When God Shouts, There Can Be Laughter and Joy! Revisited

Sometimes I listen well.

Sometimes God needs to get my attention.

Sometimes God shouts!

Today He shouted!

It wasn’t in anger.  It wasn’t in chastisement.  It was from the tender heart of my God Who sees, Who knows my weaknesses, Who knows my sometimes fearful heart but Who loves to pull me close, steady my heart, and remind me of Who He is and what is true.

In the wee hours of the morning, I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep.

Fear.

The things that were waging war on my mind are real, but they are not outside the hand of God; they are insurmountable only as I try to, in my mind and often actions, fix them or worry them into submission.

But in the hands of my Redeemer, they are just instruments to chip away at my control and self-sufficiency and point me back to the true King, the true Salvation, the true Peace!  He is doing HIS good work, not my own, in each circumstance and person.

After what seemed like hours (and may have been), I asked  the Lord to help me stop “thinking,” to be my rest so I could sleep; I eventually drifted off.

The morning light came and with it evidence upon evidence that God heard my cries in the night. He listened to them, and He has been shouting all morning long, “I love you!  I am not caught unaware!  I am still on my throne and I am still making all things new!  You may not see, but ‘Be still and know that I AM God!’”

Circumstances may not have changed in the world around me or in my world as I rose out of bed, but they are known and being sifted through the hands of our very good God.

And, even as I write this, I laugh and also cry tears of joy that my God is faithful in all things and loves to point His children to that truth again and again as a reminder…if we will just get still and ask Him for eyes to see and ears to listen.

So may I share just how He did it on this one particular day, while recognizing that He does it so often?

Sometimes I am listening but other times I miss His still small voice as well as His shouts!

In preparation for getting everyone off to their day, I headed to the kitchen.  Before I had my first cup of coffee, God was already putting things in front of my eyes to strengthen my heart!

First, came a morning Twitter notification over my phone from Kevin DeYoung (While I don’t get notifications for all, I did have specific people who I know write truth and I want to see it when they do so I set it for such)!

“To start the day without prayer is to suggest the devil is feeble, God is irrelevant, and we can handle things on our own.”

After which God brought Psalm 5:3 to my mind, “In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.”

And again, the Word hidden in my heart came to my head.

“I have set the LORD always before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8

That first cup in hand and waiting for my son to come down for work, another friend’s reminder…

Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come … He will come to save you.’” Isaiah 35:4

I hurriedly grabbed my Bible and opened it to Isaiah 35 and read more.  That was prefaced with verse 3:

Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way” and THEN, “Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come!”

Feeling a little more refreshed and with a knowing smile on my face, I saw an opened devotional.  No surprise…I was beginning to expect God was having “fun” with me that morning!

“Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.”  Exodus 14:13. 

I read on and couldn’t help the tears of joy that fell as I realized the Lord was holding me in His arms and saying, “Keep listening child; I’m speaking to you and always will! You just need be still!”

“These words contain God’s command to the believer when he is… brought into difficulties. He cannot retreat; he cannot go forward; he is shut up on the right hand and on the left; what is he now to do? The Master’s word to him is, ‘Stand still.’… Despair whispers, ‘Lie down and die; give it all up.’ But God would have us put on…courage, and even in our worst times, rejoice in His love and faithfulness… Precipitancy cries, ‘Do something. Stir yourself.  To stand still and wait, is sheer idleness.’  (It says) we must be doing something at once—we must do it so we think—instead of looking to the Lord, who will not only do something but will do everything….But Faith (in the One true God)…hears God say, ‘Stand still,’ and immovable as a rock, it stands. ‘Stand still’;—keep the posture of an upright man, ready for action, expecting further orders, cheerfully and patiently awaiting the directing voice; and it will not be long before God will say to you, as distinctly as Moses said it to the people of Israel, ‘Go forward.’” (Charles Spurgeon)

