Quiet Time

It was a hurried quiet time this morning. There was no lingering long over coffee and prayers, this was a fly out of bed and hit the deck running day after a very short night. Normally there is plenty of time to bask in the grace and wonder of Jesus, to linger long while sipping coffee, pondering the deep things of Jesus and praying His peace pervades all of everything.

But not this morning. This morning was an I have to get up and out the door by 6:45. Which means I need to be in and out of the shower by 5:30 so Mr. FullCup has plenty of time to get ready himself before leaving for work at the same time. It was also a I still have so much to read before 9am, I better begin as soon as I get out of the shower. And that is exactly what I did.

Life hit me like dominoes. One thing after another. Please, do not misunderstand here, I am not at all saying one must spend copious amounts of time with Jesus every morning or watch out, He’s going to get you! Not at all. Jesus isn’t like that. He doesn’t operate that way. My focus was two-pronged which is unusual and more or less impossible. I knew He was with me, I could sense His closeness, but my thoughts were on what needed to be done now. Right now. This minute. This very minute now. Not in a few minutes, not in a few days but now, right this second now.

You know because you’ve been there too. It’s the tyranny of the urgent and life’s demands stack up like unpaid and unpayable bills. Soon you find yourself running hither and yon, then back to hither in a mad, vain attempt to accomplish something. Anything. You can’t think straight enough to know what the next step is, the next thing is. You’re just so dang crazy busy.

You pray on the fly, “Jesus, help here!” “Oh Jesus, are they crazy? Do they think they are the only one who is making demands on my time? Do they really think now is the time for that? How on earth, Lord, is all of that going to be done?”

You feel the panic and stress rising. You want desperately to drown your stress in mochas but you haven’t the time to get one. You want to go anywhere but here. You’re desperate to run any where as long as it isn’t here. Quitting isn’t just a nice thought, it’s a mind obsession. Fight or flight and you’re picking flight. But your dang feet won’t move, won’t budge an inch.

You battle tears and find yourself losing, thinking, “What on earth good are tears at a time like this? Tears won’t get that job done. They won’t write that article. They won’t read that book. They’ll just make a mess of your makeup. That’s it.”

As you choke back the tears, wipe your nose and eyes for the millionth time in an hour, you suddenly realize, your focus is wrong. Your focus in on what you can do. All of your abilities and inabilities. You see the waves and feel the wind in your hair and you raise your hand as your heart cries out, Oh Jesus! My focus is the waves! I’m feeling the wind, and oh Jesus, I’m sinking fast. Please show me the next thing. Keep my focus on You.

Just as fast He reaches down, grabs your hand, lifts you out, and sets you on a rock. He covers you with His pinions, and under His wings you find refuge and strength. Not your own, His own. In His arms, we are safe and we rest in His life living in and through us. If you listen close, you can hear His sweet voice as He gently sings over your soul, calming your fears and your tears.


How to Say Good-Bye to the “What-Ifs” of Life

What if that happens?
What if she really doesn’t like me?
What if they had an accident and are dead on the side of the road and no one knows it?
What if no one talks to me?
What if no one believes me?
What if I ruin my children?
What if I …what if that…..?

We are all so familiar with the whole what if scenarios. We create them in our mind and call it nice things like concern and planning. We pride ourselves on being full of forethought and caring concern for others.

We plan for every little contingency; we stress and worry. We stress and worry when we think we have no “what-ifs” to stress and worry about. We like them. We are fond of them. They drive us up the wall, but without them we think and fear we are nothing. We have no place and no purpose.

Dear reader, this is not where our purpose and place is found. It is not found in our frantic grasps for control. Our purpose is found solely in Jesus Christ.

“…there is but one God,the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.”

1 Corinthians 8:6 nasb (emphasis mine)

Our purpose is His and to be His. He defines us and our place in this world. We live out our purpose when we surrender fully to His life in us and live from that place of complete surrender and obedience to Him. I’m sorry there is not other way, unless you like wallowing in worry and self-pity.

The other night I was struggling with something I knew for a fact that Jesus had told me. I knew He led and directed my steps, but still my thoughts went to the what if route. The thoughts took me by surprise, I thought my confidence and my obedience to Jesus would negate them and their ability to strike fear in the pit of my stomach. I was wrong.

I have walked with Jesus through a lot of yucky stuff, I have learned to trust His voice and His heart, so when I heard His whispered voice in my ear, I listened. 

What ifs come from fear, not trust.

