Monday, January 23, 2012

Choosing JOY

Yesterday, we began our January Bible Study with Bob Allison from International Center for Biblical Counseling of Texas. His message was so explicit and thought provoking. The topic was “SOUL-BONDS” and he talked about “Breaking Negative Spiritual and Emotional Bonds of the Heart and Soul.” Wow! Heavy stuff! This is a topic so many people are plagued by yet remain in a query as to how to deal with. Loved it! I could think of so many people who would benefit from the information we received…pretty much everyone I’ve ever come in contact with during my life. After all, who is immune to sin? To no surprise, the topic touched the hearts and minds of every person present.

It is not often we get the basic how-to guide, step-by-step instructions or self-application process handed to us…for mending our heart and soul…you know, the simplified version of the one buried in scripture. Short of seeking a good Christian counselor, usually the only way to approach this process is to delve into a life-application study Bible, pray, read, study, pray some more and work through it with God’s help and His healing.

I have done the latter and have conquered forgiveness. First and foremost, I have repented and I know I have been forgiven for my sins. Secondly, I have forgiven others who have sinned against me. Thirdly, I have dealt with guilt and have forgiven myself. Forgetting, on the other hand, is another matter entirely. Forgetting may come after a time and the scars may heal and fade, yet they are forever present. We know God has the ability to turn our ashes to beauty. In other words, if we let Him have complete control in our life, He will turn our scars of brokenness into His lessons which provide strides of remarkable strength as we comfort others in the same way He has comforted us. This He has taught me. This I have learned. This I know to be true.

So how do you begin to forget? You must practice choosing JOY. I choose JOY as a result of making a conscious and constant effort to walk and live in the Spirit. By that I mean I continuously remind myself that my body is the temple of God and His Spirit resides within me. He provides continuous guidance and intervention in my life…giving me clarity and insight into the ways and truths of my Father. You could say I am captured in His reflection…for I am…forevermore.

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” ~ I Cor 3:16 NKJV

The Holy Spirit guards, guides, instructs and encourages me to walk in Christ’s likeness and to seek the absolute and extreme ways of my Father. I long to know Him better so I continually pray and delve into His Word. I choose praise and worship music on my radio. I listen to Christian speakers and read books written by Christian authors. I make only selective choices watching television and my viewing is minimal. This keeps my mind and my focus stayed on God, my Father; Christ Jesus, my Savior; and the Holy Spirit residing within. JOY is mine, dear friends! Yes, He is my JOY…my fullness and my eternal peace. He never leaves me nor forsakes me. He loves me unconditionally. He answers my prayers. He walks with me and talks with me, teaching me along the way. He sent His only Son to die in my place so that I may have eternal life. He knows every hair on my head and every tear I have cried and everything about me...and He still loves me and cares for me so deeply. Am I immune to Satan hurling his darts? No! Does this mean when I am blind-sided by Satan that I no longer regress? Yes! In this life, I have been laughed at, ridiculed, chastised and been written off for being “too Holy.” Does that bother me? No, it no longer bothers me in the least. The more Godly traits that are instilled in me, the more my Father expects of me and the more extreme I probably seem to many in this world. I am human. I am not flawless. As I have said before, there have been and will be seasons of sadness. There will be failures (lessons), but I am not to dwell there. God has no purpose for me in that. In the same sense, the same JOY that I now reside in is also yours for the asking and He has no purpose in your dwelling in your those places of sin’s bondage. Satan will use every tactic possible to hold you there and attempt to steal your JOY but if you clothe yourself in righteousness, put on the armor of God, practice thinking on things pure and holy, abide in Christ Jesus by calling on the Holy Spirit throughout your day, JOY will triumph in your life as well! I can only imagine how it will be in Heaven where JOY is no longer a choice after our lessons, but instead it is a constant way of life. Practice kingdom living now by choosing JOY!

Captured in His reflection,

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Treasure EVERY bite out of life! No matter the size, treasure it! Whether a bite or a byte, treasure it! Remember that “time waits for no one” and “happiness is a journey, not a destination.” Sometimes this is hard to consciously remember in our fast-paced world of megabytes and gigabytes but if you practice small “prayerbytes,” engaging our Father and turning your disappointments, frowns, aggravations and frustrations into hope, smiles, chuckles and happiness, you will cross major milestones toward good health, well being, peace and joy. Then go a little farther and also turn your idle moments or wasted time into “prayerbytes!” While waiting on your computer, on your phone, on an elevator, in line, on a doctor or in traffic…no matter where the wait, turn those otherwise wasted moments or voids in your life, into “prayerbytes.” Get into the habit of walking and talking with God at every given opportunity. Before you know it, the more time you seek Him, the more you will find Him. The more time you find Him, the more you will want Him. The more time you want Him, the more you will need Him! The more time you need Him, the more you will love Him. The more time you love Him, the more you will seek Him…and the cycle repeats…the cycle of a Christ-filled life…a full life…one with no voids.

Remember “The Dash” by Linda Ellis? The poem emphasizes that life is what happens between the beginning and the end. It is everything, including what we deem insignificant. The poem speaks volumes and no truer words have ever been written. I caught myself dwelling on this yesterday while talking and sharing some tears with my best friend from high school. I am in the bad habit of unconsciously saying..."when the house is finished I want to do this, or let's do thus and such.” Last week, after my aunt’s funeral, I said to many of my relatives, “When the house is finished, I want to have a family reunion!” Yesterday, while talking with my dear friend regarding one of our high school classmates who just passed away, I caught myself saying, “We need to get together when the house is finished…I want to have a slumber party!”

