How blessed we are to have friends who lift us up, who speak truth to us, who listen, give advice, encouragement and their constant prayers. This is richness; this is true treasure to have such wonderful women in your life.

Monday, October 15, 2012

We Have A Wonderful Counselor!!!!

I received an e-mail recently from a sweet, young mom who is a dear friend and the mother of a very strong-willed little one.  She was concerned about a recent Christian radio program that had advocated what seemed to be some pretty unwise counsel when it came to handling strong-willed children.  When I heard what had been advised, I, too, thought it not the wisest advice I had heard on this subject, but I could not argue with the fact that the speaker had enjoyed some success with her way of handling her own strong-willed child.  At the same time, my friend knew had she followed this advice, it would have made matters worse not better in her home.   

Here's the problem...many times as we face difficulties in our lives, we will call out to God, our Wonderful Counselor, and He, in His great love and kindness, will give us an answer...and it works!!!!!  Woo! Hoo!  Boy, are we excited!  We have found the answer to _______________ !(You fill in the blank with whatever dilemma you are facing).  In fact, it has worked SO well you think "I'll write a book and help everyone else who is facing this problem!"  And so you do and your book will help some, but for others who follow your advice, it proves disastrous.  

Being the mom of six children and the grandmom of more all the time, I have learned one great truth:  I need fresh counsel from God for each of these who I love so well.  Not only do I need fresh counsel for each individual, but new counsel for every unique season of relationship I live and love through as the years go by.  The wisdom of others, their experiences and what they have learned can help, but truly if I do not seek my Wonderful Counselor for His thoughts, I am missing out on wisdom that is a "perfect fit" for me at any given moment. 

Let me encourage you with some absolute treasure.  Allow the truth of these Words sink into your spirit...

 "For unto to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."  Isaiah 9:6

"Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.  You guard all that is mine...I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me.  I know the Lord is always with me, I will not be shaken because He is right beside me...You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of Your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.  Psalm 16:7-11 (NLT)

"And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--the Spirit of Truth.  The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him or knows Him.  But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you."  John 14:16-17

"But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."  John 14:26

"I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.  They do not belong to this world any more than I do.  Make them holy by your truth; teach them Your Word, which is truth.  Just as You sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world.  And I gave myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.  I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message." John 17:15-20

We have this GREAT gift of the Holy Spirit, a Wonderful Counselor, who lives in us!  We have a Savior, who in His last moments on this earth, thought of US! When I allow myself to ponder these truths, I am awed by the "bigness" of this reality.  I have a Savior who prays for me continually.  I have a Holy Spirit who counsels me...if I seek His counsel and listen.  So often the health of our spiritual life pivots daily on the "ifs" we handle correctly each day.   I am saddened by how often I have not asked Him..."What should I do?"  "How do I handle this?"  "What should I say?"  "Am I wrong?"  "Lord, please, speak to me."  If only...

The Bible dictionary gives this definition of counselor:  "One who analyzes a situation and gives advice to one who has responsibility for making a decision."

Who can "analyze" my situation better than One who knows the future, knows me, my situation, my family...each member intimately...knows their temperaments, personalities, and, most importantly, the way to their hearts?  Not the most highly respected counselor on the planet can do this, but the Counselor in me and in you, He can.  

I am certainly NOT advocating throwing out all your parenting or self-help books, nor am I downplaying the role of good, godly professional counselors.  Each of these have a place of nurture and healthy guidance in our lives but not to the exclusion of THE Counselor.

Can I toss out a thought to ponder?  Being guided by the Holy Spirit many times takes patience, time, and self-control (not to do what you want to do or  not to say what you want to say).  Reading a book, taking a class or seminar, or getting some outside counsel is so much easier, kind of a "quick fix" to our problem and then, if it doesn't work, the responsibility is off of us and on someone else.  

I am the first one to admit that I searched for answers all over the place, asked for all kinds of opinions, read books, received a ton of counseling before I finally fell on my face before the Lord and listened for a change.   I was stunned when I began to hear from Him through His Word and the Holy Spirit in me.  His counsel was not what I expected at all; and, to be completely honest, sometimes I was not obedient to His course of action.   However, when "my way" failed time and time again, I finally, out of sheer desperation, decided to give His counsel a try. And wouldn't you know...IT WORKED!:) Why am I always shocked at the results of GOD'S perfect counsel?!?!?

In His goodness and grace to me, as I am learning the lesson of listening to His Holy Spirit, as I am learning the lesson of waiting patiently, as I am learning the lesson of obedience--even when it seems exactly opposite of what I thought I should do, He is showing Himself faithful to give wisdom and direction...after all, isn't that what He has promised?  He isn't called Wonderful for nothing! 

Blessings, love and wonderful counsel to you...



Monday, September 24, 2012

Trust in the Lord and Do Good

"Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.  Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires on your heart. 

Commit your way to to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:  He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, and the justice of your cause like the noon day."  Psalm 37: 3-6

I was into some pretty heavy-duty "hand-wringing" at one time in my life.  I was fretting a lot because, honestly, at the time, there were some situations worthy of least I thought so.  And like I have mentioned before, I come from a LOOONNNNGGGG line of professional and well-practiced fretters:)  It's what we do best and all we have known.  But then one September, real, deep and soul-searching Bible studies came into my life and this worry, anxiety and fretting did not fit at all.  Now what to do?

At first I thought the way out of the fret cycle was through choice, positive thinking, and sheer determination.  Can I be honest enough with you to say this was exhausting for me?  I was continually trying to "think  good thoughts" when difficulties came my way.   I was so often unsuccessful at fighting the tide of worry and fear enveloping my mind, I constantly felt defeated. 

Then one wonderful day the Holy Spirit, my counselor, brought "Trust in the LORD and do good" into my life.  I can't remember now who found that verse, my sister, Joni, or I as we were fighting off fretting, but it changed our lives.  We found out it was not enough to just "think good thoughts;" you had to let go of the worry and then "DO good."  That was the missing ingredient...the doing of good.  We could let the worry go for a moment, but it was the doing something good that made the letting go stick.  If you just sit there, guaranteed you will "let go" over and over until you give up or do something good!

Years ago when I was a junior higher, my best friend's mom was going through some depression because her husband, my friend's father, had left the family.  I will never forget the moment we were driving into the parking lot of our church. My friend's mom let out a long line of cursing because she had forgotten her Bible at home.  I was stunned.  I had never heard this kind of language from an adult who I respected.  She must have seen the look of "I think your mom just went crazy" fear on my face because she explained the reason for her outburst:  Her therapist told her to "let all her inner turmoil out...If she wanted to cuss and curse, to go ahead and do it."  This was supposedly going to help her out of her indulge the worst part of herself.  This poor woman was sad and bitter until the day she died.

