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Sunday, March 10, 2019

A Community of Faith

A TIME TO WEEP…
BUT WHAT ABOUT A PLACE?


I was reading the other day, and ran across some comments that got me to thinking.  I especially was reminded of this verse from Romans:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”-Romans 12:15

First, notice that there are three different groups of people described here.  There are people who have something special going on in life and are rejoicing because of it.  There are people who are going through some kind of painful experience, and are weeping because of it.  And there are those Paul is addressing, who are the individuals present with the other two groups.  The basic notion, of course, is that we need to be compassionate people and able to share in the life experiences of others in a meaningful way, regardless of what that other individual’s experiences have been.

What particularly got me to thinking was the “weep with those who weep” idea, because the article I was reading was discussing the healing effect of sharing one’s pain and tears with another.  That, of course, is in stark contrast to how more often than not, people avoid sharing their sorrows and trials because they “don’t want to be a burden to others.”  

And yet, if an individual doesn’t share their weeping with you, then how are you going to be able to weep with them?  

And if it is indeed true, that sharing one’s pain helps bring healing, then what purpose is there in try to “keep one’s chin up” and carry on as if nothing has happened?  

I have known a number of people who have been divorced, who chose to keep their struggles to themselves, not admitting their financial and emotional stress.  The same is sometimes true of people who have obtained a dismal medical diagnosis, or who have lost a job, or is having trouble with rebellious children.  We may think we are being noble by trying to carry the burden ourselves, but somehow, in the great design of things, I am not so sure that is what is intended.  

From the very beginning of scripture God makes clear that it isn’t good to be alone, and not only is the creation of marriage a response, but throughout scripture people are part of a community of faith, not out there on their own.

Is there a painful experience in your life?  Are there tears that you seek to hold back or deny? Are you neglecting the opportunities for support and healing that are around you if you will but open yourself up to the possibility?  

On the flip side, are there people you know who are in the midst of crisis, trauma or grief?  Maybe they are nearby and you don’t even know what they are experiencing. Are you the kind of person who creates an atmosphere in which a struggling person could feel free to share their pain?  Or are you a person whose words and actions suppress that opportunity and push them away?

If we could somehow be more effective in breaking down these invisible walls, I think we would find that our churches and our friendships would take on a deeper meaning.  Instead of entering a sanctuary filled with what appear to be happy, together and positive people who have no problems in their lives, we will discover that the church is made up of people just like us:  people who struggle, question, make mistakes and yes, sometimes need to just shed some tears.  

Whichever side of the equation you happen to be on, how about seeking fresh ways to bring healing into your world?

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Scooping Ashes

ASH WEDNESDAY



As my wife walked out the door, she wish me a Happy Mardi Gras (or something like that), which reminded me that it was “Fat Tuesday,” which means that Ash Wednesday is next.  

In my churches, Lent was not something we generally spent a lot of time with, and occasionally I might have some things in relation to the season, but the primary focus in my churches has always been on Holy Week itself. However, as I thought about it being the time for Ash Wednesday, I thought it worthy of a blog.

I do know that the ashes used for Ash Wednesday are from the burning of the palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. Multiple times in the Bible, ashes are used in the ceremonies of grief, placed on the head (probably more of them than the usual spot found on the foreheads of Ash Wednesday observers) as a symbol of grief and anguish.  Ashes always derive from something that was once something else, but through the extreme experience of fire, that something is reduced to the remnants we call ashes.

I think in life, we experience a lot of fiery moments, moments that test our mettle, moments that push us to the extreme, moments that can push us to the limit, make us grow discouraged, sometimes even to the point of despair.  And sometimes, in the aftermath, things that we once held dear have been reduced to ashes. 

Divorce is one of those kind of experiences, when afterwards the vows from the wedding day and all the plans for a future life together are consumed with the process of the separation and end up as ashes, tatters at our feet.  But it is certainly not the only such experience.  Lots of losses, lots of disappointments, lots of disastrous experiences can create the same thing.  

When some piece of life as you know it has been reduced to ashes, what can you do?

I was reading an article by Terry Helwig in an old Guideposts this morning, and thought it had some pretty good insights I would like to use to launch this blog with today.  The comment was that Terry had learned that the Chinese character for the word “crisis” contains within it the symbol for “opportunity.” I don’t know whether that is true or not, but the illustration provided is kind of cool.  The writer mentions an article some years ago about an airport forced to close because of snow, with all the usual reactions from those stuck there. Except that one lady decided to use it as an opportunity to teach “kindergarten,” and gathered the children around and led a fun little class, much to the delight of both parents and children.  I like this transformational notion.  The ashes of cancelled trips was reformed into that opportunity that became something new and special.

