I Wish You Peace

It hasn’t been a peaceful year. We’ve been anxious and worried about many things –our health, politics, the state of the world. It’s been said that only God can make a bad man good, and that’s true. I’d liked to add to that statement here at the end of 2021 and say, only God can give a worried man (or woman) peace. I wish all of our readers peace in the New Year.

“‘These things we write unto you, that your joy may be full.’ What is fullness of joy but peace? Peace is the privilege of those who are ‘filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.’ ‘Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee.’ It is peace, springing from trust and innocence, and then overflowing in love towards all around him. He who is anxious thinks of himself, is suspicious of danger, speaks hurriedly, and has no time for the interests of others. He who lives in peace is at leisure, wherever his lot is cast.” John Henry Newman

For more about peace see:

Quiet and Peaceable Lives:

Keeping the Peace

Pursue Peace

The Gravity of Joy by Angela Williams Gorrell–Book Review

Angela Williams Gorrell was hired by Yale University to work on the Theology of Joy and the God Life project.  Shortly thereafter, she experienced three traumatic deaths of people close to her:  her cousin’s husband committed suicide;  her young adult nephew died suddenly due to a cardiac arrest;  her father died after years of opioid addiction.  Research and teaching about joy became difficult.  This was certainly an opportunity to grow through challenging circumstances!

Through volunteering to lead Bible studies in a women’s prison, Angela begins to see that joy and sorrow, grief and rejoicing can coexist. Working with these women who are imprisoned, who often have suicidal thoughts, who struggle with addiction, she still notices their moments of real joy.

“Because joy is God, because it is what you feel while being ministered to, it can always find you.”

It is possible to be in the midst of grief, and at the same time experience the joy of looking forward in hope.  Joy seemed to flow from loving relationships, and despair from loneliness and isolation.

“Joy is a counteragent to despair because it can be sustained and sustain us, even when standing right next to suffering.”

She compares times of mourning to the Saturday before Easter.  It is a time of in between. 

“The majority of the time in our lives is spent living on Saturday, in the space between death on Friday and the indescribably joy of Sunday morning.”

This memoir-like book will appeal to anyone dealing with the challenges of grief, especially grief related to a tragic or unexpected death.  It is an open and honest exploration of one person’s journey out of deep sorrow.  At the end there is an epilogue that includes resources for those who are struggling with suicidal thoughts, or addiction.  There is also some current information about work that is being done to  educate people about these issues and prevent untimely deaths.

The author ends by saying:

“I hope you will join in the important work of reducing suicide, healing addiction, and changing the prison system. I hope you will create and nurture a community that focuses on understanding, recalling, and being open to joy.”

VERDICT:  5 STARS.  I read it in one day.

For more on the topic of grief see:

The Night Lake by Liz Tichenor–Book Review

I Still Believe–Movie Review

Dark Clouds Deep Mercy by Mark Vroegop–Book Review

I Commend Joy

I’m now up to chapter 8 in my prayerful reading of Ecclesiastes.  Although we tend to think of this book as nothing but doom and gloom, here the author says:

“And I commend joy, for man has no good thing under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful,  for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun.”  Ecclesiastes 8:15

In other words, be attentive; God is blessing us every day through His gracious provision.  We should take the time to notice and be grateful.  When we do, our thankfulness will result in joy and lighten our burdens.

This goes along with one of the books I’ve been reading recently.  See:

He goes on to say that man cannot understand the ways of God and shouldn’t wrack his brain trying.  No matter how wise we become, God remains a mystery.  We cannot understand His long term plan.  At the beginning of chapter 9 we read:

“But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God.”  Ecclesiastes 9:1

God is at work. You’re in His hands.  You can trust Him.  SURRENDER.  Give thanks for everyday blessings. I commend joy.

For more on the book of Ecclesiastes see:

A Time to Die

A Time for Everything

Hoping for Something New?

 

Take It With You #2

This quote from my daily devotional reminded me of a previous post– Take It With You.  It also fits with our theme this month, since the resurrection is God’s ULTIMATE victory over the evils of sin and death.  The author is  Rev. John Ellerton (1826-1893)  who was English hymn writer. Take the joy and confidence he speaks of with you wherever you go.

“If you come to seek His face, not in the empty sepulcher , but in the living power of His presence, as indeed realizing that He has finished His glorious work, and is alive for evermore, then your hearts will be filled with true Easter joy, and that joy will shed itself abroad in your homes.  And let your joy not end with the hymns and prayers and the communions in His house.  Take with you the joy of Easter to the home, and make that home bright with more unselfish love, more hearty service;  take it into your work and do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus;  take it to your heart, and let that heart arise anew on Easter wings to a higher, a gladder, a fuller life;  take it to the dear grave-side and say there the two words, ‘Jesus Lives!’ and find in them the secret of calm expectation, the hope of eternal reunion.”

 

Mountaintop Blessings

Most Christians have had what they describe as a “mountaintop” experience… a time when they felt especially close to God and keenly aware of His presence and blessings.  Some people may associate that time with their conversion;  others with a special time away on a Via de Cristo or other sort of retreat.  At these times, we feel on fire for God.  We are energized and ready to do anything and everything required of us to lead an authentic Christian life.

My devotional reading this morning focused on how mountaintop times, wonderful and blessed as they are do not last.  We can’t recapture them, but we can continue to use them.

“We must learn to live in the ordinary ‘gray’ day according to what we saw on the mountain.”

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chamber

How were you blessed on the mountaintop?  Were things clearer, brighter?  Did you feel loved and called for a special purpose?  Did you experience the joy of Christian fellowship or the peace that passes understanding? Even Jesus and the disciples experienced this:

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. (Mark 9:2-3 ESV)

Yet, they still had the valley of Calvary ahead of them.  I’ve found that continuing in the spiritual disciplines of worship, prayer, study and fellowship (even when the day is gray and I don’t really want to) help keep the mountaintop feelings alive and fresh in my life.  These are the daily blessings that keep us growing in the valley.