Today, even secular therapists and counselors are advising their patients to "look outward, away from themselves to the needs of others" as a way to help them out of depression, worry and anxiety.  The Bible has always had the remedy for this common malady of humankind right there in black and in the LORD and do good. 

My sweet sister gave me permission to tell her story of the healing impact of even baby steps toward a life of doing good, in hope that it might help someone else. It is a great honor to be allowed to give to you my sister's humble offering...

When Joni was in her twenties, she suffered with eating disorders: anorexia that eventually morphed into bulimia...and I mean suffered.  There were a myriad of situations and experiences in her life that compelled her to try and control this one area.  Her fear, worry and anxiety drove her to eat and then purge meal after meal.  It is hard for some of us to understand how debilitating bulimia is for the victim.  Day after day, she would cry out to God and ask for forgiveness and then return to vomit the next meal in the nearest toilet.  As a Christian she knew this behavior was wrong, physically impairing her health and sin, but she could not find a way out of this miserable cycle.  She read Bible verses that told her "not to worry," and she would give "not worrying" her best mental shot, but her mind would wander, and, sooner far more often than later, she found herself right back in the same place: looking into the bowl of a toilet.  

One day as she was throwing up her latest meal, she cried out to her Savior in desperation.  She hated herself for this weakness hidden from everyone save her Lord.  Then in a moment that would forever change her life, she "saw" her Savior kneeling next her and lovingly putting His hand on her forehead as she vomited, and these simple words softly drifted into her mind;  "I love you right here, on this bathroom floor, in this moment.  I am right here with you always, and I will guide you out."  

That morning she rose from the floor with a little bit of hope that maybe...just maybe, bulimia would not destroy her after all.  Joni tells of sitting down at the table after this experience and the first thought that came to her mind was of some friends and acquaintances who had recently been through some difficult times.  And then she remembered a box of cards secreted away in her desk, and for the next hour she penned notes of encouragement.  Joni made a life-altering discovery that day:  while thinking of others and how to encourage them, she had not one thought about herself.  Without knowing it, her Savior had guided her to this truth:  You can trust a Lord who loves you even in the midst of your sin, and He will guide you to the good works He has planned for you if you can still your heart for a moment and listen.

This was not an instantaneous healing from her bulimia, but is was definitely the first step out, and it wasn't long before Jesus gave her complete victory over bulimia!  

Joy and healing of our tortured minds are so intricately entwined with that first step of trust and the continuing work of good our Savior has for us to do.  What I love is that Jesus started out with something Joni could do right then at that moment.  He can do that for us all.  There is a joy-filled ninety-six year old woman at a local church who bakes a loaf of bread for all new members.  She hands out water bottles to those who are working on projects around the church.  Jesus gives her good to do even at ninety-six!  And you can bet if this dear saint cannot knead another lump of dough with her weakening hands, He will in His goodness to her, give her something else to do that fits perfectly.

Trust in the LORD and do good!  What a glorious prescription for spiritual, emotional and mental health!  And the really cool part is that in doing good for others, you are doing what is best for you as well!  Our God is into that kind of good, be a joy-giver, show sensitivity and compassion and the goodness, the joy, the sensitivity and compassion of our Savior rebounds back and fills those empty spaces in our minds where unhealthy thoughts hang-out and healing comes to deep wounds we never, ever thought we'd see healed.

Seven powerful words that can change our lives and the lives of everyone near us...Trust in the Lord and do good!

Love and a clear realization of Lord's good works He has for you!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

We've Got Some Choices To Make

Every parent has watched this scene play out over and over.  A toddler walks over to a beautiful blank wall, a crayon in their chubby little hand.  What to do?  The wall beckons like a readied canvas.  A choice has to be the art or not?   It might not be might be two large containers of baby powder, as it was for me one evening when my daughter, Aimee, and her friend, Allena,  decided my bedroom need a winter landscape makeover.  With my granddaughter it was a "rose" crayon ( her FAVORITE color:) and the wall at the top of the stairs where she wrote "P R E H":).  If you sound that one out phonetically, you will know what that little one needed to do when her mom and dad saw her artwork.:)

As we grow older,  so do our choices in their importance and impact on our lives.  Where we go to college.  Should we go to college.  Who we marry.  Where we work, live, and worship.  How many children do we welcome into our family.  Life-altering decisions.  But these are not the choices I want to talk about today.  Our lives certainly have those peak moments when choices such as these are foremost in our minds.  One author said we might have 20-40 of these momentous decisions to make throughout our lifetimes.  As important as these are, the truth is our everyday lives are made up of hundreds of lesser choices that truly define who we are and significantly influence the joy we experience.  It is crazy to think that many times we undermine joy in our lives simply by making the same poor choices day after day.  Let me give you a little example from my own life.

Ten years ago I was diagnosed with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).   I hated this diagnosis, so I sought out other answers.  I found my way to a world renowned "gut" specialist at Cedar's Sinai Hospital and after many tests, he gave me good news and bad news.  The bad news was that I did, indeed, have IBS, but the good news was that my IBS had some obvious triggers I could avoid:  sugar, anything with gluten in it, and foods that had high carbohydrate content.  What?!?  These were my FAVORITE foods!   I LOVED all those particular "forbiddens" the most.  I loved bread, always had,  but bread deep fried into an apple fritter, dipped in a sugar glaze...well, let's just say it gets me salivating simply writing these words:)  For as long as I can remember, I have craved sweets.  One teenage summer, my sister and I and a cousin literally ate our way through Rapid City, South Dakota going from one bakery to another.  True story.  But as a very sick adult,  I was desperate, so I followed his recommendations and within months I was feeling better than I had in years.  I made choice after choice to keep those foods that were, quite literally poison to my body, out of my mouth.  But after feeling well for so long, all those foods that had caused me so much pain in the past,  beckoned once again.  I stood like a toddler with a crayon in her hand.  I knew what they would do to me, but through a whole bunch of internal crazy dialogue such as,  "Maybe I'm not REALLY gluten intolerant,"  along with other equally self-deceptive thoughts, I began to make some pretty poor choices.  Even to this day, I will think when faced with some food I really want, but know will cause me pain, "This will be worth it."  It never is.  I make stupid, stupid choices, and they have never been worth it...not once.  I undermine my own joy every time I make a poor choice about what I put in my mouth.

