Overpowered With Joy

Yesterday, a computer game the boys play had an update, and they ended with all these extra powers and abilities that they couldn’t get before. Austin tried to explain it to us, but it was like he was speaking a foreign language. He kept going on about how each one could do these new and wonderful things they couldn’t do before. He said some of them were even “overpowered.” As he went on talking about how he just couldn’t believe how amazing this update was, he blurted out, “I’m overpowered… with joy!”

You know, that’s what joy does for us. It strengthens us. It powers us up. It gives us what we need and more to be able to face the day and win. Nehemiah told God’s people in his time that God set aside days on their calendar when they should be celebrate. In some ways, they felt bad to celebrate. They realized they didn’t live perfect lives. They knew the challenges they faced. They weren’t even sure they had the emotional strength- and therefore the physical strength- to celebrate. Nehemiah went on to tell them that the joy of the Lord would be their strength.

God doesn’t intend for us to live down in the mully-grubs. He wants us to live life to the fullest. But sometimes we check our bank account, and we don’t think we have the strength to celebrate. Or we check the doctor’s report, and we don’t think we have the strength to celebrate. We check our social media feed, and we don’t think we have the strength to celebrate.

Maybe today, you need to let the joy of the Lord be your strength. If you’ll let Him fill you up inside, you can live your life “overpowered with joy!”

Free To Enjoy

I cringe every time a player for the NFL team I’m cheering for scores a touchdown and begins to celebrate in the end zone. I just know they’re going to get flagged for “excessive celebration.” They don’t typically, unless they begin taunting the other team or use a prop, a la Michael Thomas in last night’s game against the LA Rams. Yet, I still cringe. I talk to the TV screen like I’m their coach or teammate, like they can actually hear me. I tell them not to celebrate too much, not to cost their team a penalty because they are happy they succeeded.

But there is no need to cringe anymore. Players can celebrate ridiculously and not be penalized. And that’s the way it should be. They did well, and they should celebrate. They should celebrate with others who helped them. They should rejoice that all their hard work paid off. It’s right to celebrate.

No, this is not my commentary on the state of the NFL today. It is my commentary to myself and other followers of Jesus Christ on what it means to live the kind of life He intends for us to live. By the time Jesus merged deity and humanity into one in His person here on earth, rules of religion had made it almost impossible to celebrate a life lived freely for God. The handful of rules given by God to help guide His people toward a life full of joy and abundance had morphed into a list of hundreds of rules– most created by humans– which sucked the life out of serving the Lord. Jesus reminded people to keep it simple… love God… love people… be kind… help the hurting… stay humble… sacrifice for others.

He came to say we don’t have to cringe when someone scores a touchdown. We’re free to enjoy a life lived for God. No, we shouldn’t be flagrant and offensive toward others. It’s not okay to use our freedom to insult or demean, like we think we’re better because we follow Christ. But that also doesn’t mean we have to go through life ignoring the fact that God has been really good to us. It doesn’t mean we can never smile, or be happy when He blesses us.

It’s time to live free for God again. It’s time to quit cringing because someone might get offended if we say, “Praise the Lord!” No flag will get thrown by the Heavenly ref if we do a little dance in the end zone because we got an “A” on a test, or because we got the job of our dreams, or because we have met that special someone.

So, whether it’s the electric slide, the bowling pin strike with teammates, or even the leap into the crowd, remember today that it is okay to celebrate when God does good things for us and helps us to succeed. Go ahead… live that full, abundant, joyful life He has always meant for us to live. A few folks may chuckle. A few may shake their heads in disgust. That’s okay. God will smile, and you’ll want to succeed again so that you can feel that overflowing sensation once more!

A New Memory

I unplugged the iPad from where it had been charging so I could take it with me to do some work while I waited on an oil change. When I unplugged it, the screen lit, and I saw a notification box in the middle. I tapped on it, and it read, “You have a new memory.” When I opened it, it was a great memory we had made a little over a year ago when we just had fun as a family. Nothing expensive or extravagant. Just time spent together smiling, laughing, cooking and eating… enjoying each other. Today, seeing those pics from that time, I am so glad we made the time to make those memories.

This begs the question… What memories am I making today that I will be glad I made a year from now? Five years from now? Ten years from now? When the boys are away at college, what memory will pop up on whatever electronic device we have then?

You see, if I don’t make them now, we won’t have them then. And I definitely want to have great memories in life. So I have to make those great memories. I have heard Author and Pastor, Mark Batterson, say, “Accumulate experiences, not possessions.” In other words, spend your time and money on making memories with the people you love which will one day pop up on the iPad to bring a smile back to your face and light up your eyes once more.

And hey, don’t let this post make you feel guilty if you haven’t been making great memories. Let it instead inspire you to start now. It’s the perfect time to begin. A month from now… a year from now… a lifetime from now, you’ll be glad you did!

Bonus Post: Just For Fun

So, we were out enjoying supper with good friends tonight when I happened to mention that peaches were on sale this week at a local grocery store. Something about that triggered a boisterous response from a certain young lady in the group… who shall remain nameless… who then let us know that what is wrong with our world is that there are not enough peaches and pears… always mostly apples and oranges.

I guess I had never noticed, but she’s right. Apples and oranges are in ample supply at every turn year round. But peaches and pears, how often do you see those? And who picks those as their first choice?

Why not, I say?! Let’s all buy more peaches and pears! Let’s plant peach trees and pear trees! No more hum-drum red delicious and navel norm for us. We are the people who eat peaches and pears!

