Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Joy-Full Journeys - Chalk Dust

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things about sitting in class was the possibility that the teacher might decide that the chalkboard was filthy enough that it needed to be cleaned. After that it was a lottery between 24 students all wiggling and contorting at their desks to see who could make their arm stretch the longest. If you happened to be the one chosen to help, there was something therapeutic about taking that dusty and marked up board and wiping it down so that it was back to its beautiful black or green color. Once that board was clean there was something amazing about watching chalk glide over it...and we all wanted to mark it up...with something, anything! Sure it was frustrating seeing things get erased and a new layer of chalk dust coating the board. It got dustier and dustier with every day and eventually the excitement of the clean board was gone...it was just a board with the latest difficult homework assignment looming on it.

It's a new year....a beautifully clean blank slate where anything is possible....and a new countdown has begun. The countdown to the first argument, the first nasty driver, the first bad day at work...the first unexpected funeral. We don't know when or what the things are that will mark up our board....but we know that it's just a matter of time. The secret to peace isn't trying to dodge all the things that can mark you up...and the sign of success isn't having a clean board. The secret to peace isn't even really a secret. Jesus TOLD us in John 16 that we were going to face horribly hard and painful things, not to discourage us and put a damper on things, but to basically say, "I've got your back..." He is there to wipe our board clean every single day, multiple times a day....as needed. We don't have to wait till a new calendar year. He is greater than all the things used to mark us up...so don't get discouraged by the stuff that comes at you, instead, expect it and let the cool water of peace wash over you everyday as you ask your heavenly Father to refresh you.

I have told you these things so that you will be whole and at peace. In this world, you will be plagued with times of trouble, but you need not fear; I have triumphed over this corrupt world order. John 16:33 (the voice)

Joy All Ways

Friday, December 7, 2018

COMING SOON - Joy-Full Journeys

COMING SOON: Joy-Full Journeys

  Hi Everyone, in less than a month another new series will be starting here on AMH. On January 1st, 2019, I will be unveiling Joy-Full Journeys. This is a little project I've been working on for several years behind the scenes and wanted to launch sooner, but it just wasn't time yet. Now, however, I can finally share it with you.
  JFJ posts will be brief daily devotionals that focus on developing hope and faith in the life of the reader by cultivating, planting, maintaining or harvesting the specific fruits of the spirit listed in Galatians chapter 5. These fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. In a world full of negativity it's easy to give attention to all of the things not going right instead of giving more attention to the things that give life.
  My heart desire has always been to re-calibrate myself and other believers to recognize that while our world may be unfairly crumbling around us, we can only find true joy by focusing our eyes and thoughts on the joy GIVER instead of the joy TAKER. We do this by actively changing how we respond to things around us on a mundane day to day basis. The victory isn't always won by one single glorious battle, but by many small skirmishes all along the way. How we fight our everyday battles matters more than we realize and has a lasting impact on the final result. One of my favorite quotes sums it up perfectly.

         Every soldier must know, before he goes into battle, how the little battle he is to fight fits into the larger picture, and how the success of his fighting will influence the battle as a whole. ~Bernard Law Montgomery

  So, before you rush out the door in the morning, or when you collapse from exhaustion onto the couch at the end of your day, let me have the honor of speaking just a little bit of encouragement over you. One soldier to another. 


Thursday, December 6, 2018

P.S. For a Life Well Lived

  In a little less than an hour from my writing this, Ben and I will be heading to the wake of a young woman from our church. She was only 36 years old and had endured a lifetime of health issues. She had even faced death once before when she needed a double lung transplant and in the twelfth hour a donor was found. You would never know she dealt with so much though by talking to her or by being around her. She was radiant in every way and illness was not something you would associate with her unless you knew her story.
  When Ben and I met Jess and her mother close to fifteen years ago, one of the immediate first impressions we got was just a deep sweetness about her. She was genuinely kind, genuinely joyful, and genuinely hopeful. More evident than anything else however, was the fact that she genuinely loved God and sought to honor Him in everything she did. She was deeply loved and admired, and set an example of unshakeable faith in the face of adversity. Even those of us who weren't in her inner circle of friends, couldn't help but be permanently impacted by watching her faith walk.
  Hundreds of people joined together across the country and likely around the globe, in this last leg of her race and faithfully prayed for another twelfth hour miracle. We had seen it done once.... surely we would see it again. When I saw the post about her passing from her husband, just minutes after he wrote it, I couldn't help but cry. I know she's in heaven and healthy again and worshipping, but from a purely selfish standpoint...this world needs more Christians like Jess...our loss of her is truly Heaven's gain.
  As I sat processing the realization that she was gone, I had an intimate conversation with Holy Spirit and asked Him to speak to me through scripture and give me something in that moment of sadness. As always, He was faithful...and He brought me to a chapter of the Bible, in a very specific translation. He told me this was her P.S. to all of us....and as I read it, I understood why. As a creative writer, I removed the verse numbers and I want you to read this imagining two distinct voices, the voices of those here left behind, and her voice as she steps into eternity.
  I encourage you to think of your loved ones who you've lost that you know you will get to see again when you get to heaven, and think of this as the P.S. at the end of their life's letter as well....and be encouraged by it like I was.

Isaiah 12 
The Voice translation (VOICE)

US: In the face of such grace that day, you will thank God.

JESS: Thank you, thank you, thank you, Eternal One,
God of our people, of our promise
For establishing an end to our punishment,
for taking me back with kindness, and comforting me.
See, God has come to rescue me;
I will trust in Him and not be afraid,
For the Eternal, indeed, the Eternal is my strength and my song.
My very own God has rescued me.

US: With joy in each step, you will drink deeply from the springs of salvation.
You’ll want to sing out that day,

JESS: Give thanks to the Eternal; call on His name.
Spread the news throughout the world of what He has done
and how great is His name!
Sing praises to the Eternal!
Everyone, everywhere should know that God acts in amazing ways.
You who live in this God-blessed place, this Zion, shout out and sing for joy!
For God is great, and God is here—with us and around us—the Holy One of Israel.

Joy All Ways