Stubborn Joy

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.
Romans 16:13 ESV

…and those the Lord has rescued will return, they will enter Zion with singing, everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Isaiah 35:10 NIV

Dandelions are one of the most persistent and stubborn of all common garden weeds. They’re also known as swine’s snout, yellow gowan, Irish daisy, priest’s crown, peasant’s cloak and wet-a-bed (possibly for its diuretic effect). The common dandelion was introduced to North America by European settlers in the 1600s. Settlers grew it in their gardens for food and medicine.
Although common garden weeds like the dandelion may make our lives difficult if they aren’t part of our landscape plans, our difficulty in eradicating them points to a natural strength we might choose to emulate, especially when it comes to joy. Weeds stubbornly cling to life and proliferation, though rare is the gardener who invites them into their garden or seeks to nourish them. As is the case with the useful dandelion, joy in its proper context, righteous joy that encourages our spirit and binds us to God, should be sought by every believer. Though certainly not every circumstance we experience is joyful, God invites us to inhabit his joy in the midst of every circumstance anyway.

Joy, you have always found me when I called,
though the times at times were desperate.
When fears and doubts filled my mind,
your stubborn light still calmed it.

No matter the matter with me,
or standard attacks from the enemy,
when I sought you out within
the treasure of God’s word
you became for me a lifeline to victory.

Though joy impostors
spawned by a lost world
may seem right for a time,
Their empty promises
and false flags unfurled
will always be revealed as lies.

True joy does not compete with God,
but draws us to him instead.
A diet rich and uplifting
filled with his love
should always be our bread.

©Joel Tipple 06/29/2019





The House of Worship

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O Lord, you are my God;
I will exalt you; I will praise your name,
for you have done wonderful things,
plans formed of old, faithful and sure.
Isaiah 25:1 ESV

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
Psalm 103:1 ESV

I recently learned that some churchgoers actually skip the worship portion of their service. I was incredulous. Seriously? Don’t get me wrong, I love the sermon too. A message that moves or convicts you can change your life, but it’s part of a service, not THE service. There has always been something about the musical portion of a church service that transports me to a place where I feel closer to God. I’ve felt that way for as long as I remember feeling anything about going to church at all. But even though my strongest emotions about music find their home in a church worship service, music has always impacted most aspects of my life. My feelings of nostalgia for different waypoints in my life are strongest when combined with the music I was listening to at the time, whether secular or spiritual.

In the same way that we know music doesn’t have the same strong effect on everyone, we also know that singing and playing instruments aren’t the only way to worship God. It’s important that we understand there are many ways to worship God like prayer and serving others. How do you worship?

One Summer night
as I was walking
around dinner time
and it was cool.
There came a sound
of children singing
all joyful and out of school.
They were singing
their hearts out to Jesus
like they’d mostly burst
if they could.
I thought angels were singing with them,
but it was youth worshiping
like they should.

Looking for the house of worship,
looking for the heart of praise.
There doesn’t have to be a steeple
or even a particular age.
If your aim is to lift Jesus higher
and to leave all your burdens behind,
any place can be your place of worship
and any folks can worship God in that place.

Lift your hands, lift your voice,
if there’s a drummer, give him time.
Be careful of claptastrophies.
Music opens hearts
and can help them soften too
when we just let Jesus lead.

The sound can be country, rock,
or rhythm and blues.
Style’s less important than substance.
Jesus is more about
the shape of your heart
than your circumstance.
So take a chance.

Your house of worship
may be any shape at all,
the seats be pews, bleachers,
or even beanbags.
Just find some human beings
who want to be redeemed,
and some music
that can start some healing.
The house is less important
than the Holy Spirit’s lead.

© Joel Tipple 6/15/2019

Sad For No Reason

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And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,
Matthew 14:23 NIV

In my lifetime our society has moved from not talking much about depression to being free to discuss its many manifestations and their treatments. Although there is still a lingering negative stigma to revealing openly one’s struggle with any sort of mental illness, our attitudes continue to evolve. We’ve come to understand that in one sense, a disease of the mind should not be viewed any differently than disease present in another part of the body. Part of the challenge of treating depression is the many ways it presents itself, both in type and severity, all the way from what we might call “the blues” to life-disrupting, debilitating clinical depression. Treatments depend on the individual and range from talk therapy to medication or a combination of the two. For myself, I believe we ignore our connection to God and his part in our healing at our peril.

In my early 20s, I, in essence, told God that, although I thought he was pretty awesome, I wanted to make a change in our relationship. I told God I thought we should just be friends. Now, who does that, really? Maybe all who claim to be Christians do at one time or another.  I may not have done it consciously, but what I tried to do (using a Facebook analogy) was unfollow God while still remaining friends. It was during these early years of my marriage to Lori that I experienced my first real bouts of depression. I was terribly sad and unsure, which made life at times tremendously difficult for my new wife. More than ever, we needed God to be the head of our household, but he was left in the hallway outside our $210 a month apartment.  The fact that we have stayed married through all the ups and downs of our life together can in part be attributed to our stubborn determination, but mostly it’s been God’s grace. Over the years I’ve learned some coping mechanisms for dealing with my own periods of depression, but I’ve found there is no substitute for my relationship with Jesus Christ, who certainly knew what it was like to be a human being.  There have been the typical life experiences to deal with that we all find challenging, like deaths and job loss, but also there have been times like earlier this week, when I simply found myself feeling unbearably sad, for no obvious reason. It is times like these when searching scripture and seeking the prayers of friends and family are my lifeline.

When night comes
but it’s not yet time for night.
When the fight comes
but you’ve no strength to fight,
God will hear you
and bear you up.

When you’re cold
but the fire’s still burning.
when you’re sad
but can’t tell why you’re hurting,
When you need a defender
whose aim is true.
That’s when God is there
to bear you up.

God makes time
and prayer
and doctors.
He makes room for us.
His schedule’s always open.
There’s nothing he hasn’t seen
from birth to death
and in between.
You can’t scare him away
because you’re frightened.
He’ll always bear you up.

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.
Psalm 40:1-3 NIV

© Joel Tipple 6/1/2019