Choose Joy

I will be honest with you, this past week has not been one that I am proud of, that I want to cherish in my memory, or that I care to ever repeat. It has been a long, dark week full of trials, choices, decisions, mistakes, and mess. It has been a week where my focus has been on the circumstances and not my Creator, where my heart has fallen into my hands and, rather than place it into His, I think I stuffed it in my pocket thinking I could do something about it myself.

So, as I sit before this blank page that is slowly filling with letters that will become words, I must ask myself what comes next. Where do I go from here? I have been here so many times before…just sitting in the crumbled ruins of plans I made for myself, of dreams I allowed to flourish without consulting His will for my life. One would think I would learn eventually how to avoid coming here. However, one thing I do know is this – even when I find myself here once again, I find my Lord here as well. His light envelopes my darkness, His love pierces through to my heart, His peace rains down on my spirit. He finds me in this place, takes me by the hand, and gently leads me out once more. My Shepherd – my Yahweh Roi – leads me back to His side, carries me when I am injured, and loves me through my pain.

Take courage, fellow travelers on the River. Even when no one else is aware of your pain, when no one else sees the tears, when you lack the courage to even ask for prayer, the Father knows – He sees the tears and He will lift you up again. I know this to be true for He has done this for me countless times. Sometimes, He even uses this once blank page to minister to my heart.

Here is my offering, my “solution” for the dark times. While this may be a little repetitive-appearing in its form, it emphasizes the need to continuously make the choice for joy regardless of all else. It is, after all, a choice…

Choose joy

When darkness surrounds
-Choose joy
When condemnation abounds
-Choose joy
When told you’ll never make it
-Choose joy
When told to just forsake it
-Choose joy

When the sun shines brighter than before
-Choose joy
When your heart sings like never before
-Choose joy
When all appears to be going right
-Choose joy
When you hear His song in the night
-Choose joy

Regardless of circumstance
-Choose joy
Regardless of whether or not you dance
-Choose joy
It matters not how you truly feel
-Choose joy
At times we must decide to choose what is real
-Choose joy

Just remember that, as the saying goes, just because the door is shut doesn’t mean we shouldn’t praise Him in the hallway!

His grace is sufficient,
His love is boundless,
His mercy is timeless,
His peace is beyond understanding,
His joy is our strength!

I challenge you to choose joy!!

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Dare to Express

I was taught from a young age to never let anyone see you cry, never wear your heart on your sleeve, always keep up a good front, and don’t ever let the heart open too far. While most of these were verbal instructions I received (some of them repeatedly), some were driven home by example. I was always the shortest in the class and some of the boys thought they could pick on me. As far as I remember, I kept a good face on. I did as I was instructed to do and never let them know it bothered me – even though it did. I have continued to use this philosophy in life and consequently have kept most people away at least at arm’s length, if not further.

There are very few people I have ever let in far enough to know how I truly feel – if I even allowed myself to know. What a hollow and lonely existence it has been at times – and it is all of my own doing. But I must ask myself this one hard question: is living my life in this way useful to God? This question, of course, grows into more pointed questions (I happen to love questions…). Does this glorify Him in anyway? How can I be able to reach out to anyone with His love when I can’t even reach out myself?

Once answered, all of these questions then end in one ultimate question. In light of this thought, how then shall I live?

That is, of course, a question that will have different answers for all of us as we all have a different purpose and different challenges.

One of the biggest – and most recent – things I have learned in attempting to answer this question is that living a life that is closed off and inexpressive leads to friendships and relationships that are the same way. If you don’t share how you feel about someone, why should they be inclined to? Yes, it would always be wonderful for someone else to take the initiative, but there are times when we must take that leap of faith, take that step to come out of the protective surroundings of the mask, and say simply, “I appreciate you” or “I am glad you’re my friend” or “I am grateful that God brought you into my life.” One might even be so brave to risk saying, “I love you.”

Friends are a gift from the Father. They were placed here to enrich our lives, strengthen our hearts, walk through life with us – at least pieces of it as His plan would have it – and help us to know Him more.

