Saturday, October 31, 2009

28 Days of Joy -- Day 13

I want to write.


I hate isolation. I want a heart to be right in the middle of things.

So I end up sitting alone on a "writing night" and wondering if I'm doing the right thing...conflicted and torn. This is what I told Sally yesterday on the phone. Um, says she, this might be a novel idea, but what about just asking the Lord what He wants you to do with these chunks of time? Ah, yes, duh. Then if He says to write, I won't feel like I'm being isolationist in shutting the world out. And if He says to play (or relate) I won't feel guilty over time "wasted". I'll do it.

So I lay down by the fire last night, being pressed on by a multitude of very powerful, fruitless thoughts. And find myself interceding for a family I've not seen for a year. Each of them, each of them so important to the Lord - each of them, each of them with no knowledge of this fact. And at the end, when I get up to cook the beet harvest, I suddenly know: that's what He wanted me to do tonight.

That was Your agenda!

Neither writing nor playing. Praying. And every lying voice of worthlessness and waste had been silenced.

Yes, but only silenced about that hour, that night. For in my bed, late, instead of sleep came hopeless thoughts of a bleak future. One night can be led and redeemed - but can a whole lifetime, especially if that lifetime includes none of the comforts I've always craved?

Suddenly - strengthened by Sally, by a spirit activated through the earlier hour, by the intercession Jesus is making for me - I will not stand for this! And straight up I shot, yelling in my covers, waking the neighbors. I couldn't stay in bed. Pajama-clad and alone in the house, I went to war.

It's like using a machete in thistles without muscles trained to swing. It stings to confess, repent and rebuke strange entities you've never wanted to even acknowledge. Fear of being diminished, fear of having to do it alone, fear that the movement of God depends on how faithful I've been... All this that I've been operating under - all these things violently pressed upon me - required a violence of opposition, and boy did I give it. All the while knowing that 1.) my neighbors might brand me as the crazy girl who yells at night, and 2.) my emotions were not keeping up.

But, I thought to myself, Isn't that best? This is a spiritual transaction. The emotions are secondary. How odd it seemed, even to me in the middle of it, to see myself in a physical state of war and thundering, and for the source to not be in my soul. I was not yelling because I was riled up, but because my spirit would not stand for any more.

And then, ending, confronting the biggest and most hurtful poison of all, where I thought the most violence would be needed, came the Lord's wise and knowing change of tactic. While I renounced, He drew out the thorn gently like my Dad used to draw out my splinters. Splinters were always my father's job - and he loved pulling out his little tweezers, reassuring me, urging bravery, holding my hand still, and ridding me of the source of pain and infection. He would not stand for a splinter to stay, any more than he would stand for spider bites at night. I remember mornings when we found a bite on our legs - his determined tone, his serious eyebrows, the mattresses on their ends with the sheets ripped off. No spider is going to bite "my little girl".

Pull it out, I agreed with him breathlessly, hoarse. Gentle Father, original defender of my soul and my body, wise in the healing, able willing and knowledgeable to remove thorns and draw infection to the surface... Pull it out.

And I slept to dream of looking for food for my fat white childhood cat, determined to feed her tuna if I couldn't find anything else, aware of how devastating it would be to ever be parted from her. And I woke to remember that she had been dead many years, and that her absence was not at all painful. Not at all.

We may feel soul-tied to the lies that cradled us since our birth into this fallen world, but freedom from those lies will be, truly, freedom... I will not regret them, nor long for past chains. And neither will you.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

28 Days of Joy -- Day 11

Day 10 didn't have a blog because I (and my roommate - I had a partner in this scandal) stayed up past day 10 (let's just put it that way) to watch one of the Lord of the Ring movies. Do you know what my very first impression was, upon popping it in?

"Wendy, what bothers me about Frodo, the whole time, is that he has no joy!"

Seriously, by the middle of the 1st movie, aren't you starting to get sort of annoyed? And don't you kind of cringe inside every time the scenes return to the Frodo pov? It's like 2 1/2 movies of torture when it comes to Frodo. Sorrow, fear, disintegration, loss, damage...leading him to disunity with Samwise, an ear to believe lies, etc. Gee Whiz!

Frodo is NOT a type of Christians - let me just make that clear. At least, not of how the Lord Jesus designed. He came to give us life abundant, not life suffering under the great weight of the evil we have to fight.

Yes, we have to fight evil, but we can do it like a warrior glad to strap on his sword, or like Legolas happy to expend days upon days in running pursuit of saving his little friends...but not like a staggering hobbit full of constant mourning and defeat, and not like Eowyn fighting out of fear and frustration and her own personal strength.

In other great news,

I didn't burn the house down when I accidentally left the candles on all night,


I did just get to talk on the phone to my brother in Thailand, where he pulled into port! He was on his way to ride an elephant. Or an Oliphant, whichever you prefer :-)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

28 Days of Joy -- Day 9

Somehow, a bunch of days passed me by on this blog. Sorry about that. Sum them up? Well, a few were beautiful, one involved a burst of tears that was soon conquered by a choice for joy (hooray!), and another was a complete disaster (I won't tell you about it). Here are a few photos of a trip to a pumpkin patch with my family...

