Prioritizing Joy

JoyIn my marriage, not much makes me feel better than making my wife laugh. When I say or do something that fills her with overflowing laughter, I feel a sense of satisfaction. Making her happy makes me feel like I am doing something right.

I try to bring fun and laughter to my home. Life is too short to be serious all the time. There are many problems in the world, but Jesus promises joy for his disciples (see John 15:11, John 16:16-24, John 10:10).

This weekend we took our son to the Emergency Room because he got an infection on his body. Thank God, it wasn’t a big deal and should clear up after a few days. That’s life. Still, we found plenty of time to enjoy time together as a family. I made jokes while we watched a Hallmark movie. We acted goofy with our little boy, enjoying his smile. On Sunday, we went to church and then drove about 45 minutes to our favorite Mexican restaurant and ate street tacos.

God wants us to enjoy the life He has given us. He wants to inject some joy into our family life and marriages. Ecclesiastes 9:9 (AMP) says, “Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given you under the sun…” Life is short, it passes by quickly. I just turned 40 and I’m determined to live out my days with righteousness and integrity, serving the Lord with all my heart, and enjoying the time God has given me.

Proverbs 13:7 (NKJV) says, “There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; And one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches.” Ecclesiastes 9:4 (NKJV) says, “a living dog is better than a dead lion.” You may not feel like you have much, but I encourage you to make the most of what you have, enjoy who you are with and make the most of the time God has given you.

In this article by Ken Blount, Prioritizing Joy In Your Marriage, he offers some practical suggestions for injecting laughter into your daily life. He says, “Good humor stimulates wit and laughter, and it actually creates closeness and intimacy between people, while hurtful humor creates pain and emotional distance.” Use your humor to build up, not to tear down. Enjoy your spouse and your children. Enjoy your friends and the people around you. Enjoy loving God. Enjoy the beauty of His creation. Enjoy life! Prioritize joy.

For Reflection: What are some things you do to inject laughter into your marriage? Into your home? Into your daily life?

“A merry heart does good, like medicine,
But a broken spirit dries the bones.”
-Proverbs 17:22 (NKJV)

Everlasting Arms

“The eternal God is your refuge,everlasting-arms.jpg
and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
-Deuteronomy 33:27

We all have hurtful experiences and sometimes respond emotionally. The loss of a loved one, a troubled relationship, unkind words or actions, a deep disappointment, a distressing work situation, or a persistent problem we can’t seem to overcome – these are all painful experiences. Sometimes we just need someone to vent to. We need a safe place to express ourselves without fear of condemnation. We need the comfort of God’s everlasting arms.

I had a friend in high school who offered his shoulder as a punching bag to another friend who was going through a hard time. He stood there, lowered his shoulder, and told his friend to hit him and get it all out. Thankfully his friend didn’t take him up on the offer, but it impressed me how willing my friend was to sacrifice his own body for another. It was his way of saying, “I’m here for you. I care about you.”

I think God is like this. He allows Himself to be our punching bag. He just takes it. He takes it because He loves us. He takes it because He knows we’re hurting. He opens up His great big arms of love and just holds us, loving us and comforting us in our troubles. He doesn’t reject us or turn us away.

God is big enough to handle all our grief and anger. He is patient, so patient, to allow us to vent everything. Sometimes, He doesn’t say a word. He just lets us get it all out. Sometimes what we need more than His solutions is His presence. But sometimes we need to hear from Him. He gives us that as well. He knows exactly what we need in every situation.

When I was in high school my girlfriend and I broke up. It was hard to do. After we broke up, I walked to the church parking lot where my friend Joel was. Joel is 6 foot, 8 inches tall. He gave me a hug and I started crying. My head was buried in his chest because that’s where my head comes up to when I hug him. My steady, faithful friend was there to comfort me when I was going through a hard time.

The Bible says,

“The eternal God is your refuge,
And underneath are the everlasting arms…”
-Deuteronomy 33:27

God is a great big God. The entire universe and everything in it was created by His word and is sustained by His awesome power. You have probably heard someone refer to another saying, “He has a big heart.” Well, God has a big heart. The Creator of hearts has the biggest heart of them all. He has big enough arms to welcome us all in and comfort us. He is “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles” (II Cor. 1:3-4). In turn, we are able to comfort others in their trials, with the same comfort we have received from Him.