One verse Kay mentions in her chapter "Getting Back To Basics," comes from I Corinthians 6:19:  "Or don't you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit?  Don't you see that you can't live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for?"  (The Message)

Reading this caused real conviction in my spirit, and I had to come to grips with a hard truth.  Eating foods I KNOW cause problems to my system is really disobedience.  It is choosing NOT to do what I know to be right and good for my particular body, a body that is a "sacred place of the Holy Spirit," a body ransomed at a high price.  God has been good enough to show me how my body works most effectively so I can be strong and healthy.  This has helped me to feel better and to be more available to serve the Lord and others.  The truth is each time I disobey what I know to be true, I squander this great gift of love and grace. I am certainly NOT saying eating sugar or sweets is sin.  It probably isn't a problem for you, but it most certainly is for me, and God has made that very clear.

Recently, while in North Carolina visiting my kids and grandkids, I went with my daughter-in-law to Zumba class.  The instructor, Jess, is a wonderful Zumba teacher, so you better believe when the music begins, all eyes are on her.  Mine sure were.  I kept focused on what she was doing, trying my darndest to follow her.  I wasn't perfect at it...not by a long shot, but I improved as I watched and followed her every move.  One thing I noticed in Zumba  class is no one is looking around to see how others are doing.  No watching for others' mistakes.  No comparisons, because everyone is so intent on following the leader.

When thinking and praying about this blog post, I was reminded of my Zumba class.  If we are followers of Christ, He is the focus of our lives.  We should be so intent on following where He leads that we don't notice if others are messing up their "dance."  I wasn't comparing my "mad skills" of zumbaing to anyone else.  I did not notice the mistakes others made as we zumbaed together through the songs.  I was WAY too busy with my own dance.  When we begin to focus on the sin of others around us, or, we think what God has spoken to us us truth for EVERYONE, we stop our own "dance," or at the very least, slow it down and get off track.

Everyday we are faced with choices.  Choices that have the power to bring joy or grief into our lives and into the lives of others as well.  We can choose not to get upset when a car scoots into the parking space we have been waiting for.  We can choose to think the best instead of the worst in situations and especially of people.  We can choose not to be easily offended.  We can choose to give instead of take, bless instead of curse.  We can choose to smile at a stranger.  We can choose not to give into worry, fear and anxiety and instead "cast all our anxiety upon Him"  remembering how dearly "He cares for us."  We can choose to pray through difficulties instead of fret through them.

Think about it for just for a minute.  Aren't many for those things that "pop-up" in our daily lives simply distracting stuff we can just let go?  Like the stolen parking space?  Kay said in her book we get "over involved" in things that won't matter five years from now.  Very true.  But I can tell you that in my life, I have made choices to get worked up over things that don't matter FIVE HOURS FROM NOW and are completely forgotten (or at least should have been) by the next day.  I can be faced with the choice of eating a piece of wedding cake (because after all it is a special occasion) and suffer for the next three days as my system reacts, or I can choose to just say "No" and within minutes it is not an issue anymore.  It doesn't take a scholar to figure out the better choice.  Those defining seconds before we make our everyday decisions make or break the joy we experience each day.

Remember during those frozen in time moments when we are clutching a rose crayon and the desire to do what comes natural to all humanity rises up in us, that we have a choice to make.  Take a deep breath and some advice from my granddaughter, Rebekah, and...

Love and days of joy-filled choices to you, my friends!



Monday, August 27, 2012

Give Joy Away

Every once in awhile I will meet someone who I think EVERYONE should know:)   My friend, Elaine, is just such a person, so you will be meeting Elaine on the pages of this blog today.  But before I introduce Elaine, and how she fits into the theme of "Giving Joy Away," I thought it might be good to talk just a bit about what makes us, instead of joy-givers, joy-killers. 

Kay Warren in her book, Choose Joy, talks about "joy-killers" in the chapter "Nurturing Joy in Others."  She mentions four:  cynicism, criticism, selfishness and ingratitude.  There is nothing that sucks the joy right out of a day like someone who is focused on and wants to talk about all the "bad stuff."  Now, I'm not talking about a friend who calls for help with a problem or situation in their life...someone who genuinely desires counsel, encouragement and prayer. They are truly reaching out, and we need to be there for them. But there are those wounded individuals who like to talk about the bad, the sad, the devastating, and depressing without wanting anything except to spread the gloom. And if they can't find something in their own lives, they would be glad to tell you about someone else's problems, or, if all else fails, they will give you a detailed report about all the tragedy and terrible on the news.  Cynicism and a critical attitude are so much apart of them it has become ingrained in their day to day existence.  A counselor told me some people have had so much trauma and drama in their lives they do not feel alive unless they are feeling the emotions that go along with trauma-drama. It is truly a heartbreaking way to live.  This counselor went on to tell me that many of these sad souls, even when their lives are drama free, will manufacture trauma or take on others' depressing situations simply to feel like they are living.  They will actively look for the sad, bad, and unhappy moments in life; consequently, they very much believe "we're all going 'to hell in a handbasket'" (I'm not sure what that means, but I am sure it's not good).  Even when something good happens, there is always a "but" added.  "Dinner was good, but it seemed so rushed."  "Sea World was fun, but I got drenched at the Shamu Show."  "I enjoyed the concert, but the music was too loud."  I especially found this one amusing from a bride TV show:  "I liked the quaint church wedding, but there was too much talk about God."  Most of us can relate to hands us difficulties one right after another and we begin to see everything through a grey veil. We almost don't dare think good can happen for fear of being disappointed.  Better to think the worst and then be pleasantly surprised. Escaping from this kind of constant critical and cynical attitude is not easy, but as sure as there is a risen Lord, there is a way out.  I've seen success.  I've lived success.  

Sometimes we are not all together cynical, but we can be about one or a few people in particular.  Those poor unfortunates are the ones we think the worst of first and then readjust our focus as they prove us wrong.  With my darling husband Peter, I had that problem.  I thought I KNEW his motives...and in my mind, when I saw an action, I immediately subscribed a motive to it and then reacted out of what I KNEW he was thinking.  Let me just give you a little example:  Let's say I get dressed up to go out with Peter, and he doesn't say anything about how I look, instead, we just scoot out the door.  My thought process might go something like this:   I wonder why Peter didn't say anything about my outfit.  Maybe he doesn't think it looks good on me.  Maybe I don't look nice anymore.  Maybe he wishes I still looked like I did when I was 19. As the evening goes on,  he does not try to hold my hand or put his arm around me.  I don't think Peter wants anyone to know he is with me.  He isn't proud of me anymore. Well, fine!  I won't try to hold his hand either!  Two can play at this game.  When we finally get home, we get ready for bed and I am fuming.  He doesn't try to kiss me goodnight or anything. I knew it!  He doesn't even want to kiss me good night.  (Frankly, I wouldn't  want to if I were him either.)  Fine and dandy...I very aggressively roll away from him and the tears start up...I cannot believe he does not find me attractive anymore:(  My heart is broken.  Peter hears my sniffing and felt the aggressive roll away. 

