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Just Joy Ministries by Danielle Stoltz - 1d ago

I have just moved across the country and I have spent the last two weeks unpacking too many boxes to count!

It’s been quite the challenge as I try to fit 3,200 square feet of stuff into my new reality – about 1,600 square feet of space.  Also – in my former, spacious home – I had a basement.   

There are no basements in Oklahoma.

What does one do with a lifetime of stuff?!

And not only is it my stuff … but I also have numerous boxes labeled with the five names of my children. I think that they need to come and get their stuff since the youngest is about to turn 25. 

Right?!!

And can I just say one more thing?  My husband has been out of town for the past two weeks so it has been several mountains of boxes and me.

As I have unpacked … repacked … thrown away … re-arranged … prayed … set aside … and cried … I have realized something valuable.

Are you ready for a life-changing piece of information?

That which you own the most of is what you value.

Oh!  That’s good!  Let me say it again …

That which you own the most of is what you value.

I have had the opportunity to do some emotional house-cleaning as I have unpacked four decades of living as a married woman … and it has become startlingly clear to me what I truly value in life.

You see … among my possessions there aren’t many fishing poles … tool kits … or sewing machines.

As I have done a painful self-examination of the savings account of my heart … I have come to realize what is important to me in terms of earth’s treasures.

First of all … I value books.

I have boxes and boxes and boxes of books.  

Books from childhood … books about marriage … Bible commentaries … college textbooks … music books … books written by friends … historical fiction … inspiration … self-help books … biographies.

I love to read and am a self-diagnosed “read-aholic”. I have to bribe myself to do mundane household chores by telling myself, “If you do the dishes you can read for 20 minutes.”

The truth is this … I know that words hold power.

Words … and therefore books … change lives with their power.

My life has been deeply impacted by the wise words of others. I am a different woman because of the writings of Elisabeth Elliot, Carol Kent, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, Max Lucado, Ruth Bell Graham, John Piper, Beth Moore, Charles Spurgeon, Hannah Whitall Smith … the list goes on and on and on. 

I have never met most of the authors whose books I have read but because of their written words … I know their hearts. I value their wisdom and I treasure their insight. 

“He who walks with wise men will be wise.” – Proverbs 13:20

Secondly … I value Christmas.

I don’t even want to tell you how many boxes of Christmas are currently in my garage.

I am not embarrassed by it … but even I know that it is a lot.

Can you have too much Christmas?!  Surely not!

Now, let me just tell you, because people know that I love Christmas, it is often their gift of choice to give me. So – although I love Christmas I haven’t ruined the family budget on Christmas. 

At least I don’t think that I have.

I have been given Christmas mugs … Christmas books … Christmas pictures … Christmas clocks … Christmas angels … Christmas signs … Christmas CD’s … Christmas salt and pepper shakers … Christmas soap dishes … Christmas devotionals … Christmas blankets … Christmas canister sets.

And do you know what I say to that?!  Keep Christmas coming!

Christmas is so revolutionary that we actually should be celebrating it every single day of the calendar year. 

We are a Christmas people! 

We have been given the gift of joy for every common day of our lives.  We get to splash in joy … and share joy … and dance for joy … and sing with joy … and cherish joy … simply because of Christmas.

The joy that has invaded our ordinary lives because of Christmas is eternal and miraculous! 

I’ll take Christmas on February 14 … and on the Fourth of July … and on the 4th Thursday of November!

“Do not be afraid for I bring you good news of great joy which shall be to all people; 

For unto you has been born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord.” – Luke 2:10 & 11

I value family heirlooms.

I had to decide whether or not to throw away my mother’s great uncle’s baby pictures. I didn’t do it … they are safely packed away in a storage bin.

And then … I found a dish that belonged to my grandmother. Although it is chipped beyond repair … it kindled such sweet memories that it was put into a box marked “Treasures – Save”.

I have boxes filled with the drawings and pictures and schoolwork of people who are now in their 20’s and 30’s. These people were once little and their hugs and kisses were my whole world. How can I throw that away?!

I have my father’s Bibles … and my grandfather’s commentaries … and my mother’s dining room table … and my aunt’s violet dish … and my mother-in-law’s artwork … and my father-in-law’s picture frames … and my great aunt’s crystal goblets … and newspaper clippings from long ago and far away.

These family heirlooms are more than mere possessions… they tell of a family heritage so rich and so beautiful that the lives of the owners echo into my home.

They remind me of who I am and where I have come from. 

I have never received an inheritance of money from anyone but the gift of living for the Kingdom of God is a birthright that is worth more than any financial gain.

I am grateful for every remembrance of a family who decided to follow Jesus!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is! 

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Do you feel stuck?  Are you bogged down in that infamous rut in life?

Perhaps you feel like it is day after day after long day … of the same old, same old.

It might seem like there are no real highs in life but there are no real lows either.

When you think of words that describe your life you come up with words like these:

“Dull”.

“Humdrum”.

