Joy in January: Every Praise

Joy in January: Every Praise

I love this video, and I think you will too! I go back to it often because it helps set it all into perspective for me -- truly...

...EVERY PRAISE is to our GOD! Amen!

So find a private spot (if you are inhibited like me) or grab your nearest friend, relative, child, or grandchild (my personal favorite), and move your body, soul, and spirit in every praise to our glorious God...hallelujah!

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Jesus, Joy of the Highest Heaven (A Children's Carol)

Jesus, Joy of the Highest Heaven (A Children's Carol)

There's a song that's been going through my mind and heart these Advent days.  I even find myself bursting into a line of lyric here and there. The thoughts I love most in it are truths that have become more and more precious to me as I reflect Advent after Advent -- that our Emmanuel came to earth from heaven, not just to pay for our sins (as crucial as that is), but also to give us His divine eternal LIFE...deity indwelling our humanity.  We can become children of Almighty God!!!

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Advent Devotions: The Mega-JOY of Emmanuel

Advent Devotions:  The Mega-JOY of Emmanuel

Joy is the flag that flies over the soul when the King is in residence!
Chuck Swindoll

Years ago, I was leading a small group of ladies through Paul's letter to the Galatians.  In chapter 5, we came to a familiar passage:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,and self control. Galatians 5:22-23

Julie was in that small group that year, and Julie was from Great Britain.  I asked her about Chuck's metaphor.  She assured me that it was true.  When royalty is in residence at the palace, the flag flies. It's the signal to the "subjects" that their monarch is present.

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Joy in January: Every Praise

I love this video, and I think you will too! I go back to it often because it helps set it all into perspective for me -- truly...

...EVERY PRAISE is to our GOD! Amen!

So find a private spot (if you are inhibited like me) or grab your nearest friend, relative, child, or grandchild (my personal favorite), and move your body, soul, and spirit in every praise to our glorious God...hallelujah!

[youtuber youtube='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UuuZMg6NVeA']

 

Joy for a Lonely Soul: a Living Prayer

Joy for a Lonely Soul: a Living Prayer

So many in my circle of friends, family, and other "loved ones," are in the midst of suffering and loss. Perhaps for them, once the initial support of others starts to dwindle, there can settle in a deep aloneness. Maybe at times, God Himself seems distant...even absent.

We all have to admit we feel lonely at times even when all is going along peacefully.

So for all of us then...a song and a book.

First the backstory of the song...

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Advent Devotions: The Mega-JOY of Emmanuel

London_Trooping_the_Color_02

London_Trooping_the_Color_02

Joy is the flag that flies over the soul when the King is in residence!Chuck Swindoll

Several years ago, I was leading a small group of ladies through Paul's letter to the Galatians.  In chapter 5, we came to a familiar passage:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,and self control. Galatians 5:22-23

Julie was in that small group that year, and Julie was from Great Britain.  I asked her about Chuck's metaphor.  She assured me that it was true.  When royalty is in residence at the palace, the flag flies. It's the signal to the "subjects" that their monarch is present.

Julie, Robin and me at BE

Julie, Robin and me at BE

How fitting a metaphor this is!  When the Lord is present to believing hearts, JOY results!

A few years later, this really hit home again!  We were celebrating Christmas in my home school moms Bible study group that year by sharing our favorite Christmas song/carol.  In almost every case, the over-riding response to the coming of our Lord, our Monarch, the Promised One was...JOY!

We found this to be especially true in the Scriptures surrounding the coming of our Emmanuel, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Look for yourself:

It begins with the coming of John the Baptist, Messiah's forerunner:

Luke 1:12-64 -- promise to John's father Zacharias When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.  But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.  He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth...When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

Luke 1:44-45 -- John in Elizabeth's womb encountering Jesus in Mary's womb! "...As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!"

Luke 1:46-55-- Mary's response to Elizabeth “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior...."

And continues with the angels and shepherds:

Luke 2:10-20 And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”...The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

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138_5228

And even extends to the foreign Magi [my favorite!!!]

