Category Archives: Belief

Joy, Where Are You?

Some mornings I can barely find the energy to get out of bed. I’m exhausted and worn out and in pain and I simply don’t want to do anything but lay there. This morning was one of those mornings. My alarm clock (AKA, my children) started screaming in my ears and I had to get up and face the world. Before I could even get out of bed, the girls were already dressed for church and chattering in their fastest, most excited voices about what they might do at church today. So, begrudgingly, I got up, showered, and got ready for church.
And I’m glad I did. 

We sang some of my favorite Christmas songs, which immediately lifted my mood a bit.

  

“I rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel has come to thee, O Israel.”

Today’s sermon was titled, “Joy” and based on Luke 2:8-20. My first thought, from anxious and depressed mind was, “oh great, joy. That’s the last thing I want to talk about right now.” But that’s exactly why I needed to hear it. 

Luke‬ ‭2:8-20‬ ‭ESV

“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 

“Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

So apparently, joy is command. My pastor opened up the sermon with that and all I could think was, “great, we’re starting the morning off with something I suck at.” But as he kept talking, I understood it more. God doesn’t want me to have fake joy, like the fake smile I tend to plaster on my face when I tell everyone I’m doing great. But God wants me to a real, genuine joy – the kind that only He can give me; the kind that comes from being awestruck by an amazing God. 

  

Let me be real here for a minute, the last few weeks I have been stuck in a cycle of sadness and feeling sorry for myself. I’m having brain surgery in four days and I’m scared – really scared, about all the “what ifs” and things that could possibly go wrong. I really haven’t felt much joy at all. I haven’t been praying. I haven’t been reading my Bible. I’ve just been quietly simmering with anger at God for not making me healthy. But the more I’ve ignored God, the worse I’ve felt. The more I’ve pushed Him away, the angrier I’ve gotten. My joy has been nonexistent.

I feel like an outsider in this world, like I just don’t belong anywhere. I have some wonderful friends and great church family – but often, I just feel different, like I don’t fit in with anyone. I feel lost. My pastor’s first point today was that joy is for the outsiders. We explained how God sent His angels to the shepherds, of all people. He could’ve sent the angels to someone powerful, like a king or ruler, but He didn’t. He sent them to shepherds – to the outsiders. 

In the same way, in our current society, God doesn’t come only for the “insiders.” He doesn’t come just for the powerful and popular – He comes for the outsiders. But here’s the thing, if you really think about it – we’re all outsiders. None of us in this world are insiders; we are all OUTSIDE of Heaven. And my pastor made a good point, even the people who I look at and think have it together and appear to fit in so well – even they struggle with feeling like outsiders, it simply part of being human. And we all feel like no one else feels the way we do so none of us talk about it; but if we did, we would know we weren’t alone. 

  

So in acknowledging that others feel like outsiders as well and many of us never speak of it, how well do I reflect God to others? How well do I reflect God’s love to those who feel like they don’t belong?

The second point that my pastor made today was that joy comes from Heaven. We don’t create joy from within ourselves. I can be sad or depressed or going through a rough time and still feel joy in my heart. God is perfect and Holy and separate from us, but He is also imminent and close through Jesus. 

The glory and power of God reassuring, but it should also leave a healthy fear in us. When the angels came to the shepherds, they were scared because they felt unworthy of their holiness. But the angels told them not to be afraid, for they had new that would bring great joy. The birth of Jesus brings us joy by reminding us that even though we may be going through a rough time now, even though we’re scared, even though we feel lost, even though life is hard – a savior has come to save us. 
How much different would my life be if I believed, I mean rally believed deep in my heart, that Jesus came down from Heaven for me? 

  

Lastly, my pastor touched on having joy in the valley – this was, I felt, the most fitting part for me today. I’ve had “mountaintop experiences” – times where God’s love and glory are so apparent that I am in awe and filled with joy. The goal is to live out the joy from those mountain top experiences while we’re in the valley. God wants me to treasure His words in my heart and live my life in faith. It doesn’t sounds THAT difficult. But when you’re in the valley, it’s easy to get caught up in the negative – the fear, worry, pain, and anxiety. But God calls us to remember the things we know to be true, to remember the mountaintop, remember what His closeness feels like – those are the things that will bring us joy in the valley. 