In Laura Story’s book When God Doesn’t Fix It, there is a similar notion.  In referring to shattered hopes, she says:
         “In that moment, we think life as we know it is over.
            The truth is, life, as we’ve yet to know it, has just begun.”
Can you relate to that?  I remember a good friend sharing with me that after her divorce had all settled, she began rediscovering things that she had once enjoyed, and was able to embrace them into a new future.  I know that many of the things I have experienced and had opportunity to do became options post-divorce.  I have seen the same thing happen in churches, when a church I am working in faces a crisis moment, and some dreams are dashed, but then new ones are born that were not possibilities in the previous environment.

So, as we come to Ash Wednesday this year, consider the portions of your life that have turned to ashes, sent you into mourning and dashed your hopes.  And while it may not be exactly what those who observe Ash Wednesday might intend, let me invite you to do something with the day.

Let illustrate the idea this way:  over the course of my life, I have had many times I lived in homes with fireplaces or pellet stoves.  Many a time the task that has fallen to me has been to get out the little shovel and scoop up the ashes, carry them out side and cast them away. Are there ashes in your life left over from some shattering experience, maybe divorce, maybe something else?  How about using this Ash Wednesday to get out your spiritual and emotional shovel, scoop up some of those ashes and let them go, so that you have a clean and fresh start for the opportunities that are just around the corner?  You might be surprised how nice it feels to have cleaned out those dusty, dirty corners of your life, so that something new can live there instead.  I even suggest you find some tangible way to symbolize what is going on internally for you—burn a photo, throw away an old letter, give away something that represents the things you need to let go of to make room for the next phase.  And you can do this even if, like me, you won’t be putting ashes on your forehead this Ash Wednesday.  

Sunday, February 24, 2019

The Power of a Snowstorm

SNOWSTORM STANDSTILL…
IS IT A SIGN?
A few days ago I was visiting with my sister and she described the huge shutdown on the coast in Washington state because of the snowstorm.  I am not always very sympathetic when the coasts complain about snowstorms.  It seems to me that when I watch the news media, there are often blizzards and deep snows throughout the plains and mountain states, but whenever it lands on the coasts, suddenly it is an emergency situation worthy of national news! 

I remember with a chuckle the time when Barack Obama was president and after arriving in D.C., they had a snow accumulation of an inch or so and shut everything down.  Then President Obama laughed and said that he was just flabbergasted that everything was shut down over such a small amount of snow, because back in Chicago it would have been considered a mere dusting and people would have been out playing in it (as close as I can recall his words).   And, as my sister pointed out, I need to remember that they have steep hills there that make a difference, and since they don’t get heavy snow very often, they don’t have the equipment to handle it.  I think the latter point is the significant one, because, last time I checked, Colorado gets lots of snow and has some pretty steep “hills,” but manages to handle snow crises in ways that help them keep going.  

Another fun example was when, a few years ago, my wife and I drove down to Dallas late one winter for a family event, and the whole city was paralyzed because they had a snow of an inch or two.  Driving into the city, as I observed people on the road, I quickly got off the four lane highway as it was obvious the people had no idea how to drive appropriately in the snow and were risking multiple accidents.  On the side streets, I ended up making much better time and avoided inexperienced drivers, even though those streets had not been cleared at all.

We are seeing snow all over the place this week.  I read an article from Flagstaff, Arizona describing their record snowfall, and have seen other reports of the snow down there, reminding me of the time we drove our exchange student to the Grand Canyon only to find that there was a record breaking snow storm then, too.  

As I write this, it is on the Sunday after our community received approximately another 8” of snow on top of the previous 5 or 6 inches still on the ground.  Crews have been out working through the night and morning.   (And, I might add, having driving into Omaha the day after the last big snowfall, these crews up here do a good job of taking these storms in stride!)  At the same time, I know some major highways nearby have had significant closures because of the storm, the drifts and accidents, so even here these things can have impact.

Today, many churches cancelled their services, yesterday when I stopped at a local bank branch they had a sign up announcing an early closure due to the blizzard conditions.  When I went dog walking this morning, I had to first shovel a path so we could get to the street since the snow everywhere else was too deep to walk in, and then off we went.
Flooding, blizzards, drought, earthquakes and other natural disasters can shut down human activity in a matter of minutes, can’t they?  

