Wednesday, December 18, 2013

For the Joy of it

Sunday was an awesome time of worship at our church as we met as one and let our hearts be stirred by the children.

We no longer have wee ones except of the grand kind.  But when the children sing there is always something, someone to watch.

There is the one in the front row who bows after the first song.

Or he who begins to cry because worshiping a Big God who created the world is scary  and all these people are watching.

But my joy came, even as tears threatened to blur my vision, at the multitude of little ones singing.  Their voices joined together as one, or in harmony a little tentatively.  But there was a multitude.

You see our little church has been having some growing pains.  A good problem to have, right?

We began a building project to ease the tight fit.  But building projects seem to always cause some to move on to the already built churches.

And many have moved.  Some leavings seemed to rip my heart out at the thought that I may never see them again, life being what it is.

Some were easier as they moved on to do missions in new towns in new ways at new churches.  These also hurt to think about but they seemed to heal more quickly.

I had begun to think that somehow our church had a hole that was oozing the blood of its members.  A hole I could not see nor knew how to fix.  Except through prayer.  For prayer eases all the pains, fixes the hurts, restores the Body of Christ.

But just as I was wondering who else might be leaving, there they were!  All those children!  Filling up our new larger stage.  Voices booming out to fill the rafters in sweet song!

The Advent candle for this 3rd week is JOY.  We sing of it, "Joy. Joy. Joy."  God's JOY is not that happy feeling of giddiness, but a contentedness that all is right with life, even when life is upside down.  The Gospel is JOY, God's JOY.

Ann Voskamp said on her vlog that the opposite of joy is not pessimism, but unbelief.  JOY, God's JOY, is the Gospel.

Maybe these 2 points don't come together in your mind.  For some reason they do in mine.  Just as I was uncertain of the ripple coming out of my church, hope was restores.  And with hope comes JOY, God's JOY.  And I can exhale in praise.

Unwrapping Tuesdays prompted by and

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

When Service is Just Him

Service.  Ministry.  Mission.  Using my spiritual gift(s) in service to God is His plan for this world.

I guess I have always believed that true happiness comes in finding my spiritual gift and then using it to the utmost for Him.

Yes, that's what I thought.  Sounds lofty, doesn't it.  An honor to use my gift given to me by the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, to honor the whole of the Trinity, especially God the Father.

And so I have served:  teaching Sunday school, running a mom's group, writing stuff, producing newsletters, drama work.  Doing.  Striving?  Yes, at times.  But always looking to the next meeting, program, event to fill some unnoticed need in my heart.

Until this summer.

Six years ago He called me (& Hubby) to serve in middle school ministry.  A new wild adventure to let go of the stuffy adult world and play, pray, and sing with some mighty awesome youths!  We felt we were finally in the midst of God's calling for us together--even though we were both in our 50's!  

We were amazed to be used by God to touch the lives of kids who are in the in-between stage, between being children and not adolescents yet.  We loved the singing with actions and praise and many woo-hoos!!  We enjoyed the games--maybe, well, at first.  Each year has shown us that we are too old to dart and reach and tag and run without feeling it afterwards.  

And we loved those kids who could feel comfortable enough to say what was on their minds and in their hearts, who felt safe, not threatened, not judged.  Great questions!  Great sharing!  Great love poured out from God through us into these middle-kids.

Until this summer.

It wasn't a sudden slap on the head or a removal of any strength left in us.  But it was a feeling of discontent.  (See my post The Secret of Contentment)  It was a slow assurance that our time with youth was up.  Too Soon!! My heart cried.  Yet the assurance was there.

Yet, I'm in a doldrum.  "Doldrums" is defined by Webster as "a belt of calms at the Equator".  It's a stillness at the center of the world that sailors hate.  It means being adrift for hours or days, waiting for the next gust of wind to fill the sails and propell them onward.

Some ships could row out of the doldrums, toiling and sweating and striving to get back into the "shipping lanes" that would relieve their tiredness.

But rowing, toiling, striving to move back, forward into the winds is not what God wants from me.  At least I don't think so.

