I Love My Dog.

Naww… look at him! Look how beautiful he is!!

This is my dog, Eddie. He is a very good boy. I love him so much… I mean, look at that smoochy face! What is not to love about that smoochy little fluffy face!! He has a very special gift as well… He will look right into the very depths of your soul and remind you that you are LOVED to your very core. No matter what… he loves me!! I am so thankful for this beautiful dog. He reminds me a lot of Jesus.

He is, in fact, a very good boy!

Allow me to flesh that out a little…

I have been spending a bit of time recently thinking about the importance of worship in our lives. What is the role of worship for a person who is seeking to live in the abundance of an authentic, holistic Christian life? It’s a great question, hey!

Personally, I think that worship is foundational to living a holistic life. It is foundational for a number of reasons.

  1. Worship is part of our created purpose. We were created to be worshippers of God. The very core of our identity is connected to what it is that we worship. And for this reason, when our hearts are drawn to worship God in Spirit and in truth, it strengthens the relational intimacy we have with Him. This intimacy with God is what gives us the blessed assurance of peace. Throughout all of the nuanced complexities of our lives we have peace with God.
  2. This then means that worship is also one of the most powerful antidotes we have during times of suffering and hardship. This is not to say that we ought to just “fake it till we make it” using worship as a tool for emotional manipulation. But what I mean by this is that worship can open the floodgates of truth in our hearts when we are struggling to stand firm in our own strength. Psalms, Hymns and spiritual songs are powerful conductors of the vibrant theological truths that are like healing balms to the weary and wounded soul. This is why music is such a rich gift.
  3. Psalm 66: 4 says, “All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.” Worship is so much more than just singing together for 20 minutes on a Sunday, although, there are some solid anecdotal and theological arguments for the importance of corporate Sunday worship. Beyond Sundays tough, worship is about the way we interact with the world around us. Worship is an all of life phenomenon!
That face though…

It is this third point that makes me so thankful for my Eddie dog! This face is nothing but pure love and delight. When I see the way he looks at me, I am reminded that this is the way my Heavenly Father looks at me. His love for me is relentless. It is steadfast. It is constant. It is unwavering…. No matter how many times I step on his tail in the middle of the night. And I am so thankful.

In the spirit of being authentic, I have had a rough couple of days. I’ve been feeling pretty under the weather with a head cold and I’ve also been feeling pretty overwhelmed with how I am going to keep up with the pace of life over the coming few months. When I’m in this space, I am a person who can easily spiral into places of deep insecurity, feelings of inadequacy and despair. I’m terrified of failing. Sometimes the fear is paralyzing. I share this with you confidently, because I know that I am not unique in this. Truth is, most people struggle with this kind of stuff from time to time. It is a part of being human.

But God is lovely. He still delights in me. He still looks upon me with all the love in the universe and tells me that I’m not alone, even when I do give into my fears momentarily. And one of the key ways He reminds me of this truth and draws my heart back to worshipping Him is through this lovely fluffy, smoochy-faced Eddie dog. It is very difficult to stay in the place of discouragement and despair with this face just pouring grace into my soul, and reminding me that I am loved with the relentless love of our Heavenly Father. And the only appropriate way for my soul to respond is with worship and thanksgiving.

So, make sure you surround yourself with those things that God uses to draw your heart towards Him and leads you to worship Him earnestly. For me, this is animals and nature… also, good coffee, good food and wine… good company, music, literature… a hot bath and a cup of green tea… the list could get quite lengthy.

My point is, look for opportunities to worship God in all of life. Ask to have your eyes opened to see how “All the earth worships Him”. When we allow ourselves to be people whose lives are immersed in worshipping our Heavenly Father I am convinced that the world begins to make a lot more sense and becomes a lot less overwhelming.

Isaiah 12:2 – a meditation

Notice the language used in this passage. It is personal and it is present tense. The author, Isaiah, is speaking what is his personal and present experience of God.

As I meditate on this verse in the stillness of the morning, I begin to speak this verse as if it is mine. My own experience of God. I notice the voice of fear creep into my thoughts. How interesting

I consider what this verse says to me about how my faith informs my fears.

As I sit wrestling with this question in the quiet stillness of the morning, I whisper my deepest fears to God.

He answers me with, “I have you”.

“I have you.”

He is personal. He is present.

Peace washes over me and I breathe…

Ultimately, my deepest fear is not actually the circumstances I dread. The circumstance is how I imagine experiencing my deepest fear. But the circumstance itself is not what I fear most.

In reality my deepest fear is being abandoned by God. Regardless of what circumstance I fear most, this is the ultimate fear behind it. To find that God does not have me. To find that I am, in fact alone…

Peace is not the absence of fear. It is the assurance of my Salvation.

Because of Jesus, my Salvation is secure. Regardless of what I face in this life, God has me. He is personal. He is present. I will not ever face my fears alone. This changes everything. The peace of my assurance in Jesus gives me the courage to look todays fears in the face and move forward anyway.