A break-up with my girlfriend was not the end of the world. But at the time, it was a big deal to me. I needed comfort. In these last twenty years, I’ve experienced delays and disappointments much more difficult then breaking up with a girlfriend.

One time, I came to a point where my life frustrations boiled over. I let loose a complaint to the Lord. I vented to God, loudly expressing my frustration. As I vented, it seemed the Lord stood before me. I felt Him place His hand on me and comfort me. I heard Him say, “I know…I know…and it’s going to be okay.” My complaint faded as I was soothed by His presence. How can you continue to be upset with someone when they are comforting you in such a loving way?

His simple words, “I know…I know…and it’s going to be okay,” did not give me the answers to my problems. They did not guarantee a certain result. Yet, it seemed that God was saying that He knew everything I’ve gone through and everything I was going through. He knows it has been hard. He knows it’s been a struggle. But it’s going to be okay. It’s going to be okay.

We don’t always need answers. And God doesn’t always explain things to us. But He does give us His comforting presence. We are soothed and our joy is restored in His presence.

For my son Joseph, it’s a big deal when he’s hungry. He cries. Even though my wife has never denied him milk, he still cries. He needs the comfort of mommy’s breast. When he’s tired, he needs the comfort of papa’s arms. Sometimes he cries and I find myself saying, “It’s okay, it’s okay, you’re going to be okay.” He also doesn’t like being swaddled because he can’t move his arms. He fusses. He doesn’t understand that it’s good for him. He doesn’t see it, but we know what is best for him. When he’s tired, he falls asleep best when I hold him in my arms and soothe him with my voice. For him, my presence means comfort and security.

I’ve noticed that I hold Joseph in my left arm. I’ve done this since he was born without even thinking. I’m right-handed, so my right arm is my stronger arm. But when I hold him in my left arm, I am holding him close to my heart. That’s how God holds us, close to His heart.

The second part of Deuteronomy 33:27 says,
“He will thrust out the enemy from before you,
And will say, ‘Destroy!’”

My left arm gives Joseph comfort, but my strong right arm is there to protect him. Likewise, God holds us close to His heart, tenderly and carefully. His right arm is present to push away any enemies that may come against us. He is both comforter and protector.

Isaiah 40:11 says,
“He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.”

My wife was drawn to this Scripture when we had a miscarriage. During that time, we needed God’s comfort, both His words of comfort and His presence.

We find comfort in His words and in His voice that soothes and reassures. We also find comfort in His presence, in His everlasting arms. He has a big heart to receive us and hold us. Until Jesus returns and restores all things, we turn to God and His outstretched, everlasting arms. We draw near to Him as He holds us close to His chest.

Image of the Father

 

 

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Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! -1 John 3:1

Holding my newborn son in my arms, I can see how important my role is in shaping his image of Father God. In the Bible, God primarily reveals Himself as Father. When my son Joseph sees me and how I live my life, will he see Father God? Will I give him the proper image of the Father?

I think this reality is a reason that Satan’s attack on men seems particularly fierce – because earthly fathers reflect the Father image of God to their children. Of course, both mom and dad play a vital role in reflecting God’s image to their children. This is not meant to undermine the role of mom or say that mom doesn’t get attacked. My mom was the paramount spiritual influence in my life and I personally saw her get attacked by the enemy.

That said, a father wound is a profound wound. If dad was an angry man, criticized you or rejected you, chances are you struggle to see Father God differently. To move past this wound, it is important to see God for who He really is.

There have been times in my life where I felt like God had rejected me. I felt unwanted by God. It seemed like God had rejected the prayers of love I had offered to Him. The sting of rejection hurts, even if it is perceived rejection and not based in reality. One time I complained that I felt like God had not fathered me the way I wanted Him to. That very next day, I woke up sensing God’s love and presence and I heard a song in my spirit. The song is called Father’s Eyes, sung by Mark Schultz.