What ifs speak of our fears, mostly our fear of a loss of control. One thing Jesus has really been opening my eyes to lately is how much we think we are in control. I am sure most of our sins could be eradicated if we only realized the idolatry of our control. Our push and grab for control tells Jesus, “I don’t need You for this. I’ve got it. I’ll just worry, fret, stew and control everything and every part of it so You can just go help the people in Sudan. They need You.”

Oh how wrong we are! Oh how that flies in the face of grace. If we could control our way to heaven there would have been no need for Jesus to ever come to earth. If we could worry and fret our way out of situations, we wouldn’t need Him. But we so desperately do! We need Him more than we need air.

He is our Breath and our Life. He gives and sustains life. Not worry, not fret, not control. Jesus.

Oh dear reader, I know you’re tired. You’re weary and worn. And you’re trying so hard to not be. Give up your unending drive for control, give up all your what ifs and fears, and cling to Jesus. Only in Him is there the peace and joy you so desperately need.

He Is…I Am Bible Study Week 4

Can you believe we’re finishing up our first month of Bible study already? I pray Jesus is opening your eyes to see Him, to hear Him, and to experience Him in brand-new ways.

I’ve been struck over over the past couple of weeks with His very sameness. He is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. He does not change. He cannot change. The way He was before the beginning of time is exactly how He will be after the end of time. There is no shifting of shadows in Him. There is no, “well, I don’t know if He’ll still do it….”.

Precious reader, if He did it before He is sure to do it again! It might not be the in the exact same way, but He will do it because He doesn’t change. If He met you yesterday, He’ll meet you today. Since He was faithful to you last week, He’ll be faithful to you this week as well.

Here is the thing that really strikes me about the very unchangeableness of our Jesus.

He’s not monotonous.

Monotony bores me to tears. If you want to see me run, put me in a place I will have to do the same thing, in the same way, every day. I’ll die. I will invent new ways of doing it. I will be so bored I’ll cause trouble for everyone. I’ll talk when I should be quiet, I’ll poke my neighbor, I’ll prattle on and on, long after you’ve shushed me a billion times.

When I leave my house I often try to take a new way to wherever I’m going. Since I’ve lived here for over 17 years, I’m quickly running out of ways to go, but still the thrill entices me.

My man is the opposite. Change is horrifying to him. He lives today as he lived yesterday. He takes the same way to work every single day. And what’s more, he sees no need, has no desire to change it at all. I’m going to admit it drives me absolutely up the wall.

It is comforting however, to know that Jesus never changes. It comforts because we can know that as He loves us today, He will love us tomorrow. He will never love us more, never love us less than He does right this moment. He will never know us more, never know us less than He does right this second. He will never stop loving us, or knowing us because He doesn’t change. As He is right now, He will always be.

He will reveal different facets of Himself and we plunge deeper into Him, His heart and His life. But He, His heart, His life, His character, His character remain the same forever. From forever past to forever present to forever future, He remains the same.

Man changes. But our God remains steadfastly faithful.

He will continue to grow us, to change us, to teach us, but He will always remain our Faithful God. Through the shifting sands of time He is steadfast.

Remember that! Never forget.

Here is the link to the next month of Bible study.

He Is…I Am Bible Study Week 1

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and are of God’s household, having been  built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ  Jesus Himself being the cornerstone.

Ephesians 2:19-20

Our identity is not about us. As human beings we think everything is always all about us. Even as we proclaim, “It’s not about me!” Our lives and our actions tell a very different story.

I’ve spent some time at the beginning of this New Year contemplating Peter walking on the water. Peter was the rash, impulsive disciple, the one who said what others probably only thought but wouldn’t dare voice it. He is most famous for his denial of Jesus. One thing we fail to remember is all of the disciples were saying the same thing.

In Matthew’s retelling of Peter’s walking on water all of the disciples were in the boat. All of them were afraid of Him. Only Peter said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Only Peter was brave enough put one leg over the side of the boat, and then the other and walk on the waves to Jesus.

What a true picture of walking in our identity in Him! No one else was willing to get out of the boat and on the storm tossed sea.

Every prayer, every request, to “call me out to You on the water” is answered with “Come!” There is never a time He will say, “No. You stay where you are.” The deeper we go with Jesus, the more His life lives in and changes us, the more He feeds our desires. He is our desire. He is what our soul longs for. He plunges us into the depths of Him and with Him.

