{re}fresh

Tag: joy

Shooting Stars

by juste buzas

Image by Sergiu Bacloiu flickr.com_8282853841_4370aa05a8_CC BY-ND 2.0

Image by Sergiu Bacloiu
flickr.com_8282853841_4370aa05a8_CC BY-ND 2.0

There is no speech nor spoken word [from the stars]; their voice is not heard.  Yet their voice [in evidence] goes out through all the earth, their sayings to the end of the world. Psalm 19:3,4a (AMP)

I’ve always been mesmerized by God’s creation – from the enormity of the night sky to the quietness of the butterflies fluttering from flower to flower in my grandmother’s garden.  Even when I was young, I noticed everything.  Every detail and intricacy of God’s creation.  I felt close to God – I knew Him – as I climbed trees, danced barefoot in the grass or skipped rocks along the glassy surface of the river on my uncle’s farm.

One summer night I was outside alone, watching the night sky.  It was a remarkably clear night.  I stood on the back porch, looking up into the wide Missouri sky and talked to God.  Out of nowhere, a bright streak of light blazed across the horizon and disappeared; a shooting star!  Never seeing one before then, I stood there dumbfounded, speechless, over come with awe.  Love swelled up within me, and I was filled with solemn wonder at the vastness and nearness of God.  I realized, in that moment, that the God who was, and is, and always will be was real. Very real.  I began to praise Him. Read the rest of this entry »

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God Rest You Merry

by Wendy

Christmas came, we rejoiced briefly amid too-many-things-to-do, Christmas went; then January crashed in on me, unceremoniously, with its backpack of trauma, dreads and fears. The let down from Christmas was fierce and unrelenting.

I fumbled for focus, for footing. Thankfully, Christmas actually lasted twelve days in our household this year, and I had more time than usual to internalize again the well-known carols. “God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen” stuck around past New Year’s and I decided to linger in it awhile, reveling in its hopeful message and gracious reminders. The world might be too much with me, but God’s story held hope for something other.

“Let nothing you dismay!, the carol reminded me. Stay merry through January and beyond. Stay joy-filled, for Jesus came to destroy the works of the enemy, rescuing us not just once but every day from the world’s evil and scorn. “To save us all from Satan’s pow’r” meant Immanuel wasn’t just with us in His birth and incarnation, He STAYS with us in the moments of our days, standing between us and the worst plans of the enemy, redeeming and turning the darkness to light.

My fears didn’t want to listen. What about the inevitable conflicted discussions about theology and ministry practice? Those didn’t sound particularly appealing. What about the lack of funds, the push for teamwork, the forging ahead to create unity? What about the day in and day out drudgery? I whined that it all seemed too hard, too constant. My drop-in-the-bucket efforts were too small, too wearing, too wearying, too little, too late, and too impossible.

I groveled for a moment, but then the “O tidings of comfort and joy” part rose up. “Listen, fears,” I scolded, “no, you will not take Christmas and trash it in January. No, you will not drag me through an alone and hopeless January. No!” I told them, as I stood up on the inside, and I meant it.

The carol and the Spirit prompted me. God had sunrises after sunsets. He held hope in darkness, promises in vacuums, and encouragement in deserts. He didn’t come to leave me stranded, facing lonely Januaries after sparkling Christmases. He came to save me from the world, the flesh, and the devil, and give me new strength and hope.

“God rest ye merry,” the carol commanded me in January. Stay hopeful, stay focused. Let the Son of God defeat the enemy once again, even while you are tempted to stray into pity and depression, it told me. Let nothing you dismay, soul. Tidings of comfort and joy may stay for the whole year – don’t pack them away at Christmas!

I fingered the one tiny Christmas crèche ornament still hiding on my desk, just to remind me. Glad tidings, it said again and again, glad tidings of comfort and JOY!

Humor

by Wendy

laughing

I poked my head into my husband’s home office long enough to see him don headphones for his next Skype appointment. Backing away to avoid interrupting, I glanced up at his computer screen and saw his co-worker’s avatar – a black and white photo of a somber-faced, suit-wearing male, more like a mugshot than a pleasant introductory portrait. “Now, that’s scary!” I thought as I turned to go, until my husband startled me with his opening greeting.

