Count It ALL Joy

James 1:2-4 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations; knowing this , that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

Koda and Joy

I’ve heard the phrase “count it all joy” for as long as I can remember, but I have surely never lived it. To be honest, I hadn’t even given much thought to what it meant. And if I’m being 100% honest, I didn’t even understand what joy meant in that capacity, and I’d be willing to bet that most people don’t really understand that kind of joy. That “praise Him in the storm” kind of joy sounds great until you are in the middle of a storm and you find yourself praying for God to remove the storm instead of finding peace in knowing that God is in control, and joy in knowing that when I am at my weakest, His power is made perfect. 2 Corinthians 12:9-11 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you , for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. This is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. I for one can’t walk out a life that delights in weaknesses without inviting my Heavenly Father into every aspect of my life. Frustration, fear, disappointment, anxiety, sadness, loneliness, etc. are the result of trying to fight life’s battles in our own strength, and the opposite is true when we invite our Heavenly Father in to every situation in our lives. So lately, God has been showing me that things happen for a reason, and that I should ask Him what He is wanting to show me or teach me in the different situations that occur in my life. Recently, my cat, who’s name is Joy if you can believe that, somehow got her tail broken in multiple places, and the vet had to remove it at the base. All she has is a nub if you were wondering, and thankfully it is healing nicely, and she didn’t experience any the complications that could have happened. Anyway, it was just such an odd weird thing that happened, and I asked God what the lesson in this was. He revealed to me that the vet we took her to was thirsty for something more, and that I need to tell him that God loves him. Okay God, that’s gonna be awkward, but I can do that. When it was time to take Joy to get her stitches out, I was fully prepared to give this message to the vet, but one of the assistants came out and got her, and I was told to wait in the waiting room. While I was waiting, I was thinking I could just send him a card with the message from God on it, or I could just tell them I’d like to talk to him before I go. Thankfully, I didn’t even have to ask, the assistant called me back because the vet wanted to talk to me about how serious the situation was and how well she was doing all things considered. After we finished talking about Joy, I told him that I had asked God what the lesson is all this was, and that it turned out, it was not for me, but for the him. I told him exactly what God had told me, and he was genuinely happy to be reminded that God loves him, and he even allowed me to pray with him. It was a lovely experience, and I have not idea what the purpose of any of it was, but I’m every happy that God allowed me to be a prat of it. I have no idea how my beautiful kitty’s tail was broken, and I could have wasted my energy being angry and investigating something that I certainly couldn’t change, and I could have been upset about the money I had to spend getting her tail amputated, instead though, I invited my Heavenly Father into the situation, and He turned it into something beautiful. Joy doesn’t even seem to notice that her tail is missing, and it hasn’t changed her life in the least; however, my life is forever changed because God used Joy the cat to teach me how to take hold of the joy He has for me. Because of that, I’ve been very aware of God’s presence surrounding me at all times, and I’ve been looking at life differently. Rather than being irritated by the trials of life, I’ve been inviting God in to every situation. I’m even learning to take time to appreciate all of the beauty He has so carefully crafted in this world. In the midst of praise and worship Sunday, I found myself thanking God for all the trials in my life because He has used every one of them to mold me and shape me and bring me closer to Him. How can we not count it all joy when we have the revelation that God is always with us in all things. I don’t want to miss anything He has for me, and I never want to forget to invite Him into every situation in my life. Sometimes God’s voice is loud, but usually, it is a whisper that we must intentionally lean in to hear. My prayer is to remember to be grateful in all things, to rejoice in knowing that God is in control, and that I am His and He is mine, and that I keep my focus on Him so I don’t miss anything He has for me. I pray all things in the precocious and mighty name of Jesus. Amen