In our very human-ness we are incapable of doing anything (except sin) without Him. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Fixing our eyes on Jesus…”, dear soul, please hear this, you are not capable in and of yourself to keep your gaze fixed on Jesus. His life in you fixes your gaze. You do have a choice of focus. You can choose to allow Him to set and be your focus, or you can look to yourself.

He keeps our eyes fixed on Him. Alone and left to our own desires, our gaze flickers and falters, but His voice always reminds us that He is good. It reminds us of all He has done, and that it is all Him and not us. He tells us that without Him we are dead and the only safe place is to be in the wildness of Him and His waves.

We were all at one time strangers and aliens, we were all outside of His bubble. Jew and Gentile alike. Jesus blood bough redemption for all of us all at once. His blood brought us all near and made us fellow citizens and members of His household. It is His identity that changes our identity.

We are who we are in Him because of Him. Every facet of His identity touches us and changes us to reflect His life in us. Everything that He is speaks of who we are. And who we are in Him is not who we are apart from Him.

Everything that was true of you before you believed Him, before His life lived in you, is no longer true. Before Jesus, you were not enough. You were not good enough. You were without hope.

Now, Jesus in you is enough. Now Jesus is your hope. Because He is your hope you are not hopeless. Because He is your Daddy, you are not abandoned, you have a home, a family, a place you belong. And you belong with Him.

As you discover your identity in Jesus chances are you’ll be walking on the waves alone. But keep walking! Keep trusting! Keep listening!

Please remember to use the hashtag #HeIsIAm when sharing what you’re learning on social media. Your insights, your thoughts will minister to others.

Wildness to God’s Grace

There is a wildness and recklessness to God’s mercy and grace. Those who give into it are crazily changed by it. Life as normal ceases to be normal and takes on all the adventures of a roller coaster, without the terror, just the wide open smiles and laughter of drowning in His grace.

If someone had told me three years ago of this overwhelming sense of peace and joy, even in the midst of deep pain and hard, hard things, I would have laughed. If they had said the only way to get this was to give into the pain, surrender to it and the One who knows intimately the pain of suffering and loss, I would have thought them a stupid idiot.

So here I am. I am that person. I am telling you, in your place of pain, in your place of hard; there is joy, there is peace to be had in abundance as you surrender fully to the God who knows.

Then you will have to buckle your seat-belt because it will be a bumpy ride of grace and life and joy and peace and pain and hard and Jesus. He is in it all. You will find yourself months and years later, sitting outside on a frosty winter morning, tears running rivers down your cheeks as you reflect on His life in you, you’ll weep when you hear His voice again, you’ll feel the sting of tears in your eyes and nose as you contemplate how free life is, how He is doing things in and through you that boggle your mind. And then you’ll laugh with joy because you will know in the marrow of your soul that it is all Him, that truly without Him you would be so lost, so pain-filled. You would be defined by what you did, what was done to you, by anger, and bitterness.

Please know, dear soul, I do know pain. I know deep, heart-rending pain, pain so sharp you think you will die, and then you wish you would, or could. But you find, if you surrender in it and to it, there is a peace, a joy that comes with the pain.

It isn’t that I haven’t known despair or grief. It isn’t that my life has been miraculously made incredibly easy, it hasn’t been. There are still things that wound my heart and in my human-flesh-ness, makes me want to run so far, so fast in ten years time I’d still be running from all things painful.

But I’ve learned over the past months, that I’d be running from the very grace, the very peace and joy, the exact love I’m so desperate for. The road with Jesus might be bumpy, but it’s hell on wheels without Him.

Yes, the ride is bumpy, but it’s an exciting bumpy. It’s a life on the back of a Harley, wind whipping through your hair, eyes twinkling, mouth open in joyous laughter, arms straight up in gleeful celebration of all He is, all He has done.

Sacred in the Surrendered

As this year draws to a close, many people are looking back to see what they accomplished in the previous twelve months. They’re hoping to see that they fulfilled some purpose. There was a reason, a need, for them. They also are looking ahead to see if their life will have purpose and meaning in the next twelve months.

We all want our life to mean something, to count for something. Too often we fear it doesn’t. We fear we have real purpose in life, so we have to grab it by the horns with gusto and search out our purpose for breathing.

Could I tell you something?

Jesus. Always was. Always is. Always will be. We exist for His pleasure. He has a plan and a purpose for every person. No one is born apart from His plan.