“Unexceptional”.

If that is how you feel – I can guarantee you that is not where the Lord wants you to live.  He wants you to experience His rich abundance and extravagant joy every day that you are breathing in the oxygen of planet earth!

The Lord wants you to have a spring in your step and a sparkle in your eye regardless of your finances, your health or your relationships.

How about if I do a little life coaching today? Let me be practical yet hopeful as we wade through the tenacious mud that has you in its grip. 

Four Ways to Get “Unstuck” 

1 – Be grateful.

If you have read my blog for any length of time you must know by now that I believe that having a thankful heart is the cure for just about everything.

An attitude of appreciation is the miracle cure for the blues.

Expressing gratitude has the power to set you in your very destiny. 

Just being thankful every day can change a heart of bitterness into a heart of blessing.

So … today… write out three things for which you are grateful and then share those three things with someone.  Write them on Facebook.  Phone a friend and tell him or her about the things for which you are thankful. Spend some time in prayer just thanking the Father for the life you have been given.

“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and not being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.” – Colossians 2: 6 & 7

2 – Do something new and adventurous!  I dare you!

Read a book by an author whose work you have never read. 

If you are a couch potato – go for a walk.

If you are an exercise addict – go to the library.

Make a new friend at work or at church and ask them out for coffee.

Investigate a new hobby.

Go to a different grocery store.

Visit a new coffee shop.

If you are organized and legalistic in life … buy flowers and eat ice cream.

If you are a free spirit … balance your checkbook or organize your closet.

Plan a vacation to a place that you have never visited.

Discover a new place of service at your church. You might consider teaching a Sunday School class … or working in the nursery once a month … or helping with hospital visitation. 

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” – II Corinthians 5:17

3 – Tell someone.

Who is your closest friend? Who do you trust?

Perhaps you could take that person out to lunch and tell them that you feel stuck in life.  Ask for their advice and then listen.

“For by wise guidance you will wage war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.” – Proverbs 24:6

You might not agree with everything that they say but allow their wisdom to sink deeply in the crevices of your heart. Ponder their insight and choose two or three of their suggestions and then do them!

Ask your friend to pray for you before the conversation ends.  Also ask your friend to hold you accountable to make some changes in your life.

4 – Pray. 

Ask the Lord to change some things in your life. Although we serve the God Who never changes – He sure does love to stir up change!

“Behold I will do something new, now it will spring forth – will you not be aware of it?  I will make a roadway in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” – Isaiah 43:19

Ask the Lord for new vision and for new enthusiasm for life. He is the only One who is able to give you the power and the strength to get out of the rut that has trapped you.

He is well able to give you new ideas … new relationships … divine appointments … and unique creativity! Ask Him for it … and then expect it to follow.

Be expectant that the Lord is going to blow exciting winds of change your way - and then hold on tight because you might just be in for the ride of your life!

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!  

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Just Joy Ministries by Danielle Stoltz - 1w ago

This Sunday, May 12, 2019, is Mother’s Day! 

Mother’s Day is traditionally the one day a year that is set aside to honor those who wipe the noses, deal with the tantrums and fold the laundry of the next generation. 

In honor of mothers, I thought that I would share with you all an excerpt from the book that I believe that I was born to write. It is a book that has been in my heart since January 29, 1981 when I gave birth to my first son.  But I waited to write it until I had decades of motherhood under my belt.

I wanted my voice to matter and to hold some gravitas to it when I at long last wrote the book on motherhood.

“Older women, likewise, are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being submissive to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” – Titus 2:3-5

Now … if you are not a mother … read this blog and thank the Lord that you had a mother even with all of her flaws and her faults!

If you are not a mom … read this blog and thank a woman who is a mother and applaud her efforts at parenting!

If your mom is in heaven – spend some time remembering her and the love that you shared.

If you had a difficult relationship with your mother – then be the mother that you wish you had!

If you are a mom … put your feet up … fix yourself a cup of coffee … and enjoy this blog because Mom … this one’s for YOU!

God chooses the moment in history into which an ordinary woman is born. God knew that I would be born in the middle part of the 20th century when women were beginning to roar. The battle of the sexes was being fought in the boardroom, in the courtroom and in the classroom. 

The feminists of my generation were burning their bras while I sat nursing and rocking. 

Women were shattering the glass ceiling while I was wiping up spilled milk from my kitchen floor. 

Women were infiltrating the network news while I was reading “The Little Engine that Could” to toddlers who listened to my every word. 

Now we are well into the days of the 21st Century and more than ever the identity and the call of women is being fought for. 

I certainly believe that a woman is as capable as a man to accomplish great things in life. I believe that a woman should be well educated and that her pay should be commensurate with the male counterparts in her profession. 

But I also believe, even though it might seem politically incorrect to you, that God created men and women with certain inherent differences. I am not ashamed nor am I embarrassed by these differences but I choose to celebrate those determining factors! 

Do you want to know what I believe at the very core of my being? 

