Category Archives: Joy

Dreading Easter

Stained Glass church windows with title "Dreading Easter"by Lydia Floren

When I was little kid, I had very mixed emotions about Easter. I loved the part where I got to decorate eggs, eat chocolate, and dress up in a pretty new outfit. But, I dreaded going to church on Easter.  They said the Easter story was good news, but it didn’t seem good to me. It was the story of how mean people made fun of Jesus, and beat Him up, and then killed Him, and that somehow, it was all my fault.  What was good about that?

But I know something now that I didn’t know then: I didn’t kill Jesus.

Jesus made the decision to die entirely on His own. In fact, He could have changed His mind anywhere along the way.  For example, I can easily imagine this scenario happening in the middle of Jesus’ torture:

Jesus lifts his chin and focuses straight ahead.  Suddenly everything stops, suspended mid-motion. The roar of the crowd turns to silence. The razorlike whip, a mere 2 inches from His torn flesh, dangles in midair like strands of Spanish moss. He rips off His cruel crown and tosses it aside. In three long strides, He reaches the men stooped over his robe. He grabs the garment from frozen hands, donning it as He walks away, slicing through the stilled crowd like a hot knife through butter.  

This could have happened.  Jesus had plenty of power to do this and more. But He didn’t.  Every single moment of His life, and every second leading up to His death, He made the same decision over and over again. To stay. To endure. I can almost see Him gazing at each person in that vicious crowd, and as their eyes met, His murmuring, “You are worth it.”  He is still saying it to each of us. “I love you. You were worth it then, and you are worth it now. I have called you by name. You are mine.”

This Easter season, stop at the cross for a while, not to pile on guilt, but so you can be rid it. Let God banish those lies swirling around in your head: “You are worthless.” “You are a screw-up.” “You don’t deserve to be loved.”   Ditch the lie I believed as a child, “I killed Jesus.”   Stay at the cross for a while and absorb the truth: “Jesus chose to die because He loved me, and wanted me with Him forever. That’s how important I am to Him.”  “I am totally worth it.  He said so with His words, and by His actions.”

Shed the lies. Accept the truth. And then move on. Live your life in the freedom that Christ paid so dearly for. Freedom from condemnation and shame. Freedom in the knowledge that you are loved, valued, wanted, and worth dying for.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

It is for freedom that Christ has set you free. Gal 5:1

There is no dread in Easter. Only joy.

His joy is 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 12:2 NASB

Our joy is Him.

I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. John 15:11

Waking Up With a Smile

8:4:16 Waking up

by Lydia Floren

“Father in heaven, when the thought of Thee wakes our hearts, let it not awaken like a  frightened bird that flies about in dismay, but like a child waking from its sleep with a heavenly smile.”  –Soren Kierkegaard

Our Heavenly Father loves us unconditionally. When we turn to God, we always have a warm welcome.  His arms are open wide. We can run into His embrace, and unburden our cares and worries, leaving them at His feet. Once we are settled and at peace, He’ll give us a big hug, tousle our head, and send us on our way with a smile.

Being in God’s presence reassures us that He is with us, and will guide us through whatever difficulty we face.

We can always turn to God with complete trust and confidence.

       When I awake, I am still with You.  Psalm 139:18

8:4:16 When I Awake

8:4:16 Every Smile

Choose Life

3:25:16 Choose Lifeby Lydia Floren

Easter is all about life. Nothing says “life” like budding flowers, and chirping birds, and greening leaves, so it makes perfect sense to celebrate Easter in the spring. “I came,” Jesus said, “that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 19:10) This abundant life is not just about heaven. God invites us to experience this rich life now. Today. Everyday.

Because of Christ’s sacrifice, we have the option of living an abundant life. But God doesn’t force this on us. We get to choose whether to embrace God’s love and follow Him, or to continue on our own destructive path.

This is a choice between life and death, as Deuteronomy 30 points out:

I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life. Deut. 30:19-20

This Easter, choose life: live the life you were created to live.
Resolve to

  • Love God
  • Listen to His voice
  • Hold tight to Him

And then keep making that choice over and over again. Because the Lord IS your life.

Real life begins with Him. Real life can only be found in Him.

The Extraordinary Ordinary

1:15:16 Extraordinaryby Lydia Floren

We spend most of our lives doing ordinary tasks.  We may be stirring a pot, or bandaging a scrape, or commuting to work.  We may be taking a class, or hammering a nail, or tending a sick patient.

God is in these moments.

The secret of contentment is to celebrate God’s presence in our ordinary lives.  When we welcome Him in to our every-day, He blesses even the most mundane activities with a transcendence that is akin to worship.

Our ordinary is extraordinary.

How have you experienced the extraordinary ordinary?

1:15:16 Sunray

The Secret of Surrender

10:29:15 Hugh Jackman on stageby Lydia Floren

Let me tell you a little secret about me:  I am a clandestine celebrity watcher.  Yes, I am one of those people who scan the headlines in the grocery checkout lane.  At the hairdresser, I’ll scroll through the latest People magazine.  I might even be known to [gasp] Google a star of my favorite TV show.  I make excuses for this somewhat silly voyeurism:  “I need to be aware of what is going on in Daniel’s world,” I’ll tell myself.  But truthfully, I probably know more about some stuff (the unimportant stuff) in Hollywood, than does my actor son Daniel, who actually lives there!  Besides, my “star watching” started long before Daniel chose his career path and moved to LA.

