On love — and fullness of life and joy

I do not want to post these thoughts. This meditation is written for me. If you want to come along down this scary path, you may. It might remind you to pray for me now and then. And you may find something that helps you too.

And if you want to skip this one, feel free to do that. Because it’s longer than normal. And it might seem a little disjointed. That’s the state of my thoughts as the battle goes on.

So here we go.

There is a verse about joy—complete joy—that I have not yet touched. And I haven’t included it thus far because of that constant war between my old self with allegiance only to me and my new self with its allegiance to the Spirit.

The old self doesn’t want to think about this verse because it would mean I have to change and grow—and I’m certain the learning is going to be painful. Wouldn’t it be much easier just to sit in my old habits and complacency?

We find that there is talk in Scriptures of being made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (Ephesians 3:19)

Wow. I try to imagine what it would be like to live with all the fullness of life and power God can give. I’m guessing it’s beyond anything we can imagine.

And I want that. I want a life like that!

Look at the context of that hope: First, the Spirit starts imbuing my life with His strength. Christ makes His home with me and I learn to trust Him. My roots go down deeper and deeper into God’s love and I’m kept strong.

And I start to understand God’s love. Even though it’s so great I’ll never understand fully, I start to see the depth, the vast proportions of it.

Then I will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God…

This full, abundant, overflowing life seems to be all tied up with God’s love.

Uh-oh.

This brings me back to that passage I’ve been avoiding. John 15:9-12.

Jesus says, “I’ve told you all these things so you will be filled with overflowing joy. My joy.” And the key to this overflowing joy seems to be to obey His commandment: Love each other as I have loved you.

There’s the rub.

I want the complete, full life. I want the overflowing joy.

I just don’t want to love like Jesus loves.

That is, the old me doesn’t want to.

Because…because …

Loving like that is hard. I would have to learn a lot about loving, and I’m pretty sure God will have to prune me a lot if I agree to learn to love His way.

It’s easier just to stay in my own kingdom and live the way I want, rather than live under this guiding rule of the Kingdom of Heaven.

But I don’t want to live in my own kingdom, according to my own rules. That never ends well.

I am reluctant. Okay, I’m afraid. I am afraid to acquiesce. I am afraid to submit completely and say to the Spirit, “Make me over completely. Teach me how to love like you do.”

But why am I afraid?

Living according to the Spirit brings life and peace.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…

Ah. The first three fruits listed—those things I so desire—all wrapped up together, intertwined, interdependent. All come because the Spirit has the power to rewire me.

Then you will be made complete with fullness of life and power from God… ALL the fullness!

and

You will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

Love each other in the same way I have loved you.

I know where my allegiance, my love, and my longings lie.

It’s just this part of me, Lord, that holds back and says I can’t, I don’t want to…after all, look where loving led You.

Living according to the Spirit brings life and peace … love, joy, peace …

I take comfort reading further in Ephesians 3—and finding that You can do things in me that I can’t even imagine. And I also depend on 2 Corinthians 3:17-18. Your Spirit brings freedom and is daily changing me, making me more and more like You.

To love like You.

Bringing me that fullness of life and power and joy and peace.

Amen.

 

Psalm Prayer:

You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.
(Psalm 16:11)

*

© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Sing your own psalm

Why not sing your own psalm today? Okay, you don’t have to actually sing it. Voice it though. Sing it to the Lord, if to no one else. Thank and praise Him for all the huge wonders and small gifts He has poured into your life.

Oh, the joys of those who trust the LORD, who have no confidence in the proud or in those who worship idols.
O LORD my God, you have performed many wonders for us.
Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal.

If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.
(Psalm 40:5)

Oh, the joys of placing myself and my life in the hands of our Father.

What joys? All the wonders He performs for me. I could write about the monumental, life-changing miracles like making us new creatures or engineering a new job or healing a heartbreak. In your psalm, you can include the great things He has done in your life…

… but don’t forget the small, too-often overlooked gifts of every day—

Like friendships, a word of encouragement at just the right time, and a rainy day.

Look for the gifts poured into your life today that make your day richer. Thank God for them.

Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts, challenges us to keep a list, actually writing down God’s gifts each day. Her own list tells of ordinary things in her farmer’s-wife life, like “nylons without runs” and “kettle whistling for tea on a cold afternoon.”

