Gladiolas of Gladness

It is summertime and I love the beauty of fresh flowers. Gladiolas are a blossom I remember my mother planting. These bulbs need to be placed in the ground each spring and dug up in the fall, so they do take extra effort and special handling. Gladiolus are often referred to by the nickname of glads. In The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp tells of sharing gladness with people by taking them bouquets of glads.

The gladiolus is a flowering plant in the iris family. It is sometimes called the sword lily. When I think about a sword, I am reminded of the sword of the Spirit. Ephesians 6:17 says, Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” A spear of gladiolus flowers is a beautiful sword just as the Word of God is a beautiful sword of the Spirit.

Let me share some verses of gladness from God’s Word as well as some images of the floral glads. While you read the following scriptures, I want you to imagine yourself receiving a bouquet of glads filled with gladness.

You (the Lord) have put gladness in my heart
Psalm 4:7 NASV

This is the day the LORD has made.
We will rejoice and be
glad in it.
Psalm 118:24 NLT

Don’t be afraid, my people. Be glad now and rejoice,
for the LORD has done great things.
Joel 2:21 NLT

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be
glad all our days.
Psalm 90:14 NIV

For the LORD your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with
gladness.
With His love, He will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.
Zephaniah 3:17 NLT

Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and His bride has made herself ready.
Revelation 19:7 NIV

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
Psalm 16:9 NIV

Joyfully,
Cheryl

*Click on images to find the credit for appropriate images.

A Journey to Bethlehem – Joy

 

advent-wreath-1(The first week of this Advent series I shared that the primary color of the Advent candles was purple, signifying the importance of repentance for us to prepare for celebrating the birth of Jesus. The third candle is often pink representing joy or rejoicing. It reveals a shift in the season away from repentance towards celebration. This week we light the candle of joy.)

The Wise Men were still traveling, Mary and Joseph had reached their destination, and now I encounter the shepherds on their way to Bethlehem. The shepherds had the shortest distance to travel to Bethlehem of any of these sojourners. They only needed to go approximately 3.2 miles from the fields where they were caring for their sheep to Bethlehem. While on my own spiritual journey to Bethlehem, I believe I would have traveled the Route of Joy with the shepherds.

shepherds clipart NOTEshepherds-clipart-noteLuke 2:8-14 records how the shepherds first heard about the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. The night He was born, they were in nearby fields taking care of their sheep. An angel personally delivered the message of Jesus’ birth to these men. The angel specifically told them that they would find this newborn baby in a manger. The shepherds were comfortable thinking about going to see Jesus in a manger because they knew they most likely they would be surrounded by more sheep and other animals. Luke 2:15-16 says, “When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us. So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.” I believe it was a joyous journey for them as they hurried along the route to Bethlehem. I believe they may have said words similar to those of Paul in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” These words and this road definitely need to be part of my spiritual journey to Bethlehem. I like traveling the Route of Joy!

To make sure that I stay upon the Route of Joy, I rely upon the Lord’s guidance promised in Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” I also realize that the journey will not always be easy, so I claim Nehemiah 8:10 that says, “the joy of the LORD is your strength.” While stumbling along the Route of Joy at night, I might cry and weep because I may fear that I have lost my way. However, I can be assured that “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” according to Psalm 30:5.

Preparing for Christmas can sometimes lead me down a stressful path rather that my following the Route of Joy. There is an acronym for JOY that helps me keep the right perspective. It is J=Jesus, O=Others, and Y=Yourself. If I remember to focus upon this goal, I will be filled with joy. My Advent, my spiritual journey to my spiritual Bethlehem, will bring me more joy and allow me to share this joy with others if I give Jesus priority. He not only needs to be born in my life but I also need to allow Him to live in my life every day.

My Reader, I join the author of the gospel of John in sharing with you the following words of Jesus, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete,found in John 15:11. I share my journey on the Route of Joy with you so that you too may encounter joy not only during this Christmas season but throughout the entire year. Let’s keep traveling together!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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* Bold type words are my choice of emphasis.

