I LOVE that we are sharin the JOY together! But I think we better get one thing out in the open. As in a – “smack dab in the middle of the table right now” – kind of thing: We’re going to experience some bad moods and probably even some bad days this summer that may threaten to mess with our Pure Joy mojo. In fact, you could be having one today (and I may or may not have had a string of them last week – just sayin’…)!
And I want you to know, it’s okay. Because someone amazing has our backs – GOD.
I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:12b-13, NLT.
Yeah, that’s my Bible boyfriend, Paul, talking. (If you’re wondering why I have a Bible boyfriend, well, that’s a story for another day!) And if anyone could find joy in what could be perceived as a lowdown, no-good situation, it was Paul (which is really the reason he’s my Bible crush!).
Here’s where the story gets REALLY GOOD! Did you know that when he said that, Paul and his buddy Silas had been beaten, imprisoned, and were likely facing execution? And that instead of lamenting their misfortune, they prayed and sang songs of praise to God? AND…do you want to know what happened? A miracle! Their joy for the Lord manifested in an earthquake that shook their shackles to the ground, got them released, and brought others to Christ that day! (Please promise me you’re going to go read this awesome account in Acts 16:16-40. It’s honestly one of the most amazing, joy-induced miracles in the Bible!)
What are YOUR chains today? An illness? An irritating coworker, family member, or neighbor? Debt? Broken air conditioner? Too much stuff and not enough space?! Something a bit more serious?
I’m here to tell you it doesn’t matter what your chain looks like OR how long it seems. It can be as long as Jacob Marley’s or as short as the leash my Teddy gets walked with. What matters here is that you resolve to MOVE YOUR MIND UP. Get it up out of the depths of the prison cell the chain holds you in and move it straight up to heaven through praise and prayer. THOSE are the things that make the ground tremble and throw the chains off you and send them straight into hell. There is undeniable, atomic-power STRENGTH in joy-filled praise, my friends.
How do I know? Eighteen months ago, I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE, or “Lupus” for short) an autoimmune disease affecting multiple body systems. For me, it affects my sight, my lungs, my skin, and my joints. It affects everyone who has it in different ways and manifests its weird self in about 1,000,000 ways, too. I can go for periods of time with very little disease involvement and then suddenly get sidelined to my couch with symptoms and a bottle of prednisone. Let me tell you, this certainly did not fit into the big plans I had for myself!
As you might imagine, I was surprised with the diagnosis and overwhelmed with the new medications and lifestyle changes that came with it. And then, Nancy (yes, THAT Nancy – as in Cool- Beans-Sister-Momma-Nancy-Grisham, who graced us with her post right here last Thursday) showed up on my doorstep day and took me to the zoo. The ZOO, sister friends! I hadn’t been to the zoo (without a child) in probably 30 years!
Now, regardless of what you think of zoos, I’m going to tell you this: if you ever need a little perspective on wonder and JOY – consider gettin’ your bad self to the nearest zoo! God’s glorious creations on display in every size, shape, hair color, form, habitat, skin type, beauty, etc. (and I’m talking about the animals here, not the visitors – hee hee!).
Nancy and I spent a loooong time in the primate house. I was honestly so mesmerized by the silliness, joy, games, songs (yes, it sounded like they were singing to me!) they exhibited. They were in a “foreign space”, to be sure. But they made the absolute best of it and found that they were not bound by their surroundings and circumstances! They CHOSE to enjoy what they had been given, whether they “picked” that situation or not.
I felt my chains of being “a person who is sick” loosening up…
That afternoon I came home with a new perspective. I would CHOOSE to move my own mind UP to what God was offering in my circumstances. Yes, challenges would be in my path. But I was reminded of something profound that day; I had things to praise Him for. He is always with me! I had songs to sing back to Him for blessing me with things I hadn’t seen before or remembered for some time. And so…sing with joy I did, my friends.
And what did I get in return? Freedom in some very unexpected ways. The opportunity to speak and lead my very first retreat. Two published books. The growth of a little ministry of eight beautiful women to one that allows me to be in fellowship with all of YOU! A blog that reaches people around the globe. And many other amazing blessings, ministry related and BEYOND. Things I could not have dreamed of before, especially not with the chains of “Lupus” shackled to my wrists.
Here’s the thing: I’m not suggesting that prayer and praise take away our problems. I still have Lupus, and I still have flares, and I still end up on the couch sometimes, and I still take medicine all the time. What I AM saying is that the joy that comes from knowing GOD brings strength. Not necessarily physical strength – but spiritual strength. The strength to do things that we can only do through God. Starting here, starting NOW, starting today.
“Today is a special day to our Lord. Don’t be sad, because the joy of the LORD will make you strong.”
Nehemiah 8:10, ERV.
His joy is our strength. Can you imagine a better reason to be JOYFUL?
What are your chains? Can you find reasons to praise Him today? If so, you might just wake up tomorrow to find those chains on the floor, more strength in your spirit, and your Pure Joy mojo restored. Amen?
What’s on the docket for you in this week of Pure Joy (week 2, ladies!)?! Well, here it is:
1. Record, in your favorite version, our verse of the week, which is none other than Nehemiah 8:10 (look just a couple lines up there and you’ll see it!). Read and reflect on it at least once a day. Memorize it if you can! Build on our verse from last week (Psalm 118:24) and see what you can infer when you put the two together!
2. Listen to Live Out Loud, by Steven Curtiss Chapman! Such a fun song that reminds us to SHARE IT UP, SISTERS!
3. Keep reading your book – whatever book you chose from our summer reading list! It’s not too late – pick one up today if you haven’t started!
4. Continue with The Joy Dare! It has been a BLAST seeing what you all are finding each day as gifts from God in your life! Keep them coming because WE ARE USING OUR BLOG POST THIS THURSDAY to share what YOU’VE been sharing!
5. Keep watching for details of the Pure Joy Dinner #1 on June 18th! Our local dinner is turning out to be a great one!! We are sooooooo excited! Let us know if you want to Skype in!
I pray that each of you is beginning your summer with a dose of love in your heart, peace in your spirit, and JOY in your soul. I’m so blessed to know you. All of you.
Up Thursday: We’re sharin’ YOUR Joy!!
Peace, love, and JOY!
copyright Wendie Connors, 2013