“Ain’t nobody gonna steal my joy”

My BFF traveled to Philly this Winter to introduce her daughter to a little American history up close and personal. During her visit, she witnessed a  young employee at a local store have an explosive public meltdown. This poor woman verbally vomited out her anger regarding her work schedule for everyone in the store to hear — an ugly response with a self-centered focus.  The memorable part of the experience, however, was the reaction from an older lady who was diligently working to stay on task despite her young coworker’s outburst. This unflappable, wiser woman responded by shrugging her shoulders and simply stating: “Ain’t nobody gonna steal my joy.”  Don’t you love that attitude?  These two “Jesus Chicks” are adopting this statement as our battle cry theme for 2012.

Today, in an effort to set my spiritual compass,” I started working my way through Anne Graham Lotz’s study “Into the Word” and rediscovered a verse that ties into this theme:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the Champion who initiates and perfects our faith.  Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:1-2, NLT).

The word joy in verse 2 comes from the Greek word chara, which here means to rejoice with gladness of heart by focusing on the eternal reward that God has prepared for us. This sweet fruit of character is produced in us daily as we choose to focus on Christ, take up our cross, and follow Him.

As we pray and plan for 2012, what joy killers do we need to lay down so that we can be more fruitful this year?  What is weighting me down that I must lay at the foot of the cross?  Ain’t nothing gonna steal my joy this year, my friends.  That dead weight simply must go.

Every Monday we will be working our way through Anne Graham Lotz’s 52-week study “Into the Word.”    Hop on over to the 3dLessons4Life Blog Facebook Page to join us as we dig into God’s Word together.  

Tuning In

  I tune in to the local Christian radio station every morning on my way into work.  Music really helps me to stay focused on dark days when I struggle to see Him clearly.  In my mind, I know that God is Love, and He calls me to love my neighbor as myself — but sometimes when life starts crashing in, my flesh just screams NO, NO, NO!

One campy song by Beckah Shae has echoed in my head all week —wooing me with its hip hop beats and message to #putyourloveglasseson.  What lens am I using to look at others?  Ouch!  Another song that hit me on the same theme of  love was “Headphones” by Britt Nicole.   Sadly, love is often not “coming through my headphones” because I fail to slow down and tune in.

These two fun songs helped drive home the theme of John’s First Epistle, which I recently examined verse by verse with my Good Morning Girls Group.  In Chapter 4, John develops several key ideas about love:

  • v 7:  God is love.  Without Him, I cannot possibly love others.
  • v 8:  Lack of love for others is a sure sign of unbelief.
  • vv 9, 19-21:  Christ in us enables us to love others as God loves us.
  • vv 10-11:  Love requires a sacrificial response, a death to self.
  • v 12:  God’s love in us is perfected as we extend ourselves to others.
  • v 17:  Love gives us confidence.
  • v 18 Fear and love cannot coexist.
The Greek word for love that John employs here is Agape.  If I am going to “put my love glasses on” as John suggests, this will require me to
  • esteem others and serve them faithfully
  • find joy in meeting the needs of my neighbor
  • refuse to neglect, disregard, or condemn “outsiders”
  • express compassion and willingly share in a spirit of goodwill

Tuning in to what John had to say about love showed me several areas I need to work on if I hope to be found faithful to my Savior.  How about you?  What is coming through your headphones today?  How do you tune in to God’s love?

On Watch

  I must admit that I sometimes have a very short attention span.  Instead of watching the news, I would rather scan the headlines.   I am a channel surfer and a blog post skimmer.  Yep, I am confessing here for all the world to know.  And, sadly this problem plagues me not only when I am reading The Pioneer Woman, but also when I  sit down for my quiet time with an open Bible before me.  Sad, but true.

For the last few days, however, a phrase out of Proverbs 31 has grabbed my attention:  “She watches over the affairs of her household” (v. 27, NKJV).  My mind has been mulling over what God meant when he said that we Jesus chicks should be “on watch” for our families.  I did a little digging on the passage and was delighted to discover that the Hebrew word translated here as “watches” is the same one used to describe a “watchman” in the Old Testament.  The characteristics of a watchman that I gleaned paralleled qualities that I need to cultivate as a prayer warrior for my family:

  • A watchman stood in an elevated perspective to keep the landscape in view and sound a warning if danger drew near.   The guard volunteered to spend time isolated, alert, and faithful.
  • The watchman maintained his position with undistracted observation, calm reasoning, circumspect responses.
  • The watchman sacrificed personal freedom and exhibited self-control to sacrificially stand in the gap while others slept.
  • The watchman armed himself in order to safeguard those entrusted to him.