Broken for a Purpose

 

humility-2perfume-bottle-1And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned
that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an
alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she
began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her
head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.
Luke 7:37-38

broken-alabaster-jarbroken-heartBefore this woman could anoint Jesus’ feet with her perfume, the vial or jar that contained the perfume had to be broken. However, the alabaster jar was not the only thing that was broken in this scriptural story. This woman experienced a broken heart when she realized her sinfulness. Then in gratitude for the forgiveness offered to her by Jesus, she chose to break the vile of perfume and anoint the feet of Jesus. The cost most likely was her life’s savings, yet it saved her life for eternity. In a sense, she may have been prophetically and symbolically preparing Jesus’ body for burial. She may have been one of only a few people who truly understood that the total cost of forgiveness was Jesus’ life. Not only did she anoint Jesus feet with perfume, but she also washed His feet with her tears. I believe her tears came from her broken heart. These tears exuded a fragrance as pleasing to Jesus as the aroma of the perfume from the broken bottle. Listen to a couple of scriptures. First, Psalm 34:18 says, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Then Paul begins II Corinthians 2:15 saying, “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ… We, and the sinful woman, become as fragrant perfume when we are broken of our sinful past.

perfume-bottle-2tears-3The woman’s tears reveal brokenness in two unique ways. First, she was broken because of the remorse she felt for her former life of sin; so she shed tears of sorrow. Next, she cried tears of joy. Although still experiencing brokenness, the woman wept these tears because she realized that she had obtained something she did not deserve. Her tears were mingled with sorrow and gratitude. Psalm 30:5 says, “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” I have heard it said that we can only be as happy as we have been sad. The height of our joy is determined by the depth of our sorrow. Psalm 56:8 NLT says, “You have collected all my tears in your bottle.” This is amazing to me! The Lord keeps all my tears in a bottle similar to the perfume vial. Personal tears are just as precious to the Lord as costly perfume. May we be aware of the progression of tears beginning as tears of sorrow followed by tears of joy. While one is not possible before the other, both are kept in a bottle by the Lord.

towel-6IMGP4739The woman’s brokenness is further revealed by her wiping Jesus’ feet with her hair. First, she washed His feet with her tears and then she dried them with her hair, not a towel. She gave of herself; she did not just use something handed to her by someone else. She served Jesus by giving of herself. In a sense, her actions were a prophetic portrayal of how Jesus would later wash the feet of His disciples. John 13:4-5 states, “so He got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had wrapped around Him.” After washing their feet, Jesus explained why He had done this by saying in John 13:15-17, I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” Whether it be through actions by the woman or by Jesus, the message is clear that we are to be servants. Again there a progression that is significant for this woman. Restating, first she had to express tears of remorse before she could experience tears of joy. Then her tears of joy led to her desire to serve others. After she had experienced the love of Christ, she wanted to share that love with others around her.

My Reader, we are still called to apply God’s Word to our lives.
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Broken hearts and broken vials of perfume
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Tears of sorrow and tears of joy retained in God’s blessed bottle
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Towels as tokens of ourselves expressing our willingness to be servants
All of these are significant scriptural symbols of our willingness to be broken for a purpose – for God’s purpose. Each of us must have a broken heart before we can serve with our whole heart.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Raindrops and Rainbows

raindrops-2rainbow-1A few days ago an ordinary experience became an extraordinary enlightenment. The weather had been extremely hot and humid. Finally the rain came. I stood in the doorway watching the rain descend as the air temperature decreased. It was refreshing. I became aware of how high in the sky the raindrops originated. This was certainly not the first time I had watched rain fall, but the point of origin of the rain captured my attention. I knew the raindrops always spilled from the clouds above, but that day they appeared to be the Lord’s teardrops falling from heaven to earth. I was mesmerized by the long liquid lines of rain falling from a point I could not even see. I was reminded of a comment I had recently read in the novel The Looking Glass by Richard Paul Evans,   “I have heard it said of Cork (Ireland) that the sky doesn’t rain, it weeps.” Yes, I interpreted what I was seeing as God weeping. Finally other responsibilities called me away from the door where I was standing as the rain continued to fall. A short time later, nature beckoned me back to the doorway in time for me to see a double rainbow spanning the sky that previously had been filled with raindrops. My thoughts then turned to the promise God made to Noah in Genesis 9:13, “I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.” God was in the raindrops and He was in the rainbows. A double rainbow spoke to me of a double portion of His blessings through His faithfulness. Raindrops and rainbows are part of both the natural and the supernatural realms.

My thoughts go back to my experience with the rain shower There would not have been the atmospheric conditions for the creation of a rainbow if it had not rained. I can make a similar application to my spiritual life. I would not have an appreciation for the blessings of the Lord if I did not encounter difficult situations that cause me to reach out for His help. All of us will experience both sorrow and joy in His presence. Psalm 30:5 says, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Raindrops fall during the dark times and rainbows appear during times of joy. In Desiring God, John Piper  quotes a Minquass proverb saying, “The soul would have no rainbow if the eye had no tears.” We have a greater appreciation for the joyous times when we contrast them to the more difficult times.

