Scary Noises, Hiding in Closets, and Faith over Fear

Last summer,  my girls arrived home from camp exhausted and carrying loads of dirty laundry packed into their overnight bags.  They needed some post-camp rest and recovery time at home while I started in on the loads of laundry.

They came home a few days after July 4th, but a nearby community had saved their fireworks display for that weekend so I gave my girls the option:  Come with us to the fireworks that night or stay home and rest while we go.  (Hurray for having teenagers old enough to stay home on their own and babysit when needed!).

So, off we went to the celebration while they hung out in their rooms in the comfort of their own home.

A few minutes into our fireworks display, though, my daughter called me, sounding terrified:  There were strange “squeaking” noises outside in the yard.

Squeaking?

Yes, squeaking.

I coached her through some possible scenarios and made sure she didn’t hear anyone at the door or in the house.  They didn’t sound in danger, so  I suggested maybe something was making that sound in our neighbor’s yard.  Could they just peek outside the window or a door and see what the noise was?

No way!   She and her sister were staying as far away from windows and doors as possible.

In fact, they had hidden themselves away, locking the bedroom door and hunkering down in a closet.  My one girl had grabbed her bo staff from her karate classes.  My other daughter was weaponless, so  she grabbed a hobby horse from her brother’s closet, figuring (I guess) that it was part stick and could therefore be weaponized.

I  messaged my neighbors, and kept in contact with my girls while we drove home.  Then I finally tracked down the source of the “squeaking.”  One of our neighbors had set off some backyard fireworks that night, including some that screamed and squealed when lit.   Mystery solved.

But my daughters still felt a little shaken.  The karate bo staff didn’t make it back into the closet for a few days.  I took the time to review the emergency phone numbers we kept by the phone and how to call our neighbors for help if they ever needed it.

Looking  back, of course, we could all have a good laugh.  A neighbor sets off some fireworks and my kids lock themselves in closets with sticks.

Still, I get fear.  I get what it’s like to hide away, to  cry out for help, and to grab frantically for defense when I feel trapped or attacked.  I get how fear paralyzes and how it backs you into a corner.

In the book of Mark, I read about how the disciples scattered in terror when Judas betrayed Jesus.  The Roman soldiers marched into the garden where Jesus was praying and they marched out again with Jesus as their prisoner.

Mark says:

Then they all deserted him and ran away  (Mark 14:50 CSB).

Unlike most of the others,  Peter had enough courage to linger nearby.   He “followed him at a distance, right  into the high priest’s courtyard” (Mark 14:54 CSB).

How brave would I have been?  Would I have scattered?  Would I have followed at a distance?  Would I have stormed into the trial and tried to  defend Jesus or instead hunched by the fire so that no one knew I was his follower?

Would I have denied Jesus as Peter did that night, three times pretending not to know Jesus when people asked?

I think perhaps Peter was braver and more courageous than I could have been.  He loved Jesus enough to follow that mob of soldiers and stayed nearby even thought he risked being caught himself.

The notes in my Bible say this about Peter, though:

…as with many believers, he allowed his human fears to overcome his spiritual  resources, which were available to give him strength for the difficult times.

My girls heard a scary, unidentifiable noise and they reached for every resource they had available:  a phone call to mom, a lock on a bedroom door, and some big sticks (including a hobby horse).

What do I grab for when I’m afraid?

God has equipped us with these spiritual resources:  HIS Word, HIS Character, HIS Strength, HIS Promises, HIS Spirit, HIS fruit.

May I never allow my human fears to overcome all that God gives me.  May I learn to rely on who God is, on His great love, and on His might and His mercy instead of any human strength (weak as it is) I can muster on my own.

As the Psalmist said:

When I am afraid,
I will trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?  (Psalm 56:3-4 CSB).  