Matthew 2: 1-10Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”... they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. [literally, they rejoiced vehemently with MEGA-gladness!]

These are just a few instances.  Why not search out for yourself, in your favorite Christmas songs & Scriptures, the amazing response of JOY to the presence of Emmanuel, our King Jesus, in a believing heart?

Then let's turn away from the glitz and glitter of the season and focus on HIM, the true cause of our JOY and delight!

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138_6545

Two awesome songs for your time of worship:

[youtuber youtube='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wz5_g80q_NM']

JOY Selah

Every breath of air Was a silent prayer I was longing for Your face

And I wondered why All the years went by Without a single trace

Anticipating, Lord, we've been waiting Just watching the days come and go But now we know

Joy and the angels sang There was joy Let the whole world know this Joy, our King has finally come Joy, here is the Promised One

Set the captives free Tell the broken reed Hope has been restored And the one who cries For a wandering child Her tears are not ignored

Father in heaven, You gave us reason to see past the pain of today We celebrate

Chorus

Unending hope for all time When the King of the ages arrived

Chorus

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pn8dW_p-j0[/youtube]

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Kaden the student

Kaden the student

Bible Study Here are a few more passages to take a look at:

Nehemiah 8:10

Psalm 16:11

Luke 24:36-53 -- encountering the Risen Christ

Returning to JOY!

I have this recurring image.  It began in worship one Sunday years ago.  I was struggling emotionally about some issue.  Then out of the blue, I had a sense, not a literal vision, but rather a picture in my spirit.  The picture was of Jesus and me climbing a mountain.  He had me by the hand and was carrying a "Santa-like" sack on His back.

Suddenly He stopped climbing and turned to me saying, "We can't go up any higher until you throw that burden you are carrying into my sack.  You need to let ME carry it!"

So I threw it in!  And oh, the JOY and peace...and we kept climbing together!

Now often when I'm struggling with an offense, a disappointment, a slight, a rejection, whatever, I see and hear my Traveling Companion, my Guide, my Empowering Savior say, "Okay, Jan, throw it in!  We can't go any higher if you don't!"

And when I throw my burden in Jesus' sack, freedom and JOY flood my soul!  Then we can go on climbing hand in hand together, why?  Because...

...the JOY of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10

How about you?  Do you have a burden that you weren't meant to carry?  Throw it into Jesus sack!  Return to JOY and keep on climbing hand in hand with Him!

Lord, take me higher and higher in my experience of YOU and all there is of Your Fulness!  The world has a downward drag!  But I cling to You, rejoicing in my Risen, Indwelling Son of God!  Amen!

 

It is God's will that I should cast On Him my care each day; He also bids me not to cast My confidence away.

But oh, I am so foolish That when taken unawares, I cast away my confidence And carry all my cares. T. Baird

...casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.  1 Peter 5:7 NKJV

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.  Psalm 55:22 NIV

Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.  Hebrews 10:35 NKJV

 

Lessons from a Family Vacation {We become like what we focus on!}

Vacation-Blog04-150x150
Vacation-Blog04-150x150
Vacation Blog05
Vacation Blog05

LBI...Long Beach Island, New Jersey -- sun, surf, and sweet memories.  Home of Surf City and Barnegat Lighthouse!   LBI was a favorite place for us Renners to vacation in our growing up years in the 1950's & 60's -- not every year but as many years as our family of 6 (and later 7) kids and 2 parents, living on one income, could afford.

It was such a beloved place that my brother Conrad and family bought a beach house there in 1998...within a block from the beach, no less!

One year, when our kids were grown but not yet married and out of the nest, we had the most wonderful Renner family reunion at LBI.  Conrad scouted out other houses on his street that were for rent. And so several of us rented for the same week, and we all (along with in-laws, friends, and pets) descended upon that little beach community.