Each one of us is born on purpose and with a purpose that God designed for us. He purposes our birth, our death, and all the tiny moments in-between. He did all of this planning and purposing before the foundation of the world. It is His life that wills and works in us to fulfill His plan.

It’s all about Him.

Through our surrendering to Him–His Life in us–He works His plan and purpose according to His will in us. He has made so we don’t have to find our purpose, our passion. We just need to surrender our lives to Jesus on the altar. He, then, works in and through us freely.

So all of our lives; every facet, every component, every minute detail, is sacred. Nothing is secular, everything is sacred because everything is about Jesus. There are no secular jobs for the indwelt believer.

Every thing becomes sacred in surrender to the Savior.

In our strength alone, everything we deem sacred becomes secular. When we muster our own strength and minister in that place of self, we say, in essence, “it’s okay, God, I’ve got this one”, our ministry has ceased to be ministry and has become simply our vocation and no longer sacred.

The difference is Jesus.
The difference is always Jesus.
The sacred becomes secular when Jesus is relegated to the periphery.
The secular becomes sacred with Jesus at the center of it all, doing it all.
The secular becomes sacred though surrender;
The sacred becomes secular through self.

You were born on purpose, with a purpose according to the plan of God. He knew exactly when you would be born, He knew your struggles, your strengths, your joys, your sorrows. He knew all of you intimately before the world was created.

If you are indwelt with the Life of Jesus, you don’t have to worry and fret, or work so hard to discover your passion, your purpose. You just have to surrender to His Life in you. He will accomplish His purpose through you and in you. He knows what His plan is and He knows what your year will bring. He knows the high points and He is intimately acquainted with each of the low points already. He is already there. His plan and His purpose for your life will be revealed as you surrender.

How Do You Surrender?

It seems so simple and easy to just say, “all you have to do is surrender”. It is almost like saying, “All you have to do it sacrifice your firstborn.” It often feels that wrong and scary too.

Surrender comes as we lean into, press into Jesus for deliverance from our strongholds and then we walk in the freedom He brings.

I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

Romans 12:1

And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.

Matthew 10:38

Surrender means death. When the Germans surrendered at the end of World War 1 and 2, their surrender said they were dying to their plan, their desires. They were admitting their defeat and weakness in the face of the stronger opponent. They laid down their weapons, and agreed to the terms of peace.

That is what we do. We die to our own will, our own desires. We confess to Jesus that our strength is weakness apart from Him. We acknowledge we have believed and lived lies about ourselves and Him.

It is in that place of hardest surrender that He takes over and we are set free. Free to be the people He created us to be in Him. He brings the plan, the purpose, the passion; He changes our secular into our sacred.

You Do Not Complete Your Husband or Wife

Growing up in the church I heard a lot of sermons on marriage. Mostly centered around passages like Genesis 1-2 and Ephesians 5. Most of those were broken down even further to detail the wife’s job, not completely to the exclusion of the husband’s, but his was more presented as a role and not a job.

But I digress slightly.

Early in our pre-martial counseling, I was told I had two jobs to do as a wife:
1. Help him.
2. Respect him.
At the end of our pre-martial counseling a third job was added, I was to appreciate him, with an idea of fawning over him and making sure to express my deepest appreciation for every little thing he did.

The church and the world talk a lot about our completing our husband or wife. I’ve heard it described as “he fills my gaps.”

Completeness is only found in Jesus. In Him we are made complete, made whole. That’s what Jesus does. It isn’t my job to make my husband complete. My job as his helper is not to help him be complete, or to do what he can’t. My job as his helper is not even to be who or what he needs and so point him to completeness.

My job is to find my wholeness in Jesus and allow him to be whole in Jesus.

Having a husband does not make me whole and complete. Being in Jesus, His life in me doing (and being) all of His will, His plan, His purpose for His pleasure makes me complete in Him. In this He presents me to our Father whole and complete (holy and blameless).

Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before Him.

Ephesians 1:4

that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless.

Ephesians 5:27

His blood makes me whole. That is how HE presents me to our Father whole, because I am covered in His blood.

Man (and woman) is born broken by sin. Even if nothing else broke them (abandonment, abuse, etc) they would still be broken. We were not created to be broken this way, but our choices broke us that day in the garden. Their brokenness passed down to all of us, but in Him we are complete, we don’t have to work it out, it’s not a gradual thing, our wholeness. It’s not a -eventually-I-will-be-complete-in-Him-because-of-him-thing. Our identity is our immediate reality of being whole, complete. What lacks and needs changing is our perceptions, our thoughts, and our habits. They need to be changed to come in line, and reflect our completeness in Jesus.

and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority.

