Tag Archives: JOY

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Giving Thanks for You

Amid the din (virtual and otherwise), thank you for quieting your heart long enough to read this.

Amid a thousand requests for your service, thank you for fasting and praying with us these last 40 days, denying yourself for the salvation of others (Jude 20-23).

Amid a thousand requests for your hard-earned funds, thank you for giving to Desert Stream and helping make this one of our best financial years in a decade.

Amid the temptation to wall off sinners who resist God’s mercy, thank you for loving the unlovely generously (Matt. 18: 10-14; LK 6: 35, 36; 2 Tim 2: 23-26).

Amid the temptation to bless a loved one’s immoral choices, thank you for agreeing to disagree as you hold out for his or her best (2 Cor. 5: 16-21).

Amid the many persons who cloud the Church’s glory, thank you for loving ‘her’ by taking your place as an invaluable member of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12).

Like the leper who returned to Jesus to thank Him for His healing love, thank you for cultivating gratitude and thus warding off hardness of heart (LK 17: 11-19).

Amid the temptation to detach from God due to unhealed wounds or tendencies, thank you for becoming patient and trustful in His mercy (2 Cor. 12: 7-10).

Amid the loneliness of single life, thank you for showing that His love is enough and that ‘the body is not meant for sexual immorality but for Him’ (1 Cor. 6: 13).

Amid the unmet needs in your married life, thank you for staying true to your vows and thus bearing witness of the saving love of Jesus (Matt. 19: 1-9; Eph. 5).

Amid the temptation to bury your shameful story, thank you for declaring the truth of His saving love in the specifics of your good hard life (1 P 2: 9, 10).

You are the joy of Desert Stream/Living Waters Ministries, ‘God’s glorious ones in whom is all our delight’ (PS 16: 3). We give thanks for you.

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Fear and Fasting

‘The resurrection of Christ makes life a perpetual feast.’ St. Athanasius

Real life provides many occasions for fear. As a parent, I am particularly in tune to threats upon my children’s good. As they grow and face the ‘free fall’ of their own decision-making, Annette and I have feared for their good. Such fear focuses and fuels our prayers: ‘O God, use this impasse, this accident, this strange relationship, this attitude, this addiction as an open door to Your new life.’

Last weekend my youngest son Sam graduated from college as a teacher. That marks the fourth and final college graduation of my kids. Sam took his time getting there. Our move to Kansas City nine years ago blew holes in his security and he lost ground. He faced more than a few dead-ends before he found Home. Jesus helped him through a group of faithful young adults. Sam has become an upright, dynamic young man and will make a great teacher. I am proud beyond words of his new life, which to me is founded on nothing less than resurrection.

Reflecting on our fight for his rising, I recall countless occasions where fear competed with faith. We could witness Sam’s deception and desperation. Yet we could not save him from either. (We did insist he pay for his own idolatry.) So we waited and prayed and tried to help him when asked. Our hope bottomed out on several occasions but it was God who became the ever-deepening ground of our hope. That occurred wordlessly, without feeling. We were conscious of fear.

I take heart from the saints who had a hand in creating, preserving and proclaiming Jesus’ life. The whole arc of His existence introduced fear into these mortal lives. So God, employing dreams and angels, was quick to speak: ‘Mary, do not fear your favor–the new divine life emerging within you; Joseph, do not fear to protect this woman; she bears great favor.’ (LK 1:30; Matt. 1:20)

The initial response to the resurrection was anything but clarity and assurance. Fear seemed to rule the day as an earthquake and intimidating angel scared the life out of the tomb guards (‘they became like dead men’ Matt. 28:4). Fright seized the two Marys who waited there so an angel exhorted them ‘to not fear.’ Working at it, ‘the two hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell His disciples…’ (Matt. 28:8).

I love that: ‘afraid yet filled with joy’, an apt reminder of how we feel toward loved ones whose action we cannot control and yet for whom we seek a rising. Jesus insists. He rose for everyone, and He beckons constantly to us to emerge from the tombs of limited vision and closed horizons. He opened that horizon: we pray that blind eyes might see it, and lame limbs walk towards it. Joy overtakes fear as we consider the magnitude of what He won for all in His Resurrection.

Last Saturday, all my kids gathered with Annette and me to celebrate Sam’s graduation. We feasted on great food and strange humor and the faith common to us all. I could see the earmarks of new life—the horizon Jesus opened for each that each is discovering in his or her own way. On such blessed occasions, we forget about fear; feasting and joy prevail.

