Week 2 of Prayerful Preparation for JOY 2020

“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 16:22 ESV

God’s Word Brings Us Joy

“for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.” Psalm 119:47-48 ESV

We often lift up our hands with pleasure when we worship God. We are filled with such joy when praising Him and when we pray to Him, that sometimes we do not even realize that we are reaching our hands up for a gift we long for as we pray in obedience to Him and in accordance with His Word. More often than not, a passage from the Bible will speak to us and affirm that God has heard our deepest cries. What joyous comfort! 

That is how the writer of this Psalm must have felt when reading God’s Word. Not only did he delight and find joy in God’s Word; but he loved those parts of God’s Word that were commandments – yes – even the mandatory parts.

Prayer

Lord, we thank you for your Word – your Word that brings us joy – your Word that guides us every day – your Word that asks us to read and obey your commandments. We pray that your Word continues to transform us so that we become more and more like you!

In Jesus’s name, Amen.

Solape Delano is serving as the prayer coordinator for this year’s retreat. During this final six weeks, she is creating weekly prayers paired with devotions for each of us to use to prayerfully prepare ourselves.

Fixing Our Eyes on His Joy

As we prepare for our retreat please join us in prayer.

In Hebrews 12:2 we are requested to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
There is that word again – “joy” Jesus knew what He would endure – the pain, the shame and humiliation, the feeling of utter rejection and dejection as He hung on the cross bearing our sins, once and for all.
Yet, He saw beyond all that and entrusted Himself to God, His Father, because of the joy in glorifying His Father and in our own redemption.
I often think of how full of joy I am when my earthly father acknowledges something I did at his request, which I had to go out of my way and comfort to do.
Let us entrust ourselves to God, our Father knowing that in Him and in Jesus lies our true joy.

Prayer:
Dear Lord, we ask your forgiveness where we have been too caught up in our earthly concerns to acknowledge the true joy of entrusting our lives totally to you. Of knowing that with your power and protection we can experience this joy and share our testimonies with others during the upcoming women’s retreat and beyond.
We pray for the safety of all attendees to the retreat and that you, Lord will, through the Holy Spirit remove any earthly burdens that may be weighing us down and all other things we may be putting our trust in, except you, which are preventing us from seeing the truth in your word.
We pray for the prayer team currently being formed to soak the retreat weekend and each and every attendee in prayer, that the prayer team will pray in one accord for your presence to be with us during the retreat and enable us all to give our testimony of the amazing and mighty things you, our Father in heaven will do.
In Jesus name we pray – Amen

Thank you Solape Delano for preparing these devotions and prayers.

Joy Comes in the Morning

            I have been blessed with the highly coveted ability to fall asleep anywhere and at any time. Airplanes, cars, hotel rooms, and even pull out couches are no problem for me. Afternoon power naps are my specialty. My college roommates used to joke that they could throw a party in our room and I would still be able to sleep right through it! With this special ability, you might think that I am one well-rested girl. That is not the case.

            Although falling asleep comes easily for me, I cannot remember the last time I slept through the night. I have two precious boys, 20 months old and 7 months old, who are also remarkable sleepers, but babies inevitably go through sleep regressions, sickness, teething, and separation anxiety. Rarely does a night go by without at least one of them needing me at some point, if not in the middle of the night then much earlier than I would like to wake up.  

            Apart from the needs of my children, racing thoughts and vivid dreams brought on by my struggle with postpartum anxiety also interrupt my sleep. By God’s grace, I have received the help I need to manage my days free from anxiety, but somehow my nights are a different story.

Though those moments feel lonely, I know I am not the only one awake in the night. Some of you are up nursing new babies every two hours; some of you are pacing your kitchen in the late night hours as your mind replays hard conversations from earlier that day; some of you are up praying for your parents, your spouse, your children, or your friends who are hurting and far from the Lord; some of you are just awake and restless, wondering why your mind and body cannot seem to find the rest that you know you need.

