Where is Abba?

One of the main characters in How Sweet the Sound is the survivor of an horrific crime.

Do you ever wonder if God will truly save you from great pain and suffering?

Do you wonder, if He saved you once, will He save you again?

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Abbasaves

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How Sweet the Sound: A Novel

Available for preorder now at your favorite online, national, or local bookstore.

Arrives on bookshelves March 1, 2014

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the lie and light of Christmas.

nativity6photo by He Qi

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John 17:18 was my advent reading for the day.

Nothing about shepherd or mangers, angels or the sweetness of a newborn babe.

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“As you have sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18)

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Many–I suspect, perhaps most–during the holiday seasons, cannot escape the tension between the pull of the world, of advertisements, of vignettes of perfect family gatherings, and the pull of our hearts toward truth. And yet, into the world we are thrust, like the emergence of Emmanuel, every cell of our beings recoiling at the cold, wet shock of being. Human.

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Come thou long expected Jesus … 

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Followers of more than evergreens and silver bells are more acutely aware than ever of the discomfort, the lie, in fact, that a season, a single day on the calendar, somehow makes brokenness whole … somehow erases injustice …  somehow requires the downtrodden to return to the taxing origins of their pain.

Stand still and watch the unfolding of glory in the distant fields, knees bent in the mossy grace of our healing, and the scarred are accused of not following the star.

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The first Noel the angel did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay…

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Understandable, the need of the oblivious to throw stones at those with leaky alabaster jars, those whose incense and myrrh have been long spent. Where else, after all, could they catapult their own pain, but at those whose forms are already bent?

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Long lay the world in sin and error pining…

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Few know that, as John Piper wrote in my advent devotional today, “God makes every dagger a scepter in our hand.”

A scepter for lighting the way for future generations.

A scepter, lit by the original star, in the darkest of nights, to ignite hope once again.

A scepter which must be chosen, and held with fervor, with doubt, with diligence and with fear.

But a scepter which must be held, just the same.

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Fall on your knees!
O hear the angel voices!
O night divine…

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Divine is the night, indeed, when the morning comes.

At last.

At long, long last.

Joy: lilacs in the rain

I admit it.

I don’t “get” joy.

At least not the sort of joy that’s been preached and re-preached over the last several decades.
 
You know–joy comes in the morning and joy isn’t the same thing as happiness because joy comes from God and you can have joy 24/7/365 if you’re really following Him.
 
I’ve walked around this round ball of dirt for close to 40 years now. I’ve seen friends lose children. Spouses lose spouses. Predators ravage the lives of the innocent.
 
Many are the times I’ve seen folks, knees bent to the earth, heart spilling over the waterfall of ever-falling pain.
 
Joy, in those moments, is elusive.

Impossible.

I did a little research–my own, ignorant, probably inaccurate research–into the background of instances when joy is mentioned in the Bible. Indeed, the Bible mentions joy 50-60 times. 
 
But I couldn’t find any verses where God or Jesus or Paul or David talk about joy being a necessary constant in the life of a believer. (Some one with a degree in theology feel free to correct me here.) Rather, Jesus lists it along with the fruit of the spirit.  
 
Interesting, joy and all those other lofty characteristics.

Jesus compares them to fruit.

Fruit is seasonal. Fruit ripens. Fruit can miss a season if it frosts at just the right time in the growth process. Fruit flowers then buds then grows and ripens. And it only does this once or twice a year.
 
Maybe that was Jesus’ point. Maybe He knew how delicious the fruit of joy is, but maybe He also knew how difficult and fleeting it could be for us sorry bunch of humans.
 
And take David. Sure, he sang plenty of psalms about joy. But he sang plenty of others about pain. Ok, so sometimes David talks himself into joy in the last couple stanzas. But sometimes, he just laments. Sometimes he just rants about how much life hurts

Because sometimes, it does.

In John 16:20-22 (Amplified version), Jesus says this about joy:
 

I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that you shall weep and grieve, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. A woman, when she gives birth to a child, has grief (anguish, agony) because her time has come. But when she has delivered the child, she no longer remembers her pain (trouble, anguish) because she is so glad that a man (a child, a human being) has been born into the world. 
  
So for the present you are also in sorrow (in distress and depressed); but I will see you again and [then] your hearts will rejoice, and no one can take from you your joy (gladness, delight).
 
In Strong’s Greek definition, joy is more like something we receive, like a sunrise, implying we can’t make it happen.
 
Moreover, the root word, chairo, means to thrive and be well.
 
Plants can thrive and grow without showing fruit for a long while. 

Perhaps you can relate.

This morning, after two days of long, hard, rain, my lilacs are blooming.

They’re in season.

Their sweet fragrance floats in the kitchen. 
 
Reminds me of  that old song: Joy and pain. Sunshine and rain.
 
Today, and often times, joy is a peony waiting to burst and lilacs in the rain.
 
And I don’t think Jesus minds that. 

I don’t think He minds that at all.

 As long as I grab the joy and hold it for a while, sinking my face into the sweet fragrance of its blossoms, letting the juice of it run out the corners of my mouth and laughing all the while, the next time He sends some my way.

rain

cool relentless

driving  pounding cleansing

river stream ocean heaven

running waiting hoping

fleeting lasting

joy