Monday, June 23, 2008

Finding Joy

I decided years ago that I had to choose joy over depression and sadness.

Joy and happiness are not synonyms. The apostle Paul speaks of joy in all circumstances. He is my model. His example is what I turn to during dark days. Happiness is fleeting. People often base it on external temporary pleasures. Joy is abiding. Paul talks about contentment. I had to learn to be content in my relationship with Christ Jesus. I had to learn to accept and expect His abiding presence with me daily in the form of the Holy Spirit.

People disappoint us. They can leave us, abandon us, slander us, and loved ones can die. Material possessions grow old and fade with time. However, these are not the areas in which we can put our faith. Our faith must remain fully grounded in Christ and the work His did in order to redeem us to Himself.

It is impossible for Christ to disappoint us if our hearts one with His. His desire for us is to abide with Him. This abiding will last an eternity in heaven; however, it is here for us now. In order to have joy in this life, my advice is to daily spend time with Christ. Get to know Him – the man and our Lord. Meditate on His Word. Lean not to your own understanding (of life) but in all your ways acknowledge Him.

I had to realize that life can take me by surprise and alarm but God is never surprised. God knew the day that I gave birth to Christi and to Bobby that my parents had formed an evil desire in their hearts to steal our children. This was not something that I could prepare for in advance because I am not God and not omnipotent. I don’t have foreknowledge. But, my Lord and Savior knew that these events would unfold in our lives.

I admit that I questioned God the Father. I could not begin to understand why He allowed this tragedy to take place in my family. I did not understand why I needed to go on living. I did not understand how this rupture of my family could in any way bring honor to the name of Christ. I was lost in my despair and sorrow. During this time I camped out in the Old Testament. I read David’s laments. I read the prophets that foretold of the Israelites’ impending bondage. I read and I wept. The prophet Isaiah began to minister to my soul and broken heart.

I read and reread the accounts of Job and Joseph. I read the story of Hannah. I read the story of Ester. And, my list continued. What I discovered in all of these saints’ lives is that they did not see God’s plan while in the midst of the trials. They forged their way through the darkness of their trials believing that there was more to life than what their physical eyes revealed. I decided to believe what Joseph said to his brothers, “What man intended for evil, God intended for good.”

This short phrase has kept me safe and helped to hold my faith steadfast.
Yet, it was Paul and his words and teachings that helped me to realize that presence of God – today. Paul told me to be content regardless of life’s circumstances. He reminded me that I see through a glass dimly but someday I shall see face-to-face. I know that I am repeating myself but this is where I found my peace. I found peace in coming to this awareness that Christ is always with me. And, that I can trust Him.

Daily I meet Christ. He gathers me up in His arms and draws me to Him each morning. I see His nail scarred hands with my name cut into them. He whispers words of hope and love in my ears. And, I believe Him. I believe that someday the sorrows and disappointments of this life will fade into a distant past.

As I read the accounts of Christ in scripture, I realize that He stopped and enjoyed those around Him. He loved on the children. He shared meals with friends. He went to parties and danced at weddings. However, Christ is God and He is omnipotent. He knew exactly what He was going to have to endure – the sorrow of the cross, the mournful tears of his mother, the abandonment of friends, the rejection. Yet, he went about His life and ministry with a joy that was contagious to the masses.

Who am I to say that I cannot find a true joy in this gift of life that God has given me today? Who am I to deny the beauty in the world around me? Can I ignore a child’s smile or innocent questions? Can I harden my heart to dear friends’ compassion? Can I stomp my feet and scream because my life has had some thorns as well as roses? I know that none of my thorns have been nearly as painful as my Savior’s.

So, I stand with the saints who have lived before me and I make my choice to live with joy because of my eternal reward and the reward that I experience daily with my Lord and Savior.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Paul's Youth Group's Skit to "Everything"

I accidentally turned off the video near the beginning while trying to zoom in on the kids. I quickly started it from this point. Paul is the boy who dances with the girl. I am so glad the Cotillion has found some use in his life. I couldn't figure out how to zoom in a dark theater. Sorry. So, the video is not that great. You can't see the expressions on the faces.