She began to notice the words surrounding her. Words that she had randomly placed around her house and viewed as modern whimsical decor. Those items big and small, given to her by those who know her well and used to encouraged each season of life. Or, bought herself to herald the memory of how to respond when the going gets tough. Verbs! They are collected on the walls, lying unobtrusively on surfaces used daily, standing on the windowsill or hanging from the latch of the locked window. Displayed on plates. Greetings positioned at the entrance of the door and reminders in the garden. All prompts for what the soul yearns.
A number of years ago, I was challenged to pray and identify a single word, connect it with scripture, and use it as my focus for the New Year. I faithfully did this for several years. They were words chosen to motivate me, challenge me, and keep me moving me forward. Then I progressed to a phrase. More words combined to cover a broader base. I know, you’re probably thinking, “Is this another one of those FIRST OF THE YEAR messages, resolution starter, or challenges for me to get a better start for the New Year?” Personally, I get tired of reading everyone else’s blog about the beginnings of a New Year. It never ceases to roll around without its continued challenges already surfacing and feelings of things I should… How quickly I submit to bondage! Honestly, I didn’t even want to pick a word for the year…again! But it happened. This word began to jump out at me everywhere! I tried to pretend that it wasn’t happening and the harder I tried not to think about it; the more it shoved its letters in front of me! Or, some kind of image would remind me of its meaning. Interestingly enough, I believe this word chose me!
By now, you are probably wondering why I haven’t told you the word yet! Be patient! It’s coming. I want to tell you how God has worked.
Christmas was tough. The Restore Christmas event was fabulous, but once it was over, I fell prey to self-pity over a number of subjects in my personal life. So much so, that I rebelled against being joyful during the remainder of the season. I’m just being honest here! To top it off, I think the Lord let me wallow around in it for a little while. And, while I was at it, He saw fit to reprimand me by showing me a few things about myself that He wasn’t very pleased with and how some of those things were a stench to His nostrils. You could kinda say I had a “come to Jesus” kind of meeting! I’m so glad He takes care of these things privately and His grace and mercy are enough to make things better. It’s how we grow as children of God. I suppose it's a good way to begin a new year. Wipe the slate clean!
When I identified the fact that my joy had been hijacked, I pondered this word incessantly! Joy is not dependent on circumstances. Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last brings about joy but there are times that you must consider taking care of yourself first, before you are any good to anyone else! Love your neighbor as yourself!
Then, there are all of the 300+ scriptures that reference joy or rejoicing. “…who, for the joy set before him, endured the cross” could not escape my thoughts. When I realized it’s reference as Hebrews 12: 1,2. I knew God had given me a word. Not only had He prepared a word for me, but He had also been working on me with a particular phrase: Cross the line. The phrase coincides with the same scripture but I’ll save that for another time. This year, my word is not one used to motivate me to move forward per se, but to allow me to stand still and wrap my fingers around joy in every circumstance.
As I walked my neighborhood block one morning (I’ve started trying to get back into shape!), this image spoke loudly to me.
These Christmas blow-ups of Santa and such are supposed to bring joy to those whose eyes gaze upon them and pass by. Unfortunately, they have been depleted of their air and lie meaningless, messy, and unattractive on the ground. When I don’t remember to breathe in the working Spirit of the Holy, I am no different. It is only when I am filled and controlled by Him that I can declare joy (for His glory) to those whose eyes gaze my direction.
So, this hasn't been a blog about beginning the year with a word, phrase, or any such thing; though if you are inclined, go for it! It is a declaration to you that I too have deep struggles, need encouragement and fall oh so short. I cannot function effectively without God’s mighty intervention. This is a blog to remind us that He uses all kinds of ways to get our attention. His grace and mercy are new every morning! I seek only to encourage you and remind you to “Look to Jesus” the author and perfecter of our faith. Consider Him…so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12: 2,3
Choose joy! It's one small 3 letter word that can help change your whole perspective!
Restore to me the joy of your salvation. Psalm 51:12
You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever. Ps. 16:11
Yesterday in church, my heart was tender...fragile. God is doing a great work. Every song seemed to scream out...Sing! Rejoicing and joy. It's the evidence of a heart right with God even in situations were joy cannot possibly exist. Paul knew this well, Peter and other saints of old. Words of encouragement, examples of faith, honest moments of failures all passed down to us. Timeless words. Bold words! Sing them. How often have I reminded myself to sing the troubles away? Offer praise when I don't have the unction? Sing a new song today. Sing it even if it is drowned by flood gates of tears. JOY, a word with positive electricity. Like praying for patience...then trouble comes, joy will also share it's trials. Don't be afraid. It's a season that will render greater peace, more intimacy with the Father, and a beautiful countenance!
James 1:2-5 "Count it all joy when you fall into trials... so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
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