I have been in many an ice storm that left many homes without power in just a matter of minutes.  In fact, I have always been struck by the highways and roads that we put down which, despite the latest technology, often end up with potholes due to freezing and thawing, and upheaval of segments due to the same thing and heat exposure.  The best of our technology is really not as powerful as we think it is.  

These things remind me of the questions God asked of Job in Job 38-41, such as this passage from Job 38:22 (ESV)—
“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
    or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,”

Those questions asked of Job were designed to remind him that God is God, and Job was not.  Neither are we.  Snowstorms such as this one can remind us of how fragile the constructions of our lives are. Despite what we like to tell ourselves, we are not as in control as we think we are, nor are we quite as powerful as we might like to think. 

I like how this same concept is pointed out in Natalie Grant’s song, “The King of the World.”  Here are a few of the lyrics from this song written by Natalie Grant, Sam Mizell, and Becca Mizell:

When did I forget that You've always been the King of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the King of the world
How could I make You so small?
When You're the one who holds it all
When did I forget that You've always been the King of the world?

Just a whisper of Your voice can tame the seas
So who am I to try to take the lead?

Whether it is a snow storm, a drought, a divorce, a devastating illness or whichever of life’s challenges you face that just seem too overwhelming and leave you feeling powerless, I urge you to let those circumstances remind you that God is the King of the World and we are not.  

Let those huge events remind you to not make God small in your own life, to remember who it is who can tame the seas and who it is that can simply ride on the waves in a tiny boat.  And then, let it cause you to reflect on who you really lean on to get you through those tough times, your own limited knowledge and ability, or the God who is and always has been, the King of the World.  As I pointed out to my congregation recently, that phrase, King of the World, is a phrase common in Jewish prayers.  Sometimes it is translated that way, but there is another translation that I like, which reminds me of who God really is:  Master of the Universe.  

I haven’t seen the heavenly storehouses of snow any more than Job has, only the little bit that has happened to land near me.  Scientists today describe how these snowflakes are created, the various processes and temperatures involved.  I recently ran across of the  photographic work of Don Komarechka of Canada, which depicts the amazing construction of snowflakes…much more beautiful, delicate, intricate and varied than you might think. 
 Don Komarechka Snowflake Gallery

Just looking at the amazingly beautiful detail of this white stuff so many of us curse, and thinking of the artistry God uses to create this troublesome fluff, which only lasts but for a brief time before melting away, causes me to realize how amazingly great God is, and how much he cares about even the smallest of details of my life and yours.  

If only I can remember not to try to limit God to whatever box my little mind can concoct, when he is so much bigger, more powerful, more amazing and more caring than I can even begin to imagine.  

If there is snow outside your house right now, I encourage you to take a minute to look out at the beauty, at the artistry, at the amazing power of something as simple as frozen water, and then realize it is a demonstration of the God who can get YOU through anything life .brings, and will do so in amazing ways if you just let him be not only the king of the world, but the king of YOUR world, too!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Life After Divorce

I’M BAAACCCKKKKK!!!

Hello out there!  It’s been a while since I have posted a piece.  Sorry about that, I had hoped to get something out for you before Valentine’s Day, since that can be such a difficult time after a divorce. 

If you are one who really struggled this year, you have my sympathy, BUT, you also have now passed a significant milestone in forward progress.  

But I have been legitimately busy since I last posted.  Today is the one month marker from the birth of a new grandchild!  We got to see the baby shortly after her birth, and then again a few weeks later.  At the same time, we were working diligently on a number of hectic activities at our church, including a special marriage building dinner for couples in celebration of Valentine’s Day.  Out of that hectic context then, I am going to give you today’s thoughts.

I have shared in my books about the time a friend told me, as I struggled through my own divorce, that a divorcee she knew had told her that there is, “life after divorce.”  That truth was very hard to see at the time, but as we spent time with our new little granddaughter, the reality of it was right in front of my eyes. (Well, right in my arms, actually!) And then once again as we were part of our special Valentine’s ministry at church, the truth was reinforced once again.