"Cherri, what is wrong?  You have been acting weird all night long!"  

Finally, I get to tell him what he thinks!!!!!  "You don't think I'm pretty anymore.  You don't find me attractive.  You didn't even want to hold my hand in public!" 

"What the heck are you talking about?"

So as I explain to him what he was thinking throughout the night, he explains to me that I am 100% wrong about what he was thinking and his motives behind his actions or inaction.

I wreck a perfectly wonderful evening with my overactive imagination and negative thoughts.  Yep, a joy-sucker for sure.

These four: cynicism, criticism, selfishness and ingratitude often ride in the nasty attitude car together.  Because we have a cynical attitude, we are naturally, critical, and these attitudes feed our self-focus.  When living in the world of cynicism, criticalness, and selfishness, there is no place for gratitude. Many times we don't think there is anything to be grateful for.

If life has caused a cynical and critical spirit in us, or if we find ourselves having a critical attitude about a chosen few in our lives, it doesn't have to stay that way.  Change is just a choice away.  I love the twist on the famous "Serenity Prayer":   "God, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it's me." 

Now for my friend, Elaine...

Think opposite of everything I have just talked about and you have Elaine:)  This woman is extraordinary.  She lives with a serious disease every day of her life and has for many years now.  Sometimes she receives good news and other days bad...but you wouldn't know it from the look on her face as she greets you at church.  This lady ALWAYS smiles.  Not only that, she takes the time to encourage anyone who has the joy of being in her life.  She, even with all she has to deal with day after day, is proficient in giving joy away.  This humble, sweet servant of our living Savior has learned to "trust in the Lord and do good" (Psalm 37:3) and in all her doing and trusting she has learned a valuable lesson she shares with us about living life as a Christ follower...Joy is not based on circumstances or is based solely on the One who is our joy.  Elaine shows me that joy is a beautiful process or cycle...We receive joy from God, who freely gives...we give joy away as much and as often as possible and all that joy we pour out on others it covers us as well.  Have you ever tried to fix an irrigation system while it's on?  Peter and I did.  A head came off our drip system and was shooting water everywhere.  We both worked at fixing the problem and eventually succeeded, but we were drenched from head to toe and completely silly with laughter as we looked at each other.  Well, I was silly with laughter...He was just plain silly.:)   Joy is like covers even in the midsts of troubles and problems and while living in a world that is "going to hell in a hand basket."  

My friend, Elaine, in the midsts of her trouble, hands out muffins and bulletins at our church with smile.  She encourages and loves with messages over Facebook.  She attends parties for newlywed wives who are starting up home businesses.  She leads Bible study tables for the women's ministry.  She gives encouragement with  a hand on a shoulder, a hug or kind word.  She gives joy extravagantly everyday.  

There are scores of opportunities to give joy away as we live out each day. I pray our eyes would be open to all the possibilities that come our way.  I pray that cynicism and criticalness would become a thing of the past in our lives and believing the best and gratitude would take their places.  I pray that we would be joy gushers to those around us...that they would feel drenched in the joy of the Lord.  Lord, fill us with Your joy.  Help us to trust you for our circumstances and while trusting, that we do good for others bringing joy to You and those You put in our paths.  We love You and desire Your goodness to be known among men.

Love to you, my joy-gushing friends!


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Detox for the Distracted Soul

Well, I think it is finally time to admit it...I am growing older.  Over the past five years, I have begun to love gardening and watching birds and these are tell-tale signs for sure:) Hummingbirds are some of my very favorite birds to watch because they are just so different from any other bird on the planet.  The very first spring I spent in this home, I found two hummingbird nests in my backyard.  One was right outside my bedroom window at eye-level, so my kids and I had a "bird's eye view" as we watched two teeny-tiny eggs hatch and mature from naked, pink and unidentifiable, to a lovely grey and flashing metallic green.  Soon they were too big for the nest, and one morning, they were gone.  From that moment, I wanted to always have hummingbirds near, so I bought a six "holer," very highly rated feeder off of Amazon and hung it right outside of my bedroom window.   

Having the feeder outside my window has given me a new view of these beautiful "sweet" birds.  First of all, I have never...let me say it again NEVER seen six hummingbirds on the feeder.  One time I saw two, but that is it...and it wasn't for long.  Believe me, it is not for lack of hummingbirds that my feeder stays empty or nearly empty throughout the day.  It is solely because hummingbirds are mean to each other.  They viciously fight over the feeder.

Usually there is one bird who is "the big bird" at the feeder.  Last year it was actually a little guy who was  unmistakable...he had a little black spot on his chest.  My granddaughters and I called him "the hummingbird with the black heart."  He was stinkin' ruthless.  He would perch himself in a tree, and if any other bird came near the feeder, he came at them in lightening speed making a LOUD chattering noise.  One afternoon I watched "Blackheart" chase a wasp from the kidding.

Here is the bizarre part, I have a beautiful trumpet vine that blooms all throughout the spring and summer.  It has the "real" stuff.  My feeder is filled with one part plain old sugar and five parts tap water...that's it.  But the hummingbirds are soooooo intent on the feeder...especially whoever is the boss bird for the season...that most of them miss out on actual real nectar from the flowers!!!!!

Recently I was given a Kindle by a dear friend.  What a blessing!  Funny thing is I bought Soul Detox:  Clean Living in Contaminated World, by Craig Groeschel as a Kindle book that week, and I didn't have a Kindle...yet:)  I think God really wanted me to read Soul Detox.  
Twenty-eight pages in and I know why.  Craig gives an example I could completely relate to...growing up in a smoke-filled home.  The odor of smoke permeated our was everywhere...IN the furniture, the curtains and every piece of clothing we owned.  When you live in smoke like this, just as Craig relates in his story, you don't smell it anymore.  It's not until you are in a clean environment and someone says, "Man, you stink!" or you have been out of it for so long that when you come back, it hits you in the face, that you realize how bad everything, including yourself, stunk.  Interestingly, now that I have been out of the smoke for decades, I cannot handle smoke at all.  It literally burns my nose and hurts my chest after I have breathed it in for awhile.  Times like these, I can't imagine how I managed to survive in a smoke-filled environment year after year.  But I did and I thought it was normal, and I had no idea I "stunk to high heaven" as my grandmother used to say.   I did not know there was a better, cleaner way to live.  The words in Soul Detox pretty much take you by the shoulders and shake you back to reality.  Craig wants you to see that you are living in a "smoke-filled," sin-immersed environment and, if you are not diligent, you will live "in sin" like it is will actually think this is the way Christians live.  What deception.  This is how Craig says it:

