Category Archive: Joy

Open My Eyes

I looked out the kitchen window and gasped. I grabbed my husband’s arm, almost pulling him over in my excitement.

American Goldfinch


“Look, there, on the fence.”

This little beauty didn’t stay long, but we haven’t seen him before. We have quite a few bird varieties coming for goodies at Don’s birdhouses. We have colorful Grossbeeks, Red and Gold Finches, Junkos, Scrub Jays and Stellar Jays, Nuthatches and Chickadees. Fluorescent tiny green hummingbirds. And, just a few times, we’ve seen a stunning, sharp black and white Ladderback Woodpecker.

But we’d never seen a Goldfinch here before. His breast was almost yellow-orange, stunning in its vibrancy, his head capped by a black forelock, with black wings, orange beak and claws. We delighted in his presence. And then, flit, he was gone.

How often do we miss small moments of joy because we’re busy looking elsewhere, or waiting for the BIG revelation? I love the scripture that says “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from your law…” Psalm 119:18. And while that speaks of seeing amazing truths in God’s word, I think we can also ask him to open our eyes to see the beauty he has placed around us. Nature in all its beauty, majesty and variety is one way God reveals himself to us.

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

Romans 1:19-20 ESV

Do you see God in creation? In yellow-orange sunrises, in pinky-mauve sunsets, the multitude of greens in our forests, grasses and shrubs? As one of my friends said, “While you’re looking at creation, don’t forget to look for the Creator.”

photo of snow capped mountain under blue night sky
Photo by Ian Beckley on Pexels.com

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

John Muir

ALL NATIONS, TRIBES, PEOPLES, AND LANGUAGUES

legs of crop person with socks
Photo by Thiago Matos on Pexels.com

I walked into Macy’s to buy socks. Yup, socks. The ones I have either weren’t the right color or were worn out. I found what I needed, paid the bill, and walked toward the exit.

An older African American woman, walking with a cane, hit the automatic door opener button. I walked out the door beside the automatic one, not wanting to crowd her. As she pushed the button to open the outer door, the woman said “You can go through this door too. I’m just slow.”

I thanked her and walked out the door, then stopped. “Do you need any help getting to your car?”

“No, my car’s right there.” She pointed to a car in the disabled parking. “But thank you for caring. Our world is so crazy right now it’s really nice when people are kind.”

I agreed. “Our world is strange; but we can rely on God.”

“Oh yes! We can indeed.”

We crossed to the parking lot together. I smiled under my mask, nodded.

“I’m Carol.”

“Hi Carol. I’m Diane.”

We both stopped walking near her car. As Diane opened her door, she said, “Nice to talk with you, Carol. I’ll probably never see you again.”

“Yes, you will,” I responded. “We’ll see each other in heaven, if not sooner.”

“Oh yes. I don’t know why the Lord is still leaving me here. He must still have a purpose for me.” Diane proceeded to tell me that, at 85 and somewhat disabled, she still sends Bible correspondence lessons to people; and when they return one, she sends them the next. “I can’t do much, but I can do this.” And she’s been doing it for about twenty years!

I left with the warm sense of meeting another Christ-follower, someone with whom I will have an eternal relationship. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we who have accepted His free gift of forgiveness and newness of life will live again after death.

At home, I greeted Don with the joy of the Lord, which is beyond happiness, as I recounted my God-moment meeting with Diane.

This week we’ve read and heard about disturbing hostility and violence toward Asian Americans. It disturbs me deeply to see our nation becoming more and more divided politically, ethnically, socio-economically. We are called by God to love each other as He has loved us.

And God loves diversity. In the book of Revelation we’re told that He will preserve people’s diversity in heaven–what a marvelous thought!

After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb.

Revelation 7:9

A few years ago, Don and I stood on the banks of the Jordan River in Israel. Several of our travel group had chosen to be baptized there, where Jesus was baptized. There’s an area where the river has gated sections so each group can have its own separate baptism ceremony. To our left, I heard voices praising God in an Asian language; another gated area was filled with people singing what sounded like an African praise song. There were others as well. And I thought, this is a little picture of heaven, where we will all praise God together, various nations and people groups and languages.