 

 

Bible Verses about God Rescuing Us

  • 2 Samuel 22:17-20 ESV
    “He sent from on high, he took me;
        he drew me out of many waters.
    18 He rescued me from my strong enemy,
        from those who hated me,
        for they were too mighty for me.
    19 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
        but the Lord was my support.
    20 He brought me out into a broad place;
        he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
  • Psalm 5:10 ESV
    All my bones shall say,
        “O Lord, who is like you,
    delivering the poor
        from him who is too strong for him,
        the poor and needy from him who robs him?”
  • Psalm  18:16-19 ESV
    He sent from on high, he took me;
        he drew me out of many waters.
    17 He rescued me from my strong enemy
        and from those who hated me,
        for they were too mighty for me.
    18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
        but the Lord was my support.
    19 He brought me out into a broad place;
        he rescued me, because he delighted in me.
  • Psalm 32:7 ESV
    You are a hiding place for me;
        you preserve me from trouble;
        you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah
  • Psalm  34:4 ESV
    I sought the Lord, and he answered me
        and delivered me from all my fears.
  • Psalm 35:17 ESV
    How long, O Lord, will you look on?
        Rescue me from their destruction,
        my precious life from the lions!
  • Psalm 43:1 ESV
    Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
        against an ungodly people,
    from the deceitful and unjust man
        deliver me!
  • Psalm 69:13-14 ESV
    But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
        At an acceptable time, O God,
        in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.
    14 Deliver me
        from sinking in the mire;
    let me be delivered from my enemies
        and from the deep waters.
  • Psalm 71:2 ESV
    In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
        incline your ear to me, and save me!
  • Psalm 72:12-14 ESV
    For he delivers the needy when he calls,
        the poor and him who has no helper.
    13 He has pity on the weak and the needy,
        and saves the lives of the needy.
    14 From oppression and violence he redeems their life,
        and precious is their blood in his sight.
  • Psalm 82:3-4 ESV
    Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
        maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
    Rescue the weak and the needy;
        deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
  • Psalm 91:14-15 ESV
    “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
        I will protect him, because he knows my name.
    15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
        I will be with him in trouble;
        I will rescue him and honor him.
  • Psalm 107:19 ESV
    Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
        and he delivered them from their distress.
  • Psalm 140:1 ESV
    Deliver me, O Lord, from evil men;
        preserve me from violent men,
  • Psalm 142:6 ESV
    Attend to my cry,
        for I am brought very low!
    Deliver me from my persecutors,
        for they are too strong for me!
  • Psalm 143:9 ESV
    Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord!
        I have fled to you for refuge.
  • Psalm 144:7 ESV
    Stretch out your hand from on high;
        rescue me and deliver me from the many waters,
        from the hand of foreigners,
  • Proverbs 11:8 ESV
    The righteous is delivered from trouble,
        and the wicked walks into it instead.
  • Isaiah 41:10 ESV
    fear not, for I am with you;
        be not dismayed, for I am your God;
    I will strengthen you, I will help you,
        I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
  • Jeremiah 20:13 ESV
    Sing to the Lord;
        praise the Lord!
    For he has delivered the life of the needy
        from the hand of evildoers.
  • Daniel 3:17 ESV
     If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.
  • Daniel  6:27 ESV
    He delivers and rescues;
    he works signs and wonders
        in heaven and on earth,
    he who has saved Daniel
    from the power of the lions.”
  • Joel 2:32 ESV
    And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.
  •  Matthew 6:13 ESV
    And lead us not into temptation,
        but deliver us from evil.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV
    No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
  •  2 Corinthians 1:10
    He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.
  • Colossians 1:13 ESV
    He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,
  • 2 Timothy 4:18 ESV
     The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
  • Hebrews 13:6 ESV
    So we can confidently say,

    “The Lord is my helper;
        I will not fear;
    what can man do to me?”

Bible Verses about Sincerity

  • Joshua 24:14 NASB
    Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the [c]River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.
  • 2 Corinthians 1:12 ESV
    For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.
  • 2 Corinthians 2:17 ESV
     For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.
  • 2 Corinthians 8:8 NASB
    I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.
  • 2 Corinthians 11:3 ESV
     But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
  • 1 Timothy 1:5 ESV
    The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
  • 2 Timothy 1:5 ESV
    I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.
  • 1 Peter 1:22 ESV
    Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure hear
  • James 3:17 ESV
    But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
  • 2 Peter 3:1 ESV
    This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder,

When Preparation is Beautiful (not just painful)

My son tried counting the trees the other day.

