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Where’s the Joy?

Ever since I wrote in my last blog post about Joy, it has been at the forefront of my mind. It has also been featured in many of the conversations that I have had with the people in my life. As I said, the idea of looking for joy in my life takes two forms. The first is noticing the joy in the world around me. The second is intentionally doing things that I know bring me joy.

I’ve been questioned especially about the first of those. How can I find joy in the world around me when there is so much sadness, so much sorrow, so much anger, so much hate, so much injustice? I’m not a Pollyanna, who turns a blind eye to suffering and tries to pretend that all is sweetness and light. I see the truth of what is going on in our world.

But, as a part of that truth, I also see the simple kindness of one person holding the door for another. I see someone helping an elderly woman into her car at church. I see the person who takes the time to answer a question from a small child. I hear the sincere, “Hello. How are you?” asked of the lonely widow by the busy friend who stops to speak anyway. I see smiles on the faces of strangers, just trying to make the world a little brighter. And I witness, more often than you might think, someone helping the poor and needy – offering the price of a much-needed meal or a ride when it’s cold outside. I see those same people reaching out to take the hand of someone that many would consider untouchable. Perhaps most importantly, I see those people lend a listening ear to someone who is rarely heard in our society.

All of these things bring me joy. Even more, they bring joy to the people who are reaching out in kindness to another person. Witnessing this reminds me that there is good in the world today, and it challenges me to embrace that goodness and to become more like these people. So, my resolve is to let my joy lead me to be that kind of person. I resolve to reach out to those around me in kindness. Not all of us can make grand gestures, but all of us can do something! I will keep speaking, keep smiling, keep touching those around me. I will listen to the voiceless, help those in need, and always, always share the joy of Christ within me.

That, my friends, is how I see joy in the world we live in. And I am determined never to stop seeing it or participating in it. I believe it is what Christ teaches in John 15:11-12. Our joy will be full and complete when we love others the way Christ loves us.

(And then there’s music! I resolve to listen to more music, because it brings me joy, too!)

Karen

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Posted by on January 15, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Joy

So, this morning, the reminder went off on my phone to remind me to update my blog. At first I thought about ignoring it. (As I do way too often) But then I thought that, since it is New Year’s Day, it actually is a good time for me to write a few things.

As most people do, over the last few days, I have looked back at 2018. There have been some pretty awful things that happened in 2018. I’ve preached a few funerals, one of them for a young man who was a beloved member of my youth group just a few years ago. His mother is a friend, and I felt her pain in my soul. I’ve seen relationships disintegrate, and felt the pain of those involved in them. I’ve struggled to deal with mental and emotional issues that have plagued those that I love. My beloved pastor announced his retirement, which will happen in a few months. He’s been a wonderful mentor, friend, and confidant, and I am already grieving his leaving. I’ve witnessed and been close to so much physical pain and suffering, spending way more time in hospitals than I would like. I, along with other family members, have been dealing with the aging of my parents, and the changes that are necessitated by that.

But, as I began to think back over the year, I realized that it was not all doom and gloom. Some amazing things happened last year, too! I’ve spent some quality time with my grandchildren, watching them change, grow, and develop their own personalities. I went on a awesome Mission Trip, had a great week at Caswell, and spent lots of other time with my wonderful youth group, who always make me smile! I’ve read some good books, listened to some good music, and saw a couple of good movies. I got to preach quite a bit this year, including two Homecoming services. I have spent some time with amazing old friends, for whom I am grateful every day. And, I have met a couple of new friends, who I can tell already are going to become like family to me.

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So, I am determined, with the help of God, to focus on JOY. There were joyful times in 2018, along with the sad. When I look back on last year, I don’t want to remember only the hard times. I want to experience the joy. And, in 2019, I commit to live a more joyful life.

What does that mean? How will I do that? Well, as I have thought about it this morning, I think that involves two separate things for me. First, I need to condition myself to recognize the joy in everyday life. I truly believe that in most days, if I look hard enough, I can find something to be joyful about. I’ll be honest with you, that is not my default thought pattern, but I believe those things are there. It might be a call or message from a friend. It might be an unseasonably warm day in the winter. It might be a favorite song. It might be an unexpected conversation, or simply the feeling of accomplishment that comes with finishing a difficult task. It could be a funny TV show, or a book I really enjoy. I am going to try my best to look for these moments of joy within each day, no matter what the rest of the day is like.