Now that this is off my chest… I bid y’all a happy weekend… full of peaches and pears!

Abundant

Abundant, full, overflowing… That was my weekend.  Fun with family.  Enjoyed ministry at two different churches in two different states.  Safe travels.  Good food.  Hung out with old friends, and made new friends.  Needs met in a variety of ways.

As I look back over the weekend, I just think to myself, “How great is it to be God’s kid?!”  When I read John 10:10, this weekend is the kind of life I feel like Jesus was describing.  A life full of joy, love and peace.  Who could ask for more?

I know we all go through challenging times, but when we choose to be chosen by God as His very own children, He brings us into the life He designed for us… one of abundance, fullness and overflow!

I Like His Style

One of my favorite new TV shows kind of snuck up on me and made me like it.  It’s the story of a man who has a dream.  His dream is fleshed out in his 95-point plan to make his town of 456 residents… D’lo, Mississippi… the greatest town in America.

Small Town, Big Mayor features Mayor John Henry Berry’s pursuit of bringing his hometown back from near-extinction… and I don’t want to miss an episode.  My attraction to the show goes beyond the fact that it is pure… and clean… and humorous.  It’s the hero… the champion… the tip of the spear this guy has chosen to be for his town.

I love that he saw a need and decided something had to be done to fix what was wrong.  I love that he came up with a plan… probably more than what anyone else had done. I love that he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty to set the example of what it’s going to take to make the dream become reality.  I love that he loves that town and those people enough to put up with some of their goofiness (and their ridiculous ideas of what they think a mayor ought to do for them) because he has the greater good in mind.  I love that he is willing to get out of his comfort zone to help others, and to ensure that his plan is working.

I guess I watch for a few laughs.  But more and more I watch for inspiration.  And I find myself wanting to live passionately like Mayor John Henry Berry.  It reminds me how Jesus loved and served people.

On tonight’s episode, he was teaching his daughter how to operate a track hoe to help him fix a busted water main.  She didn’t think she could do it.  In that moment of her insecurity in her own abilities, he told her that she COULD do it… that she had his blood flowing through her veins.

That’s when I was reminded of those times when I don’t think I can do something, and the Lord says gently to my heart and mind, “Sure you can, son, you’ve got my blood flowing through your veins.”

You may not find a humorous reality TV show inspiring… or motivational… or spiritual, but I do. At least this one.  And so I cheer for Mayor John Henry Berry.  I’m going to keep watching as he whittles away at those 95 points one at a time till his dream becomes reality.  Go get ’em, Mayor Berry!  You can do it!  And you’re inspiring us to believe that we can, too.

Scars Before Trophies

I laughed till I cried and could hardly catch my breath.  Three or four of us older teenagers were helping our youth pastor build a float to represent our church in a local parade. Someone hurt themselves a little, and someone else told a story of a time when they got hurt.  We each took a turn telling a story about getting hurt.  Then Mike told a story about getting hurt that topped them all.

Not to be outdone… because now this was a competitive display of our manhood… we each began pulling out our best injury stories. There were lots of “ohhhhh’s” and “no way’s.”  And after each person told their next story, Mike would tell one of his… usually rolling up a pant leg or lifting a sleeve to show us the scar related to that story.  This got us laughing.  As it went on, we all ran out of stories, and Mike just kept telling his till we laughed harder and harder.

That night, building that float together and telling stories of injuries we had survived… Mike winning the manhood trophy, of course… drew us all together.  Looking back, I get it.  The greatest inspirational stories… the ones that open our heart to hear what others have to say… the ones that draw us to them… the ones that make us want to know them… are the stories which involve someone overcoming injury and adversity.  It’s when they show us their scars… because scars prove they know what it’s like to be hurt, and they also prove that healing can take place.

I love watching the Olympics.  And I can be planning to cheer for one person, but then the network hosting the airing will show a video telling of a different athlete’s trials they had to overcome to make it to the Olympics.  Suddenly, I’m drawn to that person… caught up in their story as it unfolds… wanting them to succeed and win.  And when they do, it’s all the sweeter because I know what they had to go through to win that medal.  Their scars made me celebrate their victory.

Mark Lowry said once, “When someone won’t show you their scars, I don’t really care to see their trophies.”  You see, it’s not the successes people achieve which inspire us and engage us.  It is the scars they show us which they got on the way to winning the trophy.  It says to us that we may get hurt, but we will heal… and we can even go on to win.

Lots of people hate on the disciple known as “doubting Thomas” because he refused to believe Jesus had risen from the dead till he saw the scars, but he had not been there when Jesus showed Himself alive to the disciples the first time.  In my opinion, his response was totally normal to the human condition.  Yet when he saw the scars, it gave him hope… caused him to believe… inspired him… motivated him.

It’s not so different today, is it?  People want hope.  People want to believe.  But they need to see some scars.  They need to hear someone say that they got hurt, but they also healed.  Once they see our scars, they will be able to believe that they, too, can heal from their hurts in life.

So let’s pull down our defenses some today.  Let’s be real… genuine… authentic… vulnerable… a little less than perfect.  Let’s do like Mike, and keep showing our scars till everyone else listening to us thinks, “Hey, my life’s not that bad.  And they healed up, maybe I will, too.”  When we do, our trophies will actually shine a little brighter in their eyes, and we will inspire them to pursue victory for themselves!