Fear will not claim me… He has me.

Pastoral Care 101

In my personal Bible Reading earlier this week I came across a little nugget of wisdom that I have not been able to stop thinking about. It comes from 1 Thessalonians 5:14.

” And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”

What a beautiful thing it is for authentic community to share life together. This right here is “Pastoral Care 101” for the Church.  In fact, all of 1 Thessalonians is a gold mine of wisdom for Pastoral Care and living in authentic Christian Community with one another. But this particular verse is a clear and concise summary of what it should look like for Christians to live in a thriving and vibrant community together.

  • admonish the idle
  • encourage the fainthearted
  • help the weak
  • be patient with them all

It is good for us to have people to help us out when we struggle with our humanness. Lets just face it, at times we all struggle with being idle. We are lazy and prone to self-indulgence rather than doing what we ought. Of course the root cause of idleness is idolatry. It is never really a pleasant experience, but it is good for us to be admonished when that beast rears its ugly head. It is good when we can speak the truth in love to one another.

My observation is that, in the Western Church, we have become very adept at admonishing the idle or idolatrous. We are very good at identifying sin in one another and pointing it out. This is a good thing and is not something that we should push back against, but rather should be willing to press into one another in humility and repentance. However, admonishing the idle is actually the easiest part of Pastoral Care. 

I would suggest that sometimes we need to be admonished for admonishing the idle. If we choose to see all human suffering as a direct result of personal sin, then we ourselves are being idle. Simply pointing out that a person is a sinner is usually the lazy option to take. Sin does cause significant suffering in our lives and we must do what we can to overcome it. Sometimes however, there are deeper issues of discouragement and weakness that are at the root of our suffering. Life is had and complicated. Are we willing to take the time to understand the complexities of one another’s suffering in the context of authentic community?

What I love about this passage in 1 Thessalonians is that this ancient wisdom from God is actually the crux of Trauma-informed psychotherapy. Modern day science is once again pointing us to the deeper wisdom that God has already revealed to us about how to best care for His creation. 

Our God knows that we are a people who are easily discouraged and incredibly fragile. In fact, if ever there was a human who could completely relate to the significance of trauma on the human condition, that person is Jesus Christ. The Bible refers to Jesus as, “despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isiah 53: 3). Jesus understands the most traumatising elements of being human, because He lived and experienced them Himself. This is why it is so significant when God tells us to care for one another by admonishing the idle, encouraging the fainthearted, helping the weak and being patient with them all. God is not simply a disconnected outsider offering us objective advise about ‘living our best lives’. He knows our pain because He Himself has experienced it in full. Does this not just leave you in awe of how radically you are known and loved!

We must not stop at admonishing the idle. If we are to be imitators of God we will look beyond the surface level sin and seek to encourage the fainthearted, to help the weak and to be patient with everyone. We are all on a journey and God’s grace is sufficient for us all.

Welcome

Welcome to Wondrous Joy!! I am so happy to be able to share this space with you. Let me begin by giving you a brief overview of what this space is all about.

The first thing to know is that this website will be evolving over time. My overall vision for this little patch of cyberspace is much bigger than what I’m able to establish from the start. I’m not looking to start another Google enterprise, but I am hoping to establish a bit of a resource hub for holistic well-being and authentic personal living. This will involve looking in-depth at the social, emotional, physiological and spiritual aspects of our human experience. We will consider current research into neuropsychotherapy, physical and emotional health and well-being as well as talking about the more existential aspects of developing a robust spirituality and practical theology. I am passionate about embracing all of life and making the most of every opportunity that is available to us. In these pages you find resources, blog posts,  links to contemporary research and anything else that speaks to discovering Joy in every facet of our human experience. I firmly believe that we are called to live life in abundance. Exactly what that looks like is somewhat ambiguous. But I believe it is something we will each discover by learning to live authentically.

This leads neatly into the next most important thing you should know. I am a Christian. Everything I know about Joy and about life is completely informed by my personal worldview as a Christian woman. Exactly what that means is something I will flesh out another time. I wanted to mention this here though, because in order to be authentic, it is important that I be transparent about the way I view the world.

The inspiration for this website has been developing in my mind for some time now. I used to write a personal blog called ‘My Wondrous Joy’. That blog came about as a way for me to process some of the things I was learning about life, love and hope. This was an incredibly healing experience for me. It was a blog born out of personal tragedy and deep suffering. However, it was through this season of suffering that I learned the preciousness of authentic joy. Joy is not simply a fleeting emotional state. Authentic joy is found woven throughout all of the experiences of life. The experience of Joy is not black and white. We have been born into a world of vibrant colour. Joy is shaped and coloured by the seasons that we live through, and its form will look different from time to time. But joy can be found in all of the moments, and it is well worth the seeking!

My hope and prayer for this space is that it may inspire some to seek out a life lived with Wondrous Joy. I am convinced that this is possible when we seek to live with personal authenticity and to know, with deep intimacy, the One who came that we may have life, and have it in abundance!

Jakki