Secondly, I commit to spending more time doing things that I know will bring me joy. I have gotten in the habit of wasting too much time on mindless TV or other things that really don’t bring me joy. So, this year, I am going to make a concerted effort to spend more time with people I love, especially those that make me laugh. I am going to listen to music more, because those of you that know me well, know that music is probably the thing that brings me the most joy in life. I might even try to start playing the piano a little bit again. When the weather warms up, I’m going to spend more days on the beach, and, if one of my new friends is willing, I might get to go for some rides in her convertible! I’m pledging to myself that I will ride my bike more than I did last year. In fact, since it’s such a warm day today, I might start now!

I don’t like myself very much when I get mired down in frustration, sadness, and depression. So, I’m going to live this year focusing on JOY, and praying that I am able to bring some joy into the lives of others while I’m at it! Won’t you join me in a year of joy?

Karen

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

Merry Christmas!

christmas-treeMerry Christmas; Happy Holidays; Joy to the World! This time of year joyful, happy greetings abound. Christmas is a happy, exiting time of year. Right? Well….not always. Real life continues, even during the Christmas season. Friends, loved ones, and even you, yourself are still dealing with sickness, pain, and death. Financial difficulties don’t go away, and may even get worse. Job issues remain, relationship issues persist, depression intensifies during the holidays, and the list goes on and on.

But we must remember that Advent means hope. A prayerful anticipation of the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. In this season of Advent, we recall the hope of all those who were eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come. And, looking back across history, we see that hope fulfilled in the birth of Jesus, the baby that we celebrate at Christmas. His birth reminds us that hope is not in vain. Jesus came, and through His birth, life, death, and resurrection, He also brought us all the reality of forgiveness of sin, and hope for a life lived in relationship with Him.

Life can be hard. Even at Christmas time. But the lessons of Advent give us something to hang on to. We learn that hope can be fulfilled. Jesus did come. God is faithful. And He will continue to walk by our side, even in the difficult times.

This season, be an agent of hope. Be God’s hands and feet. Reach out to those around you who may be having a difficult time, and show them that God is faithful, and the baby born over 2,000 years ago is still relevant to our lives. He brings HOPE.images9

Merry Christmas!

Karen

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming

Today is Good Friday. For me, one of the very best reminders of the meaning of this day, and this weekend is the following message by S M Lockridge. Please read this  today as  you think about what Good Friday means, but even more, what it means that resurrection Sunday is coming.

It’s Friday
Jesus is praying
Peter’s a sleeping
Judas is betraying
But Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
Pilate’s struggling
The council is conspiring
The crowd is vilifying
They don’t even know
That Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The disciples are running
Like sheep without a shepherd
Mary’s crying
Peter is denying
But they don’t know
That Sunday’s a comin’

It’s Friday
The Romans beat my Jesus
They robe him in scarlet
They crown him with thorns
But they don’t know
That Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
See Jesus walking to Calvary
His blood dripping
His body stumbling
And his spirit’s burdened
But you see, it’s only Friday
Sunday’s comin’Sunday's Coming

It’s Friday
The world’s winning
People are sinning
And evil’s grinning

It’s Friday
The soldiers nail my Savior’s hands
To the cross
They nail my Savior’s feet
To the cross
And then they raise him up
Next to criminals

It’s Friday
But let me tell you something
Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The disciples are questioning
What has happened to their King
And the Pharisees are celebrating
That their scheming
Has been achieved
But they don’t know
It’s only Friday
Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
He’s hanging on the cross
Feeling forsaken by his Father
Left alone and dying
Can nobody save him?
It’s Friday
But Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The earth trembles
The sky grows dark
My King yields his spirit

It’s Friday
Hope is lost
Death has won
Sin has conquered
and Satan’s just a laughin’

It’s Friday
Jesus is buried
A soldier stands guard
And a rock is rolled into place
But it’s Friday
It is only Friday
Sunday is a comin’!

If you would like to hear this done by the original author, follow this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cikenKl92Og

You will be blessed.

Karen

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

2018

“Happy New Year!” Just a few hours ago, we were all yelling that phrase at everyone around us. (Or we were sleeping, and would quietly wish people a Happy New Year when we woke.) I was at a small party with my youth group. Those who were still present did the countdown to midnight, shouted “Happy New Year,” and then made plans to go home.

Does New Year’s Day sometimes seem like a letdown to you? After all the activity leading up to the holiday season, Christmas celebrations, and finally New Year’s Eve, we wake up on January 1 with no more celebrations to look forward to. Maybe you made some New Year’s Resolutions, and maybe you watched a parade or some football on TV. But, other than that, the holiday season is basically over.

So, what can we look forward to in the new year? I’d like to challenge you to take a closer look at how you spend your time in 2018. Are these New Year’s Resolutions? I guess you could call them that, but I’d like to think it’s the beginning of a whole new way of life. Try to be intentional about these things this year, and I feel like they will become lifelong habits.