Then, today, July 23, Sara at
Every Bitter Thing is Sweet
wrote about this very thing.
 "The only thing I, personally, can uniquely do on this earth — that no one else can — is worship Him through my life. This worship is a construct of God’s, that in some seasons may look like keeping our hands still but our heart alive, and in some seasons it’s crazy messy with the dirt of another’s life in your story.
"This is a call to the mamas and the sick and the broken and the ones who, like I was once, are having their insides re-wired: you aren’t sidelined from mission — nor do you need to buck-up and make yourself do it to feel like you matter — you are invited. Now. To have private stories of encountering the living and active God that may, at times, make your public life look like it lacks impact."
Her words spoke to my heart.
If God is benching me, us, from youth ministry, then maybe it is a call to return to worship with Him in a more intimate way.
For like Sara writes, I am uniquely created to worship God in me.  Emanuel, God with us.  In my heart, in my very being.  He resides there, here, with me, next to me.
Liz Curtis Higgs is another favorite blogger.  I especially enjoy her weekly verse study.  You can find her at  Last week she wrote this:
“'The Lord your God is with you',… Zephaniah 3:17
"This is everything we need to know: his name, his relationship with us, and the assurance of his presence. The God of the universe, the one who claimed you long before you claimed him, is 'in your midst' (LEB). I’m telling you, he’s “right there with you” (CJB). Right. There."
Yes, He is right here with me.  And so I wait and worship.

No Room at the Inn?

It has been awhile since I wrote.  I think the gap occurred when my mother became ill and then passed into heaven.  At that time I did not seem to have any words in me to share.

Now, though, with the coming of Christmas, I have been immersing my heart in the old, old stories of the season.  But with new eyes.

First, let me highly recommend my 2 fav bloggers' Advent books.  The 1st is by Liz Curtis Higgs, entitled The Women of Christmas.  It is an awesome new look at the lives of three women from the first Advent of Christ.  (

The second is a devotional by Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift.  It has 25 days of devotions that follow along with the Jesse Tree. (  Both of these women have a wonderful way with words that I cherish and appreciate.

So why this title "No Room at the Inn?'?  Because as I have been reliving the Christmas story I have been stopped cold by the thought that the Creator God has no room at the inn.  That the people of the story are saying no to their Creator!

Mary and Joseph are newly wed.  They are young, Mary much younger than I had thought she was.  They have traveled to the City of David, better known as Bethlehem, because God had stirred the heart of the ruler in those parts to count all the people.  This required them to travel about 100 miles to Joseph's family's town.

They must have walked, for few people could afford even a mule then.  I wonder if the roads were dusty and dry.  Or were they packed down hard by the many travelers ahead of them?  Maybe it was wet and muddy?  All I really know is that they were walking and walking while Mary's womb held God Himself.  (Gives me goosebumps!)

This weary couple knocked at the door of the inn as the noisy throngs partied about them.  Party, you ask.  I think there were some who viewed this required "vacation" as one big party.  A reunion for many with family they had not seen for some time.

Mary, young, pregnant with God's Only Son, stands and waits with hope that they will find room at the inn.  But alas, no room.  Perhaps they were late-comers to the reunion and their kinsmen had taken all the rooms.

Or, maybe, the innkeeper was a greedy person.  He had guests of varying status in life, some much richer than others, as seen by their fine robes.  Others not so well off, but still able to pay.  But this young couple?  He could tell that they could not pay as well as others.  Maybe he even considered turning someone out of their rooms.  But this couple could not begin to match the rent of those he already had.

Could Mary hear the paying customers behind the innkeeper's back?  Did they acknowledge her state and sympathize with her?  Poor girl.  Or did they turn their backs and drink their wine in disinterest?  Could not one of them offer to sleep in the dining room so the young couple could have a room?

The rich ones would not have even thought of such a thing.  Make room for this poor couple?  We don't move over for anyone!  Or maybe they feared being out in the street.  So many people, so many thieves and purse-cuts.  No, they could not give up the safety of their room.

And for a moment I am looking with angel-eyes at this scene:  the darkening sky contrasted with the fire burning brightly behind the innkeeper; the joy and noise from inside verses the eerie quietness outside in the street; the rested and well-fed guests highlighted behind the weary, even hungry couple.  God's Son, Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us, rejected even before His birth.

I tell you we too fit into this picture.  When Jesus was preparing to die, He told His disciples that He was going to have to leave so that the Father could send His Helper to them.  He would die a dishonorable death crucified on a cross, the only charge against Him?  Our sins.  My sins.  Your sins.  To pay on our behalf.

He did not stay dead, but rose to new life.

Then God sent His Spirit to come and live in us if we only believe.

"...because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us" (Romans 5:5).  

And "Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you?" (1Cor. 6:19).

Is there room in your heart for this "God-with-us"?  Most of us would not make room for Him, steeped in the Me-Generation that we are.  We fear that we will have to give up something.  Money.  Jobs.  Comfort. Self-sufficiency.  Safety.  Free time.

Yet Jesus said, "I stand at the door and knock" (Rev. 3:20)  He wants to know if there is room in your Heart's Inn?