Tomorrow is never promised. Accidents happen and lives change in an instant. Who is to know what may happen next…. I know for me, I never want to attend another funeral with the regret in my heart that I never told that person how much they meant to me, that I never told them I loved them, that I appreciated them, that they were special to me. Trusting the Father to pass on that message to them is not good enough – and it is not His job. We must tell them while they are here. Honestly, though, is there such a thing as being told you are appreciated or loved too often?

The Word says we are to love our neighbor as ourselves and I completely agree. However, we should dare to show it more, speak it more, live it more. If you love someone, you should know their heart – and allow them to know yours.

Dare to be bold, dare to express, dare to live with no regrets – and dare to never go to another funeral with a list of things you wish you had said. Say them now while you still have the gift of today!!!

Won’t Ya Be my Neighbor…

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[g] There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. Mark 12:28-34, NIV


How well do we really know our “neighbor” – or our friends for that matter? I once read somewhere long since forgotten that if you say you know your friend well, you should also know where they hurt. Hmmm…. I am not sure that I can answer that for some of the people I call “friend,” but I do know that I will be paying more attention.

There are many people that suffer in silence through various trials, challenges, and situations that do not have to do so alone. Many of them choose this particular avenue of dealing with their circumstances, but there are those who do so because they doubt that anyone would care anyway. There may be hints that are dropped or abstract comments made just to see if anyone is listening, but it never goes further than that. There are times when the fact that a “friend” is too busy to see the real picture of what is going on just compounds the problem and seems to “prove” that they were right to feel alone in the first place.

Are we so busy working that we forget to serve? Have we neglected to serve and care for our brothers and sisters within the body? Are we so wrapped up in our own lives and our own worlds that we forget to take the time to really see what is going on around us, to get to know those whom the Lord has brought into our lives, to step outside of our comfort zones, to dare to take an honest look at our surroundings? This is not always easy to do and I am the first one to admit that I get wrapped up in my to-do list on a regular basis. However, I cannot allow myself to do so anymore.

I pray that you will take the time during the next week to really open your eyes and your heart to the people around you. Take the time to dare to look in their eyes – and don’t shy away if you find some pain inside. Reach out to one another, pray for one another, care for one another. If you don’t cherish the heart of your brother or sister in Christ, then who will? If we don’t take the time to care for those who are hurting and suffering in silence, who will? It doesn’t even have to take up a big chunk of your day…maybe something just a simple as a “hello” or a note to let them know you were thinking about them – some way to let them know that they are not forgotten.

Be Jesus to those around you. After all, He was not afraid to reach out and touch the lepers, the untouchable ones. How can we do any less?

An Adventure On The River

It is a beautiful day. The sun is shining, the sky is clear, the water is fantastic, and you are in a canoe floating down the river. Bends in the river are successfully navigated and the peaceful journey continues on. For hours, all is well, calm, and beautiful – until you hear the crashing water… Dead-man’s curve is up ahead, but the river appears to be too low to be able to go around it. No other options appear to be available, and off you go – and then out you go…. The canoe is tipped over when the curve is missed because the current is too strong. Head first you fall in – the current within the river is so strong. However, a funny thing happens on the way into the water… You fall in head first, but it is your knee that hits the river bottom (and very hard, too). The surface finally re-appears, but the current is overpowering. Several more times you go under and are pulled along where you did not want to go. Fighting this current it is not something that can be easily done. When you finally stop and find a rock you can hold onto to stop yourself from going further downstream, the current is still too strong to let you stand up. Thankfully, a friend is nearby who risks his own safety (and dryness) by walking into the river to give you a hand up. Once you make it to shore, you assess your injuries (knee is not pretty and rather large by this time) and try to remember to just breathe.

That was my one and only experience in a canoe. The funny thing is it has taken me six years to actually stop and think about how I entered the water versus how I hit the river bottom. How did I get flipped over? Better yet, how did my glasses stay on my face throughout this entire ordeal? The later I definitely do not know, but I am very glad they did.

