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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Plans can be Idols

This time, 11 years ago, I would have never imagined and planned for living a life without my mom.

This time, 9 years ago, I would have never guessed I still had five years of formal schooling left (4 for bachelors and 1 for bible school).

This time, 7 years ago, I would never have dreamed that my plans to go to Maine for seven weeks would turn into nine weeks and then would turn into an every summer thing.

This time, 5 years ago, I had just graduated UTPA with a teaching degree and thought I’d go to Bible school and then come back and teach at IDEA…..yeah, that didn’t go as planned.

This time, 4 years ago, I was wrapping up things at NBBI and praying in earnest for a job at a Christian school, specifically one particular one in Canada but instead God sent me packing back to Texas to substitute teach of all things. 

This time, 3 years ago, I was making the most permanent move yet, moving to New Hampshire to teach at a Christian School that I didn’t even know existed 2 years prior to that. 

This time, last year, I would have never imagined the things that my school went through when it comes to tragedy and adversity but we are all the stronger for it.

This time, four weeks ago, I would not have painted the scenarios life has dropped in my life.  I wouldn’t have inserted the death, pain, tears and decisions that I would face in this last month but alas, here they are.

Knowing all that I know, you’d think I’d stop trying to be such a “planner.”  Knowing that God’s course for my life is not generally the one I foresaw, why do I even bother dreaming?  Is there in a danger of hoping, wishing, dreaming and pursuing?  No, unless you hold so tight to the ideal that any hiccup throws you for a loop.  That’s where I am at.  I idolize stability, norms and regularity.  Having a plan is a comfort zone for me and all these loops keep me out of my lazy boy and on my toes.  I’m rather skiddish on my toes.  I like to run and hide when the going gets tough.  I do my absolute best to prepare for every possible scenario and try to minimize potential let downs but life doesn’t bend to my will. 

Any why should it?  Why should God, who has the absolute best plan in mind, take into consideration my uneducated desires?  The adventure I call life hasn’t been easy but boy, has it been a ride drawing me ever closer to the anchor that holds me in my seat on this roller coaster. And did God ever promise it would be comfortable, anyway?  Everything in Scripture seems to be quite on the contrary to that. 

Lord, help me to have open hands and open eyes to see what You are doing, where You are leading and faith to know that I can face it even when it’s hard.  The easy door is not always the right one.  Help my heart to listen and obey.  Help me to trust and have faith.  Lord, I believe….please please please help my unbelief.  This is my prayer.

Joy Lynn

Monday, May 26, 2014

Sounding Board

I’m not the best at making deep authentic lasting friendships.  Something about trust walls being built high around my heart and constantly testing genuine-ness.  I get that I’m not an easy person to love but I am so very very thankful for my inner circle of friends.  I am thankful for the women they are, their eagerness to pray and point to God and how they lead a grace filled life not only in extending grace to others but walking in grace themselves.  I am truly blessed.

But sometimes I regret how godly my friends are. (NOTE: please keep reading before you take off and run with that.)

I, personally, have a big decision coming up the turn pike and I feel like it’s getting towards crunch time as I need to let both sides know so they can continue to plan with or without me.  For at least a week now, I’ve been praying a lot about it asking for clear direction.  I’ve been taking scraps of paper and constantly writing pros and cons charts hoping to get a clearer view.  For days, I didn’t even mention it as a prayer request to these friends just so that I could pray myself and seek God for an answer but nothing was coming.

So I reached out yesterday to a hand full and asked their advice.  I gave them my dilemma and an abbreviated version of my pro/con consideration list.  Within 24 hours, the whole handful replied back to me with simple “I’m praying for you” messages.  Arg!!!  My email was not a prayer request…it was an opinion request.  I need opinions.  I need facts.  I need reason.  I need my heart motives to be questioned so I can make a decision because there isn’t an easy right or wrong door option.  But instead of questions…instead of advice….instead of what I thought would be words of wisdom…I got a commitment to pray and a charge to pray myself.

Yeah, I love when my prayer life is questioned.  I promise you, I had been praying but nothing was coming so I sought out some sounding boards.  People that I knew would listen, who had hearts that wanted to understand and whose opinions and advice I trusted.  And they were sounding boards in that they listened and processed my dilemma.  They just didn’t respond in the way I wanted.