In our case, when Nola and I got married, we each brought children from our previous marriage into the relationship.  Those of you who have had that experience know all the ups and downs, uncertainties and joys that come with such a merger. However, such a “merger” means that, for me, there are now more opportunities for grandchildren!  And that new grandbaby reminds me that, difficult though divorce is, both for the one divorcing and for the children caught up in their parents’ divorce, on the other side of divorce, life goes on. There will continue to be family gatherings.  Babies will be born.  The various ups and downs, twists and turns that life naturally brings…marriages, funerals, job changes and moves…all will continue to be part of the natural cycle of life.  Sure, a divorce leaves behind complicating factors such as working out holiday schedules in light of time children spend with your ex, or parent child relationships that can be strained due to a wide variety of factors, or even simply the impact of the financial drain that divorce brings with it.  

But life goes on…there IS indeed life after divorce. 

It can be easy for all the negative experiences and complications to drag you down, to absorb your attention and cause you to lose track of the good things that happen in life.  But then a new baby is born (or whatever your event happens to be), and you are reminded that there are good things in life as well, good things that would never have come your way had there not been a divorce.

For me, that includes the reminder of Valentine’s Day. Our little dinner church celebration also included live piano music in the background.  As our pianist cancelled at the last minute, a friend and I filled in. The music selections were the usual sappy romantic music.  As I practiced and played the songs, I found myself remembering a time when those kind of songs brought tears of sadness, because of the broken relationship of my first marriage.  But with this event, I found included were memories and tears of joy.  A song from “The Phantom” reminded me of the time my new wife (of 15 years now), procured tickets for us to go see a live performance at an unusual theater for a delightful weekend away.  Other songs reminded me that the dream of what being in love could be like is more than just a dream, it is something that can actually be experienced when you meet someone truly special who is truly committed to you.

Once again, it turns out there is, indeed, life after divorce.  A fresh start.  A new relationship can be different.  

LIFE GOES ON!

Sure, the pain and scars of divorce carry forward and, to some degree, shape how we experience life afterwards.  But there are plenty of other pains and scars that everyone carries with them from their past into their future.  And there are things we learn, things we appreciate, that only have the impact they do because of the experiences that were so difficult at the time, such as divorce.  A life after divorce that can be filled with lots of opportunities that would not have existed otherwise.  

For me, that reminder comes in the form of a little, tiny baby girl who is one month old today.  Your reminder may come some other way, but however you get there, especially during those dark and difficult days of life, never forget that life goes on, and as it does, there will be some wonderful experiences ahead!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Steve and Rachel

ON A PERSONAL NOTE…

I would like to take this blog to share some thoughts related to some personal experiences from the past few months.  A few months ago, one of my dear, dear friends succumbed to the insidious attacks of cancer that had been battling her body for several years.  Her husband, also a dear, dear friend, on Christmas Eve received word that a cancer which had been operated on earlier this year, and metastasized and spread to multiple places in his body, and the prognosis was not good.  He went on to glory just three days later.  I led both of their memorial services, his just yesterday. I also led the service when their eldest son was killed in a car accident just a few short years ago.  And my heart breaks for the two remaining sons and their young families, having lost so many so loved one in such rapid succession.  

Death is a hard thing even in the best of circumstances, but when it comes in such overwhelming doses, the weight can be very heavy.

I shared with some of them before I left how truly great friends their parents have been in my life.  I told them that, in life, we only meet such people occasionally, and that when you find such friends, treasure them and never let them go. 

Such people are friends for life. 

The funny thing was, one of the daughters-in-law said that the couple said the same thing about my wife and I. I want to share some words of tribute about these dear folks with you, and what it is that so impressed me by these incredible, every day sort of people.

Steve and Rachel faced many hard things in life. They lost children through miscarriage, and one little girl who died at birth.  He heard God’s called to ministry and left a good job to study at seminary, taking with him his wife Rachel and their three young boys.  While there, she unexpectedly required serious brain surgery, and when she tells the story, it is filled with wonder at God’s protection and provision.  She always wanted to share her story, and before she went to heaven, she recorded a piece and posted it.  They moved from place to place after seminary as he pastored several churches over 30 years, and at each place they brought a touch of joy, laughter, beauty and deep caring, evidencing the work of the Holy Spirit through their leadership.

These friends of mine were great servants of God. They invested themselves, invested their funds, invested their lives in showing the love of Christ for decades with anyone and everyone they met.  They modeled for their churches what it means to follow Jesus in daily life, the importance of sharing God’s option for forgiveness and salvation through Christ to anyone and everyone willing to listen.  

Steve’s compassion showed every time he met with families in grief or struggling in other ways, usually in the form of tears on his own face.  His commitment to Christ was lived with no looking back…trusting God, as they both did, with every day of his life and with his future, both here and in eternity. He reminded people time and again that the only way to be truly happy in life, is when you are doing with your life what God calls you to do, obedient to his call and commands.

