Opportunity for Joy

Opportunity

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (James 1:2–4, NLT).

Opportunities come but lack the power to make us take them. The choice to take hold of, to make use of opportunities that come is always and only ours. An obstacle to the process of seizing opportunities is that we do not always recognize opportunities as opportunities for positive change, as growing-in-His-image opportunities. Especially when the opportunity comes in the form of trouble.

We can more readily see trouble as an opportunity to whine, complain, be immobilized by fear, activate intense efforts to control everything and everyone to manage our anxiety—the list goes on. Yet our Father tells us through the apostle James that trouble is an opportunity for joy. Yes, joy.

The verses indicate that recognizing trouble as an opportunity for joy is tied to knowledge. It is tied to knowing there is a purpose to trouble and the purpose is not to destroy us but to strengthen and mature us. Trouble, an opportunity for joy. And growth.

“Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line—mature, complete, and wanting nothing” (James 1:2-4, VOICE)

Note: A version of this post was published is in the book, Sliced Bread: Food for the Spirit (2016).

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Five Minute Friday: Include

Include

When you write or tell your story,
do not share only the highlights.
Include the heart break.
The still unanswered prayers.
Or those answered with a no.
Or in a manner that you did not ask for.

Include the failures,
not just the successes.
The mistakes that ruptured relationships.
Some of which are healing.
Some, perhaps, never will.

Remember, Romans 15:4, “For all those words which were written long ago are meant to teach us today; that when we read in the scriptures of the endurance of men and of all the help that God gave them in those days, we may be encouraged to go on hoping in our own time” (PHILLIPS).

Remember, Romans 15:4,
and know that the words of your story
can be used of God to teach others,
to show that it is possible
to endure difficult,
heart wrenching events
and keep trusting God.
Your story can be used to encourage others
and help them to go on hoping
in their own circumstances.

When you write or tell your story,
include the wonder and the woe,
so that someone reading it will know
that His grace truly is sufficient,
and He is faithful in all seasons.

FMF

I am joining the Five Minute Friday writing community, hosted by Kate Motaung, for our weekly writing adventure. Please click here to learn about Five Minute Friday. This week’s prompt is, “Include.”

Savoring

Savor (1)

Taste is one of the five traditional senses. It is an effortless process involving, according to Wikipedia, “the sensation produced when a substance in the mouth reacts chemically with taste receptor cells located on taste buds in the oral cavity, mostly on the tongue.” Not a very enticing description, you may agree.

Unless you have the rare condition called “ageusia” which is “an inability to taste, sour, bitter, or salty substances,” all you need to do to taste is to put a substance in your mouth. To savor, however, is more than just tasting. 

To savor is to taste and enjoy completely. Other definitions are “to enjoy the taste or smell of (something) for as long as possible, or for a long time; to have experience of; to taste or smell with pleasure (relish); to delight in.”

Savoring requires us to slow down. It is impossible to savor in a hurry. How about it? Take time right now to savor … this moment, the breath in your lungs, the color of a flower, the smile shifting your cheek bones upward.

Then let us turn our attention to Colossians 1:15-23 (AMP) and savor its truth about Jesus, the Word made flesh, the Bread of Life, and what He has done for us.

15 He is the exact living image [the essential manifestation] of the unseen God [the visible representation of the invisible], the firstborn [the preeminent one, the sovereign, and the originator] of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created in heaven and on earth, [things] visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [that is, by His activity] and for Him. 17 And He Himself existed and is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. [His is the controlling, cohesive force of the universe.] 18 He is also the head [the life-source and leader] of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will occupy the first place [He will stand supreme and be preeminent] in everything. 19 For it pleased the Father for all the fullness [of deity—the sum total of His essence, all His perfection, powers, and attributes] to dwell [permanently] in Him (the Son), 20 and through [the intervention of] the Son to reconcile all things to Himself, making peace [with believers] through the blood of His cross; through Him, [I say,] whether things on earth or things in heaven.

21 And although you were at one time estranged and alienated and hostile-minded [toward Him], participating in evil things, 22 yet Christ has now reconciled you [to God] in His physical body through death, in order to present you before the Father holy and blameless and beyond reproach— 23 [and He will do this] if you continue in the faith, well-grounded and steadfast, and not shifting away from the [confident] hope [that is a result] of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which [gospel] I, Paul, was made a minister.

Prayer: Father, Thank You for reconciling us to You through Christ Jesus. Thank You that You want us to know You intimately, and enjoy You and our lives fully.

What are some of the passages of Scripture that you (can) use to savor God and His goodness? Please share the Scripture references in the comments below.

FMF: Adapt

Adapt (1)

Adapt: To adjust (someone or something, especially oneself) to different conditions, a new environment, etc. I can see value in this form of adapting. Flexibility is a useful trait in some circumstances. For example, if I can no longer afford the luxury car I owned when my income was higher, it serves me well to be able to downsize to a less expensive model. I can see value in the ability to adjust to different conditions, a new environment, etc.

