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"My Soul Sings"

Thankfully you can’t hear me singing though!  Actually, I’m more of a metal head than anything else so it’s probably more like “My Soul Screams”.  Regardless of how it sounds, down in the deepest parts of my soul there is an expression of joy. 

A couple years ago Brooke and I were out to dinner with a racer and his bride-to-be.   Though he grew up in racing family he only started driving after college.   He wasn’t doing terrible but he wasn’t leading laps either.  However, that evening at dinner he said it didn’t matter, “When I’m in the car making laps my soul just sings.”  I understood what he was saying.  He was trying to put into context an expression of happiness that wasn’t dependent on a particular outcome.

That’s a pretty great definition to one aspect of joy – happiness that isn’t dependent on a particular outcome.  Now I consider myself to be a pretty optimistic guy.  However, I’ve got to take the bumps and bruises of life just like everyone else.  Just because I may not be feeling or expressing happiness doesn’t mean I’ve lost joy though.  There is a deeper aspect when defining joy;  Joy in the Lord is an assurance and confidence that He’s in control despite the outlook.  Because of joy we can praise God in every situation.  

I often think of life of Joseph who was hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused and thrown in prison.  However Joseph always maintained his joy.  He never faltered in his confidence that the Lord was still in control despite the downward spiral he seemed to be stuck in.  In Genesis 50:20 Joseph finally was able to express restoration to the things he suffered at the hands of his brothers by saying “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good”.   Even with evil plotted against him, Joseph knew that joy was a source of strength (Nehemiah 8:10) if he was obedient in his relationship with the Lord (John 15:9-11). 

Joy is an essential attribute of the Christian heart (Galatians 5:22) and will be a valuable resource to pull on when life displays its unpredictable nature.  Let’s go after a greater depth of joy by placing our assurance and confidence in the Lord despite any negative outlook.   Use the strength he provides to overcome the difficulties of life and let your soul continually sing. 

"Freedom"

This 4th of July weekend I have been reflecting on what freedom really means and how that definition has morphed over the years. Early on in life I learned that freedom didn’t mean you could throw eggs at cars unless you wanted to dust mummies for 8 hours of community service.

Thankfully those days were short lived and I have come to appreciate two powerful characteristics of freedom. First, it means that we live without coercion. Freedom implies there is not an outside force making us do something we don’t want to do. It’s like letting my kids get off the hook on grilled squash at dinner. Second, it means that there is unrestricted use. When I go to visit my parents they don’t restrict me to the main floor of their home. They give me full access to go wherever I please.

There are limitations to the freedoms we enjoy though. We can’t run any tire brand or compound we want, nor can I walk into my neighbor’s house as if it were my parents. However, in our life with the Lord all those restrictions are lifted. His plans and purposes for us are sought without coercion. In fact, it’s the only source of freedom that supplies everything we need to reach our potential.

In 2 Corinthians 3:17 it says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” The freedom we experience in the Lord is what relieves us of condemnation, guilt, and sorrow. In it’s place He releases purpose, hope and love. In Him is where we find true freedom to experience life to the fullest.

This weekend take time to reflect on both the freedoms we enjoy as a country and as a son or daughter of God. Just as many brave men and women sacrificed for our country so did Jesus for our freedom. The opportunity is before us to live in his abundant love and respond to His heart for us. Let’s celebrate our countries freedoms while affirming our desire to live in the freedom only He provides.

"Trust"

If race car drivers were to dive into turn one on a start like PA drivers merge onto the highway, not one car would exit the corner. 

I am still amazed each time there is a start or restart, that all the cars come out on the other side of the corner.  Well...most of the time.  It works because there is one common element among the drivers on the track: Trust. 

In Matthew 14 we read the account of Jesus appearing before his disciples while walking on water.  Peter and the others in the boat were in disbelief that it was really Jesus, despite His words to encourage them.  In response, Peter poses a challenge, 28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”  Sure enough Jesus called for him to come.  Peter at first was able to walk on the water to Jesus, but then was overcome with fear and began to sink.  Jesus grabbed hold of Peter and they both returned to the boat as the seas began to calm.

Many times preachers can turn this message into one that faults Peter for “taking his eyes off Jesus.”  The message is then centered around our own shortcomings and how Jesus is still faithful to save us.  All is true, but instead let’s look at Peter as a success.  

If we define success by achieving our goals then Peter got the job done.  After all, Peter walked on water and still ended up with Jesus; in the middle of a storm, while everyone else was being tossed around in a boat.  It didn’t go as he may have planned, but the end goal was still reached.  Jesus said, “Come,” and Peter did. 

Sometimes the worst thing in life is knowing exactly what you are getting yourself into.  Peter had an incredible amount of trust in Jesus. The moment Peter flipped his legs over the side of the boat he experienced a depth of relationship with Jesus that he never had before.   

We don’t grow in our relationship with the Lord without exercising our trust in Him.  Proverbs 3:5&6 states, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”   When we break from self-reliance and place our trust in God, He has so much more room to work in us.  As we take time to be thankful for what we have and where we are in our spiritual journey, lets be willing to place our trust in God for the next thing He has in store. He has our best interests at heart.  Prayerfully trust God to lead you and enjoy the adventure!  

Made for Connection

We were created for relationship.  Thankfully, that involves kissing my wife. 

The first kiss was nerve racking.  Either she was going to kiss me back and validate my feelings for her or she was going to pull back and crush my vulnerable heart.   It was a risk, but I couldn’t maintain the status quo and it seemed like the quickest way to get some answers.     

You and I are most vulnerable when we attempt to strengthen our relationships with one another.   We reveal our true self to either experience great joy just as much as we risk disappointment and frustration.

It’s a two way street.   If we want real love and connection then we have to face rejection.   Many times we fear disconnection because feelings of shame and worthlessness skew our thinking.    In reality that is a lie that says it’s better to maintain what we have then to risk being hurt.   “Maintaining vulnerabilities is risky, but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experience that make us the most vulnerable.” – Brene Brown

The perfect example of vulnerability is God the Father.  He created us full of purpose and value with the intent of relationship.  However, He allows us to make our own decision to reciprocate His love for us.   We can come to Him in any condition – mentally, physically and spiritually – and He will always return our heart and affection for Him.   “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”  (Eph 2:4-5)

He models for us the proper response to vulnerability by allowing love to overcome where we have fallen short.   His response to us is always love.  Never will we be at risk of feeling shame for our sin or worthlessness for our previous rejection of Him.   As we are vulnerable with Him, he restores and “fills you with all joy and peace so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Our ability to experience God and relationship with others can’t be done while hiding.   There is so much more access and depth in our relationships given the opportunity to expand and grow.  As we embrace vulnerability we must also embrace and extend others love.    Just as God responds in love we need to respond in love when others are vulnerable with us.    In those moments we will learn to listen and become givers / receivers of forgiveness and encouragement.  Let’s not limit ourselves and commit to vulnerability as a foundation of relationship with God and one another.  

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