Sunday, July 24, 2016

It ALL matters

When I was in the early stages of my Joy Journey, I remember very distinctly discussing with my counselor how nothing I was doing seemed to be working. I was reading my Bible on a daily basis. I was praying every day. I was worshiping at every possible opportunity--whether I felt like worshiping or not. I was going to church. I was spending time in fellowship with other believers. I was doing one Bible study after another. I was seeking God with ALL my heart, soul, mind, and strength. But in those days, I didn't feel as if anything was working, I felt as I was going backwards rather than forwards in my healing. I was lost and wondered if I was doomed to be depressed and miserable--in a constant fog--in my dark cave--forever.

Have you ever been there? 

In spite of being so deep into my dark cave, I determined to stay with it--to continue on my Joy Journey regardless of how I FELT. 

As I am coming out on the other side of my journey into the light and out of the darkness, I want to tell you that every little thing you are doing to hang on to your faith is working--is meaningful--is making a difference--whether you FEEL as if it is or not. 

We all know that it's the little things that matter in our relationships, especially with our spouses. I don't need for my husband to go out and reserve a fancy hotel room, take me to a fancy steakhouse, or pay for a horse and buggy carriage ride through the park in order for him to be romantic. When he comes home with a Hershey's with Almonds, I want to kiss him all over! When he does the dishes or cooks supper because I've just been too busy to get to them, he makes me feel special. 

I am here to encourage you, my friends. Don't give up. Don't let the enemy take your joy or convince you that God isn't hearing your prayers. My Bible says that THE MOMENT we begin praying, God begins answering our prayers. Sometimes He answers and restores us immediately. Praise the Lord for those of you who experience that immediate restoration. Appreciate it and tell God how much you appreciate it. Show Him.

But sometimes God takes some of us on a journey to get to our
healing and restoration--to a place of Joy. Don't be discouraged in the journey. Keep trusting Him. Keep giving whatever you are able to give Him regardless of whether you FEEL like it or not.

He is faithful and He WILL restore you! He will bring you through so that you can come out of the darkness and into the light. Don't give up. One step at a foot in front of the Bible worship hour in fellowship with other believers....stay the course....fight the good fight of

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Complete your ministry

2 Timothy 4:5New Living Translation (NLT)

But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
This verse jumped out at me the other week when my husband was preaching on a different passage, but on the same page as this verse. 

I have been struggling recently about following through with my memoir and doing what I need to do to get an agent and ultimately, I hope, to have it published by a publishing house. I had been considering self-publishing, but I believe that for this particular project, the "old-fashioned" way is the way to go.  

At the beginning of 2016, I made a list of goals, one of which was to finally follow through with my dream of having my memoir published. When I learned that I would be teaching online only for the summer, I determined that this summer is THE TIME. I set a new goal to have an agent by the end of the summer and I began doing the necessary research to create a list of agents to contact. After I had a short list (to start with), I did a little more research on writing the necessary book proposal.

And I sat down with my trusty new computer on my lap on my comfy lap desk and opened to a new Word document....only to have a panic attack as I sat and stared at the blank screen in front of me.

That was back at the beginning of my summer semester--about two months ago now--and I haven't written anything or done anything to proceed with my goal in any way, shape, form, or fashion since that fateful day. I've been almost paralyzed with fear at even the THOUGHT of writing the proposal, let alone of sending it off to any book agents!

As I have spent time praying about this over the past several weeks, the Holy Spirit has been gently chastising me in my fear. 

I doubt whether or not I am doing what God wants me to do. Is this dream of having my memoir published by a publishing house MY dream or what God has directed me to do? In my heart of heart, in the very depths of my soul, I am sure that God has given me this directive. I have had this vision, this desire--this dream--for more than 17 years now. I have heard over and over again in my life of faith that when God puts a dream in our hearts, it never goes away. That is one way we can know our dream is of Him and not of our own volition.

I doubt my worthiness in publishing my story. Why would anyone want to read my story? What makes me so "special" that I should--that I deserve--to have my story published? While I LOVE to write, what in the world makes me think that anyone else wants to read what I write even if I think that what I write is actually pretty good?

