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Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Joy Of The Lord Is My Strength

“Sing for joy to God our strength;” Psalm 81:1a NIV

Today in the garden I am not feeling so great. I’ve been a bit stressed lately. Sometimes the problems of others can also get me down. I often wonder why some of my wonderful Christian friends and family are going through such difficult times. Yet I know the answer. The Bible assures us that in this life we will have trouble. Sin has definitely left its mark and we see the results as we watch others struggle mentally, financially, and relationally. Many people are suffering with great illness, and others are dealing with death and dying.

As for myself, even if things are going well, sometimes I become on edge and loose my focus. When that happens my mouth goes wild and my spirit becomes dull. My response to my very patient husband is short and that is usually a sign I have put a little too much on my plate and I am taking it out on him.

God has such a sense of humor! Today as I walk the garden path in search of joy the first flowers to nod their bubbly heads at me are the “snapdragons”… “How appropriate!” I snap. Pressing on down the path I spy a beautiful patch of multi colored daisies and resting on one petal is a delicate butterfly. This unsuspecting butterfly is basking in the glorious sun and taking time to simply enjoy the moment. Then it hits me. I need to sit down and enjoy the moment. I need to be still and know that God is in control. I need focus on the joy of the Lord and listen.

“Listen to what? Listen to who?” God says, “You need to look up and take a lesson from the birds.” So I look upward at the beautiful blue sky and tune my ears to hear the song of the birds. They are free to sing and in their own way dance! I open my eyes and ears so I might learn God’s lesson for today by watching and listening.

My garden is filled with birds. Every day they come, the finches, cardinals, robins, wrens, chickadees, and the sparrows. Some days I get a glimpse of a delightful hummingbird. It is always fun to enjoy our onsite woodpecker and if I am up very early I hear a turtledove in the distance. Others winged friends visit from time to time but these are the faithful. I love that they choose my backyard and my garden. These beautiful birds fly to and fro across the clouds, yet they know my green acre is their territory. It is here that I watch them fly, perch, eat, drink, and splash. They wake up singing and they sing all day long! Such simple pure joy utterly amazes me. They are clueless. They don’t even know that life is hard. No wonder they sing! They sing as they feather their nests. They sing as they lay their eggs and patiently wait for their peeps to hatch. Soon they will be required to feed their peeps. Then they will teach their new offsprings to fly. These birds are ever so busy and yet they continue to sweetly sing.

At times I especially love listening for the distant hoot of the owl. He is always asking so many questions. Oh whoooo who whoooo made this day? Oh whoooo who whoooo can I trust? I know that he knows the answer to his own questions. It is God, his creator. Now I listen to the rhythmic hammer of the woodpecker. Even in his labor for food there is no complaint. The joyous praise that surrounds me is almost deafening. Oh that I would learn this unabashed joy from these busy yet joyful birds.

I have a plaque that hangs in my kitchen that reads, “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” Today I want to embrace that truth. The Master Gardener reads my thoughts and then he speaks. “You see Paula; you are blessed in many ways. Even in suffering there are always things you can be thankful for. When you or someone you love is struggling or grieving, I do not expect you to give thanks for that pain, but I do want you to learn to give thanks that I am there in the struggle as well. Because I am full of compassion, I weep with those who weep. When you trust me I will do an amazing thing with your pain. I will give you joy in the morning. When my people suffer I use that suffering to make something beautiful out of their lives. I do not expect you to give thanks for all things but rather give thanks in all things. Be joyful because my grace is sufficient. Be joyful because, for believers, this life is not the end but just the beginning of a pain free life that will never end. Do not take hard times, pain and suffering so personal. I know you feel like it is all about you but it really isn’t. It is about me and my purposes. Purposes that will give you and those you influence a joyous hope and a future and in this I will be glorified!

So now I wonder, could it be that gratitude and thanksgiving is the place I must start to experience joy? Will my strength be renewed when I embrace the joy that is only found in Jesus? Is it possible that if I look up I can learn from yet another fowl of God’s creation? “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31 NIV

As a result of today’s lessons learned in the garden I am experiencing God’s amazing joy! It is true; the joy of the Lord is my strength. Today I give thanks to all my feathered friends for the lessons they have taught me this day and to their Creator and mine! Gratitude equals joy and that is my strength.


1. When was the last time you experienced dark clouds and a heavy heart?

2. When you start slipping into unhappiness what steps do you take to change direction?

3. What do you think about practicing gratitude as a means of restoring joy to your spirit?

4. What will be the byproduct of joy?


Dear Jesus,

Your Word says that even in difficult situations you will keep me in perfect peace if I keep my eyes on you. Help me to learn to practice thanksgiving in all of life, especially the small details of daily living like rainbows, butterflies, grandchildren, flowers, hugs and kisses, beautiful birds, bunnies, cool breezes, a full stomach, hot showers, and rest. Jesus you are my utmost joy! Help me to soar like an eagle even when life is hard. Even through my tears I pray that I will continue to trust you to help me fly. God I want to thank you for the strength that comes to me as you restore the joy of my salvation.

In Your name I pray. Amen.