I eagerly await that day! And I want to live in light of eternity right now, right here, loving whomever God brings into my sphere of influence, respecting and honoring them for just who God made them to be.

Anniversary and a Funeral

Have you found that joy and pain coexist in your life, that they cycle through your days, weeks, months? I was reminded of that again this week.

Last Monday I opened the front door to see a beautiful mixed bouquet of flowers and a sweet stuffed bear, along with a note from my loving husband on our eleventh anniversary.

Our marriage is a second chance at love for both of us after losing our first partners. A God thing. After being widowed awhile, I asked the Lord if He had someone else for me, to sort of “drop him into my lap.” I had no desire to be part of the dating scene after being married to a wonderful man for twenty years. Don had prayed a similar prayer.

And, at a widow and widowers’ grief recovery meeting two years after Jerry’s death, there he was…dropped into my world, as it were (and I into his). Handsome, tall, white-haired, and kind. So kind, not only to me but to both the women and the other men in the group.

Our marriage has survived the normal ups and downs, and a few extra that come with the assumptions and expectations of extended family members. We’ve experienced the delight of traveling, being in small groups together, cooking together, planning for our future, laughing at our dog, Paige’s, antics, just “being” together, and learning to know and love each other’s families. There’s been a lot of joy packed into these years.

Then yesterday I attended a zoom memorial service for Virgil, who was a teenager when I met him in the inner city of Los Angeles. He was one of the teens in our Bible clubs, teen choir, and activities. My memories of him are of a very pleasant, sweet young man.

After 38 years, I reconnected with Virgil two years ago at a World Impact women’s reunion when he came to pick up his wife, Robin. Still gracious, kind, loving his wife.

And during Virgil’s memorial service, I learned so much more about his life in those intervening years. He ministered with World Impact for twenty-seven years, then started a church. His sudden and unexpected death in late December was a shock to all of us.

I had forgotten that our staff came to know Virgil when, as a 12-year old boy, he broke into one of our staff homes. That was a turning point in his life as the men on staff took an interest in him, taught him about Jesus Christ and a new way of life. And Virgil responded with a heart that hungered to know more about his God.

So, despite tears and sorrow, his service was a celebration. A celebration of Virgil’s life, his ministry, and most of all, his love for God and his family. Friends told of his faithful follow-up by text or phone; his care for others; one said he was the first good example of a black father this younger man had seen. And I pray for comfort and healing for Virgil’s wife and children, and his loving, extended family. The lion of pain has invaded their hearts.

So, joy and sorrow, grief and gratitude, constantly in flux in our lives. I praise God for those faithful men who built into Virgil’s life, who then built into the lives of others for the glory of God.

Reminds me of Daniel, who was captive under four Babylonian kings: Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus. Because of Daniel’s “excellent spirit” during that captivity, he served each ruler faithfully, not saying what they wanted to hear, but speaking the truth as God revealed it to him. And he kept getting promoted to higher positions.

During those years he developed a habit of kneeling to pray in front of an open window that faced Jerusalem, his home. He did this faithfully three times a day.

And when he became one of the most powerful leaders in the country under Darius, others became jealous and tried to trap him. But they realized they couldn’t accuse him of anything regarding the kingdom because he was faithful in his duties and they couldn’t find fault with him (Daniel 6:4). So they said “Let’s find a complaint against him regarding his faith in God.”

They tricked the king into writing a decree that, once sealed, could not be changed or undone. The decree stated that anyone who asked any request of someone other than the king for the next 30 days would be put into the den of lions! Whew…a terrifying thought!

close up photo of lion s head
Photo by Alexas Fotos on Pexels.com

But when Daniel heard the edict, he went home, knelt and prayed in front of that open window three times a day, just as he always had (Daniel 6:10). He knew his detractors would see him. He could have prayed in his bedroom, away from the window. But he trusted his God. And when King Darius, horrified, realized the trap into which he had been led, and from which he could find no escape, he said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!”

Moody Publishers / FreeBibleimages.org

That night, as Daniel walked, prayed, slept–we’re not told–the king fasted, tossed and turned all night. Early in the morning he rushed to the lions’ den, groaning in anguish. He cried, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him, and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” (Daniel 6:20-22).