“Hi, Kevin (not his real name),” he said brightly.” Y’know, when I look at your picture, why do I feel like you’re going to break my knees?”

I sputtered, giggled, covered my open mouth with my hand and ducked into the hallway, hoping I closed the door before “Kevin” could hear my laughter bubbling in the background.   “Like you’re going to break my knees?” Did he really just say that? How could he so quickly capture a moment and banter like that? I shook my head, chuckling, amazed at his ability to tease humor into any conversation.

And then I noticed what the lighthearted conversation accomplished: I wasn’t harried, frenzied and anxious any more. My morning had promised the worst of driven days as I planned to welcome 30 leaders to our home for a two-day seminar, and house six team members. If that wasn’t enough, my office looked like a cross between a bad episode of “Hoarders” and the aftermath of a black Friday sale at Walmart – and some poor soul needed to SLEEP in there. But now that I was laughing, the cleanup process seemed positively hopeful.

Somehow humor breaks through the worst of my introspection. It takes all my negative despair and restores joy and relationship. Laughter forces my spirit to brighten, and I regain hope in the midst of the world’s dark despair.

I wonder, is this just a clever coping mechanism or did God make us this way on purpose? A quick rundown of Bible stories doesn’t exactly produce fodder for a comedy routine – at least not a nice one – but humor must be in there somewhere, since we’re created in God’s image. After all, He created some rather bizarre animals (Armored armadillos? Long-legged giraffes? Waddling penguins? Rafter-hanging bats? Would a somber Creator have made those? Would YOU?). And he created (ahem) us, so HE must have laughed, right?

Come to think of it, almost every interaction with Jesus that I “see” or imagine involves Him smiling, laughing, walking through life with lighthearted security. When I’m anxiously praying that He’ll get me through my dreaded two-hour dental repair, He shows me a picture of Him holding my hand while He sits on the table, grinning, legs swinging, relaxed and unafraid. Even when He heals my greatest pains, holding me while I cry, He always ends with a smile, with joy and hope.

Yes, He weeps with those who weep and cries with us in our sorrow. He upends tables and throws money-changers out of the temple; but He also embodies joy. No one – no one – would follow a somber, intense exhorter who adds obligation and despair to already burdened shoulders. We follow a savior who endured the cross for the JOY set before Him, and his humor and lightness invade our despairing universe.

In these hard days of earthquakes, famines, violence and despair, we need this holy joy. Our personal desolation and corporate angst drive us to places no one can endure. Humor, laughter, lightened hearts lift our darkened hearts and we see again Jesus’ hand and the hope of His breakthrough redemption.

Jesus assures that at the end of all time, we will have joy. We will laugh. We will rejoice. I, for one, cannot afford to wait until then. I will find a way to laugh now and practice joy for eternity. Together, can we risk this? Can we laugh and extend His joy to those mired in pain and darkness?

A Different Color Holy

by Wendy

Shelly Ribeiro sunset sky rhode island

Shelly Ribeiro sunset sky rhode island

by Wendy Coy

The house held order and expectations, looming obsessive elders ensuring perfect behavior. Did all old people turn dour and strict?    She sat in the kitchen watching Mother finish the school assignment – her school assignment. Always the good girl, she figured out the rules and did what Mother expected, but it was rarely enough.

Mother’s way was hard, boring, painful, and always right, but never right for her. That was her picture of Jesus, too. No wonder she couldn’t trust Him. Why would His way be any different than Mother’s?

Tracing the memory in her imagination, she braced herself for the dreaded conversation with Jesus. Sighing, she’d screwed her eyes shut and clenched her teeth, bravely forcing her will to do whatever “The Master” wanted. Jesus would be “The Master,” just like Mother, wouldn’t He?

Holding her breath, she peeked, expecting to see Jesus, arms crossed, giving the next instruction. Strangely, His eyes twinkled as He pulled her outside, away from the kitchen, into sunlight and frolic.

