Abscond with Joy
Following Jesus into Refreshment
Imagine receiving a wonderful gift and leaving it unopened on a shelf day after day after day.
Christians do that.
Most of us don’t even realize we’ve done it because the world, like a cruel stepmother in a fairytale, has lied about the gift our Father has bestowed on us. Have you ever had days when you felt like Cinderella? You know you have a place in this world. The father you lost was a nobleman. But right now, you’re stuck cleaning ashes off the hearth.
Life on this planet can be ugly, demanding, soul crushing, disheartening, and cruel. It hurts to be human. We’re soft and breakable. We lose heart. We live without joy.
The world believes joy is a product of optimal circumstances.
The world believes we can be joyful only when we have everything we need and life is going right.
That’s a lie.
Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Every Jesus-follower has access to that fruit. It’s a gift from our Father. This gift can be a source of refreshment and restoration in the midst of tribulations.
Jesus-followers can be joyful amid destruction, devastation, dashed hopes, destroyed dreams, and even death. Joy is like a juicy pomegranate we can rip apart and feast upon when our souls are famished for beauty, hope, or encouragement.
But, like a hot item in an infomercial, joy is “even more”! Joy is also a tool at our fingertips. It can build bridges between lost souls. It can repair broken relationships. It can restore hope and heart.
Even more than a source of refreshment and a powerful tool, joy is also a weapon against the darkness. Satan seeks to destroy us—his revenge against a God who has left him out of the plan of redemption. When our laughter emerges from concentration camps, courtrooms, hospitals, shelters, or flood-ravaged towns, his plan is foiled, his power diminished, his imminent destruction re-proclaimed on the waves of our merriment.
Joy is a silver stake in Satan’s lifeless heart.
Joy is no frivolous add-on to our lives. Joy is a source of strength:
And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:9-11).
So, this is my word to you, loved ones, you hearth-cleaning, ash-sweeping displaced children longing for your Father’s return. Remove the gift from the shelf. Tear off the wrapping and break the seal.
Abscond with joy.
Let it be your refreshment, your restoration, your rebellion against the world. Dare to be joyful even for just a moment in the midst of adversity and pain. Let joy be your raised fist against the powers of darkness.
Dance. Laugh. Smile. Snatch the fruit of joy from the open hand of the Holy Spirit and let the juice of that fruit flow down your face and pool at your feet. Guzzle joy today and feel the strength of Jesus Christ ripple through the muscles of your faith.
Let’s begin with the question everyone asks about your book, who IS the crazy man?
My title, Running from a Crazy Man (and other adventures traveling with Jesus), comes from the story of King David. David knew God had anointed him king and had every reason to believe his path would lead straight to the throne. It must have created incredible confusion for David to find himself spending part of his life running from King Saul but we know God was present and active in David’s life even then.
What is the message in that for modern believers that you explore in the book?
In the seventies, the message communicated about Jesus was that He would make our lives better. That’s true but it doesn’t always look or feel the way we expect. Many of us begin our life with Christ with expectant hope, but not all of those hopes are realistic. When our lives detour down roads called disaster, disease, depression, or personal devastation, we’re tempted to pull off to the side of the narrow road and wonder what happened. I wrote Running from a Crazy Man for those moments in every believer’s life when following Jesus doesn’t make sense, to encourage us all to remain in the adventure.
Alton Gansky called your book an “unconventional devotional.” Tell us how you’ve designed each chapter.
Each chapter is adapted from a popular post on my blog so they’re short – usually under 1000 words. The titles are quirky such as Elephant Repellent, Church Bullies, and I Hope that You’re Perturbed but I include headings to help you know what each is about such as Following Jesus when You’re Feeling Useless, or Following Jesus when Other People are Mean. I’ve concluded each chapter with scripture references, thought questions, and words to remember so readers can use this book as a daily devotional or with a Bible Study/small group.
I notice that rather than a Foreword, your book has a Forewarned written by bestselling author, James L. Rubart.
Readers tell me they enjoy the humor of my posts but always know that something in the post will unsettle or challenge them in their faith. When they forward my posts to others, I’ve noticed they often warn that the post may create discomfort that may lead to action. I decided to embrace reader reaction to my voice. Challenge is what I seek in my spiritual life. I’ve loved Jesus for over fifty years and I know the temptation of settling in, getting too comfortable, or expecting to drift through my later years on cruise control. I always want Jesus to spur me on to a deeper relationship with Him. God uses hard times in my life to unsettle me and like Frodo (from Lord of the Rings), I’ve learned that even though I resist it, I do like adventure with Jesus. I hope to invite and incite others to continue in the Jesus adventure.
Is that where you came about the tagline, Disturber of Hobbits?
Yes, exactly. I love the Lord and I love the church. As much as I’m aware of the shortcomings of the church of Jesus, I just love the family of God. I equate believers with hobbits because hobbits like comfy settings, we like our meals on time, and we resist adventures because they make us late for dinner. When I write, I use humor but also gentle exhortation to remind us all of the goals set forth in scripture. I’ve been making comfortable Christians “late for dinner” for many years now – I included.
What advice do you have for other bloggers?
Partner with God in your work and don’t underestimate the power of “small.” I hear bloggers complain, “Only 30 people read by last post.” If 30 people showed up on your doorstep asking your thoughts on God, you’d consider that a ministry. Respect the value of a small but faithful readership. Pray for them and give them your best work. We don’t write for numbers, we write for readers. Each one has value in God’s eyes. My blog is small but God uses it in big ways for His glory.