The short story is that Daniel was taken out of the lions’ den and his accusers thrown in and killed.

May I, may we who trust in our God, Lord, Savior, King–stand firm as Daniel did, trusting God in our times of joy or promotion; and of sorrow and loss. Grief will come; joy will brighten some of our days. But in all, our God has promised to be with us as He was with Daniel. And whether we are liberated without a scratch, as Daniel was, or our God takes us to Himself, He is with us. Blessed be the name of our God!

At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.

Daniel 6:4

Question: Do you know someone like Daniel? Consistent, trustworthy, faithful, walking with his or her God? I’d love to hear about that person’s impact in your life.

The Week that Was

And what a week it was! Two weeks ago we learned our wonderful neighbors on both sides of us are dealing with significant health challenges. We’re watching for ways to love, encourage, pray for, and help them with practical needs where we can.

Wednesday a younger friend called, panicked because she’d been scammed. Fortunately she had not given social security or bank information before she started to question the offer. We’ve tried to help her mitigate possible ongoing implications of this scam.

Thursday morning Paigey was herself, eating, drinking, then going to her bed in our closet when I left to pick up some groceries and get a lab test.

When I returned home I greeted Don with a hug and kiss, then walked into the bedroom to tell Paige I was home. It took her awhile to rouse, then look up to see me. She got out of her bed and stumbled into the family room, looking like a drunken sailor. Her legs splayed beneath her, she was very lethargic, and had trouble keeping her head up, eyes open.

We called the Vet and were directed to their ER. Four hours later and a bit poorer, we left with no diagnosis. All Paigey’s tests returned negative, for which we are very thankful. She is herself again. So what could have caused this significant incident? Did she ingest something poisonous to her? Nothing showed on blood work or ultrasound, so we’re just grateful she’s improved.

Then I learned that an old friend died of Covid very suddenly.

In all this it’s sometimes hard to remember that God is with us, that He has promised never to leave nor forsake us.

But He has been.

And He is.

And He will be!

As we enter 2021 few of us will regret saying goodbye to 2020. But we don’t know what will come in 2021. We have hopes for a helpful vaccine to be distributed quickly and safely (although a few have had significant negative reactions to the injection). We hope to be able to move about more freely, to meet with church, family, friends again. (For those of you in other states, California is pretty locked down.)

So our hope can’t be in 2021, the year. It can’t be fully in a vaccine that gives hope but doesn’t yet have a long test record. It can’t be in politics. It can be in Immanuel, “God is with us”, the hope of all the earth!

“You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations. The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.”

Psalm 65:5-8 NIV

I have been reminded over and over again these past months that my hope must be in my God, that I need to focus on Him rather than on the chaos of life around me, and allow Him to guide me through each step of the journey He has for me. And while sometimes the way seems dark, when I truly rely on Immanuel, He does call forth songs of joy in my spirit.

How are you dealing with the challenges you face?

Harvesting

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:22-23 ESV

So if we want these qualities in our lives, how do we get them? Is it by trying harder? By putting reminders on our mirror or fridge to say “be kind today.” “Be patient with the crazy driver in front of (or behind) you.” “When you get angry, hold your tongue.”

We so often try to produce these ‘fruit’ by working harder. And yet, God says that doesn’t work…and how well I know it. Just before these verses Paul describes the works of the flesh, i.e. those qualities and behaviors that come naturally to us, as “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (verses 19-21).

I can think of a time when I exhibited four of these in one incident when my temper got the best of me. So first of all, I’m grateful, deeply grateful, for the forgiveness of God that wipes out my sin.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

I John 1:9 ESV

Second, I was reminded by our pastor today that these fruit of the Spirit i.e. love, joy, peace … are HIS work in me, not mine in myself. My challenge is to spend time with Him, focusing on Jesus, loving and worshipping Him, allowing His Holy Spirit to produce these characteristics in me.

What a joy. It’s not my job to make me like Jesus. It’s my job to rest in Him, trust in Him, and allow Him to change me. That’s His job! And He can do what I cannot do myself!

Thank you Lord, for producing more of your likeness, for growing a good harvest in me as I focus on, spend time with you. I love you.