OK, now that you know my little secret, you shouldn’t be surprised that my favorite part of the Sunday paper is Parade Magazine.  Which gets me to the part that might actually interest you.

Not too long ago Parade featured an interview with actor Hugh Jackman, aka “Wolverine”, of the X-Men.

10:29:15 Jackman

In the article, Jackman unabashedly acknowledged his Christianity, and described how his faith is intertwined with his work.  Here are his words, as quoted in Parade:

“I’m a religious person.  This is going to sound weird to you.  In Chariots of Fire, the runner, Eric Liddell, says, ‘When I run, I feel His pleasure.’  And I feel that pleasure when I act and it’s going well, particularly onstage.  I feel what everyone’s searching for, the feeling that unites us all.  Call it ‘God’.  Before I go onstage every night, I pause and dedicate the performance to God, in the sense of  ‘Allow me to surrender’.  When you allow yourself to surrender to the story, to the character, to the night, to the audience, transcendence happens.  And when that happens, there is nothing like it on the planet.  It’s the moment people experience when they fall in love, which is equally frightening and exciting.  That’s what it feels like.”

I think God wants each of us to experience moments like Liddell’s and Jackman’s.  These moments come when we surrender ourselves to Him.  When we relinquish control and just trust Him, we become a conduit for His Holy Spirit to work through us.

God wants us to “feel His pleasure”, as we do what He made us to do.

When we do, it is as if Jesus murmurs in our ear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.  Enter into the joy of your Master.”

How have you seen God work through you when you surrender?

p.s.  Here’s a link to the Parade article on Hugh Jackman:
http://parade.com/426939/dotsonrader/the-hugh-you-never-knew/

Morning Joy

Morning Joy

God gave me a beautiful gift this morning, as I was driving down the interstate.

It was 6:30 a.m., and I was in a hurry – it was going to be a long day.  As I rounded the final bend before my exit, a spectacular vista met my eyes:  a pink/purple dawn spread out over a distant blue ridge, which was draped in wispy clouds.  It reminded me of the Smoky Mountains – of home.

“Quick, get out the camera and snap a picture!”, I told myself.  No.  Not a good idea at 70 mph.  Just enjoy.  Soak in the beauty of the moment (and try to keep an eye on the road)!

That sunrise was a gift at the beginning of a difficult day.  It was as if God was saying,

“I am here.  All is well.  Enjoy.”

He says that to me a lot, actually.  In all kinds of ways.  Too many times, I don’t see.  Or I see, but I don’t stop to give thanks.  (I’m a slow learner.)

You know, on those days that I do notice God’s ever-abundant gifts, and choose to thank Him, something wonderful happens.  JOY settles over me like mist on a mountain.

In Your presence is fullness of joy!  Psalm 16:11

Consider It All Joy

9:18:15 Consider it Joyby Lydia Floren

Being a doctor, I see many advantages to being cared for by a physician who has lived a few years (well more than a few, but who’s counting ☺).  We “older” docs have personal experience with bad knees, dimming vision, pneumonia, colitis, hemorrhoids.  I know, I know. TMI.

I can’t say I like being sick, or having surgery – nothing makes one appreciate good health like infirmity.  But because I have “been there,” I can better help my patients through their difficulties.

When I live through – not just observe – an illness, I have a much better understanding of it.  For someone like me, this is particularly good news.  My “empathy” gene is not particularly dominant:  experiencing pain unmasks its expression.

Like Paul, we can “consider it all joy” when we go through hard times.  Not only will God strengthen us and guide us through it, He will use it to help someone else.

Difficulties open our hearts to compassion.

With God, no experience is wasted.

 

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:28 NASB

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.  James 1:2

Thou has enlarged me when I was in distress.  Psalm 4:1 KJV

“Be set free not from suffering but rather through suffering.”  -George Matheson

Joy = Love + Laughter

Everyone loves to laugh.  Why is that?

  • Laughter is infectious.  If you are around someone who is bent over laughing  (and also maybe about to pee their pants if they are a certain age), you immediately smile.  And if they keep on laughing, even if they don’t say a word, you start to laugh with them, and try to get their attention to find out what is so funny, so you can share the joke.
  • Laughter, like a good cry, is soul cleansing – but unlike tears, laughter doesn’t usually leave you exhausted or melancholy.  On the contrary, it is invigorating.
  • Laughter is bright. Not in an ethereal-lumninous-sort of way, but in a blinding-flash-of-light kind of way.  In fact, you could say

Laughter is audible sunshine. 

  • Laughter is refreshing, especially when someone is laughing at themselves.  It reminds you not to take yourself too seriously.
  • Laughter is a game changer. When your sense of humor is tickled, and you start to laugh,  whatever foul mood, or pity party, you might be experiencing tends to evaporate.
  • Laughter is a gift from God.  Think about it: God invented laughter, just as He did everything else we know and experience.  He programmed us each with our funny-o-meter. And here’s an interesting concept: God laughs.Jesus_laughing

God laughs?  Of course He does. In fact, I bet He laughs a lot.  No one could create some of the amazing quirky creatures in our world without a lively sense of humor.   He surely chuckles, as any loving parent would, at the many funny things we say and do.  And He must certainly laugh – in that deep satisfied way – when his children step into joy.

You will make known to me the path of life;
In Your presence is fullness of joy;
In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

                Psalm 16:11  NASB

Joy is the hallmark of a person who lives in God’s presence.  Such a person loves. And smiles. And laughs.   

 You might say

 Joy = Love + Laughter.