September 12, 2015


I've always been interested in joy: the differences between joy and happiness, what it looks like, how you know you have it, etc. It is something I have been learning about for most of my life. I remember my pastor's wife talking about the differences between joy and happiness in youth group one night. I still remember what she said. She said happiness is based on circumstances, our situation, but joy is not. We can have joy no matter what we are going through. That is something I have thought a lot about, but I guess I still didn't really understand it. I don't think I really began to understand what joy was like until about four years ago.

Four years ago, I hit my rock bottom. What caused it is irrelevant to the point. To help you understand where I was at this point, let me try to paint a picture for you. Imagine being at the bottom of a well. It is pitch black. You can't even see your hand touching your face. Now, imagine feeling fear all around you. It is so real, you can literally feel it. I was at the point where I was afraid of everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. I was more depressed and hopeless than I had ever been before, and that says a lot because I dealt with depression for most of my life and had contemplated suicide several times before. It was a scary place to be, BUT here's the thing. I felt God there with me the whole time. I knew He was there for me. I knew He wanted me to just reach out my hand to Him in the darkness. Even though I could not see Him, I could feel Him so I reached out my hand into the darkness, and He grabbed hold of me and never let go. He started pulling me out of that pit. He put people into my life that came beside me and supported me and listened to me and let me know I was not alone. This brings tears to my eyes to write this because it means so much to me. I will forever be grateful to God and the people He put in my life during that time. It was during that time that God began showing me what joy was.

I really believe that joy is not what most people think it is. Joy is not dependent on anything or anyone. Joy comes from God. He gives it freely, but because we humans always like to do things our own way, we don't always experience it. We think our ways are better than His so we turn our backs on Him, and we walk away from joy. It doesn't make sense, but that's the way it is. I have turned my back on it and Him far more times than I would like to admit. It is literally a daily struggle to keep my focus on Him. Satan is bound and determined to take my focus off of God and put it on myself and my circumstances. Just yesterday I was sitting in my office at work, and all of a sudden, I just felt blah. That's the only word I can really use to describe it. It was like the joy had been sucked out of me, and I was just sitting there! I wasn't even really doing anything. I saw it for what it was though and decided I had better turn my focus back to where it belonged. The rest of the day went better. I don't know about any of you, but I find that it is usually shortly after I have experienced God face to face that Satan sneaks in and tries to steal my joy. I don't think he has failed once to attempt this. It's pretty predictable that he will try. I just never know when it will happen.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. What is joy? What does it look like? What does it feel like? Can anybody have joy? Where does it come from? :-) That last one is the easiest to answer. Lol I think I will answer that one first.

Joy comes from God. One of my favorite verses about joy is the one that talks about the fruits of the spirit. Galatians 5:22 reads “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” I know it doesn't say the “fruit of God”, BUT it does say the “fruit of the Spirit”, the Spirit being the Holy Spirit which is part of the holy trinity.... basically, the Holy Spirit is FROM God. Every good thing comes from God. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” So do we all agree that joy comes from God?

Next question: What does joy look like? This one is a little bit more difficult to answer. I believe that joy is easier to see in other people than to see in ourselves. We don't necessarily recognize it when we have it. It just IS. Joyful people to me are those that can have a genuine smile on their face in the midst of the most trying circumstances. To be able to praise God and help others while you yourself are experiencing something awful is definitely a sign of joy (and peace, but that's another topic). There are probably other things it looks like, but that is the main one I can think of right now.

What does joy feel like? Hmm. Another good question. Joy feels like excitement in the midst of difficult times. It doesn't really make sense that you should feel that excitement, but you do nonetheless. That excitement or joy is not coming from you; it is coming from God. It feels like being able to be thankful for what you have even if you don't have everything you want.

Another simple question: Can anybody have joy? The answer is YES! Absolutely yes! Anybody can have joy. The Bible says, “Ask and you will receive.” (Matthew 7:7) Receiving joy begins with asking for it. It may not be as simple to experience it as you'd like, but He will give it to you.

