Sunday, November 21, 2010

From Among the Thorns


Voices lifted in praise, a soaring song swells through the gathered worshipers. Everything is beautifully prepared for filling the sanctuary with joy.

Why is it then, that so many faces wear such pained expressions?

True enough, some people are bringing praise in spite of tremendous pain in their lives. I have been there myself, and know that sometimes the only praise we can bring is saturated with tears and laced with pain. That is perfectly legitimate and understandable--these offerings are immeasurably precious to God.  It is not to this situation I am directing my thoughts.

So here's what I've noticed--I have been in churches all my life, and there is a common phenomenon that has me puzzled.  Some people, and sometimes even whole churches, get into a habit of acting as though the facial expression most indicative of spirituality is somber, serious, on-the-verge-of-tears and twisted into a mask of pain. These sorrowful expressions can be about as pleasant and inviting as the thorns on a cactus. Is this really what devotion looks like? What will non-believers and young people think about life in Christ if all they see in our faces is agony and if all they hear is about how hard life is?



I'm not sure where this comes from.  Maybe some people think that because Jesus was prophetically called "A man of sorrows" by Isaiah, we should put on a face full of sorrow.  Maybe it has to do with the call to mourn over our sin and to see it as a grievous thing.  Wherever it originates, we may need to do some recalibrating and find out what other expressions God's Word encourages.

"Strength and dignity are her clothing,
         And she smiles at the future."Proverbs 31:25 NASB

"But let all who take refuge in You be glad,
Let them ever sing for joy;
And may You shelter them,
That those who love Your name may exult in You."Psalm 5:11 NASB

"May the God of hope fill you with all

joy and peace as you trust in him,
so that you may overflow with hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit."Romans 1513 NIV

These are a mere sampling of the many, many passages that talk about the joy of the believer, the uplifted countenance, the reasons to rejoice, the heart overflowing with gladness--gladness to the point of shouting and singing with great delight.





Life on earth is fraught with thorns and barbs, it's true.  But for the Christ-follower who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, our faces should most often be, not like the cactus, but like dazzling bright cactus flowers that come bursting forth from among the thorns. Such surprising beauty in the midst of the thorns is testimony to the beautiful heart of the One who turns our mourning into dancing, the One who gives us inexplicable joy in the midst of trial.



What does your facial expression tell people about Jesus?
Do you choose to dwell on the thorns or bloom with all your might?
______________________________________________________

One way to be a cactus flower is to give thanks to God for His every touch.  
I'm joining Ann Voskamp in her counting of the multitude of gifts God bestows everyday!
I hope you will join in if you haven't already!

holy experience


#116-130

116. Grappling with truth and getting stronger
117. Isaiah's old, old words that promise future glory
118. Faithful women who Ask, Seek, Knock on my behalf
119. Laughing so hard I can't catch my breath
120. Sharing movies I have loved with She So Sweet
121. Mom & Daddy who are my biggest cheerleaders
122. A wonderful walk with She So Sweet to Hidden Lakes
123. Online maps with street level views so I can give Drummer Boy good directions on his adventure in the city
124. The moment I hear Drummer Boy's key in the door telling me he's home safe from that crazy city
125. Courage bolstered by the best motivational speaker I know:  Hero Husband
126. Hearing the score Drummer Boy created for a Christmas performance, and watching the music that flowed out of him print out in sheet music
127. Kindred spirits
128. Gentle voices
129. The sound of the rain late at night when everything else is quiet
130. The forking splendor of lightning and the rumbling thunder that gallops after it

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