Oops, that's the corn part. Actually, I think the adults had as much fun in the corn maze as the kids did.

Which brings us up to date. Today, varied as it was, has ended oddly. I received a nasty email in response to something I'd written about marriage and the church and the enemy, in which I was accused of being out of touch, selfish, full of myself, and full of pride. The writer suggested I work on myself intensely for 3 months, but warned I may never get married.

Wow. Perhaps my response would have been different if a friend had said these things; when it is a stranger it seems much easier to be gracious and circumspect. I checked through the Proverbs first to remind myself of the Lord's advice about getting into arguments, remembered Mike's principle of blessing your enemies, and wrote this person back something short and sweet. Really: sweet. I hope it knocks their bitter socks off and opens a whole new door to the love of the Lord - but I don't really expect it. (Is that jaded of me?)

I don't expect it because it became obvious by the end of the email (partly due to the irrational nature of this person's anger and bitterness) that some major demonic strongholds are involved. It's going to take more than one kind response to bring those down...that takes power, repentance, submission to and reception of truth. But perhaps the kind word can kick-start the process...?

All-told, the incident mostly seems to me to be a direct assault - a cursing - on the joy and freedom the Lord is leading me into this month. In that light, I'm very glad to report that nothing inside is rattled - especially not my belief in God's goodness, His love for me, or His plans to give me fullness of joy and abundance of life.

And may He bless the writer of that email with the same things! Amen :)

Friday, October 23, 2009

28 Days of Joy -- Day 5

For the last few days I have been in awe every time I've driven outside my neighborhood. I don't know exactly how He did it, but God has been intensely coloring the leaves around here until they are in a state beyond what is reasonable for fallen human beings to be seeing.

I screamed - half cry / half yell - on my way home from the store today, turned around in a stranger's driveway, and went back to the tree of FIRE I'd driven past along the side of Red Bridge Road. I know it wasn't my tree, but I had to stand under it, had to pick a few of its leaves.

Actually, I do know how He did it. I just don't know why. I think it might be for me.

Two weeks of unusually cold weather for October is "how". Sudden cold, instead of a slow cooling, means not just the sugar maples are crystallizing into fire-ridden oranges and yellow and reds. But oh-my-goodness, if that's what the other trees are doing, just try to get your mind around the sugar maples! I've never seen anything like it. Whether the light is diffused through miles of drizzly gray clouds, or is brilliantly shooting clean rays through their forms, the leaves are vibrant life.

It's been good, these days of intentional joy, to have the added help of a riotous, rejoicing earth. You know how the "heavens declare the glory of the Lord," ... well sometimes in a crisp fall, the heavens descend and hover near the grass, pulsating this declaration until all the life above ground either drops its leaves and dies, or having become saturated with His glory, begins radiating that glory itself.

The second-coldest October on record. Is that what it takes for the full potential of beauty to burst out, actuated? These trees all have the genes to turn such colors, but very rarely does their environment facilitate it. I have the spiritual genes for great things; should I be so surprised that the environment He provides to activate those genes is stronger than feels comfortable? Instead of mild and slow, prayers for real power and truth seem often answered by circumstances strong and pressing, sudden and inclement, dangerous precipitous and wrenching.

My heart was wrenched today for people close to me, and I felt sick in body over it. I had to be yesterday in a place where I was unsure of my safety, and I became a compulsive door-locker. But isn't God, who is greater than our hearts, also greater than physical circumstances? Indeed, He is. I have a little window into it already - I have already discovered how He keeps me safe, how He answers before I even know I need help: "before they call, I will answer". But I am convinced that my joy will not increase through knowledge of the specifics of His interventions. Those interventions open to me the discovery of His character, His person. And His person, Himself, is what will begin and supply and sustain my joy. And that is why it is a joy that cannot be taken away from me.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

28 Days of Joy -- Day 3 -- Steady

Ever notice how constantly counterfeited real joy is? My imagination can conjure up a form of "joy", but the real thing is way harder to get a hold of.

That feeling of excitement and anticipation - whether before a big event or a little moment - masquerades as it, until that moment is gone and a sort of blank feeling comes over you. I think we've all felt that - the movie is over and the girls' night is done; Sunday evening is gone and tomorrow is work; the ice-cream in the bowl is finished; Christmas Day is past and all the family have left. Our souls grasp, repeatedly, for the elation of happiness, and are repeatedly at a loss when what had been providing it is suddenly absent - and along with it, our joy.

Or, what we thought was joy.

The thing is, if it leaves like that, it probably wasn't real to begin with. Or it was very, very weak. That's not what I want. I want an abiding joy that extends way past the day all the family leaves town, or the moment the big event is over, or the last chord of Sunday-morning worship has reverberated and faded and we all sit down. No, joy is the steady. Happiness is the intermittent, the fading-and-returning.

I'm choosing steady.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

28 Days of Joy -- Day 2

Well, I know that joy is very different from happiness, and that it isn't measured by the number of things we have to be thankful for, or even produced by rehearsing those things. But still, I decided that was a very good place to start this morning. And so I tried to list stuff off in my mind, but all I could think about was how much I didn't like the task I was doing at that moment.