Colossians 2:10

Our reality, our identity is complete in Christ Nothing more needs to be added to us to make us whole. He makes us complete, whole in Him.

When we think we need someone else to complete us, we are making an idol of that person. Marriage isn’t about taking two incomplete people and making each one complete. Like taking two halves of an apple, putting them together to get one whole apple.

Marriage is taking two people each one complete in Jesus and loving as completely as He loves because He does all the doing, all the loving. We don’t work to help complete each other, Jesus does. He did. He takes two people complete in Him and together they rely on Him to do the work He has created them to walk in.

The only job God gave Adam, before Eve was created, was to name the animals. Then together they worked to subdue the earth and ruled over it.

Woman cannot complete man and man cannot complete woman. They were not designed for that. But they were designed complete in Christ and through His Life in them to enjoy Him and each other. He is the one who works and completes.

Men and women were created for companionship and re-creation. Not to be god to each other. You are not your spouse’s Holy Spirit. Conviction is His job, not yours. Change is wrought by His hands, His voice, not yours. He might speak through you, but it is Him, never you.

And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom that we may present every man complete in Christ.

Colossians 1:28

We are taught our reality. What I can see or feel is not my reality. It might be real, but it is not necessarily truthful. The truth is my circumstances (heart and mind) can change and they do. It does not mean my reality changes because no matter what I think, I am complete in Christ. I stand alone, complete in Him.

As do you.

The pressure is off to complete your spouse. You can just enjoy them.

When we believe we have to complete our spouse there is just work and very little enjoyment in and of them. Every one of their flaws becomes a reminder that we haven’t done our job, because if we had there would be no flaws.

He completes.
We enjoy.
He works,
We enjoy.
But first,
We enjoy

Your reality=Complete In Christ.
Your spouse’s reality=Complete In Christ.
Our reality=Enjoy Him and each other.

This is true for all our relationships. Our job is not to complete or perfect each other, but enjoy as He enjoys,

Yes, we will sin, but relationships are not to point out and take responsibility for those. They are to say, “That is not who you are! You are complete in Christ and that is not how He acts.” They point to Him and our reality as complete in Him because of Him.

So instead of being worked up about doing your job of loving, respecting, providing for, cherishing, nourishing, protecting, helping, appreciating our mates, let’s walk as free people who know they are complete in Jesus because of His life, His death, His blood. In this walking, we are free to be who He created us to be and allow spouses and friends to be who He created them to be.

Because He is.

I found an old journal the other day. As far as old goes, it’s not that old, a little less than two years. But as far as life goes, it could have been written a millennia ago.

A mentor gave me a stack of stripes of paper, each one having a name or attribute of Jesus written on it. She instructed me to pick 7 and focus on one each day of the week.

The strips were all laid out and slowly seven were chosen. The ones that jumped out at me, the ones I heard Jesus whisper, “Pick that one!”, the ones that seemed significant.

And really which ones don’t?

It’s an act of Jesus grace that He slowly unfolds and unfurls Himself for us and to us. He doesn’t expect us to fully grasp Him all at once. He knows Himself and our heart so intimately He knows just which facet of His character, His life we need in that exact moment.

And He meets us there with Himself. He always meets us. Always meets us where are, with what we need. And what we always need is Him. More of Him.

We need our understanding broadened. Our scope widened. We don’t love and serve a one-dimensional God, just as we are not one-dimensional people.

Seven little strips of paper. One steno pad full of 100 blank pages. One small, hopeful woman and one Mighty God.

Oh Lord, help me choose. Which parts of You do I need to know more right here, right now?  Which one is first, Jesus? Then second?

Then on down the line, I asked with each one. Until my first month was complete. The steno pad was opened and on the first page, blank, but full of hope and promise, I wrote the week and the day. I recorded there in ink Who my Jesus was and what that meant I am. The verse He put in my mind was penned there too.

And then on each page my heart soared as my hand scribbled His truth whispered on my heart, shouted in my mind.

It’s been two years almost since I started that journal. I have nearly filled those 100 pages with His Life, His Truth.

They’ve been filled with Him. His presence. His grace.

Here’s the funny thing. He is still speaking the same things to my heart today. Two years and He’s saying the same things. Is it because I’ve failed a test? I’ve failed to grasp the truth of Him?

