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finding joy part II

I made reference to a sermon in my last post, but didn't do the greatest job actually explaining what the sermon was all about so here is the link.


is walter henegar reading my mail?

A few posts ago I decided to test God's promises in the area of resurrecting his joy in my life. Today's sermon was strangely close to that topic...ok, WAS the topic. I honestly wanted to stand up and ask if Walter, our pastor at Westside, was reading my mail?  He was contrasting just after the birth of Jesus, the troubled, unsettled and distressed life of King Herod with the great delight, joy and clear conscience freedom of the Wise Men.
I always appreciate so much a sermon that puts me back in a place of examination of the true state of my own heart, not in a place of " be better and be like the Wise men". I know good and well that philosophy doesn't work because as I'm heading out the church door, I've already forgotten my resolution. However, the reminder that as a Christian I am still living with traces of BOTH these characters in my heart, and will continue to struggle and be somewhere on the spectrum between them; and by God's grace, will grow to be more of one and less of the other in my lifetime. This is refreshing. This causes me to want to be honest about the real me, and the Herod within. So often I can't even see that I am a Herod, much less lay my selfishness before God. I am amazed by God's conviction and timing in my life. As I've mentioned before, I've recently been so joyless and ungrateful. The worst part is that I haven't even seen that about myself at all. I don't know what happened but several days ago I started seeing it. This had to be God. Through conversations with a few close friends, my brother and through this sermon, I am beginning to be melted and see some of these areas of sin. How have I been so blind?  I am constantly focused on my plan for my life, my image before others, not on God, the only one worthy of my worship. All I have to do is acknowledge this to the true King Jesus, and take hold of him once again. There is no new method, I keep forgetting that. Simply put it is repentance and faith. Repentance and faith which leads us back.

i never tire of these lyrics

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,

It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth. 

Long lay the world in sin and error pining. 
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth. 
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born; 

O night, O Holy Night , O night divine! 
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine! 

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming, 
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand. 
O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming, 
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land. 
The King of kings lay thus lowly manger; 
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend! 

Behold your King! Before him lowly bend! 

Truly He taught us to love one another, 
His law is love and His gospel is peace. 
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. 
And in his name all oppression shall cease. 
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we, 
With all our hearts we praise His holy name. 
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim! 

His power and glory ever more proclaim!


christmas eve inspiration

I admittedly had a demitasse of strong coffee tonight. Every year we trade off with dear family friends after the Christmas Eve service ends, eat chili together and have true blast. They have 3 kids plus one new husband, we have 5 and we all enjoy the company of one another greatly. Once home tonight, I decided to surf around for new job postings. Right after feeling settled about the idea of several good, sensible and generally average corporate options that I found, I ran into something truly inspiring!
I am totally moved by this teacher who is doing amazing stuff through music in a New York City Elementary school--PS 22. He brings out amazing soul and life in these kids! They work together so well for a common goal. I love the diversity of the students too.  I had to post two of my favorite songs that they happened to have sung. Check them out. Seeing things like this completely throws off any desire for average career plans and makes me totally want to go for broke towards something that I love and something that will give life, freedom and hope to others as well.


true joy

Yesterday, I had a wonderful conversation with a sibling about the concept of "joy" in the life of a Christian. Seemed perfect this time of year since it's not a word in short supply. But living life out of true joy, I believe, is. I think I realized through the course of our discussion, that my own life has been mostly devoid of any joy for several years now. I don't know the reason explicitly, but I know that disappointment with remaining single, lack of direction for my career, relational pains, and an overall thankless heart have played their parts.   He was recalling the story of someone he knew whose life was dramatically changed as they were freed up by God from some personal issues where their literal countenance changed. They now seem to be a different person as a result of that freedom and they have a true joy that radiates out of their life and spills over to others. They are free to be themselves and to just enjoy life and people in a more authentic way.  I really want that true joy in my own life. I truly do not want to live based on the circumstances going on in my life, up when things are up and down when things aren't going my way;  but based on that deeper, abiding sense of God's unmanageably massive love for me, presence and power in my life which propels me out to others and creates a genuine rest within. I know this is possible and freely offered in the gospel, the good news of Christ's sacrifice on the cross for me, and I have only to take of it. That's the hardest part. Letting hands go free of the things that I want to take (which are cheap substitutes that lure me in and then suck me dry, or leave me needing more but delivering a deeper emptiness). Instead I want to take of this fruit, this strength, this life-- joy. I am beginning to pray more regularly for this to be true of my life and want to record that somewhere. It is scary to openly trust the Lord for something new and to tell others. What if he doesn't deliver? What if I'm a failure and nothing changes? I think that's just the ticket. I will fail. God might not "deliver" in human terms. His ways can't be contained, so I'm going to stop trying to contain him and ask him to answer me in his way and in his time. I'm going to ask him for a true joy in himself alone to emerge.