            In the exhaustion and grogginess of 3 am, tears come easily. As I battle the hopelessness and despair that lurk closely in these dark hours, the Lord reminds me of His promises. Psalm 30:4-5 says,

“Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
 but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
 but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

Indeed, what seems completely overwhelming or frustrating or sad in the night looks much different in the morning when the sun has risen. The Lord is still there, never having slept Himself.

            Lamentations 3:22-24 says,

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’”

Both my boys are living reminders of this truth. Though they might fuss or cry in the dark hours, as soon as I walk into their nursery in the morning and turn on the lamp, their faces light up. My little one rolls onto his back and looks up at me as if I am the most amazing thing he has ever seen. My toddler pops up with an enthusiastic “good morning, Mama!” All memories of midnight frustration, anguish, restlessness, or resentment immediately dissolve as my boys reach out to me, ready to snuggle and eat and play. The Lord’s mercies are indeed new each morning.

            In our darkest hours, the Lord fills us with joy not because our circumstances are happy. He does not ask us to feel pleased with our suffering. Christ Himself lamented His own suffering and the suffering of those around Him. No, the Lord fills us with joy because of the hope we have in what is to come. In the midst of our dark night, we can trust that joy comes in the morning. The sun will rise. He will pour out new mercies.

            Though our difficult nights, weeks, or seasons often feel unending, may we trust that the Lord is ready and waiting to pour out new mercies upon us. May we hope in Christ our Savior who shines light into the darkness. Even in unhappy circumstances, may we find joy in remembering the night always gives way to morning. The Lord is with us at every hour, and He is where the joy is.

Katie Dearman is a dancer and dance teacher in The Woodlands, TX. She attends HopePointe Anglican Church with her husband, Michael, and two sons, Joey and Elliot. She is currently pursuing her masters in Biblical Studies and discerning a call to ordained ministry. 

Preparing for Joy

For the next six weeks we will be sharing a short devotional and prayer as we move into our final season of preparation for this year’s retreat. Ask the Lord to prepare your heart for what He has for you this year. We want to thank Solape Delano for sharing these with us.

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…”

Week 1 Devotional for Monday, January 27th

Joy in knowing Jesus

My joy is your joy…

What exactly is the feeling of having joy and love for Jesus in our hearts because we know Him? Do you experience it sometimes when you are praying or singing hymns and choruses? We often have an overwhelming sense of peace and gratitude when we think of what He has done for us and the willingness and total abandonment with which He sacrificed himself for our salvation – the joy He had in doing what his Father sent Him to do.

Jesus prayed that our joy might continue fulfilling itself until it becomes the same joy as His.

He said, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” —John 15:11

Have we allowed Jesus Christ to introduce His joy to us?

Prayer:

Dear Father, we ask that you bless us as we begin to prepare for the upcoming retreat and time of prayer, worship and fellowship, with our sisters in Christ.

We thank you for the joy that you gave to us through your Son and that this joy will be fulfilled to its utmost when we see you again one day.  

We pray that you begin to open our hearts and minds to receive your word.

We pray for the retreat organizing team. We pray for discernment, wisdom, guidance and for peace as they continue to put the program together and that your will be done. Amen

Solape Delano and her husband, Fisoye attend St. Timothy’s Anglican Church in Spring. This year Solape is serving on the Diocesan Women’s Ministry Design Team.

Please pray for our Diocesan Ladies Retreat: Joy 2020

For the next seven weeks we will post weekly prayers for our annual retreat. Please share these prayers that we might have a mighty wave of prayer covering all aspects of the planning and implementation of this event.

We need your prayers so that our ladies can experience an event that glorifies God and disciples everyone that attends. Since we will be hearing from God’s word at this event, please join us in praying a prayer from the ACNA’s BCP 2019 “A Prayer for Renewal Through the Word.”

Gracious God and most merciful Father, you have granted us the rich and precious jewel of your Holy Word: Assist us with your Spirit, that the same Word may be written in our hearts to our everlasting comfort, to reform us, to renew us according to your own image, to build us up and edify us into the perfecting dwelling place of your Christ, sanctifying and increasing in us all heavenly virtues; grant this, O heavenly Father for Jesus Christ’s sake at this year’s retreat. Amen.