Last question: So what IS joy? Whew! That's actually a complex question. Joy is both simple and complex at the same time. Joy itself is simple but experiencing it can be quite the process. Joy is an amazing gift from God. It is one of the fruits of the Spirit which means that anybody who has a personal relationship with God can and should have joy. It is a bi-product of being saved. I'm not saying other people can't feel joy, but true joy comes from God. I'm also not saying that all Christians will necessarily feel joyful all the time. Life is hard, and there will always be times when we feel overwhelmed with things of this world, BUT we have a promise from Jesus: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace [or joy]. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

I pray that you all experience peace and joy at some time in your lives.

September 10, 2015

Starts with Me

This was taken from a post I had on my Facebook page from August 4, 2015.

Starts With Me by Tim Timmons

I've been really struggling the past few days. ..maybe even longer. I want so desperately to feel close to God all the time, but I always feel like there is something that gets in the way. Even when I feel like I've made a breakthrough, I find myself falling flat on my face in no time, and then I feel horrible. I haven't slept well for most of the past few weeks. Not sure why. I started journaling again this weekend because I needed something to help me clear my head and sort through things and writing has always done that for me. Last night I woke up again about 11:30 and couldn't go back to sleep. I started getting hungry and then I started getting angry; really frustrated so I started writing. At about 1 o clock I finally finished. I am just so tired of holding myself back and not letting God use me the way He wants to because I am more scared of what people will think of me than I am about making God happy and doing what I really want to do. I've lived most of my life in fear over one thing or another, and I'm just plain tired of it. It actually breaks my heart. Why am I so worried about people and not about the One who means more to me than anything side? The Only One who has been with me through all the pain and heartache and tears. The One who gave me the strength to get up each morning and take care of my son because nobody else could or would. God has shown me so many things about myself over the past four years. He's shown me just how strong I really am. He's shown me how much He loves me and how He believes I am beautiful, and I'm finally starting to believe that. So why do I abandon him? Why do I pretend like he's not there and try to ignore the longing I have in my heart to worship Him with all of my being? I just want to live fearless and unashamed. I want my life to be lived with Him shining through me and shining brighter than me.
I was feeling pretty heavy this morning. I got in my car and this song was on the radio. I've loved this song since the first time I heard it because I really do want to change the world. I really do want to sing his song, but I also know that revival HAS to start with me. I can't change anybody else. I can't be a witness to others when I'm not following God the way I want or should. I know this song was God's way of showing me He is still here with me. He has not left me. I know I will get through this, and I know with all my heart that there are brighter days ahead for me. I know God is preparing me for something, and I want to be ready.
If you're going through a hard time right now, I want you to know that you are NOT alone. Even if everybody else abandons you, God never will. He has promised that He will never leave us or turn His back on us. Cry out to Him. Reach for Him. He's there. He's just waiting for you to make the first move, and He will welcome you with open arms. Revival always has to start from within.

A Yo-Yo

This original post was posted on my Facebook page on August 23, 2015

There are times I feel like a yo-yo. God has given me a tender and compassionate heart. I've known that for a long time. For the longest time, I fought it because with a tender heart, you tend to experience more pain and brokenness, and not just your own. When other people are hurting, you hurt, but on the flip side when other people are rejoicing, so do you.
A couple years ago I went on a mission trip to Mexico. While I was there I realized that my heart had become cold and calloused. It bothered me. I asked some friends to pray for me that my heart would be softened. Within a couple days or less, I could feel God softening my heart. I have come to realize over the past couple years that it's only when I focus on God that my heart will remain soft. I still find myself getting hardened a lot. I admit it. I'll be going about my day, thinking it's going well, and then something happens, and my reaction is not what it should be. I admit that there are times when my reaction to bad things happening to others is that they deserved it, and I do NOT like that reaction. That is NOT how somebody who follows Christ should feel. Jesus never felt that way about anybody. Why should I? My pride gets in the way a lot. A lot of people don't realize that about me because I usually keep my mouth shut, but if they knew what was going on in my mind.... They probably wouldn't like me very well. I struggle with this a lot. Sometimes it's daily and sometimes it is minute by minute. God revealed something to me awhile back, and I have felt for awhile that I should share it.
As many of you know, I was in a car accident when I was 13. I ended up with a lot of scars. I was laying in bed one night, when I noticed one of the scars on my arm. I felt God telling me basically that scars are a sign that you have healed. Scars are soft and sensitive. Mine are more sensitive than the rest of my skin, and I imagine that's the way it is for all people. He explained to me that scars are a way to know something healed properly. When we are hurt emotionally and mentally, scars are a way to remind us that we are healed. Maybe that means that we were able to forgive someone, etc, but we are still healed, we are still soft and not hardened. We still FEEL. 
Now, callouses on the other hand are hard, and you can't really feel much through them. They come from constant friction against your skin. They are your body's way of protecting what is underneath. It is so easy for us to become calloused by things going on around us and to us, but God doesn't want us to be calloused, He wants us to be soft and moldable. He wants us to feel what He feels. I look at my scars, inside and out, and I see what God has brought me through. I have experienced a lot of pain, physically, emotionally, mentally... But God has brought me through all of that, and I am a better person now because of all that, and I know God has a purpose for my life.
Jesus, make me more like You. Continue to make my heart more like Yours. Break my heart for what breaks Yours. Open my eyes to the pain that these people feel; the ones that I judge and have hardened my heart to. Give me compassion for those that are not easy to love. I pray that I will look past their outward appearance and see their hearts and the hurt that they feel. I pray that I will be a light in the darkness, that when people see me, they are drawn to you, Father. Break me, Father; break away all of my pride. Amen.