Is there any validity to my perceiving natural raindrops as being symbolic of the Lord’s supernatural teardrops? Does God actually weep? In her AnGeL blog, Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy and Ruth Graham, has mentioned that her mother once said if there are any tears shed in heaven, they are going to be shed over all the answers to prayer for which no one ever bothered to ask!” It amazes me to think that I might cause God to weep just because I do not take time to lift up prayer requests to Him! Am I causing God to shed teardrops as raindrops rather than allowing Him to create a rainbow of fulfilled promises into someone’s life?

Sometimes we experience rain showers. Sometimes we experience rainbows. Sometimes we experience sunshine. All are needed for plants and people. Ecclesiastes 3:4 states that there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Emotions, like weather, can be hard to forecast and predict. All are part of God’s plan. However, our understanding of weather changes and emotional changes may be different from the Lord’s perspective.  I again quote from The Looking Glass by Richard Paul Evans, “To choose life is to choose sorrow as well as joy, pain as well as pleasure.”  We must remember that the Lord is more concerned about our being holy than our being happy. Or, something we might consider being in the category of sorrow may be in the category of sacred for God. The outcome of these times may not be easy but they will be eternal. May we be aware of how the Lord desires to work in our lives and allow our ordinary experiences to become times of extraordinary enlightenment!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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JoyFULLy

freejoy

 In Your (God’s) presence is fulness of joy.
Psalm 16:11 NKJV

When thinking about how I would sign my blog, I chose “Joyfully, Cheryl” because I felt this described my overall temperament and because joy is what I want to convey to my readers.  Joy comes from my inner being and does not depend upon outward circumstances.  I may be happy when things are going right, but I can choose to let joy bubble up within my soul even when things are not going so well.  I felt this signature would give my readers a positive conclusion.
I love when I make a decision and then God confirms it!  Shortly after I decided upon the signature of “Joyfully, Cheryl”, I began reading the book One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  Ann is an amazing writer and I am grateful for her choice of words. I will refer to her book by page number at various times and you can click on her link given in this paragraph.

This the day that the Lord has made and I will rejoice and be glad in it!
Psalm 118:24

Each morning when I wake up, these are the first words I speak in my mind. To be joyful and to rejoice is a conscious commitment I make every morning.  We have an epigram on the wall in our hallway that says, “Find the JOY in Life.”  This encourages me to actively seek joy and not just expect it to come to me.  One way to experience joy is to rejoice.

I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
Habakkuk 3:18

Since “joy” is a noun and “rejoice” is a verb, the feeling of joy begins with the action of rejoicing.  But, how do I rejoice?  I do it by giving thanks!  In order to be full of joy, I must empty myself of anything that is not joy.  This includes my no longer being pridefull or fearfull or hatefull etc.  I must be thankfull in order to be joyfull.

Be joyful always.
I Thessalonians 5:16

It is interesting that Paul tells me in this verse to always be joyful and then in verse 18 he tells me to give thanks in all circumstances.  He also states at the end of this verse that this is God’s will for me. God and joy and thanks all fit together!  My situation may not be joyful, but if I am thankful to God for being with me in the situation I can experience a deep joy and peace that goes beyond my understanding. Ann Voskamp describes this as “Ugly Beautiful”.

Consider it pure joy, my brethren, whenever you face trials of many kinds.
James 1:2

Why must I consider trials a joy?  Because verses 3 and 4 say that testing and  persevering lead to my being mature and complete, not lacking anything.  If I do not lack anything, then I will be filled with joy!  Ann Voskamp says, “True saints know that the place where all the joy comes from is far deeper than that of feelings….Joy is God and God is joy and joy doesn’t negate all other emotions – joy transcends all other emotions.” (p. 176)  “All emotions” includes whatever I might feel during trials.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

Ann Voskamp describes joy as being “the realest reality, the fullest life, and joy is always given, never grasped.  God gives gifts, and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy.” (p. 57)  She also says that counting blessings unlocks the mystery of joy. (p.82)  “We really can’t experience deep joy in God until we deep trust in God.” (p.149)Trusting God, or having faith in God, is another key to experiencing joy!
  My Reader, I pray that you will be filled with this kind of joy and peace today.  As I sign my name at the end of each blog, I am extending joy to you.

Joyfully,
Cheryl

Thought for the week: “Joy is God’s lifestyle.” (One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, p.117)