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“she looks forward to the future with joy”

As I worked in my garage, I heard the above verse (from Proverbs 31:25) and pondered it’s message.

“she”

the great and lofty Proverbs 31 woman (aka. the stick my finger in my throat, as if to gag, whenever I hear reference to this impossibly perfect lady).

“looks forward”

not back, but forward … anticipation.

“to the future”

what is to come … no one knows what that might be.

“with joy”

not happiness, but joy … that delightful contentedness that has more to do with peace than with a smile plastered across her face.

“she looks forward to the future with joy”

This lady, written of in Proverbs 31:25, is looking ahead to whatever may come … the good, the bad, the downright ugly, with a contentedness and no clenched teeth.

She is not stressing, fearful of what tomorrow might bring, she is accepting of whatever may come, joyfully.

Another way to put it, is that she goes to bed at night not worrying about what she must do in the tomorrow, but excited for the day to come.

I keep wondering, how does she sleep?

Maybe more of us need to look forward to our future with joy.

 

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Living in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia, I am well acquainted with Hope … not with a small ‘h’ but a big one.

Hope is the community East of Chilliwack. A small town with a picturesque view of the Fraser River and the mountains. A town more familiar to people who stop and keep going.

For our family it is the home of the camp of church family retreats, as well as the summer camp of our son.

The signs indicating the approach to Hope offer much opportunity for jesting …

“almost to Hope”

“don’t go beyond Hope”

“lets visit Hope”

But when we say those things we are not referring to Hope as a place, but hope as something to hold.

Don’t we all want that hope-thing to hold tightly in our hands? in our hearts?

I recently read a post by Ann Voskamp, called How to Keep Hoping for the Things that Seem Impossible, and she told a story of hope … unexpected hope.

The following are only segments of that post, but it is SO worth it to click on the link and read the entire story.

Who believes in dreams anymore?
Who believes in unseen things,
in impossible things,
in the things you can’t measure and control and deduce and reduce and wrap up in a reasonably neat and timely package
and who in this cynical world remembers how to find  Hope?”

Time can’t dictate dreams or hijack hope or determine destination.

Time may have hands on the clock but it’s arms are too weak to rob anybody of hope, steal anybody’s prayers, destroy anybody’s joy.

And So what if time’s got hands on a clock — it’s God who has His Hands on the universe. Every little thing is going to be okay because God is working good through every little thing.

All that’s happening is just happening to make miracles. There are miracles always unfolding under the impossibles. 

Joys are always on their way to us,” writes Amy Carmichael. “They are always traveling to us through the darkness of the night. There is never a night when they are not coming.”

Because there is never a night where joys are not coming to us, there is never a road that can’t arrive at Hope. Circumstances can go ahead and run out of time — but the courageous refuse to run out of hope.

We can always hope because there is always joy traveling to us down the unexpected roads.

And because the thing is: Hope always has a cost and hope is always worth it, because who wants the cheap and deadened alternative? Hope fuels the soul to impossible places.”

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Working in a Christian school means each week begins with a devotional and prayer with my colleagues. There are two that have stood out to me, and their messages quite diverse.

For one, the message included the sharing of stories of really tough, bad and unfair circumstances in the lives of people dear to the one speaking.

I could relate to that devotional! Haven’t we all had times of wondering what on Earth God was thinking in allowing travesties to occur to the innocent, the unaware? Haven’t we all looked heaven-ward with more questions than answers? Haven’t we all had times of wondering where was God?

The other devotional was focused on joy, and how joy is something we can experience, on the inside, even when the circumstances of life are negative. I believe it is what the Bible refers to as “the peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

The two, for me, fit together perfectly.

The first is representative of the reality of living in this sin-filled, imperfect world.

The second is the reminder that, though our circumstances may be bad, Christ offers joy. Not a silly, trite, just put a smile on and be happy sort of joy, but a joy that we can have because God does understand the big picture. We can cry our tears of sorrow, and sadness over unfair circumstances, while still knowing that God’s hand is on every detail of the canvas of our lives.

Henri Nouwen, in his book “Here and Now: Living in the Spirit,” said it well of joy :

“Joy is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing — sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death — can take that love away.

“Joy is not the same as happiness. We can be unhappy about many things, but joy can still be there because it comes from the knowledge of God’s love for us. We are inclined to think that when we are sad we cannot be glad, but in the life of a God-centered person, sorrow and joy can exist together. That isn’t easy to understand, but when we think about some of our deepest life experiences, such as being present at the birth of a child or the death of a friend, great sorrow and great joy are often seen to be parts of the same experience. Often we discover the joy in the midst of the sorrow. I remember the most painful times of my life as times in which I became aware of a spiritual reality much larger than myself, a reality that allowed me to live the pain with hope. I dare even to say: ‘My grief was a place where I found joy.’ Still, nothing happens automatically in the spiritual life. Joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. It is a choice based on the knowledge that we belong to God and have found in God our refuge and our safety and that nothing, not even death, can take God away from us.”

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It is so satisfying to awaken on Friday morning, knowing that it is the end of the week of schedules, the beginning of the weekend of rest, or fun, or refreshment (not if you have kids in soccer, basketball, or hockey … but, stick with me).

I think I really love Friday even more than Saturday, because Friday is the day of anticipation, the day of looking forward.

As I awaken this Friday morning, after delighting in the day that it is, I will mentally run through my day … mostly to anticipate what I might have forgotten (and that is the stage of life I am at). I will look at each wild and wonderful step of my day with more joy than I might on a Monday morning, feeling confident that it will be a great and successful day. I will hop, skip and jump my way through the morning preparations, believing that :

it is Friday … I can do anything

Sometimes, because I am living my Friday like a person on speed, unexpected things happen, undesirable things happen … and my joy crown starts to tarnish. The thrill of :

it is Friday … I can do anything

begins to cloud over in disappointment.