And, as if that were not enough, as I was pulling up that devotion to share in this blog, He continued to pour on the encouragement and challenge,

“So don’t lose heart. Have the same kind of confidence as the widow (in Luke 18). Pray with the confidence, not that precisely what you’re asking will be given, but that God will give what He knows is right. Perseverance is less about getting what we want, and more about believing that God hears us and will provide what we need — which is oftentimes something we have to grow into, especially when we ask, full of good intentions…God is never bothered when we pray by faith. Never. And perseverance is trusting this truth, as we keep asking for what’s right as far as we know, until God does what is right — either by giving us our desire or correcting it.” (Keep Praying that Prayer by Jonathan Parnell, Desiring God)

Coincidence?  No, you see God has said that His Word “will not return to (Him) empty, but will accomplish what (HE) desires and achieve the purpose for which (HE) sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)  

He has also said in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you wonderful things that you did not know!”

And He has promised that when we call out to Him, He hears and responds.  “I call on the Lord in my distress, and He answers me.”  (Psalm 120:1)

So He sent a variety of people who had no idea how what they shared was going to be used but who were faithful to do so.

Equally true, He has used the Word stored up in my heart that He alone can bring to my mind as I need it;  His words repeated back to me, to encourage, strengthen, equip, and calm His child!

I honestly laid it out to Him I wasn’t battling those fears well but that I needed to hear His voice and have my heart and mind redirected.

And as I stand in awe that the God of the universe who loved me enough to redeem me through the work of His Son, Jesus, on the cross would also choose to speak to my heart and steady my “feeble arms and weak knees,” He reminds me yet again, “Be still and know that I AM God; I will be exalted among the nations.  I will be exalted in the earth.”  (Psalm 46:10) 

And He takes me back to another time long ago when concerns weighed on my husband and I as we talked while driving around town with our then just two small children at the time.

From the back seat came a little voice.  I can still hear; our then three year old daughter singing “I cast all my cares upon You; I lay all of my burdens down at your feet.  And any time I don’t know what to do, I will cast all my cares upon you.” 

It was His voice through hers then and now, a child singing faithfully with steadfast, solid truth from I Peter 5:7.

My confidence is in the fact that “He who began a good work in you (and me), will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 1:6) 

He is isn’t weary of my wrestling.  He isn’t shaking His head saying, “Do I have to remind you of My faithfulness again?”  No, He is carrying me to completion, gathering me in His arms, and reminding me in a myriad of ways that He is faithful, that He hears when we call to Him, and that He answers even if our fainting hearts sometimes cannot or do not hear.

So I “go forward” even as I am praying that I will continue to learn to just “be still” and rest in Him rather than look at circumstances beyond my control.

The conclusions to the “details” of  life that can cause my heart to tremble and grow weary may not be my timing or my ways, but my God is indeed making all things new, beautiful in His time and according to the riches of His grace.

He is amazingly writing my story, with its twists and turns, within the greater story of His redemption from creation to His return.

Speak Lord! I’m listening!

Wonder

Having gone to sleep with a dusting of snow forecasted overnight, I woke up to the ring of a text from my daughter, “Snow Day! School is cancelled.” She lives about 20 minutes away, but they had been forecasted to have several inches. The reservoir between us was supposedly the “difference maker!”

So, I got up that morning hoping to see at least a few flurries. Instead, what met my eye was literally a winter wonderland and the snow was still falling hard. I’m not ashamed to say, I squealed softly, did somewhat of a little dance/jump while the corners of my mouth lifted in a big smile and my eyes must have twinkled as I stood there taking in the wonder. Yes, I’m a big kid when it comes to frozen precipitation!

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I know for those areas of the country where the presence of snow is common and the forecast of more is met with a deep sigh, this is an odd response. But for this native Florida girl now living north of the panhandle, but still in the Deep South where it is a rarity, it evokes not just a little excitement.