Outta My Mind

This original post was posted on my Facebook page on August 27, 2015.

Outta My Mind by Anthem Lights

This song has been popping up a lot lately. It fits so well with what I've been thinking. I don't know about any of you, but I tend to spend a lot of time psyching myself out. I think so much about any given thing that I freak myself out. I keep thinking to myself I gotta get out of my own head. I have to repeatedly remind myself that God is in control, and that He knows what He's doing, but there are times when it is so difficult to look past my current situation.
This song also reminds me of a Bible verse. 2 Corinthians 5:13: "If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you." I ran across this verse many years ago. When I first found it, I jokingly told my friends, it gave us permission to be weird. In reality it is talking about how the world views us Christians. We are told in the Bible that we are not of this world. This is not our permanent home. We should live like this is not our home. If we are truly living for Christ, we should be living differently from the rest of the world. They should look at us and wonder what is different in us; they should see a light in us that they don't see in the world. I think back on Jesus and all of His disciples, and it brings a smile to my face thinking how some people thought they were crazy. That is what this verse is talking about. I want my life to be like that too. I want to follow Jesus so closely that people think I'm crazy or "radical".
Father, I pray that I will always be able to keep my focus on You and not the things of this world. Let Your light shine through me to those around me. I pray that when people see me, they see hope; hope that comes only from You. Continue to use me as an encourager. Amen

Strangely Dim

I love it when God speaks to me, and it's usually through music. Yesterday morning I heard a song on the radio (Strangely Dim by Francesca Battistelli). When it came to the chorus, I started tearing up. I couldn't figure out why. Didn't think too much of it. Today on my way home from work, the same song came on the radio, and I started tearing up again when it came to the chorus. Still not sure why, but I figured God was trying to get my attention.
Over the past several weeks, I've really been trying to put my focus on God. It's been a real struggle. I've had complications at work that were totally out of my control; this past week I've been sick but still went to work because you gotta do what you gotta do. I know that this past week especially I have taken my eyes off God. I've been focusing on the fact that I'm sick and still have to work and take care of Jabin. It's so easy to throw a pity party for yourself when stuff like that happens, but we shouldn't. After hearing this song over the past couple days, I realized that's what I had been doing. When we focus on God like we're supposed to, our perspective changes and things don't look quite so bad.
I am SO blessed. Even though I haven't felt the greatest, I've still been able to get out of bed in the mornings, and God has sustained me throughout the days while I've been at work. Each morning this week I woke up feeling a little better than the day before. That's a God thing. Sometimes God brings hard times into your life to show you what you can do with him or him through you. Whichever way you want to look at it. I know God has great things in store for me. Like I've said before, my desire is to help people, and I really look forward to seeing how he is going to use me. There are a lot of hurting people out there who are just looking for somebody to LISTEN to them, with their undivided attention. God, I want to be that kind of person. I know what it feels like to feel like nobody cares. I was at that point for most of my life. It is a lonely place to be. If you are there right now, I want you to know you are NOT alone.
Father, help me reach out to those who need to feel Your love. Amen