Monday, December 15, 2014

Finding Joy

I drive slower on the way home than I normally do. 

The neighborhoods that I pass through, glimmer with lights that dance into the cold wind, like illuminated glory that cannot be suppressed by the darkness.

The words of our Pastor whirl in my head. 

He spoke today on laying a foundation of joy. 

And this joy is not dependent on the circumstances I find myself currently in. His point was that joy should indeed be a reality of who I am, because of Whose I am. 

The fact is, this season has not typically been a time of great joy for me over the years. 

Holidays seem to bring to the surface of the heart, all the sorrow of the soul. 

Loved ones lost, expectations failed and relationships that are strained on a normal day, are now stretched to the ripping point.

I've sat alone in pews on Christmas Eve trying to keep sobs muffled and I have eaten the weeks leftovers on Christmas Day, by myself. Those days have left me looking for this comfort that is suppose to be part of Christmas.

You know this too, how the world strains to find the joy that we hear about.  

We buy up toys and vacations. We plan prime rib meals and nibble on platters of cookies, but still there is a longing for the deep, real, wonder of Christmas.

This right now season of Advent has been stirring it all up in me. 

A season of preparing for the celebrating of the coming of Christ and the lighting of a candle each week. 

And this seven days, the focus is joy. 

I want joy to be a reality not just a word study.

So, it didn't surprise me when I saw that my word for the year, jubilee, means to shout for joy! 

Jubilee was a celebration when all the slaves were to be set free. And in Hebrew, it involved a blast of a trumpet. 

This old, rarely used word, seems to tie, shouting for joy, with being free.

As someone once said, "....that is a message that will preach."  

There is something about lifting our voice, engaging our heart and shouting out joy to the Lord that brings our freedom, no matter what our life circumstances are. 

And it isn't just the shouting or the joy that bring the victory. 

It is Who we are believing in, that brings the joy that makes us shout! 

There are over twenty verses in the Old Testament that make reference to shouting for joy.

As their part, the people marched and then at the sound of the trumpet they let out a shout for joy. That was their part and the victory delivered was God's part. 

It is still that way. Only now we shout for joy because our Deliverer has come. 

That is what this Christmas celebration is about. 


His coming as a baby. 

His choosing to meet us in a manger in the mess and among the mire.

A baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, so we could unwrap the free gift of eternal life that His death on the cross would secure for us. 

Jesus plus nothing, and it all equals joy.

So no matter how much wreakage is in our lives there can be joy.

I want to shout for joy and embrace some quiet. 

I want to slow down this week, yes, this week.--One of the notoriously craziest weeks of the year. 

I want to sit across the table from a friend who isn't afraid to have the hard, deep conversations.

I want to notice the people who get overlooked and passed by.  

I want to sip pretend tea, from play teacups with the tousle headed children who ask so many questions.

I want to dance slow with my husband.

This is more of what I think living joy might look like. 

Even in the failures of my flesh, joy can be one of the most fundamental things that people know about me. 

It cannot be purchased or drummed up with emotion. 

It has nothing to do with how good things are or aren't.

It has to be in me, since Christ himself, resides in my heart.

Can I challenge you too friends?

Can you join me and take time in all that you have going on in your life, to shout to the Lord with joy and get quiet enough to embrace what that looks like in your life?

It will make our days more full of what we all long for. 

And I believe that we all long to be be truly free. 

These words became are so true in my own life, when I believed that Jesus came to earth as a baby to walk to the cross for my sins:

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. 
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy.
Psalm 30:11

Embrace Jesus with me? And our joy will be like the lights that glimmer and dance into the cold dark world and illuminate the glory of God which cannot be suppressed by the darkness. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Expect Delays

So, I’ll begin in the beginning.

This spring, I had timed my decent to town right down to the last minute.

That is what I do.

It takes sixteen minutes to arrive at the backdoor of my office, so I leave fifteen minutes before I need to be there, hoping that I'll hit all the traffic lights just right.

This particular morning I was making it happen. It involved a little bit of speed and a break in traffic at the highway intersection. Just as I was coming into the area where all the morning traffic intersects I saw the ribbon of orange construction cones and amber lights blinking this message: Expect Delays. Road Construction next two miles.

My poorly laid plan, crept to a halt. That day and every day since there have indeed been delays.

It wasn't long after that, when the little cloud who wanted to grow up and be a hail storm came over our home. I wrote a little about it here.

We embarked on a journey of gathering estimates and talking to contractors. We have a large, thick notebook full of information on all the repairs and upgrades we decided to do on our home. We started at the top with the roof. Then we worked around the outside with soffit, fascia, and siding. This revealed windows and doors that had not been installed correctly or were poorly made to begin with.

We were told once the work began, it would take two weeks… but expect delays.

2014 is screaming to the end like a movie stuck on fast forward and we are still plodding along.

When I drive to town, the sign flashes the reminder. 

When I come home, I live in the dust of slower-than-expected progress. 

This has been a season of learning about patience and process. 

Me, the woman who wants the lines to be short at the checkout, my gratification for chocolate to be instant and prayers answered sooner than later. 

One thing I can tell you with a degree of authority, is that God is not usually in a hurry like I am.

We have examples of people in the Bible who had to learn this too. 

What seems slow-moving in my opinion, usually means that things are happening behind the scenes, which I am not aware of. 

I want to skip all the middle stuff. You know, all the steps that arrive at the whole?

Step by step the road construction advances. Stage by stage the work on the house progresses. 

Why does a ten minute delay frustrate me? And what does a few weeks later than projected matter, if the contractors all do quality work and restore our home to soundness?

I believe God cares about the details of our lives. 

Yes, He cares about the construction process going on in my zip code of the world, but more, I believe God cares about the building up of my character, patience, and dependency on Him. 

These delays have developed a sweet anticipation of what the completed work will be like. Not only in the tangible things but also the stirring going on in my heart. 

The delays do not mean there is inactivity. 

Would you join me and slow down to embrace the process?

You have heard it before, how life is not about the arriving, but about the journey. 

The Message says it like this in 2 Peter 3:9: "He's giving everyone space and time to change."

Giving people space and time to change. The journey always brings transformation.

And if that is true friends, we can expect delays.

© Rhonda Quaney