If you haven’t registered yet, we have a few more discounted registrations available and even two partial scholarships. You don’t want to miss out on this year’s gathering of women from all over our Diocese, our keynote speaker, Misty Phillips or the opportunity to choose from a variety of workshops.

To learn more and to register go to: http://www.dwgc.org/2020-diocesan-womens-retreat.

Running After God and Choosing Him at Every Turn

I have a friend that says, “the difference between a hero and a coward is the direction she runs when she is afraid.” When I run towards God, even when I am afraid, joy is the gift I am given. Usually it comes when I stop thinking about myself and start asking what God wants from me. How can I best serve Him or others? Joy is confirmation of a choice well chosen. It’s a feeling of communion with God knowing that He loves me, He made me, His plans are better for me than those I have made for myself. Joy comes at moments of humility. Moments when I realized that I am not God and I do not know what is best for me and the people I love. Joy always has something to do with Jesus. For me, joy has come at moments that don’t make sense. When there is no earthly reason I should have joy. It comes in the midst of pain. It comes when I have chosen Jesus. 

When I look at the Bible, JOY comes: 

as a result of sincere worship (1 Kings 1: 40, 1 Chron. 15:16, Ezra 6:22, New 12:43, Zephaniah 3:14, Luke 24:52), 

as a byproduct of service (Matthew 25:21, Luke 6:23, Luke 10:17, 2 Corinthians 1:24, Hebrews 12:2), 

a result of an offering (Nehemiah 12:43), 

in doing God’s will (Deut. 16:15, Ezra 3 & 6, Luke 15:7, Luke 15:10, John 15:11, 3 John 1:4, Habakkuk 3:18), 

as a result of gratitude (1 Kings 8:66), 

is a promise of God (Isaiah 60:15, Isaiah 61:7, Jeremiah 31:13, Luke 1:14, John 16:20-22), 

or a response to a gift from God (Matthew 2:10, Matthew 13:20, Matthew 13:44, Luke 2:10, John 16:21, Acts 15:3, Romans 15:13). 

I think about times I’ve experienced joy in my life. I remember moments like being bone tired serving at a work crew weekend having been on my feet for 36 hours with a short four hour nap in between—serving meals, cleaning, taking out trash… and at the end of that long day washing the feet of my high school girls who were serving alongside me. Service leads to joy. The moment of joy when I felt deep in my heart that God loves me despite an incredibly painful trauma that had just happened I knew deep in my soul he loves me even though I couldn’t see the big picture. Worship leads to joy. I think about the first time we worshiped at Apostles Houston. And the joy I felt that God was calling us to this place, to these people, at this time. Saying “yes” to God leads to joy. I think about a night I knew deep in my soul that God was calling me to a life with Him. And I physically turned away from a choice that I had been making over and over again. Repentance leads to joy. 

May our hearts seek God in a whole new way this year. May we run after God and choose HIM at every turn. May we worship Him in joy. May we serve Him. May we be women of gratitude. May we do His will always. 

Langley Cumbie lives in Houston with her husband and three children. They attend Apostles Houston, where her husband is the Pastor. She is passionate about sharing the love of Jesus with people who don’t believe. 

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Thanksgiving and Recounting

While reading my Bible this morning, I had every intention to get through all four passages that are assigned to the reading plan that I’m using. I’ve had a strong start in the new year and wanted to continue with it today during one of Quinna’s naps. My pen was ready to put that checkmark next to all four passages, probably regardless of whether I had internalized them or not. Unfortunately, and fortunately, the Holy Spirit only allowed me to get through the first two VERSES of the first passage that I read, and all of my time and journaling were spent there because I was utterly wrecked by them. Here they are, and you may wonder why I found them so challenging.