I believe our spiritual enemy blinds us with a smoke screen of poisonous distractions.  Just like I lived unaware of the smoke in my home, many people aren't fully aware of the forces stunting their spiritual growth.  Without realizing the impact on their faith, people embrace harmful relationships, consume toxic media, live with addictive habits, and remain oblivious to the long-term effects.  We think the way we live is perfectly fine, normal, harmless, or even positive.  Some people don't want to take an honest look at the way they live, claiming, "What you don't know wont hurt you.
 Unfortunately, this just isn't true.  Many individuals who inhaled secondhand smoke--not to mention all the millions of smokers--have suffered permanent and painful effects.  The truth is this:  what many people don't know is not just hurting them but killing them spiritually.

Sometimes it is not that we "don't know" as much as it is we don't want to know or  pretend not to know.  Kind of like a little kid who sticks his fingers in his ears and yells "LA LA LA LA...I CAN'T HEAR YOOOOOUUUUU!!!!!"  

Kay Warren in her book, Choose Joy, in the chapter "Nurturing Joy in Yourself," gives us the same lesson just from a different vantage point.  She, too, warns against the distractions that keep us from a joy-filled life of obedience to God.  Her perspective alerts us to worry and busyness, among others, as places of subtle rebellion that steal from us the God-given joy we could have.  Joy through a truly soul-edifying life is as available to us as trumpet flowers are to my hummingbirds.  But just as the birds buzz at hyper-speed past the real to the fake, so sometimes do we rush past all the wonder of a God-filled life to the self-indulgent, sin-filled pseudo-life.  We can sit on the branches and defend our choices with a zeal unmatched by anything we use toward pursuing and defending the God-honoring, or we can start identifying sin in our life for what it is...sin.  We can fill our lives with the real and life-giving or excuse the life-defeating, joy-sucking and keep walking along life's path with our finger's in our ears singing "La La La La" to the top of our lungs.

One hard truth we have got to remember is this:  Our choice to identify ourselves as Christ followers and then redefine sin will have repercussions on many.  Here's the fine love with grace, live righteously without being self-righteous and still not compromise when it comes to sin.  Our focus has to be on Jesus, His life giving Word, and His will for our lives.  

Love and a truly cleansing detox to you,


Monday, August 6, 2012

Treasures in Dark Places

"I will give you treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name."  
Isaiah 45:3

I have had two deep, dark times in my life.  The first was in my twenties when I suffered a miscarriage.  This loss was so great it staggered me, but God gave me Kirsti and my joy returned.  The second time was in my forties over a decade ago. I ran recklessly into a year-long journey of depression and despair.  I was emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually drained to the point of collapse.  Even now, as I think back on those days, a lump forms in my throat.  Darkness I had never experienced before descended on me and at the worst of it, I lay tightly curled in a fetal position in my bed.  The tears just would not stop. But it was in this place that God gave me a "Light to love on the way," and I have not been the same since...Praise God!

A year before, my boss, the principal at the school where I was teaching, told me:  "Cherri, you are a formidable woman!"  I couldn't help but smile at the truth of it...I was formidable.  I felt formidable.  I could do it all:  be a mother, a wife, a teacher, advisor, activities director, sister, friend, leader in the church, anything to anybody.  I was a great savior and an awesome holy spirit as well.  My boss was right...I was pretty darn formidable.  And then I found a lump in my breast.  My mom and aunt both had breast cancer, so lumps in breasts were not usually a benign symptom in our family.  At first all the tests came out negative, but they were going to "keep an eye on them," so I would be coming back for mammograms every six months.  Then came the call one evening after my first recheck, shortly before I was to leave for an East Coast trip with a group of seniors...the lumps had grown...that was NOT a good sign.  My doctor told me I would have to have surgery to remove all the lumps and as soon as possible.  So to cement in your mind just how "off" I was, I told them the surgery would have to wait until after I returned from my trip.  Stupid.  I could not stomach the thought of failing anyone, because I never failed. 

How many times did I hear with pride, "Cherri, you sure have a lot on your plate"?  Yep, I did...a lot on ALL my plates and my plates were spinning.  I had them humming through the air like an acrobatic artist while I walked the wire not even thinking of the possibility that one of my plates might fall.  But a breast cancer diagnosis hanging over my head and always ALWAYS in the back of my mind, took the "formid" right out of my "able."  You can't feel it in the moment, but the wire is starting to shake.

I had my surgery a couple days after returning from the East Coast and purely by His good grace and mercy, the lumps were all benign, but a different kind of cancer had invaded during the year...a fear of failing...of not being the "strong" woman I thought I was.  Fear of failing morphed into flat-out terror and plates began to fall all over the place.  As my "formidable" spirit ebbed away, I found I couldn't be anything to anybody.  I crawled into bed, pulled the covers over my head and felt darkness fill every cell of my body, every thought in my mind, every desperate emotion that I felt.  

My sweet husband, once again, had no clue to what to do with this creature who now inhabited his wife's body.  My children were scared, too.  I wasn't the same, not at all.  Peter convinced me one Sunday morning to go to church.  We sat in the back of the church, trying to stay away from anyone we knew.  I just did not have the strength to even pretend I was "fine."  And then the Holy Spirit began speaking to me through my pastor, David Parker, and tears, once again, began to fall.  By the end of the service, I was on my knees in front of my seat sobbing my eyes out, and I DID NOT CARE WHO SAW MY WEAK, PATHETIC, BROKEN SELF.  Sweet, sweet victory in brokenness!  He had "summoned me by name," and in an instant, through the darkness, the Lord began to pile treasure after treasure on me!  

Jesus, He is the "riches" I found in my dark places.  He is the Light that penetrated a darkness I thought hopeless of light.  He is the treasure I found in the midst of dark depression and despair.  And though, like, Kay Warren, I have never prayed for "treasures of darkness," I have prayed prayers of gratitude for those times, and I have come to see them for the priceless treasures they surely are.

I "stumbled" recently upon an old song by Michael Card entitled "Joy in the Journey."  I love so many of the lyrics in this song, but the lines at the beginning are a sweet promise to us:   "There is a joy in the journey.  There's a Light we can love on the way."  Sit back, close your eyes and let the music and words of this song remind you of the hope we have in our Savior.