When the Holy Spirit gives us a gift, it is important that we remember that it is a GIFT, a present, given in love not because we are deserving, but simply because of love. When I don't accept His gift, He will give it to someone who will accept it with wide open arms. Considering how very much I love to write and that in my heart, I honestly don't care whether or not anyone ever reads what I write, it is clear to me that writing is one of my gifts from the Holy Spirit himself.

(Granted, I do get a little jump in my heart when I see the number of you who are reading my blog entries. I do sincerely appreciate it. But even if no one read my entries, I would still write, and that's the whole point I'm getting at.)

As we are studying Priscilla Shirer's Armor of God Bible Study in our Sunday School class, I am learning that the enemy not only attacks us where we are weak and/or vulnerable, but he also attacks us with our ministry or gift that God has given us. When we fail to fulfill God's plan for our lives, the enemy wins. When I allow my doubts or self-recrimination to keep me from following through with writing my proposal and seeking an agent, the enemy is keeping me from what God has specifically given me to do.

As we see in 2 Timothy 4:5, we are to "complete the ministry God has given us." Matthew 25:21 tells us, "His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord." I want to be able to stand in front of my Lord and Savior on the day of judgment and hear Him to say to ME, "Well done, my good and faithful servant....enter, Polly, into the JOY of your Lord!" I don't want to be like the wicked servant who feared he would lose his gift so he buried it, causing his lord to cast him into darkness. 

I have read many books on achieving dreams and goals and of pursuing our purpose in life. I am well aware of all the scriptures as well as platitudes that are spouted to help us on our journey to achieve our dreams and not allow anything to get in our way. I know the road is never easy. The path to the top of the mountain is a difficult one, with rocks in the path, getting lost, difficult weather, and even more difficult terrain to traverse. In spite of all the difficulties (sorrows, even) that I must go through on this journey, getting to the top of the mountain, so I'm told and have experience when I've acheived goals and dreams in the past, is so very much worth every difficult step.

I do not want to be one who allows fear or doubt or being unsure of my calling keep me from completing the ministry God has given me. I covet your prayers. It is not about making a name for myself or making money or selling a lot of books. It is all about completing--doing--the ministry the Holy Spirit has gifted me.

What about you? What is keeping you from following your dreams?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Dance with Joy: Part 2

2 Samuel 6: 14, 21-22, NLT

14: And David danced before the Lord with all his might....

21: David retorted to Michal, "I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord. So I am willing to act like a fool in order to show my joy in the Lord.
22: Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this...!"

David tells Michal that he dances before the Lord because the Lord chose him above Saul and his descendants to be the leader of Israel--in other words, the King of Israel. I am sure David had many other reasons for dancing before the Lord considering the fact that God had saved David from both a bear and a lion and had given David victory over the giant Goliath, but I guess becoming King of a nation loved by God would hold precedence over everything else.

As I read David's retort to Michal, I can't help but think of my own reasons for dancing before the Lord, for showing my own Joy in the Lord.....(in no particular order):