"If you abide in me and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoke to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." john 15:7-11

I returned home from a family gathering this afternoon and opened up a card that came in the mail. It was beautiful and the first card I have received all season long that didn't have anyone's picture on the front. :)


angle tree twist

Today I delivered some Angel Tree gifts to a grandmother who did not look like your average granny. She raises three children in the inner city because their father is in prison. She is 60 years old, looks 45, and had a black knit cap pulled down tight over her short hair with reading glasses on. She was super feisty and after a good hour of chatting told me she would have grabbed the Christmas loot & shoved me out the door right away if she hadn't gotten a good vibe from me. She also mentioned something about her, wait...she actually mentioned a pistol 4 or 5 times altogether while I was there. She fought against the State of GA to get her grandchildren out of the foster care system, where there was much abuse going on, for three years and finally after a personal email to Governor Perdue, she was able to get them back. It has been a rough road for them, but she is a stable and loving influence in their lives. The house had a fresh tree decorated in the corner, and I carefully placed each package under it. Two gifts per child. I'm sure that's the most they will be getting. She was baking sweet Gingerbread cookies with half raisins for eyes and the kids were begging for her to make a homemade Gingerbread house. She told them that was too much and they were sad. BUT! For some reason this morning I decided to stop and look for a Gingerbread house kit to bring along, so when she mentioned it....Voila! She enthusiastically decided to hide it from them until Christmas Eve and bring it out as a special surprise.

God has a way of making something out of what seems like nothing.  It has been and is still a very hard season in my life. It has brought me to an incredibly honest place in my relationship with the Lord, and with people. I have never experienced such a moment by moment need for God's strength and joy to get through the day. This has made my conversations with people much more honest as well. So driving to this lady's home today I didn't even pray before I went in, I didn't even think about how to strategically share the gospel with her, or what kind of questions to ask, I honestly felt like I had nothing to give, so why was I even doing this?

I planned to be in and out in 20 minutes or less. That was my honest heart about the whole delivery situation. We ended up talking for several hours as I listened to her tell me a little bit more in detail about her life and how hard it has been and nodded my head in sympathetic agreement that I understood.. Our lives were not the same, but I understood the need to daily.....hourly......moment by moment... give my burdens back to the Lord. I understood, and am still learning how to cry out to God with a wordless groaning when it seems like there is no other way to express it. I understand that it is hard to continue to trust when nothing is changing and things seem hopeless. I understand wanting more of this life than it seems is possible.... Yes, yes and yes. I feel you.

She looked at me and said that she thought it might be good to find a place to worship with the kids and asked me what church I went to. She said it was because if a young, white girl with presents could come to her house and tell her that my life hard, imperfect and that I needed Jesus every moment, then she believed that the church I attended must be the kind of  place that was real and somewhere that she would want to go.
 I gave her the website and told her that they are all most welcome any time. I shook my head as I closed the door behind me and walked out. Here I am in one of the darkest seasons of my life that creates an opportunity for a mutual exchange about real, earthy struggles with someone who is so different than me, but really very much the same. One more proof to stop thinking about reaching out and loving people "when I'm better", or "when I have it together", or "when my heart is on fire for God". I'm thankful for this reminder today. Tomorrow I will need another, because that's just how slow I am to believe God. He is gracious and I know he will remind me again that he works all things together for good. Even Angel Tree deliveries.

endurance in suffering

Fantastic short podcast on suffering. Scroll down to the bottom of the page...

CCEF | Restoring Christ to Counseling and Counseling to the Church


design project across the ocean?

I always love helping people make their spaces more appealing, especially when they are missionaries in a large foreign country with billions of people living in concrete block high rise communities where everything can tend to look the same and feel very cold. My friend emailed me some pictures of her living room and asked for some suggestions, so I'm really excited to get to work cybergesting some pieces to finish up her space. First and foremost, I give you,  her cute children.

Here are two shots of the living room and the view to the open dining area.

The three main things I'm going to be thinking about are a rug, curtains and a coffee table. I might throw in a few other little things to "fluff" along the way. I'll be back!


movie action part two

After taking a walk right through the crew with our dogs pretending we weren't curious at all, and then meeting a crew member who was directing traffic in front of my parent's home all day, we learned a few things but didn't catch any glimpses of Jason Bateman or Ryan Reynolds.The movie is actually called, "The Change Up" and has been filming in Atlanta for several months. It's halfway through and the 12 hour day the crew spent here will equal exactly 15 seconds of film time. We met a cool guy named Sean Love who happened to be an extra in the movie as well. He said the director needed a big black dude to snort some cocaine, so he was asked to step in. Hmmm, that's not stereotypical.  Afterward the director (also directed "The Hangover" and "Wedding Crashers"), came up to him and thanked him and told him that he did a great job, so he was excited to have his picture taken with us possibly his first fans. Turns out it all stunt doubles were doing the driving scene in the gold Ranger Rover, meant to be Jason's character's vehicle on the way to pick up his child from school, also filmed at a school a block away. In the dark they started filming with the block lit up like a Christmas tree. Folks, that's all we've got. A 12 hour day driving up and down the same road. Oh, and they did the shots in rain and shine, just in case the director changes his mind. JB and RR have eaten some good food while they've been here though, so that makes me happy. Ecco, Aria and the amazing Antico for fantastic Westside pizza! 


ryan reynolds in the parker house...sort of

This afternoon I got a call from my mom. We love her, she's hilarious. She told me that she had a note in her mailbox saying a movie was going to be filmed this coming Saturday, December 11, on her street. Not just any movie, but a movie with Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman! "I just love that Ryan Reynolds, he's so cute" (like they are friends), and "I called the phone number and I just told those people that I have a Christmas party this Saturday night and I really hope that I can get out of my driveway!" And then I asked them, "Does it really take 12 hours to film one driving scene?" Classic Mom.
After I asked a few more questions I found out that they are in fact closing off specifically my parent's block, which really only has two houses on it, and there will be police escorts for the day to let them in and out. Kind of exciting. The movie is called, "Change Up" and I'm pretty sure I'll be hanging out over there just in case someone famous walks by or an extra keels over and they need to grab me and pull me in. More to come on this one.