or three are gathered to honor our Lord Jesus Christ.

If you’d like to help the impoverished of the Philippines, please stay tuned. I will be posting links to ways you can help, but in the meantime think about the source of your happiness. How does it dictate how you spend your time?

The Down Pour

The last few days I have felt hit by the flood of rumors regarding a storm headed for the Bay Area. My gut reaction is to shrink the issue. ‘The weather report is never right. What do they know?!?!’
Sure the storm wasn’t hurricane status, but there were flash floods on freeways and local city streets. This reminds me of when I was much younger Christian, and I would hear people talk about the Holy Spirit. I thought to myself, ‘It couldn’t be as amazing as they say. What do they know?!?!’ Guess what. They knew! The Holy Spirit forecast is that of sweeping transformation in your life and overflowing joy.
There is a reason people refer to the Holy Spirit raining down, even flooding your soul. It’s because you feel soaked, you feel filled to the brim, you feel the skies have opened, and that you are experiencing a flash flood in your soul.

God, we thank you that you give us the sensory experience of a storm, a down pour, so that we can know how much more you give us through your Holy Spirit. Just as the rain nourishes the crops, so you nourish our souls. Amen.

33 going on 3

When I was a child I used to imagine that there was a machine that recorded my every thought. If every thought were recorded since my birth I would probably be in prison for life. Thank you, God, for not playing back the audio for the whole wide world to hear. Despite a child’s declaration that they hate you and never want you as their parent, sister, friend, ever again, overall their minds seem quite innocent.

I visited some friends of mine in Portland a couple weeks ago. My friend there has two daughters; 6 and 9 (I think). They are just full of wonder, but I can already see that the 9-year-old is already losing that sense. She’s already not asking as many question, much to the relief of their mother, I’m sure, but her imagination is still quite vibrant. If you enjoy children like I do, you travel into their childhood with them just being in their presence. You experience the joy of discovering new and exciting things. You roll on the floor laughing as they exclaim, “Nobody puts deodorant in their armpits! That’s for your face!” You giggle along with them as you tickle their toes, and you can’t help but smile as you watch them soundly sleep.

God created man in his image, and that to me says that God is joyful, good humored, excited, and quick to forgive just the same as children. Yes, he is all-knowing, but he is also innocent. He is sin-free, and therefore, he experiences these fearless emotions that the very young experience. When we repent of our sins we not only know they are forgiven, but we get to experience this holy freedom that comes with slates wiped clean, new beginnings, the wonder of discovery, and renewed innocence.

Repent of your sins now, known and unknown. Let God search your heart of those sins unseen. Then go discovery something new or discovery something again as if you never knew it existed. Smell a rose, climb a mountain, turn over a stone, call a long-lost friend. Experience the air with new breath, for you are sanctified.

“Shake” by Mercyme on their “Welcome to the New” album
© 2014 Fair Trade / Columbia
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Find What Frees You

My mom refills her feeder twice a day. Shouldn't we be slurping up the Spirit?

My mom refills her feeder twice a day. Shouldn’t we be slurping up the Spirit instead of chomping on worry?

In our everyday lives we experience ups and downs, but as we experience them we often don’t consider their root cause. I have recently reached a three-year goal of becoming debt-free, and now I am embarking on a new challenge of tackling a life long struggle with stress-management. Since my financial plan worked so well, I am going to use the same ideas from that curriculum to develop my own stress-free plan.

The first step in my financial plan was taking an inventory of my spending for one or two months to find out where my money was going. In the same way, I will take an inventory of my energy. Where am I spending my energy? To do this I have begun using green and pink index cards. I record particularly relaxing moments on the green index cards and particularly stressful moments on my pink cards. At the end of this first inventory period I should have encountered many of each experience. I will collect the pink cards and match them up with scriptures that bring truth, clarity, and perspective to that stressful moment. With these recorded in such a practical manner I will be able to refer to them as they come up again during daily life. Will I encounter new stressors in my life?  Of course I will, but God’s Word can be applied to any life circumstance.