I believe that the words “maternal” and “powerful” are not mutually exclusive but they create a glorious harmony that the world is waiting to hear! 

I was born at this time in history for a divine reason and I won’t keep silent! 

I will call the women under my watch to fulfill their destiny in Christ and to shun the call of the culture.  

The culture in which you live should have no determination and no deciding voice in your destiny! Every drop of purpose and circumstance that you choose to walk in should be actuated by the principles found in the Word of God. 

You are a world changer, dear mother! You, with baby spit- up on your shoulder and circles under your eyes ... you are a world-changer! 

You are a history maker, sweet mama.You, with a pile of dishes in the kitchen sink and a mountain of laundry waiting to be folded ... you are a history maker! 

You are a woman of unmatched influence, dear mother! 

You, with the cry of a colicky baby in the air and the tantrums of a two- year old as daily reality...you are a woman of unmatched influence! 

You ARE the woman’s movement, purveyors of the next generation!  

And so I challenge you today to enjoy the journey. Enjoy every moment of outrageous Godliness and sweet strength that this job requires.

Love your life and celebrate with ferocity and with joy the little ones who call you “Mom”. 

“She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 

She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children rise up and bless her!” Proverbs 31:26-28a 

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!  

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Just Joy Ministries by Carol Mcleod - 1w ago

This past week, I was experiencing a malaise of the soul.

I wasn’t depressed … but I just felt cast down.

I could relate to the Psalmist who once asked:

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” – Psalm 42:5a

It’s a Biblical - yet personal - question that deserves an answer, isn’t it?

Why was I downcast? Why in the world was I disturbed?

I wasn’t discouraged … but I was on the verge of being discontent.

Does anybody know what I am talking about?

Can you relate?

Now … before anyone starts to worry about me … I wasn’t depressed. I wasn’t angry … I wasn’t grieving.

I just felt like being alone … like having myself a good cry … like eating a whole box of chocolates.

It wasn’t just one thing … but it was a thousand little things that had ganged up on me.

I didn’t exactly feel overwhelmed … but I wasn’t at the top of my game, either. 

When I was wading through the slog of despondency … this phrase popped into my mind …”How wonderful to know!”

At first … I pondered where those four words could have possibly originated … but then I realized that I had a Holy Spirit whose job description was especially formatted to encourage me. 

And I wondered, “Could the Holy Spirit be trying to lift me out of my complacency?  Was the Holy Spirit trying to remind me of what a wonderful life I was actually living?!”

I heard it again, “How wonderful to know!”

This time, I quickly realized that the quartet of words wasn’t a complete sentence – but that it was lacking something substantive.

And then, as I waited for the Holy Spirit to speak again … I heard nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

The Holy Spirit had obviously gone quiet on me.

Why would the Holy Spirit only speak in half a phrase?  In a fragment? In a morsel of meaning?

And then … I had an “A-Ha!” moment. It suddenly became clear to me that the Holy Spirit wanted me to fill in the blank!

I knew that I could do that … I love words and the power of words!  I love playing tennis with the Holy Spirit!

And so … I thought … “Holy Spirit! You’re on! Let’s do this!”

And the phrases came pouring out of my soul like the waters over Niagara –

How wonderful to know that God is still on the throne of my life! 

How wonderful to know that I am never alone!

How wonderful to know that joy is available to me every hour of every day!

How wonderful to know that I am perpetually and unconditionally loved!

How wonderful to know that the Creator of the universe is intimately acquainted with all of my ways!

How wonderful to know that I can trust Him on the easy days and on the hard days!

How wonderful to know that the same power that raised Christ from the dead dwells in me! 

How wonderful to know that He is well able to work all things together for good ... in fact ... it is what He does best! 

How wonderful to know that this is not all there is to life. 

How wonderful to know that the same God who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it!

And just like that … it was gone!  The malaise and despondency had flown away.

The discontent had been drowned out by the worship of my heart.

How wonderful to know that it works! Worshipping the Lord changes everything for me! 

Choosing to worship rather than choosing to whine changes my perspective.

Focusing on Who He is … and not on what I lack … heals what is broken in me. 

How wonderful to know!

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” – Psalm 42:5

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!  

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Dear Friend – 

As you might remember, I love lists.  

I am an expert list-maker. 

Really … there are very few things that I am better at than making significant, life-changing and incredible lists.

I love the thrill of checking off even the smallest tasks on my perpetual “To-Do List”.

It’s been a while since I sent you a list … so here you go!

Here is your list entitled:

How to Wring the Joy Out of An Ordinary Day!”

1 – Leave the past in the past!

Don’t bring the trauma … the disappointment … or the anger of yesterday into the joy that solely belongs to today!

I am not saying stuff the pain or ignore the pain … I am saying deal with the pain and then move beyond the pain.

If you need counseling … go for it! 

Forgive the one who offended you and get on with it!

If you must have a loving but honest conversation … do it!