Adapt also means, to fit, change, or modify to suit a new or different purpose. I think of the original purpose of humanity; as stated in verses such as Isaiah 43:7, we were created by God for His glory. Any entity that seeks “to fit, change, or modify” us “to suit a new or different  purpose,” other than glorifying Him is to be resisted. (End of 5 minutes).

The challenge, however, is that the pressure “to fit, change, or modify us to suit a new or different purpose” is often subtle. The proposed change of purpose even presented as “rational,” “evidence of maturity,” an “enlightened, contemporary mindset.” We do well to remember that we have an Adversary who wanted our Father’s glory for himself. Having failed in his quest, he seeks to rob our Father of His glory, through us. ABBA, help us to live anchored in the truth that we were created for Your glory and all the glory belongs to You only. Help us evaluate our motives and make sure that we are using the gifts and resources You have entrusted to us to glorify You, not ourselves. In Jesus Name. Amen.

 FMF

I am joining the Five Minute Friday writing community, hosted by Kate Motaung, for our weekly writing adventure. Please click here to learn about Five Minute Friday. This week’s prompt is, “Adapt.”

 

Storms

Storms

“You are either entering in a storm, in the middle of a storm, or coming out of one.” This saying highlights the fact that storms are a part of life. As such it is not a matter of if we are going to experience storms but when.

Where are you in this season? Seeing the signs that a storm is brewing? For example,  growing impatience? Sharp responses? Distance developing in relationships? Or are you in the middle of a storm? Trying to keep your boat afloat? Reeling from the ferocity of the winds of conflict? Or are you coming out of a storm, floating on pieces of what was once a well-built boat? Sometimes it can seem that you are experiencing all three seasons simultaneously in different areas of life.

Wherever you are, may you be encouraged by this promise:

“For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, Nor will My covenant of peace be shaken,” Says the Lord who has compassion on you.

“O you afflicted [city], storm-tossed, and not comforted, Listen carefully, I will set your [precious] stones in mortar, And lay your foundations with sapphires. “And I will make your battlements of rubies, And your gates of [shining] beryl stones, And all your [barrier] walls of precious stones” (Isaiah 54:10-12, AMP).

And know this,

1God is our refuge and strength [mighty and impenetrable],
A very present and well-proved help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
And though the mountains be shaken and slip into the heart of the seas,
3Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains tremble at its roaring. Selah.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her [His city], she will not be moved;
God will help her when the morning dawns.
The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered and were moved;
He raised His voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold [our refuge, our high tower]. Selah.

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has brought desolations and wonders on the earth.
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow into pieces and snaps the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
10 “Be still and know (recognize, understand) that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth.”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold [our refuge, our high tower]. Selah.
(Psalm 46, AMP)

He is with you. And He is for you.

Five Minute Friday: Stuck

Stuck

Racism
1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race

2 a : a doctrine or political program based on the assumption of racism and designed to execute its principles
b : a political or social system founded on racism

3 : racial prejudice or discrimination

Stuck
firmly positioned in place and difficult to dislodge

Racism is firmly positioned in the heart of the United States of America and it is difficult to dislodge. It is difficult to dislodge, in part, because, too many insist that it is part of America’s history but not it’s present. And, with devastating consequences, the “too many” include brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. And brothers and sisters, it has always and will always be true, “We cannot change what we will not acknowledge.” But insight and acknowledgement do not, in themselves, equal change. It is a critical first step but that is all it is, a first step.

What are the other steps? I am not sure, but perhaps, as Deidra Riggs demonstrated in her article, 12 Essential Steps Toward Overcoming Your Addiction to White Privilege, the twelve steps to recovery for those addicted to alcohol, offer a framework for this process.

FMF

 I am joining the Five Minute Friday writing community, hosted by Kate Motaung, for our weekly writing adventure. Please click here to learn about Five Minute Friday. This week’s prompt is, “Stuck.” The definitions for “Racism” and “Stuck” are from merriam-webster.com. 

Tell

Tell (1)
We are all part of a community, regardless of the criteria used to define it.
And in every community,
some of us have things unspoken for various reasons:
The warning to never tell issued in the form of a threat or an entreaty.
Shame.
Uncertainty that what we have to tell is worth speaking out loud.
But we all have something to tell.

For some,
the telling will shatter the silence
where secrecy has nurtured shame.
There may be pain
but there is also freedom in the telling.
And God gives the courage
and grace
needed to give voice
to the unspoken.

You may question whether you will be believed.
Whether you will be ridiculed.
And no guarantee can be provided that you will or will not be.
But what you have to tell needs to be spoken.

Seek counsel if necessary.
Prayer support and cover.
Direction
to find a safe person
to whom you can speak
your truth.

You do not have to share
all the details in the first telling.
Truth is,
you never have to tell all the details
if your healing does not require you to do so.
And know that you have the right
to dictate the pace of your disclosure.
But
because the power of secrets
are broken
when they are revealed,
I pray your telling will begin.


The original version of this poem was published on this blog on August 15, 2014, and a revised version was published in 2016, in the book, Sliced Bread: Food for the Spirit. April 2018 is Sexual Assault Awareness month and also National Child Abuse Prevention month. I am sharing this poem again in honor of survivors and current victims.