Whether we say good-bye to a family member or a friend, there is not only a void, there is a reminder that one day we will face the end of our own earthly journey as well. This shouldn’t jolt our “I’m fine and everything is ok” status, but it does. Why? We stare time in the face and take a long look at our own life which is full of voids. Perhaps we’ve wasted valuable time. During loss we are suffering a measurement of pain and sorrow, but amidst that there is a subdued urgency to reunite with those we have not seen or talked with in a long time. Yes, there is an immediate overwhelming sense of urgency to gather together those we care most about. Why? It is because we want to hurriedly fill in the voids in our life. Yes, we must fill our wasted time with moments to remember and cherish...moments we will not regret losing. We want to stop taking life for granted and fill in every precious moment we have left with those we care about.

Wow, how much more does our Father want us to fill our moments with Him? While God deserves our very best and not the crumbs from our life, He often receives our leftovers. Sometimes He is not given the smallest bite out of life; however, you can change that and begin today. If you are out of practice, you can begin with small bites of time…yes, with “prayerbytes.” Before long, He is not simply residing within while waiting for you; He is living through your very existence, within the very breath you take, thoughts you think, sights you see, words you speak and He is guiding your hands and your every step. Once you’re in step with God, The Father, your step gets lighter and your joy is eternal. Then, God becomes the significant part of your “dash.” Like those who mean the most to you, He won’t have to wait for a void in your life in order to reunite with you.

Thank you, Father, for reminding me that time is a precious gift. Thank you for steering my being to prayer and the growing desire within me of Your presence. Thank you for reminding me that each day You give me, I am to fill my life with meaningful moments…moments with You and those You place in my path. Please help me to live a full and complete life within Your will, Father, and to live out and exemplify Your eternal JOY in every step we take together! Amen.

Captured in His reflection,

Friday, January 6, 2012

"Joy Comes In The Morning"

Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
~Psalm 30:4-5

A life of eternal joy trumps a season of sadness, every time!
After attending a funeral yesterday, of my dear aunt, I was temporarily saddened when a notice popped up in my inbox this morning, “Rita Martin turns 86 on Januray 13.” The message took me by surprise and it took another minute for me to smile again, realizing she is no longer aging and is residing in eternal joy.

While roses are beautiful, their thorns will periodically prick us and draw blood. I praise You, Father, thanking You immensely for the roses…while I am ever grateful for the thorns.

“Experiencing” hurt and “facing” hurt are both personally painful, yet “facing” hurt can be much more agonizing.

“Experiencing” hurt causes personal, physical or emotional pain, followed by healing, sometimes a scar and possibly memories which cause us to “face” or unlock the hurt at our discretion. There are so many hurts and areas of sadness which surface as a result of death, divorce, addiction, abuse, lies, cheating, molestation, rape, bigotry, theft, gossip, etc. The list of causes is long, indeed.

“Facing” hurt means looking directly into the pain, delving in it, as well as the underlying cause and long-term effect. It means studying the tributaries of the pain and digging way beneath the surface hurt in order to analyze its origin...all the while placing ourself in the individual shoes of those concerned as well as questioning all the possible repercussions in the future.

I speak from personal experience when I say that facing hurts is not easy, especially those which we may have inflicted upon others. True enough, we are all inherently sinful and have all fallen short; however, many times these Biblical facts do not weigh heavily enough in our heart and mind to compensate for Satan’s thorns or skillful ways to use guilt against us. Satan has a way of blindsiding us even after we have asked for forgiveness and have been forgiven. Just when we think we are ok, back on track and standing boldly for Christ, a thorn pricks us! Out of the blue, here comes a remark or something you read concerning an aspect of the hurt…and wow, it can take the wind right out of our sails. You regress and face the hurt once again. Satan would love to keep us there where he attempts to infiltrate our stance and cause us uncertainty and doubt. His playing field is built on insecurity and he would love nothing more than to keep us subdued. How do we handle it?

"Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved." -Psalm 55:22

How does it end? When does this “Joy” that “comes in the morning” totally and permanently replace yesterday’s sadness? Well, it only happens when we let it. How do we “let” it? The ONLY way to replace sadness with joy is to CHOOSE JOY! Merely saying, “I choose joy” will not cause permanent JOY. We must truly put joy into practice and focus on living out our joy in Christ Jesus. The first thing we must do is focus more on Christ than we do ourselves. We must replace our sadness with His joy. The only reason to regress and think on the lesson God has taught you during your time of pain and sadness is when you utilize it for His good in helping others or drawing others to Him.

“Hold on, my child, JOY comes in the morning!”

Has Jesus not endured all possible facets of the hurts we face? Has He not chosen the right path and pointed us in the right direction? Has He not forgiven our sin and saved us from ourselves? Did He not die so that we might have eternal life with Him? Does not the JOY in Him and everlasting life surpass all momentary earthly circumstances of sadness or hurt in which Satan often tampers? Are we not more than conquerors? Do we believe what we say we believe? Then, by all means, let’s live it…boldly and corageously!

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." -Romans 8:28

Father, God, I love You and I praise You with all that is within me. I thank You for Jesus and what He means to me. I thank You, Father, for Your omnipotent power to work all things together for my good. I pray for everyone within a season of sadness, that we may always look toward you for guidance, and hope in our tomorrows. May we choose JOY in Christ and boldly align our lives with Him on a regular basis. May we consistently walk courageously with You while wearing Your armor which You have provided for us. Father, God…thank You for Your many roses, for the thorns and especially for the eternal JOY You provide when those thorns prick us. Father, we not only choose JOY today, we proclaim it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Captured in His reflection,