But please, my friend, do not allow the pain of yesterday to usurp the lovely joy of today.

“This is the day that the Lord has made – I will rejoice and be glad in it!” – Psalm 118:24

2 – Remember that it is the little things that build a big life.

Go for a walk at sunset.

Volunteer in the church nursery. 

Visit a nursing home and listen to an older person’s heart.

Write a thank you note to a well-loved teacher … a long lost high school friend… to a pastor who spoke into your life … or to your neighbor who is going through a hard time.

Plan a picnic for some neighborhood children. Buy squirt guns and sidewalk chalk.

Smile at a stranger.

Pay for someone else’s coffee.

Call your mom.

I actually have written the following saying on a 3x5 card and have it taped to my bathroom mirror:

Little > Big.

The little things in life are so much greater than the great, big events.

3 – Fill Your Life With Music.

Play worship music while you are getting ready for the day.

When you are doing the dishes – play Broadway Show tunes and sing along!

While you are driving – listen to the great hymns of the faith.

When you are folding laundry – play the music of your youth.

When you are going for a walk – set your pace by upbeat praise music!

When you are cleaning your house – allow the beautiful strains of classical music to clear away the dust of your brain.

And when you are falling asleep at night – listen to sweet and soothing worship melodies as played by a grand orchestra.

“No matter what yesterday was like – the birds always start a new day with a song.”

4 – Forgive someone.

Maybe you need to forgive your spouse … or a sibling … or a parent.

Maybe you need to forgive a teacher who belittled you … a childhood friend who bullied you … or a boss who betrayed you. 

The most powerful and joyful choice you can ever make is to forgive someone for the hurt that they caused you.

Let the pain go … walk into tomorrow with no offenses dragging along behind.

Forgiving someone else will be the very best gift that you ever give to yourself. 

“The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. The first to forget is the happiest.”

“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.” – Mark 11:25

5. Just Be Grateful.

If there is just one secret to living a life of joy it is found in living a life of gratitude. 

Gratitude turns not enough into more than enough.

Gratitude heals jealousy … it revives purpose … and it focuses on simplicity.

If you are dealing with depression and discouragement today … then make a list of your blessings.

Every hour on the hour remind yourself of one more thing for which you are grateful.

If you are struggling to find joy … then just be thankful because thankfulness and joy are not so very far apart.

It’s not joy that cultivates gratitude … but it is gratitude that miraculously produces joy.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” – Colossians 3:15

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!  

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Just Joy Ministries by Carol Mcleod - 1w ago

What was Jesus experiencing as He walked through His last week on earth?

His beautiful Body was scourged and whipped.  This was why He came.

“Pilate then took Jesus and scourged Him.” – John 19:1

A crown of thorns was forced upon His head.  He came for this. 

“And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head.” – John 19:2

They spit on the spotless Lamb … they mocked the One who is holds the wisdom of the ages … they beat the One whose lovingkindness will never end. 

“They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head. After they had mocked Him, they took the scarlet robe off Him and put His own garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.” – Matthew 27:30-31

He was hung on a cross between two thieves.  His purpose was being fulfilled.

“At that time, two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and one of the left.” – Matthew 27:38

His side was pierced. The prophets said it would be like this. 

“But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear and immediately blood and water came out.” – John 19:34

What was Jesus thinking about when He hung on Calvary’s Cross?

When the pain was excruciating … when the agony was relentless … as the greatest triumphant tragedy in eternity played out … what was on His mind?

Perhaps a better way to phrase that question is this … Who was on His mind?

Let me just submit to you today that I believe that Jesus was thinking about you on that day and that He was thinking about me. 

You and I were what kept Him on that cross.  You see … He really could have called 10,000 angels to get Him down.   

He really could have arranged a miracle and never felt the violent blast of a nail piercing His hands and feet.

The Man Who raised the dead, healed the sick, 

            cleansed the lepers, forgave the prostitutes, 

                        multiplied food, calmed the storm, 

                                    turned water into wine and set the captives free from demons...                                                     

… that Man chose to stay on the cross. 

That Man named Jesus chose to die.

The Roman government didn’t murder Him. 

The Jewish people didn’t crucify Him.

Jesus chose to stay on the cross. 

And while He was hanging there … suspended between life and death … 

            between earth and heaven … between good and evil … 

                        between light and darkness … between His Father and hell … 

That man was thinking about you and He was thinking about me.

We kept Him on the cross.  

Our sin put Him on the cross but it was His great and consuming love for us that kept Him there.

“But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” – Isaiah 53:5

When Jesus was coughing up blood … you were on His mind.

When Jesus was engulfed in searing pain … He was thinking about you.

When Jesus was struggling for one last breath … His dying thought was of you.

As His eyes were rolling back in His head … He was picturing you.

Not only was He thinking about you … but it was a delight for Him to remember you in this moment.  

His thoughts of you didn’t contain regret … sadness … or even frustration.  In that moment … you brought Him joy.  Pure joy.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us …

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1 & 2

I have often wondered, “Jesus, what was the joy that was set before You? What was the joy that you were focused on?”