But it got to thinking this morning as I battled with frustration….how many times when people have come to me with something, my reply is “I’ll pray for you.”  I do my best not to say that vainly and truly do intend to pray but I don’t have a road map for them and I don’t have answers and some whimsical word to share just ain’t coming but I know God is in it and He can help much more than I ever could.  Yet, here I sit, frustrated beyond compare because my friends just pulled that card on me. 

The conversation in my head eventually came full circle though…  It started with… 
1 .       I am glad they are praying but I asked for advice. 
2.       I just wanted a sounding board.  Someone who could listen and help me process my thoughts. 
3.       I have been praying….God, what am I supposed to do?  How am I even supposed to hear your   answer on this? 
4.       …………………maybe the sound board I need, needs to be me listening to You.

Maybe this week I had the whole prayer part down.  I’m a pretty wordy person so writing/talking isn’t hard for me to do and I’ve been throwing them up to God regularly.  But I guess I can’t say I put any concentrated time or effort into really listening for His answer.  I’ve been looking for neon green signs but He speaks in a whisper.  I’ve been focusing so much on speed bumps, that I haven’t looked up to see direction from my GPS (Godly positioning system).  

That sounding board I need….yeah….it’s me.  I was hoping I could get God’s answer the easy way by asking for it from His people instead of having to wait.  God, may I be quick to listen and slow to speak in Your presence today and everyday, really (James 1:19).  Help me to be that friend to others as well, quick to hear but slow to share, leaving room for You to have Your way.    

Until Next Time,
In Christ,
Joy Lynn

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Church--Broken yet Beutiful

A portion of “Stain Glass Masquerade” by Casting Crowns

“Am I the only one who's traded in the altar for a stage?
The performance is convincing and we know every line by heart…
Only when no one is watching can we really fall apart.

But would it set me free, If I dared to let you see,
The truth behind the person that you imagine me to be?
Would your arms be open?  Or would you walk away?
Would the love of Jesus be enough to make you stay?

Are we happy plastic people, under shiny plastic steeples,
With walls around our weakness and smiles to hide our pain?
But if the invitation's open to every heart that has been broken,
Maybe then we close the curtain on our stained glass masquerade.”
Why try to rewrite what someone before has already done so beautifully?  

I had the wonderful blessing and privilege of growing up in a church going family.  I had parents, aunts and uncles who were all involved in the ministry of that church.  It was a great privilege, indeed.  But as for me personally, though I grew up in the culture, I treated it more as religion and ritual than I did a relationship with a living God.  I grew up being known as the “good” girl or goody-two-shoe type.  I knew the right things to say and I knew when not to say the wrong things.  I served in ministry teams.  I put my smile on Sunday and knew to not show the bad sides.  Generally speaking, I wore nicer clothes (rather than super casual) and sneered at those who would openly swear or mock at church.  How dare they….don’t they know, this is a church?  My self-righteousness ran high, even though I innately had none to claim.  I was just like them on any other day.

That began to change right about the time I turned 18.  The head knowledge I had been storing away for the final test day, finally sunk down to my heart and paved a way for God’s grace to pour over my sin and shame and His Spirit has been showing me how to do the same.  I relish the opportunity to visit churches who wear their hearts on their sleeves.  That you walk in and can tell these people inside….they are broken people, coming to the altar for forgiveness, guidance and strength to face another day.  

And maybe that’s because that’s what church is.  Church is not a physical building.  Church is being present with God and that happens everywhere.  When Jesus was living and breathing, He was church on the move, teaching the masses that followed.  But now, we the church are his called out body (Eph. 1:22-23) seeking to serve him and our physical body is the temple of His Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20).  People may refuse to come to a building with a steeple or with a sign that says “church” on the front, but we, the church, can meet them where they are at and love them like He loves us.

And how does He love us?
With an everlasting love….ever forgiving….ever gracious….accepting us where we are but helping us become who we can become in Him. 

Church is not a building. It’s not a time slot. It’s not Sunday.  It’s not suits and dresses.  It’s not perfect.

It’s us.  Broken yet beautiful. 

Until next time,
In Christ,
Joy Lynn

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Mother's Day Tribute (5/11/2011)

A repost from several years ago but seems like a timely reminder once again.  The brevity of life keeps coming to the forefront of my mind with recent deaths and tragedy.  The regret of what was left unsaid can be daunting, so lets be vigilant in showing our love, forgiving easy and living with no regrets.