During the 15 minute car-ride to his friend’s house, he counted first one tree and then another in someone’s front yard.  Then a clump of trees a few houses down.

Then we passed a stretch of  woods and his counting sped up faster and faster until he finally gave up because it was just impossible.  “There are  just so many trees prepared for snow,”  he said.

So that  was  it.  He wasn’t just counting any old random tree.   He counted only the ones he considered to be “prepared for snow.”

And what could that possibly mean, anyway?   How does a tree, in fact, “prepare for snow?”

He explained it to me.  Trees that lose all their leaves are ready for the snow to come, but trees that are still holding tightly onto their leaves simply aren’t prepared yet.

This matters,  of course,  because my six-year-old son is quite, quite ready for some snow here in Virginia.   It’s January and there’s not a flake in  the forecast.  He’s getting a bit anxious that it won’t every come, so seeing the barren trees along the stretch of road outside our neighborhood gives him hope.

I’d never thought about a leafless tree in that way before—not barren or dormant or dreary  or fruitless or any of those things that seem lifeless and beauty-less.  I’ve enjoyed the greenest of spring and summer trees and the radiance of the fall color-filled trees, but I’ve never looked at an empty tree and thought of it as prepared for something beautiful.

This shifts my perspective a bit.

When I’ve slogged through mudpits of discouragement or loss, mourning, grief,  disappointment, or anxiety, I’ve felt emptied out.

I have lost.  I have mourned.   I have waited (impatiently most of the time).   I have let go.  I have wished for the sign of something new, the assurance that this is not the end and that there is still  reason to have hope.

What if all that feeling of being emptied out, of having to let go, is truly preparation?

I am not dead; I am awaiting new life.

I have shed the old.  I am ready for the beautiful covering of something gloriously hushed and holy.

Scripture tells us that John the Baptist fulfilled the prophecy  of Isaiah,  calling out into the wilderness:

“‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him'” (Matthew 3:3 NIV). 

We don’t always see the work of preparation being done in others.   We don’t see what Noah went through day after day to built the ark.   Or all that God did in Abraham’s life or Mary’s life to  prepare their hearts for radical obedience to a divine call.

Maybe that’s why I can be so impatient with the process.  I see them fulfilling,  but not preparing,  and preparation can feel so painful, long,  or  hopeless.  I personally don’t want to let go.  I don’t want to be emptied out.   I don’t want to sorrow or lose.   I don’t want to shed the old.

And I do not want to wait and wait  and wait for the beauty of the new or the next.  I  would like God always to be at work in grand and apparent ways now, now,  now.

But John the  Baptist called out to  anyone who would listen so  that they would “prepare!”  Prepare their hearts and minds and lives  for God’s new work–the  Messiah,  the fulfillment of promise and all their longing.

They were to make straight paths for Him.

Could this be me? Could this be us?

Can I yield to  the work of preparation?  Instead of throwing up obstacles or complaints, instead of trying to hold onto the past or force something new, can I make straight paths for the Lord to be at work in my life, in my heart, in my mind,  in my relationships, in my ministry,  in my work?

My focus then isn’t on all  the circumstances I’m in, and I’m no longer straining my eyes to see any glimpse or  sign that God is working in the  landscape  around me.

My focus is on  what  God is doing within me.  How can my heart be ready?  How can my mind be ready?  How can my life be ready, paths made straight, for the Lord to fulfill His  plans–whatever they may be and whenever they may come?

Am I prepared for snow?  Not languishing in a waiting period….but prepared for  the beauty of  a new  season and ready to receive all that God has planned?