And the answer that He gave to me was so rich and so rare that it drove me to my knees, “Carol … you are my joy!  I was focused on you!”

You were the joy set before Him!  I was the joy set before Him!

You were the reason that He stayed on the cross … you were on His mind while He hung there … and you are the reason that the tomb was empty!

Jesus is the Way … the Truth … and the Life.  Nothing can stay dead when He shows up.  Death couldn’t hold Him and the grave could not keep Him.

He is “Life” with a capital “L”!

Are there dead places in your life that need to be resurrected?  Allow Jesus to come to the grave that is your heart and see what happens!

Invite Jesus to enter the dark and dank tomb of your life.  A miracle is sure to happen!  

When Jesus enters even a crypt … He brings in life … and power … and hope … and light … and strength … and vitality … and love … and peace! 

Jesus turns every cemetery into a celebration … and you are invited because He has named you “Joy”!

Happy Easter, my friends!  He is risen indeed! 

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!  

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It was the final week of Jesus on earth.

The Son who had been sent from the Father to save all of mankind from their sin was now on the last leg of His earthly journey.  Jesus was about to complete what He had come to accomplish.

He had been born of a virgin.

He had healed the sick and had raised the dead. 

He had calmed storms and had multiplied meals.

He had taught us how to pray.

He had laughed … taught … cried … discipled … and had dug the very fabric of His heavenly heart into the rich soil of humanity.

He had been a friend.

He taught us all how to believe.

Jesus went about doing good.  Day after day.  In every way possible.

He confronted sin and pride.

He confronted injustice and religion.

He had gone to weddings and to funerals.  He had accepted dinner invitations and had gone on boat trips with friends.

He threw money-changers out of the temple yet partied with tax-collectors.

And He loved.  My! How that Man could love!!

He loved children and He loved prostitutes.

Jesus loved His band of brothers and He loved John the Baptist. 

He loved lepers and short people and women with issues.

He loved the demon-possessed and starving widows.

He loved because He is Love.  He knows of no other way to be.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God for God is love …

By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” – I John 4:7-9

But there was yet more for Jesus to do.  His task on earth was not yet complete.

It was time for Jesus to die.

Jesus went into Jerusalem on the back of a borrowed donkey and the crowds went wild.  They cheered and threw their cloaks in front of him. 

They waved palm branches and danced along the way.  It was a ticker-tape parade in first-century style.

On that day … on the day that we now call “Palm Sunday” … Jesus was the talk of the town and there was a parade thrown in His honor.

These crowds, however, were fickle crowds.  On Sunday they cheered … and on Friday they jeered.

During this momentous, horrible, tragic, yet triumphant week, Jesus was in need of some time with the Father.  He went to a garden to pray.  He took with him his closest earthly friends.  Peter, James and John were with him in the Garden of Gethsemane that night.  

Jesus prayed and they fell asleep. 

Jesus cried out to the Father and they snored.

Jesus sweat great drops of blood while they drooled. 

Some friends, huh?

Not only did His three besties fall asleep at His greatest moment of human agony, but the rest of His friends were MIA as well.

His band of brothers was nowhere to be found on Friday.  Matthew tells us that they all ran away.

“All of Jesus’ followers left Him and ran away.” – Matthew 26:56

I wonder if Matthew wrote those words slowly with tears running down his cheeks.  

I wonder if Matthew argued with the Holy Spirit if this one particular detail should be included or not. 

You see, Matthew wasn’t merely pointing his finger at others  … he was indicting himself.  No one stayed.

Matthew didn’t stay.

Although Judas had sold Jesus and Peter had denied Jesus, what Matthew knew was that no one in the entire group of 12 had stayed faithful to Jesus to the end.

“All of Jesus’ followers left Him and ran away.”

Betrayal.  Denial. 

The band of brothers had become a bunch of cowards.  Yellow bellies.  Chickens.

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful for He cannot deny Himself.”– II Timothy 2:13

While everyone else ran and hid … Jesus remained true to the Father’s call and to His purpose.

Have you seen yourself in the story yet?  

Do you cheer when others are in agreement but run and hide when the going gets rough?

Do you enter into worship on Sunday morning with the roaring crowd but then turn and walk away because you are disappointed with the way your life has turned out?

Do you intend to pray but fall asleep instead? 

Do you justify your embarrassment when asked about your relationship with Jesus?

Those are the questions that we all must respond to during the week of Palm Sunday … of the Last Supper … of the Garden of Gethsemane … and of the Cross of Calvary.

Who are you in this story

It’s a good question to ask … to ponder … to pray about … and to answer this week.  And, if you don’t like what you discover, perhaps it is also a good week to bow in prayer and in repentance.

It is a good week to re-evaluate your words … your choices … and your motives. 

It’s a good week to become who Jesus believes you to be … the object of His greatest affection and the reason why He came.