Each day that God gives me in a gift and I should rejoice in every day – even the days when I’m in the valley. 

So let me rephrase my current thoughts and worries…

  

I’m having brain surgery in four days. I may be scared, but even if the worst happens – if I were to die, I would go Home to Jesus and have no more pain. If it’s successful, I will stop going blind and my vision will be saved. If something goes wrong and I come out of surgery with some type of disability, God will use that to glorify Him. I am scared and I really don’t want to go through with it. But just like He always does, God has me in the palm of His hand and whatever happens will not be a surprise to Him, He already knows and He will care for and provide for me no matter what.

I simply need to trust Him and find my joy in Him, not in this world.

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7-in-7 Day 5: Almost Within Reach

I want to tell a story
Of the power of grace
You may not believe it
But I’ll tell it anyway
At one time I thought
I could be good enough by myself
I didn’t need Jesus
Or anyone else

You see, not long ago
I was lost in this world
Broken by shame
I was a scared little girl
A smile on my face
Would tell the world I was fine
But the shame in my heart
Would tell me that I’m lying
I had endured abuse
And tried to take my own life
I had heard talk of God
But didn’t believe the hype
If He was so great
Why were my arms lined with scars
If He was so loving
Why was I falling apart

So I just kept on reaching
For the next thing I would need
To be happy, find peace
As I watched my soul bleed
At some point I would find it
Joy, love, and peace
If I would only try harder
It was almost within reach

“Almost within reach”
That’s a funny thing to say
It means the same thing as
“It’s too far away”

My mind was convinced
That I could fix all my problems
I didn’t really need to face it
In order to solve them
I could push them away
And ignore the burning pain
That rose in my heart
With the break of each day
It was almost within reach
I had almost achieved it
I was almost enough
I really couldn’t believe it

“Almost within reach”
Means I’d still fall on my face
When I jumped out to grab it
I’d land in a pool of mistakes
If I had only tried harder
If I had just been better
I’ll reach it one day
I’ll just try over

What was I reaching for?
What did I want to achieve?
Every time I thought I made it
I still landed on my knees
Peace, that’s what I wanted
Peace in my heart
Peace that would stay
In spite of my scars

That’s when I met grace
It was “almost within reach”
Almost, but too far
So God reached out for me
He said, “this is yours,
Stop trying to earn it.
Let me love you where you are
And you can have it.
You are a sinner
You can’t be good enough
But if you’re willing to see it
I’ll show you true love.
Look at the cross
And the love that was shown.
My Only Son gave His life
To make you my own.
To you, new life is given
It is freely yours
Only because Jesus died
To conquer the war.”

New life, grace, mercy?
What exactly did that mean?
Could I really stop trying?
Could I really “just be”?
The answer was yes
That’s all He wanted from me
God simply wanted
To give my soul peace

“Almost within reach”
Was always a lie
Peace couldn’t come
From clinging to my life

I don’t pretend to understand
Why God is who He is
I can’t fathom His greatness
All I need to know is this –
I’m not who I was
His grace changed my heart
Jesus loves me, He saved me
And He’s healing my scars
Day after day
His mercies renew
And day after day
I find peace in the truth


7-in-7 Day 2: When Memories Aren’t Real

Memories are funny
Like an image in your brain
They play over and over
Bringing tears of joy and pain
The moments are long gone
But somethings, you can’t forget
The good, the bad, the ugly
Images forever in your head
Some memories are joyous
And some are sharp with grief
Either way they ask a question
Where’s the root of your belief?

What do you remember?
What do you call truth?
Do you ever stop a wonder
If you got truth and lie confused?
We remember things we’ve seen
Things we’ve said and done
But our feeble minds aren’t perfect
And memories can come undone
What was it she said?
What was it that you saw?
Can you really trust a mind
That’s deeply prone to flaw?

Our memories can change
And we can’t recall the past
Some things we can see clearly
Some things we can’t get back
Our memories aren’t always true
That’s the wonder of our brains
They function in a way
To help us fill in the blanks

So where is your belief?
In the things you think and feel?
Or do you trust a God who’s unchanging
Who’s love is boldly real


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