Redeemer!  Redeemer!  Redeemer!  Redeeming darkness into light!  Despair into Hope!  Giving sight to those blinded by depression!  

Please, if you have treasures from the darkness...if you have made it through a dark time and found "riches stored in the secret places," take the time to share it on the blog.  There are those in the midst of darkness right now who need to know there is "hope for the hopeless."  If you have trouble posting, e-mail your post to me at, and I will post it for you.  

Light and love to you, my friends, even in the darkness,


Friday, August 3, 2012

Pray for the Church

My dear friends,

This is going to be a different post.  I have no witty words to offer you this morning...only a request.  We need to pray for our church...His church...His body...His bride.  We need Him right now.


Your church needs your help.  We are attacking each other and it is dividing and weakening your body.  Speak wisdom to us, Lord.  You have promised your Holy Spirit to be our counselor...Lord, we need your counsel.  Help us, Lord, to refocus our eyes on You, so that we might hear your voice more clearly, be obedient to all your desires and love you above all.  Please, Lord, come to our rescue!

Thank you, Father, for always hearing the prayers of your children.  We love you, though sometimes feebly, graspingly, distractedly; we want to love you more.  

"Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let your glory be all over the earth.  Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered."  Psalm 108:5-6

Love you, my friends, more than words can say...have a blessed day,


Saturday, July 21, 2012

It's a Cow Day!

When I am visiting with my sister at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains during the summer, I sleep with the windows wide open.  I love the the fresh, cool air filling my room and even enjoy the sounds of the night.  My bedroom window faces out onto a large, beautiful cow pasture.  At five this morning I was awakened by the sounds of the cows bellowing out over the meadow.  One bellow wouldn't waken me, but, for crying out loud, this was going on for quite awhile.  Sometime during the summer, the ranchers come to take the calves from the herds and then no one gets any sleep for two days around here, but the calves are too small yet.  I finally roused my weary body from bed, and saw through the window my sister sitting on a chair looking out over the pasture.  Joining her on the patio, we sat together and watched the sun rise over the mountains and listened to the cows literally yelling back and forth.  There are four different herds of cattle out in this vast meadow beneath the mountains and cows from each of these herds were conversing back and forth across the valley, each one trying to out do the other, with a few calves joining in just to prove they could.  

I grabbed a cup of coffee and decided to spend a little time with Kay Warren in her book we have been reading together.  The chapter I read this morning was  "Adopting Heaven's Value System."  I love this chapter and had to smile when Kay began talking about cows.  He loves to give me days like this...this is my "cow day":)  My sweet, sweet Lord knows how visual I am, so He constantly brings me object lessons to show me things I might not see any other way.  So today it is with the cows.  In this chapter we read that meditation on God's Word is the way to become "better acquainted with God," which produces a "settled assurance about God."  Meditation has been defined to me before as "ruminating," and I have been given the illustration of cows chewing, chewing, chewing their cud, swallowing, burping the whole thing back up and chewing again.  But this morning the Lord was pretty specific in what He was trying to illustrate to me...When a cow is bellowing away, their is no ruminating going on.  

I can talk.  I have always been a talker.  My dad one time told the doctor at an emergency room in Kansas, he was there not because he thought he needed to be, but because his daughter in California could "talk a mountain lion out of a tree."  In the last few years, God has been teaching me the beauty of silent moments of meditation, and I have grown out of my uneasiness with them and learned to crave those quiet times.  To begin with, I had the same thought as others Kay mentioned in the book.  I felt I just could not meditate. Until I realized that I meditated ALL THE TIME just not on God or anything good.  I was actually a great meditator!!!  I just had to switch what I was meditating on!  What a revelation!  

Here's the problem.  My thoughts so habitually went to the negative, the worrisome, the fearful and even terrifying "what ifs" in my life that the cycle had to  be broken over and over to finally get to a healthy, life-giving place of meditation.  Even now, when something comes up, it can take me back.  For days, sometimes, I will wallow there making myself completely miserable...and, sadly,  miserable is just as contagious as joyful. 

On my granddaughter, Brenda's, tenth birthday, we took her camping way up in a wilderness area.  Near a spring she found a really interesting plant;  we looked it up in the field guide and found out it was "loco weed."  True to the sound of it's name, when animals eat this stuff, they go crazy.  This is a great picture of what happens in these "down times" of mine.  I ruminate on "loco weed" and then I start bellowing like a cow gone mad.  And all the other cows around me, begin to feel my crazy and start bellowing with me.  Not good.  

Starting into Bible study some years back with the ladies of the church I attend, literally changed my life.  Sitting morning after morning with a Bible in my lap changed me and continues to change me...Thank God!  The one amazing truth I have found is the more I meditate on God and His Word, the more I desire to spend time with Him and His Word.  The opposite I have found, though, is just as true.  The less I time I spend with Him and am out of my Bible, the need ebbs away to finally no desire at fact, hardly a thought.

This morning as I read this chapter, I began to really pay attention, first, to what God had created for me to enjoy this morning...the sights, the sounds, the feel and smell of all that was so beautifully arranged around me for my pure pleasure.  The greatness of the Sierra Nevadas, the vastness of the valleys and meadows, the blues of the sky and brilliance of the sunrise all, just by themselves, were worthy of praise and adoration!  He has made it so easy for us to praise Him.  Then I thought about how truly loving He is and that His will for me is always good.  Contemplating a sweet verse such as "His love has overtaken our lives;  God's faithful ways are eternal,"  (Psalms 145:13) reminds me of what is important to my God, and I cannot stop the thoughts that come..."Overtake my life with Your love"..."Remind me today of Your faithfulness"..."I can trust Your ways for me and mine"..."You are a good and loving God!"  Meditation.  My mind was irresistibly filled with Him and His thoughts. And here is the precious dynamic of meditation.  Later in the day, I received some disappointing news about my puppy, Livvie, from our vet.  At first, my heavy heart lived in the despairing moment, but then the thoughts...THE TRUTHS of the morning began to beat back those nagging and defeating "what ifs."  Victory!  Peace flowed over my heart, faith in my God's good will in my life encouraged me and joy returned to my soul.

There is one wonderful aspect of our Lord that seems to always be true, at least in my life...if I crack door, even timidly, to take a step toward Him, He swings it wide.  I will pray those one sentence prayers "Lord, how do I love You more?" "I want to love Your Word."  "I need to have Your heart toward __________"(you fill in the blank)  "Bring peace."  "Help!"  "I want to meditate on Your Word, but I haven't a clue where to begin." Then there comes the moment when peace settles over me or the desire for His Word has become "bread," or the truths of a verse flood my mind with praise and adoration....the answer has come and is more, different and came so sweetly that in awe I think "When did that happen?"  All I know is He swept in and changed my heart and mind.  Miracle indeed!   

