I know a lot of us may find ourselves a bit more anxious lately. I wanted to share a practice I’ve been trying that I learned at the Diocesan Ladies’ Retreat this year. I attended a workshop on prayer lead by Patty Bordwell and Mary Grace Kunefke.
For this meditative practice gather something like stones, beads, or any small item you can hold and a bowl or jar. I light a candle to remind myself that the Holy Spirit is present. Read 1 Peter 5:7 (ESV).
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Then enter into a meditative prayer space. As the Lord brings up a specific anxiety that you are struggling with pick up a stone and pray over that anxiety. As you surrender it to him place it in the jar. Continue as you process each anxiety individually. When you are finished make a list of things you are thankful for. I add a glass bead to my jar to represent each thing I am thankful for.
Finally read Psalm 33:20-22 (ESV)
Our soul waits for the Lord;
he is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in him,
because we trust in his holy name.
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in you.
Erin Kotlan attends Apostles Houston and attends South Texas College of Law.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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/
Joy is a companion, who joins us on life’s journey. Unlike some of life’s companions, she is always a welcome sight, a pleasure to have around, an asset to the journey.
Joy shows up unsolicited as a reaction to something good, invariably present at all of life’s parties. She squeals in delight anytime lost things are found. She cheers loudly when dreams become realities. She applauds accomplishments. Her unrestrained laughter is contagious, drawing others in. Frankly, it simply would not be a party without Joy’s presence.
Sometimes, Joy enters the journey as a gift. She offers grace in the face of failure. In disappointment, she brings hope. She walks us to the other side of the room, illuminating another perspective. Her touch is gentle, affirming, and reassuring. Joy is, after all, a gift of the Holy Spirit, a fruit of His residence in us.
Other times, however, we must summons Joy. It is in these life events that Joy’s presence seems most awkward, even unexpected and out-of-place. And yet, her presence, if we can muster the courage to invite her, will change the atmosphere. In these circumstances, Joy comes in battle array. There is a defiant peace about her. Make no mistake, she never acts inappropriately, putting on party behavior—no squeals, no cheers, no applause. She does not deny difficulty or attempt to make light of troubles with trite platitudes. She acknowledges the presence of Pain, notes Fear hiding under the table, spies Hate lurking in the shadow. (These—Pain, Fear, and Hate—an unwelcome trinity that inevitably crashes life’s journey.) Joy boldly stares each one down, undaunted by bullying. She may not be able to evict the unwelcome, but she will not allow them to take control. In life’s storms, we choose Joy, and she becomes our battle cry.
Joy one of our companions on life’s journey—a reaction, a gift, a choice.
Monica Napoli Warren lives in Mobile, Alabama with her husband Claude. A longtime Anglican, Monica wrote “A Search for the Real Jesus” Bible study. To learn more about that study and other books Monica has written go to www.hijackedjesus.com.
I’m sitting here asking myself where I find joy. I’m staring down dementia, depression, poverty, and pain in my day to day life. I spent twenty years of my life in dark depression. Some days if feels like my losses are more than my gains.
I find myself continually going back to the powerful words of Frederick Buechner when he wrote that pain is not the biggest thing to ever happened to you. The problem is that we give it more weight than beauty or glory. We let it brand us and it leaves us wanting.
A few years ago, I really needed to see the goodness of God and it led me to spend every day for a year documenting the beauty I saw each day. It could be the face of one of my children, nature, the kindness of my husband or friend, healing, and good food.
This search led me onto a new adventure of sorts. Seeking beauty took me to Haiti. It took me to serving the homeless. It took me to reaching out to people in pain. I have discovered so much joy and beauty sitting in poverty and holding hands with those trapped in darkness that it hurts me when I cannot physically be there. The Lord is near to the broken hearted. You can feel Him in those spaces quietly, mysteriously binding up wounds. My joy is being near to Him in that. The sweet awareness of the presence of God is a source of life that cannot be put out. When we strip life down to the bare minimum and enjoy the most simple pleasures of serving, or giving place, or loving a child, joy seems to be the glimmer that reminds our hearts of home, the fact that we are well-loved resonates within.
All Joy reminds. It is never a possession, always a desire for something longer ago or further away or still about to be. C.S. Lewis
May you find joy,
Steph Cherry and her husband, Denbigh attend and serve at Christ Our King Anglican in New Braunfels, Texas. They have three beautiful daughters. Learn more about Steph at http://www.stephaniecherry.com.
I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. – John 17:13
“Joy to the World!” The holidays are upon us so this elicits joy, right? Oh, you are not feeling it right now? Perhaps you are in a dry season roaming the wilderness while seeking clarity. Some are presently in the valley of confusion or despair. There are many navigating the rough waters of grief. A few of you might be in a raging spiritual war that has afforded little time to come up for air and even realize the season. And there are still others who might say, “Oh, that is not my plight; I don’t have it that bad, so I am not quite sure why I am not feeling joyful.” Maybe it is because you are busy, overcommitted, overwhelmed or just plain worn out. Maybe there is no clear reason. Regardless of having an obvious reason, if you are not feeling the “joy, joy, joy down in your heart” perhaps what may be needed is a change in perspective.