Family reunion at LBI 2000
Family reunion at LBI 2000
Vacation Blog
Vacation Blog

It was a glorious week, filled with swimming, sun-bathing, sunrise watching, etc etc.  But the best thing was the love and togetherness and community that "happened".  We shared meals together, each family taking a turn.

A year or two later, some of us rented houses again at LBI.  I was hoping to recapture the same experience of that previous vacation together.  Well, you know how that goes.  Recapturing "glory" usually never happens.  And it certainly didn't happen this time...or so I thought!

For one thing, we all couldn't make it...for various valid reasons.  On top of that, my brother Paul's family, including his sister-in-law's family, rented a house that was germ infested (probably from the previous renters).  Everyday other members of their families "would drop like flies" with a terrible flu-bug.  So there was often a "skeletal crew" on the beach from that household.

Vacation Blog06
Vacation Blog06

We didn't eat together like the other year.  There was little to no fellowship or community because of struggles going on in individual lives.  My widowed mom, then in her mid-70"s, was staying with us. (Remember her?  My hero in a previous post!)  She was frustrated with issues related to our family house, which was too much for her to handle at that stage of her life!  (We probably had waited too long to move her elsewhere.)  So our conversations were largely negative.  She had to get it off her chest, but with my expectations for a nice relaxed vacation, I was hardly as sympathetic as I could have been.

Not to bore you with too many negative details, let's just say that to me the vacation was a total bust!  And I left LBI mad, mad, mad...and feeling cheated!  For the 11 hour drive home from NJ to OH, I seethed.  I couldn't sleep that night!  And I stayed stuck for days despite dealing with some issues I needed to deal with.   Until...

Until the Lord broke through, "Enough!  Now it's over!  You've dealt with what I told you.  NOW when you think of this vacation, I want you to focus on the one hour of joyful bliss we had together."

Oh my goodness!  I had forgotten about that because of my absorption with my disappointment!

Bageleddi's
Bageleddi's

It was the Wednesday of vacation week.  I woke up at 5:45 am totally awake.  Grabbing a cup of coffee at Bageleddi's (the local favorite), I walked alone to the beach.  It was warm, and the sun had just started to come up but was not yet visible.  The cloud bank above the ocean was turning shades of pink, purple, and blue...and then the sliver of sun started to appear on the horizon. I opened my Bible and read in the Psalms,

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship... God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race. The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end. Psalm 19:1,4-6

So Jesus and I walked and talked together that glorious morning -- perfect rest in Him, enjoying together the most gorgeous sunrise I had truly ever seen.  And I had forgotten it all!

So whenever negative thoughts about vacation would start to again flood my mind, I remembered this one joyful hour of bliss with my Lord.

As the days went by, something amazing started to happen.

Vacation Blog01
Vacation Blog01

Other pleasant memories of our vacation started to surface:  like my early morning walk to the beach only to discover a delightful sight -- my brothers and nephews fishing in the surf; and the fun supper at the Mud Hut with my husband and adult children; and a surprisingly wonderful conversation with an in-law that I didn't typically connect with.

By God's grace, He saved me from a root of bitterness in my heart.  As I began to reflect on what had happened in me, I started to realize what I've come to believe is a spiritual principle:  We become like what we focus on.

I remembered some of my favorite passages of Scripture:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another... For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Cor 3:18: 4:6 ESV

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Col 3:1-4 NIV

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthythink about such things... And the God of peace will be with you. Phil 4:8

So here's the question, dear friends:  What's your attitude, your frame of mind, like right now?

Maybe you need to hear the Lord say (as I did), "Focus on Me and remember joy!"

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3


"Moi" Joy!

I'm so excited to share this story with you.   Some of you may have read my Christmas post MEGA-JOY.  Well, here is a real life sequel...with all the drama and joy of a present day coming of Emmanuel. Rich Brown (my first "guest branch") is our real life storyteller.  He and his wife Karen, along with their sweet daughters Atalee, Alyssa, and Ashlynn, are church planters with New Tribes Mission among the Moi people of Papua, Indonesia.  After years of seeming fruitlessness, the Lord has brought forth an amazing harvest of new believers among the Moi.