It truly is a mind shift, isn't it?  To think more on what God wants in our lives rather than what we think we want, what we think will bring us joy, contentment, and value those things He values.  I don't know who Mike Mason is, but his words "To embrace God's point of view, however briefly, is to be joyful" are words to encourage us toward a God centered mind set.
His desire is that we grow closer to Him, know Him better everyday, trust Him more fully, love Him more dearly, and truly know His good heart toward us. 

Love and sweet times of ruminating to you, my sisters,


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Plastic Pearls

I got up this morning, fed the dogs, then myself, fixed a cup of coffee and sat down to tackle what was coming next in my Choosing Joy devotional.  Actually, I knew what was coming "Joy in Surrender," and honestly...I wanted to get started.  I was not prepared at all for the story I read.  It so blessed me, that I am going to take the time to type it out here for you.  So here goes:

Plastic Pearls

A four year old girl was taken to the toy store by her mom.  At the toy store, the little girl was completely enchanted by all the princess dress-up clothes and accessories.  The little girl especially loved a necklace of plastic pearls, so her mother bought them for her.

The little girl insisted she always had to wear those pearls.  She wore the pearls while she slept, in the sandbox, talking a bath.  She never wanted to take them off.  "I am a princess," she declared, "and a princess always wears pearls."  Months went by and over time those plastic pearls began to show their use.  The string was dirty.  The paint was chipping.  The clasp had eventually been taped back together.  

Every night before bedtime, this little girl crawled into her daddy's lap to snuggle and talk about the day.  One night, her daddy asked, "Little princess, do you love me?"

"I love you, Daddy, I love you," the little girl joyfully replied. 

"Will you give me your pearls?" her father asked.

"No, Daddy, they're mine.  I'm a princess."

Her father kissed her on the forehead and the pajama-clad girl scooted off to bed.

The next night at snuggle time, her father asked the same question, "Do you love me?"

"Oh, Daddy, you know I do," the little girl responded.

"Will you give me your pearls?" he asked.

The little girl was adamant again, "Daddy, I am a princess," then quickly slid down and ran to her room.

The third night, the little girl, fearing the question that might come, was hesitant to snuggle with her dad.  But love won out and the little girl rested her head on her dad's strong shoulder.

"Do you love me?" he asked.

Big crocodile tears fell from the little girl's eyes and, unable to speak through her tears, she nodded her head yes.  The little girl loved her dad.

"Will you give me your necklace?"  He calmly asked for the third night in a row.

That night the little girl ever so slowly unwound the tape that held her pearls together and obediently gave them to the father she loved.  With one hand, her father tossed them into the fire.  With the other, he reached into his pocket and gave to his a daughter a new strand of beautiful, real pearls.  Exactly the kind a princess should wear.

Angela writes this:  "In that surrender, she (the little girl) had to trust her father's good heart toward her. She had to believe, even when she could not understand, that his desire was for her best.  She had to trust beyond her own understanding:  'Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding'" (Proverbs 3:5)

In 1982, after a long, hard fight within myself, I surrendered to God something so precious I thought surrender completely impossible.  After having two healthy sons who were the absolute loves of my life, Peter and I lost a baby at twelve weeks to miscarriage.  I was completely devastated.  And angry.  While I was in the hospital recovering because the miscarriage, I found out that a family member was going to have a baby due the same month as the little one I had just lost.  In my young mind at the time, God was heaping on my heart cruelty upon cruelty, and I shook my fist right back in His face.  My poor husband did not know how to handle this new creature that came to live with him.  My heart was filled with sorrow, regret and bitterness and had a hole the size of Norway that no amount of love or tenderness from this sweet man could possibly fill.  I was in a cold, dark, deep, hopeless place.  I remember thinking I would rather endure physical pain than this excruciating emotional heartbreak.  In the hope that this hole could be filled with another baby, we got pregnant again.  Everything was great until about eight weeks when the bleeding and cramping began again.  There are no words to describe the desolation I felt.  Why?  What in the world had I done wrong?  Why did He hate me?  Why did He want to hurt me?  

Surrender.  If I am completely still maybe the baby will stay.  Surrender.  Hold on, baby, hold on.  Surrender.  Don't move.  Surrender.  Stay calm.  Surrender.  I can't surrender this.  I can't.  I can't.  I can't.  Oh, Lord, I can't go back into that dark place again.  Please, Lord, I can't surrender this little one.     Help me, my Father, to surrender.

"Remember Isaac and Abraham, Cherri?  Give me your Isaac.  I'll take care of him, and I will take care of you.  Trust me."

In that moment, I took my hands from my tiny pregnant belly and lifted them to heaven.  "This baby is Yours.  I gave him wholly and completely, and I will not shake my fist at You.   I surrender all...even this precious little one."

The bleeding and cramping did not stop.  In fact, I got food poisoning that night and vomited violently along with all the rest.  My Isaac did not get the reprieve Abraham's did...but peace reigned in my heart in the midst of all this...miraculous.  Peter called the hospital to see if he should bring me to the ER.  He was petrified.  This time the miscarriage seemed way worse, but they told him to "let Nature take its course."  Miracle.  (A trip to the ER that night would have probably changed everything.) But "Nature" had something else in mind and It definitely took Its course...just not in the way any of us thought.

A week later, I was still bleeding and cramping.  I went to my doctor because last time my miscarriage was incomplete...hence all the complications.   I thought the same thing was happening all over.  I was sad about the whole experience, but not angry.  At the office, I explained what had happened and that though the symptoms had subsided some, they had not gone completely way.  The only thing curious to me was that I was still feeling the never just "morning sickness" nausea I had felt before the miscarriage.  So my doctor decided to check for a heartbeat.  To tell you the truth...I didn't want him to.  I had already accepted the fact I had lost this baby, so to give me any kind of hope, even for a moment, seemed adding pain I just did not need.  As he set the doppler on my belly there was nothing...just my heartbeat in the background...thumping away like nothing traumatic was happening. little beats in double time to mine.  And then one small movement of the doppler and...No way!  There it was!  How could this be?

We all, Peter, the nurse and my doctor.  Miracle.  

And here she is!  My Isaac turned out to be Kirsti!