1. I am here. I have almost died several times in my life, but yet here I am, 45 and still here. 

  • When I was about 3 years old, I almost drowned. My parents were the directors of a church camp and Dad was repairing the olympic size swimming pool. While water was running into the deep end, my brother and I ran down the incline to touch our toes to the water. Dad was working at the other end of the pool, but when I slipped and went right under, you'd think he'd been standing immediately beside me considering how fast he got to me! All I remember is seeing the smiley face on his black sneakers.
  • As a teenager, I choked on a piece of meat during supper. My brother had to perform the Heimlich and saved my life. 
  • I had a car accident that should have killed me, but didn't. I stupidly tried to pass a school bus on the way home from school. When I realized I didn't have enough time to pass, I slammed on my breaks too hard which sent my car spinning in the road until it careened over the edge of a ravine, landing with the front end up at the top of the embankment. Miraculously, I walked away.
  • In my early twenties, just days before my wedding, I had another car accident that should have killed me, but again, didn't. I had called my mom before I left work and asked if she wanted to meet me for lunch at my favorite place. She'd agreed. As I didn't want to eat in my work uniform, I decided to race home to change clothes real quick since I had a few minutes before she would be able to leave work. As I was coming up to a cool hill, I did my normal going too fast up and over the hill. Usually, that wasn't a problem, but this time, I didn't slow down enough in time to go around the sharp curve. I went off the right side of the road, jerked the steering wheel to the left, causing the car to swerve to the opposite side of the road where it hit a ditch, went front end over back--at least twice, took out a bush-like tree in the front yard of a friend's house, and landed upside down with the roof caved in so badly that had I been any taller, I would either have broken my neck or it would have killed me. I walked away from that one, too.
  • At 29, while I was pregnant, my doctors found a cyst on my left ovary. At first, it was about the size a golf ball, if not a little smaller. Within 6 weeks, though, it grew to the size of a grapefruit. They determined that it had to come out, so they operated while I was 20 weeks pregnant! They called it a "tumor," but, Praise the Lord, it was "benign," whatever that means.
  • In my late thirties, I had a severe infection from diverticulitis
    that resulted in my having emergency surgery where I was given an ostomy bag that I had to have for three months--just to save my life. (I've written about this one in detail in a previous post if you want to know more.)
  • Since that time, I have dealt with other health issues such as chronic gastritis, two hernias--that I still have because they don't bother me enough to do anything about yet, severe back pain, severe shoulder pain, and others. I have also had mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

2. God has restored my marriage. Just a few short years ago, I was ready to call my marriage Quits-ville. I was DONE. I hated my husband. I was angry with my husband. The very sight of him sent me into a rage. But yet God has given me a new love and respect for this man I once hated.

3. God has given me my Son, Samuel. Yes, he is a "rainbow baby."
4. Through each of my 3 child losses, God has been with me. Remember that "Footprints" poem? God has carried me a LOT over the past 17 years.

5. I have AMAZING parents who love and serve God with all their hearts, all their minds, all their souls, and all their strength and who love me unconditionally---and they demonstrate their love for me in a thousand different ways. I am truly blessed.
6. I have AWESOME siblings, Kenny (11 months older) and Katie (7 years younger), whom I love with every fiber of my being and who I know love me, regardless of whether we communicate with one another every day or only a few times a year.

7. I have WONDERFUL extended family members who make me laugh as no one else can. We enjoy being together and again, even if we don't see each other or communicate with one another for years, when we get together again, the laughter and the love has a strength that can only come from God above.
8. I have a job that I love. I know that I am doing what God called me to do in my teaching. Even at the highest moments of stress, I still enjoy my students.

9. I have a wonderful home with air conditioning and heat and all the other fantastic comforts that make a home.

10. I have a great car that I call "Lady Grey."

11. He delights in me!!!

12. He loves me so much that He gave His ONLY Son so that I might have eternal life with Him

13. He sings over me with Joy!!!  
Zephaniah 3:17New Living Translation (NLT)
17 "For the Lord your God is living among you.
    He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
    With his love, he will calm all your fears.[a]
    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
And my list can go on and on because God has done so very much for me. Any one of the items on this list is sufficient to demonstrate the reason why I am willing to act the fool to show my joy in the Lord! Granted, I don't always dance to demonstrate my joy, but I do sing with great enthusiasm (if not perfect pitch). I play the tambourine that my Grandpa Keefer used to play in church. Honestly, I'd love to dance, too, but singing and playing the tambourine at the same time are challenging enough! Whenever I attempt to add dancing into the mix, I either have to stop singing or I have to stop playing the tambourine! I can't do all 3 at once!

I try to find other ways to demonstrate my joy in the Lord, such as doing a daily "What brings me Joy?" post on Facebook. I continually seek for and read scripture pertaining to Joy. I have read a dozen books or more on Joy. I try to spread His joy and to demonstrate His love to the best of my ability. 

God has done so very much for me. I have every reason in the world to praise Him and to be the fool to show my show in Him. I KNOW that I am here today and that I am able to choose Joy because He loves me and has always taken care of me.

Will (do) you make a fool of yourself to show your joy in the Lord? What are your reasons for rejoicing in Him? How do you demonstrate your joy?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Dance with Joy

2 Samuel 6: 14, 21-22, NLT

14: And David danced before the Lord with all his might....
21: David retorted to Michal, "I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord. So I am willing to act like a fool in order to show my joy in the Lord.
22: Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this...!"

