Expecting the joy when you can’t feel it (joy part 4)

A friend listened to the song “If You Want Me To” by the blind songwriter Ginny Owens. She said, “I can’t say this is where I am all the time, but it’s where I want to be. I know it’s all true.”

That’s it. That’s it. “It may not be where I am all the time, but it’s where I want to be. I know it’s all true.”

This friend was about to have surgery and didn’t know if she might come out a paraplegic. Continue reading “Expecting the joy when you can’t feel it (joy part 4)”

Joy comes as a response in the realm of the spirit (joy part 3)

Have you ever noticed those verses in the Bible that talk about God’s judgment on the wicked coming in the form of birds picking out their eyes? (One of them is in Proverbs 30.) I know that’s really a disgusting image, but it’s describing something completely realistic: when the ravening birds would start to eat a dead body, the first place they would go was the eye. If the eye didn’t respond at all, they knew that creature was completely dead.

Not a very likely opening to a post about joy, I know.

But the point I’m making is about response. The Bible links life to responsiveness and death to unresponsiveness.  There are many, many places where this understanding of death and life bring into full focus what God is saying. Continue reading “Joy comes as a response in the realm of the spirit (joy part 3)”

Joy is a response (joy part 2)

Last week I gave the first part of a definition of joy, asserting the controversial opinion that we have to admit that it’s a feeling, an emotion.

This week I want to say something that might also be considered controversial: Joy arises as a response to something outside of us. A sensory response. I’m talking about the five senses here: sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell. As in . . . Continue reading “Joy is a response (joy part 2)”

He’s still the Hiding Place

This summer my two teenagers and I had the privilege of spending some evenings listening together to Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place (mending clothes, brushing the dog’s matted fur as we listened) and then watching the video.

It had been maybe a few decades since I had read The Hiding Place, so I was grateful to be impressed again at how suddenly life can take terrible unexpected turns . . . at how important it is to be spiritually ready to face these new circumstances . . . and at how, through it all, God is faithful. Continue reading “He’s still the Hiding Place”

Garments of praise

Six years ago a good friend of mine was suddenly killed—I still feel tears in my eyes when I talk about her. Now her sixteen-year-old son has posted an insightful piece that I’ve asked permission to re-post. I praise God for insight like this in one so young.


To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that HE might be glorified. – Is. 61:3.

This verse is my testimony from the past couple months.  God has been teaching me about struggling in valleys of life, and how we respond to those things. In my case, I’ve been struggling with sin.

I seemed to always have a heavy spirit about, well, everything. It seemed like I was always getting things wrong, not necessarily in school or things like that, but on the inside. It seemed like I was constantly struggling with not being selfish, not being prideful, not seeking the respect of man, not being lazy, not getting wrong thoughts. . . . You get the picture. These are real things that we struggle with, but it seemed like these problems just kept popping up all the time; like I kept falling and failing time after time. And as much as I desired to not do those things, I did them.

So I’d admit my sin to God and confess. But eventually those confessions became just words to me because they didn’t change my heart. Instead, I just tried harder not to do the bad thing. But that just made the problem worse. By the end of every day I was so down because of my failure that I had basically given up. And thus, I was down nearly all the time.

But God has been giving me comfort and showing me that these problems are things that we struggle with our whole lives. We don’t overcome them in an instant and for good. Sanctification is a battle, a good fight. But in the fight He’s been teaching me that it’s not right for me to become entrenched and obsessed with battling those things. He’s been teaching me that physical effort and strength is worthless. The important thing in our struggles is faith.  That’s why in 1 Timothy Paul advises Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith.” So He’s been teaching me that I’m completely inadequate, and I need to trust in Him when I’ve failed. I need to trust Him that He knows my heart and will help me stand back up and defeat the problem.

The other thing that He’s been teaching me is basic: giving it over, and devoting myself to prayer and praise. And that’s where the verse at the top of the page comes in. It tells us to lay aside our struggling and mourning. Cast our pain and anxieties on Him. And obviously when we’ve failed at anything, we’re not going to feel good about it, so I’ve learned to start singing and praising Him.

There are two different responses to our problems: faith or fear. Repentance or arrogance. Surrender or physical effort. Prayer or worry. Praise or anger. Ultimately, we need to stop our anxiety over any problem, even if it is a real problem. God’s been showing me that we need to turn around, repent, entrust the problem to the Lord, ask Him to show us how to defeat it. If we’re confused, we ask Him to show us the way. We then need to devote ourselves to prayer for grace and strength. Then we praise Him. That He might be glorified.

Continue reading “Garments of praise”

Is praise really a sacrifice?

“By Him, therefore [Jesus, the one who suffered outside the camp], let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, even the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His Name. . . . For with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”

One time in church we were singing the song Blessed Be Your Name, which tends to make me cry. A young friend later said, “That’s really hard to say. It’s hard to say ‘Blessed Be Your Name’ when everything is dark and hard.” Continue reading “Is praise really a sacrifice?”

Acknowledging my inability

It was three years ago this month that I participated in the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers’ Conference. I listened to speakers talk about how to write nonfiction, the merits of self-publishing, and how to be a dynamite storyteller. I chatted with experts at the dinner table.

During such an empowering week, it’s always hard to get away for quiet time. But in a corner of the beautiful lodge, I discovered a little desk tucked away. Continue reading “Acknowledging my inability”