“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.” – Psalm 9:1-2

These seemingly mild words flashed emergency sirens off the page at me because I know that I don’t give thanks to my “whole” heart. If I were to do so, I would have to both make the physical time for such thanksgiving and also claim back some space in my heart for thanksgiving that is currently being occupied by fear or worry or disenchantment or discouragement or busyness. “I will recount all of your wonderful deeds” is the line that struck me next. His deeds, being innumerable, would require great time to recount—am I willing to give up some of my precious time to make this more of a reality in my life? I tried to count the times in the past week that I have recounted his deeds to my loved ones, even just aloud to my baby when we’re home alone. Though there were a few instances that I could recall in the past week, it didn’t feel like quite enough. I wondered what it would be like to have graphs like the ones that my phone updates me with for my screen time usage. Would it be possible to increase my thanksgiving and my recounting of his deeds by a few more hours next week? 

This post is supposed to be about joy, and I’m getting there- I promise. Verse 2 gave some further conviction, but with it also came some encouragement. “I will be glad and exult in you, I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.” On the one hand, I’m convicted–am I really glad and exulting in Him? On the other, I’m encouraged that this line falls after verse 1, almost as if to say that BY giving thanks and recounting his wonderful deeds I WILL be glad–that one results in the other. You and I know that this is true. We’ve seen it happen in our lives that an “attitude of gratitude” brings joy. The Lord commands it all throughout Scripture. Why do I so easily forget? Why don’t I realize that in the days I have the least time for thanksgiving or recounting his deeds, I need to spend all the more time in those pursuits? 

Here are some ways that I have thought I might bring up my thanksgiving and recounting numbers, and I encourage you to try them too if the Lord speaks to you through any or all: 

  1. Leaving a legal pad or notebook open on the kitchen counter and writing down a bit of thankfulness as I’m cooking, or heating up a bottle, or calling my credit card that’s been compromised again, or waiting for the tea kettle to boil. There is thankfulness to be had in the mundane moments and I’m hoping the open notebook will remind me, as well as be a log of thankfulness for the past week. What if I filled a page or more in a week? 
  2. Actually writing on our calendar that hangs on the wall each year–little tidbits of thankfulness, even just a word or two.
  3. Incorporating thankfulness as part of mealtime routines — If alone, spending time in thankfulness and recounting rather than scrolling through my phone. It reminds me that I’m never truly alone if I talk to Him when I am. If with others, intentionally asking in conversation at each dinner “What did the Lord do today?”
  4. Asking a friend to help me refocus my attention on thankfulness, particularly around topics that we talk about a lot and can lead to negativity — a stressful job, frustrating people, etc.  I want to be known as a friend who is drawn to thankfulness herself and also draws others to the same.
  5. Singing songs to my baby about thankfulness and explaining what it means, how we do it, and why we do it. I learned SO MUCH while I was a teacher, and most that came at having to figure out how to explain it to those younger than me. Could you do this with a child, grandchild, other children you interact with?

What’s the end result of this? Gladness. Joy. Only a posture of thankfulness and recounting his wonderful deeds can get us there, and only by His Spirit can we assume that posture. Lord, please help us!

“You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” Psalm 4:7

Mary Moore Rabb is an artist and educator. She’s a wife to her husband McLean, a priest serving at Trinity Anglican in Lago Vista, Texas. Mary Moore and McLean welcomed their daughter Quinna in 2019.

Misunderstanding Joy

“Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of Godlight’ in the woods of our experience.”  C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

There are few words as misunderstood as the word joy. It is many things, but joy is not a three-letter synonym for happy. Joy is a contradiction.  It perfectly encapsulates the tension of the Christ-follower who both loves this world and longs for eternity. All joy in this life is but a shadow of what we will experience in the throne room of God, and all suffering points us to the Kingdom we were created for that has no place for tears or pain.

Scripture has much to say about joy. In a quick search of verses on joy, the following provides a bit of an overview of what I learned. Joy is commonly associated with artistic outpouring in song and in the satisfaction felt after a rich feast. So powerful is joy, that it can animate creation which lacks the breath of God! Joy is found in both obedience and in presence. It originates from God. It is paired with strength, majesty, and glory. Joy can be both spontaneous and desperately searched for. Joy is found in God’s words and in the good news of Christ. A joyful heart cannot be silent; it is message must be shared. A joyful servant cannot walk – she is compelled to run with the good news announced to her. Joy can be experienced in brokenness, alongside sorrow, and in spite of fear. Just as Christ endured the horror of the cross because of the joy that was to come, so can we share in the eternal perspective to see through, and far beyond, our current sufferings.