Power Stance

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Picture a day where you are cruising along with all your favorite tunes playing on the radio, and somehow catching all the greenlights. It’s a great day to be alive, and your energy and expectations are high, when out of nowhere BAM, you are sideswiped by someone else’s bad day. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could freeze time right here to evaluate the situation and collect your emotions so you could be intentional about your reaction. You have a decision to make, but unfortunately it’s a snap decision. What do you do? Do you do the easy thing, and just speed away leaving them to deal with whatever has caused their bad day on their own, or do you join them in their misery and let their negative energy overtake you, or do you offer them some of the peace you are currently enjoying? I hope you are thinking about choices, because if you’re thinking about choices, then you realize that while you can’t control anyone else’s attitude, negativity, unbelief, doubt, anxiety, depression etc., you can control how you react to it.

It’s fascinating that two people can be in the same exact place, surrounded by the same exact energy and people, but have two completely different experiences. Perception is key. I’ve learned that when I keep my focus on me and how people perceive me, or my perception of how people perceive me, then I get caught up in things that ultimately don’t even matter; however, when I keep my focus on the Father and give it all to him, I become fully aware that He is the preeminent one, the one who created everything, I am in His hands, He is holding me through the good times as well as the bad, and He is my hope and my reason. Werther I surrender control or not, God is on His throne, He is the preeminent one, and by holding onto the reigns so tight, I am actually putting myself in a power struggle with the creator of the universe. How silly, how ridiculously arrogant, how self destructive to think I am better equip to handle anything better than God. So perception of life’s events is based on where your focus is placed. Let go and let God; so simple, yet so hard.

STARFISH; THE POWER STANCE

Feet planted firmly, hands lifted high with palms open wide giving everything to God. Praise is our weapon, and there is surrender in an open stance that says, “It’s all yours God.” When you start your day, take your power stance and give your day to God. Ask Him to equip you with the grace you need to be salt and light in this world. Whenever you’re sideswiped by someone else’s bad day, ask God to open your eyes to see and your ears to hear the need in your brother or sisters life. We are all travelers on this earth, and have all sideswiped someone with our bad day. How much more wonderful would it be to offer encouragement, peace, and love to a hurting traveler, than to speed away, let them steal your peace, or even worse, kick them when they are down.

Whatever life throws at you, ask God to show you the lesson and the blessing. Give thanks to the Lord for what His is doing, whatever He is going to reveal through the situation, and whatever He is changing through the situation. God’s ways are bigger and He doesn’t do things in the way we think they should done. Thankfully, He sees the whole picture, and in the end, we always look back and realize how God turned things around and used them for our good. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 You can trust Him in ALL things. My prayer stance has become one of a starfish. Feet planted firmly, arms lifted, and fingers fully extended letting go of everything. Body language experts acknowledge that this stance is impowering, and fuels confidence if you are headed into a situation that requires confidence. Imagine how much more powerful this stance is when your hands and heart are open letting go and giving everything to God the Father.

With an attitude of surrender and gratitude, and a heart focused on the Father, You’ll be prepared for whatever life throws your way, and you won’t speed away from a fellow traveler who is in need of encouragement, Instead, you’ll be equip to offer them a hand, and specific encouragement with prompting from the Holy Spirit, and with full awareness that God is in the situation, you’ll be thankful that He allowed you to be His hands and feet. We all encounter situations that are not what we would have chosen, but with a heart full of gratitude, not only for the things our human eyes see as good, but also having faith that God is using even what we perceive as a bad situation for good, you will be the salt and light in this world so desperately needs. How can you be salt and light if you’re ruled by circumstances? It’s important to remember that God doesn’t always reveal His plans to us immediately. We don’t have to know what He is up to to be obedient, and to offer encouragement, peace, and love to others.

In church we sing about freedom. You are free, and you don’t have to be beat up by life. Take your power stance, standing starfish giving everything to God: your praise, your fear, your disappointment, your anger, your love, your hopes, your dreams, and even your relationships, because He can be trusted with all of it. By doing this, you won’t be angry when you’re sideswiped by someone’s bad day, You’ll be better equip to be an encouragement to fellow travelers. This world is hurting and dying, and so very thirsty. Be a wellspring of God’s love; stand starfish and let Him fill you with more of Him.