 

 

Bible Verses about Preparation

  • Exodus 23:20 ESV
    Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.
  • Proverbs 6:6-8 CSB
    Go to the ant, you slacker!
    Observe its ways and become wise.
    Without leader, administrator, or ruler,
    it prepares its provisions in summer;
    it gathers its food during harvest.
  • Proverbs 22:3 CSB
    A sensible person sees danger and takes cover,
    but the inexperienced keep going and are punished.
  • Proverbs 24:27 CSB
    Complete your outdoor work, and prepare your field;
    afterward, build your house.
  • Matthew 24:44 CSB
     This is why you are also to be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
  • Luke 12:47 CSB
    And that servant who knew his master’s will and didn’t prepare himself or do it[a] will be severely beaten.
  • Luke 14:28 CSB
    “For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?
  • Luke 21:36 CSB
    But be alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place and to stand before the Son of Man.”
  •  1 Corinthians 9:24 CSB
    Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize.
  • Ephesians 2:10 ESV
     For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
  • 2 Timothy 4:2 ESV
    preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
  • 1 Peter 1:13 ESV
    Therefore, preparing your minds for action,[a] and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
  • 1 Peter 3:15 CSB
    but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.

Bible Verses about Being Renewed

  • Psalm 51:10-12 CSB
    God, create a clean heart for me
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
    11 Do not banish me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
    12 Restore the joy of your salvation to me,
    and sustain me by giving me a willing spirit.
  • Isaiah 40:31 CSB
    but those who trust in the Lord
    will renew their strength;
    they will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not become weary,
    they will walk and not faint.
  • Romans 12:2 CSB
    Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
  • 2 Corinthians 4:16 CSB
    Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17 CSB
     Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!
  • Ephesians 4:20-24 CSB
    But that is not how you came to know Christ, 21 assuming you heard about him and were taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires, 23 to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.
  • Colossians 3:8-17 CSB
    But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator11 In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.

    The Christian Life

    12 Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. 14 Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,[d] singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

  • Titus 3:5 CSB
     he saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy—through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

Being Generous in Every Way | Advent

We have a Christmas card delivery box at our church, a central station for Merry Christmas wishes and Happy New Year greetings.

Instead of us all buying stamps and mailing cards to one another, our church’s missions group sets out their own church post office hub.  We leave our cards for  each other in the boxes and give the money we would have spent on postage to a missions offering instead.

My kids love checking our “mailbox,” the slot that holds all of the cards in it for people in our church with last names beginning with J or K.  I usually only have to check the box once a season.  They stay on top of card delivery.

Years ago, someone spoke a few gentle words of truth to me about those cards and the boxes, about the giving and the receiving.

She brought  to my attention a name, one person in our little congregation who loved checking the box, but didn’t often find a card addressed to him.  He so eagerly checked that Christmas card box every single Sunday.  Always with hope.  Never showing disappointment or sorrow over the cards he didn’t receive.  He rarely walked away with a card, though.

It is because of my friend’s loving reminder to truly show love that I address his card first every year when I write the names on the envelopes.  I do not want to forget or neglect to give and love someone whom God so loves.

And this has been on my heart this year at Christmas.

Most  of us as moms seek out ways to teach our children that Christmas is more about  giving than getting.  I’m in the thick of it.  With four kids ages 6 to 15, I’m right in the middle of this training season, to keep Christmas about Jesus and His love.

For years, I’ve had my kids hunt through the gift catalogs from World Vision, Compassion International, and Samaritan’s Purse, choosing what they felt passionate about giving that year:  Soccer balls, malaria nets, goats, chickens and ducks, blankets,  Bibles,  school kits, and more.  They had  to  do extra chores through the fall months in order to raise the money they would give to their chosen cause.

We pack boxes with Operation Christmas Child.

We send our sponsored children a Christmas gift.

Two years ago, we started a reverse Advent box, adopting an idea I had seen online.  We start with an empty box and we pick a local charity to give to.  Every day in  December, we put an item in the box to donate to our chosen charity.  Last year, we collected hygiene items.  This year, we’re collecting wipes, onesies and other baby items for moms in need.

The ideas online are endless.  Random Acts of Kindness Calendars.  Volunteering at homeless shelters.  Ringing bells for the Salvation Army.  Toys for Tots.  Caroling at nursing  homes.   And many more.  We have so many ways to engage, so many opportunities to  focus our hearts and minds on giving during the Christmas season.

But this year, I feel the challenge more than ever to make it personal. 

I tell the Christmas story to preschoolers most years and as I do, I remember the simplicity and the beauty of the nativity.  I see how God chose an ordinary young woman and a poor carpenter.  How He announced the news to lowly shepherds.  How He drew in wise men from afar.