Jesus knows that you are so valuable … so extraordinary … and so precious … that He died for you.

Now … what will you do for Him? 

Will you worship? Will you pray? Will you stay?

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!

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Have you noticed in the past few years that everything in life has become an extravagant and an expensive event? 

Let me explain …

Gender reveal parties for babies have become incredible events… families gather around a designer cake waiting to discover whether it is pink or blue underneath that fabulous ganache. At the right moment, when the very pregnant mom cuts into the $200 cake, a roar goes up from the ground as blue or pink crumbs are revealed. 

I have seen gender reveals that are characterized by the popping of balloons by the parents-to-be that explode into pink or blue glitter.   

And how about this one … guns that are fired into the air with pink or blue smoke while a crowd of family onlookers shouts their approval.

Wow!!

Or what about marriage proposals?  

Marriage proposals have become romantic events with a steep price tag.  No longer is it the engagement ring that completely destroys a fellow’s budget … it’s now the proposal itself that sets him back several paychecks! 

The future husband plans for months how he is going to pop the question to his one and only. 

After all … she is worth it, right?!

There are lights … and hot air balloons … and a choir singing a love song in beautiful harmony … and flower petals strewn along a pathway … and proposals written in the sky. 

There are hundreds of candles on the beach … and trips to far off destinations … and elaborate buffets of gourmet food … and lanterns that drift into the sunset.

Proposals happen at concerts … on the Jumbotron at sporting events … and are even televised!!

Unbelievable!!  

I hope that the soon-to-be-wed couple puts as much work into building a marriage as they did into planning the proposal.

And then there are birthday parties for children that have literally become thousand dollar events!

Have you seen some of the birthday parties that parents are planning for toddlers?  

Bounce houses … and pony rides … and the appearance of a princess or two … and clowns that juggle … and unicorns and fairies.

I wonder if the 2 year old will remember the spectacular moment … I wonder.

O.K. … I’m not done yet. Almost but not quite …

Have you seen some of the ways that teenage boys are asking girls to go to the prom?

They make music videos or have a singing telegram sent to the girl’s house.

They write on their chest in paint, “Will you go to the prom with me?” Now … that’s just absurd!!

They write out the prom question in donuts … or in cupcakes … or with flowers or with chicken nuggets. I. Kid. You. Not. 

They decorate the girl’s front yard with signs … and with balloons … and with lights that spell out that age-old question, “Will you go to the prom with me?”

It’s called a “promposal.”  Who knew?!!

It seems to me that people are living from event to event … that the “occasion” has become an episode of such wonder and reverence that the simple joys of life are ignored. 

Now … let me assure you … I love a good party!  I love something to celebrate! 

But I don’t want to lose the purity of the simple days in life in the wait for the next grand event that becomes a professional display of exorbitance. 

I don’t want to plan such demonstrations of excess that I forget the giggles of the little ones that I am celebrating. 

After all … all they really want is you and a cupcake!

Events don’t lay the foundation for a strong life … but ordinary days that are sprinkled with joy and with love are what living is all about at its very finest!

My dad used to sing this song to me as he worked with his hands in the deep, rich earth of our garden. Perhaps it is a song that we should sing to each other once again in our event-driven society:

“I don't believe in frettin' and grievin';
Why mess around with strife?
I never was cut out to step and strut out.
Give me the simple life.

Some find it pleasant dining on pheasant.
Those things roll off my knife;
Just serve me tomatoes; and mashed potatoes;
Give me the simple life.

A cottage small is all I'm after,
Not one that's spacious and wide.
A house that rings with joy and laughter
And the ones you love inside.

Some like the high road, I like the low road,
Free from the care and strife.
Sounds corny and seedy, but yes, indeedy;
Give me the simple life.”

Rather than planning events … let’s all resolve to savor the magical yet fleeting moments of life.

I love the gathering of friends and family around a table of food that is bedecked with flowers and with my grandmother’s china.

I love the sharing of memories … the holding of hands as we pray as a family … and the camaraderie that is experienced as we simply do the dishes together.

I love listening to my grandchildren practice the piano on a winter’s afternoon … and hearing my mom’s voice on the telephone … and going for a walk with my husband of over 40 years.

I love opening my windows to smell the first flowers of springtime … and having a cup of coffee with my daughter before the start of a long day.

I love listening to a 4-year-old tell a story with joy and enthusiasm …

I love dusting the furniture in my home with worship music playing in the background …

I love watching a 9-year-old boy shoot his basketball into the goal in his driveway for hours upon hours …

I love reading my Bible during the early morning hours when the dew is still on the ground and before anyone has yet begun to stir for the day … 

You see, for me as a woman, it is not the grand events upon which I have built a life, but my life has been constructed upon the glory of the simple yet profound experiences in life.

A glass of iced tea on a hot summer’s afternoon while the neighborhood children use the sidewalk chalk that I have left out for them …

A sweet thank you note from a loved one who took the time to verbalize their appreciation …

Savoring a cup of hot tea while remembering and praying for the high school friend who gave me the mug from which I am drinking …

These simple joys are the stuff of which life is truly made. 

