Saturday, February 29, 2020

How to Find Joy in the Journey

Have you ever chosen a word for the year? A word you want to feel, to show, to experience?

“Joy” is my word for 2020. I even found a “JOY” plaque to hang by my computer.

At this age and stage, “joy” is not always easy to come by. Where is the joy when, as Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes, “the strong men stoop,” “windows grow dim,” and “the sound of grinding fades”? In other words, our shoulders droop, we lose our eyesight, our hearing and so much more. Where is the joy in that? But the better question is, where is God in that?

In my season as a young mother, joy came from watching first steps, hearing first words, cheering Ted and Terry on at milestones—games, birthdays, confirmations. Frustrated by the challenges of child rearing, I sometimes read Psalms and at times even cried as I prayed with the psalmist. But the time spent praying and reading God’s Word brought me into God’s Presence, quieted my spirit and strengthened me to wipe runny noses and settle sibling squabbles. In God’s Presence, I found joy.

More tears came during years of grief that followed the death of our infant daughter. What happened? Why? I memorized Psalm 42. The psalmist wrote of feeling “downcast,” yet he would “hope in God.” The psalmist wrote of feeling settled one minute and broken the next. That’s grief. While I didn’t feel “joyous,” I felt peace as I determined better to know the God of the psalmist.

In my season of working as a director of Christian education, I found joy in serving God in His house. The psalmist wrote: “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord (Psalm 84:1-2). The joy of serving God’s people, leading, organizing, encouraging. What a privilege.

That was followed by a season of searching. I had prepared myself for Christian ministry. What could I now do since I was no longer employed? I pasted a verse to the front of my computer and enrolled in journalism courses. “I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). That verse fostered joy in my heart.

As my family grew there was the joy of watching sons find spouses and establish homes. Then of welcoming grandchildren into the family, hosting sleepovers. That joy was sometimes tamped down with illnesses and conflicting schedules that kept us too busy to connect, but those have been fun years that continue—with joy.

As I searched for direction, I discovered the joy of writing and then of publishing a book, which led to the joy of speaking with Kim and Janine as Friends of the Heart. That too poses challenges as we match schedules with invitations and travel to events. But there’s great joy in watching women deepen relationships with God.

Now Bill and I experience the senior years. Some tasks that used to be so easy require all the energy we can muster. Joy now comes from watching cardinals flitting around the birdfeeder, deer running through the woods. From eating crab cakes at The Wooden Nickel. Then there is the deep peace and joy that comes from journeying together through 58 years of marriage, through watching my family grow and most of all through seeing the faithfulness of God at every single turn of events.

Where is God in all this? God is right where he is at every season of life. And He alone is the source of our joy. “In thy Presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). I memorized that verse along with children I taught in Good News Club many years ago. And it’s true. We may not always be happy, but we can always, always, find joy in Christ.

Of course there are discouraging days as we wrestle with everything from colds to cancer. But then I remember my word for the year—joy—and, as I read God’s word and pray, I find joy and strength for the day. Joy depends on your view of God, not on your circumstances.

Where are you on your journey? Are you finding joy? If not, are you looking for it at the right places and on the right pages? Read God’s Word. Pray. And look for bright spots in your day that spark joy. Shift your mind from the problem to the Problem Solver and press on. The ultimate joy for all of us lies ahead in heaven. In. His. Presence.  #findingjoy #inhispresence

Thursday, February 27, 2020

What's in a Song? Plenty!

Sitting up in the middle of last night, I was blessed by a TV channel that played hymns while nature scenes scrolled across the screen. Oceans, mountains, wildlife, butterflies perched on marigolds. My heart, although beating irregularly from a medical condition, rejoiced in the wonder of God’s creation. From time to time a Bible verse popped up, offering hope and encouragement and reminding me that God is on His throne.

I am thankful beyond all measure that my parents took me to church as a child. The hymns evoked images of Sundays in a little country church. Preachers who preached from their hearts. Sunday school teachers who wore pearls and laced up, chunky heeled shoes. Kneeling for communion. Sweating in the summer heat. Giggling with girlfriends in the back pew.

A ruby red poppy fluttered across the screen and reminded me of poppies that grew in our farm’s flowerbeds. At the end of summer we shook seeds from dry pods to replant the following year. The wonder of plants and seasons amazed me then and still does. My father’s favorite hymn was “In the Garden.”

The hymns of the church taught me theology. The wonder of the cross. Victory through the blood. The story of Calvary. Precious Jesus. Lyrics burned themselves into my heart and soul. My Christian heritage would be so poor without them.

I love choruses too, although I wonder if they will have the durability of hymns. I hope they imprint themselves on young minds as the hymns did on mine.

We take for granted the opportunity to worship together, but consider what a blessing and privilege it is. And how important it will be to your children when they are adults and we are long gone from this earth.

So plan ahead. Set the Sunday morning alarm, pull sleepyheads from beds, pour milk on cereal, load up the car and go. The hymns and choruses will echo in your children’s heads years and years to come. And isn’t that the dream of every Christian mother?

#RadiantTV #FriendsOfTheHeart

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Book Review: Judah's Wife

Author Angela Hunt brings to life the story of the Maccabees, which took place in the silent years between the Old and New Testaments. She focuses on Judah, whose father designated he lead his brothers and others in resisting the attacks of Seleucid king Antiochus Epiphanes.