Though a couple of our kids were home for the holidays, as was my 4-month old granddaughter, they were still completely unaware and sound asleep under the covers. I resisted the urge to run upstairs and toss a few snowballs into everyone’s rooms to “share the joy!” (Yes, I have been known to do that in the past when we had a snow or two and my excitement to “play” in it exceeded everyone else’s. It did elicit the response I desired in that moment as I was followed outside for “revenge” and everyone ended up having fun in the process).

This time, however, I enjoyed a cup of coffee and the peaceful silence of watching it fall, anticipating everyone else’s “ooo’s” and “ahs” to come.

One by one, everyone woke to see the world outside their bedroom windows “raining” snow and covered in the “white stuff,” so we were joined by more who shared in the amazement of the unexpected and who were quick to build a small “Frosty,” to engage in a little target practice with one another as the snowballs were formed, and to attempt to catch my son’s Husky who may have been the most delighted of all!

And, as with all things during a baby’s first year, we watched with anticipation as my granddaughter experienced her first taste and touch of the “cold stuff” along with her first snow ride atop her comfortable and protected perch in the sled that her daddy pulled around.  And we all stopped to watch; smiles and laughter.

Funny how the “small things” of life can bring such joy…and wonder!

A baby’s smile.

A comforting hug.

Sunshine after days of rain.

A hand up after falling down.

A smile instead of a frown.

A bicycle ride or a walk through the woods.

A crackling fire on a cold winter’s night.

The deep quiet hues of a sunrise or sunset.

And then there are the larger “wonder” inducers of life as well…

A vast mountain range.

Waves upon the ocean shore.

A hike or a motorcycle ride along a mountain cliff.

A raft down a river, sometimes gentle and other times over tumultuous rapids.

Making one’s way through an open field, gentle breezes blowing as waves of grain or colorful flowers sway.

A ride down a majestic tree-lined road.

A sail across an open bay, wind moving it forward across the silent sea.

A still night, darkness all around and yet the stars and moon bursting out in bright array, declaring the glory of God.

Wonder.

“A feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.”

Wonder.

Delight.

Taken for granted, “it is what is” and no more. Stopping in the moment, we recognize it for what it really is – the fingerprint of God! His gift within His creation, a moment to ponder in our hearts.

Wonder.

Refreshment.

Eyes to see.

While out west, we were mesmerized by the open desert, the deep canyons, and the majestic mountains. And, yet, I spoke to someone who had been caught up in the wonder of the “greenness” that dominates our state when they visited, in contrast to the rocky barrenness of their own desert landscape.

And I’ve read of those who live where rainfall is virtually non-existent that are enthralled by the sound of raindrops on the rooftops and the feel of precipitation against their skin. Those who long for the warmth as they bundle up against the frigid cold and those who long for “seasons” and the arctic air in the midst of their tropical temps.

Perspective has a lot to do with wonder.

Do we miss the opportunity to marvel in our everyday?

The people. The places. The experiences.

Do we ignore the glory in the ordinary…because it is, well, expected and “usual?”

Do we lose sight of the amazement of what’s in front of us and yawn at the familiar because we have grown accustomed to it and have lost sight of its own wonder, its own delight?

There is a “wonder and wildness” to life, as Michael Card sings, and freedom for those who “obey, who “forget not the hope that’s before (them) and never stop counting the cost!” There is a joy in the journey as we intentionally take hold of the amazement that is “life.”

I’m not just talking about the “life” that pumps adrenaline through our veins, though there is a great excitement and definite delight in that. I love those big moments, preparing for them and squeezing every moment out of them. And I love seeing God use those times in our lives for refreshment but also as opportunities for us to be used by Him.

But I love the quiet moments of life as well; those “treasures in jars of clay.”