Take a minute to think about what you are holding onto so tightly; what you’ve been afraid to trust God with. Open your heart and open your hands and release it to Him. Trust Him to take care of it. Open your heart and open your hands to release praise to the one who does all things in love. Let faith rise up in you, and be an encouragement to others. Ask God to open your eyes to see the hurting and the lost, and rather than joining them in their misery, or speeding away, bring them into your peace so that they may see the love of God the Father.

Pray with me:

Father I’m sorry for all the times I sped away from people who were hurting and lost, I’m sorry for all the times I joined them in their misery, and I’m asking You to increase my faith, help me to remember that it’s not about me, it’s about bringing You to the lost and dying people who desperately need to experience Your love extended through the lives of Your church. I want to be salt and light Father. I want to be a balm to the wounded, and I want You to shine through me so bright that when I enter a room, the darkness has to flee. I love You Lord. Thank You for reminding me that it’s not about me or my feelings, it’s about You. Thank You for changing my heart and changing my life, and thank You for allowing me to be Your hands and feet in this world. I pray all things in Jesus name.

Amen

Come On

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I’ve never officially chosen a word of the year to start my new year, and I really thought I had my word for 2021 nailed down until just a few days ago. I had been reading the book of Psalms for a few weeks and every time the word lovingkindness would appear, it would just leap off the page and I would marvel at the fact that it is one word. The word is of course in reference to God’s lovingkindness, and I kept thinking how I wanted to make it my focus for the next year after the brutal political bloodshed of this past year. I envisioned myself being more loving and kind in the year to come, and that is always something I aspire to, but God had another word in mind for me. The lovingkindness I was dreaming of, that I’m so attracted to, is God’s lovingkindness, and let’s be honest, I can’t live up to that. I definitely aspire to be more loving and more kind; I don’t want to put any more toxic energy into the universe, however my focus word for this year will be “come on”. Not in the connotation of “are you freaking kidding me”, rather in the connotation of “let’s do this”. Come on, it’s yours for the taking. Come on, I’ve given you everything you need to be all that I’ve called you to be, so come on and let’s do this.

I don’t know what this new year holds, but one thing I’ve learned in 2020 is that I may not always be able to rejoice in the circumstances around me, but I can always rejoice in my Lord and Savior, the God of the universe, who created Heaven and Earth, and is with me in the light as well as in the darkness. I can rejoice in the knowledge that nothing can separate me from the love of God, and that I am NEVER alone. This journey may be difficult at times, but it is leading me to heavenly places where one day I will be clothed in white, and experience the fullness of God in the place He has prepared for me and ALL who believe in Jesus. So come on, come on, come on; let’s do this, let’s live in the fullness of His grace; let’s say yes and amen to everything God has for us. The future is unknown, but the love of God for you and for me is certain. Come on, Come On, COME ON!!! Come on… We have seen that the land is very good. Aren’t you going to do something? Don’t hesitate to go there and take it over… God has put into your hands, a land that lacks nothing whatever. Judges 18:9-10. Come on.