Rose- and salmon-hued streaks coursed across the sky, sunset colors exploding in a world-sized palette. She looked up, imagination alive and pulsating, and saw Jesus flinging more pigments across the firmament. Yellow and gold mixed with apricot and peach and coral, radiant colors glowing from the afternoon sun. She threw her own arm skyward and watched as the colors responded, blurring, blending, swirling with every motion.

No critique? No “wait, it’s not the right color?” or “Dear, do it this way?” She couldn’t remember unjudged creativity in her little-girl life. Finger paints and messes? Strictly forbidden. Now Jesus offered her freedom? Her fertile imagination saw the colors dance. She erupted with giggles and laughter, and ran around the acre tossing clouds and painting grass.

Her eyes roamed from her drab, gray-shingled home to the verdant lawn, where Jesus formed huge, neon-bright fruit for glowing green trees and brilliant clouds for the perfect sunset picture. Funny, HE didn’t seem so concerned with immaculate order. She thought holy meant sacred, spiritual, somber, purposeful, and… intense. This new image of Jesus didn’t fit any model she’d ever imagined.

Jesus infused this healing time with life, and the pictures in her mind whirled with His presence. He seemed intent on providing what she didn’t know she lacked – play; Jesus created a new space entirely. A fun holy-place, a free and life-giving world of creativity.

This was the foundation for a creative identity she’d never owned for herself. The imagination play-yard sent her artistic spirit soaring. The yard became a holy place where she and Jesus could talk, play, walk, hide, laugh and romp, and it pulsed with delight and color.

Is your “holy” hard and drab and lifeless? If you could choose a color, what color would your “holy” be?

The Cup of Joy

by mandyade

 

communion-cup_breadGod is happy. He is full of joy and He wants you to have His happiness inside of you all the time.

 

Jesus endured the cross because of the joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:2). During his pain He was focused on the joy that was coming, not a crown or power (those were already His), but you and I were the joy that enabled him to endure. Joy will always release heaven’s energy to us, while hopelessness will paralyze us.

 

When Jesus was at the Passover table He did something extraordinary (The Passover table is laden with symbolic foods eaten to remember the pain and tears of slavery and God’s deliverance). Instead of lifting the bitter herbs dipped in salt water to declare his coming cross, Jesus focused on something else – He lifted the cup of wine – the drink used to celebrate happy occasions.

 

Jesus instructed us to remember His death by drinking the cup of joy. He asked us to put joy before us, not sorrow. No more are we to remember the bitter herbs and tears of slavery and a broken life, but the hope of a new life.

 

Jesus was declaring joy and hope over us. He was saying, No more bitterness, slavery and toil, but heavens hope and joy to you. He was inviting us to continually remember and declare our hope and joy in Him.

 

Jesus was modeling a position for us to keep during seasons of suffering – focusing on God’s promises in front of us and not past and present pain. Joy will energize us to endure through present suffering and move into the new.

 

We can’t manufacture joy. It’s not an emotion that comes and goes with good and bad times, but joy is released in us when we focus on the goodness of God and the anticipation of what He has for us.  Even when life has no pleasure, Holy Spirit can produce supernatural joy and hope in of us. Empty the cup of old bitter herbs and lift it to Him so that He can fill it with heaven’s wine.

 

Lift your cup to Him by:

 

1.   Agree with God that He wants you to be happy. Release yourself from the self-destructive idea that sadness is godliness. When toxic thoughts come, continually reposition your mind to His goodness and love for you.

 

2.   Relax and expect joy. You don’t have to pay for joy; it has already been purchased for you. Most of the Christian life is about learning how to receive from our God. Our hours of sweat and tears cannot bring the dew of heaven. We need to understand how to position our hearts to receive and over flow.

 

3.   Ask Holy Spirit to fill you with hope and joy. When an ounce of hope begins to rise in your heart, grab it with anticipation and more will come. (Don let flickers of joy be doused by doubt, because joy produces of itself!)

 

“The joy of The Lord is your strength” Nehemiah 8:10b 

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