Monday, November 16, 2009

The Real Joy Secret


Written by Ann Voskamp, wife, mother of 6, writer, poet, artist. You can find more of her at A Holy Experience. It's worth taking a peek at her site just for the beautiful still life photos she takes.

She never ceases to encourage and inspire me.




The Real Joy Secret

I wake wanting to die.

Scarlet light bleeds over the horizon, another day aching in. I lie in bed. Pull covers up over my head. I'm withered dry and even the tears won’t fall: a heart drought. I lay listening to taunt of the names: Loser. Mess. Failure. Can I shrivel up invisible?

Mothers of six aren’t supposed to think this way. Not the happily-married, not the financially solvent.

Not the Christ-followers.

A year of mornings, I wake to the name calling, force feet to the floor anyways. I do pray. But self-hatred is a soul-eating disease and I’ve cut off parts off myself to survive.

I look in the mirror, into those eyes, and I know. It’s time for medication, some happiness from The Healer. Is that even a real possibility? My bones are brittle, dryness of the broken spirit; where on earth – in heaven -- do I get some of that joy medicine?

I’m standing in the kitchen, a morning in early November, sky weeping too, colors of the world draining away with the rain, when Jesus hands me the word that He stabbed into the slimy underbelly of the enemy.

There’s a good medicine word.

It’s the word He whispers when death prowled close and his anguish trickled down bloody. (We need not be ashamed of struggle with the demons. Jesus Himself knew the dark wrestle.) Black stalking, Jesus opens His hand and speaks the one word that changes everything.

Thanks.

He took the bread, even the bread of death, and gave thanks.

I swallow the word down too. On a grey autumn morning, grab a pen and jot down things I receive with thanks. ….

sun gold in leaves …

apples from orchard ....

new light on old planks …

clothespins waiting on the line…

all the things unseen …


Then another ten, then twenty. This medicine, she goes down sweet. By the end of three years, over 1000 gifts, countless, endless gifts,fattening the dry bones with thanks. That one word that slits the enemy open every time: Thanks.

I just might live. Even abundantly.

The abundant life is ours the moment we receive life with thanks.

Thanks is what makes a life large; thanks is what multiplies joy.

I lay the pen down, stare at this list of gifts, stare out at stars. Now I know the sickness that haunted me mornings, the illness that the gratitude cures:

I didn’t know how I was loved.

Count the ways He lavishly loves, (breath... life... bed... birdsong... Jesus... rain on tin... wind in hair... Scripture truth... laughing boys... sleeping dogs... wrinkled hands... fresh babies... Grace... and I. can’t. stop!) --- and it steals the breath from the lung.

Husband of the soul endlessly caresses.

He murmurs soft: “No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate.” (Oh, I have known those names, and worse.) “But you will be called Hephzibah… for the LORD will take delight in you” (Isa. 62:4).

Can you hear Him when He says you’re beautiful?


I number His kisses and wake to love.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

I Have Learned...

I ran across this today and thought it was worth sharing. I think I might print it out and hang it on the refrigerator as a constant reminder to us all.



I HAVE LEARNED...

The following quotes contain "principles for Christian living"
that are taken mostly from the 'wisdom' literature of the bible-
Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.

It is impossible for one to live right, or to have wholesome
relationships, without following Scriptural principles.

I'VE LEARNED that you cannot make someone love you.
All you can do is be someone who can be loved...
The rest is up to them.

I'VE LEARNED that no matter how much I care,
some people just don't care back.

I'VE LEARNED that no matter how good a friend is,
they're going to hurt you every once in a while
and you must forgive them for that.

I'VE LEARNED that just because someone doesn't love you
the way you want to, doesn't mean they don't love you
with all they have.

I'VE LEARNED that there are people who love you dearly,
but just don't know how to show it.

I'VE LEARNED that true friendship continues to grow,
even over the longest distance.

I'VE LEARNED that maturity has more to do with what types
of experiences you've had, and what you've learned from them,
and less to do with how many birthdays you've celebrated.

I'VE LEARNED that no matter how bad your heart is broken
the world doesn't stop for your grief.

I'VE LEARNED that our background and circumstances may
have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for
who we become.

I'VE LEARNED That just because two people argue,
it doesn't mean they don't love each other.
And just because they don't argue, it doesn't mean they do.

I'VE LEARNED That two people can look at the exact
same thing and see something totally different.

I'VE LEARNED That no matter the consequences,
those who are honest with themselves get farther in life.

I'VE LEARNED That even when you think you have no more
to give, when a friend cries out to you, you will find the strength
to help.

I'VE LEARNED That credentials on the wall do not make you
a decent human being.

I'VE LEARNED That it's hard to determine where to draw the
line between being nice and not hurting people's feelings,
and standing up for what you believe.

I'VE LEARNED That it takes years to build up trust,
and only seconds to destroy it.

I'VE LEARNED That sometimes when I'm angry I have the
right to be angry, but that doesn't give me the right to be cruel.

I'VE LEARNED That either you control your attitude,
or it controls you.

I'VE LEARNED That it's not WHAT you have in your life
but WHO you have in your life that counts.

I'VE LEARNED That you can get by on charm for about
fifteen minutes. After that, you had better know something.

I'VE LEARNED That it's taking me a long time to become
the person I want to be.

I'VE LEARNED That you can keep going long after
you think you can't.

I'VE LEARNED That learning to forgive takes practice.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Feeling Contempt for Easter...

Oh how I've begun to loathe the word Easter. I've actually come to despise that word! I mean where does Christ fit into the word EASTER? To me it stands for all too many worldly rituals and notions. Easter Eggs, Easter Bunnies...what does this holiday mean again?