Part of the song says this:

He’s on the edge of giving up tonight

Feeling like he’s wasted the best days of his life

Afraid he’ll never be the man he thought that he could be

And when he looks inside he’s so ashamed of who he sees

But in his Father’s eyes

He is a son of glory

The image of a strong and mighty King

In his Father’s eyes

There’s more left in the story

And he’s fighting hard to hold back tears of pride

If only he could see himself tonight

In his Father’s eyes

In my perception, I doubted myself and I doubted my Father. But He sees me as a son of glory, a strong and mighty man of God. The seasons of disappointment I have experienced were not rejection, but spiritual training in sonship.

This is where the tension lies. We may have a perception of God that is, in fact, not reality. Our perception is based on the fallenness of our earthly experience. We see God through the filter of our hurts and wounds. To combat these lies, we have to renew our minds with truth. We have to embrace the reality of who He is and who we are in Him.

There have been many times where God has shown His love to me. Looking back, I see how hard it was for me to truly embrace that love. It wasn’t until I began to take the truth of God’s word and speak it over my life, meditate on it, declare it and confess it, that something began to change inside of me. God was showing me His love, but I had to internalize it through the power of His word. In doing this, transformation took place.

Israel had this same problem. Due to so many years in bondage, they saw themselves as less than they really were. Despite God’s mighty acts on their behalf, they saw their God through eyes of bondage rather than freedom. God had to take them through a wilderness experience to show them who He was and to raise them up according to who they really were in Him. He transformed them from a slave-minded, faithless bunch to a mighty army able to go in and conquer giants and possess the Promised Land.

My wife and I attended church in Virginia for a couple of years while I was in law school. We helped out at the Welcome booth, serving drinks and snacks to the people. One Sunday, I sang to myself while I walked to get some supplies from the supply room. I’m not a professional, but I have a pretty good singing voice. One of the guys said to me something like, “don’t quit your day job.” Of course, it was meant as a joke. I responded to him by looking him the face and continuing to sing. He said to me, “you’ve had a lot of rejection in your life, haven’t you?” I said, “yes, sir” and kept moving.

I thought it was interesting for him to say that, but I think it made me realize how God has actually used rejection to form me spiritually. It has forced me to listen to the voice of my Father, to walk according to what He says about me and to follow the leading of His Spirit regardless of the opinions of others.

I may have experienced rejection in my life, but I know that I am accepted by my Father in heaven. I am His beloved son. I am not perfect, but I know that He is well-pleased with me (see Mark 1:11). I know that God’s hand of blessing is on my life. I know that He is proud of me. I have had to learn to just keep singing, no matter what others say about me. What God says is the only thing that really matters.

What is your image of the Father? Others may have rejected you, but God loves you and He accepts you just the way you are. He is proud of you, not because you are perfect, but because you are His child.

I am proud of my son, Joseph. He’s only 4 weeks old and has accomplished basically nothing in life except poopy diapers and lots of eating and sleeping. But he’s gained about 1 pound and grown about a 1/4 inch. I’m proud of that 1 pound and 1/4 inch. I’m proud of him simply because he is my son. He doesn’t have to do anything for me to smile down on him and feel such love for him. It is the same with our Father in heaven. He is looking down on you now with love, pride and joy because you are His child.

This is Our Home

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Our Wedding Day

Marriage Journey

Marriage is not easy, but it is worth it. Leslie and I have had our share of struggles, adventures and joys. We know that God brought us together for His purpose and we are committed to our marriage journey for life. A few years ago, the Lord gave me a song in a dream. The simple lyrics were, “This is our home, this is our vow, make this place a habitation for your glory now.” This has been our goal for our marriage, that God would make our home a place of His habitation and glory.

This page is also dedicated to insights regarding marriage, as we seek to hear God’s voice for our marital unions. I’m still a relative newbie at marriage, having only been married for just over 5 years. But whatever season of marriage we are in, we are all always learning. Here, I will share insights I am learning in my marriage. Join me on this marriage journey!

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Intentional Fatherhood

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This page, in addition to sharing marriage insights, will reflect lessons learned on my journey of fatherhood, which I hope will encourage you as a father to your children. Our little Joseph came into our world on July 12, 2018. In a moment, he brought such joy to our lives. I’m a new father, but I’m going to share with you what I’m learning as I seek to intentionally raise my son (and future children) to love the Lord and be men of integrity and women of internal beauty.

The righteous man walks in his integrity;
His children are blessed after him.
-Proverbs 20:7

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