Now that the frenzy of Christmas shopping and wrapping and unwrapping is over, take a few moments to read Rich's account of this incredible work of God.  And be sure to witness the joy and thanksgiving that broke through for one man at the moment of salvation (shown in the video at the end).

Rich speaking:

What would it be like if you were born among a small people group of 1000 surrounded by beautiful jungle covered mountains?  Doesn’t sound too bad, maybe.  Well, what if the 1000 people you lived among were full of fear, hate, and treachery?  What initially might have sounded like a romantic setting suddenly becomes dark and oppressive.  This is the setting that the Moi people were born into.

Before the year 2000 the Moi were totally untouched and unknown by the outside world.  They were literally stuck in time; living just like their ancestors from centuries before.  Death was all too real with an infant mortality rate of 75%.  If they managed to be the one in four that survived childhood they likely weren’t going to live long because of frequent sickness and homicide.   Their world was sad. What makes their story even more heart wrenching is the fact that they were not just victims of circumstance, but rather, reapers of what they and their ancestors before them had sown.  They lost all knowledge of God.  In fact they did not even have a name for God, fearing only the evil spirits.  Their ancestors had followed after a course that led to a hopeless eternity from God.  All the generations that followed had also fallen headlong into the depths of a world without the knowledge of God.

Romans 1 so clearly shows this downward spiral mankind is on.  We, like the Moi, had chosen a path 180 degrees from Him.  In Romans 1:21 it says, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” The desire to worship and thank God had been lost.  Although man did not seek God, He in His goodness had sought man.  He promised a Deliverer through Eve and many generations later that promise was fulfilled through His Son, Jesus.  After Jesus presented himself as a perfect sacrifice for mankind through his death, he rose from the dead three days later.  In His final words on earth he sent his followers to share the Good News about Him to all mankind.  He had made a way for people who were lost in their sins and blinded by Satan, the ruler of this present darkness, to be freed once and for all.  Hebrews 2:14b-15 says, “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

In God’s goodness and love He had a plan for bringing the Moi people back to Himself.  For hundreds of years God had been looking down at this people group, with their own distinct language and culture, desiring that they might know Him.  Yet the Moi continued to live as they had for centuries without the knowledge of God.

Romans 10:14 says, “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?

Before we were ever born God knew who would go and tell the Moi.

He would use a total of four different families to reach this small people group.  He desired to use people like me, who are naturally selfish and unloving to show the Moi His entirely selfless and loving Son.  The plan really didn’t make sense, but strength being made perfect in weakness is a foreign concept anyway.

In June of 2000 three families, with New Tribes Mission, left their relatives and homes to live among the newly discovered Moi people.  Supported by a network of believers around the world they intended to see a church born from ashes.

They began the long process of learning the language and culture of the Moi so when God’s Word was finally taught it would speak to their hearts.  Day in and day out they were salt and light to the Moi.  Medical care was one of the means of showing God’s love and compassion.  Sadly, only three years after living among the Moi, one of the families had to leave for health reasons.  In August 2005 we joined the team.  By this time the Moi language had been analyzed and reduced to writing.  Chronological Bible teaching lessons were being developed into Moi and accompanying scripture portions were being translated.  We actually had to come up with a name for God since they didn’t have one.  Taking the verb “anegite”, to create, we made the name, “Anegitemee”, the Creator.  It literally meant, “the one who creates”.

Finally, after years of hard work the time had come to present the truth about the Creator.  None of the Moi knew who this “Creator” was, but eight of the Moi were curious enough to find out.  For seven weeks they sat through the teaching.  Listening to nine lessons a week they were taken from Creation to Christ.  They were blown away by power and majesty of the Creator.  He was so powerful he could speak the worlds into existence and yet so loving He would walk in the garden with Adam and Eve, the pinnacle of His creation.