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The anticipation of forever being joined together with the one your heart desire is purely sweet, and the bonds of love that joins two souls together till death do us part is utterly divine. Entering into marriage is not a commitment to be taken lightly, because what we are pledging is to be devoted to our betrothed for the rest of our life. The bride and groom promise to take each other in marriage to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto give their troth. In making sure I was on the right track with my thinking, I looked up a few words pertaining to wedding vows. First of all, I looked at the origin of the word wedding, and found that it’s Old English, and simply means, “to pledge oneself”. Then I looked at the phrase, I give thee my troth, and found that it simply is a pledge of loyalty and faithfulness. It’s no wonder the Lord uses marriage as an example of our relationship with Him. This is exactly what our relationship with God should look like; He has certainly shown His unconditional love and unyielding faithfulness toward His creation as He sent His only begotten Son, who knew no sin, to die for our sins so we may be reconciled Him. And the life of Jesus was the perfect example for us to follow in all things. Making the comparison, as a wife, I should always consider my husband’s thoughts, feelings, and opinions as I make decisions throughout my life; he should never be an after thought, he should be at the forefront of my mind. I know him, I know what will make him proud, what will strengthen our bond, and what will show him how important he is to me, and I also know what will disappoint him, hurt his feelings, embarrass him, or even make him angry. I am painfully human, and it took me a long time to understand that when I make decisions with him in mind, I am actually feathering my own nest, instead of destroying my own nest. One summer I was on vacation; I was relaxed and peaceful, and I began thinking about my husband and how much I loved him and appreciated him for all that he is and all that he does, and God interrupted my thoughts and said, “That is how I want you to feel about Me.” I understood Him immediately; I had always called on Him in my time of need, but never had I just sat in total peace thinking about how wonderful He is and appreciating all He has done for me. This simple moment changed my thought process forever. God was calling me to put Him first, to consider Him in all of my decision making, to appreciate Him, and to be cognizant of the things He does for me on a daily basis. Believe me, I’m well aware that this revelation was not for His benefit, but for mine. Just like considering my husband when making decisions makes me closer to him, considering my Heavenly Father, and keeping Him as the preeminent one in my life, makes my relationship with Him stronger. It sounds like a simple thing, but wrestling against our selfish flesh isn’t easy because it’s not like we can just walk away from our own flesh. If I love Him, if I am His bride, then I will follow the example Jesus set and spend time with the Lord, pray, and read and meditate on the scriptures. In John 14:2-3 Jesus said. ” In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were no so , I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

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Jesus is preparing a place for His bride, and while we are waiting, we should be busying ourselves like any bride to be with the work of inviting everyone we can to join us. “The harvest is plenteous, but the laborers are few.” Matthew 9:37. Spread the word, tell everyone that Jesus is coming for His bride, and there is room at the table for everyone. Anticipating the return of Jesus is cause for celebration, especially in the continually decaying moral state of man, and the declining health of our planet. Even non believers have a sense that things cannot go on like this forever. Not everyone will accept the invitation, and we are not accountable for those who outright reject the invitation, but we are accountable for those we neglect to invite for one reason or another.

Pray this prayer with me. Father, Your love amazes me, and I’m so thankful that you never give up on me. My heart celebrates the knowledge that Jesus is preparing a place for His bride, and He will come back for us one day. Nobody knows the day or hour, and I pray that you will help me to be cognizant of the time. Give me eyes to see and ears to hear, and when I’m in the presence of someone to whom I’m supposed to extend and invitation of salvation. Father help me to keep you at the forefront of my mind, and make all of my decisions with you and your word as my guide, and give me strength, wisdom, energy, and enthusiasm for the work at hand. I love You Lord, and I pray in Jesus holy name.

Don’t be afraid to pray the prayer of salvation with others. There is no magic set of words; God knows our hearts, and He said, “whosoever believes”. The important parts of this prayer are believing Jesus is the Son of God, and accepting Him as your Lord and Savior.

I freaked my daughter out trying to take a picture of traffic, so she took this picture for me.

Have you ever shined your car all up before a road trip hoping to arrive at your destination in style, only to see it covered in road grime when you arrive at your destination. Road mist, dust, and even mud under the finder well from that storm you drove through along the way. Foot traffic in your home can be just as bad. You sweep and mop, then children, pets, family, and guest leave a whole new pile of debris that needs to be swept and mopped again. Cleaning is a never-ending job that left undone can get out of hand in a hurry. Left undone for too long, and the mess can become overwhelming, leaving you wondering where to even begin. When I’ve gotten overwhelmed with the traffic of life, I’ve found that the first thing to go was my focus, leaving me disorganized and scattered in my efforts. Rascal Flats sings, “Life is a highway”, but sometimes there is a traffic jam, or a detour sign, or wreckage and debris on the metaphorical highway of life, and these things can cause us to lose our focus and our sense of direction, so our soul needs a metaphorical GPS on our metaphorical highway.

