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Posts Tagged ‘joy’

This culture seems bent to the will of a liar.   Jesus knows who he is.  Calls him what he is.  “He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).

The father of lies comes often to our door.  He doesn’t have to work very hard.  He hisses, we listen.  We listen because he appeals to our selfish desires. “Do this one thing and find happiness.”  Or, “Determine what will make you happy and don’t let anything get in your way.”   Believing the lie, we trip over ourselves to step into God’s place or, if we acknowledge Him at all, declare that He’s not relevant to our happiness.

The liar stood often before a woman named Traudi.  But, to her last breath, she testified that God was not only real, but the very Source of her happiness.  No matter what.  In all circumstances.  Whenever I think of Traudi, I am encouraged in my own battle with the lie.  Traudi taught me that happiness isn’t what we create.  It doesn’t come when our will is done.  Happiness is often a surprise.  What we least expect.  A peace in the midst of a storm.   Traudi appeared to have so little in life, yet so much spilled from hers to others.  If ever I’ve seen anyone’s well replenished in the midst of drought, it was Traudi’s.

Traudi was a young girl in pre-war Austria.  She grew up in a culture that believed it could find happiness if certain people were removed.  She and I once compared The Holocaust to legalized abortion.  I asked, “How could you and your family allow neighbors to be taken away to be murdered?”  Her answer was sobering.  When the lie is told often enough and we believe our happiness is at stake, “we blame those who might steal it away and do whatever we have to do.”

Traudi admitted being mesmerized by a man who used the lie to his advantage.  “I once passed by Adolph Hitler,” Traudi told me.  “When I looked him in the eye, I sensed a certain power.”  An entire culture, in times of vulnerability, can succumb to the power of the lie.  See it as some sort of salvation.  Traudi helped me see what even people who call themselves by God’s name are capable of doing.  Citizens of Traudi’s beloved Austria re-defined what they considered human and turned their backs on helpless neighbors.  Were they so different from the Israelites who failed to trust God and, instead, believed the lie that claimed their firstborn children on the altar of Baal?  Did they offer the blood sacrifice of one life so that another’s might be better.  Richer.  Happier.

The war ended, but Traudi’s trials had just begun.  Austria came under Russian control.  She and other women her age feared abuse at the hands of immoral conquerors.  One day, she met an American soldier who asked her to be his bride.  Traudi imagined a happiness beyond her dreams.  Go to America?  Leave pain and poverty?  “Ja!  Bitte!”  No matter if it meant traveling alone.  Her fiance went ahead to tell his parents about her and prepare a home.  Traudi arrived in New York frightened and without a penney.  No one covered her fare.  No one assisted her.  And, when she found her way to Iowa, she was rejected by her husband’s family.

The lie came frequently to haunt Traudi. Your happiness, it hissed, is dependent on other people.  But, her new American family didn’t like her.  Her husband offered little support or encouragement.  Their only son broke her heart with his foolish choices.  But, I never heard her complain.  To this day, I can’t find anyone else who heard her complain.  There were so many sad things all around her.  But, her well of happiness was never dry.

When cancer invaded her body, she attended to the cares and concerns of others.  Once, walking across the street, she was hit by a car and tossed to near death, but she was the one who brightened the days of her visitors.  When her only grandchild was torn between divorced parents, Traudi devoted herself to full-time mentoring as well as full days earning the family income.  The lie told Traudi to think of herself.  But, The Word reminded her that she didn’t have to.  Her Robe of mercy was secure.

Traudi helped me understand that happiness does not come when we focus on ourselves.  We do not create it, nor do we plan it.  We do not demand it from others.  It comes to us by surprise.  It is, Traudi discovered, all the gifts of the Spirit that come just when we need them.  Love.  Peace.  Patience.  Kindness.  Faithfulness.  Yes, even self-control.

It was my privilege to be mentored by this woman of faith.  She’s gone on ahead to pure happiness, but I am left with her example.  It serves me well.   The lie wants me captive.  But, it didn’t hold Traudi.  And, because of Christ, it can’t hold me.

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Yesterday was my birthday.  My gift was a day of joy.   Joy is not an emotion or feeling that I “stir up.”  Joy doesn’t come naturally from anything I do.  Joy is a fruit of the Spirit.  And, on this day, joy was experienced in countless little things.

None of us knows how a day will play out, do we?  There are days when everything seems to go wrong or when I just feel out of sync with God, myself and others.  But, on Monday, November 29, every little thing seemed right.

No celebratory plans had been made.  A road trip to Sedona before heading back to Iowa just seemed a good “spur of the moment” idea.  With brilliant blue sky above us and hot coffee in our thermos (yes, a little cream), we weaved through the Superstition Mountains up to “rim country” and the cowboy town of Payson.  Those of you who know me have probably figured out that I get “good” or “not so good vibes” from certain environments.  A drive through Payson and then the little villages of Pine and Strawberry comforted me.  While we drove, Paul and I were deeply involved in discussions of God’s Word and what He says to us, our family, and this culture.  I was in my element.  Joy wrapped contentment.

The road meandered through pine forests and beside red sandstone cliffs before dropping into the Verde Valley.  Always before, we had driven I-17 to reach the red rock country of Sedona.  Never again!  This back country road provided peace for the soul but, at the same time, joyful anticipation: What’s around the next bend?

Sedona has a reputation for being a kind of “new age” mecca.  A resident Lutheran pastor once commented on the spiritual warfare he discerns in this place where faiths collide.  I’ve visited the shops where crystals, wicca wear, and all manner of cultish books are pandered.  Paul and I have walked the trails where pagan ceremonies are sometimes held.   But, on this day, we were not to be distracted by evil; rather, we were directed toward all the goodness of God’s creation.

Lunch was “just right.”  Two cookies — cranberry oatmeal and chocolate chip — seemed the perfect treat following a half tuna salad and cup of tummy-warming soup.  Half of each cookie was eaten piece by piece all afternoon.  The other halves were saved for tomorrow 🙂    An hour or so was spent in a family-favorite shopping village of Tlaquepaque: Paul patiently content, me on a gifts-for-friends quest.  Paul would rather be anywhere other than near a store but, on this day, he, too, relaxed in the presence of joy.

Joy in the little things continued all afternoon. Sons, Jon and Josh, both called at exactly the same time.  Visits weren’t all birthday focused; no matter!  The little thing of timing was significant to me.  While Jon talked with Paul about farm matters on one cell phone, I listened to sounds of joyful chatter from our youngest grandson on another.  Josh, our daughter-in-law, Alison, and six-month-old Max chimed in on speaker phone.  Then, a friend called.  Some text messages arrived.  As a spectacular setting sun begged for attention, another call came to Paul from his brother.  It didn’t matter that the call had nothing to do with my birthday.  The joy was in the communication of siblings whose lives and good counsel matter to each other.

It would have seemed that the day was complete.  Completely perfect.  But, no, joy in the little things continued.  Even in the darkness, the pine forests welcomed us back.  The Christmas lights of Strawberry and Pine reminded me of the anticipatory season.  A little detour off the main road through Payson took us to an unfamiliar, but charming restaurant.   During dinner, two more text messages arrived from son, Jon, and daughter-in-law, Angie.  When we arrived back in Gold Canyon, an e-mail from grandson Jaden awaited me.  Our neighbor was still up, ready to hear about our day.   And…

… this birthday girl pondered the joy of little things in her heart.

Thank you, my Heavenly Father, for the gift of this day.  Thank You for stirring up joy that I could never do for myself.  And thank You for my husband — who, on this particular day, carried not my burdens but delighted in my joys.

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