Our lives are a lot like my adventure on the river – and the daily trip we all travel through the River of His Heart. Dead-man’s curves are there. Sometimes they can be avoided, but sometimes we can’t seem to see a way around them. Our view is obscured and limited by our own perspectives. (After our adventure was over that day, we were informed that there was a way around the curve, but it was on the complete opposite side of the river – were we never bothered to look. Limited perspective…) There are so many pitfalls, challenges, and obstacles in our lives that can be avoided if we would just look up to Jesus, trust His perspective, and let Him lead the way.

Falling into the river of life can be avoided at times, but sometimes we can learn a great deal from our encounter with the river bottom if we will allow ourselves to see past the fear and the pain to find God’s hand in it and His heart through it. The river does not have to overtake us. We do not have to get swept away in the tempestuous current. If we have fallen in, He can pull us out. If the waters are sweeping over you, we can reach up for help. When we are hanging onto a rock just to keep from being swept further downstream, He will walk out into that river, stretch out His hand, and help us back to our feet.

Don’t let the twists and turns of life get the best of your or wash your heart away. Trust His heart, let Him guide the way, and know that even though we cannot see what lies ahead, He knows every inch of that river and what is around each and every bend. There is nothing that will come your way that He cannot use for our good – and for His glory.

Wounds and Scars? Yeah, but what now?

As I am sure everyone has experienced, there has been people in our lives that have caused us emotional harm. Whether it was intentionally or not doesn’t matter. Passed over, over looked, disregarded, tossed out with the trash, taken for granted… Words have been said – or not said – that reached a quiet, tender portion of the heart and created an oozing wound. It is not a deep or desperate wound, but it is just enough to break the integrity of that space and leave a weeping cut. As the years go by, these wounds slowly scab over and stop weeping, but a scar has been left behind. Time after time, wound upon wound, these scars build up to the point where they take over the space. All of this happens so gradually that it is not even noticed. Defense mechanisms begin to be used to protect this hall of scars and become such a part of normal everyday life that they are not noticed as well. Life can continue on as if all is well and no one is the wiser to the well hidden, darkness covered depth of pain residing just under the surface. But what happens if the surface gets cracked?

In the quiet and stillness of the hall of scars residing within a wounded heart, how does one react when light is brought in? While it is very painful, that is where I find myself today. The Lord is steadily cracking open this shell I built around my heart to keep out the hurt, to shelter from the disregard, a place built to escape to when the world forgot I existed. Two unbelievable people have been sent into my life and have blasted the doors away. They have forced me to take a look at my reactions, my standard response lines, and the reality of the emotions behind the things I sarcastically say. Some of this has not been pretty at all, but it has been a huge wake-up call to my heart to start beating again.

For too many years, I allowed others and their words to determine my value or self-worth. Too many years were wasted wondering what other people thought, how I should fit in, and wondering why. But, in the midst of all of this, the Lord spoke to my heart last night: “And God chose what the world looks down on as common or regards as nothing in order to bring to nothing what the world considers important; so that no one should boast before God.” I Corinthians 1:28-29 (CJB)

Listen well to the words of life, my heart! There is hope! What it means, at least to me, is that even God has a plan for me and He finds value in me – especially because the world of my past did not. He saw me even then – and He still sees me now.

My prayer for you, my friend, is that you carefully choose your words. Cherish the heart of the person to whom you are speaking and guard it well. Some scars take a long time to heal, but the ones that were unnecessary and preventable can be the most painful.

Cherish the Body of Christ. Care for your fellow members. Do not overlook the ones who are not exactly like yourself. We were all created with great diversity so that we can each fulfill our role in His church. And it is HIS church, after all… Step out of your comfort zone, guard your tongue, think before your shoot darts out of your mouth, and learn to cherish that which is not like you. You just might be surprised at what you find – if you will dare to look beyond the veil, the mirror, and the walls.