‘Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and now is found. So they began to celebrate.’ (LK 15: 24)

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Downward Ascent 2: Good Grief

Downward Ascent 2: Good Grief

‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.’ (Matt. 5:4)

Happy are the sad. Real joy comes from Christ, and Christ comes for the sorrowful. Not just any kind of sorrow: I mean the grief which results from poverty of spirit. To look inside and out and to know all is lost, except for the Savior who came to seek and save the lost (LK 19:10).

He waits for us to weary of our self-justifications, the hollow of our own laughter. He intercedes for us as our ‘fun’ digresses into dehumanizing others. We are exposed in the glare of Another’s nakedness.

He waits for us to admit that the ‘gay marriage’ we have championed has no real foundation and will not stand.

The law of gravity never fails: sin’s road goes down and down.

We can go a long way on our own happiness. Yet the ache of conscience can intensify too. Happy are the sad, good is the grief associated with genuine moral loss—the loss of innocence and core values that can only be reclaimed by divine help.

God dwells with the destitute but resists the ‘house-proud,’ those secure in their own defenses. While fools roost in the ‘house of pleasure, the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning.’ (EC. 7:4) He enters the temple desecrated by sin and surrendered to Mercy. He gives real comfort to those who cry: ‘Jesus!’

Dr. Joseph Nicolosi writes of how the pursuit of sexy idols is no match for the authentic longings of the grief-stricken heart. Addictions fall away when one unites original injuries with trustworthy sources of comfort. Attachment to real love displaces counterfeits. Yet union with Love Himself necessitates real grief: I am wounded! I am alone! I need a Savior, the Advocate who will never fail me!

Divine comfort now is never complete. The promise is ‘will be comforted.’ We live between the ages: the Comforter has come and is coming again. In the meantime, we can mediate that comfort one to another, always directing our hearts to the time when we shall grieve no more. In the meantime, we agree with St. Paul who describes himself as ‘sorrowful yet always rejoicing.’ (2COR. 6:10)

Happy are the sad. Our losses welcome holy love.

‘Come near to God and He will come near to you…Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourself before the Lord, and He will lift you up.’ (James 4: 8, 9)

Prayer for Monday, March 10th: ‘Father, we welcome the reminder of our poverty, and the good grief that accompanies it. Teach us to make the Valley of Baca (weeping) a place of springs. (PS 84:6) ‘

Prayer for Tuesday, March 11th: ‘Father, we grieve over the unresponsive parts of our hearts: the weak and vulnerable areas that we hate and hide. Teach us to welcome Your love where we need it most.’

Prayer for Wednesday, March 12th: ‘Father, remind us of our original injuries and the ways You have shown Yourself faithful as the God of all comfort and understanding. This Lent, secure us in the Father/child bond that breaks fear and shame and frees us to rest in You.’

Prayer for Thursday, March 13th: ‘Father, we grieve over hearts unresponsive to Your mercy, especially our loved ones. We admit that we can hate those we love most due to how deeply they impact us. We are reactive creatures, poor in love: comfort us so that we might comfort those who need Your love through us.’

Prayer for Friday, March 14th: ‘Father, we grieve over the sexual immorality all around us. We cry out for repentance, beginning with ourselves, and ask that we might manifest holy comfort to sinners; hasten their turning back to You.’

Prayer for Saturday, March 15th: ‘Out of sorrow, let joy arise. Remind us of all the ways that You have comforted us in our afflictions.’

Prayer for Sunday, March 16th: ‘Help Your Church to be the site where we recognize sin and grieve over it. Let Your Church also be the juncture where we exchange our grave clothes for robes of righteousness.’

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Joy Rising

‘The friend who attends the Bridegroom waits and listens for Him, and is full of joy when he hears the Bridegroom’s voice.’ (JN 3:29)

On what seemed like the darkest, coldest day of the year, I took down our nativity scene. I approached the task with some heaviness, having just read of two new ‘groundbreaking’ TV shows. Primetime on ABC’s Family Channel, the first features two married lesbians who ‘spoon’ in bed together while discussing how to raise their five kids. The second new show features a gay ex-con who raps: ‘Redemption, the game is mine, gunnin’ for a guy with a tight behind.’ (Ouch) Read more »

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