Ahhh... Eventually, after several minutes of this (actually, at least a half-hour) I suddenly came to myself, checked my emotional state, and discovered the opposite of joy :( A whole bunch of feeling sad and frustrated was all that was there.

Wait a minute! This is exactly what I'm drawing a line in the sand AGAINST.

And so, I chucked the list of "I'm thankful for" and began remembering that Brother Lawrence washed dirty dishes his whole life, and lived in the very presence of God; that dear brothers and sisters across the ages and in oppressed countries have labored on and on in squalid conditions, and have been full of joy.

"Even if I had absolutely no reasonable hope of ever being 'happy' before I die," I told the Lord, "I would choose to rejoice in You." Much better than a list of reasons I currently have to be thankful. (Not that I shouldn't remember those things, or thank Him for them...just that I want to separate the reality of joy from the fetters of physical and emotional props.) And how many of you knew props could actually be fetters? :)

So, my heart did change somewhat. At least, I think it must have, as the succeeding blows of the day didn't feel as "blow-ish". When it turned out the chiropractor I want to see charges more than half my month's earnings; when the insurance lady who holds the fate of my little couch in her hands didn't call me back... Mind you, I'm not complaining - I'm rejoicing! These things didn't make me feel yucky. (Well, they tried initially, but I resisted.)

And then, I proceeded to write a great little scene - God's grace was on it.
And then, I was informed I would not have to do that particular task as often.
And then, I managed to follow along in dance class even though I'd missed last week.

So I ended up with some very good things (there are a few more I didn't mention) to add to the "I'm thankful" list. However, the joy didn't start there. It starts someplace very different, I think. It starts in the person of Jesus Himself.

Oh, and my housemate popped her head in and reminded me that Jesus wants our joy to be complete. Complete! Yep, that's what I want, too. COMPLETE!

Monday, October 19, 2009

28 Days of Joy

The other night I could not sleep. Pressing down on me, a massive, immobilizing weight, were all the things I had to be anxious and sad over. It has been said that the artistic temperament (which I don’t think I have) tends toward angst, but that has always been an ill-hidden and blatant strategy of the enemy’s, designed to draw people like me into deep mires of oppression and confusion. I finally turned the light back on, reached for Habakkuk and re-read the portion God had led me to the previous day.

Though the fig tree should not blossom,

nor fruit be on the vines,

the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food,

the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the LORD;

I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

GOD, the Lord, is my strength;

he makes my feet like the deer's;

he makes me tread on my high places.

(Hab 3:17-19)

It was that little middle part, the one I’ve highlighted, that suddenly struck me with such clarity. I was granted, simply put, revelation. You know those moments when the Holy Spirit has (very graciously) made it all very black-and-white, very easy to understand? Something in the scripture that has been staring me in the face for decades, and that every once in a while I’ve grasped only to loose, finally stood straight up and demanded a decision.

The question is not whether I am or am not currently experiencing some sort of loss or delay. Nor is the question whether I will eventually be happy (we all know I will, when heaven comes to earth or Amy comes to heaven). The question is what will I choose today? It turns out, I have the right to choose joy. It turns out, joy is the portion promised to me. It turns out, that if I decide to reject joy, or not engage in the pursuit of joy, I will have submitted myself to a double loss, an unnecessary loss – one that could truly be called a tragedy because its opposite was fully within my grasp.

Something deep shifted, and all emotion stood far off, as I stared a simple decision in the face and told the Lord that I chose to rejoice in Him.

I immediately decided to thank Him for anything that came to mind. After a few minutes (and a bunny-trail adventure of having to squish my first cricket – because, well, it was hopping around in the bathroom at night…I apologized to the Lord first and got a very thick shoe to use so I wouldn’t feel its substance) … after getting through only about 5 items of thanks, I fell asleep.

The next day, the Lord had orchestrated that people very dear to me came to pray. There are definitely prophets among us, and these called right out that I was living under a spirit of fear and loss and sorrow, and that the fight against these things was “the fight of my life”. They are right. At the end of our time I pulled out Habakkuk (everybody loves that guy!) and we agreed that the road of joy is one rarely discerned or chosen amongst believers. A powerful time of intercession sealed the deal and dealt with a lot of the power these spirits had, but it is my job before the Lord now to consistently choose His way (of joy) instead of the old way.

And so, I have an invitation. I’m in receipt of one, I mean. To spend each day of the next four weeks fighting for joy – against fear and all its constant companions, like sorrow and loss (which make themselves seem oh-so-spiritual in our Christian circles).

I don’t know quite how it will go, but since our personal “un-restoration” (if I can coin such a term) actually affects all those around us whether we realize it or not, and so, conversely, does our restoration, I want to make these days of joy public. So I extend back to you the invitation I received. Join me in the journey of joy (oh boy…that’s just WAY too much alliteration). Let’s see what God does!

Lord, make the deception of fear utterly apparent to us, give us strength in the inner man to do the opposite of what we have spent our lives training our souls toward, and remove the pretend spirituality of sorrow, angst, isolation, introspection, and self-preoccupation. Teach us to choose the inheritance You’ve offered – joy.