“They who dwell in the ends of the earth stand in awe of Your signs’

You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy!

You visit the earth and cause it to overflow;

You greatly enrich it;

The stream of God is full of water;

You prepare their grain, for thus You prepare the earth.

You water its furrows abundantly,

You settle its ridges,

You soften it with showers,

You bless its growth.

You have crowned the year with Your bounty,

And Your paths drip with fatness.” – Psalm 65: 8 – 11

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!  

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Just Joy Ministries by Carol Mcleod - 1w ago

I read a familiar quote recently that caused me to stop and ponder the glorious gift of friendship. 

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What?! You too? I thought I was the only one.” – C.S. Lewis 

I have treasured the gift of having a sweet friend ever since I was a preschool girl and Annie Scroger lived right around the corner from me. Those were the simple and easy days of pigtails, red tricycles and sidewalk chalk – but a rich friendship was born nonetheless. Annie cared about me and I cared about her. 

“We didn’t even realize we were making memories … we just knew we were having fun.” – Winnie the Pooh 

As I grew from girlhood to the teenage years, my life was enriched by friends such as Diane Eick … Susie Szelag … and Mary Ann Cassiano.  

Oh!!  Let me tell you that we shared secrets, wrestled with Physical Science and dreamed of all that our lives would become.  We cried over first loves, pulled all-nighters and vowed to stay in touch over the years. 

“A friend loves at all times.” – Proverbs 17:17 

And then college called my name … the red tricycle was stored in my parents’ garage, the Physical Science book was handed down to another unsuspecting student and my dreams were about to become realities.

But the friendships of yesterday remained dear and vital and foundational.

“Growing apart doesn’t change the fact that for a long time we grew side by side; our roots will always be tangled. I’m glad for that.” - Condie

In college, I paired my life with girls from around the country, but I must admit that I cherished most of all two Southern friendships.  I met Debby from Smackover, Arkansas, and Mary Ann from Alief, Texas on my very first day at the university over 1,000 miles away from my northern home.  

At first – these two “y’all” spouting girls couldn’t understand my northern accent and tried to figure out if my reference to “pop” should be defined as a carbonated beverage or as my father. (It was the former.  Which, by the way, these southern belles referred to as a “Coke” whether they were drinking Sprite, Ginger Ale, Pepsi or Root Beer.  Anything fizzy and sugary was simply called by the generic name “Coke”. Who knew?!!)

“Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

And then I became a wife and a mom and my need for friendships was placed on the backburner of life for several decades.   

During the “hands-on-mothering” years I often pushed friendship to the wayside because I couldn’t invest what was left of “me” in one more relationship.  My marriage and my children were requiring every drop of listening, of crying, of giggling, and of servanthood that I could manage.

But now I am an empty nest mother who travels around the world telling people about Jesus.  

I study the Bible and share it every single way that I can … through the written word … through the spoken word … through social media … through radio waves … through the internet … through the cables that somehow produce TV. (I knew that I should have paid better attention in Physical Science class!  Maybe then I would understand how radio waves and TV cables actually work!!)

In this season of life, I am rediscovering my deep and desperate need for friendship. 

I ache for women who know me from the inside out and who love me anyway. 

I crave rich conversations that focus on the things that truly matter in life.  

I yearn for a woman who will listen with her heart wide open and with a tissue box handy.

This spring, as I have been traveling, rather than staying in sterile hotels, I have enjoyed the warmth of staying with friends.  In this busy journey of conferences, book sales and teaching the Word, I have become reacquainted with four of the very best type of friends.

First of all, I stayed with a friend in the frigid region of western New York who chose to serve me in her beautiful home with delicious yet healthy food. Let me tell you … this girl can cook! She had made my bed with warm flannel sheets to combat the cold winter nights. She sacrificed her car so that I could meet old friends for lunch. She opened her home night after night so that we could gather with women who just wanted more of Jesus and more of each other.

Everyone needs a friend who is simply a servant.  Thank you, Kim.

On my next step in the journey, I stayed with a friend who makes everything more beautiful just by her very presence. We went for long walks on spring mornings and basked in the glory of dogwoods, of herons on the pond and of rich, dark earth. She made hot cups of tea for me in her restored century old home and listened to my heart. She left treasures on my bed that were specific and timely just for me. But most of all – she responded to my heart with wisdom. Whenever I asked her a difficult question – she dipped deeply into her storehouse of insight and shared it with me in the most gentle of ways. 

Everyone needs a friend who lives a life of unmatched beauty and offers valuable wisdom.  Thank you, Dawn.

“Oil and perfume make the heart glad, so a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.” – Proverbs 27:9

Then I spent two nights in the home of an intercessor and prayer warrior.  My! How this woman prays!!  And she prays for me!  She hears from God on my behalf!  Hell shakes with tremendous fear when this woman gets out of bed in the morning. Honestly – I could live out my days safe in the assurance that she is championing the cause of heaven and saying my name in her prayers.