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This year:

Spend less time complaining, and more time praising.

Spend less time observing, and more time participating.

Spend less time bragging, and more time complimenting.

Spend less time gossiping, and more time praying.

Spend less time hoarding, and more time giving.

Spend less time resisting God, and more time agreeing with Him.

 

I pray that 2018 will be a happy and blessed year for all of you, and that these new ways of spending time will change your life in a positive way forever!

Karen

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Love

The recent events in our country make me sad. They even make me angry. For over 35 years, I have tried to teach youth about love. The one Bible verse that more people know than any other is John 3:16: For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. Right there, in a nutshell, is the message of our God. He love us. He loves us so much that He sent His only Son to suffer and die for us. Any parent knows what a sacrifice that is. To know that your child is going to suffer because of someone else’s sin, and yet to allow it – that has to be the hardest thing in the world. But it speaks volumes about love. If God had not done that, we would all be “perishing” because of our sin.

Based on that type of love, we, as Christians, are also commanded to love others. 1 John 4:7-8: Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

These are the things I have tried to share with all the teenagers I have encountered in my ministry: God love us, and we are to love Him and love other people. I have helped them to brainstorm about ways to show love; I have fussed at them whenever thoughtlessly racist names or remarks come from their mouths; I have taught lessons, showed videos, and lead Bible studies dealing with what it means to love our fellow human beings.

In my heart, I have hoped that our country and our world was moving forward and progressing in understanding one another, and that some of the racist attitudes and actions of the past were put behind us. I have joyously worshipped and studied with people of all races, and I have disdained groups and organizations that perpetuated hatred and violence. Despite the publicized stories to the contrary, I have steadfastly continued to believe that our society is moving in the right direction in terms of unity and fellowship.

This past week has sorely tested that belief. It saddens me to know that there are still people who look at another person and hate them just because of how they look. (Whether it is race, body type, tattoos, hair style, obvious mental or physical disabilities, or economic status) It makes me angry to know that some of these people will do intentional bodily harm to those who are different, and believe that it is their right to do so. It angers me to the point that I myself am perilously close to hating those people.

When I find myself thinking about someone and wishing them harm, I know I have crossed a line. In my times of prayer these last few days, God has reminded me that we are to be about love. NO, I do not love the actions or attitudes of those who spew hate and do violence. NO, I do not love the wedge of division that these people attempt to drive between us as human beings. But, I will pray for them. I will continue to do all I can to spread the message of love in the face of all the hate we are being subjected to. For, I believe that if anyone accepts the love of God that has been freely offered, that love has the power to change a person – both attitudes and actions. So, as sad as I am, and yes, even as angry as I am, I will continue to preach the message of love. I pray to God that more people will hear it!

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Pride

In less than 24 hours, our mission group will be on our way to Guatemala. We are excited about the trip, and some are a bit anxious. For some, it will be their first time on a plane; for many, their first time traveling internationally. Please keep us in your prayers. We leave tomorrow, June 16, and return on June 24.

This morning, my devotion was about pride. It talked about how the world tends to teach us that we are entitled to pride, but the Bible warns us about it. The devotion was based on the story of Haman in the book of Esther. Haman though he was “hot stuff” because he was second in command to the king. So, he had a law passed that everyone had to bow down to him. Basically, he set himself up to be worshipped as a god. However, there was one man who would not bow down. Mordecai was a Jew who worshipped the true God and refused to worship Haman. Because of his pride, Haman decided that Mordecai and all the Jews should be put to death. That’s not how things turned out, however, because the one true God intervened. Pride ended up costing Haman his life. The final takeaway of the devotion was “Let’s take a hard look at our motives today to be sure that it’s God we’re elevating, and not ourselves.”

Focus is important. Whatever you might be proud of, realize that it is nothing compared to God. Whatever we do, wherever we go, there is only One God, and we are not Him. As I was praying about our upcoming mission trip, my prayers ran in three distinct directions. 1. I pray for the safety of our team, as we travel and as we minister. 2. I pray for unity and fellowship among our team and those we work with. 3. I pray that our team sees this trip for what it is – an opportunity to help spread the Love of God. I pray that we don’t look at it as an adventure or just another trip. I pray that we don’t consider ourselves more important than the mission itself. Please join me in prayer for these things.

Yes, I am proud of this group for what we are undertaking. But, I pray that God will continue to remind me that HE is the reason for this trip, and the only thing that matters is the work we do for Him while we are there.

You can check my Facebook page for updates while we are gone.

Karen

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2017 in Uncategorized