Dare to Hope for Joy

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Joy to the world!

Christmas is glorious!

And Christmas is hard!

The babe in the manger would one day be whipped and tortured for declaring the Truth of Who He is, the Word made flesh!

The babe in the manger would one day hang on the cross, bearing the guilt of sin He did not, nor could not, commit.

The babe in the manger would one day die.

In those moments, there was no joy.

And yet…

“…for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame…” (Hebrews 12:2)

He did that for those who would one day call Him Savior and Lord, who would one day submit their hearts and live in relationship with Him!

In the moment, there was no joy.

And yet…

The babe in the manger did not stay buried.

The babe in the manger defeated death, and He was resurrected to life!

The babe in the manger was God Himself, born to die and to live again!

The babe in the manger reigns, and He is coming again!

The weary world rejoices.

Our world is weary.

Perhaps your world is particularly so.

Dare to take a breath, and call on Jesus for the next one.

Dare to pause, and let the tears fall.

Dare to let the Father hold your breaking heart.

Dare to be still in the midst of the unknown and the “what next.”

Dare to trust Jehovah Shalom, our God who is peace.

Dare to press into the One who knows, who has always known.

Rest at the manger, and look to the cross.

Lean into the sure Hope…

For the joy set before you is found in the babe in the manger, our Savior.

And you are not alone.

 

 

With New Eyes…Thankfulness

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Have you ever looked at a place you have passed by for so long; then, the very next time you happen upon it, it takes on a new look, even a wonder?  You see things about it you never have noticed before.

What about a favorite place? Each time you return, you may see another angle, another view; your enjoyment of it grows with time or another layer of sweet memories are added one on top of another.

Thankfulness is often like that. It will look different at various times and how we view people, places, circumstances, and situations will determine how we respond, perceive, and engage with each; how we allow it all to inform our hearts and mind…and our actions.

Something familiar that we have grown “used to” can become a new thing of beauty, a new place of delight, another reminder to give thanks to God in the ordinary as well as the extraordinary.

A place or person of wonder and joy can take on even greater pleasure when we stop looking for “the new” and don’t just take it or them for granted. If we stop and intentionally express our gratitude to the One who has created all and ordered our world as well as that which He has placed in it, we can begin to see with His eyes and experience a new gladness.

A harsh place with difficult memories or a present reality that wearies our souls can find a soft place to land when we ask God to show us ways to give thanks to Him then do it when He does!

Finding ways to thank God can begin a journey that refocuses our hearts, changes the way we pray, and sets our “hope fully on the grace to be brought to (us) when Jesus Christ is revealed…” (1 Peter 1:13). (That is future and present reality)!  It redirects our gaze from the disillusionment of our past or present circumstances or from our fickle emotions and deceitful hearts to our ever-faithful redeeming God who is “with us,” Emmanuel, transforming and making all things new; who holds us when we are shaking and carries us when we cannot take another step. It causes us to stand on His Word that never shifts with the shadows or changes with the times or circumstances rather than leaning on the faulty opinions based on the waves of culture that break on the sands of time.

We can find peace in a thankful heart.

Thankful in great joy and in the center of great suffering.

Thankful when a hope deferred is realized and when waiting.

Thankful when our long-awaited plans and goals have come to fruition and when those desires are no longer obtainable.

Thankful when doors are open and when doors are closed.

Thankful when choosing to forgive and when forgiven.

Thankful as we labor and as we rest.

Thankful for lessons learned, continuing to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18) in the midst of life as we know it and when we are still seeking to know what we are to glean.

We can choose to cultivate or subdue a thankful heart.

We can choose to see hard circumstances as they are and so grumble, growing angry or cold. Or, in humble trust and prayerful expectation, we can “give thanks in all circumstances,” (I Thessalonians 5:18) asking God to increase our trust and settle our hope in Him…even in the dark.

We can choose to see glory in the ordinary and thank God for it or continually long for the next big moment so much so that we miss the joy right before us.

We can choose to see the beauty in the ashes or the pain, knowing that, as we give thanks to God, we are choosing rest over restlessness; a willingness to sacrifice it all on the altar (even if it is minute by minute) for His glory.

Amidst it all, when the center of our hearts and our thankfulness is the very One who is the center of our true joy, the invading hope and delight of God Himself, we rest regardless of “what” is in our lives – sometimes slow and painfully and sometimes with great resolve.

But, as we give God thanks at all times and in all circumstances, we are, in essence, saying “I believe, Lord; help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24)

And, He will!

Give thanks to the LORD for He is good; His steadfast, covenant love – His hessed – is never ending, never failing! Psalm 106:1