I could make my own list with things like:
a grandchild snuggling close
music of the rain in the woods
someone else cleaning up the mess after I cook dinner
early morning light

She calls these things “the pulse of God’s love” for His children.

These daily gifts season our lives and come from the heart of our Father.

And when we start paying attention and offering thanks, we do indeed hear the heartbeat of His love.

 

Psalm Prayer:

You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.
(Psalm 16:11)

*

© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Many wonders for us

There are simple moments that stay with us for a lifetime. One of those for me was coming home after a weekend away. I expected to open the door to a dark apartment, but instead there was a fire burning cheerfully in the fireplace and fresh flowers on the table.

Aha. Mom and Dad have been here.

That was my mom and dad. They modeled for me a giving that went beyond duty. If I asked Dad to do A, he would usually notice that B also needed some attention and he’d go ahead and do that, too. Mom and Dad both would go out of their way to be kind and thoughtful and give whatever they had to give.

I learned from their example that there is joy in giving abundantly, above and beyond the minimum effort or input required.

Our hope knows that our heavenly Father also takes joy in giving to His children—except that He operates on a much grander scale than we humans. Our hope trusts that He is the source of all good gifts; He delights in doing great things for His people; and for us, He is the source of everything that is truly the “good life.”

The book of Psalms is full of joy. On almost every page, you’ll find a reference to life, joy, happiness, gladness, or rejoicing. The songwriters outline the reasons for rejoicing too. Because He loves His children, the Holy God of the universe:

heals our diseases, clears our record of guilt,
defeats our enemies and arms us with His weapons and strength,
leads beside still waters and satisfies desires with good things,
hides us in times of trouble, guides with His counsel,
and holds us safe as we walk through fire and flood…

And that’s only the beginning of the list.

This sums it up:

O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us.
Your plans for us are too numerous to list.
You have no equal.
If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.
(Psalm 40:5)

To be honest, I hesitated with this post. Doesn’t it sound as though we’re in this relationship with the Father because of what WE get out of it? And yet, this is all true—God does all these things for His children because we cannot. Our attempts and solutions and schemes always fall short. The ultimate answers are always found in our relationship with Him.

This is what hope knows and depends upon: He supplies everything we need for living life to the fullest.

And what can we bring to Him?

Praise and gratitude and reverence.

 

 

Psalm Prayer:

You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.
(Psalm 16:11)

*

© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Beyond our teaspoons

I am indebted to my friend Eva for this post. Several years ago, she gave me an image that broke through some blindness on my part.

Jesus said He intends to fill us with His joy. Fill. Not just a wave of joy here and there, an hour or so of God-bequeathed happiness once a week, a drop or two on a cloudy day. No, He wants to fill us with joy. Our joy will overflow, He said.

(Those words are from John 15 and 16. Back to those same chapters again. So much important stuff there.)

In a women’s Bible study group, we were talking about this Scripture. Someone suggested that there are buckets and barrels of joy available.

Eva spoke up. “But we just go to God with our little teaspoons.”

God says He will supply and bestow overwhelming abundance, buckets and barrels of gifts and mercies and grace, but we arrive at His throne with just a teaspoon in hand.

Yes, that would describe me.

After that day, (with my little teaspoon still in hand) I started noticing big words in Scripture. Big as in “holding great proportions.”

When God tells us what He has for His children, He uses words of enormous and unlimited proportions.

Here’s a sampling. Many of these passages we can rattle off by memory and it’s tempting just to skim right over them, but today, STOP!

Then proceed slowly.

Try hard to grasp the extravagance, completeness, and perfection conveyed by the words I’ve bolded. All of this, God promises, is available to His children.*

… that your joy may be complete

hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace … so that you may overflow with hope …

the God who gives life to the dead

The earth is filled with your love, O Lord

to know this love that surpasses knowledge

the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds

he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion

Grace and peace be yours in abundance

with God all things are possible

him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine

rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit whom he poured out on us generously

this all-surpassing power is from God

out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness

He is able to save completely those who come to God through him

the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time

ask God, who gives generously to all

Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.

as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

And this is what he promised us — even eternal life.

he who promised is faithful

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches

I am come that they may have life, and have it to the full

God’s abundant provision of grace … brings life for all men

How priceless is your unfailing love!

