Trouble and a joyful heart

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Photo credit:  Jale Feeman

So…. this is how the week started out…. Vehicle #1 is down for the count.  No big deal, right?  We can share two vehicles between the three of us.

Fast forward to Tuesday, vehicle #2 also goes down for the count.

Ok, we still have one vehicle… we can make this work.

Fast forward to Wednesday noon… I can hear it in Daniel’s voice when he calls.  He just finished up his first class of the semester and is heading home for a few hours before his evening class.  Only, he’s not heading home because vehicle #3 has decided to go on strike just like the other two.  Seriously, when he explained the situation, all I could do was laugh.

I’d like to say that vehicle issues are the only issues that have come up this week, but that wouldn’t be true.  For fun, let’s throw in the stomach flu, a migraine headache, a random viral illness with fever and chills, and pesky technological issues in our household just to round it out.

I’m sure many of you can relate, right?

Some weeks are just like that.  Some seasons of life are like that too.

But you know what I say?  So what!!

So what if it feels like life is falling apart all around us.  Feelings can be misleading, and dwelling on our frustrating circumstances will actually make us feel even worse.

Just like I mentioned in my last post, it’s about focus.

What do I know to be true?

In John 16:33, Jesus was talking to his disciples, and he said, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.  In this world, you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world.”

When Jesus refers to “these things,” He is referencing suffering yet to come.

But Jesus doesn’t leave the disciples on a grim note.  He tells them to “take heart,” which means be encouraged, be optimistic, keep your eye on the prize, because He has “overcome the world.”  If you’ve read the end of the Book, then you already know that. He wins, and if we are with Him, then we win too!

So can you be joyful in troubled times?  Do you want to know my opinion?

I say:  It’s a choice.  It’s your choice.  So why not choose joy?

We will always face frustrations, challenges, and failures, and not just minor ones like the ones I’ve experienced this week.  **I just want to clarify that when I mentioned suffering above, I’m not placing myself in that category.  Many people around our world are truly suffering, and many of us (including myself) have little idea of what true suffering is.

Yes, we will all have rough patches and rocky roads, but we can choose to be joyful.

James 1:2-4 actually says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

On the other side of trials and trouble is the promise of growth, and through every circumstance we have the promise of God’s presence and guidance.  He said he would never leave us.  Never means never.

So, I choose to walk in joy, and I hope you do too, in spite of your present circumstances.  Make the people around you wonder why you can be joyful in troubled times.  You may get the opportunity to share the Reason for your hope!

 

And because I know you’re eagerly waiting for an update on our vehicle saga, vehicle #3 just needed a new battery and is up and running.  Vehicle #2 is functional and its issues will be addressed this weekend by my amazing personal mechanic.  And vehicle #1 has more extensive issues which will also be addressed by said mechanic at a later date.

Focus

Let your eyes look right on [with fixed purpose], and let your gaze be straight before you.             Prov. 4:25 (amp)

So last weekend, Todd and I were looking for something to watch on Netflix that didn’t require any brain power.  I chose the genre of “Reality TV.”  People are weird.  People are quirky.  People are interesting to watch.

We were scrolling through our options and came to a show called “Canada’s Worst Driver.”  We’d never heard of it before, but for some reason, it piqued my interest.  Overall, I wouldn’t give the show a very high rating.  It moved along rather slowly in my opinion, although based on the fact that we caught an episode from season 8, Canada must not agree with me.

Anyway, there were eight drivers, and they were put through a series of driving tests, and the one who needed the least amount of help graduated and was sent home at the end of the episode.  They were all bad, but some were less bad than others.

There was a guy named Robert who stood out to me in particular.  He was a young guy, but he was afraid to go fast. In fact, he even got ticketed once for going too slow.  The announcer stated that what should take him 30 minutes to get to work took him over an hour.  It made no sense at all why this guy was so afraid to even go the speed limit.

One of the challenges involved accelerating to 70 km/h (which is 43 mph) while speeding straight for a large “truck” made out of cardboard boxes.  While driving at full speed, the contestants had to look over both shoulders, and whichever shoulder they saw the green marker over, they had to swerve that direction to avoid hitting the “truck.”  Each contestant had one lesson with a professional driver before their actual attempt.  Robert’s instructor simply reminded him to look way down the road when he was accelerating.  Robert actually went up to 120 km/h and was comfortable doing it.  When he stopped the car, it was like a lightbulb had gone on inside his head.  He had light in his eyes, and a smile on his face.

So what was the secret for Robert?  Apparently he was looking at what was going on around him when he was driving instead of focusing farther down the road.  I didn’t really think much of it at first, but the episode came back into my mind later, and I realized what a good life lesson it portrayed.

When we focus on our circumstances and our problems, they can be all consuming and overwhelming, but just a shift in our focus to the One who has the answers to our problems can bring peace to our troubled souls.

I love the message of the old hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.”  The chorus reads:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face,

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,

In the light of his glory and grace.

Such a simple concept, really, but it can make a huge difference.  If you’re struggling to find peace in your current situation, just try shifting your focus to Jesus who isn’t surprised or overwhelmed by your circumstances, but desires to help you through them.

So, Robert was the first of the drivers in season eight to graduate and get his license back.  He was a relatively quick fix. Some of the other contestants – not so much.

A dreamer’s got to dream…

                 There is freedom waiting for you on the breezes of the sky, and you ask              “What if I fall?”  Oh but my darling, what if you fly?”  – Erin Hanson

He talks about it all the time, Pastor Tom does.  He knows how to dream.  Lisa, his wife, dreams big too, but she says he always trumps her dreams.  And guess what?  Time after time after time, they see God fulfill their dreams and then some.  They’re not afraid to dream really big!

I’m learning.  I’ve always said I’m not a dreamer.  Todd is.  We’ve been married 30 years now, and his dreams have always shaken me because they are big, and they seem impossible at best.  So sadly, on way too many occasions, I’ve taken it upon myself to be the “voice of reason” and squashed some pretty great dreams along the way.

Perhaps it’s fear.  Perhaps it’s because of prior disappointments, maybe a mixture of those and other excuses as well.

Anyway, I’m spreading my wings a little and trying this dream thing on.  Now that I said that, I think I’ve always had dreams, but have never given them a voice.  So here is one of my dreams.  I want to change the world…through my writing.  Sounds all big and cliche, doesn’t it?  That’s okay.  It’s my dream, and it fits me just right.  Our family is a “go big or go home” kind of family, so they get it, and they’ve got my back.

I’ve always loved to write, but primarily kept it for myself.  Gary from church said that God told him I was a writer, and that I should get back to it.  That was a few years ago.  I needed the nudge.  Even then, though, I had excuses.  Too busy, not the right time, no one cares what I have to say…and on and on.

But no more excuses and no more delay.  Dreams are a launch pad for action.  Just like the springboard that gymnasts use to propel themselves over the vault.  If they don’t step onto it, it does nothing for them.  And, if you don’t step into your dreams, you go nowhere…fast.

What are your dreams, and what are you waiting for?