The faith of the eight who would believe continued to grow.  As they intently listened to the unfolding of God’s plan they saw His awesome power not only displayed in creation, but also in judgment of sin.  He wiped out the world with a flood and saved the eight who believed in Him.  He set a bow in the sky as a promise to never again destroy the world by flood.  They learned for the first time that the rainbow wasn’t an evil spirit’s walking stick, as they had always heard.  Right after the lessons on Noah and the flood, as we were leaving the small schoolhouse, we looked up and saw a beautiful rainbow.  The Moi for the first time in their history spoke words of praise and thanksgiving, “Thank you Creator!  It is a sign of your promise.  Praise you Creator!”

That day marked the first day where words of praise and thanksgiving were finally given to the one to whom all praise and thanksgiving are due.

A few weeks later the first eight of the Moi understood and believed in the substitutionary death of Jesus on their behalf.  He was their spotless lamb who had taken away their sins.  They were forgiven.  It was fitting that the Creator would make them into new creations in Christ.  They were never the same.

God used those first eight Moi believers to turn their world upside down.  They were radically changed by “The Creator’s Talk”.  From the testimony of their changed lives the Moi church has grown from eight to more than 120 believers.  The believers have written countless songs of praise and thanksgiving.

It says in Psalm 107:22, And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of JOY!

Here is Mbanapeoma’s testimony only moments after understanding and believing what Christ had done for him on the cross.  Notice his first ever words of praise and thanksgiving given to Him who alone is worthy.  Praise you Creator God!

If you would like to contact Rich and Karen and learn more about their lives and ministry among the Moi, please visit Rich's blog.

To read a response by Ron Hoffman, an AMF missionary...

6--brown_family
6--brown_family

URGENT PRAYER NEED for the Moi: Rich received word that there's a tribal war going on right now.  It's possible that some of the new Moi believers may have been killed in that war. Isn't it amazing to think that some of those who not long ago were in darkness and without God could now be in the arms of their Savior! Read Rich's Christmas letter to learn more...but above all, please PRAY!!!!!

MEGA- JOY!

London_Trooping_the_Color_02
London_Trooping_the_Color_02

Joy is the flag that flies over the soul when the King is in residence!Chuck Swindoll

Several years ago, I was leading a small group of ladies through Paul's letter to the Galatians.  In chapter 5, we came to a familiar passage:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,and self control. Galatians 5:22-23

Julie was in that small group that year, and Julie was from Great Britain.  I asked her about Chuck's metaphor.  She assured me that it was true.  When royalty is in residence at the palace, the flag flies. It's the signal to the "subjects" that their monarch is present.

How fitting a picture this is!  When the Lord is present to believing hearts, JOY results!

A few years later, this really hit home again!  We were celebrating Christmas in my Home School moms Bible study that year by sharing our favorite Christmas song/carol.  In almost every case, the over-riding response to the coming of our Lord, our Monarch, the Promised One was...JOY!

We found this to be especially true in the Scriptures surrounding the coming of our Emmanuel, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Look for yourself:

It begins with the coming of John the Baptist, Messiah's forerunner:

Luke 1:12-64 -- promise to John's father Zacharias When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.  But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.  He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth...When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

Luke 1:44-45 -- John in Elizabeth's womb encountering Jesus in Mary's womb! "...As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!"

Luke 1:46-55-- Mary's response to Elizabeth “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior...."

And continues with the angels and shepherds:

Luke 2:10-20 And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”...The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

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138_5228

And even extends to the foreign Magi [my favorite!!!]

Matthew 2: 1-10Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”... they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. [literally, they rejoiced vehemently with MEGA-gladness!]

These are just a few instances.  Why not search out for yourself, in your favorite Christmas songs & Scriptures, the amazing response of JOY to the presence of our King Jesus in a believing heart?

Then let's turn away from the glitz and glitter of the season and focus on HIM, the true cause of our JOY and delight!