Can we take delight and rest in what makes up most of life – the ordinary days where God is at work in the sometimes mundane and longs for us to see and delight in even that?  Can we grab hold of the amazement of recognizing what is right before our eyes, not losing sight of the awe of the familiar? Can we prize the moment and the circumstances that are ours and see beyond the surface? Can we be intentional about not allowing discouragement or anger or bitterness or boredom or desire for the “extraordinary” to cause us to lose our joy in the “now,” to lose our wonder in the everyday?  Does that seem like an oxymoron?  Not with God!

Perspective. Wonder.

We may look and see the ordinary; another may look and see the treasure.

We may look and see the expected, the norm; another may look and see something worth grasping and cherishing.

We may look and see routine; another may look and see opportunity for delight in our commonplace.

We may look and see “what is”; another may look and see what it really is and what it could be.

We can look in front of us and see wonder.

We can look in front of us and see delight.

We can look in front of us and be refreshed.

Here. Now.

Because He is in the midst of these moments, “doing a thousand things we cannot see.” (John Piper)

And there is wonder in it all!

“The whole earth stands in awe of the great things You have done. You make the going out of the morning and the evening shout for joy.” Psalm 65:8

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So much wonder

Carved in Your coral seas

So much wonder

Shaded by ancient trees

I consider all Your hands have made

Every newborn’s eyes, every new sunrise

No power can tame Your presence

No light can match Your radiance

Let all creation sing in wonder

Every sea, every creature, every star

You opened up my eyes to wonder –

What a vision, what a wonder You are!

Such a wonder

Ordering time and tide

Such a wonder

Bridging the great divide

I consider all that You had, all You gave

And all that You endured

From this rebel world

What a wondrous cross You chose to bear

What a wonder You would even care.

Let every rock cry out

Let every knee bow down

You opened up my heart to wonder

What love, what a wonder You are!

No power can tame Your presence

No light can match radiance

Such a wonder!

“Many, LORD my God, are the wonders You have done, the things You planned for us. None can compare with You; were I to speak and tell of Your deeds, they would be too many to declare.”

Psalm 40:5

Joy in the Everyday

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We celebrated in June…for a lot of reasons!  Many birthdays and not just a few weddings!  And with the celebrations have come so much joy and laughter.

With the birthdays, it wasn’t necessarily in the gifts given and received; though I loved giving and they loved receiving.  Rather, it was the anticipation, the memories recalled, the new memories made of time together enjoying one another, and the recollection of God’s faithfulness in the past year and looking forward to His faithfulness, regardless of circumstances, in the year ahead.

And we celebrated many marriages lately with dear friends who were brought together with the ones with whom they have now covenanted and pledged to live out their lives!  They were times of reunions, laughter, tears, rejoicing, and, again, the focus on the faithfulness of God leading to the moment and the promise of His faithfulness in the days ahead.

Happiness, how we long for it!  Delight, how we yearn for it!  The various “delights” of life invade our many thoughts and energies and those given, ordained, and blessed by the hand of our Creator are very good.

These days have been some of those “big moments” of life; some might even call them defining moments and the happiness is palpable!

But oh the joy when we find our delight not just in the big moments of life but in the every day, the ordinary.  How precious when we find wonder in the here and now even as we may await another big event!  How freeing to bask in the pleasure of God’s everyday graces!

Ann Kiemel’s words come to mind when I think about celebrating the ordinary days which make up life as we know it and she has long energized me to think in the same way:

“And every day my mom would say, ‘Don’t you kids know, that life is made up of ordinary days when there is no one to pat you on the back?  When there is no one to praise you?  When there is no one to honor you?  When there is no one to see how brave and noble you are?  Almost all of life is made of these ordinary days. And it is how you live your ordinary days that determines whether or not you have big moments. Get out there and make something of your ordinary days.’” 

         I pray I never miss what God is doing and what He wants me to do with my ordinary days!

