Joyful Hearts

05/02/2005

What does the heart long for?
Where is true satisfaction found in a world that seems to spin much too fast, hurt much too long, confuse much too often, cost way too much…

As I sat in front of the Laundromat the other day, in a little truck on loan from friends, I sort of chuckled inside. What have we come to? There was nothing glamorous or exciting about where we found ourselves on this day, and yet there was such joy in my heart—such a peace about God--I knew I wanted to be no place else on this earth. It was not about where we were, about the conditions we were living in or about the vehicle we were driving; it was about so much more than that.

As I sat there I felt so very blessed, and God reminded me of Corrie Ten Boom—of her time in a concentration camp during World War II, and how she endured those conditions. I cannot imagine the hardship she experienced, but I can imagine the peace she felt in her heart and the joy she found in each day simply because she knew the God she served. She knew that even in the midst of her greatest trials, there would be a happy ending to all that she faced.

As I turned to the Psalms this morning, I read:

Many people say, “Who will show us better times?”
Let the smile of your face shine on us, Lord.
You have given me greater joy than those
who have abundant harvests of grain and wine.
I will lie down in peace and sleep, for you alone,
O Lord, will keep me safe.
Psalm 4:6-8 (NLT)

The joy of the Lord truly is our strength. We can be living in the lap of luxury and still be more depressed and lonely and tired than a homeless person living on the street.
What makes the difference?
What fills the heart with joy?
We must know our Creator, our Provider and our Hope for eternity! Nothing else will give us greater joy! Nothing else will help us “lie down in peace and sleep.” Nothing else can cause us to chuckle about the ridiculousness of the situations we find ourselves in when all the luxuries of life seem to have disappeared and yet our hearts experience a peace that transcends all worldly understanding.

“Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life: gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness; it should be rather an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God.” (Oswald Chambers)

I am a big Oswald Chambers fan, as most of you can tell who read my writings. Daily, I read his devotional, “My Utmost For His Highest.” It is filled with insights that go beyond the common-sense way of looking at things. Chambers constantly takes his readers just over that fine line of the typical spiritual life into the supernatural spiritual life that challenges most of us beyond what we ever thought possible. I like that challenge! I like reading along, and then being surprised by just how far he will take this whole relationship with God thing…

I often wondered who this man was behind such spiritual insights, and now I’m starting to get a glimpse of him through a book on his life story called, “Oswald Chambers – Abandoned to God.” It quotes him as saying; “It takes me a long while to realize that God has no respect for anything I bring Him. All He wants from me is unconditional surrender.” How difficult is that for all of us? It is much easier to bring things to God, to work for God, to DO something, anything! Just don’t make me give You everything I have, am and ever hope to be…

And yet that’s the thought that came to me sitting out in front of the Laundromat, “God, I don’t have much at this point, not much left of my worldly goods, but everything I have is Yours.” And in that, there is a richness that fills me that surpasses understanding.

One of the worship songs many of us are familiar with sings in part, “You give and take away…blessed be the Name of the Lord.” I cannot help but think of our son, Phil, every time I sing those words. I can sing them now without choking up, but early on in my grief, I could not utter a sound when those words were being sung around me. It was just too raw, too true, too hard… Now it is such a reality in my life, I can sing them boldly, thankfully and full of joy. Phil was given to us as a precious gift, he was God’s to give and God’s to take away…blessed be the Name of the Lord.

The only way to experience true joy when the blessings of life come is to know they come from a Mighty God. The only way to experience true joy when the greatest blessings of life are taken from us is to know that everything is in the control of our Mighty God—He has not abandoned us, forgotten us or turned a cold shoulder to our needs--He is ever watchful and faithful but we must be abandoned to Him and His ways! Easier said than done!!

Ever wonder why we are sometimes called to raise our hands, to lift them up to the Lord in praise and worship? It can be uncomfortable if we’ve never done it before, but sometimes it is just called for as an expression of giving all we have to our Father in Heaven. When someone is called to surrender, what are they asked to do? Put their hands up, high in the air! Wave a white flag if need be, but let it be known that there is no fight left in them. They have made a decision to walk freely into their captor’s possession.

That is what we must do with our Father. We must surrender, unconditionally! We must leave everything we ever knew of what we thought life looked like behind us and be willing to embrace our Captor’s plan for the rest of our days. And we don’t like that! We are a proud people, a stubborn people, a people who KNOW what is best for us and we don’t want anyone telling us anything different. Do you know what we miss in that KNOWING? We miss the joy of “breathless expectation” that Chambers talks about.