No. His repeated teaching does not mean we are stupid. It shows His faithfulness. His repeated teaching does not mean we’re being punished because we screwed it all up again and failed Him again. It shows His great patience and love. It shouts of His knowing how we are made and the very realness of our enemy.

His repeated teaching is an act of His grace. It shines like a beacon of the Light of His Life.

Dear soul, please take these words with you into your new year. His repeated teaching is not a punishment, it’s grace. It’s His gift.

Joy in the Pain

What I want for you is
Not that you would never know pain.
But that you would know Joy
In the pain-filled places.
That you would realize the sweetness of surrender.
The Peace of giving in,
Giving Up
Your life, your way,
For His Life, His Way.
Because surrender brings
Joy in the stuck places
Of hard pain.
What I want for you is
That you would know
Pain only crushes and kills
If it is not embraced,
Surrendered and
Freely given to Him.

vlg 16/December 2018
For my girls
And everyone else

Finding Joy in Advent

Joy. That somewhat illusive feeling we all want during the holidays. We look for it in the baking aisle of the grocery store. We hunt for it in the Christmas cards we send. We search for it in the shops as we purchase the perfect gifts for those we love. We pursue it in holiday greetings received.

We long to feel the increase of Joy. It seems though the more we pursue it, the more we chase it down it, the more it dances just out of our scope of vision.

Each year we promise ourselves and others that this year will be different. Our holiday will be different. We will be more at peace, we’ll get started early, we’ll be less stressed. We’ll be all of these just as soon as our holiday is picture perfect.

The more we try to make everything Pinterest perfect, the harder we endeavor to ensure everything looks like a magazine spread, the more our stress level rises and joy seems to fly out the window. We snap at our family, we walk over our friends. Our happiness quotient is reduced while our joy all but seems to disappear.

We complain to our friends that we’ve lost our joy and ask them to pray that we can find it again. We know just what we need to do to, it’s what we’ve always been told. From our earliest days, we’ve heard, Joy means Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last.

So we should feel the most joy at Christmas, right? It’s all about Jesus, and we spend an great amount of time and an even more exorbitant time and energy, to say nothing of money, on others. So joy should be in super abundance.

But it’s not.

Dear sweet reader, please know our joy does not disappear with the disappointments in the hard parts of the holidays. Our strongholds so often trip us up, yank us around this time of year. Expectations are through the roof, emotions are high, hurts run deep.

Every little thing threatens our carefully crafted dens of happiness, and topples joy. Joy dies in heaps of crumbled dreams and ashes. What is supposed to be the happiest time of the year, full of joy and good cheer, is anything but.

Unless good cheer is found in tears that run rivers down our cheeks. It’s in the gaping wounds of a heart that loves. If it’s found in the hurts from stronghold bumped and body-slammed.

But it’s not. We all know that. We all know Joy does not depend on our circumstances, that’s happiness. But how can we feel joy when life hurts and the tears flow? Is there joy to be found in the depths of our darkest despair? Those dark nights of our soul? When we hurt and our cries seem to hit a silent heaven when what we think we need is a silent night, not a silent Savior.

We sing “the Joy of the Lord is our strength” but what does that mean? How is His Joy our strength? We are all so quick to say He is our strength but we are so quick to do and live all in our own.

We wonder why on earth life hurts so much. Life is good. It’s a grand life and then POW! We’re in agony. Someone said something, or didn’t say something and now our life hurts.

He is our strength. His life in us sustains us. He carries us to and through the painful, and pain-filled times. Have you ever noticed the Spirit led Jesus to the wilderness to be tempted? We think if life hurts, when we’re tempted we must be the most wicked, evil, vile person.

But what if, just as Jesus was led into the wilderness, we’re being led to and through our times of pain so we can experience and learn to walk in His strength?

In our times of pain, when our strongholds are body-slammed, we focus on ourselves, our hurt, our pain. We wrap it tightly around us like a heavy winter coat hoping to keep out winter’s chill. But it never works.

We are to embrace the pain, but not like that. Not wear it like a suit of armor. Our pain doesn’t protect us from more pain, it merely pushes those arrows in a little deeper.

We are to embrace them, not shun them, but in them open up to the One who can free us from the pain. He can take our frozen feelings, shine the Light of His life in them, speak His peace, His joy into them and we are set free.

Free to live, free to dance in the joy of His strength. We were not ever designed to walk in our strength, our power. We can’t. We aren’t enough. He is.

This Advent, please, trade your robes of sadness and pain for His shining robes of Joy.