This passage has always fascinated me. For one, because Michal, David's wife & Saul's daughter, is so incredibly judgmental of David dancing before the Lord. She rebukes him and tells him that he looks like a fool. Every time I read this, I want to reach through my Bible and slap Michal silly. David is her husband, the King of Israel. Apparently she wanted to marry David because she was in love with him. (Go back a few chapters for that part of the story.) David has been away from home and she hasn't seen him in quite a while. Yet she calls him a fool and tells him that not only is she embarrassed, but that he should be ashamed of himself, as well.

I get so sick and tired of judgmental people. I grew up in a variety of church denominations: Baptist, Pentecostal, Pentecostal Holiness, Free Will Baptist, Bapti-costal, and Pentecostal in the form of an Assembly of God. Many of my favorite worship services have been when we were encouraged to dance before the Lord with all our might or to shout and Praise the Lord and to rejoice enthusiastically in our Lord and Savior.

We had this one sweet man in a church we attended when I was about 10-ish, Mr. Jimmy Little. He was probably in his late seventies or somewhere in his eighties about this time, so he was definitely an elder of the church who was loved and respected by all who knew him. (He and his wife adored my little sister; they always had candy in their pockets for her and she always made sure to "visit" them at some point during each and every worship service.) One of the most precious things I remember about Mr. Little was his love for the Lord and his way of celebrating Him. Rather than just shout "Amen" during a service, he would do this high-pitched, "Whoop-whoop-Wooooooo!" To this day, almost 40 years later, I can still hear him just as clear as day rejoicing in the Lord in his own way and it brings a smile to my face.

Now if I enjoyed hearing Mr. Little praise the Lord in his own way, doesn't it stand to reason that the Lord Himself was pleased with Mr. Little demonstrating his joy in the Lord? You can't convince me otherwise. I witnessed Mr. Little's joy for myself. He is remembered fondly in our family as someone who gladly made a fool of himself in order to show His joy for the Lord!

Michal was completely wrong in her embarrassment of David, her husband. So much so that not only does David rebuke her and tell her that he is willing to act like a fool in order to show his joy in the Lord because of all that the Lord has done for him, but God, too, disciplines Michal as we read in verse 23 that "Michal, the daughter of Saul, remained childless throughout her life." If that isn't a firm statement from God Himself that Michal was in the wrong for criticizing David, I don't know what is! Remember: a woman's main role was to marry and provide sons for her husband, especially the wife (and daughter) of a King.

In the New Testament, Jesus Himself tells us that we shouldn't judge one another: "Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. For others will treat you as you treat them. Whatever measure you use in judging others, it will be used to measure how you are judged" (Matthew 7:1-2, NLT). It saddens me how in our world today we continue to judge one another--especially those who enthusiastically demonstrate their love for the Lord, or show enthusiasm for anything, for that matter.

In my Sunday School class the other day, we were talking about how difficult it is to remain in a state of joy in the Lord. Once we begin to feel and experience the Joy of the Lord, someone inevitably comes along and does everything in his/her power to steal our joy.

I call them my "Joy Poppers." I imagine them with bows and arrows, shooting at my balloons of joy that God has given me. The loud Pop! whenever they successfully shoot a balloon is felt deep into my very soul and can send me into a depression--if I'm not careful. My ladies were telling me that they feel the same way. Just when they begin to feel true Joy, someone says or does something that makes them feel ridiculous for having felt any joy at all.

So, to all the "Michals" out there, remember that Michal is the one who was ultimately chastised for her judgmental criticism of King David, her own husband, who was dancing before the Lord with all his might. (Isn't it interesting that quite often it's our own family members who tend to be our "Joy Poppers"?) The enemy rejoices when we allow the judgments of others keep us from showing our joy in the Lord with all [our] might. We know that Joy comes from the Lord, those of us who believe, so when the "Joy Poppers" attempt to keep us from experiencing Joy, they are being used by the enemy.

I, for one, refuse to allow the Michals, the "Joy Poppers," keep me from showing my Joy in the Lord with all my might....How about you?
Works Cited
2 Samuel. Holy Bible New Living Translation. Slimline Edition. Wheaton: Tyndale House, 1996. Print.