Surprised by Joy

I title this post after a book of my favorite author, C.S. Lewis, though it actually has little to do with him.

I attend church regularly, and when one does so, it eventually tends to happen that most sermons are content of which one is already aware.   Last Sunday however, I have to say that I was, “surprised by joy.”   Literally, it was the topic of the sermon.    But it was presented in such a way as to really hit me.   Because it was presented as an examination of the joy of a child.   I often tell the hubby how grateful I am to have our children, that despite how much work they are that they make life better.   A big reason for this, for me, is that whenever I get down on the world, I look at our kids, or any kids for that matter, and see how much boundless energy and joy they have.     They are happy to be alive.   The kiddo, a couple of weeks ago said to me spontaneously, “I am excited to wake up every morning, because I want to find out what’s going to happen that day.”      My thought was, at what point in our lives does that feeling go away?    Or at least, when did it go away for me, and when did it, on most days, get replaced with a feeling of dread?

So when the speaker began telling of a trip to NYC he took with his wife and nephew, and shared some stories of the nephew and his expressions of joy, it was so nice to hear a sermon based on this premise.

There were a few neat quotes that I took down, the sermon begun with one by G.K. Chesterton:

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

The speaker talked about the retired senior pastor of our church, and his wife, who are in their 80’s.   They still have so much vitality, and in reference to them he said, “You know you are getting old when you have more memories than dreams.”     This pastor and his wife still have so many great dreams for our church and it’s urban neighborhood as well as for other areas of the world, that it keeps them young at heart.

He talked about how God is so full of joy and that sometimes we miss that.   That joylessness is a sin.   He had a quote by A.W. Tozer, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” 

It was a nice “feel-good” sermon, and was just something I needed.   I’d never thought of God being the source of that child-like joy, or God having that particular quality Himself for that matter. 

Have you been surprised by joy lately?

Until next time,

Lorelei

Wisest Thing My Mom Ever Said

The wisest, deepest thing my mom has ever said came out of her mouth a couple of days ago, her 68th birthday:

“With God, you never know what He’s going to do.”

The context is probably not what you are expecting.     As we were discussing being grateful that she survived breast cancer to see another birthday she said, “my little brother died in a fire on February 2nd and was buried on my birthday.   With God, you never know what He’s going to do.”

I found it so wise and deep that she would say this, that despite all of the awful things she’s lived through, she can say this with both pessimism and optimism and still have faith and pray to this God.   She’s not a woman of many words, but I hope to always keep these words from her with me.

Until next time,

Lorelei

Notes to My Pastor Follow-Up

On Thursday night I changed my mind and decided I wanted to share a testimony at church on Sunday.   I emailed my pastor as a follow-up to the email where I said I didn’t want to share a testimony because I didn’t think I could make it through.

Here’s what I shared this morning:

 In John 12:23-28 Jesus says:

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

“Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”

My heart has been troubled these past couple of weeks. I’ll be having surgery on Thursday to have my gallbladder removed. I’m probably less concerned at this point that something will go wrong with the surgery and more afraid of being put under. I had no fear at all when it came to giving birth and I’m not really afraid of being in pain. But, I really don’t like the idea of being knocked out so that someone else is completely in control. Which of course lead me to acknowledge that God is in control, so what do I have to fear? Except, I don’t know what God’s will is. What if God’s will isn’t the same as what I want, to get through the surgery and everything go perfectly as planned. And if, something were to happen, am I ok with that? Is it well with my soul? Do I trust God to watch over those I love, that Father really does know what’s best? In the past couple of days I’ve found comfort and encouragement in this, even Jesus was troubled with the prospect of what was laid before him, he was troubled by what God’s will was for him, but acknowledged that this was God’s purpose for him. The fact that Jesus was troubled comforts me, because sometimes the greatest encouragement is to know that we’re not alone.

I have to remind myself what Jesus said: “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”

While I certainly hope that it’s God’s will for me that all goes well with my surgery, and by the world’s estimation it should because it’s a pretty standard surgery, I found myself not sure what to pray. Obviously, everyone’s first reaction when you ask them to pray for you is to pray for what we deem to be the best possible outcome. The surgery goes well and as according to planned, you heal quickly, you wake up from the anesthesia. But in the grand scheme of things, I’m not sure we always know what the best possible outcome, in God’s eyes, really is. I found myself struggling to pray for peace and acceptance in whatever God’s will is in my life, though I still maintain the hope and desire that all goes well, as I think we all do. But we also know that there is suffering in this life, and that even these things God uses ultimately for His good and the good of those who love Him.

Romans 8: 26-28 tells us:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

I don’t fear death, I look forward to seeing my God, someday, and have confidence and joy that I know where I’m going. But I fear what I would leave behind. I want my son to always know that he is loved, I want to be there to encourage him and to see him one day accept the salvation offered to him by God. As I was writing this, our son came up to me and asked me to clean the crusties out of his nose…who will get the crusties out of his nose if not his mommy? So, I pray that I get to see these things, and if for some reason not, that God takes care of this for me (though I’m not sure how He’ll get rid of his crusties).

I John 5: 13 tells us:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

So I pray that though we never know when it is our time to go, that when it is that it is used as part of God’s plan and will, that we can have confidence that He will care for those we care for now and in the future. And that in the meantime He continues to give us His peace that is beyond our understanding.

To reiterate the verses for today: Philippians 4:4-9

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Until next time,

Lorelei