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138_6545

JOY Selah

Every breath of air Was a silent prayer I was longing for Your face

And I wondered why All the years went by Without a single trace

Anticipating, Lord, we've been waiting Just watching the days come and go But now we know

Joy and the angels sang There was joy Let the whole world know this Joy, our King has finally come Joy, here is the promised One

Set the captives free Tell the broken reed Hope has been restored And the one who cries For a wandering child Her tears are not ignored

Father in heaven, You gave us reason to see past the pain of today We celebrate

Chorus

Unending hope for all time When the King of the ages arrived

Chorus


Kaden the student
Kaden the student

Bible Study Here are a few more passages to take a look at:

Nehemiah 8:10

Psalm 16:11

Luke 24:36-53 -- encountering the Risen Christ

Love and Trouble and Joy...LIFE

John at MVH 7-14-11
John at MVH 7-14-11

In this world, you will have trouble...[like heart attacks]...but take courage, I have overcome the world! These things have I spoken to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be made full! John 16:33;15:11

I'm just beginning to process my husband John's heart attack that happened earlier this week.  Believe it or not, despite the fears and tears (that were locked up inside of me for a time), I've had the incredible peace and joy that the Lord promises.  Those of you who have walked consciously in and with the Lord through trials know what I mean!

The joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 10:d In Thy presence there is fulness of joy... Psalm 16:11

The Lord has shown Himself near and caring through...

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138_6180

....giving me two significant verses to hang onto:  Phil 1:6 and Isaiah 26:3-4 ...my neighbor Nancy and my friend Penny dropping everything early in their day to play and pray with our two young grandsons who had slept over so I could follow after the ambulance to the hospital ...a Christian male nurse grabbing both our hands and praying with us just after John arrived in the ICU ...my being able to watch my husband "chatting it up" with the medical personnel, showing forth the loving Jesus who lives within him ...our son Jeremy and daughter-in-law Cortney driving 7 hours and ending their 10 year anniversary trip early to be here ...our daughter Beth in California and my friend Maria, after a long day at work, each calling the night I needed to "unlock some frozen tears." ...and of course, many loving family and friends sending timely messages via facebook, texts, emails, calls, and visits (Thank you so much!)

As if all this love wasn't enough, I've experienced the Lord's "winks" this week -- little delightful "serendipidies" proving that He is here and He cares -- namely through a poem and a song.

I've never been much of a "poetry buff"...just never got it until I lived life a little more.  Now I get it!  The poem that "captured me" was hidden at the end of a novel I was struggling for months to finish!  Now I know why I struggled so long...God's timing!  I needed that poem this week :)  And I'll let it speak for itself:

Life Paul Laurence Dunbar

A crust of bread and a corner to sleep in, A minute to smile and an hour to weep in, A pint of joy to a peck of trouble, And never a laugh but the moans come double; And that is life!

A crust and a corner that love makes precious, With a smile to warm and the tears to refresh us; And joy seems sweeter when cares come after, And a moan is the finest of foils for laughter; And that is life!

AMEN!

Then there's the song.  A few weeks ago, a friend told us about a movie she had just seen on Netflix.  John and I watched and enjoyed it.  But the thing that stayed with us most was the theme song.  We just couldn't get it out of our minds -- the melody was so haunting and romantic.  So we found it and ordered it on Amazon.

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138_6179

Well, guess what?  It came while John was in the hospital.  So the night of his "release", we sat and listened to it...talking, crying, not talking, laughing, just being together...and agreeing with Robert Browning,

Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand who saith, 'A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!'


Lessons from a Family Vacation: Expectations Transformed

Jan at Barnegat Lighthouse 2000
Jan at Barnegat Lighthouse 2000

LBI...Long Beach Island, New Jersey -- sun, surf, and sweet memories.  Home of Surf City and Barnegat Lighthouse!   LBI was a favorite place for us Renners to vacation in our growing up years in the 1950's & 60's -- not every year but as many years as our family of 6 (and later 7) kids and 2 parents, living on one income, could afford.