Kirsti is a reminder to me at this moment that I have surrendered deeper, dearer things to my good Father than this dream I have hung onto for so long.  Does my father have a "good heart toward me"?  Through tears I can type these words...Oh, yes, yes, yes.  His heart is for my good.

His heart is for your good.  His goodness is beyond our understanding.

Love and REAL pearls to you, my sisters!!!


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Chocolate Cisterns!

I could have told you this would happen.  I am spending the summer reading and writing about joy, and at this moment, I don't have a joyful cell in my entire being.  I am usually an "up" kind of girl...which has been annoying to my family at times.  I can nearly "Pollyanna" them to exasperation.  Well, not now.  Circumstances have slid my heart and mind right into the "pit of despair"...especially at night.  During the day I can distract myself...keep myself busy doing and doing and doing some more.  But at night, that is when the enemy's voice is no longer drowned out by busyness.  And he is brutal.

I had to let go of a dream recently.  One that I have thought of and pictured a thousand times.  A dream I have looked forward to for decades.  But lately I have been praying THAT prayer,  "Lord, if this is not your will show me and help me to see it clearly so I don't waste my time striving, thinking and planning for something that is just not You."  And He did.  I cried buckets of tears in the process of letting this dream die.  Still sadness remains.

And then other just plain weird stuff happened.  Circumstances that sucked the joy right out of my day and left this hovering feeling of "badness."  Even when I was not directly thinking on these things...I felt them hovering...just there...always in the back of my mind. I hate that feeling.  

So tonight, rather than toss and turn keeping Peter up, I decided to read the devotion I had skipped earlier in the day.  Honestly, I wasn't even surprised when these words were the first I read: "Joy Instead of Despair."    Of course that is the chapter I am on!  The Lord has done this more times than I can possibly count.  Oh, girls, in moments such as these He whispers to me:  "Cherri, I see you.  I see you."  I am humbled by this kind of sweet, intimate attention.  

Angela says, "The heart falls into despair when we forget.  When we forget who we belong to and how very powerful God is."  I have lived long enough to have seen many seemingly impossible circumstances turn completely around.  I have cried out to God and He has answered over and over.  He has moved powerfully in my life.  And still I forget.

Over twenty years ago Peter and I built a "spec" house with our very dearest friends, the Palms.  It looked like the perfect opportunity for us.  Our friend, Bill, was a contractor; Peter was a surveyor and between the two of them, they had many, many friends in different trades.  The house was built on a beautiful piece of property in the foothills of Palmdale overlooking the lake.  At the time all the homes in the area were on wells, but that wasn't a problem...EVERYBODY hit water when they went to dig their wells.  So we got busy with construction and before the house was even finished, it was sold for the asking price!  Then we dug our well...and another one...and another one....and another one.  ALL dry holes.  We borrowed money from Peter's dad and dug more, still no water!  We had sold a house with no water.  Not good.  The people who bought our waterless house did not take the news well.  They wanted to sue us for the amount homes had gone up since they signed the contract.  Not only that, we were told we could not sell the home because no bank would finance a house without water.  Believe me when I say the night our families got together to try to figure out what to do was a pretty despairing evening for us all.  We had absolutely no hope of getting out of this, zip, none.  So we prayed.  We called all our kids together and got on our knees and asked God to help.  One thing we were positive about was this:  There was no way out of this except the mercy of God.  Then the phone rang.  I don't know who answered it.  I don't remember who said the words:  "You're not going to believe this!"  But I sure remember the words that followed..."The people who bought our house want to pay cash."  Even today I think back in wonder...They paid cash for a house with no water except what was trucked in and pumped into a water tank installed on the property.  We were stunned by His goodness...still am.

I forget the times He has been unmistakably visible in my life.   

I got up this morning and turned to the chapter I am on in Kay Warren's book Choose Joy, and there He was again:)  Twelve hours later my sweet Lord greets me with this chapter heading:  "Drinking From Dry Wells."  Not kidding!  Twelve hours ago I was begging for his joy and actually settled for the peace He gave last night so I could have a good night's rest and now I sit here smiling as I type.  Redeemer.  He reminds me over and over.  He is a Redeemer of everything.  He redeems even dry wells.

Kay shared a scene from her life that I TOTALLY related to....On page 80-81 she writes that when she is heartbroken over a situation and joy has completely vanished, leaving her feeling "upset, lonely, scared and anxious" she goes through a series of "cistern digs" to try and create joy.  She will call someone to talk and helps for a moment, then despair rises again, so she distracts herself with music; it helps for a bit, then despair rises. something, nope...doesn't last.  Chocolate!  Even chocolate cannot beat back despair.  I could have written those paragraphs myself.  I have been going through this cycle lately...The other afternoon, I even  got out a bag of frozen chocolate chips to eat (and that was after all the crackers and hummus was gone)!!!  I was desperate for joy even for a moment.

I have to wrap my mind around this truth...He, Jesus, my Lord, the Creator and Savior of my soul...He alone is joy.  Last night as I talked with Him about all that was on my mind and my complete lack of joy, I knew the answer was surrender...give it up and lean on Him.  But I told Him I don't want to just say the words:  "I surrender."  I want it to be real.  I don't want to just feel good for a moment.  I want true joy...whenever...WHEREVER.  And I don't want to fake it.  

Then, this morning, Angela had me in Psalm 63: 1-8

O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is not water.  I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.  Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.  I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.  My soul will be satisfied as with the richest foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.  On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.  Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. 

And Isaiah 40: 20-31

Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  Has it not been told you from the beginning?  Have you not understood since the earth was founded?  He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers.  He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.  He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.  No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on then and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.  "To whom will you compare me?  Or who is my equal?" says the Holy One.  Lift your eyes and look to the heavens:  Who created all these?  He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls each by name.  Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.  Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God"?  Do you not know?  Have you not heard?  The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He will not grow tired or weary and his understanding no one can fathom.  He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
As I read these words, joy began to spark again in my heart.  I started "clinging" last night and this morning, rather than feeling despair hovering in my thoughts, the Holy Spirit is hovering there instead.  He is a really good "hoverer."  In fact, He invented hovering...just read Genesis 1:2:)  

Last night as I wearily carried myself back to my bed, I remember thinking, "It is just impossible to be joyful over all this "stuff."  Very true.  There actually is not a the remotest detail I can be even happy about, but I can know this with certainty...He is in this with me.   He has not forgotten me.   "My way" is not hidden from my Him, and I can rest in that.  He is still my Redeemer.  He has proved himself faithful in my life time after time...and in that...I can rejoice!

Love and joy to you, my sweet friends!


PS  I took a peak at the next chapter in my devotional and wouldn't you know..."Joy in Surrender"!