I loved Steve particularly because of his wonderfully obnoxious sense of humor.  Never a stuffed shirt, Steve loved to laugh, loved to make others laugh, and could find humor in even the hardest of circumstance.  If anyone lived out the verse that says “The joy of the Lord is your strength,” it was Steve.  His love for youth and ongoing involvement with children and teenagers kept his heart young for all 68 years of his life.

All the heartaches that they experienced in life were unable to knock them out of their trust in God, no matter how hard Satan tried to shut them down.  In the midst of some of the roughest experiences this life can bring, their comment always was that God knows what is best, God knows what he is doing, and God can be trusted even if we don’t understand what he is up to.  

I will always appreciate the way these two wonderfully godly individuals touched my life, shared in my joys and sorrows, provided encouragement and example and challenges that have kept me on track and going day to day.  They will be missed, not only by me, but also by many others with whom they have shared in ministry for many years.  It is a wonderful thing to know that these friends are not lost to me forever.  Their clear commitment to Christ means that one day, I will get to spend time with them again, in the very presence of God forever.  

Thank you, my dear, dear friend

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Make a Choice this New Year

NEW,  BY CHOICE?

Many people like to celebrate the arrival of New Year’s Day with resolutions for the coming year, seeing the holiday as a time for a fresh start, a second chance, or simply a motivator to start something new. That can be a great thing, or it can be setting oneself up for another year of frustration at unfulfilled hopes and plans.  Either way, the idea of looking forward to possibilities and move ahead to something fresh with optimism is a positive asset to have.  But those are changes that we choose.  

What about the changes we do NOT choose, but are thrust upon us?

People going through divorce find themselves in this situation, certainly.  Even if they are the ones who filed for divorce, that was not what their preference would have been when they stood before an altar making vows “till death do us part,” but instead found that life had gone in a different direction, and they now find themselves making a choice they wished they never had to make. Other people in divorce find that they face a new year all alone, having been abandoned or rejected by the person they had expected to be with them for the rest of their lives.  In either case, this new year will be a significant change in their lives.

Others approach a new year with other kinds of change brought upon them by life.  Some may have lost their jobs, and face a search for something different, or may have had to adjust their lifestyle due to having accepted a lower paying position. Some will start this new year in a different community, as their job, natural disaster or family situation forced a move.  Some will face a new year of unfamiliar and scary medical procedures, having recently discovered a condition that requires treatment.  Some may find themselves faced with the need to care for aging parents who need their help, and so their time and plans have to be adjusted accordingly. Some will experience difficulties with their children that create awkward situations, such as a child who has gotten entangled with drugs and the law, or a child whose financial irresponsibility requires ongoing bailouts or perhaps even a move back home.  

Many of these things can come about through choices we select, but many come because of the choices of others, the economic climate, or simply one of the many of the realities of life.  It is fun to face the new year with plans and dreams that we have created.  It is another thing when we are forced into places we did not wish to go.  Or is it?

To cope on a daily basis, we maintain a sense of control about our lives that is, in many ways, an illusion.  For example, I have known many people who are “health conscious” in their diets and workouts, who still end up facing unexpected illness. I have known others who worked hard in life and were frugal in planning for their future, only to have it taken away when their pension disappeared due to the actions of others, or who lost their homes when the market went crazy into a downturn and their mortgage became unaffordable.  Even the fact that we have clean water or electricity in our homes is, apart from paying the bills, beyond our control.

We get excited about choices and plans when WE make them…imagining the possibilities and placing our hope in a better day. But we generally don’t feel the same when the choices are forced upon us.  And yet, WHY NOT?  Just because the changes aren’t ones that we create ourselves, does that mean the change doesn’t bring with it the possibility of something fresh, something good?  While the change may not be everything we hoped for, are any of us really so omniscient that we actually know what is best in every situation, or what all the possibilities are in any given scenario?  What if, instead of only being optimistic about changes WE choose, we instead make the choice to be optimistic no matter why changes come into our lives?  Sort of like the old silly adage of “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”  Maybe the adage isn’t so silly after all.  

As you face the coming year, with hopes and plans you have created, as well as some that you would never have expected or chosen, I invite you to face them all with optimism and hope.  There is always something to learn, always opportunity for something meaningful in even the hardest of circumstances.  That was proven by people like Victor Fankl and Corrie ten Boom and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who found meaning and power even in the hell of German concentration camps.  