They feast on the abundance of your house.

the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him

his incomparably great power for us who believe

***

God apparently does not deal in drops or smidges or smatterings or pinches or trickles or dabs or teaspoons. Not even in buckets and barrels. He pours and fills; He promises and is faithful and completes.

God’s vocabulary of abundance saturates Scripture. What if we start looking for the hugeness of His promises, start thinking in His dimensions … start believing and living in God proportions?

That’s impossible, of course. As long as we dwell in these human tents, we can never fully understand the reservoirs of God. But we can ask the Spirit for a glimpse …

And then we can begin to believe-live.

And we will toss the teaspoons. 

 

.

* Scriptures taken from: John 15:11; Romans 5:5; Romans 15:13; Romans 4:17; Psalm 119:64; Ephesians 3:19; Philippians 4:7; Philippians 1:6; 1 Peter 1:2; Matthew 19:26; Ephesians 3:20; Titus 3:5-6; 2 Corinthians 4:7; Ephesians 3:16; 2 Peter 1:3; Hebrews 7:25; Titus 1:2; James 1:5; Isaiah 1:18; Psalm 103:12; 1 John 2:25; Hebrews 10:23; Philippians 4:19; John 10:10; Romans 5:17-18; from Psalm 36:5-10; Psalm 32:10; Ephesians 1:19 (All NIV)

 (This is a revision of a post that first appeared in October 2011.)

 

Psalm Prayer:

You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.
(Psalm 16:11)

*

© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Empty lives filled

What I desperately wanted was to be rid of the thorns and nettles. I longed for the cypress and myrtle.

It may sound like a strange wish. It’s from a passage in Isaiah, a book that gave me much hope in a time of desolation.

Isaiah wrote a great deal about waywardness, wandering, outright rebellion, punishment, and disaster. Right where I was. But he wrote even more about hope, joy, rescue, transformation, and newness—all good news for God’s people. And me.

God is a god of joy and hope and restoration and new life. While I can’t quote the entire book here, I’d like to point you to a sampling of His promises. Some of these words were for the Jewish exiles in Babylon, some are also for us today, and some look forward to the new country of our homeland.

If you’re wandering and hungry, I’d like you to know that there is much hope in the promises of Scripture.

For anyone who wants to leave an empty life and find a full one, Jesus makes it possible.

Today I’m not commenting further or applying specific Scripture. I simply wish for you to hear the character of our Father and the rich life He offers to give us. *

Isaiah 29:18-21.  Soon the deaf will hear words read from a book, the blind will see through the gloom, the humble will be filled with fresh joy from the Lord, the poor will rejoice, and evil and arrogant people will disappear.

Isaiah 40:1,2.  Comfort my people, speak tenderly to Jerusalem, tell her that her sad days are gone.

Isaiah 51:11.  “Those who have been ransomed by the LORD will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness.”

Isaiah 55:1-3.  God says, Thirsty? Come drink of what I have to give you. Don’t spend money on that which does not give you strength. Come, listen to me, and you’ll find life and everlasting love.

Isaiah 55:12, 13. You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands! Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow. Where there were nettles, myrtles will sprout up. (Cypress is a symbol of strength and endurance and new life; myrtle was used for perfumes and seasoning. Think about this metaphor of God changing your life.)

Isaiah 61:3a.  “To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.”

Isaiah 61:7.  “Instead of shame and dishonor, you will enjoy a double share of honor. You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.”

Isaiah 61:10.  “I am overwhelmed with joy in the LORD my God! For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness.”

Isaiah 51:3.  “The LORD will comfort Israel again and have pity on her ruins. Her desert will blossom like Eden, her barren wilderness like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found there. Songs of thanksgiving will fill the air.”

Isaiah 49:9-11. To prisoners I say, ‘Come out to freedom.’ To those in darkness, ‘Come into the light.’ Be my sheep, grazing in green pastures on hills that were previously bare. You will not hunger or thirst in my care. I will lead you beside refreshing waters. I’ll make mountains into level paths for you.

 

“Come,” He says, “Listen to me, and you’ll find life and everlasting love.” 

 

 .

* passages with quotation marks are direct quotes from the New Living Translation. Those without are my paraphrase.

 

Psalm Prayer:

You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.
(Psalm 16:11)

*

© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)