The poor.  The outcast.  The foreigner.

This is who God chose to use at Christmas.  This is who God invited to worship.  This is who God drew in to be His witnesses, to  see what He was doing.

Others missed it, sleeping silently, crammed into every possible accommodation in Bethlehem, totally unaware that “today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

So, our family keeps up the giving traditions.  We fill our reverse advent box for moms and babies we do not know.  We pack shoeboxes for kids we will not meet on this side of heaven.  We send gifts and pack gifts and gather and give for people in need who remain nameless to us.

But there are also people I personally know who could use a Christmas card with their name on it this year.

There are people I personally know who could use some homemade cookies because no one else will be baking for them this Christmas.

Kindness from a distance and giving from afar can be so much “easier” and more “comfortable”  than the vulnerable act of loving the neighbor we know.

May we find ways  to do both.

“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God”  (2 Corinthians 9:11 ESV).

Bible Verses about Worship at Christmas

  • Isaiah 9:6-7 ESV
    For to us a child is born,
        to us a son is given;
    and the government shall be upon[d] his shoulder,
        and his name shall be called[e]
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
        Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
    Of the increase of his government and of peace
        there will be no end,
    on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
        to establish it and to uphold it
    with justice and with righteousness
        from this time forth and forevermore.
    The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
  • Matthew 2:10-11 ESV
    When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
  • Luke 1:44 ESV
     For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.
  • Luke 1:46-55 ESV
    Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat
    46 And Mary said,
    “My soul magnifies the Lord,
    47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
    48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
    49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
    50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
    51 He has shown strength with his arm
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
    52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
    53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.-
    54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
    55 as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
  • Luke 2:13-14 ESV
    And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
    14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
  • Luke 2:20 ESV
    And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.
  • Luke 2:38 ESV
     And coming up at that very hour she (Anna) began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Bible Verses about Joy | Advent

  • 1 Chronicles 16:27 ESV
    Splendor and majesty are before him;
        strength and joy are in his place.
  • Nehemiah 8:10 ESV
    Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
  • Psalm 4:7 ESV
    You have put more joy in my heart
        than they have when their grain and wine abound.
  • Psalm 16:11 NIV
    You make known to me the path of life;
        you will fill me with joy in your presence,
        with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
  • Psalm 21:6 ESV
    For you make him most blessed forever;[a]
        you make him glad with the joy of your presence.
  • Psalm 30:5 ESV
    For his anger is but for a moment,
    and his favor is for a lifetime.
    Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.
  • Psalm 47:1 ESV
    Clap your hands, all peoples!
        Shout to God with loud songs of joy!
  • Psalm 51:12 ESV
    Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
        and uphold me with a willing spirit.
  • Psalm 71:23 ESV
    My lips will shout for joy,
        when I sing praises to you;
        my soul also, which you have redeemed.
  • Psalm 94:19 NIV
    When anxiety was great within me,
    your consolation brought me joy.
  • Psalm 100:1 ESV
    Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
  • Psalm 105:43 ESV
    So he brought his people out with joy,
        his chosen ones with singing.
  • Psalm 119:111 NIV
    Your statutes are my heritage forever;
        they are the joy of my heart.
  • Psalm 126:5 ESV
    Those who sow in tears
        shall reap with shouts of joy!
  • Proverbs 10:28 ESV
    The hope of the righteous brings joy,
        but the expectation of the wicked will perish.
  • Proverbs 15:23 ESV
    To make an apt answer is a joy to a man,
    and a word in season, how good it is!
  • Proverbs 17:22 ESV
    A joyful heart is good medicine,
        but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
  • Isaiah 9:3 ESV
    You have multiplied the nation;
        you have increased its joy;
    they rejoice before you
        as with joy at the harvest,
        as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
  • Isaiah 12:6 ESV
    Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
        for great in your[a] midst is the Holy One of Israel.”
  • Isaiah 29:19 ESV
    The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord,
        and the poor among mankind shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.
  • Isaiah 35:10 ESV
    And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
    and come to Zion with singing;
    everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
    they shall obtain gladness and joy,
    and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
  • Isaiah 55:12 ESV
    For you shall go out in joy
        and be led forth in peace;
    the mountains and the hills before you
        shall break forth into singing,
        and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
  • John 16:22 ESV
    So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
  • John 16:24 NIV
     Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
  • Romans 12:12 NIV
    Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
  • Romans 14:17 ESV
    For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
  • Romans 15:13 ESV
    May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
  • Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
  • Colossians 1:11 ESV
     being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy;
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV
    Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
  • Philemon 1:7 ESV
    For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.
  • 1 Peter 1:8 ESV
     Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,
  • Jude 1:24 ESV
     Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy

The Unexpectedness of God | Advent

I bought the gift online and the box arrived on my porch yesterday.

It was quite a large box , much larger than I expected.  I couldn’t imagine what could possibly be inside since nothing I’d ordered would be that bulky.

I dropped the load I had in my hands inside the front door and hauled the package inside,  cutting it open quickly with scissors.  That’s when I found the surprise.

My son has two things topping his Christmas wish list:  Lego sets and dinosaur toys.  So, when this particular T-Rex toy went on super-sale on Black Friday online, I snatched  it up, knowing he’d love it.  The T-Rex is  his favorite  dinosaur and he always loves this brand o f toys.  I expected it to be a few inches tall like all the other toys we have by this same toymaker.

But this was beyond all expectation.  This T-Rex stands at least 5 times larger than all  the other action figures and is so big that he can “eat” the other toys and swallow them down into his expansive belly.

My son is going to love this.

I would never, ever have bought this toy knowingly, but this accident and this surprise will  probably be the hit of his Christmas morning.  I can’t wait.

Sometimes it can be so hard to “work up” anticipation, expectation and joy during the Advent season.  Calendars bog us down.  “Must-do’s”  and “have-to’s” can stifle our spirit.  Grief and even just disappointment at how the year turned out can weary us.

I need the reminder (maybe others do also?) about the unexpectedness of God.  How He breaks down the boxes we cram Him into.   We package Him up,  and He surprises us.   He is bigger and grander and far more unexpected than our wildest expectations.

I think I know how situations will unfold and sometimes I settle into thinking that “this will never change.” I see the problem.  I see the complications.  I see the mess.

But God.

I want to  see Him, who is able to do more and to do it in the most wildly creative way.  I cannot trust in my plans or my solutions and fixes, but I can trust in our Mighty God.

I remember Paul’s song of praise in Ephesians:

Now to him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us—  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  (Ephesians 3:20-21 CSB).

God is the defier expectations.  He is our Above-and-Beyond God.

In my Advent devotional this week, the readings began in Genesis, telling why we need a Savior, how because of our sin we needed a Rescuer and Deliverer who could restore our relationship with God.

And Adam and Eve knew this.  They heard God’s curse on the serpent:

I will put hostility between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring.
He will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel (Genesis 3:15 CSB).  

They knew that Another—a Deliverer—would come to defeat the serpent once and for all.

But what would this look like?  How would the Deliverer come?   How long would they have to wait?

Surely they could not have imagined as they headed out of the Garden of Eden how Jesus would come, how He would be born, how His rescue would come through His perfect life and sacrificial death.  Surely they could not have known the long line of generations who would wait for the coming of the Messiah.

My devotional reading says this:

“Scholar James Boice says Adam and Eve likely thought Cain was the deliverer who would defeat the serpent that God  promised in Genesis 3:15.  It’s even reflected in the name they gave him…In view of the promise of a  deliverer, [Cain’s] name probably means, ‘Here he is’ or ‘I’ve gotten him.’ Eve called her son ‘Here he is’ because she thought the deliverer had been sent by God.” (Advent, Lifeway Women, p. 14)

In Genesis 3, God says there will be a Deliverer.  In Genesis 4, Eve is pregnant and gives birth to Cain, the first human baby ever.

Maybe Adam and Eve truly thought this baby was the one who would rescue and restore them.  Cain would be the promised one.

But God.

They could have grown disappointed and discouraged with Cain’s failure and how nothing turned out the way they expected.

Still, God had a plan they could never have imagined, the perfect Savior who would come at the perfect time:

When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,  to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4-5 CSB).