One thing is clear – joy comes through a life lived in the “woods of our experience”. It can’t be permanently held on to but it is discovered through walking in paths of righteousness.  Whether your current wood is blooming in  spiritual springtime or more of a barren wilderness, find comfort in the words of Ecclesiastes 5:20 – “For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.” Joy is waiting for you. In it is the power of the Spirit to disarm the snares set by Satan to keep us trapped in complacency and in fear. Look up! Set your eyes on the things that are above, and you will see the sun break through! Over the next few weeks leading up to the women’s retreat, women from around the Diocese will continue to share their testimonies and revelations on joy. I encourage you to dig down into your own experiences with joy and engage with the online community. Joy is not meant to be kept but shared. Joy is cause for celebration! Your story may be the words of encouragement another woman in the body of Christ needs to hear to be able to meet God in her wilderness. 

Have you registered for the retreat? Register today at: http://www.dwgc.org/2020-diocesan-womens-retreat

Mikah Alge attends Grace Anglican in Katy with her husband Joey and her four children.

Can We Choose Joy?

JOY is embedded in Advent and *Epiphany, folded into the Christmas story.

*Epiphany is just around the corner and falls on the liturgical calendar twelve days after Christmas. Yes, those twelve days of Christmas are not actually the last twelve days of shopping before Christmas as popular culture might have lead us to believe. The actual day that begins this special season is January 6th, when we remember the wise men who visited Jesus. This day marks the start of a new season for our churches that will last until Lent. During this season we consider Christ’s revelation of Epiphany, and that word means manifestation, we consider Christ’s revelation to all nations. Lent, which marks the end of Epiphany, will begin with Ash Wednesday on February 26th. This weekend some churches will have a special Epiphany celebration to mark this special time. Some will serve “King Cake” that will continue to be served right up until Mardis Gras on February 25th.

  • Gabriel tells Zechariah that John will be a joy and delight, with many rejoicing at his birth (Luke 1:14).
  • John leaps for Joy in his mother’s womb, when Mary comes to visit (Luke 1:44)
  • Neighbors and relatives share Elizabeth’s joy at the birth of John a display of God’s great mercy toward her—fulfilling the Gabriel’s words in verse 14 (Luke 1:58)
  • The angel describes his words to the shepherds as “good news of great joy “(Luke 2:10)
  • The wise men rejoice with “exceedingly great joy” at the sight of the star (Matthew 2:10)

In one sense, the presence of joy in the Christmas story is not surprising. After all, we have the advantage of hindsight; we know the end of the story. Not only that, the commercialism surrounding Christmas in the West shoves “joy” to the forefront. However, consider the circumstances of our first century cast of characters who experienced joy, responding to unfolding events with rejoicing. It is a story set in poverty and oppression. A story wrought with danger.

What does the presence of joy in the midst of less-than-ideal circumstances of the Christmas story show us?

A change of circumstances is not required for joy to enter in.

Joy cannot be pushed out by darkness or run off by oppression.

Joy anticipates the hope of the future, regardless of the present, and changes the atmosphere.

Despite the outward Western trappings of Christmas joy, in this season, for many of us, our emotional poverty and oppression, the parts of our story threatening to destroy us, prick all the more painfully. But, like the cast of characters in the Christmas story, “good news of great joy” has been announced to us, it’s signs—like the wise men’s star—are all around us. Rejoicing is an option.

I believe with every fiber of my being that joy is our choice, our gift, even in difficulty, and if we choose joy, it will change the atmosphere. Admittedly, I do not always know how this works or what it looks like, and right now, I’m asking Jesus to show me.

Monica Warren writes, studies and attends an Anglican church in Mobile, Alabama. She is a gifted Bible teacher, conference speaker, an amazing athlete and Grandmother in training. Go to learn more about her and her ministry: https://www.hijackedjesus.com/

(Photo by Canva Elements Team)