It does have something to do with Christ right? Oh yeah, I believe some Catholics allowed the pagan religions to intertwine THEIR beliefs with those of the Church. Does anyone except me feel infuriated that Christ would have to play second to anyone or anything? What a fool idea these early "men of God" had- to believe that the only way to convert others was to let them keep some of their old lifestyles and beliefs!

Isn't God very explicit in His language when he teaches us that to be born again is to, in essence, DIE to our old selves? We're not to bring old sinful behaviors (especially pagan ones!) along for the ride. We're not to try and mingle the world with the Cross. That is the beauty of the gospel. We cannot be successful in ridding ourselves of the old man by ourselves. We DEPEND on an act of God to save us.

It requires an act of God to rid us of our native, in-born, fleshly desires- which leads us to the truth that no man can cause another to be born of God. We can't force them to mean the sinners prayer or to repent. We can't make church more entertaining or appealing to gain converts. We cannot allow them to keep 'some' of their pet sins in order to entice them into God's kingdom. God does not bargain for your soul. God himself, in his true and purest essence is more than enough for those who seek Him in truth.

But back to the competition we've set up between a day that should honor God's most precious gift to mankind and the pagan observance of Easter. Did you know that the first Easter celebrations were held shortly after the flood? Here's an excerpt from a history book...

Nimrod, a grandson of Noah, had turned from following his grandfather's God and had become a tyrannical ruler. According to the biblical record, as king, Nimrod created Babel, Ninevah, Asshur, Calla and other cities, all known for lifestyles that promoted unspeakable evil and perversion. When Nimrod died, his wife, Queen Semiramis, deified him as the Sun-god, or Life Giver. Later he would become known as Baal, and those who followed the religion Semiramis created in his name would be called Baal worshippers. They became associated with idolatry, demon worship, human sacrifice and other practices regarded as evil.

The origin of Easter involves the birth of Semiramis' illegitimate son, Tammuz. Somehow, Semiramis convinced the people that Tammuz was actually Nimrod reborn. Since people had been looking for the promised savior since the beginning of mankind (see Genesis 3:15), they were persuaded by Semiramis to believe that Tammuz was that savior, even that he had been supernaturally conceived. Before long, in addition to worshipping Tammuz (or Nimrod reborn), the people also worshipped Semiramis herself as the goddess of fertility. In other cultures, she has been called Ishtar, Ashtur and yes, Easter.

The origin of Easter goes back to the springtime ritual instituted by Semiramis following the death of Tammuz, who, according to tradition, was killed by a wild boar. Legend has it that through the power of his mother's tears, Tammuz was "resurrected" in the form of the new vegetation that appeared on the earth.

According to the Bible, it was in the city of Babel that the people created a tower in order to defy God. Up until that time, all the people on the earth spoke one language. The building of the tower led God, as recorded in Genesis 11:7, to confuse their tongues to keep them from being further unified in their false beliefs. As the people moved into other lands, many of them took their pagan practices with them.

Contemporary traditions such as the Easter Bunny and the Easter egg can also be traced back to the practices established by Semiramis. Because of their prolific nature, rabbits have long been associated with fertility and its goddess, Ishtar. Ancient Babylonians believed in a fable about an egg that fell into the Euphrates River from heaven and from which Queen Astarte (another name for Ishtar or Semiramis) was "hatched."


Do you see how the christian message has been mixed with(watered down by)the beliefs of this pagan message? Is it harmless for Christians to go along with it and all of the pagan symbolisms that come with it? Quite simply, I direct you to the first two of the 10 Commandments:

1. Do not worship other gods.
2. Do not worship idols.

But you say..."but I'm not really worshipping other gods or idols by doing the whole Easter Bunny thing...lady you're in bondage...you're a legalist!"

My response to that, is how much MORE time are you giving Christ this holiday than you are giving to the pagan rituals that compete with Him? Shouldn't it be ENOUGH to honor CHRIST alone without mixing ANYTHING else in to make it more FUN? If God is not enough for you, if you feel the need to dress up HIS church, His holidays, His word, His laws...maybe you have some soul searching to do. Anytime some THING, an activity, a person, a notion etc. consumes more time or effort or devotion than you are willing to give to God, it is idolatry. It is placing something worldy above God.

The church (especially in America) has done a pathetic job of educating its members of the sanctity of the Christian walk. But we live in the age of information and we no longer have excuses on why we remain ignorant on certain things.

I always exhort people to begin to THINK for themselves. Stop allowing yourselves to be spoonfed anything and everything! As Christians we are called to "come out from the world and live separately...i.e. DIFFERENTLY..." II COR. 6:14-18

But today, I'm constantly disheartened to see people claiming to be Christians who chase after everything the world has to offer. Christ is NOT enough for them.

Again, I exhort everyone to start questioning if what you do or what you're observing is pleasing to the Lord. Don't just do the Easter egg hunt because it's what you did when you were a kid and what your parents and grandparents did when they were kids.

I'll wrap this up with another scripture found in Joshua 24:15

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

Serving the Lord is a choice that you must make for yourself and your household everyday. This Easter you must choose whether following the Lord is more important to you or if including your kids in worldy activities that only lead them away from Christ is more important.

And one more side note for those of you (if any) who really care about what Christian SHOULD be doing on Easter (there's that vile word again), I recommend studying the parallel between the first Passover Feast and the Last Supper/ Crucifixion of Christ. I found a tiny Facebook group that has a wonderful solution to we Gentiles...it can be found here

If you're reading this, you obviously have the internet, so you have every research tool available to you to find out how you can better serve/worship Christ this week. Don't feign ignorance any longer!

While you're at it, you should investigate Halloween as well as Christmas! ;o) Remember...

Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free

John 8:32