Some days I just need to keep my focus!

So, today, I share with you a little prayer, a blessing to start your day … to help you keep focus on the joy that is not dependent on things going your (or my) way.

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I love having my son in my life.

He and I share some of the coolest debates about action heros (Marvel or DC comics?). He most strongly shares my love of the Narnia stories. We go to all of the action hero movies (Avengers is one of my favorite movies of all time). And, through him, I have experienced the Hobbit for the first time.

Thankfully hubby really isn’t into such frivolous modes of entertainment, so I do not have to share our son in this area.

Lately, my man-child has been enjoying Harry Potter.

I had only read the first book in the series with my eldest daughter when she was young (as a lover of Disney princesses, she had no time for the Harry Potter series).

Regularly I get updates on the storyline, the characters, and the excitement … I do a significant amount of SNA …

smile … nod … agree

I often feel the glazed look come over my face, and pray that I might be able to maintain enough interest to ask appropriate questions, so as to ensure that my precious child know that I love him enough to stay interested in his interests.

The other night the fog lifted and my attention was fully his as he described to me a dementor. According to my man-child a dementor is:

“a non-being that reaps the souls of the living, of happiness, creating much fear and terror and sadness in the minds of the livings bringing them to their darkest memories … they pretty much make you live in your darkest nightmares.”

It really pretty much describes the shortened days of winter for me.

For someone else the dementor might be the process of divorce.

For someone else the dementor might be their present job.

For someone else the dementor might be the mourning of a loved one.

For someone else the dementor might be a struggling relationship.

For someone else the dementor might be a time of illness.

For someone else the dementor might be financial difficulties.

For someone else the dementor might be depression.

For someone else the dementor might me ….. (fill in the blank).

Whatever it might be, at some point in the lives of all, we are faced with a dementor … one “that reaps the souls of the living, of happiness, creating much fear and terror and sadness.”

The dementor reminds me of what Jesus called the thief, in John 10:10, “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

That thief is the dementor of all dementors, the destroyer of all destroyers, the biggest soul-sucker of them all, the Prince of darkness. It is he who sucks the life from us.

Life … the most miraculous gift of all. Through living we uncover our passions, and put them to their best use. Through living we commune with our Creator. Through living we experience joy.

But, Jesus also encourages us, in John 16:22, “now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”

Hope for this day!

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I admit, as real as life is and can be, I am a hopeless romantic.

My eyes leak during heart-touching movies, and books. I sniffle when I hear of the spouse of an elderly person passing away, I sniff at weddings, and I love to have couples tell how they met or how they got engaged. Quite simple I am mush on the inside.

As I was cleaning and purging this summer I came across an article that I had clipped from the local newspaper way back when I was just seventeen.

Dated November 12, 1986 (and now you are computing my age … tsk, tsk!), the article is titled “Couple Married, Buried in Same Ceremony.” Certainly a title that could attract the eyes and attention of a teenage girl!

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It is a story from Tallahassee, Florida, and the story comes from the funeral for the young couple.

Apparently, Mike Ellis and Toni Goff were engaged to be married. They had met with Rev. Rayburn Blair once for premarital counselling. Then, just fifteen days later, the plane that Mike was flying crashed, sending both into eternity.

At the burial, Rev. Blair officiated, not a burial but a wedding service. He said, ” I’m perfectly at ease in performing this ceremony of holy matrimony, because I heard them already say yes.”

As a teenage girl, this story went straight to my heart …

a young couple planned to wed

they died before their vow exchange

the person officiating their burials knew their joy-filled intent enough to make it a focal point of an otherwise grief-focused ceremony

Is it what the couple would have wanted? No … they would have wanted to be married before they died, but this unorthodox, even romantic, burial might have given hope to their families … and that is what that couple may have desired.

 

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“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). Let me re-phrase that in the Carole Wheaton version … “hey folks, ain’t life just the best when it gets really hard?” … now doesn’t that just build up hope and anticipation in your life?

What the heck was James thinking when he wrote this in the book of James?

Was he some sadomasochistic fool?

Had he just come from the winery?

Perhaps he had been standing too close to the smoke of the grape leaves as they were being burnt at harvest?

Whatever it was, it took over his senses!

But lets look a little closer!

The message starts out, as above :

v.2

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters …”

Not just joy, but pure joy … I am guessing that means the kind of joy that comes from knowing that your life is in the hands of One greater than ourselves. It is the joy that comes from being confident in those hands. The joy that says, ‘I will be in joy because I am in safe hands.’ Aka. I do not know what the future holds but I know who holds the future!

v.2

whenever

Not ‘if ever’ but whenever … sigh … trials are a coming, and they keep coming … get your head out of La La Land and brace yourselves!

v.2

“you face trials of many kinds …”

Many … sigh … many … that is more that a couple!

v.3

“because you know

This would be the reminder that we are being reminded of this joy and trial pairing, because, honey, we have been facing trials since we were knit together in our mother’s wombs, and they will continue until we are planted into the Earth.

v.3

“that the testing of your faith”

I think it is a universal fact that we all hate tests … and if our faith is to be genuine it needs to be refined through testing.

v.3

“produces perseverance

And perseverance is the stuff that helps us to keep getting back on our feet and giving it all a go again, after we fall down. That is the stuff that makes us grow muscles that endure, keep going, not give up.

v.4

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete

Mature and complete … you know, having it all together! Woohoo! There might be hope that some day I might have it all together! What a hope is that!

v.4

not lacking anything”

To not lack anything means to have everything … everything! That is JOY!

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,
whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete,
not    lacking    anything.”
James 1:2-4

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