No day is “normal” for us right now. There is no set plan, no consistent schedule to be followed, no clear idea of what is ahead. We are in the middle of recording a CD filled with music and words that hopefully will speak to hearts looking for hope, but we don’t know for sure that it will. We only know we have been called to this, and so we are proceeding forward. We are amazed at all that God is doing in the process, and it does leave us breathless and full of expectation of how God might use what He has given us. It is fun to go to work, although most times it doesn’t appear to be work, nor feel that way.

We are tugged at from every direction, the enemy tirelessly tries to distract us and mislead us and discourage us, but God continually fills us with strength, refocuses us and sends encouragement to us in so many ways and through so many people.

Victory comes from you, O Lord.
May your blessings rest on your people.
Psalm 3:8 (NLT)

About a year and a half ago this musical journey began when my brother started writing songs from some of my messages. He would be at his office, working his normal job, when he would receive an e-mail from me. Sitting at his desk, he would start to dissect the pages of words, reducing them down to song form, as the melody would start to play out in his head. He was in Southern California, and Jim and I were in Florida at the time.

Jim and I had gone out on a bike ride one day while in Florida, and God spoke to my heart about recording my messages on CD, so we talked it over and then I called my brother, Rick, and asked him if he would write a theme song as an intro for the message. He said when his daughter called him to the phone and said, “It’s Aunt Diane,” he knew he had been disobedient…God had asked him to call me the day before to tell me about the song he was working on. When I asked him if he would write us a theme song, he said, “I already did.” That was the beginning of many, many phone conversations and song writing that transpired over the next year and a half, bringing us here, on this day, in a studio recording what we have been given.

Some may say, Rick has joined me in the call to a ministry, but I feel as if God has also called me to join him in his. Rick felt God calling him to the music ministry fifteen years ago, and his prayer then was, “God, I don’t want to just write a song to write a song. I want to put a little music to some words.” Little did we know that I would be the one supplying those words for him, only AFTER all that God would still be taking me through to learn the lessons that were needed so the words I wrote came out of my own suffering and surrendered heart.

As we travel down this path together, we are learning more and more that God does not want our music, He does not want our words, He wants our hearts, and when we will fully surrender our hearts to Him, we can truly start to live our lives in breathless expectation of all that He has in store for the rest of our days on this earth in service to Him.

In all of this process, many on the outside looking in seem to see what we do not. So much so that just this week as God spoke to my heart, “You’re building a ministry,” and I was able to then step out not in presumption, but in obedience to that call, many laugh and say, “Duhhhhh!” I laugh with them, all in good humor, knowing I may be a bit slow on the uptake, but also knowing that in the waiting there are great lessons learned. In not jumping out ahead of God’s calling, it is a decision made not of my own doing but of God’s leading.

“A man with the vision of God is not devoted to a cause or to any particular issue; he is devoted to God Himself.” (O. Chambers)

It has seemed all along that there was only enough light for the step we were on. We knew the CD was to be done. We did not know if after it was done, we would go back to what we were doing before, or simply move on ahead into whatever might be next. But just this week the light has moved onto the next step, with a revelation that there will be more along that path we are on now, although we still do not know what that will look like.

A year ago, we had no idea what this CD would look like, what songs it would contain or how we would even do what we are doing now, but we can now see this project being completed in the near future. We are hearing the different musicians as they bring their talents to this project and we are in awe of what God is doing with the simple songs we put to paper and piano. What was not clear a year ago is very clear now; this CD will soon be done.

The next step, the ministry, is not clear, but having learned all that we have learned with the CD project, we are confident that God and time will show us what is next. As Chambers said, “do that which lies nearest.” That we will do, knowing that all the rest will unfold in an amazing way.

Are we living in “Breathless expectation”? For sure!
Is it scary? You bet!
Does it require lots of time in prayer and prayer from others? Without question!!
Do we want it any other way? Not a chance!!

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vine, even though
the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle
barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will
be joyful in the God of my salvation. The Sovereign
Lord is my strength.
Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NLT)

I will take sitting in front of a Laundromat, in a borrowed truck, with finances dwindling and yet filled with the joy of the Lord any day of the week, over living in a mansion in Beverly Hills with servants at our beck and call but having no joy to speak of, no Lord to depend on, no Hope for eternity to fill my soul each day I live. That is not to say great worldly success means to be without God…it is only to say, without God, success is worthless, empty and meaningless!

How sweet is the victory / when brought about by You
When we can simply stand / and watch all that You do
I never want to run ahead / that is not Your way
I will only follow You / they’ll be miracles on display
(a song still to be finished)

Well, I have to close this here as it is time to go watch my nephew play his baseball game in the warm California sunshine. A simple pleasure, one we once enjoyed when we used to watch our own boys out there on the field. It brings back lots of memories.

Thank you for all your prayers as we continue on with this exciting adventure into a life that comes simply because our God “gives and takes away,” all for a reason, all for a purpose and all for His Glory!!

Enjoying the journey,
Diane