  GGod – Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”
PPrayer – I Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
sScripture – Psalm 119: 105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
One day I’ll learn how to create fancy images, but you get the idea.

Without this GPS, it is next to impossible to be all that God has called us to be. He has a plan for each of our lives, but the devil is looking for those who have taken their focus off God, who have forgotten to pray, and who have let dust collect on their Bible. Without God, we are vulnerable prey that the devil can easily distract with the traffic of life, and cause us to become overwhelmed, scattered, and blown around like leaves in a hurricane.

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Psalm 1:1–6 (ESV):

1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

I don’t want to get caught up in the traffic of life and be swept up in someone else’s agenda or wreckage, I want to be like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season. I asked God to create in me a clean heart, and the only way to keep it clean is to use my GPS: Keep my focus on God, pray in all things, and read the scriptures regularly. Pray this simple prayer:

Father, I know Your ways are good, and I praise You even in the storm. I need You every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day. Direct my path, keep my focus ever on You Lord, so that I can fulfill the destiny for which You have created me. You are my GPS, and I am so thankful that You love me, and call me Yours. I love You Lore, and I ask these things in Jesus name. Amen

Made To Shine

We were made to SHINE, to be a holy example of God’s love for mankind, but how can we shine and be that light in the world if the cracks and crevices of our heart are filled with hidden yuck. One thing that hurts my heart right now, is that so many people who need love, are being indoctrinated to believe that Christianity is a religion of hate, when that couldn’t be further from the truth. However, if that’s the way the world perceives us, then it’s time for us to do some deep cleaning of our inner most parts. Surface cleaning takes effort, but deep cleaning takes real commitment.

I have walked this earth for hmmm hmmm years, and on my journey, I’ve ended up with a lot of yuck getting into the cracks and crevices of my core being. The ideals of this world are hard to avoid, and everyone is ready to share their opinions with anyone who will listen. It’s really hard not to get the stink of the world on you when you are here in the midst of it, but God tells us in Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Sometimes, we get comfortable with our lives, and we embrace our hidden yuck because we deem the sins of others far worse than our own. I’ve found that when I’m comfortable thinking at least I’m not as bad as that one, God will let me step into a metaphorical steaming pile of poo and remind me that I’m not so high and mighty as I think, and to be honest, I love Him all the more for keeping me humble.

But I digress… The point I was getting to is about asking God to search our hearts for the hidden yuck, and get deep into the cracks and crevices so we can shine. This cleaning is not an act of your own hand, it is an act of surrender that says, “here I am Lord, (Psalm 51:10) Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. This kind of deep cleaning can only be done if you surrender your hidden hate, pain, desires, idolatry, etc. etc.. Only when you are willing to lay it all at the foot of the cross, will God dig in deep and clean the cracks and crevices of your heart. Of course, He can change anyone in an instant just like He did with Paul on the Roman road, but he gave us free will, and He wants us to choose Him above all else. He wants to be our first choice every time. He created this world, set it in motion, breathed life into us, and gave us free will to choose Him, or to reject Him. I can’t even begin to imagine how His heart must break when we reject Him when He wants nothing more than to dry our tears and give us beauty for ashes.

If you are tired of running, tired of being a mess, tired of trying to be better using your own strength, then pray with me now.

Father, you are faithful and good, and your mercy endures forever. I love you Lord. Forgive me for my foolish pride, for holding onto (insert whatever your hidden yuck is here), I trust you Lord, and I surrender it all to you Lord. I lay it all at the foot of the cross, and ask you to create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me. Make me shine for You Lord. In Jesus precious name I pray, Amen.