I hope that this technique will inspire me to seek God’s truth in times of tension, and to live a life of complete spiritual freedom. I will keep you informed of my progress and any tweaks I apply to my technique.

And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith! And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.”

Luke 12:22-32

In all circumstances I will not be afraid, I will not worry, but seek His kingdom, and all these things will be added to me. Join me on my journey to becoming stress-free.

“More Heart, Less Attack”
Needtobreathe

Be the light in the crack
Be the one that’s been there on a camel’s back
Slow to anger quick to laugh
Be more heart and less attackBe the wheels not the track
Be the wanderer that’s coming back
Leave the past right where it’s at
Be more heart and less attackThe more you take the less you have
Cuz it’s you in the mirror staring back
Quick to let go slow to react
Be more heart and less attackEver growing steadfast
And if need be the one that’s in the gap
Be the never turning back
Twice the heart any man could haveBe the wheels not the track
Be the wanderer that’s coming back
Leave the past right where it’s at
Be more heart and less attack
Be more heart and less attack
Be more heart and less attackI stuck my hat out I caught the rain drops
I drank the water I felt my veins block
I’m nearly sanctified I’m nearly broken
I’m down the river I’m near the openI stuck my hat out I caught the rain drops
I drank the water I felt my veins block
I’m near the sanctified I’m near broken
I’m down the river I’m near the open

I’m down the river to where I’m going

 

Leaving the Rut Behind

Stuck in a rut? Every couple of years, sometimes more often, I feel stuck in a rut. While meeting with a friend one day she asked me, “If you don’t like what you do right now, then what do you want to do? What would be your ideal job?” I described my top four or five things I enjoy doing, and suddenly I paused and said with surprise, “So I just described my current job.” Why do we become so dissatisfied with our circumstances, especially our jobs or our families, when often they are exactly what we want and need?

I heard my pastor tell the story of a young man who met a beautiful woman. Her skin was perfectly flawless, like an angel. The way she dressed was so chic and attractive. Her elegance took his breath away. Of course this attraction swept him off his feet. He immediately fell in love with her. The young couple got married, but soon after the man began questioning why his wife spent so much money on clothing and cosmetics. She always had to have the latest fashions and skin care treatments. His paychecks would have been better off going straight to the salons she visited on a weekly basis. Frustrated with his wife the man went to his pastor. Surely his pastor would advise him to correct his wife’s behavior, or better yet, tell him to file for divorce. After hearing all his marital woes, the pastor asked the man, “Why did you fall in love with your wife?” The man replied, “Because she was beautiful like an angel with flawless skin and elegant style.” The pastor persisted, “Is she still beautiful and elegant with flawless skin?” “Yes, she is,” the man replied. His pastor continued, “If your wife has not changed, who has?”

This was pretty much the question my friend asked me while discussing my discontent with my job. My response, in hindsight, was a poor excuse for a response. I basically fumbled for a decent reply to her question. Some of it made sense, but it basically comes down to losing sight of my purpose there. Today brought just one of many profound reminders of my purpose. In the afternoon I always await the smiling face of my coworker at the door of my office. She usually has something encouraging to say, and today was one of the best afternoon encouragement nuggets I’ve had in a long time. She told me how she’s experiencing God’s joy in her life even after recently struggling with some hard life changes, and for a few moments I loved my job. If I were to keep my eyes on Him even when my coworker’s smiling face was not at my door, I would always experience joy at my job, no matter the circumstances.

Is there an area in your life where you are experiencing discontent? Examine the reasoning behind it. Perhaps it is not your job or your spouse that has changed, but your focus that has changed. It’s not too late. Hit the reset button before bitterness and depression set in. This prayer will help you reset your thinking. Continue praying each morning, and celebrating God’s goodness and grace. You are sure to see a shift in your focus and in your joy.

Heavenly Father, help us to see the world through your eyes. May we no longer look through the lens of the world, but through the lens of Love. May we think of whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, any excellence, anything worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). When our focus is on You, the embodiment of love, our focus is to love. When we love we cannot help but experience joy and peace that passes all understanding. Fill our hearts today with the Holy Spirit, that we would give from the overflow. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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