As Mother’s Day approaches,
I think of yesterdays passed,
All the things I didn’t say,
Are the first thoughts that come back.

A hug after a fight,
“I love you, goodbye”
A kiss goodnight,
All the chances I let slip right on by.

I now look upon my friends,
They frantically look for the perfect gift,
They then ask me,
“What would you get?”

I’m flabbergasted at the sound of this,
Don’t you know, I need not worry about this?
But then I think of what I wish I could do,
Then I softly say...

Tell your mom you love her,
Tell her everyday,
Because you never know what day will be the last
To hear her say the same.

Joy Lynn Chambers

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Some thoughts on Mother’s Day

Though not all of us women are mothers, we all do have one.  Some are blessed to still have theirs in their life and this day is one in which they are reminded to acknowledge all that their mother has done for them.  Some do not have their mothers in their life, be it separated by death or by choice.  These women may feel orphaned and alone on days like this but I am thankful that there is a God who wants to adopt us and be a comfort especially to the mother and fatherless (Ephesians 1:5; Psalm 68: 5-6).

Though not all of us are mothers, it’s not always by choice.  My heart breaks for the women that have tried time and time again to bear a child.  It pains me to know that while some women consider having a baby an unnecessary burden and give their child up, there are countless others that would pay money to have a child of their own but have not.  Or maybe you were blessed to keep your child for an extended period of time but where taken aback by their sudden and premature death.  To these women, I send prayers for comfort and peace on this day.  I pray that God gives you grace unspeakable to get through this day with dignity and the hope that God has a plan for you and your life even if it hasn’t panned out the way you dreamed.

Though some of us are mothers, I imagine it’s not always easy.  As some see their children prosper and make them proud, others are discouraged by the rebellion and direction in which their children head.  For these mothers, I pray for strength today and I pray that your son or daughter will find their way home.

Though some of us don’t have mothers, to call and cherish as our own, I encourage you to seek out women who would pour into your life…who will answer the simple questions like how to fold laundry but also walk you through the harder journeys of life.  Who will be a shoulder to cry on or a wise word well said…..who will not aim to replace or diminish your mother but be a good friend to you instead.  I know the search won’t be easy and I realize the walls may be high but I encourage you to give them a chance because you’ll never know unless you try.  Try to let someone in, refuse to battle alone, because God never meant for us to do it all on our own. 

And now to all the Mothers who happen to be reading this note…..I’m thankful for you.  I am thankful for all the love, health and energy you literally pour out into those whom you have been blessed with.  Your impact in your child’s life is immeasurable.  You were vital to your child’s existence at birth and you are vital as you continue to bring joy, life and light to that child throughout their lives.  Do not underestimate your position in society……you are the mother of what will become our future.  I implore you to continue to teach them and point them to Christ (Ephesians 6:4) and even once they have left the nest, pray earnestly for them to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18).

And lastly, to all the mothers and non-mothers out there.  I am almost positive that each of us has a sphere of influence into which God has placed us.  For me as a teacher, it is my students but it could be the patients of a nurse/doctor, co-workers at Mickey D’s, or a cabin full of campers.  Whatever our sphere of influence is, let today be a reminder, encouragement, and challenge to continually seek to make a difference in the lives around us and pour into others, especially in those younger than us.  Who knows….that young person could be looking to you for their model.  Be wise and be faithful in the role God has given you to play.  Be encouraged…..nothing is in vain (Philippians 2: 14-18). 

Happy Mother’s Day

Until next time,
In Christ,
Joy Lynn

Monday, May 5, 2014

When it rains, it pours----a poem/prayer

When it rains, it pours,
This I know well,
As I toss these coins,
In a wishing well.

Wishing life would slow down…
Wishing friends to be well…
Wishing that the hungry be fed…
Wishing that the lost be led…

Wishing for the sky to clear…
Wishing that I’d feel You near…
Wishing that I’d trust You here…
Run in the rain with no fear…

In the eye of this storm I see You,
“Peace, be still, My dear,”
In the wind and the rain You whisper..
If only my heart would hear.

I see You walking on water,
I hear You bid me near,
But Lord, I cannot swim in this,
I’m frozen and paralyzed in fear.

If only I knew Your power,
If only I trusted Your ways,
If only I reached out to You,
You’d carry me through the waves.

Lord, give me eyes to see,
To know You’re in the midst.
Give my friends and family peace,
And give my anxious heart rest.

-Joy Lynn Chambers