As I stand in the gap for my family, I must guard my heart (Prov 4:23)  The Apostle Paul challenges:  “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love (I Cor. 16:13-14).  Just as the watchman of old, we must wisely treasure our charges and wear our spiritual armor with vigilance.  If we persevere, God has promised:  “Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed.  For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told” (Hab. 1:5).  May God help me purposefully stay “on watch” in prayer.

How has God challenged you in this area?  Any tips on how to “stick to the stuff” spiritually?   I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Visual Field Test

  About a year ago,  a routine eye exam turned into a day at the neurologist office.   After an MRI and a spinal tap later that month, I learned that my optic nerves were swollen, but thankfully, my vision had not been impacted.  I was encouraged to continue visiting a neuro ophthalmologist as a precaution — at each visit, I participated in a visual field test.  The purpose of the test was to determine if my perception had narrowed — Was I able to see objects on the outskirts of my view?  The  test is necessary because often we are not able to discern the peripheral vision loss as the decline is very gradual, and we have subconsciously learned to compensate.

Webster’s defines “discern” as detecting with the eyes, senses, or mind; to recognize or discriminate as distinct.  To discern, whether with the eyes or the mind, is a skill — one that can be lost if neglected.   Spiritually, my vision can also be crippled without my consciously being aware of it.  Ephesians 5:8-10 (HCSB) challenges us:  “For you were once darkness, but now [you are] light in the Lord. Walk as children of light — for the fruit of the light [results] in all goodness, righteousness, and truth —  discerning what is pleasing to the Lord.”  The key to strengthening my spiritual discernment is to remain connected to Christ.  He helps me to

  • distinguish between good and evil as I hear His voice (I Kings 3:9; Hebrews 5:14)
  • reign in my will and emotions to stay on course (Proverbs 15:21)
  • see through facades and determine the true motives of others (Malachi 3:18)
  • perceive the right time to act and determine the best course of action (Ecclesiastes 8:5)
  • gain insight that helps me understand His will and purposes (Proverbs 2:3)
  • learn from my mistakes and make wiser choices in the future (Proverbs 19:25)
  • recognize my own selfish, fleshy motives (Luke 12:56; Hebrews 4:12)

Just as light must penetrate the eye for us to see, we must connect to the true, eternal Light through Bible study and prayer in order to see with keen spiritual eyes.  Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1 encourages us to purposefully pursue this aim:  “My prayer for you is that you may have still more love—a love that is full of knowledge and wise insight. I want you to be able always to recognize the highest and the best, and to live sincere and blameless lives until the day of Jesus Christ. I want to see your lives full of true goodness, produced by the power that Jesus Christ gives you to the praise and glory of God” (v. 9-11, PHI).

Have you had a visual field test?  What negatively impacts your field of vision spiritually?

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Word Study: Still

As a language arts teacher, I have spent countless hours discussing the meaning of words with my students.  The connotations and associations fascinate me.  A word evokes varying emotions depending on one’s frame of mind and reference.

From time to time here on the blog, I want to take a “looksy” at some significant vocabulary, and today I had the perfect challenge when I read this post about the word “still.” (Thank you for the inspiration, Gypsy Mama!)

Why do we find it so hard to be still?  This picture of the sunset captured a moment in time — a stormy late afternoon at the beach on the West coast of Florida.  There is no rushing a perfect sunset — you have to wait and keep focused to enjoy its majesty.  So my hubby and I sat still.  The reward far outweighed the sacrifice of the time we would have probably squandered away checking our e-mail on our i Phones.

The Scriptures uses the word “still” in many connotations, and after examining some of those spots this evening, I came away with 3 “take aways”:

1.  Being “still” implies that I am abiding, remaining, dwelling.  In Numbers 9:8, Moses told the Israelites they must “stand still” to hear what God had to say.  Waiting receptively captures the essence of stillness.

2.  Abandon characterizes the word “still.”  In Psalm 46:10, the Psalmist cries, “Be still and know that I am God.”  In the Hebrew, the word literally means “sink, relax, abandon.”  We must cease from striving. I must let God be “Lord of my everything” and trust Him.

3.  Jesus exemplified steadfastness as an element of being “still.”  In Matthew 20:32, Jesus stood still and listened with compassion to the cry of a needy blind man.  He stepped away from the multitude and showed compassion.  He had an immovable purpose and a firm resolution that did not allow Him to be distracted or lead astray.

My conclusion is that “being still” is not a passive action at all — Stillness requires a great deal of determination and discipline, but the reward creates a window to see the miraculous hand of God at work in and through our lives.

How  can we incorporate a purposeful stillness into our walks as followers of Jesus?  Feel free to share your thoughts below.  Thanks for stopping by!