You meet Judah Maccabee when he comes to the rescue of Leah, a young girl tormented by a youthful gang while walking to market. They eventually marry, but she has come from a dysfunctional family, which complicates her relationship with her husband.

I liked the short chapters, which alternate the viewpoints of Leah and Judah. The front of the book includes a map and a listing of the main events of the Maccabean revolt. The five parts of the book are introduced with readings from 1 Maccabees, a book included in the Apocrypha but not the Bible, which solidifies the historical accuracy of the underlying story.

If you enjoy historical fiction, you’ll enjoy Judah’s Wife. I cannot imagine the amount of research needed to remain true to the historical battles and their outcomes. An Epilogue wraps up the story, and the book includes an extensive author’s note of explanation along with discussion questions for small groups. A good read. This is Book 2 or a 3-Book series, but it stands alone quite well. I did not read the other two.

Friday, February 7, 2020

5 Letters To Anchor Your Life

Last October I experienced a severe bout of vertigo, so severe we called 911. I felt as though I was in the middle of a merry-go-round with everything spinning around me, totally out of my control. I could not walk. I became so nauseous I felt as though my body convulsed. My hearing was garbled.

That night I was treated with medication at an urgent care facility. It did not solve my problem, and I continued to have less severe attacks. I eventually saw an ear, nose and throat specialist who diagnosed Meniere’s disease, prescribed medication and put me on a low salt diet.

Probably a month passed before I felt like myself again. It was a long haul. And I live with the consequences. If you’ve ever monitored your sodium intake, you know this is no easy task. Everything from bread to milk contains sodium. Don’t even think about eating cheese, the love of my taste buds.

The vertigo experience left me shaken and leery about accepting speaking engagements. What if I suffer an attack “on the road”? Can I trust God that it won’t happen again?

Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience. Oh, not vertigo itself. But the feeling that life is out of control, spinning around you and you can’t do anything about it. You pray and pray and pray. You beg God to change your circumstances. Perhaps you face a dire diagnosis or a dim future after a major loss. How do you help yourself when you feel helpless? How do you regain trust in God?

You keep the FAITH. God has permitted this situation to touch your life. Yes, you may struggle, but struggles make you stronger. Faith is holding on to what you know is true when what you see as true contradicts it.

As I consider the letters that make up FAITH, they offer clues to developing a robust faith that anchors your life at any age, at any stage:

F – Forgiveness – We accept forgiveness from God, so we extend forgiveness to others. We are all flawed human beings. Whoever may have offended you is made in the image of God. Their action against you may have been intentional or unintentional. You may not be able to forget. And you may never forge close ties with the offender, especially if the hurt involved abuse. But as you consider why they may have acted as they did (perhaps they themselves were deeply hurt in the past), you will find God’s Spirit helps you shower them with grace. I’ve at times echoed Jesus’ prayer: Father forgive them for they know not what they do.

A – Attitude – Live with an attitude of humility. Realize you do not have all the answers or you would be God. Be teachable. When life overwhelms me, I seek advice from other Christians. I once visited a counselor when I needed help in dealing with a situation. The older I get, the more I know what I don’t know and the more I know God does not expect me to walk this path alone. He is with me, and He sends other Christians to strengthen me.

I – Inner Peace – Our inner peace comes from knowing Christ. Acknowledge him as your Savior. Look to him daily in prayer, and do what he puts on your heart. Accepting Christ was the best decision I ever made, and through Bible reading and prayer, He nourishes my soul.

T – Trust – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). When you don’t know which end is up, wait and trust that God will pull you through. Whatever has spun out of your control is under his control. I write this Bible reference on greeting cards and keep it in mind at all times.

H – Hope – Live with a hopeful spirit that tomorrow will be better. With hope in my heart, I asked my doctor if Meniere’s disease is manageable or am I bound to have attacks from time to time. He assured me if I stick to the plan, I should be OK. So I hope to manage the disease. No matter what we face on this earth, with God’s help, it is manageable. And no matter what we face on this earth, this is not all there is. You cannot even imagine the glories of heaven or you would be all too eager to get there. So settle down and hope for what is to come.  

Live in the moment with an awareness of God’s Presence. Let go of the past. Let God take care of the future. That’s FAITH. Faith is holding on to what you know is true when what you see as true contradicts it.


Photo by Firaaz Hisyari from Pexels

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Book Review: Becoming Mrs. Lewis

They say writers should show, not tell. This book did just that. Author Patti Callahan took you right into the New York City home of Joy Davidman Gresham and her husband, Bill. You hear them call each other pet names and meet their two little boys. But you also feel Joy’s anguish over the alcoholism of her husband. They eventually divorced.

Both writers, the Gresham’s were intellectuals and atheists, and in the writings of C. S. Lewis they discovered an intellectual atheist who had converted to Christianity. Bill encouraged Joy to write to Lewis with their questions and the two developed a bond. This book covers the years of friendship that eventually led to marriage in 1956 and her death in 1960 at age 45.

This is a work of fiction, so the author certainly took liberties in what she wrote. But it’s evident she did thorough research, and I believe she composed a realistic picture of the times and sentiments of the subjects. If you’re a C. S. Lewis fan, this book offers a great opportunity to glimpse his personal life and his struggle over marrying a divorcee.

I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s descriptive writing and will look for more of her novels.