Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dance With the Joyful, from Peace Within Your Borders

The following devotion is from an updated version of Peace Within Your Borders - a devotional for homeschooling moms. This is from the month of July: Living in Joy.

Dance With the Joyful
The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying:
"I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.
I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel.
Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful.
Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria;
the farmers will plant them and enjoy their fruit. Jeremiah 31:3-5

You might be going through heartache or tremendous pressure right now. And as you read the title of this week’s devotion, you might have thought, “Yeah, right. I don’t feel very much like dancing today. In fact, I’m not sure I will ever dance again.”

Jeremiah was called the weeping prophet for very good reason. He had the depressing task of telling his people that because of their disobedience they were going to be conquered by the Babylonians. God said they would not repent or believe him until it happened, but to tell them anyway. They responded to his message by putting him in a well, where they left him for dead. Jeremiah 38:6 says, “They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud.”

Maybe that’s how it feels where you are today, like you’re sinking down into the mud. If you’re not there now, perhaps you remember a time when you were. Before Jeremiah ended up in the well, God gave him a word of hope. The nation would suffer tremendously, but eventually things would get better for the faithful. They would feel joy again; they would dance again.

Hudson Taylor said, “It doesn’t matter, really, how great the pressure is; it only matters where the pressure lies. See that it never comes between you and the Lord – then, the greater the pressure, the more it presses you to His breast.”

Chuck Swindoll commented on this in his book Laugh Again: “The pressure on you may be intense. A half-dozen joy stealers may be waiting outside your door, ready to pounce at the first opportunity. However, nothing can rob you of your hold on grace, your claim to peace, or your confidence in God without your permission. Choose joy. Never release your grip!”

I encourage you today. Hold onto to the joy God planted in your heart the day you gave your life to Him. Heartache, grief, and pressure may be bearing down on you so hard you feel you can hardly take a breath. Don’t let the pressure separate you from Christ, but instead drive you closer to Him. Jesus has experienced this kind of pain. But He chose to look beyond the cross and the rejection of man, to the joyous victory of the resurrection. And because He conquered death, we can dance.

Dearest Father, there are days when I don’t feel very much like dancing. The pain of this world crushes and perplexes me. In times like this draw me close to you. Don’t let me lose my grip on joy. I will trust in you. Amen.

~ Beth Vice, 2010

Give in to the Joy, from Peace Within Your Borders

The following devotional is from my newly revised Peace Within Your Borders - a devotional for homeschooling moms. The theme for July is Living in Joy.

Give In to the Joy
Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you.
Psalm 42:5

My mom is one of two girls. I am one of three girls, and I had two girls of my own. So horseplay has never been a big part of my life. We wrestled and teased more with puns than with a headlock when I was growing up. My daughters parry more often with tickling and practical jokes. However, I do know what it means when someone says, “Do you give? Say uncle!”

In a recent message from Pastor Rob Baker and he challenged us to, “Give in to the Joy.” It was exactly what I needed to hear and has become my new theme. You see, I’ve been a Christian for a long time and I know I have the fruit of joy in me, but so many times I refuse to give in to it. I circle around the negatives of the situation instead of rejoicing in God.

Some other ways to express this thought might be: admit defeat, buckle under, capitulate, cave in, comply, concede, relinquish, resign, submit, surrender, throw in the towel, or yield. Need I say more? Do you give?

The author of Psalm forty-two was depressed. He poured out his pain (which is the first step of healing). God felt far away, others had mocked his faith, he was out of fellowship, and he was suffering physically. In psalm forty-three he continues his tale of woe. Three times in these chapters he repeats the lines of Psalm 42:5, encouraging himself with memories of what God has done for him.

Instead of sitting down for a pity party and inviting us to join him, he said, “Self, don’t be so upset. There’s hope for you yet. You’re going to praise God in the end. Just wait and see. I’m going to remember God’s character and all the good stuff He has done. I will praise Him again. I choose to give in to the joy!”

He lay his case before the Lord. Instead of making heartache his focus, this psalmist cast all his cares on the Lord then chose to praise and wait in hope. God had been faithful before and He would be again. The psalmist’s love for God, his trust and joy in Him were stronger than his misery. He gave in to the joy.

I challenge you as Pastor Rob challenged us. Give in to the joy God has for you. Pour out your heart to Him and leave the pain at His throne. Be honest in His presence; remember what He has done for you in the past. And say ‘Uncle.’ We are happy losers when we surrender to Joy.

Dear Lord, I submit to you. I want to be a person of joy – to let you reign in my heart. Put Joy in the ring to take me down until I give in to its power. This is one fight that I want to lose every time. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

~ Beth Vice, 2010

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hi Guests: Grown Children

My daughter left a couple notes at their house for us when my husband and I stayed there recently. They were out of town but she made us feel so welcome.

I brought home one note and kept it on the kitchen counter for weeks, laughing at myself for treasuring it so. It said,

“Hi Guests! :) Hope you enjoy your stay. Eat anything you want. Love you!”

I kept thinking how silly I was to cherish it; I should throw it out. Why did it mean so much to me anyway? But I think I’ve figured it out.

That short note represents a job well done. We have come to a turning point in our relationship – from mother and child at home; to a grown daughter visiting as a guest in my home. And now the next step: we are guests in their home. The phrases I have always used, “Eat anything/use anything you want” now echo back to me in an open-hearted welcome from her.

Looking around at their pictures and d├ęcor while we were there, I got a strong sense of who they are as a couple and my heart swelled. I am proud that they have a place of their own and are making their way in the world. Their love for each other is evident; it echoes in every room, from the blending of their personal treasures, to notes and reminders on the refrigerator.

That is what I raised my daughter for, to be grown up. And while I miss her and hunger for more details about her life, I wouldn’t want to pull her back into childhood. This is good and right.

When she calls me just to connect I feel privileged and warmed. I love hearing about everything – her thoughts, feelings, goals, excitement, and concerns. And she is starting to show interest in mine as well - a true sign that she is indeed an adult.

Call me sentimental, but I think I’ll keep this note from my daughter the hostess in my journal, along with other treasures of my heart. It is a rite of passage that I cannot help but tuck away for safekeeping.

Beth Vice, February 2010