We can’t always choose the things that come into our life.  But we can always choose our attitude as we face them.  And for those of us who know Christ, we can face those changes unwanted by us with the knowledge that God is working a plan, even if it isn’t the one we expected, and God’s promise is that his plans are always for our ultimate good. 

Perhaps a good New Year’s resolution might be to live each day reminding yourself of that beloved verse Romans 8:28---

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (NASB)

Choose to have a Happy New Year, knowing that God is in charge, and he DOES know what he is doing, even when we don’t!.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Choosing Joy at Christmas

REJOICING IN EVERYTHING?


The Christmas season is one that is filled with calls to rejoice, and to sing carols like, “Joy to the World!”  As you saw in the last blog, though, for some individuals, it may feel anything BUT joyful!  From the beginning joy is central to the Nativity, perhaps expressed best in the angel’s call of Luke 2:10--

 “ But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11 (NASB)

That is a wonderful sounding ideal, but is it realistic for those who, perhaps through no choice of their own, are finding themselves facing a “Blue Christmas” this year?  Or could it be that joy is to be found and expressed, even in the bluest times of our lives?  When Jesus grew up, he made a point to tell us that the very words he spoke to us, and the prayers he answers are designed to give us not just joy, but joy made full! How is that relevant when everything in life seems to conspire to take all the joy out of living?

Paul picked up on the same concept of joy, issuing to us a charge to live in joy always.  Here are a couple of references that say this:  

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  –1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  (NASB)

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”  --Philippians 4:4  (NASB)

Notice that he doesn’t describe joy as something we passively receive in life.  Rather, he indicates that we have a choice in the matter, that we choose to rejoice, to express joy, to live in joy, to focus on joy, to share joy, and he says it is something we are to do ALWAYS!  Obviously, he doesn’t have a clue about how hard life can be sometimes, and how much these things can get you down, right?  Wrong.  When Paul wrote the Philippians verse, he was sitting in a Roman prison under arrest, soon to be facing execution.  He expresses in his writings that he had suffered beatings, rejection, imprisonments and shipwrecks, poverty and almost anything else life can throw at us, and yet he continues to admonish us to rejoice!

Let’s go back to where we started.  Christmas from the very beginning was designed as a cause for great joy.  Why? Because the Son of God has come to earth to dwell with us and to teach us the ways of God and to give his life as our Savior so that we could be set free from sin and its penalty.  No matter what comes into our lives, no matter what reversals we experience, the facts of the coming of Christ and the purchase of salvation never change.  That is the cause of joy, that is the source of joy, that is the constant in life for which we are called to always rejoice.   Jesus addressed this same issue after sending his disciples out to do ministry on his behalf, and when they bring their report of all the great things that happened as they went, Jesus words to them were:

“Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”  --Luke 10:20  (NASB)

You see, Jesus is describing the key to joy in life, the joy that remains no matter how much life changes, no matter how many difficult and discouraging experiences come our way.  The disciples came back joyful and excited about all the things they had seen God do, including their experience of authority of evil spirits just as Jesus had been doing.  But Jesus challenged them to adjust their focus, to not rejoice on the things here on earth that are so subject to change and variation, but to rejoice that their names are on the rolls of heaven.  If you are letting the blues get you down too much, perhaps you, too, are focusing on the wrong things as your source of joy.

When we give our lives to Christ, accept him as our Savior and the forgiveness he offers through his sacrifice on the cross for our sin, that is the day our names are written on those heavenly records in permanent ink!  Our health may change, our relationships may change, our circumstances may change, all of which can affect our emotional state, turning our happiness into sorrow or worry.  But our joy is not based on any of the changing things of earth.  Our joy is based on the fact that our names are written in heaven.  When things are hard, remember that promise.  When everything seems to work against you, remember that you have One who is for you in all eternity.  When you despair of life here, remember that it is but a breath of time compared to the real and beautiful life that awaits there.  Our emotions can affect our attitudes and our outlook and our energy…but they have nothing to do with the joy that we can count on as we rejoice that our names are written by our Savior on his palm forever.  

No matter what you face, happy times and sad times, times of prosperity and times of need, times of comfort and times of adversity, don’t let those things distract you from your real source of joy. Remember the angel’s call to the shepherds, which is also God’s call to you and to me today:

“ But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11 (NASB)

And then, go about your daily life and rejoice!