Vacation Blog05
Vacation Blog05

It was such a beloved place that my brother Conrad and family bought a beach house there in 1998...within a block from the beach, no less!

One year, when our kids were grown but not yet married and out of the nest, we had the most wonderful Renner family reunion at LBI.  Conrad scouted out other houses on his street that were for rent. And so several of us rented for the same week, and we all (along with in-laws, friends, and pets) descended upon that little beach community.

Family reunion at LBI 2000
Family reunion at LBI 2000
Vacation Blog
Vacation Blog

It was a glorious week, filled with swimming, sun-bathing, sunrise watching, etc etc.  But the best thing was the love and togetherness and community that "happened".  We shared meals together, each family taking a turn.

A year or two later, some of us rented houses again at LBI.  I was hoping to recapture the same experience of that previous vacation together.  Well, you know how that goes.  Recapturing "glory" usually never happens.  And it certainly didn't happen this time...or so I thought!

For one thing, we all couldn't make it...for various valid reasons.  On top of that, my brother Paul's family, including his sister-in-law's family, rented a house that was germ infested (probably from the previous renters).  Everyday other members of their families "would drop like flies" with a terrible flu-bug.  So there was often a "skeletal crew" on the beach from that household.

Vacation Blog06
Vacation Blog06

We didn't eat together like the other year.  There was little to no fellowship or community because of struggles going on in individual lives.  My widowed mom, then in her mid-70"s, was staying with us. (Remember her?  My hero in a previous post!)  She was frustrated with issues related to our family house, which was too much for her to handle at that stage of her life!  (We probably had waited too long to move her elsewhere.)  So our conversations were largely negative.  She had to get it off her chest, but with my expectations for a nice relaxed vacation, I was hardly as sympathetic as I could have been.

Not to bore you with too many negative details, let's just say that to me the vacation was a total bust!  And I left LBI mad, mad, mad...and feeling cheated!  For the 11 hour drive home from NJ to OH, I seethed.  I couldn't sleep that night!  And I stayed stuck for days despite dealing with some issues I needed to deal with.   Until...

Until the Lord broke through, "Enough!  Now it's over!  You've dealt with what I told you.  NOW when you think of this vacation, I want you to focus on the one hour of joyful bliss we had together."

Oh my goodness!  I had forgotten about that because of my absorption with my disappointment!

Bageleddi's
Bageleddi's

It was the Wednesday of vacation week.  I woke up at 5:45 am totally awake.  Grabbing a cup of coffee at Bageleddi's (the local favorite), I walked alone to the beach.  It was warm, and the sun had just started to come up but was not yet visible.  The cloud bank above the ocean was turning shades of pink, purple, and blue...and then the sliver of sun started to appear on the horizon. I opened my Bible and read in the Psalms,

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship... God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race. The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end. Psalm 19:1,4-6

So Jesus and I walked and talked together that glorious morning -- perfect rest in Him, enjoying together the most gorgeous sunrise I had truly ever seen.  And I had forgotten it all!

So whenever negative thoughts about vacation would start to again flood my mind, I remembered this one joyful hour of bliss with my Lord.

As the days went by, something amazing started to happen.

Vacation Blog01
Vacation Blog01

Other pleasant memories of our vacation started to surface:  like my early morning walk to the beach only to discover a delightful sight -- my brothers and nephews fishing in the surf; and the fun supper at the Mud Hut with my husband and adult children; and a surprisingly wonderful conversation with an in-law that I didn't typically connect with.

By God's grace, He saved me from a root of bitterness in my heart.  As I began to reflect on what had happened in me, I started to realize what I've come to believe is a spiritual principle:  We become like what we focus on.

I remembered some of my favorite passages of Scripture:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another... For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Cor 3:18: 4:6 ESV

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Col 3:1-4 NIV

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthythink about such things... And the God of peace will be with you. Phil 4:8

So here's the question, dear friends:  What's your attitude, your frame of mind, like right now?

Maybe you need to hear the Lord say (as I did), "Focus on Me and remember joy!"

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3