And I know you’ve made the lame to walk
And caused the blind to see
But what You do with my everyday is amazing!  (Everyday Miracles – Sara Groves)

(To

Snow Day…All Things New

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I went to bed with little expectation of seeing much of the “white stuff” when I woke up the next morning, a dusting perhaps. But God gave me a stunning surprise – the view out my window in the pre-sunrise moments looked promising. But when the morning began to shed its light on my yard and neighborhood, what I saw was total beauty!

Now for those of you to whom snow is a chore or to whom a foot or more is a daily or even a seasonal occurrence, you would laugh at what ended up being an inch and a half to two; but for those of us who rarely see snow in a winter, I was giddy; for I am always in wonder of its beauty.

And yes, I love a good snowball fight, a little snow cream, and my feeble attempts at making a snowman. But so many other things also flooded my mind yesterday as I saw what had transformed my yard over night and then as more blew in, heavy yet softly, quietly spreading a comforting layer on our barren ground.

Winter had taken its toll on our land and the day before yesterday it was looking rather bleak, brown and muddy with a patch of bright green where we have a garden of lettuce. But as I stood and watched the transformation, I was struck by the newness, the fresh reality that filled my sight.

It was the same acre of land – nothing had been done except that with which our awesome God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, had chosen to delight us. He had gloriously crafted each snowflake and let them blow over the cold, grey day after ten days straight of frigid rain that threatened to tamp down the mood of many I came across…including my own.

It was His hand that created the freshness and led to a lifting of the heart! Though it was short lived, the moment was not lost and did much to renew our spirits. It was temporary joy that brought with it, eternal perspective.

At times, we can view our lives through the same lens. Either we get caught up in the daily-ness of it all and become tyrannized by the urgent so that we miss and/or forget the truly important. Or we grow weary because of circumstances – our own choices or that of others, any number of “hard things” that come with living in a fallen world.  Our fears can weigh us down as we focus on the “what ifs” instead of looking to and embracing the God who holds all the “what ifs” in His hands; He Who knows the final outcome and has promised to never leave or forsake us. We can begin to see life in the greys instead of the rich hues hidden beneath even the mundane, the sorrow, or the fear.

Throughout the Bible, God reminds us that He has made and is in the process of making all things new! We can look on situations in our lives and in the world and culture around us and grow discouraged, even fearful of the dismal prospects at times.

As we look through a glass darkly, we often miss the wonder of Revelation 21:5-6: “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’” HE is faithful and true!

It is a fact; it is a promise! He who is able to “wash me (so that) I am whiter than snow!” (Psalm 51:7) is able to bring a fresh perspective, a richer view of circumstances, yes. But He is also in the process of actually making me more like Himself and of doing astounding things we cannot see.

Just as the snow fell quiet in the night and transformed my little piece of the world into a place of wonder that lasted for less than a day, our God is actively working to do the remarkable but with an eternal exclamation point!

Habakkuk 1:5 says, “Look at the nations and watch–and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”

Though this was written hundreds of years ago to a different people, God has not changed and He is still powerfully and lovingly at work in a world crawling with terrible situations! We don’t have to doubt that or wring our hands in fear.

We work, yes. We act, indeed. We do all that He calls us to do, and then we rest in Him and in the plan He is unfolding regardless of what is before our eyes.

Our winter yard is again brown and muddy for the sun returned and quickly melted away the snow. But my heart holds to the visual picture of truth that God gave me yesterday in the midst of our brief winter precipitation that will be indelibly marked upon my heart and that will be brought to mind as I view the pictures again and again.

That truth is more significant and far more eternal than a fleeting snowfall – that the everlasting God of the universe has, through the work of Jesus Christ, made me “whiter than snow” through the forgiveness of my sin and is continuing to change me for His glory; that this same God is the Lord over all aspects of my life as well as that of nations and rulers.

I am given opportunities every day for fresh beginnings and a greater awareness of His love and power to make all things new!  Praying for eyes to see those opportunities and a heart to seek what He is up to my corner of the world and beyond!

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