I closed my tear-streaked eyes and lifted my face to the Heavens. In my mind’s eye, I could see Him. He was bathed in white, a luminous glow surrounding Him. His arms were outstretched, reaching for me. I felt a peace emanating from Him, one that cannot be duplicated by anything or anyone on this Earth. Though the tears flowed freely down my cheeks, they weren’t tears of pain or sorrow or anguish. They instead possessed a healing quality born of something much deeper than my own body. They came from the joy of knowing my Lord.
When our pastor, Gregory, gave the invitation today, I knew before he ever made the call that I would be going up to the front of the church to pray. His sermon was from Isaiah 61 and on beauty for ashes and the difference between happiness and joy. If you’ve been reading the last few posts (actually, from the beginning of this blog), you know that I feel a TREMENDOUSLY strong connection to the Holy Ghost- hence the name Holy Ghost Bumps. And I’ve written from this same chapter before. This time, however, God confirmed some things for me that a dear friend of ours was telling me about just two days ago.
Joyce Ashley over at Joy Joy Ministries was explaining happiness and joy to me, and she put it best this way…
“Keep in mind that joy is not the same thing as happiness. Happiness depends on what’s happening in our lives….our circumstances. Joy is about relationship with Christ. When we give our hearts and lives to Jesus, we can trust Him to be in control. No matter what challenges are tossed our way, we can count on the promise that “He will never leave us or forsake us”. Deuteronomy 31:6″
You can read her guest post here: http://karenehman.com/home/2012/04/27/choosing-joy-with-joyce-ashley/.
I’ve had the happiness/joy comparison on my mind since our discussion…especially since there is a little shortage of both around our house these days. We try to find them where we can, and thankfully, God is faithful in His grace. We always seem to find something to smile about. And I was sharing Joyce’s explanation with my wife this morning when I woke her up to get ready for church. Then we get to church and Gregory preaches his sermon talking about the same things. Hmmmm…
Unfortunately, Lena didn’t hear him. After praise and worship with Obe and Amber, she had to go to the bathroom…to cry. We both lost it when they played, “How He Loves”, the same song that was sung at Mia’s service. I found out later that she stayed in the restroom the entire time. Thankfully, two Sisters-In-Christ went in and prayed and talked with her.
Back to the invitation. I walked up to the front to join with one of our prayer teams, and who just-so-happened to be there to greet me but Gregory’s wife and co-pastor, Jackie. I have to tell you here that she is a PRAYER WARRIOR! This Godly woman can pray better than anyone I have ever heard, and I’m so grateful that she was there.
As I told her what was on my mind, about the changes that we have been going through, His presence being felt, the healing and the hurting that we were experiencing and a new project that God is leading us to (more about that in minute), she began to pray. I clasped her forearms, bowed my head and took in her words, feeling her genuine passion for God and concern for me and my family.
At some point, I looked up as I described in the opening of this post. She took her right hand and placed it on my heart. As she did, she began to pray in the language of the Holy Ghost. I immediately felt the Holy Ghost Bumps as a cool chill coursed through my body. It was the kind of chill that you experience when you take a looooong sip of ice-cold lemonade on a hot summer’s day….refreshing and energizing.
I’ve shared all of this with you to say this: the joy you experience in knowing and having a personal relationship with God the Father can overcome any other emotion. In my case, He took away my pain, anxiety, hurt, heartache, longing, despair, and any other suffering feeling I may have had. The last part of Isaiah 61 says this…
“I am overwhelmed with the joy of the Lord my God! For He has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness…”- Isaiah 61:10
If He can give me this kind of joy in the midst of this storm, wouldn’t you want some of His Joy Juice (sorry, Joyce…I had to steal that one :D) for yourself?
I was so excited at feeling Him all around me that I couldn’t wait to share the experience with Lena. When we got in the car, I said to her, “You’re not going to believe this.” She came back with, “No, you’re not going to believe this.” I asked her to go first because she usually forgets what she was going to say by the time I get finished. I don’t know if it’s because I’m just long-winded or her memory’s going. Maybe a little of both :). She said there was no way she was forgetting this, so I went first.
When I finished, she began to tell me of her bathroom encounter. It’s really kind of funny how God speaks to us in the bathroom a lot. She told me that as she was there crying and talking with Melissa and DeShawna (thank you so very much, ladies) when another woman who Lena didn’t know personally came in with her baby. She changed her baby and then went to walk out. Instead, she went back and walked by Lena a couple of times. She finally stopped and spoke to her. She first apologized to her for walking by so many times, and then she said she had something to share with her. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about our first time back at church after Mia passed away. This woman said that God gave her a vision that day. She didn’t think the timing was right to share that with Lena, but she did now.
She said that she could see Lena praying for mothers…not just mothers who have lost a child to SIDS, but to all mothers. She could see her speaking to them, and then she asked Lena if she would pray for her son. Even though she couldn’t, the woman was undaunted. She told Lena that it was okay. She would be able to one day soon. What she didn’t know was that we are in the process of forming The Baby Butterfly Foundation for SIDS Outreach in honor of our daughter (the project that God is leading us into undertaking…more on this next time).
I had to call Joyce again after Lena shared her story. There was one other thing she told me when we were having our happy-happy/joy-joy discussion the other day. She said that she could see Lena and I sharing our story and testimony with countless other people, ministering to them and sharing God’s grace with them. When I told Lena that, she balked. She said, “I’m not getting up in front of anyone.” What was that I said about God’s plan being different from our own?
Be a blessing…
Here’s another one that Steven Curtis Chapman wrote. It’s the title track to his album, Beauty Will Rise. Powerful stuff.