Everyone needs a friend who prays.  Thank you, Christy. 

My final stop on this tour of friendship is with my lifetime mentor. Carolyn goes digging for the gold in my heart. She challenges me with her lifetime of faith and with her refusal to quit. Although dealing with difficult life circumstances herself, she cheers me on in my journey and makes me believe in myself again.

Everyone needs a friend who stands firm in the faith and who refuses to be moved by the winds of circumstances.  Thank you, Carolyn.

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to think that there are so many of them in this world.” – Anne of Green Gables. 

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!  

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Just Joy Ministries by Carol Mcleod - 1w ago

I await the first sweet days of spring with impatient desire all year long.  

Well, actually, it is on the first days of fall that I begin to impatiently wait for the warmth of spring soil.  

Before you think me ungrateful or shortsighted, let me quickly assure you that I do appreciate the glory that uniquely belongs to fall. 

But it is for spring that my heart yearns. 

At the onset of September, I know that winter will be tripping over the heels of autumn and that I will be forced to endure three plodding months of snow … of ice … and of arctic temperatures. 

I know that during winter’s polar presence I will be forced to dash from my car to my house while trying not to breathe in the frosty air that threatens to refrigerate every cell in my body. 

When the first day of winter arrives  … I try diligently to be sincerely grateful … but there is just something so achingly cold about the dark days of winter.

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.” - Borland

The days of winter drag frigidly by while in my heart there is the craving for the new birth that only spring is able to bring.

I try to wait well during the months known as “winter” but it is spring that is perpetually on my mind.

I try to maintain an attitude of thankfulness but I can’t help but look ahead to the introductory days of spring when earth takes a deep breath in joyful anticipation of flowers, of new birth and of sunshine.

“The promise of spring’s arrival is enough to get anyone through the bitter winter!” – Selinsky

When the curtains of time are at last pulled back to reveal the third week of March, nature begins the celebration that is delightfully known as “spring”.

“Springtime is the land awakening. The March winds are the morning yawn.” – Grizzard

I have found that my soul is fed by the beauty that is found only in creation.  When I drink in artistry of my Creator that is viewed through the lens of nature, my thirst is quenched and my heart is at rest.

Spring is the time of year when my heart sings with unequaled joy.

Springs stirs up the unmatched pleasure of nature’s grand display of enchantment… pure enchantment. 

Spring is the moment when the earth giggles are heard in blooms of yellow, purple and pink.

“The earth laughs in flowers.” – Emerson

Winter teaches me to be patient and to learn the vital lesson of waiting well. Autumn has been assigned to tutor me in the fine art of gratitude.

But spring calls me to learn the dazzling lesson of celebration!

Spring teaches me to kick my heels in the air and to whistle a happy tune.

I am enamored by the charm of spring.

“Spring work is going on with joyful enthusiasm.” – Muir

Spring is the melody while the blooms on every bush are the lyrics – and you and I are invited to sing along!

It is during the months of spring that I experience the extreme pleasure of the Father.  He is painting a divine masterpiece just for me … because I was made for spring and spring was made just for me.

“So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord.

His going forth is as certain as the dawn;

And He will come to us like the rain,

Like the spring rain watering the earth.” – Hosea 6:3 

As I ponder the joyful whimsy of March, April and May – I am more aware of my Father’s presence than ever before. I observe the handiwork of God and my breath is taken away.

The God of spring is the God of me and I am in awe.

The God of new birth is the God of me and I bow my head in wonder.

“The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims the work of His hands.” – Psalm 19:1 

Because there is hope even in the darkest and most chilling days of winter … I know that there is an equal hope for the winter of my soul.

“There is one good thing about this world – there is always sure to be more springs.”- L.M.Montgomery 

When circumstances and situations threaten to freeze the abundance of life – I am reminded that the God who rests in winter is the same God who makes all things new.

“Spring unlocks the flowers to paint the laughing soil.”  Heber

Is it winter in your soul today? Are you paralyzed by the frosty conditions of life? Perhaps it is time for you to hope for spring … to believe for warmth … to anticipate new growth.

Maybe in this moment you should clear away the residue of last year’s pain and plant a new garden of laughter and of melody.

“If you’ve never been thrilled to the very edges of your soul by a flower in spring bloom, maybe your soul has never been in bloom” – Foveo

The earth is calling you today to proclaim that a new season has begun and that it has begun in you. 

“For behold the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.

The flowers have already appeared in the land;

The time has arrived for pruning the vines,

And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land.” – Song of Solomon 2:11 -12

Thanks for listening to my heart this week.  As you know by now, my heart is truly not a perfect heart but it is a heart that is filled to overflowing with gratitude for the life I have been given and for the people who walk with me.  And, it continues to be a heart that is relentlessly chasing after God and all that He is!  

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