“Everything fell to pieces when my eyes met yours in that hospital gown…”
– Switchfoot, Joy Invincible
Joy is not without trials. In our referenced scripture (John 17:13) Jesus is praying for His disciples to have the full measure of His joy because He knew all too well that trials were coming. So instead of asking for mere brief feelings of elation what Jesus purposed for those whom He loved was something deeper and lasting.
Please indulge me a short trip to the lexicon. In this scripture the Greek work used for joy is chairo. It is defined – to be glad; to rejoice; to be well; to thrive. To build on this concept, to thrive is defined as growing or developing in a healthy way. So considering that joy is growing or developing in a healthy way it is easier to apprehend why joy is not without trials because growth is most often the fruit of struggles. Jesus yearned for his disciples to grow and develop in a healthy way in order to attain the full measure of joy. That is His desire for us. In life there will be situations that stir up elation that cause us to rejoice and be glad; this is good and His desire for us as well. However, the happiness that is dependent upon situations is fleeting and but a small portion of the full measure of joy. The full measure of joy Jesus wants for us is a spiritual reality that is independent of circumstances.
Joy means looking beyond the temporary trials and challenges and seeing with the eyes of faith. This faith will build upon itself with each encounter we have in union with Christ. As we grow in Christ the spiritual reality of joy manifests as a glimpse of the eternal perspective. For those in Christ, the eternal perspective is one of great HOPE. Thus JOY is rooted in Christ Jesus.
You may be thinking ‘that sounds great in theory and rhetoric, but what does that look like in my life?’
When we have joy to the full measure in Christ it means that even in the deep waters of grief; the uncertainty of wilderness seasons where our future is unknown; the lingering sting of rejection, abandonment, or betrayal by a loved one; the overwhelming anxiety of barely keeping one’s head above water; the paralyzing reality of a diagnosis; the relentless small challenges that add up to an overall feeling of drowning; or whatever your plight may be there is hope. It means you can take a deep breath, cry out to the God in heaven who delights in your prayers and cares for you. You can ask Him to meet you right where you are and expect that He will. It means singing songs in the night even when you are not feeling it. It means that even when the bottom falls out, He is faithful. It means we are truly not forsaken or forgotten. It means He meant it when He said, “cast your cares upon Me.” It is the assurance that what the enemy means for evil, He is working for good. He will make sure that through the mountains and the valleys that each step of this journey will help us grow and develop well until the day he returns. Joy is eternal and invincible when it is rooted in Christ Jesus. He is faithful! Joy to you my friends!
“Hallelujah, nevertheless was the song that pain couldn’t destroy,
Hallelujah, nevertheless. You’re my joy invincible joy!”
-Switchfoot, Joy Invincible
Shelly and her family attend St. Timothy’s Anglican Church in Spring, Texas.
We are entering the season of advent. Sunday, December 1st is the first day of Advent. But our culture would have us believe it’s the season of more of everything from Santa Clause to presents. I got a magazine the other day from an *online store* full of children’s toys and stickers so that my child could mark her favorite toys. Sprinkled throughout the magazine are words about joy and celebration.
Fortunately, at this
stage in her life, my daughter is very excited by things that are not actually
toys. She enjoys pulling my hair, sticking things in her mouth, music, and
staring at the fan. She is at that delightful stage where she sticks everything
in her mouth. And if I gave her the magazine from this *online store* I would
receive a ripped and slobbery magazine in return with no greater clue to her
From a young age I have been highly influenced by our consumerist culture, I wanted to be special and different. I wanted what I wanted and I wanted it now. And the rise of a certain *online store* where I can order anything with a couple of clicks, and it will be at my doorstep the next day has only made it worse. I also blame Instagram for showing me all the fun and lovely things. It seems like I don’t even realize how much I want new things all the time. And so in the midst of this daily affront of things that I need, enter the pre- Christmas season where there is also expectation. My other great struggle is wanting people to love me so I want to exceed everyone’s expectations and everyone to think I am amazing. The Christmas season can seem like the worst mix for a person like me who struggles with both the desire to have more and the desire to please more.
But when we look at The
WORD I see a totally different perspective. The first Christmas involved one
gift and not everyone was pleased by his presence.
“And the angel said to
them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that
will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a
Savior, who is Christ the Lord!” Luke 2:10
The first Christmas, was
full of joy and that one gift was Jesus.
It’s so easy for me to
get distracted by my to do list, my gift list, and my delicious recipes to try
this Christmas list. I sometimes forget that joy can be in the simplest things.
Joy is often found in less. Which is why I have a big lesson to learn from my
daughter this year. She doesn’t need more stuff, she is content with whatever I
put in front of her (until nap time!). I want to be more like Mary the Mother
of God who says, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit ReJOIces with God
my Savior” Luke 1:46-47. I want to continue to foster this simply joy in my
daughter and live into being joyful in all circumstances.
May the God who is able
to do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine bless your family this advent
with the simple joys faith, hope and love .
Rachel Schwandt attends St. Timothy’s Anglican church with her husband Fr. Michael and her daughter, Margaret. Rachel serves on both the women’s ministry team for her church and for the Diocese. Weekdays find her at Texas Children’s where she works as a nurse.