 

A Joyful Direction

The quote below comes from a sermon preached by John Donne in the early 17th century, during a time of plague.  It reminds us that our ultimate, joyful destination is an expansion and continuation of the joy we experience in Christ right now.

“Howling is the noise of hell; singing the voice of heaven. Sadness the damp of hell; rejoicing the serenity of heaven. And he that hath not this joy here lacks one of the best pieces of his evidence for the joys of heaven, and hath neglected or refused that earnest by which God uses to bind his bargain, that true joy in this world shall flow into the joy of heaven as a river flows into the sea. This joy shall not be put out in death and a new joy kindled in me in heaven. But as my soul, as soon as it is out of my body, is in heaven, and does not stay for the possession of heaven nor for the fruition of the sight of God till it be ascended through air, and fire, and moon, and sun, and planets, and firmament to that place which we conceive to be heaven, but without the thousandth part of a minute’s stop, as soon as it issues, is in a glorious light, which is heaven…The true joy of a good soul in this world is the very joy of heaven. And we go thither, not that being without joy we might have joy infused into us, but that, as Christ says, ‘our joy might be full’ (John 16:24), perfected, sealed with an everlastingness. For as he promises that ‘no man shall take our joy from us’ (v. 22), so neither shall Death itself take it away, nor so much as interrupt it or discontinue it. But as in the face of Death, when he lays hold upon me, and in the face of the devil, when he attempts me, I shall see the face of God (for everything shall be a glass, to reflect God upon me), so in the agonies of death, in the anguish of that dissolution, in the sorrows of that valediction, in the irreversibleness of that transmigration, I shall have a joy which shall no more evaporate than my soul shall evaporate—a joy that shall pass up and put on a more glorious garment above and be joy super-invested in glory. Amen.”7

Learning to Count It All Joy

One month after my husband graduated seminary, I got the worst phone call of my life… my brother, my only sibling, had committed suicide. I quickly hopped on a plane to Florida to be with my sister in law and the four young children he left behind.

So many questions ran through my mind…and I turned to God for strength. I knew I couldn’t change the situation but I asked God… what can I do to glorify you in this awful mess? God reminded me to be the light of Christ, and no matter what, He was there to be with our family. The last two years since that day, I have tried to show my family that no matter what we face in life, God wants us to always remember that all things work together for His good, to those that love Him, and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

As I have looked back on that part of my journey, I know why God had me rooted in the book of Philippians at the time… God wanted to remind me how to count all trials and tribulations in my life as pure joy. The book of Philippians helped me to understand that having the joy of the Lord is so important and vital to our faith walk because God’s Joy is our strength and power.

Both the Apostle Paul and James tell us when we are enduring trials count it all as joy… because when our faith is tested, our endurance grows, and when it fully develops we will be strong in the Lord and ready for the things life throws at us. The pursuit of deepening our relationship with God is continual because our world and our surroundings are constantly changing and little by little we increase the reflection of Christ in our lives.

Living a life of joy is a choice. You want to know the truth of how I got through… two important factors…

…with the help of some awesome ladies whose husbands were also in seminary with us… ladies who became my friends, ladies who are my sisters in Christ.

…and because deep down in my heart I have chosen to wholeheartedly trust that God’s promises are true…He loves me, He died for me, he doesn’t want me to be perfect but to be faithful and obedient, he wants me to share His love with the people I encounter, he wants the joy of the Lord to be my strength, and he wants me to always focus on Him. Sometimes it is hard to count your life as joy, I still struggle with it, and that is when I cling to God even more… so he can help me to find joy in the suffering.

I cling to Philippians 1: 9-11… “I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation- the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ- for this will bring much glory and praise to God”.

God says that he has set before us both life and death. I say choose life. Live your life as God intended, counting it all as joy. Listen to His voice and hold fast to Him.

God loves you and so do I,

Leslie

A Prayer in Remembrance of Baptism

Lord God, I am your child.  I call you Father because you are my Father.  You named me with your own holy name even before I could speak.  You made me your own before I could move a hand to help or prevent you.  You insisted on having me even though you knew the end of my life as well as its beginning, its shame as well as its glory, its failures as well as its achievements, its bad as well as its good.

Why, Father, should I persist in resisting you?  Why should I insist on my own way instead of knowing your way of grace and love?  Why should I obey my own whims instead of letting your grace in baptism have its way with me?

Forgive me, Father, for so often wandering into a far country away from you, your forgiveness, your joy, your promises, your love in Jesus Christ.  Help me to live in the freedom of my baptism, by the faith you have given me, in the life which you daily renew by your gracious forgiveness.

I am baptized.  I belong to you, God.  Amen

Taken from the Lutheran Via de Cristo Pilgrim’s Guide

Image result for martin luther on remember our baptism

Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Change

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Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Famous Christmas Carols – Story Behind the Carol – “O Come All Ye Faithful”

Another story behind the story of a carol mentioning the fruit of faith and joy.

Jlue's Weblog - A Christian Perspective

“O Come All Ye Faithful”was written by John Francis Wade. Wade was said to have written the song in 1743 and to have based the song on the Bible passage Luke 2:15-16. It was first known as “Adeste Fideles.”

Verses 1-3 and verse 6 were translated from Latin to English by Frederick Oakeley in 1841 while verses 4 and 5 were translated by William Thomas Brooke (1848-1917).

While there has been some controversy surrounding the authorship of the song, the beauty of the melody, along with the worshipful and meaningful words have blessed many over the years.

“O Come All Ye Faithful”

O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels;

Refrain

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the…

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